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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hitting is Hitting is Hitting

Dress it up any way you wish, but spanking, popping, tapping, swatting, smacking, and the like are all the same - hitting. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

Recently, I was asked, "Well, if they're the same, as you say, then why do they have different definitions?" Um, for one, there are a great many synonyms in our language. Those are an example of that crazy phenomenon. Secondly, the definitions aren't actually different.

Merriam-Webster (the English teacher in me will not allow me to use Dictionary.com or anything else newfangled when it comes to my reference books) defines the following words as such:

smack - to strike so as to produce a smack; a sharp slap or blow

spank - to strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand

(Hmmm...I'm seeing a pattern emerge already...)

pop - to strike or knock sharply : hit

swat - to hit with a sharp slapping blow; a powerful or crushing blow

(I can't make this stuff up, folks.)

tap - to strike a light audible blow; to strike lightly especially with a slight sound; to give a light blow with

hit - to strike a blow

I mean, I didn't have to make anything up here. This is not my opinion or bias. It is what it is. Hitting is hitting is hitting. Give it whatever fanciful name you want, but you're still just putting lipstick on a pig...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Being Zen Mama

The overwhelming majority of you don't know me, will never know me, likely don't have any real desire to know me. Cool. It does make for some interesting comments, judgments, assumptions, and misunderstandings, though. That being the case, I've decided to let you into my world just a bit.

By no means do I feel this is an all-encompassing picture of who I am. Quite the contrary. However, this is a quick and easy glimpse to help you understand with whom you are dealing when you hop onto the blog or FB page.

I am an ISTJ (introverted, sensing, teaching, judging) personality on the Briggs-Myers personality scale. According to this site and their particular test, my results are as follows and they actually fit me fairly well:

"The ISTJ personality type is the second most popular one (11.6% of the U.S. population). “Only the facts, please” is their motto – ISTJ personalities respect facts greatly and tend to accumulate a lot of information in their own memory. One of the key contributing factors is their S trait, which allows ISTJs to analyse the surroundings quite effortlessly.

Due to their straightforward approach, ISTJs may encounter difficulties when it becomes necessary to comprehend a competing theory or idea. However, people with this personality type are nearly unstoppable if they believe that a specific idea is valuable and can be implemented – they will consider it their duty to establish and maintain a smooth operation. As soon as the new procedure proves its usefulness (i.e. it becomes apparent that the new approach actually works), ISTJs will put a lot of effort to enable its successful implementation, even at the expense of their own health.

ISTJs tend to be extremely thorough, always checking the facts and not assuming anything. ISTJs are also respected for their exceptional loyalty to their duty – their accuracy, patience and ability to concentrate make them ideal employees in many professions. Not surprisingly, people with this personality type gravitate towards traditional, hierarchical institutions – public service, law, military etc.

ISTJ personalities spend an enormous amount of time and energy performing every task they see as important, especially it contributes to the achievement of a specific goal. However, such a commitment also has a negative side – an ISTJ will refuse to budge and spend at least some of their time doing things that they do not see as meaningful or practical, e.g. some social rituals. ISTJ personalities prefer to do things alone, but can also work as part of a team if necessary.

ISTJs enjoy being responsible for their actions and love the power that stems from this. They are usually jacks-of-all-trades and this can potentially lead to many significant achievements in diverse areas – ISTJs tend to be bright, logical and wise individuals, characterized by their desire to seek secure and stable life.

Like other introverted personalities with a well-developed T trait, ISTJs are often (mistakenly) seen as indifferent and cold. Of course, it is understandably difficult for an ISTJ to reveal their emotions or express affection, but that does not mean that they have no feelings or are insensitive.

ISTJs are easily irritated by other people’s shortcomings – they see their own promises as sacred and cannot understand how someone could consciously fail to meet their obligations. This can be a significant disadvantage at times, as some people can abuse the ISTJ’s strong sense of duty by overloading them with work.

ISTJ personalities tend to keep their opinions to themselves, unless someone asks them directly. People with this personality type are very direct – for them, the truth is always far more important than sensitivity. This ruthless judgment is irreplaceable in refereeing or legal work – where other people might waver, the ISTJ will make the difficult decision while ignoring the emotional background.

ISTJs respect traditions and do their best to adhere to the existing rules and guidelines. In some cases, this trait can be so strong that the ISTJ will not break the rules even when the consequences for breaking them pale in comparison to what would happen if those rules were followed.

ISTJs are not particularly good at listening to their own (and especially other people’s) feelings. Consequently, they may face difficulties when it is necessary to understand other people’s emotional needs. On the other hand, ISTJs rarely have any difficulties coping with emotionally charged situations – they can always keep a cool head and act rationally."

Oddly enough, though this describes me nearly perfectly as a person, when it comes to parenting, I'm far from it. I work hard to be far from it, though.

"ISTJ parents are likely to be strict, traditional and very devoted. They will do their best to ensure that their children grow up in a stable and clearly structured environment, respectful of the authority and aware of their role and place within the society. ISTJ personalities are likely to enjoy the parenthood as it gives them an excellent opportunity to contribute to the continuity and stability of their family, community and society.

ISTJs may have difficulties meeting their children’s emotional needs as people with this personality type are not naturally sensitive. They will be very loyal and devoted, but recognizing and dealing with emotions is not something that an ISTJ is likely to feel comfortable with. This is where they may have to rely on their partner, especially if their child is quite emotional and sensitive.

ISTJ parents are also likely to have very high standards, as well as be patient and hard-working – naturally, they will expect their children to share these values as well. Such an approach will probably help their children succeed in life, but may also create a distance between them and the ISTJ, especially during the adolescent years."

I have made a conscious effort to not be this parent and of that I am quite proud. Aside from "very devoted" and "stable," I am proud to say this does not describe me at all. This says to me that though we have innate traits, we also have choices we get to make about who we are, when, and why. Don't like something about ourselves? We get to choose to change it. Choose not to change it? That's OK, but then we have to own that choice, too.

Who are you innately as a person? As a parent? Do you go with it happily or are there parts of the descriptor you're working to change?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"There Are Bigger Things to Worry About Than..."

Almost daily (heck, on almost every post), I get "there are bigger things to worry about than this" as a comment. This phrase makes my head just about explode.

a) Don't prioritize for me or assert my priorities should be the same as yours.
b) There's always something bigger and badder. Does that mean we should only worry about the one thing that is the absolute worst thing ever in the history, present, and future of both the known and unknown universe (because there can only be one very worst, most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing in the world and I am at a loss as to what that one thing is, but I know "worst" is absolute and final, thus there can only be the one)?

So, I'm still going to concern myself with routine infant circumcision, though parents committing infanticide is arguably worse. I'm still going to concern myself with the heinous practices of formula companies, even though Kony is likely Beezlebub himself, thus arguably worse. I'm still going to concern myself with everything I consider to be a priority, because they are my priorities and because if we all only concerned ourselves with the one very worst thing ever, we would be living in an even sadder state than is current.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness - Summer Version

Zen Husband will likely be teaching summer school, so our usual travel plans are out and Zen Son and I are on our own. The Arizona desert's summer heat is much like I imagine can be found near the earth's core, so the seasoned Arizonan will spend much of the season hibernating. (Unseasoned newcomers will spend the season blistering and learning painful lessons.) It leaves me thinking, "What to do? What to do?"

Ah ha! Let's have fun taking care of others, which, in turn, takes care of our souls, too. Two-fer!

Thus, I present to you the summer version of our list of Random Acts of Kindness:

- donate books to the library
- donate clothes and toys to charity
- send a care package to Zen Son's godfather (my cousin, his Ninong) who is on a mission in Central America
- volunteer at the animal shelter
- pass out Blessing Bags to the homeless at the library (the city's library always has a massive amount of homeless folk both in and around at all times)
- send "just because" drawings and paintings to family living far away
- pay for the person behind us in line at the children's museum
- fill parking meters for people
- bring ice pops to the kids in Zen Dads class
- send "thank you" drawing or paintings to local police and fire
- Adopt a Soldier
- and so much more!

You are only limited by your heart and imagination. Start small. Open a door for someone, let someone ahead of you in line, smile when walking by someone.

Note: I do not make Zen Son do anything of this nature. He does what he likes to do, because he likes to do it and has an amazing capacity for empathy even at just 2 1/2 years old. I enjoy it, I'm excited about it, he feeds off me. It's incredible what examples we can be - both positive and negative - so be kind to others and you'll see kindness emanate both from them and your babes.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How My Life in Law Enforcement Has Shaped Me as a Zen Parent

I grew up in a law enforcement family and, not surprisingly, I joined the family business where I worked for several years before becoming a teacher. I still have a law enforcement family - both in the literal and metaphorical senses, as those bonds are never broken.

I have learned much, experienced much in those years and I thought I'd share with you a few of the more important lessons as they apply to Zen Parenting.

- never put your children in personalized clothes or accessories
What better way to get a child's attention than to call him or her by name? Why give creeps that information willingly? Backpacks with their names emblazoned or T-shirts screen-printed with their first, last, or nicknames look adorable, I know. They also look like a prey's name tag to a creep who would approach the child and say, "Hey, Luke, your mommy asked me to bring you to her in the parking lot."

- guns are not toys, thus they should not be playing with toys that are guns
Someone recently told me how ridiculous I was being not allowing my son to play with guns, as kids make guns out of the most banal objects, like sticks, anyway, so there's no getting away from them. That's not the point. That's not why we don't allow guns of any type in the house (yes, that includes squirt guns and guns on little action figures). We don't allow them, because guns are not toys. I never, never want my son to mistake a gun for a toy. I don't want him so used to playing with toy guns, some of which look very real and are even easily mistaken as such by those who deal with guns daily (like law enforcement officers), that he would see a real gun and see it as just another toy. No. Guns are not toys, thus there will be no toys that are guns in our home.

- if lost or in trouble and cannot find parents or loved ones, kids should look for someone in a uniform or with a name tag, or a parent with kids with them
Does this mean that every one of these people are "good" and "wholesome"? No, but chances are better that they'll find someone helpful in these folks than if they go with anyone who takes their hand to "help".

- nobody thinks they're a child abuser...they ALL think they're "disciplining" just the right amount, for just the right reasons, and in just the right way
Whether they're spanking, swatting, popping, using a belt, using a spoon, just tapping the hand, inflicting physical pain, not inflicting physical pain, slugging in the face, slapping in the face, pushing, screaming at, calling names, intimidating, or a bevy of other evils, none of the parents I've ever encountered believe themselves to be child abusers. They all think they're doing a bang-up job as parents. They're all justified in their own minds. They're wrong.

Agree with me or not - totally up to you. What I offer you is a perspective to which you may not have been privy under normal circumstances. What I ask of you is to think on it all. That's all. Just think on it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Body - Apparently Up for Debate

Let me tell you about my body: it. has. changed.

I wrote about my body here. I reposted it here. The repost was interesting, to say the least. It turned into something very different than what I had actually written. And my regular Zen Parents commented in ways that proved the point of the post so beautifully, it was almost serendipitous...almost. See screen shots of the thread below.

Though I weigh many, many pounds LESS than I did before pregnancy, my body has changed, my weight has shifted and rearranged - I am in a bigger size now than I was when I weighed much more. My weight used to be much more evenly proportioned. Now, my legs and arms are thinner, my butt is smaller, the area where my c-section scar can be found is much bigger, my middle is thicker. It just is.

Shocking though it apparently is to some, I do not sit on the couch all day eating bon-bons and watching soap operas. And I exercise every day. I don't know any mother who doesn't! Running around after a toddler all day is a butt-kicking workout for anyone.

I was, at one point, in incredible shape. I used to work out about 8 hours a week. I had sculpted muscles, no detectable body fat, and I was STILL bigger than society would want me to be, still would never make it in Hollywood. My hips have always been high (I have never had a waist - all boob and hip) and wide, making for good curves, in my opinion, but too big, nevertheless, in society's eyes. My butt has always been non-existent. No matter how much I killed myself with trainers, I am just the female Hank Hill. So be it. My boobs have always been quite large. At one point, in high school, I considered a reduction, but decided against it. They are now not as perky as they once were and that's OK with me. Despite all the imperfections, I still had a hot little body. I didn't have anyone commenting to me that I should exercise, that I should stop eating junk, that I should set a better example, that I was unhealthy. Let me write that again: I had several imperfections according to society and I was beautiful.

Now, I'm not that body anymore, but I'm more happy. I know...shocking! It's true. I can actually look different than society, the media, many of you want me to look and be as happy as a clam. I have the same imperfections now, tacked on with a couple extra, and I'm happier now. What's the difference? I have experience, different priorities, different values, and a healthier self-esteem. Here's the math: me + imperfections - head noises as a result of society's static = me. Yup. Still me. I'm the same person regardless of the gray hair, regardless of whether or not I've "let myself go" (according to the comments), regardless of a couple extra pounds. And guess what: I'm a better version of me now than I was then. I never would've been the mom I am now when I was the old me.

Am I asking you to be like me? Never. Am I happy, healthy, safe, and a dang good mom? Yup. Does it look the way you want it to look? Evidently not. That's something for those who dislike it to come to terms with, not me. I have my own business to worry about.

To reiterate the point of this and the former post, the point is that loving oneself is a far more important lesson for me to teach my son than is fitting in to a mold set forth by, well, who cares who.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Abhor the Act and the Perpetrators of It - Not the Parents

Comments like this hurt my heart:

"Parents who circumcise are so stupid!"

"You morons who cut your sons should be strapped down and cut yourselves!"

"There's no excuse for what you've done. Good parents research enough to learn the truth and don't mutilate their sons!"

Tell me, what are you hoping to accomplish with this? Does it make you feel better? I can't imagine it does much more than anger you more. Does it change their minds? I wouldn't think so. It sure wouldn't change mine. It would, however, get my defenses up. And do you really believe these people are stupid morons who deserve the same fate as their sons? Is it really them you're mad at? Or is it the system, the culture, the lies, and the unbelievable amount of really well-written and cleverly disguised misinformation out there?

Here's what I believe: I believe the overwhelming majority of parents love their children unconditionally, would sooner die than hurt them intentionally, would kill anyone attempting to harm them, and are doing their best with the information and resources they have at the time.

Ignorance is not an excuse. Except that, well, kind of it is. Humor me for a moment. Pretend you know nothing about circumcision except what mainstream society tells you. Now go ahead and research it. You will find just as much, if not more, false information out there as true. Add that to the fact that, at least in the U.S., medical personnel are not trained in the functions of the foreskin and proper intact penis care, that medical books published here show, generally, only cut penises, and that most male doctors and nurses are circumcised themselves and you have a population of trusted, "educated" individuals to whom parents will listen and trust the lives of their babes. If they say to cut, parents, especially those who are on the fence or who have been raised to never question those who they see as authority figures, will go with their suggestion and cut. They don't know any better. They're trusting someone (or a lot of someones) who they should be able to trust - who society tells them they should trust. People think, "Well, I'm no doctor. What do I know? They're the ones who did 10+ years in school learning all about this stuff. If they say it, it must be true." And they never know that those doctors didn't actually "learn all about this stuff." They just trust. I don't blame those parents. They've been fed bad information and lies. I do blame those whose job it is to not be ignorant of the human body. Where they live, where they went to school, when they grew up, when they went to school - none of these are excuses. They ought to know better, they are required to know better for the sake of us and our babes.

Let's look at things from the flip side. Upon being presented with information that would prove a parent put their child(ren) in harm's way, said parent would naturally start to experience the five stages of grief. These stages are:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance
What we're seeing when we read the myriad comments defending their decisions to cut are the first two stages of grief. We've presented them with information that is nearly unbearable. Denying it can provide comfort to a soul that has been badly shocked. Lashing out can remove the focus from themselves and pawn it off on anyone else, anywhere else - it's just too much to bear to focus inward. We cannot force them through those stages of grief faster, to a speed of our liking - we can only hope they won't get stuck in those first couple of stages, that they'll be able to move through the process, and that they'll do it before any other babes are damaged. Imagine how they must feel. Imagine the debilitating grief one must feel upon learning they have hurt their child(ren) with their ignorance. The pain, the grief, the anger with themselves and the others who have lied to them - my heart hurts almost as much for them as for their babes.

We are all at different stages in our parenting and personal journeys. Who are we to say everyone should be where we are at this time? Do we want others expecting that of us? I'm certainly not finished growing and learning. I'm steadily working and I'll get there when I get there, but no one can force me to move faster - especially not by attacking me. I don't know what I don't know. Neither do you. Unfortunately, this means we have made mistakes, are making mistakes now, and will continue to make mistakes. Also, sadly, this means that one of those mistakes, for some, will be that they will ignorantly, certainly not viciously, but truly harm their sons and alter them for life. We understand this. They do not, at this point. Our job is to help them learn and grow, but force it we cannot. And believe me, I understand how maddening, how utterly frustrating this waiting period can be. I understand the anger and disbelief upon reading the comments of those who will defend to the death their decision to cut. But it is not them I abhor. It is the act and the perpetrators of the act that I abhor. It is them I work to stop.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


No one can humble me like my son.

About 1/2 hour ago, after a long day of nearly 100 degree weather in which we did some nakey gardening and hammock construction together, my son, who is currently just over crotch-height to me, ran into me (face to crotch) accidentally, backed up, said, "Ew, goss!" and proceeded further with, "You ganina not smell good."

We promptly showered and I am happy to report that I am now fresh as a daisy.

Thanks, buddy. I can always count on you to be honest.