7 Quick Takes, vol. 129

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What time zone do they use in Antarctica? I mean, think about it, every time zone in the world intersects there. Which one would you pick?

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Can anyone explain to me the logic behind a two year old who sees a hat on the floor and thinks he must go out of his way to step on it?

Yes, I am aware that two year olds are not strong on logic. But nobody, not even a two-year-old, does things without some sort of purpose. The brain directs them. Why does it default to “must crush anything I can put my little feet on”????

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I read a very interesting book recently. It’s called The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. It is a series of reflections on life as it relates to monastic life, written by a non-Catholic woman who was so drawn by liturgy that she became a Benedictine oblate. The real value in this book is that it is written by someone not steeped in all the Catholic terminology and world view, and thus reflects on it with a certain objectivity. It’s not a Catholic book, but it gave me a lot of spiritual food for thought.

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For instance: she quotes a Benedictine sister as saying: “So much of Catholic moral teaching has to do with knowledge, intention, and consent of the will.” It really struck me because that’s exactly right. The quote is in the context of a discussion of celibacy, and how it relates to sexual expression. She doesn’t pull back from observations that some who practice celibacy try to turn off their sexuality, pretend it isn’t there–always with disastrous results. But she doesn’t buy the idea that celibacy itself is the problem. Celibacy, she argues, for those who have integrated it properly into their self-image and sexuality, frees them to love everyone, to extend hospitality to all, to an extent that those of us who commit to a single person can’t reach, simply by virtue of our commitment.

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And of course, she won me over by calling sex an idol in modern life, and talking about how it makes women available all the time, turning them into objects instead of people. Right there I knew this woman had her head on straight. 🙂

Incidentally, the book was not all about matters of sexual expression. Not by a long shot. That was just the part that struck me so forcefully that I had to share it.

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Changing topics: Julianna is really pushing the edge of beginning to talk. She has quite a few proto-words now…they just don’t sound like normal kids’ proto-words. Her brain is more or less beyond the repeat-syllable stage. For her it’s all about trying to get those dratted muscles in her mouth and lips to work together. But she says–and means–blue, ball, moon, and several others. But for all who have been saying, “I can’t wait for you to talk so we know what you’re trying to tell us!” be warned: you’re still not going to know what she’s trying to tell you. Communication with Julianna will involve deep thought and interpretation for quite some time after she begins talking for real.

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Children's Miracle Network, founded 1983 with ...

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Speaking of Julianna, her picture is up at a cash register at Wal Mart on a donate-a-dollar card for the Children’s Miracle Network. I had forgotten I had given permission for them to use her picture however they wanted. People have been calling and stopping us all week, saying, “I saw her picture and I HAD to give!” 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 129)

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Teaching Healthy Sexuality To Our Children, Part 2

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Do you go through stages where you keep talking about the same topic again and again, wrestling with it until you finally resolve it? For me, lately, that topic has been how to teach sexuality to my children. There’s such a tightrope to walk between doing too little and too much. Talk about it too little (or too late), and kids will learn all their attitudes from peers, movies, TV and ads. That’s disastrous, considering the way modern culture has both trivialized sex and labeled it as indispensable to life and happiness. But hit it too hard, and kids are likely to develop an unhealthy attitude equating sexuality with sin.

My oldest is five years old. I’m very far from an expert. But this I do believe……

I’m posting today over at Catholic Mothers Online, and it’s definitely more “Catholic” than what I usually write. But Catholic or not, I think most parents worry a lot about this subject. Come on over and chime in!

Teaching a Healthy Sexuality to Our Children

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Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures

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From day one, one of the most intimidating things about parenthood for me has been how to teach my children sexual morality. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. As with every area of parenting, we think about the way we were raised—what worked, what didn’t—and we try to imitate and improve. Of course, what works and what doesn’t is different from child to child within a family, but I’d like to propose a general first step:

Begin by speaking of the human body with respect.

I got to thinking about this at Christmastime, when my sister and her husband shared that their son, a second grader, has recently brought home a fit of the giggles about the word “booby.” Now, we all went through this. Somebody says something at school, you don’t know what it means, or you have a vague idea but not a clear understanding, and it becomes a source of hilarity because you know, instinctively, that it’s a taboo subject. Anything related to the body—whether it’s excretory or sexual in nature—falls under this heading. It happened to me; it happened to you; I feel safe saying it’s fairly universal human experience among children who attend school.

The problem is that then our first lesson in human sexuality is one that turns the body and its most miraculous function into something dirty, something to be giggled about in private, and never really understood.

When I heard that story from my sister, I realized that before long, it’s going to happen to my son, too. And I started wondering how to head it off. That’s when I realized:

The only way to get ahead of this is to start talking about the body frankly and respectfully from day one.

I was working in the Church when the sex abuse scandal hit the fan. Because I worked with school children, I was required to do “Virtus” training. They presented the idea that we should use body terminology with children. We should get them used to the words “penis” and “vagina,” and stop shrouding those parts of our bodies in undignified terms like “wee wee.” We shouldn’t

Eugen de Blaas: The Flirtation

be embarrassed to name the parts of our bodies; our bodies and all their functions are holy. If children’s first lessons in sex consist of dirty jokes and embarrassed giggles, how can we be surprised at the corruptions that ensue in adolescence and adulthood? They’ve laid down a film of disrespect for the physical human person, and all the healthy layers we try to put down on top can’t overcome a shaky foundation.

Christian has always understood this instinctively. He banned the word “boobs” from our house, because it has this connotation of disrespect. If you’re going to talk about a woman’s breasts, say breasts, he says. It’s more respectful of the woman.

Kids need to be introduced to human sexuality the same way they are introduced to everything else: one tiny piece at a time, beginning in early childhood. For a very long time, I resisted the idea that we should be doing sex ed in early childhood. But as time passes, I recognize the wisdom of it. If we wait until a girl gets her period to give her any sense of her own sexuality, then the first associations she has with the subject are wrapped up in awkwardness and self-disgust.

The concepts of abstinence, of the sexual act being something reserved to marriage, and so on—these concepts are built upon a foundation of respect, and if we wait till puberty to teach them, we’ve missed the boat. By then, kids’ attitudes are already half-formed. Cloak the human body in dignity, not in giggle-worthy slang, and you lay the foundation for children who have a healthy attitude toward sexuality—and toward the opposite sex.

It’s not a total solution, but it’s a place to start.