Posts Tagged ‘ stranger danger ’

How To Teach Kids About Religion?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

I decided to take Fia to church on Sunday. This, after a recent vacation to Mammoth, California where we visited an old ghost town.

Me: “Fia, let’s go look at the old church.”

Her: “Mama, what’s church?”

Cue brakes screeching to a halt. Uh-Oh.

Phil’s father is an Episcopalian Priest. He baptized both our kids. His mom is the epitome of a loving, Christian woman. “Rev and Bev” we call them. Part of the deal in baptizing, besides tradition, is to raise them “in the faith.” However, neither Phil nor I are particularly religious. I would call us more spiritual, even though we both grew up going to Sunday School (and when my family was falling apart in the 9th grade, I briefly became a born-again Pentecostal. Yep. Not kidding).  Phil’s experience–which included family time, church picnics and “preacher kid” mischief–was far different than mine.

My parents would pull up in a big cargo van that my mom used for her plant business. They’d open the side door and we four kids would come tumbling out. My adopted brother Carter would bounce in with his huge black Afro and my sister Tanya would follow with her neatly woven cornrows. Kelly, my biological brother, and I would lead the way.

“Come on you guys, we are going to be late!” I’d say, glad to be the older sibling/ring leader. We were a motley crew, no doubt.

My parents would slam the door and shout, “See you in an hour!” and go tearing off. My mother probably went and got high. My father probably went and made charts (we had a sign-in and sign-out chart growing up. Um, yes.).

I didn’t care about the drive-through drop off and I still don’t. In fact, in many ways, I get it. Woo hoo, an hour of free time! No babysitter, no kids. Where I differ from my parents (in addition to the 99% of things they did in child-rearing) is that I’m way too paranoid to ever leave my kids like that. Even when Fia is 8 or 9. No way, no how.

Not only would I not leave her at church alone, I wouldn’t leave her in Sunday School, even if I was at the church attending the main service.  I’m much too paranoid; especially after my “Stranger Danger” post and the warning many of you gave me about “tricky people.”

But here’s where I’m grateful for my religious education: I know the stories. I know a whale swallowed Jonah and Daniel got thrown into a lions’ den. I know the implications and the message behind those stories.  Many of the tales/allegories are cultural references too, and I think it’s important to know them. And no matter whom you worship–AllahBuddhaJesus–the common thread, at its core–is at least supposed to be about compassion, kindness and being a good person. Those are not bad things to teach your kid. One of my issues though, is I feel like I do that regardless. Must I take them to church every Sunday to learn this? Especially because I feel organized religion–also at its core–is deeply flawed?

I won’t go into my issues or grievances. This isn’t about what you believe. It’s about how to teach what you know to your kids without it feeling hypocritical or obligatory.

Back to my church excursion with Fia. On the way there I explained to her we were going to a church to learn about Jesus. Bev sent her the book, “Jesus Loves Me.” Fia knows all the words, partially because I’ve sang her (and Emmett) that song since birth, substituting “Jesus” for “Mama” and “for the bible tells us so” to “for she always tells you so,” etc.

I told her Jesus was a kind person who helped the blind see, the crippled walk and the poor eat. She asked where he was. Instead of saying, “in all of us” or some proper church response, I didn’t think it through. I got distracted because I was driving.

“Well, he died.”

“How did he die?”

“Some bad men killed him.”

Silence, then:

“Oh, oh, I know!” she piped up in earnest. “He was smushed and turned into soup!”

(Pause.) (Pause again.) (Pause more.)

“Well, not exactly…”

And so it goes. My search for answers. To be continued…

 

Pic of church via Shutterstock

 

 

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Stranger Danger: When To Teach It?

Monday, July 29th, 2013

I was having one of those moments where my mind became a runaway train. I went down the “what if” road. I won’t even start elaborating on my deepest darkest fears when it comes to my kids, but suffice it to say, if I let my brain take over, it plays out nearly every bad scenario imaginable.

I think it stems from the fact Fia is starting a new pre-school in the fall. It’s a Montessori that I’ve heard nothing but good and great things about. However, it is a bigger school and unlike the intimate setting she has now, I am having irrational thoughts about her getting lost. Or stolen.

Granted the whole place is gated and as of this writing, they have never “lost” a kid. Plus, Fia is an uber rule-follower. When they line up after playground time (within the confines of the locked metal fence), the teachers do a head count. Then they walk–still surrounded by the fence–to their classroom. It’s about 10 steps. Within those 10 steps they are never outside the fence. I observed all this first hand. But you know what it’s like when you are in “what-if” territory.  You can easily imagine your child suddenly falling into the hidden tunnel underneath the sandbox that takes them to the outside world and into enemy territory. Kind of like the Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels.

When I brought myself back from the brink of madness, I realized I do actually have a legitimate question. When do you teach your kid about “Stranger Danger?”

She is going to be 3 1/2 when she starts. Her world is still a very safe place. I don’t want to put unnecessary fears in her, as she does tend to be a bit obsessive (big surprise). But I also don’t want her to be naive and unaware. So before I lose any more mind space over this, or decide to umm, home school her (no), can someone give me some advice?

 

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Why I Hate My Toddler’s Favorite TV Show

Monday, October 29th, 2012

You know what pisses me off? Television for my kids. Okay, I’ll admit it. Fia hasn’t learned to spell or read only from us. We read books every night, but what has really taught her is Sesame Street and Super Why. Both PBS shows (please don’t take away Big Bird if–god forbid–you get elected Romney).

But what these shows, particularly Super Why, has also taught her is to fear–of the dark, of shadows, of monsters. These are things she never even contemplated before. She has always slept in a pitch-black room, with one small nightlight. But ever since an episode of Super Why where the little girl was scared in the night, Fia has insisted we keep her closet light on and her door slightly open. The latter has meant she can hear Emmett cry and subsequently she wakes up. But that’s not nearly as frustrating as watching her become afraid.

Her recent fascination with shadows is at times fun and playful (and annoying when you decide on a stupid whim to have her sleep in bed with you), but other times it’s steeped in fear. “Mama, look at that shadow!” she’ll whine. “It’s S-C-A-R-Y!”

Spiders are another one. In the past she loved to look at them. Now she screams, “Mama, a spider!” and runs the other way. Even spider webs, which used to fascinate, have her freaked.

I don’t want to totally bash TV because I am fully aware of the tradeoff. She has learned a ton from it. But producers, do you have to frighten in your themes? Learning is fun for them. Being scared isn’t.

If we never taught our children to fear the dark or spiders, would they grow up not afraid? Or is this something that eventually happens by being a member of society anyway? In other words, am I kidding myself to think I could have avoided her arachnophobia if she hadn’t seen those episodes? I’m not sure. I know she never learned the word “mine” and toy-grabbing until she hung out with kids who did that. But how did those kids learn? Was it just inherent in their personalities and thus this is just part of life? Or did they learn it from someone who learned it from something, and so on?

Of course when it’s appropriate, she’ll learn stranger danger (we should probably start on that soon), the basics of safety and eventually the staggering problems of the world. But during the tender age of toddlerhood I could stand her being left in the dark a bit longer. Without a light on.

 

Afraid of Dark Picture via Shutterstock

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