Monthly Archives: June 2014

Age of Consent

I’ve been binge-watching House M.D. on Netflix for several weeks now.  But, the following scene struck me enough to stop the furious pace and transcribe the conversation.  It fits perfectly in a blog discussing cultural differences…

A 17-year-old girl has been stalking Dr. House, very overtly trying to seduce him. Close friends warn him to keep his distance–which he more or less tries to do. But the girl is insistent. Finally, she corners him in a parking garage.

Girl: “In Iceland the age of consent is 14.”

House: “I’m surprised that tourism isn’t a bigger industry up there.”

Girl: “So today I’m jailbait. But in 22 weeks anybody can do anything to me. Will I be so different in 22 weeks?”

House: “22-weeks is enough for a fetus to grow arms and legs.”

Girl: “It’s just a line. An arbitrary line drawn by a bunch of sad old men in robes.”

House: “(sarcastically) Yeah, who cares what judges think?”

Girl: “Didn’t think of you as a guy who followed rules just because they were rules.”

They banter back and forth like this, until House’s boss walks in and sends the girl home with some scolding…

——

Fair warning–this is precisely the type of post I was planning when I said “things could get uncomfortable” around here.  Remember, our goal is to challenge the things we’ve come to ASSUME are definitely right or definitely wrong…to see if we can really explain why we think certain ways.  Let’s examine our customs a little closer.

What makes 18 the magic age of maturity?

I think most of us agree it’s not really magic. “Adulthood” can’t be determined by age alone.

But that means–technically–the girl in House was correct. The Age of Consent is just a line drawn in the sand, mostly to make a judge’s decision easier. In contrast, society should place more emphasis on maturity… but who gets to decide when/whether a person is mature?

And why do we continue throwing people in jail for the same sexual acts we would tolerate a few months later?

—-

A few centuries ago (and in some current cultures) it was common practice for middle-aged men to marry 12-or-13-year-old girls.  Westerners refer to these as “child brides” and we tend to consider all child-weddings disgusting.

But I’m honestly struggling with the definition of “child.”

It’s one thing to force marriage on a girl who doesn’t want it… But can we really argue that people younger than 18 are never ABLE to make decisions, such as when to get married and/or have sex?

NEVER?

Our current system seems pretty arbitrary to me…   Regardless of how simple we try to make it, this is a gray area few of us feel comfortable acknowledging. And it may surprise you to realize American views about “consent” are sort-of the strange ones.

The Age of Consent in most European countries is 14 or 15.

I’ve read it’s 13 in Spain.

Are they just horrible, disgusting child-molesters over there in Europe?

Or, maybe all of us are pretty confused about how to deal with sex and laws and what counts as right and wrong?

One day, you’re a criminal…  The next, you’re just another frisky date–enjoying a recreational evening with a sex partner.

Yikes.

—-

The word we assign to illegal, underage sex is “rape,” so I’ll take the opportunity to link Matt Walsh’s post about ending Rape Culture.  He does a wonderful job listing even more double standards in the debate about “good sex” and “bad sex.”

But even agreeing with him that sex should be reserved for committed marriage, it still doesn’t answer the question of how to determine when somebody is “mature” enough to enter into that commitment.  What if a parent really believes a 13-year-old girl can handle decision-making…to give consent…to get married?

And, oh heck, just to make things really awkward, let’s say her potential spouse is almost 30.

Can we say for sure this is TOTALLY WRONG?

I mean, I agree young girls shouldn’t be sold for a profit–against their will–to get their father a new camel or something. Obviously.

But could there be some cases where a girl wants to be a “child bride?” Might she come to love an older, richer man, after a few years married to him, if only he weren’t carted off to jail the second he touched her?

I’m really asking here.

It seems to me that maturity and consent and sex and marriage are far more complicated than counting off birthdays.

Do you have any thoughts?

Public Nudity–It Could Happen to Anyone

It’s officially summer, and parents know what that means.

Read: It’s time to spend the next 4-6 months petrified of accidentally locking your small children in the car.

After all, it could happen to anyone.

Right?

Yeah, sure, I guess anyone could forget their baby in the backseat…the same way “anyone” could forget to wear pants to the store, for example.  (Don’t think you’re invincible! THIS woman did it!)

Perhaps it’s possible–but I’ll disagree if anybody tries telling me I’m at a high risk for public nudity…or for accidentally leaving my kids.

—-

Let me switch tones quickly, lest anyone think I’m joking about children suffering heatstroke. It’s absolutely tragic that roughly 20 kids per year die in hot vehicles.  The only thing worse than being trapped in a boiling car and passing away would be surviving and knowing your absent-mindedness caused the whole thing.

These personal stories are the stuff nightmares are made of.  Horrible, never-ending nightmares.

I totally understand why people are brainstorming ways to prevent car-locking accidents in the future.  Advocates suggest we install alarms in cars…set reminders on cellphones…and ask for calls from daycare providers if/when our child is absent, to name just a few things.

All of these safety precautions are fine with me–except the media is ignoring the single best way to protect children from distraction-related accidents: 

Full-time parenting. 

And if you’ll allow me to regain my slightly-sarcastic-because-I’m-angry tone, I’ll say I’m tired of being told “it can happen to ANYONE,” when it never, ever has happened to a person whose full-time job is taking care of the kids.

Here is an excerpt from the article I linked above:

There is no consistent character profile of the parent who does this to his or her child.

…It was “a big doggone accident,” he says, that might have happened to anyone.

To anyone?

Schlothauer hesitates.

“Well, it happened to me.”

The results were not catastrophic, Schlothauer says, but the underlying malfunction was similar: Busy and stressed, he and his wife once got their responsibilities confused, and neither stopped at day care for their daughter at the end of the day.

“We both got home, and it was, ‘Wait, where’s Lily?’ ‘I thought you got her!’ ‘I thought you got her!’ ”

What if that mix-up had happened at the beginning of the day?

“To anyone,” Schlothauer says.

“Some people think, ‘Okay, I can see forgetting a child for two minutes, but not eight hours.’ What they don’t understand is that the parent in his or her mind has dropped off the baby at day care and thinks the baby is happy and well taken care of. Once that’s in your brain, there is no reason to worry or check on the baby for the rest of the day.”

That last paragraph is the key. Why are we missing the truth here? The problem isn’t forgetfulness–or unusual distractions or stress. Children get locked in hot cars for hours in cultures where parent-child separation is normal.

The problem is daycare.

If you need more convincing, let’s go back to my analogy.
Think of the term “I felt so naked!” When something makes us feel creepy to the point we can’t shake the nagging discomfort, we call it “feeling naked.”  Why?  Because nakedness is strange. That type of vulnerability isn’t normal.

When we’re exposed, we know it. We CAN’T forget.  Nakedness itself is a reminder that you’re naked because it’s out-of-the-ordinary.

And that, Dear Reader, is how I feel when my kids aren’t with me.

If it’s not one of the 99/100 car trips we take together, I actually have to remind myself the kids are NOT in the backseat. What’s unusual—when I feel naked—is when my two babies AREN’T an arm’s distance away.

Therefore, I can say with confidence there is absolutely NO WAY I’ll forget to take them into the store with me. The same way I’ll NEVER “forget” to wear clothes in public. Period.

Now, if a person lived in a nudist community (where being outside naked is common) I can see how he or she may lose focus and accidentally scandalize some people at Walmart. When you get outside your normal routine, then forgetfulness happens.

I understand this is what happens when people forget kids in their cars, too. They’re not monsters. They’re not more stressed or busy or absent-minded than most people. They just get thrown off their routine, with the worst possible outcome…

But, why not inform parents that switching to a stay-at-home routine would work best for preventing car-lock accidents?

Why not be honest and put the blame where it actually belongs: on a culture-system where parents regularly go to the store, and to work, and to the gym without their kids–constantly getting used to that naked, childless feeling?

If you really want to prevent car-lock accidents, make your children as habitual as getting dressed.

Look, I understand some people have to work. I’m not saying it’s bad parenting to put your children in daycare. But I do believe that truth and knowledge are power, and parents need to know there IS a link among all the cases of child heatstroke.

I’m calling out the culture that won’t give credit to stay-at-home parents (or live-in nannies) for something they’re clearly doing well.  I’m calling out the campaigns designed to prevent tragedy, which continue to dance around the main issue.

Bottom line: if you are used to wearing clothes, it’s automatic. You CAN’T forget something that’s hanging on your hips, literally, 98% of the day. I’m equally confident that I will not forget the children who have been attached to my hip since their birthdays. (Technically even before that.)

Sure, everybody gets stressed and “absentminded.” Making mistakes truly does happen to anyone. But, when switch to auto-pilot, I open the backdoor forgetting the babies are NOT there. I suddenly remember they’re with my parents or my husband, and it’s not the worst day of my entire life.

If we want to talk about prevention, study the people with the highest success rate. Don’t sweep the statistics under the rug because it makes working-families feel guilty.

The truth is, if you want to be SURE you never leave a child in a hot car in your workplace parking lot, then you should quit your job. Spend all day, everyday, carting your kids around any time you go somewhere, and eventually it will become routine.

If it’s at all possible, arrange to be (or get) a full-time, 24/7 caregiver for your children. That should be priority #1.

If that’s not possible, well then we can talk about car alarms and phone calls from the school where the kids spend a lot of time away from you.

When people start forgetting their pants, we should blame a culture where nudity is widely practiced.  Do you agree?

A Letter in Honor of Anni-fathe-birthsery Week.

We’ve really done it now, Luke.

Not so long ago, we were imagining “The Future,” and trying to make the wisest decision we could about whether to include each other in our plans…

Now, suddenly, it’s here. We share a name, a bed, and a bank account.

And even if we were prepared to undo those things, we’ve created life. There are two human beings in the world that wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t stopped wondering and just jumped in, come what may, help us God.

We’re in deep!

I’ll confess: this has been nothing like I expected.
—-

There’s not much left of the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship we established over a decade ago.

This week, we’re celebrating the passage of time. Today—six years as a husband. Tomorrow—three years as a father. And next Saturday—twenty-seven years since your birth.

I think I’m supposed to say, “Time flies,” or something.  But I don’t feel that way.  What we’re measuring in years may as well have been different lifetimes. Was that really US, shyly holding hands and testing a little tongue, barely old enough to drive? Did WE talk about how weird/awesome/perfect it would be when we didn’t have to part company at the end of each night?

Was that yesterday or 100 years ago? Sometimes it seems like both.

Anyway, when I was pretty young, my mom made an impression on me with her description of marriage.  She said, “You don’t feel fluttery and excited forever…eventually, you start feeling more like brother and sister.”

That stuck with me because it completely grossed me out.  🙂

But now that we’ve been doing this for awhile, don’t you think she was right?  All of our major events include the other. We get along and make a great team sometimes. Other times we’re annoyed with each other.  But, for the most part, you’re just there.

A given.

Easy to take for granted.

We have very, very few things in common. I’m a talker; you’re a doer.   I’m high-strung; you’re easy-going.  I like staying inside and reading; you like going out and building.  In fact, I’ll have to make a point to tell you this letter is here, because I’m pretty sure you don’t even read my blog!   (It’s okay. I’m not terribly impressed by how shiny you can polish the Jeep, so we’re even.)

I’m just saying: if it weren’t for our stubborn determination to be part of each other’s lives, it would be very easy to…just…not.

Building our relationship is like a career.It’s a daily doing and sometimes drudgery. If we’re not careful, it just happens while we’re not paying attention. And before we realize it, we’ve become like the siblings who are just part of the family…nothing amazing.

Passion can be both flaming excitement and intense fury.  But our married life usually falls smack in between.  Sort of… boring.

Thankfully, one thing hasn’t changed: I always follow up a list of seemingly negative things with the silver lining.  None of this stuff means we’ve made a mistake. 

We agreed at the very beginning there’s no such thing as “the one.” We were prepared (as much as possible) for challenges and big changes and to keep pushing, past any temptation to believe there’s something better elsewhere.

We agreed we wouldn’t quit.

So, I’m thankful for this week, which is like a slap-in-the-face reminder to look around and see how far we’ve come. In November, people like to say, “Everyday should be Thanksgiving!” And maybe it should. But, until we learn to maintain the fiery sort of passion in the mundane day-to-day, it helps to have a special day for reminiscing.

This week, I have three chances to look at you with fresh eyes.

I’m thankful we have been doing life together long enough to take the other for granted, but you need to know you’re not “just” anything to me.  You’re more than a provider and appliance-fixer and sounding-board after a stressful day.  You’re the backbone. My stabilizer.

In fact, it’s precisely because I treat you like “a given” that I would be shocked and lost and damaged if you suddenly were gone.

Our love is very different than six years ago, which was a very different love from four years before that. But we’re doing it, Luke.  This is how a lifetime is built! We’re doing what we always planned to do…right now…

We’re in deep, but I’m not sorry. I want to see how far this thing can go–with all the frustrations and surprises and temptations notwithstanding. I want to know how close two souls can get.

Let’s keep moving toward that mysterious “Future” together, only looking back to enjoy the memories and high five.  Here’s to 75 more Anniv-Fathe-Birthsery weeks.

Always yours,

~ME~

P.S.  Just for the record, I started writing this before I found your poem this morning. This is not the response of a guilty conscience! (Other readers can see a copy of Luke’s poem here.)

Spiritual Cultures at War

I think about death a lot.

Sorry if the “morbidity” is weird, but it’s true. Every day, something I read or hear or observe reminds me of death…  Every. Day.

…and I’m excited about it.

That’s not sarcasm, although I often use it. Really, I’m looking forward to the day I die.

But I haven’t always felt this way.

My whole life, I’ve heard Christians make statements like, “This world isn’t my home,”  and “death has lost its sting!” or “God’s children don’t grieve death like the world does!”  But I suspected they were only repeating what they’re supposed to say.

(Some of them probably were.)

It wasn’t until recently I even realized how much I didn’t agree with most of those quaint, comforting slogans.  As it turned out, I was “deathly” afraid of being out-of-control…of confronting the unknown. I struggled with lots of questions almost subconsciously.

When will death happen? Will I suffer? Do Heaven and Hell exist? How do I KNOW?

Then, unexpectedly, postpartum depression brought all these undiscovered fears to the surface violently.

I was exhausted–physically and emotionally–which left me vulnerable to all the junk I hadn’t even known I was suppressing. Theoretically, I knew the “right” answers. (“Jesus conquered death!” “It isn’t the end–just the beginning!” etc.)

But, when your rebellious hormones and weak body wreak havoc on your brain, the core of your self emerges.  What broke out of me was fear–raw and merciless. 

EVERYTHING was scary. The way my heart raced and my lungs burned during back-to-back panic attacks. Suddenly I was aware of just how many things can go wrong with the human body, and how fragile life is.

I couldn’t make even basic decisions, like, “Maybe I should try taking these anti-depressants the doctor prescribed.”

All day and night, I’d worry about things like, “What if the medicine makes it worse?” “What if I never can fall asleep sleep again, and nobody knows why?” “What if I’m going crazy?” “What if living feels this terrible for the rest of my life?” AND “What if all this panic actually causes my heart to stop, which makes that terrible, unpredictable end of my life TODAY?”

The experience was a living Hell. Without hesitation, I’ll say the few weeks immediately after the births of both my children were the worst of my entire life.

But that’s not the end of the story…I wasn’t completely alone in the darkness of my own sleep-deprived mind. Another voice fought on my side.

This is an excerpt from a note I wrote in the middle of a particularly bad week struggling with depression and anxiety.  I titled it The Thorn in My Mind:

“This burden is too much. It’s a thorn in my flesh, and I just want it gone! Day after day of the same fight. Just when I talk myself into moving forward, I get distracted by my own scary thoughts again!”

“It’s not about feeling better. Ignore the emotion and trust God as you go about your work. Do your duty, in faith, and the investment will not return void.”                  

*I get busy for a little while*

“You screw-up! You worthless failure! You’ve lost your temper again. You can’t even control your own mood…” 

“Yes, we’ve already agreed I’m not feeling well. But I’m NOT worthless. What’s the point in dwelling on what’s out of my hands? I’m not going to give weight to unhealthy thoughts anymore.”

“Collin is sooooo fussy. And Cami won’t listen to a thing I say.”

“Well, then it’s no wonder there’s stress. Keep on marching, Little Soldier! Chin up. God will give you the strength and the wisdom to carry out the assignment you’ve been given.”

“Ugh. What if I have to fight like this for the rest of my life?!”

“That’s not for you to know or worry about! Sufficient for the day is its own trouble, remember? You’re dealing with the Enemy, throwing mud on your windshield. Wipe it off with Scripture and prayer. Then drive on.” 

“I can’t drive on! Obviously! My negative thoughts keep interrupting, out of the blue. Like right now, for example!…And now people are going to think I’m crazy–referring to the different ‘voices’ in my head. As if that’s normal?!”

“Now you’re just worrying about the wrong audience. Look up–look up! You can’t trust your emotions right now, so shut ’em down. Your children need you; get busy tending to their needs as you wait on the Lord.”

And that’s when I learned how to recognize the Voice of Truth, and expose the Father of Lies. Through this horrible, painful, months-long battle within my own head, the old, unsure, yellow-bellied me became a casualty.

I DIED. 

But, as a result, the re-birthed me doesn’t fear death.

Now I know, for certain, the Eternal Creator of the universe lives in my heart (mind? spirit?).  He heard me and talks to me!  I know that God himself came near and rescued me from the hungry pit of despair.

He rescued me.

This isn’t my usual style or topic or tone, but what I’m saying here deeply matters to the theme of my blog.

Don’t you see?

There’s a spiritual war going on all the time, around all of us.  And you must be familiar with each culture to know how to fight…

On one side reigns chaos…relentless worry…and accusation.  In the ranks of the army of darkness there exists no rest. There’s no comfort. Their marching rhythm beats, “It’s. Too. Much. It’s. Too. Much. It’s. Too. Much” And they’re right.  Life is waaaaaay more fragile and unpredictable and cruel than you can handle.

The fear would paralyze…except…

On the other side there’s unlimited power and unlimited love on the front line. He’s ready to fill your canteen and reload your weapon, and best of all, He already owns the victory.

This Love spoke to me personally, when I was surrounded, and he’s available to speak to you, too.  Are you struggling with temptation and anger and unbeatable fear?  I understand, if you’re pawing blindly through No Man’s Land–with no idea what to do next or who to ask.

But I know Who. And now I finally get it–what those batty church-people mean when they say, “Death has lost it’s sting.”

Truly, I’m not afraid anymore.

I should make the disclaimer: my life isn’t free of sadness, anger, and uncertainty now, just because I see the spiritual war more clearly. I’m still fighting, and war sucks.  My point is not to suggest you can use God as some Cosmic Anti-Depressant, to take away your symptoms if you strike the right dosage.

Pain doesn’t disappear.

But I’m fighting a totally different way now that I know I’m following the Winner.

—-

It’s hard surrendering your life to God, and letting Him call the shots. In fact, following Jesus is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Yet it’s no harder than flailing around the battlefield confused and second-guessing, believing you’re alone and crazy and hopeless.  Dying for Christ is 1,000 times better than fearing death forever. 

Would you remain in the ranks of chaos and darkness, if you knew how to switch allegiance to the other side? Wouldn’t you like to say with me, and with confidence, “I’m not afraid”?

I think about death all the time, but it no longer terrifies me.  I’m ready to “go home,” even despite the many unknowns.  I finally understand how people like this family can bury their 5-year-old and not let it crush them…  I understand preferring not to suffer but having authentic courage to march into it.

Ultimately, death won’t win this one…

—-

What do you think about death?

Advocacy…Because Life’s Not Fair, and We’re Going to Fix It

Imagine a Mother has two boys–an Older and Younger–each biting at the other’s throat for many years.  Oh, they love each other in that special, sibling way. They defend each other fiercely against outsiders.

Yet they’re always bickering about whose life is more unfaaaaaaaaair.

Now imagine the Mother intentionally sides with the Younger boy in every, single situation–because he needs more defending.  When Younger complains, “It’s not fair that Older gets to drive! I didn’t choose when I was born!” their Mother agrees…it’s NOT really fair.

So she makes Older park the car and stay home.

When Younger cries, “He won’t let me come in his room! No fair!” the Mother agrees it’s pretty rude for Older to lock him out.  So, she tells Older to take the door off the hinges and let Younger come and go freely.

The Younger often demands the same bedtime, the same amount of dessert, the same chore-list, the same friends, etc. even though Older’s age makes him both bigger and more responsible in many ways.

And Mother appeases her little guy, because she feels he shouldn’t be left out for something he can’t control.

Unfortunately, she really doesn’t notice what she’s doing to the Older child, whose opinions are always trumped by the baby. 

Older tries to tell Younger, “I know you think my life is peaches and cream. But it’s not really better. In fact, now I get punished by Mom whenever you cry.”

…and that makes Younger cry.

“Mooooom, he says I’m wrong!”   So Mother comes to solve the dispute.

“Older!” she scolds. “You don’t understand how hard it is to be left behind…Now go play catch with your brother.”

Would you say this situation is “fair?”

—-

Now imagine if Younger gathered a group of friends and started the Youngest Child Club, which picketed and protested the way Older Siblings get to do unequal things.

And, in response, all the Older Siblings of the world grabbed their signs and bullhorns, and responded that the Youngers actually had more power in the family–because they use their supposed disadvantage to win all the time.

In the United States, this scenario is called “advocacy.”

And we consider it a good thing. This arguing with each other about whose life is more difficult is–we think–the crux of the Civil Rights Movement.

The problem is, most advocates think they’re fighting for fairness. When, actually, most of them demand extreme one-sidedness for themselves or a loved one.

Let’s use a fairly benign example. Someone I know was on an airplane recently, when they made an announcement over the loudspeaker:

“Attention, everyone. There is a passenger flying with us who is extremely allergic to nuts. So, we won’t be serving our in-flight snack today. And if you have anything in your carry-on containing soy nuts or peanuts, we ask that you refrain from eating it. Thank you!”

You might say, “Well, people shouldn’t have to stay home because they’re allergic to peanuts,” which is like advocating for Allergy-Equality.  But, on the other hand, is it fair to make 200 other people go hungry on the flight, because you are allergic to their food?

Nope.

Sure, most people won’t mind cooperating in this case. (Avoiding nuts for a few hours is a pretty small thing.) But it’s inconvenient.  It requires a favor from people you’ve never met–and if they agree, it’s due to their kindness.

Not because it’s the fair thing.

Okay, how about a more emotionally-charged scenario? Recently I wrote about Mama Bears, who make particularly powerful advocates.  But, when they picket for mainstream schooling for their disabled children, is that really fair?

I’m familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act and yadda yadda–but I’m not asking about the law. I already know that Mother stands up for anybody who claims to be “left behind.” But what if this slows down the others?

Is it more fair that way?

Should my Older child park her car?

And what about businesses required to accommodate certain customers? Should bakers make cakes for weddings they don’t support? Should hotels be forced to build elevators and ramps in their pools? Should backward, raging, self-centered racists be forced to serve burgers to blacks and Asians?

Perhaps.

But I don’t think it’s “fair.” Now that business owners can’t decide when to close the door in their “rooms,” it’s just unfair in a different way.

There are many overlaps to my post about breast-feeding in public, and women like me are the Younger Brother in that scenario. Mother agrees with us.  We win.

But I asked fellow mothers to cover their chests out of respect and empathy for other people. I’m asking if we will stop fighting for ourselves long enough to see the struggle of our brother?

To Women’s Advocates and Race Advocates and Disabilities Advocates and all other Advocates: every victory for your cause means things are less fair for the people you’re fighting.  And, not only that, your small win hasn’t actually made things more fair for you or your family, either.

Not really.

His peanut allergy will make ordinary things difficult for the rest of his life. I don’t need to tell you how unfair that is.

The same for folks with disabilities. For all the things they’re able to do–for all their great qualities–at the end of the day, they’re going to suffer in ways most others don’t. Why are some of us born with obstacles like that?  How is it fair?

It’s not.

I totally understand struggling with that reality.

But everybody has to deal with a set amount of fate-sponsored “unfairness.” (Yes even the Older Brothers have problems.) “The System is real”–but I just call Him “God.” He allows every person a measure of struggle, which means we ALL have something that makes us question His idea of justice!

Life certainly isn’t “equal.”

And we’ll never be able to fix all of our perceived wrongs with enough advocacy.

Do you think we might keep this in mind, next time we’re competing with our siblings?  Life isn’t peaches and cream for them, either.

Maybe we’ll pause, when we feel like running to Mother and signing petitions and calling the newspaper/TV-crew, and tweeting about the business being sooooooo misogynist or anti-family or in-need-of-education, because how dare they not immediately see how little and victimized I am?

THAT version of advocacy is the very real down side to all the hype surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. We’ve been taught that groups of Little Brothers/Mama Bears can band their trucks together and run over those who disagree. To those militant activists, a word of caution:

There really is a fine line between standing up for your family and becoming a bully. 

If–at some point–you’re no longer asking for cooperation, but you’re actually forcing them to give up freedoms for your sake, using social media to tarnish reputations and celebrating when you crush them with the force of the law, then you’re a powerful, culturally-acceptable bully.

I don’t feel sorry for the son born second when he learns how to manipulate Mom.

And, if all your friends always encourage you, and Mother never balances your perspective, never cautions you to be wise–then you’ve basically built a team of lackeys. Somebody in your circle ought to have freedom to say, “Slow down.” Someone needs to balance the addictive power of “advocacy” when it goes too far.

-“Sweetie, your breasts don’t offend ME. But, slow down. It’s not the issue of the century for others to want modesty.”

-“Yes, it’s inconvenient to drive. But, slow down. SOMEBODY will be inconvenienced by our son’s allergy, and I don’t want it to be strangers on the plane.”

-“No, that business doesn’t need ‘education’ or ‘awareness.’ Slow down. WE should be aware that we’re asking for a sacrifice; it’s not a right.”

Yes, injustices happen every day. And it’s our job to stand up for the helpless. But, I’m asking advocate groups to understand we often make things more unequal by championing ONE side, every time.

Like the Mother feeling sorry for her youngest boy–our culture really hasn’t solved anything.

We’ve simply sponsored a different brand of Not Fair.

Where’s Papa Bear When Mama Bear Gets Angry?

Last summer, my parents were loading into the van after Vacation Bible School–while about two dozen other families attempted to do the same.

It was parking lot madness.

Children frolicked around, high on summer and sugary snacks, as their worn-out caregivers tried to pluck them from giggling herds to go home.

My mom had shuttled four children from the women’s shelter where she works. And, as she strapped three of them in their seats, Number Four slipped under her arm and bolted. Of course, she yelled his name, and told him to stop, but this particular 4-year-old only laughed and ran faster.

Mom was right on his heels, so she witnessed when he plowed head-long into another little boy (who began to cry).

She cornered Number Four, pointed to the crying boy, and scolded, “You hurt somebody because you didn’t listen to me!” Then she marched him back to the van with that classic, angry-mom, you’re-in-trouble stomp.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get very far before Crying Boy’s mother stopped them with a screechy “Excuse me! Your son just ran into mine!”

My mom turned around, and apologized. “I know–I’m sorry!” she said. “I saw it happen. Actually this is a boy I teach at the women’s shelter. He has a behavior disorder that’s sometimes difficult to manage…”

“That’s no excuse!”  the Angry Woman interrupted. “My son has special needs, too.”

This caught my mom off guard. She could see the woman was beyond the normal level of anger for the situation.

“Well…(*stammering*) No, I didn’t mean to make excuses,” she said. “But I’m trying to explain why he was running away from me in the first place…”

“He hurt my son,” the Angry Woman repeated. “And then he laughed when he started crying!…The least he should do is apologize!”

Still frazzled (but agreeing an apology was in order), my mom decided to see if Number Four would cooperate. She said, “Do you understand that you hurt this boy? Tell him you’re sorry.”

“Sorry,” Number Four muttered.

And then everything was fine! The lady said, “Accidents happen,” and everybody got home at a decent hour…

JUST KIDDING!  

Actually, the woman said she didn’t believe that Number Four was really sorry, and she accused my mom of negligence.  She announced she wanted to report my mom to a supervisor at the homeless shelter.

Seriously.

My mom explained she needed to get the kids back and didn’t have time to argue over a bump on the head….and that’s when Angry Woman said, “I guess I’ll have to call the cops then!”

Seriously.

Those of us nearby tried to gain control of the escalating situation. Somebody pointed out that nothing illegal had happened. I was the one who asked Angry Woman, “Exactly what do you want at this point?”

She replied, “I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR CHILDREN IN PUBLIC!”

*cough*

Okaaaaaay, We’ll get right to work on that, Ma’am.  Meanwhile, there was nothing else to be said or done about the parking lot collision between two little boys, so my dad told my mother to go ahead and leave.

Unfortunately, Angry Woman didn’t like losing her audience, and now her husband was involved.  While she dialed 9-1-1, the Husband announced, “We have the right to detain you until the authorities arrive,” and jumped in front of the van as my mom was pulling away.

I really, really wish I were making this up.

But, seriously.

Mom had to slam the brakes to avoid manslaughter. Then, Angry Woman (who was talking to the police dispatcher and holding her no-longer-crying boy), planted herself behind the van.

She was stuck in her vehicle with four children who hadn’t eaten, while two unreasonable parents held her hostage and reported to law enforcement a story of an injury that happens on playgrounds across the country all. the. time.

As you can tell, this is a long tale, and there are many other interesting details which the social commenter side of me would love to pick apart right now. But, for the sake of time, the highlights are these:

-The police took over an hour to arrive.

-My mom (and the four kids), waited in the van, while the Husband stood a few feet in front of the vehicle–arms crossed defiantly–to make sure they didn’t escape.

-Aaaaand, the whole thing eventually was settled by an officer with the patience of a saint who allowed Angry Woman to vent, then kindly told her “sorry your little guy got hurt,” and then sent everybody home.

So what does this story have to do with the culture?

Well, I’m willing to bet that Angry Woman tells her own version of this story occasionally…

…and I’m willing to bet Angry Woman refers to this incident as one of the times “Mama Bear” had to come out.

Mama Bear.  The national excuse for bad behavior from women everywhere.

Can’t you picture the Tweet?  Something like, “Parents don’t take responsibility for their kids! I had to throw down in a parking lot today because somebody hurt my baby… #Fierce #FighterInstinct #MamaBear”

…and all of her friends throw up their thumbs and shout, “You get ’em, girl!”  Boy, those people messed with the wrong cub!!!

Girl power! They chant.

Do you realize our culture usually assumes the woman is right any time she claims to be “protecting” her kids?

I found this article encouraging ladies to just let it out–that rage is healthy! Embrace the “feral ferociousness”…

She says: “One of these days, I’m just going to let my Mama Bear have her wild way and chew up some punks all in the name of good old natural parenting.”

It’s as if the Bible’s warning about quick-tempers and foolishness doesn’t apply to mommies. We seem to believe all of a mother’s anger is justified. We actually like being compared to untamed, conscience-less animals.

One of these days, we warn, I’ll turn off my brain and let fly with the blind instinct–and that’s a good thing??? 

Nonsense.

Sometimes Mama Bears are wrong. And those punks you want to “chew up?” They have Mama Bears somewhere, too.  What happens when one bear meets another bear, and each perceives the other as a threat to their young?

Somebody should be able to stand in front of Mama, and snap her out of the trance when she goes too far.

Unfortunately, the same feminist culture that encourages “girl power” also has destroyed the safety system which used to keep that power from taking over.  The Papa Bear.

Where are the Papas to balance the situation?…

One of my favorite explanations of the roles of Mama/Papa is in this blog post: Submission to Authority. (Scroll down to “Women are Multifaceted Powerhouses.”)

Robyn describes the power of women like an 18-wheel truck, speeding downhill.  

Yes, Mama Bears, she recognizes your power.  There’s a lot of it!  And this power is a God-given feature; not a defect. We need passion and a fighting spirit to carry out our task.

But, if it goes unchecked, a woman’s power has the potential to run over people like a semi on a wild, collision-course.

Men were designed to be the brake system–yet feminism has snipped those brakes!

Angry Woman’s husband should have realized when she started flying off the handle and told her to get in the car.  Oh, i’m positive he would have heard a lecture all the way home. She would have clawed his ears for days.

But, he chose to enable and escalate her fit instead of putting a foot down. In the name of “support,” he let her maul other people rather than confronting and taming the beast.

That makes him a coward.

Years ago, C.S. Lewis described the Papa Bear’s responsibility to protect the rest of the world this way:

The relations of the family to the outer world — what might be called [the family’s] foreign policy — must depend upon the man, because he usually is much more [fair] to the outsiders. A woman is primarily fighting for her own children and husband against the rest of the world. Naturally…their claims override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The function of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given its head. He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense family patriotism of the wife…
If you are a married woman, let me ask you this question. Much as you admire your husband, would you not say that his chief failing is his tendency not to stick up for his rights and yours against the neighbours as vigorously as you would like? [Is he] a bit of an Appeaser?” -C.S. Lewis

YES! A thousand times yes, Mr. Lewis.  My husband never gets worked up enough over the things that bother me! In my opinion, he needs to back me up.He should tap into his own animal instinct every once in awhile and protect our family with more enthusiasm!

And…yet…on the other hand…when I think about the story of the Angry Lady in the Parking Lot, I’m so glad there’s somebody by my side who doesn’t lose all rationality when one of the babies gets hurt.

I’m pretty sure Luke never will respond to a scraped knee by jumping in front of a moving van.

The point is, I’m not always right just because I’m angry. Probably especially when I’m angry. And, as Proverbs says, my anger will cause me to make a fool of myself, if nobody steps in.

Sometimes I need a cool head to put the brakes on my speeding power.

—-

I covered a lot in this post, but what do you think?  Should women embrace the Mama Bear fierceness?  Or does it lead to sinfully hot-tempers and needless fights? Do you agree with the semi-truck analogy and Lewis’ quote?

Abuse

I wondered a couple times if my friend was being abused. But she erased all doubt the day she stopped smiling mid-conversation and confessed, “I’m afraid of him.”

“What happened?” I asked as calmly as possible. “You can tell me the truth.”

“I feel like such a horrible person,” she began, tears pooling. “But I’m not sure I can take the stress anymore… I’m walking on eggshells constantly–always wondering which version of him I’ll get.”

I nodded in sympathy. They’ve been struggling for a loooooong time.

“My entire life hinges on his mood and choices!” she said, just before burying her face in her hands. “It’s too much.”

“Jane,” I say gently, trying to find the right words. “Nobody should have to live this way.” I searched for a way to phrase my next thought. Then I just said it: “Even if he doesn’t hit you, do you realize this is emotional abuse?”

She reacts as I expect. “Abuse?! That’s kind of ridiculous! We have a problem, but he’s not an abuser!

“That’s often what abuse victims say,” I answer quietly.  Then I give her the honest truth. “I just don’t think I can watch you deteriorate more and more…You’ve changed, Jane. You’ve lost so much confidence! Wherever we are, you’re always thinking about the struggle at home, and you’re losing touch with all the things that used to be you.”

“Well, yeah!” she says, getting defensive. “Yeah, life has changed. And yeah, it’s harder than I thought it would be. But it’s not all his fault! I guess I thought you would encourage me to stay strong; not try to accuse him of abuse!”

“I know it’s a heavy label,” I say quickly. I can see she’s shutting down. “But that’s what you call making someone feel out-of-control and hopeless as a pattern over time.” I want Jane to know she has someone in her corner. “I’m just concerned about saving your spirit…”

She looks at me with a glimmer of relief, so I keep talking.  “Everybody has struggles. Sometimes life is hard. But nobody should be afraid in their own home! At some point, you’re not dealing with normal ‘hard’ anymore.

“But where is that point?” Jane asks. She looks like an innocent child, and it almost breaks my heart. “I mean, he needs me! I promised to spend my life doing what’s best for him–always–no exceptions. How could I be this selfish? How can I pretend I’m the only one suffering?”

I allow the silence to hang for awhile, as she collects her thoughts. Finally, she finds my eyes again and asks, “Well, what do you think I should do, then?  Divorce him?” (She spits that word with all the sarcasm she can muster.)  “Should I throw in the towel and save myself, like a can’t-hack-it quitter?”

Silence again.

Then I remind her: “It has been 10 years, Jane.”

I take her hand and squeeze it hard. “You’re not a quitter! I’ve heard your prayers and watched you spend hours doing research. You’ve sought counseling and read books and lost sleep searching for a way to help him. How could you possibly call yourself a quitter?! You’ve done your best–but you’re running yourself down! For once in the last decade, think of yourself. What do you deserve?–”

“I’M HIS MOTHER!” Jane suddenly snaps. “If he can’t count on me to fight for him, who will?”

Her outburst doesn’t bother me. I know how much she’s hurting. Nobody sees something like this coming in the beginning, when they hold their perfect baby for the first time. No one thinks the day will come when it’s time to surrender–and walk away.

“He’ll always be a part of you, Jane.” I’m nearly whispering. “There’s a place in your heart he will always fill. But think of the other kids. Are you being the best for them? Don’t they deserve a mommy who isn’t worn-out and uncertain and scared all of the time?”

She doesn’t respond for several seconds, so I continue in the same gentle tone.  “He doesn’t respect you.  He doesn’t make any effort to work with you. Nobody expects you to go on forever–pouring out and getting nothing in return. It’s not fair.”

A tiny sob escapes from Jane, and she wipes a tear with her thumb. “You’re telling me to give up on him…on a part of me…my everything. I can’t keep going like this. And yet, what’s the point of living if I lose him–life as I know it?”

“The abuse has made you forget, Jane. You had a life before him, and you will have a life again.”

She cries and takes a few deep breaths. But suddenly, she changes her tune.  “It’s really not so bad; I just needed to vent. Things will seem better with some sleep–”

“No, Jane.” I say it firmly. “You’ve gone through anger, grief, and now justification! Enough is enough. It’s time to accept the situation and take care of you before there’s nothing left at all.  Just take a break for awhile. Spend a little time apart. Maybe you’ll be surprised how much better it will be for both of you.”

“I’ll never forgive myself,” Jane says shakily. But I can tell she’s coming around.  “What he’s doing to our family isn’t okay…but it hurts so much to think of giving up. Walking ahead without him.”

“But you can’t accept all the responsibility,” I say, getting good at taking the other side.  “I’m sure it will feel like a loss for awhile…but remember it’s also a new beginning. It’s a chance to get reacquainted with yourself. To finally stop defining your existence through another person’s temper. For once, there will be freedom in the pain.”

“…He doesn’t want to be helped,” Jane mutters angrily.

“Yes. Exactly.”

“And I’m tired of blaming myself for his issues,” Jane says with more confidence.

“I’m so glad to hear you say that!”

“You really don’t think this violates everything it means to be a mother?”she asks one more time. “Is it selfish?”

Sometimes you need to be selfish,” I answer. “You’ll see with time–it works out for the best.”

I put an arm around her as I drive the point home. “It will be hard, but no harder than the last few years have been, slowly dying in an invisible prison… And one day, you will look back and realize you’re healthier. You’re happier than you ever thought possible… And you’ll move on…”