It’s not okay.

This post is going to be short and to the point.
There was an incident in Florida that made it to the news a few weeks ago. I was discussing it with some other mothers, and we all came to the same conclusions.
First, here is a link to the article. If you don’t feel like clicking, I’ll sum it up for you.
According to her father, a 12 year old girl had apparently gotten into a violent argument with her sister. His reaction was to call the police and have them supervise while he struck his daughter four times with a wooden paddle. He claimed that the police needed to be present so that his daughter couldn’t claim that he was abusing her.
This is disturbing on several levels.

Number one.
She was an adolescent. This is the age when girls start having “boyfriends”, when they get their periods and start discovering more of their sexuality. How mortifying to be hit in a sexual area in front of two grown men, one of which is a total stranger. I don’t believe this was the fathers intention, but to hit a girl in a sexualized area against her consent, that’s borderline sexual abuse. If you don’t think that spanking an older girl can be sexual, google the word spank. I just did it and 80% of the links were porn. I believe that’s proof enough.

Number two.
The father described his daughters confrontation with her sister as violent. I’m assuming he felt that the situation was out of control. Instead of regaining control through peaceful means, he instead used violent means. I wonder where his daughter learned her relationship skills. Teaching a child not to hit, by hitting doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense. Children act out what is modeled in front of them. If you want to teach your children not to hit, don’t hit.

Number three.
This point was brought up by another mother. Her exact wording was, “If you feel that you need a witness to do it, should you really be doing it? There is such a gray area within corporal punishment. The general consensus among pro-spankers is that it’s ok as long as it doesn’t leave marks.
So what is a mark? A bruise, redness, something that lasts for a few days? Everyone’s definition is different.
I think deep down we all know that hitting is hitting, and the argument not to leave marks is an attempt to justify hitting children.I think deep down that father knew how quickly what he was doing could escalate and get out of control. I think he knew that hitting a teenage girl with a piece of wood just didn’t seem right.

Number four.
Every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten. Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
The father definitely taught his daughter a few lessons. But the lessons that will stick with her won’t be that she shouldn’t hit others.
The first lesson that she learned is that men can hit women. That women can do things that chalk up to them “deserving” to be hit. What’s more, those men that hit those women do it because they “love them”. The only difference between a man slapping his wife and a father spanking his daughter is a social construct.

Number five.
This is my final point. It was also brought up by another mother, and with her permission, these are her words.
“I recently read an article about institutional betrayal being more damaging than familial abuse. For example, a girl is molested by a youth pastor, a child is abused in a daycare center. The abuse is swept under the rug. Not only is the victim traumatized by the act, but they are re traumatized by the failure of the government body at large to protect them.
Now this girl knows that if someone wants to hit her, the police aren’t going to care anyway.

Let me end on this.
Is it ok to hit a spouse?
Is it ok to hit a friend?
Is ok for a boss to hit an employee?
Is it ok to hit a mentally disabled person?
Is it even ok to hit a dog?
Most people would (rightfully) answer no to all of the above questions. So is it then, ok to hit a child? The answer is also no. It is not ok. It is never ok to resolve a situation through violence. It is never ok to hit a child in any way. Children deserve the same rights as everyone else.

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I am your parent and your friend

How many times have we heard the phrase, “I’m your parent, not your friend.” Or, “Your children don’t need another friend, they need a parent.” I despise those phrases. In fact, for several reasons, I think those phrases are very problematic in parenting.

First of all, everyone needs a friend, a friend who is wise and can provide good advice from a place of understanding, a friend who can listen and be trusted. A parent can be that friend. How often do kids change friends? A parent is an unconditional friend, a friend who always has their child’s best interests at heart. A parents friendship lasts a lifetime. A parents friendship can be one of the most meaningful relationships in a child’s life.

So why are there people out there who treat this like it’s such a bad thing? Why are there those parents who proudly state, “I am not their best friend, I am their parent. If they tell me at least once that they hate me, then I’m doing my job.” That is a terrible thing to say! It’s is such a skewed vision of parenthood, and even friendship for that matter.

There is a verse in the Bible that my mother used to quote to me, it says, Parents, do not provoke your children to anger. So success as a parent is not making my child so angry that they feel as if they hate me – even if it is for saying no. Success as a parent when a child feels respected, valued, understood and is able to comfortably share things with their parent the same way they would with a friend.

I think the idea of a parent being a friend to a child is very misunderstood. Being friends with a child does not mean a parent has to be Regina’s George’s mother and bring in condoms on a tray and take pictures of her daughter dressed up as a playboy bunny. That’s not even a friend by my definition.

There are different aspects in a true friendship. There is the fun part, like when girlfriends get their nails done together, or take trips to the beach. There is the trust and confidence when friends share deep personal things that are going on in their lives. There is trust, when friends keep each others secrets and are loyal to each other. There is support, like when a friend is going through a break up and needs to hear an, I’m here for you, rather than an I told you so. It’s the same between parents and children.

I can build a relationship as well as a friendship with my daughters from day one. While my girls are little I can respond to their cries with empathy to build trust. When they mess up, I can help them problem solve instead of punishing or shaming them. I can delight in the things that interest my girls – right now that means watching every single tinker bell movie on repeat and letting Laila cook with me every night. When they are older I can take them shopping, to the movies, for pedicures. There are so many things that I do with my adult friends that I can also do with my girls as they grow.

More importantly, I really believe that treating our children as friends can prompt us to treat them better.

Last night my daughter was whining constantly, and whining is like my Achilles heel- I can’t stand it. That is nails on a chalkboard for me. I opened my mouth to beg her to just stop for one minute when I stopped and reminded myself that she wasn’t whining for the sole purpose of getting on my nerves, and she certainly wasn’t whining for no reason at all. Instead of whining myself I recognized that Laila just needed my attention for a minute and I got down on my knees and kissed her forehead. Her reaction? She wrapped her little arms around my neck and gave me a huge kiss. “I luh you mama” she said as she hugged me even tighter. All she had wanted was a hug.

I rocked her in my arms and thought to myself how thankful I was to have a such a sweet daughter. I thought about how fast she’s growing and I how I hope that once she’s older she’ll be my best friend.

That’s when I realized, she already is my best friend, all shrunk down. It’s important that I respond kindly when she whines or cries. I have to treat her like a friend now if I want her friendship later. Just because she is my daughter doesn’t mean I can be impatient with her now and expect her to be close with me later. Every time I respond to her I have to remind myself, if I treated one of my friends this way, would we stay friends for very long?

Being a good parent doesn’t mean not having a friendship with your child, being a good parent means understanding that every relationship is different, but that every child deserves the same respect that would be given to a friend. As the saying goes, “A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be her mothers very best friend.

Real Love Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past few weeks two NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence. Ray Rice, for abusing his then fiancé, and Adrain Peterson for abusing -not disciplining- his four year old son.

When it came out that Rice had beaten his fiancé and been caught on camera a year ago, there was an immediate backlash. Rice apologized, calling his actions inexcusable. Hashtags popped up all over twitter condemning violence against women.

Personally the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Rice story was that he had probably had a violent childhood himself, that he never learned how to solve conflict or deal with strong emotions using words, he learned to deal with these things using his hands. I thought that he and his now wife should see a therapist and seek healing. That’s not to excuse in any way what he did, but abusive situations aren’t black and white. I don’t believe that anyone is born abusive, I believe that abuse is a learned behavior. Every abuser was once a victim. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

I think Adrian Peterson’s story is a perfect example of where this viscous cycle begins. I can’t think of anything that makes me angrier than child abuse. It’s disgusting beyond words the way Adrian Peterson’s case has been handled.

First of all, there has been no apology just a statement thinly veiled as an apology to defend his abuse as “discipline”.

Unfortunately Peterson wasnt the only one defending his actions. Running back Reggie Bush issued this statement “I most definitely discipline my daughter. I have an almost one year old daughter. I definitely will try to not leave bruises but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on the situation”. Peterson’s mother said, “whipping is not abuse but about love.”

Seeing statements like those should have been shocking. They weren’t. They’re statements I’ve heard over and over again out of the mouths of countless people. That’s how deeply embedded violence against children is in our society, especially in the south.

Reggie Bush’s statement was particularly chilling. Disciplining an almost one year old? That is a baby!! A BABY! I can’t even put into words how ridiculous that is. All I have to say about that first sentence is that Reggie seriously needs to read up on child development. The fact that he said he would try to not leave bruises but would most definitely discipline her harshly?

Try to not leave bruises? Like sometimes bruises are just accidental and they happen, no big deal. He proudly announced that he will discipline his daughter harshly. The dictionary definition of harsh is this, “ungentle or unpleasant in action or effect” with these words next to it “grim, severe, stern, cruel, austere” Those are not the words that should describe a father.

The rationale here is bruises on Ray Rice’s girlfriend are a deplorable example of domestic violence, but bruises on a little girl, inflicted by her own father, the most important man in her life who’s top priority is to protect and care for her, that’s not domestic violence at all!! No, no, no that’s different, that’s discipline. Accidents happen. How else would she learn?

In fact, Adrian Peterson’s mother already explained it perfectly when she said that whipping isn’t abuse, it’s about love.

When a man loves a woman, sometimes he hits her, to teach her a lesson, to teach her how to behave. She deserves it anyway. After all, he really loves her. Now replace man with parent and woman with child and we have the pro spanking rationale.

Except I left out the excuse that every generation of parents has done it and all their kids “turned out alright”. I read an article in time magazine on why spanking is never ok, and the authors response to the cliche “I turned out ok” was that as a child she was molested, yet she turned out ok. You see, children turn out ok despite spanking, not because of it. The mere fact that someone is defending the person who hit them shows that they’re not ok. How did everyone react when Ray Rices wife defended him and said that she had a role in the beating? Exactly. There is no difference between women and children, except that children are the current second class citizens with no rights and no way to defend themselves. No one deserves to be hit.

Before I continue, let me share this article on the effects spanking has on girls. The findings on the release of oxytocin(a love hormone) to combat cortisol (a stress hormone) are especially telling.

Aside from the research citied in this article, (and I have provided only one study compared to the mountains of research done over several decades that all conclude corporal punishment is an unhealthy practice) I have a problem with a grown man laying a hand on a small child and calling that love. How hypocritical is it to teach a little girl that her father hitting her is “love” and that she “deserves” it, yet if her partner “loves” her and she “deserves” it, it isn’t love at all, it’s abuse.

Like I said, abuse is a vicious cycle. I would bet that Ray Rice was “disciplined” in the same manner as Peterson’s son and he repeated what he learned on his fiancé. We know that Peterson was physically punished as a child because he praised it in his statement. The cycle repeated itself on his four year old son. The victim became the abuser.

All physical punishment is abuse, because it is all intended to cause fear and pain. As a Christian mother, I don’t want to teach my children anything through fear and pain because that’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus taught with gentleness, compassion, and grace. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a child? I can’t. The bible says that love is patient, kind, not easily angered, it doesn’t say anything about sometimes love is hitting a child.

My husband will never physically punish our daughters because girls look to their fathers for an example of what their husbands should be like. I will never let my girls believe that any man, in any situation has the right to touch them in any way that they don’t approve of. I will never let them believe that men hit women or children no matter what the situation is, no matter how socially acceptable others allow it to be. We will never call it spanking in our home, because that word is a cover up for hitting. We cannot expect women to embrace bodily autonomy as adults if they are taught as children that someone else has so much power over their bodies that they have the right to hit them when they see fit. We cannot model to our children that it is ever ok to hit for any reason.

There is a ministry whose page I follow. A few days ago they posted an exert of a journal entry from a girl who had been abused. One line stood out to me, she said love is good and doesn’t hurt.

I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t care if it was just one hit that didn’t leave a mark, or several slaps that did leave marks. Hitting a child hurts them, and love is good and doesn’t hurt. Even dogs can be taught without hitting, so why couldn’t a child be taught without hitting.

The stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are at the heart of the domestic violence problem we have in America where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted. Violence in adulthood comes from violence in childhood.

This isn’t to say that every parent who has used physical punishment is a child abuser. Like I said, it’s something that is deeply embedded in our culture. When my oldest daughter was born, I knew I never wanted to hit her for any reason. I knew I wanted to teach her without punishment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know if anyone parented that way. I definitely didn’t know much at all about child development or what reasonable expectations looked like. I think there are a lot of parents out there like that.

Parenting can be done peacefully, without violence. If you want to parent differently, but don’t know how, there are links on this blog, there are Facebook pages and support groups (peaceful parenting, respected children for respected futures, gentle discipline support group) to help you get started and learn alternative ways to parent.

Let’s break the cycle and teach our children to solve conflict with their words and not their hands. Let’s teach them through our own behavior by using our words and not our hands when conflicts arise in our own homes.

Children are like mirrors

The past two months have been tough for me as a mom. I have been ridiculously stressed and short on patience. I think my feelings have definitely rubbed off on Laila, in addition to the fact that her molars are coming in, making for an extra cranky little girl.

One day we were having a really tough nap time. I had things to do and I just wanted Laila to go to sleep. Every time I thought I had her asleep and was clear to sneak out of the room, she would wake up crying and the process would begin again. Finally I lost it and stormed out of the room in frustration.

My husband was home that afternoon, so he took over nap time.
Once Laila was happily asleep in his arms I began ranting to him about how tired and frustrated I was.

I kept telling him over and over that I was just exhausted! I complained that something was constantly making Laila angry, there was a tantrum nearly every hour, that it had been that way for weeks! I started crying and telling him that I missed the old Laila, I missed the days when I loved being a mom and that I was so aggravated that I didn’t even want to be around Laila anymore.

I immediately regretted that last sentence. I felt like such a heartless mom, I may not have wanted to have been with Laila that afternoon, but she desperately wanted to be with me. She’s so little, her mommy is her whole world.

Then I realized that Laila wasn’t the problem at all, no matter how cranky she’d been over the past few weeks. I was the problem, my attitude towards her was the problem. I was so focused on getting things done, that I had disconnected myself from her and her needs. Instead of being empathetic and looking for a relationship from her, I was looking for convenience from her.

Children aren’t about convenience. Children have needs, constant needs. Parenting is 24/7 work. It’s about consistently putting some one else’s needs ahead of your own. I read an article entitled tough love the other day that really sums up the self sacrifice and compassion that parenting requires.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to be patient, to look at things from a child’s point of view and empathize with them. It’s really easy to expect children to behave like adults, to be annoyed when their needs have to be met before your own.

I once read a quote that said children are like mirrors. What you pour into a child is what comes back out. That really couldn’t be more true. This week I’ve really dedicated myself to putting Laila first. I’ve worked extra hard at being patient, at getting up and dedicating time to playing with her even when I’m tired. The more love I pour into her, the more love I see her returning to me. All relationships are two way streets, we can’t be impatient, quick to anger, and demanding with our children and expect them to in turn be patient, slow to anger and easy going.

Now that Laila is nearing her second birthday I remind myself every day how fast the time has gone by, and to enjoy every minute with her that I can, because I will never have this time again. I know that this is the time of life that I will always look back on and smile.

Why we don’t do “date night”

I was just thinking today, how close Sabrina’s due date is to my birthday. I don’t like to take my babies out – except to see family- before the six week mark, so I will most likely be spending my birthday cuddled up in bed with my husband and my girls. Am I disappointed that I’ll be passing my birthday with a pizza and a redbox instead of dressed up in a nice restaurant with my husband? Not in the least. We gave up on the idea of date nights a long time ago, and honestly I haven’t missed them at all.

It’s amazing how much my views on parenting have changed since I had my daughter. When she was first born, I thought a date night was so important. I mean, that’s what everybody else was saying. We were told we needed to have our bed to ourselves, we needed time to ourselves, basically we needed a break from the “responsibility” not the gift of parenting. I remember the few date nights that my husband and I went on were spent mostly talking about Laila and how we missed her. I started questioning the idea that marriages wouldn’t be successful without alone time.

When Laila was about four months old, I read a great article on children and marriage that really changed my mind. It was written by a woman who had several children, and had been married for nearly 20 years. She said that because she and her husband had spent all of their time with their children, they had received several comments asking how their marriage would stay strong if they didn’t make time for each other. Her reply was so perfect, What about all the memories we made together with our children? Werent we both together these past 18 years building a family together? Exactly.

Even before Laila was born, I thought date nights and alone time was so important. I really believed our relationship would become mind numbingly boring and fall apart if we didn’t have constant entertainment. That’s really what date nights are – entertainment. Now there’s nothing wrong with a date night itself, but entertainment isn’t what builds a marriage. Thinking that we need time away from our children when they’re small and they need us – that’s not doing anything to build a marriage.

The other night Laila was sick. She woke up around one in the morning and threw up all over me, the bed, the pillows, and herself. Eder had worked a grueling day, he left the house at 5 am that morning and didn’t get home until ten, yet without question he got up and immediately cradled his sick little girl in his arms and comforted her while giving her a warm bath. Seeing my husband as a selfless, attentive father does so much more for our relationship than small talk over dinner ever could.

Since Laila’s arrival Eder and I spend a lot less time together than we did before. But our relationship is so much better. I mean a thousand times better. We don’t fight often, I spend a lot less time thinking about myself, and a lot more time serving my family, the same is true for eder.
We’re totally broke, he works crazy hours, I’m always finding something that needs to be done in the house and in between, were playing with Laila, changing her diapers, and holding her through the meltdowns that she has more frequently. Our life doesn’t look like much fun on the outside, but we are so happy. At the end of every day we curl up in front of the tv, and we know that the love we have for each other isn’t a superficial infatuation based on having fun, it’s a commitment to work at something together.

It’s sad to say, but kids won’t always be little, they won’t always want to hang out with mommy and daddy 24/7. If you think time flies, wait until you have kids. I don’t want to miss a minute of this magical, precious, but so very short, childhood. I treasure every sloppy kiss, every mispronounced word, every runny nose, everything. And so does my husband.

It’s hard not to notice how our society is so incredibly selfish. Most of this selfishness is increasingly glorified. I read a quote in time magazine, “focusing on your own pursuits over other people isn’t selfish, it’s revolutionary” I literally can’t wrap my mind around that. It’s so sad that everyone seems to be convinced that putting yourself first is the way to be happy when it’s the exact opposite. Whatever happened to “it’s better to give than to receive?”

The more I spend time with my family, the more value I place in building my home, the less time I have to sit around and compare my marriage to a Nicholas sparks movie. A lot of unhappiness comes from focusing on ourselves. Saying that a date night is what keeps a marriage strong is like saying that a marriage can’t survive without “me” time- and that children and all of their inconveniences are in the way.

I know that one day when we are retired, we’ll be playing with our grandchildren, and well reminisce about our own children. When our children are grown we’ll have plenty of time just the two of us, and our relationship will be so much deeper because of the time we spent together as a family. Children don’t stand in the way of a marriage, they enrich a marriage.

What a real father looks like

The other day I read an article from CNN about how today’s fathers are more involved than their fathers before them.

I loved reading an article that focused more on fathers and their importance to the family beyond being the breadwinner. There’s so much emphasis on mothers and the journey of motherhood, that sometimes I feel like fathers get a little left behind. In movies and tv we always see the woman wanting a baby, the man groaning at the responsibility of it. In the real world we see men leaving women alone to raise kids. Or the lesser of the two evils, we see men leaving all of the work for the mother, physically present but mentally absent. Of course this isn’t in every case, but I think it’s definitely become a stereotype for a reason. Growing up I always thought of having kids as “a girl thing” because I saw these stereotypes so often. My mind was blown when a friend of mine talked about her husband wanting children. There are men that actually want kids? Ok, her husband must be a little weird.

Fast forward to me being pregnant with my first child. I was so excited, and I wanted my husband to be just as excited, to come to every single appointment, to pick out every onsie, and yet at the same time I felt like saying “Ok thanks, you did your part by getting me pregnant, I’ll take it from here” Having kids is a girl thing.Throughout the entire pregnancy I flip flopped on how involved I wanted him to be. For the longest time I planned to go to the hospital alone – thankfully I came to my senses and we shared a beautiful birth experience.

My husband cried just as much as I did when Laila was born. He changed every hospital diaper, and rocked her to sleep every night. He taught me to breastfeed better than the nurses in the hospital could. He was completely amazing from pregnancy to birth and after, but I still wasn’t convinced. I just didn’t understand what place the father had, I felt like everything was supposed to rest on the mothers shoulders.

In the first few weeks I would tell my husband that I didn’t need him, I was the mom and I could do everything by myself, just take care of the money and we’d call it even. Being the patient and gentle person that he is, eder would just ignore the things that I said and continue taking care of Laila and I.

Despite my confusion as to what a father should look like, I was so impressed with my husband. I was amazed to see him happily wake up in the middle of the night with Laila despite having had a long work day.
He excitedly picked out little outfits for her, he ordered DVDs and toys for her. He instagramed pictures of her and texted me everyday to ask how she was. When he came in from work he immediately went to her. He talked about how much he missed her when he was at work, something I had only ever heard a working mom say.

When Laila is angry about something he is even more patient than I am and comforts her every time. I have never once seem him lose his temper with her, or even complain. Just last night he sat and played barbies with her while I finished up dinner. This morning he was putting her hair in a pony tail while they watched cartoons.

I really believe God put this man and our children into my life so that I could see what a father is supposed to look like. A father is the mothers support, her other half. That doesn’t mean bringing in a paycheck and considering his share of the work done. A real father understands that parenting takes two people, and delights in sharing the responsibilities. A real father is someone who puts his family first, someone who is patient with his children. He invests in his relationship with them and Ioves them unconditionally. A real father is just as involved and devoted as the mother.

Building a home in each other

After two and a half years of hardcore saving and budgeting, hubby and I are finally in the process of buying our first house, and just in time for baby Sabrina!

Up until this point, I think we’ve moved enough times to be classified as semi nomadic. The thought of having our little home for us to spend years in making memories is more exciting than I can say.

Although we’ve moved around several times, we’ve always had a home. By home I don’t mean a house. Home is an immaterial thing. Home, is the love and security between family members. There is a quote, and I forgot by who, but it says that it doesn’t matter where a child is going, as long as they are attached to the parent, they will never feel lost. I couldn’t agree more.

Sure, Eder and I will be painting our house, redoing floors and all kinds of other little Saturday projects that we’ve already planned, but that doesn’t constitute the building of our home. Our home is already built. In fact, we started building that home together on our first date.

The foundation of our home is our marriage. I believe our relationship really sets the atmosphere of our home. We work hard to have a balance in our relationship. I’m a huge believer in opposites attract, and we are definitely opposites!

While most of the time it results in us balancing each other’s personalities, it can also make for some major arguments. It took us a while to learn to compromise, and really listen to the other persons point of view. But the more we get that communication down, the better can display it for our children, and bring a better sense of togetherness to our home.

We’ve definitely chosen an alternative style of parenting, but we’ve both done our research, and had some deep conversations about every decision we’ve made.

For me those decisions are a big part of what makes our home. Our marriage doesn’t have one person who gets to make all of the decisions, so neither does our family. Our children will always have their say so as well, because a family is a team, not a hierarchical system. A successful team requires, honesty, trust, open communication, and strong relationships, and that’s what Eder and I want for our family. We don’t want to be the Because I said so parents, we want to be the kind of parents who actively teach our children to reach solutions through compromise – not force, even if it takes more effort on our part. When we compromise, we are respecting and valuing the other persons point of view. Because we respect our children’s point of view, we don’t want to be the My roof, my rules parents, because it’s our roof, that we all share. Our home isn’t something that any one of us owns, it is a safe place that any one of us can come to when we need relaxation, peace, understanding, and friendship.

Whatever roof my husband, my children and I are under is just a roof. Our home is the love we have for each other, the traditions we share, the memories we make, and the things we learn from each other – and I say from each other because kids can often teach just as many valuable lessons as parents can.