Saturday, March 31, 2012

5 Parenting Practices I Despise

The longer I parent, the more I realize that every parenting choice I make will be criticized.

Adoption or biological children? Domestic or International? Natural, medicated, or c-section birth? Circumcise or intact? Breast or formula? Vaccinate or not vaccinate? Home, private, or public school? Helicopter or free-range? Infant baptism or believer's baptism?

It doesn't even have to be a permanent or irreversible parenting decision to warrant criticism. Cloth or disposable? Bikini, tankini, or one-piece?  Natural, loc'ed, or "permed" hair? Boxers or briefs?

The list goes on and on. And there's no escaping it. If your parenting choice is public knowledge, there will inevitably be people who feel the need to tell you that you are doing it right... or, more often, that you are doing it wrong.

I've had my fair share of moments where I have criticized (or at least thought negatively) about the parenting choices others make. Some of them have been on this very blog. Most of them expressed as a "you do what you want and screw up your kids if you decide to, but my way is better" attitude.

Sometimes I make myself sick. 

I've tried, recently, to be less critical of the parenting practices of others. You see, I mess up occasionally sometimes frequently. And I grow, change my opinions, and parent (hopefully) better because of my mistakes. And I realize that how you parent, even if it's totally opposite of what I would do, is really between you and your child.

But, there are still some parenting practices that I cannot get on board with. Some that I still criticize- publicly and loudly. Because I just despise them.

1. Fear-based Parenting

Terri Schuester and Quinn from Glee

There's this line from the first season of Glee that has really stuck with me. Terri Schuester tells secretly-pregnant teen, Quinn, that she needs to take prenatal vitamins... one pill, three times a day, "or your baby will be ugly." Ha ha ha, right?


When fear motivates parenting, it rarely ends up turning out well. Parents whose main reason for making choices is based in fear of the repercussions usually make choices that limit themselves and their children. They teach their children to be fearful, and as a result the kids grow up believing "I can't". Or, they stifle constructive conversations with their kids and end up with rebellion and the hurts that often accompany that. I mean, have you seen Footloose?

Now, I'm not suggesting that parents throw caution to the wind and live with reckless abandon. Far from it. As the adults, parents have the mental capacity to predict the consequences of actions and the life experience to make informed judgments about the choices they and their children are making. They should use this.

But caution and fear are not the same thing. Caution is based in a realization of the facts and likely potentials in a situation, both positive and negative; fear is a feeling that is often based on imagined or perceived threats.

Caution says "let's learn about how diseases are spread and make sure we don't engage in activities that spread them." Fear says "I don't want you to get AIDS so you can't play with that HIV+ child!" See the difference? And can you see why fear-based parenting isn't a good idea?

2. Boundary-Free Parenting

It doesn't take much reading... or much life experience... to realize that children need boundaries. Boundaries help kids feel and be safe. They help kids understand right and wrong. They teach children how to manage the world around them. In short, boundaries are part of loving your child.

I'm not going to pretend that I know the right boundaries for other parents to set with their children (although, I think we can all agree that rubbing boogers on another child is not acceptable, right? Believe me, I am working on that one with JohnAndrew!) But a child without boundaries is a child that will self-destruct... and likely take their entire family- and everyone else around- down with them.

Even worse than no boundaries may be those who don't enforce the limits they claim to have set. These parents are steering their children right into disaster, and frankly, their kids deserve better. Boundaries are not a means of controlling your child or even a method of punishment... they are a way of lovingly teaching your child what they need to do to safely engage in the world around them.

Think about it... why do we tell our child not to touch a hot stove? It's because they do not yet know that the hot stove will burn them, and we love them enough to seek their well-being. That's what boundaries are- a way for parents to guide their child towards well-being because we have the knowledge and experience to know what will burn them.

Boundaries. Kids need them. Parents need to enforce them.

3. "Researching" Parenting Choices

When it comes to making choices in parenting, every parent has a different method of deciding what they will do. Some go with their gut instinct. Others ask the opinion of their mothers or other parents they respect. Still others turn to the Interwebs or professionals to research different topics. I'm guessing most parents use a combination of these methods for making their choices. And that is great.

But this can go wrong when people do "research" that really isn't about discovering facts but rather about finding an opinion and passing it off as fact. Do you know what I mean? The people who go to (not an actual website;) and then go around quoting it as a source of "factual" information as to why formula is better than breastmilk. 

My mom recently posted a great quote on my FB wall- I'm sure many of you have seen it:

"Quotes found on the Internet are not always accurate"
- Abraham Lincoln
Word. Listen, just because someone- even a really qualified someone- posts something on the Internet does not make it a fact. Even if they say it is. Even if they use all sorts of statistics to say it is.

If you want to believe it and use it as a guiding point in making parenting decisions, that's A-OK by me. You make your decisions to the best of your ability. Believe what you want. Find others who support you. 

But please, don't go around telling people that it is the Truth when it isn't. 

4. Religion-izing Abuse

Do you remember the story of Hana Williams, the little Ethiopian girl who died after alleged extensive abuse from the hands of her adoptive parents?

As the CNN report implies, Hana's adoptive parents--- and the Pearls (authors of To Train Up a Child)--- seem to use Scripture to condone abusive behaviors.

This isn't unique to Bible-believers. We see this across a variety of belief systems. But I chose this story because these are "Christian" parents, and as such, we believe the same Bible.  But this is not okay, and never will be.

There is no justification for abusing a child. 

And I can never accept the practice of abusing your child in the name of God. No matter what God you believe in. Period.

5. "Pass the Hate" Parenting


Last summer, shortly after we moved to the Jackson, Mississippi area, this happened. Just miles from our home. A group of white teen boys set out on a journey to "mess" with a black person. And James Craig Anderson ended up dead. For standing in a parking lot while black. Sound familiar?

Let me be real clear on something: children are not born hating others based on skin color. Or religion. Or gender. Or sexual orientation. Or ethnicity. Or nationality.

Hate is taught.

Not always by parents, but more often than not, parents are part of the problem when a child learns to hate. Either by directly teaching it, or by allowing their child to spend time with people, groups, or media influences that teach hate. Parents are the gatekeepers.

Don't believe me? Guess what. Mississippi is home to 46 known hate groups. And my guess is that the easiest recruits to these groups are those who are recruited early.

No matter how convinced a parent is that their hate is valid, passing it on to the next generation is never warranted- never excusable.

Are there any parenting practices you despise?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cute Baby Videos

Babies holding babies:

Ava Joy is a talker. Like her Daddy. It may take her a minute to warm up, but once she goes... well, just watch:)

I got Ava Joy's first giggle's on video!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Patrick's Day 2012

I'm pretty sure I have the cutest kids in Mississippi.

My husband's not too shabby, either.

Can you see Ava Joy's head?

On the 17th, we attended Mal's St. Paddy's Parade in Jackson. When people described the parade as "the Mardi Gras of Mississippi" I had no idea they meant it would be such a loud, crazy, alcohol-infused, bead-flinging time! I mean, I've never been to Mardi Gras, but I definitely think this is a good comparison.

Oh, and by the way, my girls are never going to Mardi Gras. That one up there tried to climb between the retainers to grab beads that hadn't quite reached the crowds. And Abigail? She kissed a parader's cheek for a string of beads!

Like I said: No Mardi Gras for THEM!!! Who knows what they would do there for beads!

Despite the loud craziness and a few welts on JA's face from some drunken over-exuberant bead-throwers, a good time was had by all most some, and these days, that might be the best we can hope for in this family!

Some of the highlights of this very strange parade (did I mention that the parade had basically nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day? And that a parade-goer next to me actually asked who St. Patrick was?)

Jackson's finest.

Our very own officer camped out in front of our "spot." He was kind enough to grab beads out of the road for all the kids in the front. But don't act like he was happy about it:)

The single most "Irish" part of the parade. Most of the floats featured football, beer, hunting/guns and very LOUD music (apparently, the theme of the parade was "What I Like About the South").

Oh, and this:

Yeah, I'm stumped by that one, too:)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Locks of Love

In December, Abigail decided it was time.

We had been growing our hair out together, with the goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a non-profit that provides hairpieces to children under age 21 who have lost their hair due to a medical diagnosis.

I am not yet ready to cut mine (it's long enough, but I just am not yet ready to let go of the convenience of the ponytail/bun with the babies!)

But Abigail was ready.

She had over 12 inches to donate.

She loved her new shorter 'do!

This is all the hair ready to be mailed off to Locks of Love.

 I can't wait to donate mine!
In fact, Anna is considering donating her hair! I can't think of a better reason for her to cut it! 

Locks of Love uses all hair types, of any color or texture, from any race. You can find out more about donating your hair here. If you don't have hair to donate, you can donate financially to help off-set the cost of making the hair pieces.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Pepsi with a Twist of Fetus

Several times in the last few months I have seen FB peeps write things like "Company XYZ uses aborted babies to make their product! Ewww! Boycott!" and link to articles like this one. And every time, John and I talk about this and get all riled up, and usually I post some links, and then people end up telling me that I am not a Christian and I probably enjoy eating aborted babies.

Mmm! Tastes like chicken!

Or Pepsi. Whatever.

So I'm going to put it all out there, because I'm not 100% sure what I think, but I am hoping that I can have a conversation from a Christian perspective with people who won't accuse me of enjoying eating dead babies. Mmmmkay?

So, what's actually happening?

A novel line of HEK293 expresses a fluorescent green protein. Kinda pretty.

In the 1970s, a woman had an abortion. Or a miscarriage. We actually don't know which it was, but many assume it was an abortion. If it was an abortion, we have no idea if it was elective or induced miscarriage (meaning the baby had died but the miscarriage process had not started, so drugs were given to force the fetus to be expelled before infection developed.)

With her consent, the fetus was retained and used by scientist to harvest the kidney cells.

Those kidney cells had part of their DNA modified and now are "immortalized" (think of this as self-sustaining and/or not dying.) Since the 1970s, those modified cells have been around and continue to "reproduce" themselves. The particular line of cells described in the article above is known as HEK293. You can read about the actual process of developing that line of cells here.

Since the line was developed in the 70s, the cells have been used for many purposes. Basically, the researchers can use the cells to "grow" various kind of human cells, allowing them to research all sorts of things like disease processes, medications, etc. In this article, the scientists are using the HEK293 to develop taste-receptor cells (like what we have on our tongue). Those taste-receptors are used to test flavor additives for Pepsi's products.

So, this brings up a few different moral issues:

  • Abortion
  • The use of aborted fetal tissues for research
  • The use of genetically-modified aborted fetal tissues for research
  • The use of genetically-modified aborted fetal tissues for profit
  • The reporting of this scientific process in this article
  • "Blaming" the Obama administration for "allowing" this process
Here's my take on these issues.

Abortion: I believe it is wrong- that it is killing a human life.. You don't have to agree with me, that's fine. But that is an important thing to know if you are going to discuss the moral implications of the use of aborted fetal tissue. Of course, abortion and induced miscarriage are very different things. And we really don't know which one is involved here.

The use of aborted fetal tissues for research: If aborted fetal tissues were being harvested and used right now, I would have a real issue with it since we have significantly better ways of obtaining human cells for research. However, HEK293 cells were harvested in the 70s (when we didn't know about other methods of obtaining cells). We know that the mother did not chose abortion solely for the purpose of cell harvesting and she consented to the use in science. 

If the cells being used were from any other source than an abortion (ie- from a miscarriage, cord blood, peripheral blood stem cell harvest), I would be okay with their use. So does the fact that a woman (potentially) made a decision that I don't agree with make the use of these cells immoral? 

What about other uses of human cells post-mortum? I am okay with cadaver organ and tissue transplants. I'm okay with donating your body to science. And neither of those choices are dependent on whether the donor died under murderous or evil circumstances.  

If something evil happens (abortion), can God then redeem the situation? Can good come from evil? According to Genesis 50:20 "You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened." 

I'm going with the same line I use when it comes to adoption: It's a horrible and evil thing when children are robbed of their parents through death or other circumstances, but God can use that situation- can redeem that situation- and bring good from it. Should we cooperate in the evil (abortion)? No. But can we look for and expect good to come from it? Yes.

Not everyone agrees. This is a very interesting article from a Catholic view of the creation of the cell line. On the other hand, the Vatican also argues that the use of human embryonic cell lines for the creation of vaccines was morally okay because of the amount of good that comes from vaccines.*** So even the Catholic Church seems divided on the use of these types of cells.

The use of genetically-modified aborted fetal tissues for research: For me, the big distinction here is that the cellular DNA has been modified from the original fetal cells... if you compare the DNA of HEK293 to the DNA of the fetus, they are actually different. I feel a lot more comfortable saying that the use of these cells is okay because we are not using the cells that God loving knit together for the purpose of creating human life, but rather modified cells. 

I mean, if we took a human fetus and removed part of the DNA and replaced it with dog DNA, would we say this is a human made in God's image? 

I couldn't resist putting this picture in this post. I think it's hilarious.
No, of course not! This is kind of the same thing... the DNA has been altered so that this is not true "human" DNA- this is not "image-bearer" DNA- this is not "sacred". I am okay with using these cells for research.

The use of genetically-modified aborted fetal tissues for profit: I want to be indignant about this, but what it comes down to is this: I see no problem with the use of these cells for research, so why should I be upset if they are used for profit? I am okay with people using stem cells and human embryonic cell lines for profit in general- for instance, pharmaceutical companies use stem cells to develop cancer treatments and we know Big Pharma is rolling in the dough.... but I still am thankful for chemo!

So if it's okay to use these cells for profit for something I "approve" of, then why wouldn't it be okay to use these cells for profit for something frivolous?

The reporting of this scientific process in this article: I think this article is very misleading in the way it reports the scientific process. The headlines are sensationalized. The quotes chosen from the interviewees are inflammatory. The article fails to report that the use of HEK293 is ubiquitous in general research and is, in fact, a standard research tool for researching flavor enhancers and additives. That is why the SEC ruled that there was no need for a special disclosure of the use of these cells. 

"Blaming" the Obama administration for "allowing" this process: In 2001, George W. Bush sanctioned the use of HEK293 for research. So it's interesting to me that the Obama administration is taking heat for not forcing PepsiCo to divulge the use of HEK293 to it's stakeholders. The SEC was, in my opinion, correct; it would be very difficult for most people to understand the nature of HEK293 and how it was derived as well as it's specific use in research. 

Long story short: I am okay with the use of these cells. I can even understand why some do not agree with their use and would boycott Pepsi. 

But this article is crap. 

What about you? Do you think the use of human embryonic cells is okay? Would you boycott Pepsi? What about other products that use HEK293 for research (medications, etc)?

***Yes, this is on the Children of God for Life website, and their Executive Director is quoted in the Pepsi-fetus article. Interesting, no?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Would Support Nurse-Ins

Jessica at Imperfect Parent wrote a post giving a "nurse in eye-roll" to the Target Nurse-In, in which I participated. Besides getting the facts of the incident wrong, Jessica's basic premise seems to be that because many "real" injustices exist in the world, nursing moms who are treated illegally or unjustly should just get over themselves. As she says, "[t]hese chicks and their first world problems are as annoying as they are spoiled."

In a way, Jessica is right. There are many horrible injustices in this world. That's why I support projects like the International Justice Missiontake a stand against child trafficking and give to disaster relief such as the crisis in the Horn of Africa. These are real problems... life and death problems... injustices that are truly incomprehensible at times. We should do something about it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'" It is the duty of all of us who benefit from the great freedoms and prosperity that we have in the US to be mindful of our blessings and act to stop tragedies and injustices where we can.

Even if that injustice is minor and "first world" by comparison. 

Even if that injustice is right in your local Target.


I don't believe Dr. King would agree with Jessica, even though she has a point.

Dr. King said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Harassment and forced relocation of nursing mothers is an infringement on the baby's basic human right to be breastfed (established as a right by Article 24 of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the mother's legal rights to nurse where she is otherwise authorized to be. This is a human right's issue. This is injustice.

Admittedly, being asked to breastfeed in a bathroom is not nearly as severe an injustice as human trafficking.  But comparatively, being asked to use a different water fountain or a different elevator also wasn't really a "major" injustice. It's what that request represented... It's the fact that being asked or told to sit at the back of the bus expressed a mentality that the color of your skin determined the value of your person. 

Sure, asking me to nurse in a fitting room is not a major injustice compared to the travesties of justice that occur all around the world, but what does that represent? It expresses a mentality that nursing my child is dirty, shameful, disgusting, or that I am less of a person because of my feeding choice than a mother who uses a bottle to feed her child. Yes, it's "just" moving to a different area, but as Dr. King said "a right delayed is a right denied."

Our problems here in the US may not be as "big," but how we respond to them sets the tone for how we will respond to injustices around the globe. If we, as women, don't stand up for the rights that we have, what is the point of having them? If we are unwilling to protect our own rights and the rights of our defenseless children, where will we find the courage to defend the helpless... whether they are next door or around the world?

More importantly, according to the CRC, the right to be breastfed is considered just as important as the right to be treated without discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity (Article 2), the right to live (Article 6), and all other basic human rights of children. Even if you don't view the infringement on the mother's legal right as important, meaningful, or "real", the infringement on the right of the child is.

Nurse-ins are truly the most peaceful form of protest; surely there is little else that can be more peaceful than a suckling, content babe held by an adoring mother. And the right to protest is, literally, the first right granted to us in the Constitution! Since these peaceful protests focus on ensuring the rights of defenseless children (and their mothers), I feel certain that Dr. King would support them. In fact, I cannot imagine a modern protest that could be more in line with Dr. King's vision of how to change the world than a nurse-in!

Dr. King said "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." So while Jessica and all those who share her opinion are entitled to roll their eyes at us, rant about how "spoiled" breastfeeding moms are, and tell us that our struggles to meet our children's basic human rights and defend our legal rights is not a "real problem," know that we won't become silent

Because these are our children, and more than anything in the world, they matter.

But please, won't you reconsider? As Dr. King says, "the time is always right to do the right thing."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The AAP's Bold Move




Allergic Disease.

Breast and Ovarian Cancers.

It's hard to argue that these are not pressing public health issues. They are. Especially when the obesity, diabetes, and allergic disease are occurring in increasing numbers in our nation's children. And when feminine cancers are striking women at younger ages.

Knowing that these are public health issues, we must examine why they are happening and what we can do to correct these alarming trends.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has done that. And in a bold statement, they have announced that "infant feeding should not be considered as a lifestyle choice but rather as a basic health issue." Because all those problems- and more- are related to infant feeding choices.

Basing their recommendations on published peer-reviewed scientific research, the AAP has laid out a strong argument and have concluded that:
breastfeeding and the use of human milk confer unique nutritional and nonnutritional benefits to the infant and the mother and, in turn, optimize infant, child, and adult health as well as child growth and development. Recently, published evidence-based studies have confirmed and quantitated the risks of not breastfeeding.

These are risks that extend to mothers as well as children. Risks that the AAP feels are great enough to warrant a policy that babies should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months before the introduction of complimentary solids, and that breastfeeding should continue for a full year, and longer as mutually desired.

Risks that mean the AAP no longer feels comfortable saying that infant feeding is a parenting choice based on convenience or personal preference. Infant feeding is now a health matter, like vaccines, sleep positions, and medical treatments for health disorders.

I hope this means that pediatricians and obstetricians will take a more active approach in assisting mothers to achieve healthy and successful breastfeeding. In fact, that is what the AAP policy statement concludes ("the pediatrician’s role in advocating and supporting proper breastfeeding practices is essential and vital".) I also hope that pediatricians will begin to put pressure onto milk banks to help make breast milk more widely available and affordable to mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding. I would love to see WIC subsidize breastmilk through milk banks... I'd much rather my tax dollars go there than towards pre-mixed name-brand infant formula! Maybe this will help to clarify that the medical community has identified formula as inferior to breastmilk, and subdue some of the resistance to breastfeeding from the general public.

More importantly, I hope women are able to view this not as a judgement of their past parenting choices, but as a stepping stone to making the best choices for their children going forward. People who know better, do better. And with the right education and support, we all can do better.

What do you think? Is the AAP out of line for saying that infant feeding is no longer a lifestyle choice? 

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