Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two simple words to help your “different” child

image credit: Southbank Centre

image credit: Southbank Centre

When my second grader told a classmate that she doesn’t believe in God, his response was immediate:

“I’m going to call the police!”

At the time, I educated her about our constitutional protections and assured her that the boy had no idea what he was talking about. But since then, there have been a lot of comments, incidents, and societal messages that have made her feel shamed and excluded in different ways. Actual comments from playmates include:

“Science proves that if you shoot a girl with a Nerf gun, it hurts more.”

“You can’t rake leaves – this is just for boys.”

“Only babies use training wheels.”

And ambient cultural ideas have definitely taken up residence in her head, from the feeling that we’re the only non-Christian family in the state, to the concept that being plump is both disabling and blameworthy.

I’ve struggled to equip my child to cope with these messages – to help her believe that they’re stupid, wrong, and should hold no power. But little kids are by nature impressionable and often unsure of themselves. Giving her the confidence to reject these ideas has been challenging.

But when the casual sexism from her male playmates got to be too much, I had a burst of inspiration.

“That’s bullying,” I said.

There’s a very strong culture against bullying in school now, with ongoing education designed to stop bullying. Every kid in our school knows “bullying” is unacceptable. The key is that they may not understand all the ways kids get bullied.

Using this powerful label to call out sexism proved to be incredibly effective. Suddenly my daughter’s eyes shined with certitude and indignation. Simultaneously, it gave her a tool to use in the moment – now when someone tells her girls can’t do something, she knows she can say, “That’s bullying!” She’s confident she has right on her side.

And this of course can be applied to discrimination she may face on the basis of religion, looks, or any other characteristic. Plus the beautiful thing is, she can use this concept as a self-check before making a comment to another child, and as a shield when other children get made fun of or excluded based on any difference they may have.

Maybe we can help our kids navigate this often-hostile world, and be an ally to others, just by teaching them that bullying isn’t confined to taking lunch money or excluding someone from a game.

Best excuse ever!

Sorry I haven’t been posting. I started working full time, the kids’ lives got very busy, I started hanging out with some really cool new friends. I was wondering how I could juggle everything. AND THEN I GOT FUCKING CANCER.

Yes, my right boob went rogue and tried to kill me. I sliced it up, and then to keep the rest of my organs toeing the line, I scorched the earth of my entire body, leaving no quarter for possible enemy agents. This is war, Peacock, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking any eggs! (Oh yeah, my ovaries shut down permanently thanks to the process.)

But I made it through the fight, and have come out the other side to tell you there’s still no God, and for the love of all that’s holy, eat brownies when you get the chance, because life can be short and the width of your hips can indicate a healthy recovery from 16 weeks of barely being able to eat. I eat the brownies, and the deep fried wontons, and I suck the literal marrow out of – well a literal cow bone, but metaphorically out of life too.

more to follow if anyone is interested.

Thanks for your comments!

I almost started this post with something like, “I’m terrible – I’m sorry,” but you know what? I’m not terrible – I’m just a busy parent! And I wish I had more time to devote to this blog lately, but ya gotta have your priorities. (I got a full time job, and somehow these kids are still around needing food and care and love all the time. Thank goodness for my fabulous co-parenting husband and my mother, the wonder-nanny!)

So instead, let me say that I just worked through approving a backlog of very nice comments, and I AM sorry about letting them sit neglected amidst the spam for so long! Thank you for reading and contributing!

And I did renew the blog for another year, so even if I don’t post any brilliant insights, at least people can still look at the old stuff. You never know when a ready-made, snark-filled rebuttal to Darcia Narvaez might come in handy.

Cheers, y’all!

Minecraft Creepers – Creeping on Little Girls

By Klapi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Good clean fun

Tweens love Minecraft, if my kids’ set is any indication. And it’s a fabulous game for creativity, persistence, and problem solving, as well as just being fun. Kids can play by themselves, or they can go online to one of many servers and play games together within a Minecraft environment. My daughter has found some really fun and challenging servers through YouTube videos by trusted Minecraft gurus, and of course through friends. She and her friends like to all join a server, and set their phones up in front of them so they can Facetime and talk while they play. (Due to the angle the phone is typically set at, my husband has taken to calling them “The Nosehair Club.”)

There are all kinds of  monsters in the Minecraft world, including the Creeper. It’s a nasty opponent that sneaks up and then explodes, destroying everything around it, including you and your constructions.  It gives very little warning, and can have devastating effects. Luckily there is a simple way to repel them – keep a cat around, and Creepers will run away.

The real scary characters

Unfortunately, there’s another type of creeper on Minecraft servers – creepy dudes who creep on kids. And getting rid of them is more complicated. I asked a certain ten-year-old girl I know (who I’ll call Bella) what kind of chat messages she had gotten from other players that made her feel uncomfortable.

“You’re cute.” (without preamble) 
“I want to fuck you.” (without preamble)
“Will you marry me?
Will you marry me?
Will you marry me?
Will you marry me?”
 [Is told, “NO!”]
“You fucking bitch. Stalker! [continued swearing until chat turned off]”

She also described another player constantly following her in “sneak” mode and mimicking all her movements.

I don’t know if players using male skins experience the same kind of thing, but referring to her girl friends who play, Bella says, “We’ve all had it happen to us.”

To me, it sounds like there are certain players who will flirt with, proposition, stalk, or abuse players who use female character skins. My guess is this is mostly coming from immature teenage boys (the bulk of players are 15-21, and 94% are male). Motivations probably range from clueless romantic excitement that “OMG, there’s a girl, an actual, real female person, who is into this game I love,” to older boys forgetting/ignoring that a lot of pretty young kids play, to just straight-up trolling jerkwads. As much of a worrier as I normally am, I doubt there are many actual child predators lurking for prey on Minecraft gaming servers.

But who cares? The point is that prepubescent children are trying to play a fun game with friends, when someone sidles over and sexually harasses them. My concern is protecting my kid from the feelings Bella describes: feeling stunned, wondering, “What’s wrong with you?!” and well, being creeped out.

“Minecraft is not a dating site!” Bella emphasizes. “It’s meant to play, and build, and construct, and, like, play cool minigames.”

What can we do?

I asked Bella what she does when this kind of thing happens. She replied that she tries to ignore it, waits for chat to end when a game round begins, and had just learned from a friend that you can block communications from individual players.

In reality, there is a lot more that one can do, but kids don’t necessarily understand the systems and procedures for reporting bad behavior. So here is some information on what you can do.

First, of course you could prohibit your child from playing online. Or from playing on servers you’re not familiar and comfortable with. I’m personally not willing to say “no servers,” because my kid really has a ton of fun with her friends online.

Second, you could identify certain servers that seem problematic, and avoid them. You need to be able to rely on your child to tell you what’s going on, and check in with them for this to work, of course.

Third, you and your child can take action against specific people. Typing “/mute” followed by the offender’s name will prevent that person’s messages from showing up in your chat window.

You can also research the rules for a server. For instance, Bella was playing on “The Hive.” Her dad Googled “the hive minecraft,” found the associated website, and had to click around a bit to find the in-game rules, listed in the forums. In addition to a no swearing rule, it also says,

“Bullying of any form will not be tolerated on our servers. If someone is being derogative towards you or another player, report it on the forums with a screenshot and the player(s) will be dealt with swiftly.”

So for this server, if Bella had someone swear at her or sexually harass her, she could take a screenshot showing the offending material in her chat window, then post it in the forum for a moderator to review. It’s a bit complicated – you’d have to create an account on the forums, and then upload the image of the screenshot. But at least there is recourse.

Servers often have moderators in-game as well. If you can identify one of the players as a moderator (or the administrator of the server), you can send a chat message to them asking for help dealing with abusive messages. Usually the command is /tell or /msg, followed by the moderator’s name, then what you want to say to them. Moderators will usually ban a player who has violated the rules, either for a certain time, or permanently.

Risk versus benefit

Each family has to decide whether the fun, camaraderie, and learning their child gets from Minecraft servers is worth dealing with the chat messages they’re seeing, and how the monitoring should be done.  And even if you hover and help respond to nasty messages, you can only react after your kid has seen them. It’s a difficult question. But I figured parents can’t think through how they want to handle it unless they know it’s happening. I was grateful to find out about it, and we’re taking action. As things develop, we might change our approach.


Resources on that stupid Milkscreen thing

Edited 4/23: UpSpring has pulled Milkscreen breast milk production “test” from the market. Nice job, lactivists!

Quickity-quick, before I run to pick up my preschooler, here are some links of interest regarding the fraudulent and dangerous Milkscreen test for breast milk production.

FDA warning letter, with contact information for FDA officials

FDA complaint line for Texas, where the company is based: 855-630-2112

Federal Trade Commission online complaint form

Texas Attorney General’s Fraud Reporting info

Target Customer Service contact info

Amazon page for Milkscreen – leave a negative review! petition to Target to stop selling this crap

Make your voices heard before this product hurts more women and children!

How to prevent rape

dont rapeI’ve seen this image going around in the wake of the Steubenville verdicts, and it’s a great rhetorical salvo: Hey, what if we actually put the responsibility for rape on the rapists, instead of the victims? Crazy, right? It’s a very good reminder that most of the rape prevention advice we’ve heard is directed at women, instructing them how not to be raped, and how messed up that is. The implications behind it include the assumption that men are just gonna rape, nothing to be done about it, and that women could possibly do or wear or drink something that “causes” them to be raped.

So I’m not trying to criticize that list here. However, I think we could go further, and construct a list that isn’t directed satirically at malicious rapists, but to every good person out there who wishes they could help prevent rape. Not in a “potential victims: don’t wear slutty clothes!” way, but guidelines that all well-meaning people could actually use to make rape less prevalent.

I think Men Can Stop Rape is a good start. Sometimes they veer a little paternalistic, especially considering their advice is aimed solely at men. But the idea that we should protect and support our friends from creepers, jerks, and potential rapists is most welcome.

So I sat down and thought “What do I want my daughters to know? What do I want their friends to do? What standards do I try to hold myself to?” What would be on a sincere list of suggestions for all people who want to help, not just focusing on potential perpetrators or potential victims?

I was heavily influenced by this excellent post on Captain Awkward. It tells stories of social groups passively allowing creepers to test group tolerance for sexually invasive behavior. Read this! It’s chilling how even women who are themselves harassed and groped feel awkward calling the creeper on it, and how the groups tend to exclude women who complain, rather than the perv who is assaulting people. And Captain Awkward’s response is wonderfully wonderful.

All that said, here is my proposed list of ways to prevent rape. These are for men, women, girls, boys, people who worry about being raped and people who worry about their friends being raped, and people who just want to make our society less tolerant of rapists in general.

How to Prevent Rape

  • Remind yourself often that women are human people worthy of respect.
  • Remember people’s bodies belong only to them.
  • “No means no” is fine, but better to look for an enthusiastic YES!
  • Don’t let anyone have sexual contact with an unconscious person.
  • Yes, even if “it’s their own fault” they’re unconscious.
  • If you have to stop and wonder whether something is illegal, assume it’s not acceptable behavior.
  • Look after your friends – don’t stand by while someone takes advantage of them.
  • Look after strangers too!
  • Call people on their inappropriate behavior!
  • Don’t put up with creeps in your social group.
  • Don’t blame women for complaining about unwanted touching and other invasive sexual behavior.

I’m including an image for easy sharing, but if people like it, maybe someone with more graphic design skill than I have (i.e., any) could think of a way to pretty it up like the image up top. Let me know!

Giving a little on our Amendments

I don’t tend to describe things as “sacred,” but for me the First Amendment comes close. When I contemplate it, I feel a flutter of awe and respect. I think enshrining citizens’ freedom to believe, speak, report, and associate as they see fit is a monumental achievement in history. I consider it a key component of both patriotism and freedom, and I don’t take infringements of it lightly.

Yet after Friday, I’m willing to consider some further restrictions on the press. That’s not something to take flippantly – it’s a potential threat to the foundations of our society to consider legislating against free dissemination of information. But I think it might be worth it. We need to openly investigate whether breathless, lurid, 24/7 coverage of mass killings leads to more mass killings. And if there is a reasonable indication that it does, we need to try to craft careful, narrow, reasonable limitations that might prevent fame and notoriety from inspiring carnage. The press can never rein itself in on this subject, because there will always be worry that competing media outlets will embrace “if it bleeds it leads,” ad-grabbing sensationalism. It may be that it’s worth government intervention to mitigate that pressure.

Please know that I’m only talking about talking about it. I’m not calling for sweeping legislation or doing away with freedom of the press. I’m saying that we need to discuss the issue, to investigate whether there might be a significant risk created by the way media covers this subject, and if so, to see if there is anything we can reasonably, Constitutionally do to address it. If we ask these questions, it may well turn out that there’s not enough evidence of causation, or that there is, but there is no rational way we can ameliorate it without infringing too far on basic rights. But we must ask the questions. What happened in Newtown means you have to have the conversation before you decide it’s a no-go.

And so, I’m also asking my fellow Americans who cherish the Second Amendment to join me. Please, please be willing to have this conversation! Don’t shut down any discussion that has a whiff of gun control by saying, “Criminals will get guns anyway, discussion OVER,” or declaring that the only relevant subject is mental health. The relevant subject is how to prevent mentally ill people from using guns to make headlines. And that involves mental illness, guns, and headlines. Again, it may be in the end that we can’t make things significantly better through gun safety laws. It may be that we could, but not in a way that complies with the Constitution. But we need to investigate and discuss these issues before coming to that conclusion.

Until now, I’ve viewed mass shootings as akin to lightning strikes – random, something that may be lethal and horrifying, but nothing I can do much about. I have insulated myself from the details of the massacres because “I can’t do anything, so there’s no point in worrying about it.” But I just can’t do that anymore. Maybe it’s because my child is in school, or because I grew up 15 miles from Newtown, or maybe it’s just because finally the weight of accumulated incidents has become too much. I may find in the end that I really can’t do anything, but I have to at least ask the question first.

I am willing to engage in some creativity and openness, some brainstorming in which even impractical, ridiculous, “unthinkable” ideas get put up on the blackboard to be pruned away later. Even when those ideas make me feel profoundly uncomfortable; even when they could threaten the foundational ideals of our culture. I’m begging you to do the same.

Instructions on showing love to your children – really?

Because I’m a masochist, I listen to Christian radio from time to time.  A few days ago I heard the intro to a Focus on the Family episode discussing how to show your children you love them.

This is a question that has never occurred to me in nine years of parenting.  “How can I make sure my kids know I love them?” is a completely bizarre question to me.  I may be anxious and uncertain about a lot of things in life, but I have always had 100% confidence that my children know I love them, such that it’s been a background certainty like the sun coming up each morning.

Now that I stop and think about it, they know I love them because I have always taken care of their needs, had fun with them, read to them, cuddled them, and treated them as individual human beings deserving of respect. I tell my girls I love them at least once a day, without calculation of how much it will reinforce our bond or boost their self esteem, but because I love them so hard it just bubbles up out of me and must be expressed!

I suppose there are loving parents out there who would like some concrete guidance on communicating love.  Maybe some people are just more naturally reticent, or they didn’t have role models in their own parents for being affectionate.  I’m not saying this show was a bad thing.  It just surprised me at first!

But I couldn’t help thinking that Focus on the Family in particular has to puzzle over how to express love to children in part because it advocates beating them.  FotF’s website has an extremely detailed manual on spanking, which instructs parents to hit their children with a wooden spoon, while weirdly saying it’s not violent, but also that it must inflict pain.  Oh, and equating this process with showing love:

The Bible never implies that the rod of discipline should be violent.  . . . When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropri­ately sized paddle and flick your wrist.  . . . If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t really discipline, and ultimately it isn’t very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child’s behavior.

This bizarre, contradictory approach is continued in their recommendations for the “discipline” surrounding the spanking, which calls for extreme authoritarian interrogation and demands for capitulation, but also holding and hugging the crying child and telling God how thankful you are for them, in an “intimate, touching moment.”  This is supposed to demonstrate that you deeply love your child while also being willing to discipline them, but to me it seems more likely to make a kid very wary and confused.  You can’t average out abuse and emotional manipulation and call it an expression of love. (Frankly, it reminds me of the cycle of domestic abuse, where violence is followed by extreme affection, and yet also blamed on the victim: “You made me hit you by doing X.”)

And yes, I have smacked my kids on the butt a few times, when I flew off the handle.  But you know what I did next?  I apologized and said it was wrong for me to do that, as you do when you mistreat a fellow human being.  I can’t help but think that’s a better approach to making sure your children feel loved.


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