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Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Club: Beyond The Birds And The Bees

  (Disclaimer:  This is not a very well put together post, and I missed a lot of the points I originally wanted to make, so at some point I will be re-writing it. Apologies.)
   
     So, for our second Book Club review, I have Beyond The Birds And The Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids by Greg and Lisa Popcak. I found it to be eye opening and a bit healing for me, due to my issues in regards to my own femininity, which will be the subject of my next post, if not more. The most striking thing for me is the idea that sexuality is more than one's sexual orientation, who one is sexually attracted to; that it involves the whole being of a person as a representation of who they are at the core and informs their interactions with the world around them. The idea that sexuality has more to do with femininity and masculinity than what one does with one's genitals is revolutionary to me. The idea that a person who follows all of the prescribed rules regarding chastity and modesty yet is ashamed of, say, their femininity actually has an unhealthy sexuality is mind boggling to me. Turns out I've been doing it very wrong. 
     Anyway, for someone who doesn't remember any sort of sex talk, and has been ashamed of herself and her body for so long, the advice was much welcome and needed. Giving examples of how parents can speak of the body and sex in respectful, matter of fact ways is extremely helpful. Showing how chastity and modesty are positives and not negative mandates is brilliant. But it really all boils down to teaching parents how to help their children grow up as well integrated people, people who know their worth and the worth of others, and are willing and able to do what it takes to preserve their dignity and that of other. 
     I dunno. I guess that wasn't really much of a book review. But I highly recommend this book to everyone, whether they have children or not. At the very least, it gives a different perspective than what is commonly held and heard today, even by those in the Church. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Compulsory Gift Giving

     The Christmas season. The most wonderful and magical time of the year. Unless you are contemplating not doing Santa, or shooting for a minimalist Christmas gift-wise, or not actually doing presents on the 25th at all. Then you are vilified, because children need magic and imagination and special things in their lives, you horrible old Scrooge.
     Valentine's Day. The day where if you don't go out of your way to do something uber-duber romantic, you are thought of as an unfeeling, cold, and insensitive person.
     Easter. A time where we welcome the long awaited spring, with bunnies, chicks, flowers, and chocolate. Unless you don't want the children to inadvertently focus on Easter baskets and their contents instead of Jesus rising from the dead. Then you're a horrible magic killer, too.
     Ah, Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day. If you don't give your parents a call, send a card, order flowers, then you are an ungrateful, insensitive child. Don't you know what they went through, all they gave up in order to make sure you made it to adulthood alive?
     Finally, birthdays. The idea of not having a large party, let alone not actually celebrating much at all, is faint-worthy to most people. Looking for a good way to ruin your child's life? This might be it. 

     As the tone of the previous paragraphs might imply, I am not a big fan of what I call compulsory gift giving. Each of the cases above are examples of times where society expects, if not demands, the giving of things to and doing of things for people, regardless of whether or not such actions correspond to your personal beliefs and circumstances. Even if you are inclined to not follow the crowd, more likely than not you will do so out of fear of being publicly shamed for all eternity. Well, not me, not anymore. 
     I've been thinking on it for a while now, and I've decided, at least where I giving/doing/acknowledging me is concerned, I would rather you didn't. Receiving presents on Christmas or my birthday or Mothers' Day means very little to me, because they are perceived as obligatory. I would much rather gifts and acknowledgement be given whenever, out of genuine desire to show love and appreciation, just because. Why should "special" things be reserved only to certain socially mandated occasions? If  you see something you think someone would like, don't save it for a "special occasion" like birthday or Christmas - let them know you love and were thinking about them as soon as possible. I'm willing to bet they'd appreciate more. 
     Perhaps this is just me. Of the five love languages, gift giving is my weakest. I don't do it well. Add to that the expectation of giving and receiving gifts around certain times of the year, and it's all over. To be honest, it didn't really bother me too much, until I read a blog last Advent season, which said things which really bothered me. I can't find it now, and yes I've tried googling it, so I'll do my best to summarize what I remember. It was in response to the "We aren't 'celebrating' Christmas" viewpoint, and the writer was of the opinion that it is a horrible thing to not celebrate Christmas with the whole shebang, because children need it, etc., and there was a family at her church that had recently lost the mother, and what she wouldn't give to be able to give those little kids a bit of the magic of Christmas that they were used to, so how dare you deprive your kids of it willingly. Right, so that isn't verbatim, but it is pretty much the gist. What irked me was the tone and underlying idea that Christmas is the only time that could be considered magical, without any consideration to what a family might do the rest of the year. The thinking that if families choose not to celebrate whatever holiday according to society's standards, that those families don't celebrate anything nor do anything special at all, ever. 
     It struck deep, most likely because I don't like to celebrate big or in a manner which everyone else would consider celebrating at all. I wasn't going to have a party for Jose last year at all, maybe not even cake. I don't want to do presents on Christmas, and would prefer to focus on Jesus being born as much as possible.  Sunday was Mothers' Day, my third, and I really didn't want to be acknowledged at all; none of this "It's your day" junk. But my not celebrating those days in no way implies that I don't ever do special things for the people I love. Far from it! I do random special things all year round, and more often than not I get the question "Why? Today isn't special."
     And it bothers me. The idea that doing special things for people should only be reserved to special occasions has been so ingrained in us bothers me. Because you know what? You are special; you are special to me, all of the time. Every day is a special day because you are special to me. And you shouldn't have to wait until a socially acceptable time to be shown that, nor should such seasons be the sole measure of the affection our loved ones have for us, or any measure of that at all for that matter. We deserve better than compulsory affection.