Defection from the Catholic Church – Update!

mary

by TheChristianAlert.org, via flickr

I did get a response to my Declaration of Defection last year. It was rather disappointing. The bishop basically said the church won’t consider me non-Catholic because I’m not converting to another religion, and asked me to call some priest to discuss why God is real. I briefly considered calling, but I’m just not willing to invest any time, energy, and stress into this. What is the guy going to say to me? Nothing I haven’t heard. I find their evidence for Jesus et al. very unconvincing, so why waste both our time?

I think the bishop was being a bit disingenuous in his letter, as he failed to mention that the Catholic Church doesn’t even have Defection anymore. There just isn’t any way to have them record officially that you are not a member. Yes, it’s annoying. I would rather not be associated with them or risk them using my “membership” as part of their clout. But on reflection, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I don’t give the Catholic Church any of my time or money, and I know that I have left the institution far behind. They will still have a record of my baptism without any notation that I jumped ship, but when it comes down to it, I guess it isn’t a big deal if they have my name on a piece of paper somewhere.

As far as I know, there aren’t any laws in the U.S. that would require a church to remove you from their membership list upon request. As long as they aren’t doing anything to you, but simply have a record of your baptism in their books, I don’t think they are violating any law. And after all, those records are just documentation of an event that did in fact occur.

While it’s just an anonymous forum post, it seems this person has run down the situation very well. In short, you leave by not participating and by considering yourself non-Catholic. Having the church officially acknowledge that is really only going to happen if you ever want to participate in a sacrament again. (Fat chance.)

Just a word about excommunication here: you can try to get excommunicated, but there’s no real point. Excommunication does not remove you from the church. People who are excommunicated are explicitly considered current Catholics, but the church denies them the sacraments in an effort to pressure them into repudiating their sin and coming back to the fold (sins like saving the life of a mother at the expense of her non-viable fetus for instance). So I wouldn’t bother.

There you go – this ended rather with a whimper than a bang. I’m sorry dear readers that I didn’t have the patience to call and recount the priest trying to convince me to come back. Maybe someday, if I ever get really, really bored I’ll give it a go.

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Give Peas a Chance – Book review

peasFull disclosure: the publisher contacted me and offered a free review copy. So I may be biased by swag.

This is a great book for parents who worry that their toddlers don’t eat enough. I would say that the focus of the book is definitely on anxiety about getting enough calories in to your kid, with getting more variety a second goal, and more aspirational nutrition running third. So if your child eats plenty of food, is gaining weight well, and you mostly want to teach him to love whole grains and broccoli, this might not be your go-to manual. If, however, your doctor is concerned that your child has fallen off her growth curve and you find yourself chasing your toddler around trying to get extra food into her, this is going to be very helpful.

Samela does a good job of walking parents through both normal toddler behavior that can complicate healthy eating (can’t sit at the table for long periods, will graze all day on snack food if allowed, etc.), and the standard dietetic requirements. She discusses macro- and micro-nutrients, and cautions against common pitfalls such as depending on commercial “toddler foods,” letting a child drink vast quantities of milk, or expecting a toddler to eat far more food than they actually need.

The advice about what to feed your toddler seems pretty good, but a bit unambitious at times. Perhaps I hang with too crunchy a crowd, but I know a lot of mothers who would stroke out at reading the recommendations to feed your toddler a Nutella and Fluff sandwich, frozen yogurt sprinkled with Fruity Pebbles, or a pudding cup with vanilla wafers. However, if a parent is worried about getting enough calories in, these Whole Food heresies are probably defensible, and they are counterbalanced with many more healthy suggestions. As a mom whose children eat plenty of food, but gravitate to white starches too much, I would have loved more advice on nudging them in the direction of vegetables, but again, that doesn’t seem to be the main purpose of this book.

The one thing I found truly irksome about this book was its disregard of breastfeeding. This book is explicitly aimed at children 12-36 months old, and it has not one breath about continued nursing. I understand that nursing past one is very rare, but it is recommended by health professionals and organizations, and it deserves at least one sentence when there’s an entire section devoted to “Milk.” Even chocolate milk gets a positive side-bar, and  rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, and coconut milk are all discussed, but giving a toddler the biologically normal and most healthful milk is not even mentioned. Maybe sustained nursing is unusual, but is it really less prevalent than parents giving their kids hemp milk?

All in all, if I knew a pretty mainstream family with an underweight toddler, a parent who was anxious about getting enough calories in, or a mom who was “addicted” to processed foods from Gerber and Beech-Nut, I would heartily recommend Give Peas a Chance. For the average family dealing with a health-but-picky kid, I’d say it’s useful enough. For crunchy folk, or parents who are looking to make their child love kale and quinoa, I’d say another book would probably be a better fit.

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!

Change.org petition to Target to stop selling this crap

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

Publishing the identities of minors . . . who bully rape victims

On the Media has an amazing interview with Matt DiRienzo, editor of the Connecticut Register Citizen newspaper, about yet another victim-blaming sexual assault case out of Torrington, CT. This time the victim is 13, the defendants 18. And still, local kids are tweeting hate at the victim, calling her a whore, blaming her for her sexual assualt, and calling for her to be punished, rather than the alleged rapists.

DiRienzo and his team decided to post screen captures of the hateful tweets, including the full Twitter handle and image from each kid. And in the interview, he’s totally unapologetic about it. When asked if this makes him an “advocacy journalist,” he says he is more than happy to be seen advocating against 13 year old sexual assault victims being called whores in the public square.

Give it a listen – it’s just  a few minutes! And while you’re at it, you might check out the entire show from this weekend, where they discuss Steubenville and rape culture in a very measured, thought-provoking way.

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!

Problem solving with kids

IMG_2094“I don’t want to go to gymnastics anymore! We have to do the high bar AND I’M SCARED OF IT!!!” *hysterical, terrified crying*

This popped out of nowhere right around bedtime this week. Instead of voicing my first thought, “They require 30 days’ notice before quitting, and if I’m paying, you’re going,” or even a more constructive, loving solution, I worked from the key fact – it was the end of the day, and Claire did not have the resources to discuss something she clearly found so distressing. At this time of day, and with this much emotion, there was no prayer of having any rational information go into her brain. So I empathized, telling her I understood that she was very scared and wanted to quit gymnastics. Then I said we needed to wait till tomorrow to talk about it more.

When she brought it up again the next day, we were lucky enough to have time and space for a mini family meeting. I told her about brainstorming. We would sit together and write down every idea we thought of for the problem, no matter how silly or weird. Then we would look through our list and pick one or two approaches to try first. She caught on pretty quickly, and gave me some ideas. Even one or two other than “I quit gymnastics,” so that was a great start! Here’s our list:

  • Mom helps Claire on the bars
  • Mom talks to teacher about alternatives
  • Claire quits gymnastics
  • Claire goes to drop-in daycare while Chloe’s at gymnastics
  • Claire does the high bar even though she’s scared
  • Claire doesn’t do that part of class and sits off to the side
  • Claire takes a water break during that part, and sits with Mommy

You can probably guess which ones were my contributions! I did tell her about the 30 days notice, and that I would expect her to go to classes we had committed to. So that helped motivate her to try some of the other ideas. In the end we decided to combine me talking to the teacher and Claire taking her water break during that part of class. She really is petrified by it – I think being physically separate from the gym floor and being right with Mommy during that part of class is helping her agree to this compromise measure.

I wanted to share this process because it would have been awfully easy for me to simply impose my own solution. Of course, the “traditional” parenting approach would have been “No, just suck it up.” My mushy mommy heart wanted to say, “Of course you don’t have to go – I won’t ever let you be scared!” The funny thing, though, is even if I had said, “You can’t quit, but I’ll talk to the teacher so you can take your water break during that part,” it wouldn’t have gone over well. Instead I allowed my child some space, giving her a voice in the process, and showing I respected her feelings and her problem-solving skills. I feel this really helped her accept a solution I liked better, plus it helped her build skills for the future. As she grows, this is a foundation for her to work around strong emotions, use reflection and openness, and feel more confident in her resilience when she faces something daunting.

Of course, I don’t always rise to this level of evolved parenting. Sometimes I don’t have the resources or I don’t stop to think. But I’m going to try to remember this experience and invest a couple neurons in creative openness in the future. I think it brought us both to a better outcome and prevented us from being opponents on this issue.

Dr. Amy and Conspiracy Theories

tinfoil hatA friend pointed out this 2012 article by Amy Tuteur about skepticism versus denialism. It’s a worthy topic, and I’m right with her (or perhaps more accurately with her cited material from Andrew Dart) regarding vaccine and evolution “skepticism.” But I take issue with her broad brush getting paint on me when she states, “Though it isn’t as obvious, natural childbirth and homebirth advocates are denialists, too.”

I’m a natural childbirth and homebirth advocate in part because I’m a skeptic! (The other major impetus for me is gender equality and bodily autonomy.) Look, I realize there are loonies in the natural/home birth camps. There are people so out there that Koi-Assisted Birth was greeted not simply with “Great satire!” but with many readers taking it as real. But there are plenty of advocates interested in evidence-based medicine and freedom of choice. Take someone who questions the benefit of routine continuous electronic fetal monitoring. That’s a reasonable question to ask when the intervention was introduced on the guess that it would be helpful, then later research showed it may result in worse outcomes. When you equate a skeptic about that issue with a crank who believes against all evidence that the earth is 6,000 years old, you’re being both inaccurate and insulting.

Here’s a rundown of the most glaring logical problems in Dr. Tuteur’s article.

Universal statements – Note the lack of “some” or “many,” or “the most extreme,” preceding the terms natural childbirth advocate and homebirth advocate. The existence of a single skeptical, reasonable advocate of natural childbirth upsets her argument.

False Dilemma – she gives the impression that a person either supports typical hospital birth, or is a loony conspiracy theorist who ignores all evidence that homebirth is imperfect. There’s no intimation that some people might occupy a middle ground.

Equivocation - Tuteur quotes Dart’s discussion of conspiracy theories, then uses an unexplained, idiosyncratic definition of “conspiracy theory” to assert that natural childbirth advocates are conspiracy theorists. Under her implicit redefinition of “conspiracy theory,” anyone who acknowledges unconscious bias (such as the possibility that a doctor might intervene quicker if he wants to get to a golf game) is evoking a conspiracy theory.  She also redefines conspiracy theory to include the realization that medical schools often teach by tradition, rather than strictly keeping to the latest evidence-based practice. The normal definition of “conspiracy theory” hinges on deliberate plotting. Dr. Amy’s special definition includes totally unconscious, unplanned behavior. I guess if she used the real definition, she couldn’t include natural childbirth advocates under Dart’s definition of denialists.

Guilt by association: “And natural childbirth and homebirth advocates share key attitudes with vaccine rejectionists, creationists and other denialists.” First she lumps natural childbirth and homebirth advocates together, then further assumes that homebirth advocates universally support poorly trained CPMs, and don’t care about any evidence that they might be less safe. Through this chain of association, suddenly a mother who gave birth in a freestanding birth center because she was worried about unnecessary interventions is equated with believers in a global conspiracy to give kids autism with vaccines.

Personally I get the impression that “The Skeptical O.B.” is herself a bit of a denialist, that she believes typical hospital birth with lots of interventions is the best, safest practice, and that no evidence will ever be good enough to dissuade her. So rather than searching out the best evidence about these practices and questioning her own biases, she targets people who do question, and paints us all as crazed fringe ideologues who don’t care about dead babies.

I admit I am biased toward natural childbirth and questioning medical interventions. But, I at least try to remember that I have that bias and attempt to embrace the foundation of skepticism – watching out for my own perceptual foibles. If there is solid, evidence-based consensus that the benefits outweigh the risks for routine continuous electronic fetal monitoring, routine episiotomy, or nil by mouth during labor, I would be interested in seeing it, and if it’s convincing I would change my mind about the desirability of these procedures. Being willing to change your mind is what skepticism is all about, while protecting your current beliefs at all costs is denialism – even if your beliefs are culturally mainstream.

(For the record, I’m a natural childbirth advocate and homebirth advocate in that I believe in making these options available to women, I am skeptical of some of the typical hospital practices, and I was personally more comfortable birthing outside a hospital, where I felt my providers’ approach to birth dovetailed with mine. I’m 100% in favor of making CNM-attended homebirth a common option. I am not personally as comfortable with CPMs, and unattended childbirth scares the hell out of me. But I still think women have the right to do either, though they should have access to the risks and benefits information as best we have right now.)

Parenting and external costs

milking

Want milk, kid? Here’s the cow.

When I studied environmental law, I learned about external costs. Part of the problem with pollution is that the cost of smog, fish kills, and flammable tap water are not inflicted on the polluting companies and their customers, but generally on the population. One idea in environmental protection is to internalize these costs. For instance, tradable permits for carbon emission internalize the climate change impact by charging companies for their emissions. This in turn should force the companies to consider their environmental impact as part of the bottom line, because pollution-heavy practices become more expensive.

So what does this have to do with parenting? It occurred to me that authoritative, empathetic parenting involves slowly internalizing the costs of our kids’ behavior as they mature. When they’re newborns, all their costs rest on our shoulders. Their messes, their pain, even their mental stress falls to us automatically, because they have no resources to deal with these negative side effects of being human. As kids grow and develop resources, parents can help their children internalize these “costs of living.”

Consider potty training.* My friend’s son has advanced remarkably, learning to use the toilet on his own initiative. Except it only works when he’s pantsless. Put pants on him, and those pants are going to wind up soaked in pee. I think most of us will experience some version of this: when you know your kids are capable of using the toilet, but they have accidents because it’s too much trouble to go, or they’re having too much fun playing and don’t want to stop, or they read Stephen King’s “The Moving Finger” and are terrified of the bathroom. (Wait, that last one is me.)

My friend wants to gently motivate her son to give some extra effort, but doesn’t want to use external rewards like stickers or M&Ms. So I suggested something that has worked for us –  internalizing the cost of accidents. It’s very much in the realm of “natural consequences,” and isn’t judgmental. When my 5 year old pees in her pants, I say, “OK, it happens sometimes. Now take off your pants and I’ll get you a towel to clean up the floor.” You don’t have to yell and scream, you don’t have to inflict a punishment or dangle a reward. But making a child bear more of the cost can provide enough motivation to make pulling down their pants, pausing their video game, or excusing themselves from the party worth it. After all, wiping up a puddle of urine is much less pleasant and takes longer than just using the toilet in the first place.

Meanwhile, making sure that kids start handling the less wonderful aspects of living helps keep us parents energized. Because after a while, handling 100% of someone else’s costs will wear you out. (See my post about burning out on AP.) Some days I’m feeling so overwhelmed by the mountain of household duties before me, and I can’t tell you how rejuvenating it is to see my 9 year old put away her own laundry and take a shower with no intervention on my part! I feel much less resentful of the burdens I have to help them with when they start shouldering the jobs they can easily handle.

So maybe it’s worthwhile to stop thinking so much in terms of motivation and consequences, never mind manipulation and punishment, and look at parenting from a bit of an economics perspective. Just like they do in big business, externalities can distort the give and take between us and create a bad atmosphere. Internalize those costs, and you’re helping everyone in the equation.

*I use this term in the same sense as continuing education or vocational training, not teaching a dog to sit. If you’re more comfortable with “potty learning,” go for it.

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