Friday, October 31, 2014

Why We Don't Do Halloween- And Why It Doesn't Impact You In Any Way.

Halloween has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and has gained traction as a holiday for adults as well as children. 92% of Americans are planning to celebrate Halloween in some capacity, as each year the celebrations get bigger and bigger. Because of the surge in popularity surrounding this holiday, I've received a surge in questions on why we abstain from the holiday. This question is often met with an onslaught of personal opinions about the holiday, and a general sense that I'm a horrible parent for depriving my child of such revelry. So in order to answer all of your questions about why I don't participate in Halloween, here is the top 10 reasons we have decided not to celebrate the holiday. 

#1 I don't feel obligated to celebrate the holidays of other cultures or religions. 
I don't celebrate Ramadan, Diwali, The Assumption of Mary, Ash Wednesday, of Yule- so why would I celebrate Halloween? Just because it has mainstream appeal (due to clever marketing) doesn't mean my child is having less of a childhood if we don't do it. We don't ask Jewish people why they don't celebrate Christmas, so why does a person meet so much judgement if they choose not to celebrate other holidays?  I'm not Catholic. I'm not Celtic. I don't need to celebrate holidays that don't have anything to do with me.

#2 We don't need to get wrapped into the consumerism of this holiday. 
According to USA Today Americans are projected to spend $7.4 Billion Dollars on Halloween this year. That is $7.4 billion dollars on outfits people will wear once, pumpkins that will rot, and decorations made by prison camp workers often detained for their spiritual practices. (If you want to learn about a SOS letters found in Halloween decor last year please check out this story.) We already have more stuff then we need, and Halloween is just another reason to procure more.

#3 I don't want to subject my daughter the objectifying costumes that have become the standard for women.  Girls costumes are often focused on beauty instead of competence, and tend to be revealing even in child's sizes. Little girls who are exposed to sexualized messages early tend to internalize sexualization that can lead to a host of problems including low self esteem, eating disorders, depression and lower grades according to a professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Further more according to this study women who reveal more skin induce an emotional response, and are seen as less intelligent and competent. Yet here we are:

The little boys are given costumes with a baton to do his job. The little girl gets go-go boots. The little boy is given a medallion associated with the social status of being a count. The little girl gets a short skirt and lace up corset. These costumes are the male to female equivalent from the same manufacturer. We are teaching our little girls to be less then are, and reinforcing with our boys that it's okay to see them like that. This is not something I'm okay with.

#4 We don't need copious amounts of sugar procured by begging from strangers. 
Although parents have banded together with the teal pumpkin to show signs of candy free homes for children with allergies this year, Halloween in previous years has been a nightmare for children with allergies or food sensitives including my daughter. Even if your child doesn't have the reaction my daughter does to artificial colors, and even if you are okay with GMOs, the lasting damages of diets high in sugar can't be ignored. Researchers are now starting to call Alzheimer's type 3 Diabetes. So what happens when we reinforce ideas that sugar is treasure worth going door to door begging for?

#5 My child isn't your child; she doesn't react the same as your child does. 
Most people assume that the reason we don't celebrate Halloween has to do solely with our spiritual values. I would be lying if I said that wasn't a part of the reason, but there are many components to our decision. Starting around the beginning of September when my daughter sees the first Halloween decor go up in stores she starts to have nightmares. Some how pre-adoption trauma got a face, and that face is a witch. In the months of September and October I spend time comforting, snuggling, and reassuring a scared little girl that she is safe, and that the period of time when she was frightened and feeling abandoned is over. Most people who judge our choice to not participate in Halloween don't know that about this. My child doesn't react like your child. Your child doesn't react like my child. And if you don't have children, you should really just cool your parenting judgments in general. We live in a society where it seems normal to push our values on each other. How about we all just stop?

#6 Many states are passing laws that stop pedophiles from passing out candy to children. My state has not passed these laws yet. 
What do you get when you combine registered sex offenders, a night of interacting with children while passing out candy, and sexualized costumes as stated above? Well, in my household we are not going to find out.

#7 My child isn't missing out on anything! Really. 
We have found alternative activities to avoid Halloween. My daughter isn't missing out on any 'fun' with the less triggering activities we do. During the autumn season we celebrate the harvest. We go to the pumpkin patch and gather pumpkins, which are not carved, but are used for their seeds, chicken food and other useful things. Apples are eaten, leaves are collected, crafts are done and pumpkin everything is eaten. Despite studies that show people who are grateful are happier, the thankfulness and gratitude that used to take center stage in this season has been over shadowed by Halloween. Christmas season seems to start on November 1st, and Thanksgiving has lost footing to consumerism. I'm glad we continue to celebrate, reflect, and be thankful past when everyone takes down their pumpkins and moves on, we are not missing out on anything.

#8 Halloween is as much for the parents as it is for the Children. Admitting that was good for me.
We might all have a little Peter Pan syndrome and don't want to grow up, but for parents it's more then that. We like to see our kids in cute little costumes. We like to get complements on how cute our child(ren) look in their little costumes. Moms everywhere have so much pressure to do these amazing holidays like we see on Pinterest. And then post them on Facebook, so we can compare ourselves with other moms who are also doing over blown Pinterest inspired holidays who also posted on Facebook. Allowing myself to not be ran ragged by holiday pressure has been good for everyone in my family. Sitting Halloween out, has been a way for me to not give into the pressure I feel from our society and instead follow what I feel is best for my family.

#9 Just because it's a big deal to you, doesn't mean it's a big deal to me. 
You love everything about Halloween. That's great. You also love bacon, women, and pastel pink. That doesn't mean I have to. We have a tendency to seek out people who are the same as we are and have shared values and ideas. It's called tribalism and can be seen all over American politics, and social issues. So I get it! When someone comes along doing something a little bit different it feels threatening. It's been the same story for all of human history, and it's pretty natural. Let me assure the entire world, my choice to not celebrate Halloween in no way impacts the safety or security of your tribe. It's not a moral statement to the world, there is no need for a witch hunt (see what I did there? Pun totally intended!) It's just not that big of a deal to us. And we don't have to be the same.

#10 And the best reason why we don't celebrate Halloween: None of your business! 
When we were blessed with the ability to adopt our daughter it felt amazing to finally be her parents in a way that was complete. After a long battle she was 100% wholly ours, and we were hers. Before that we had to ask the state before we did anything, including cutting her hair, or going camping. It was a hard road we traveled to become her parents, and we are not willing to give up those parental rights easily to every opinion that blows past us. Rest assured our independent home study, the state of Washington, and the state of Oregon, felt we were reasonable stable parents and granted us custody. It should be good enough for you too!

If anything our family's choice to abstain from Halloween means more type 3 diabetes inducing candy for your children. It means one less person to compete with on Pinterest for coolest Halloween mom. And let's be honest, you don't want to mess with my mad pumpkin carving skills. Just because I don't do it doesn't mean I can't sculpt a masterpiece out of squash. The truth of the matter is, my choice to have my family abstain from Halloween doesn't negatively impact you in any way.  So if you love Halloween then go for it, pursue it with the level of passion and reckless abandon that you see fit. And I won't judge you for it. And I will abstain from it, with deep rooted spiritual and social convictions. So now that you know I'm not just the raving mad evangelical you first pinned me as, maybe you can spend all of that energy you devoted to judging me on something more important? Like getting ready for Halloween.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I will not judge others parenting styles, I will not judge others parenting styles....

I will not harshly judge other people’s parenting styles!

The other day I was at a family gathering when someone said something that shocked me. A parent of two of the other children informed their mom upon first meeting my little girl that she was “not very nice to them because she stuck her tongue out at them” And was “A brat”. At that point I must have had a look of shock on my face, because I was floored by what this parent was saying to me! My daughter is 4 years younger than these little girls, and had been in our home a grand total of 3 weeks when we took her to her first family function. Considering all she had to overcome, and that suddenly after 4 years of being a foster kid she had a real forever family sticking her tongue out at someone is the least of my worries. I nearly told her “Yes, introducing an adopted child into the family would be a great time to teach your children about understanding, grace and love.” But this parent is the type of parent who can’t really see past her own parenting style. So I bit my tongue and instead let her know that I’m very proud of little girl and that she is doing the best she can, and covered my offense.

But it got me thinking, am I the kind of parent who can’t see past their own parenting style? To consider other children’s individual needs and what they have to overcome? Do I give little girl’s friends grace? Do I teach her to have tolerance towards the children she comes in contact with? I think about the little friends she has, some of them really high energy, some of them momma’s boys and girls, some of them with sensory disorders, or little diva complexes and a lot of wonderful special little people! None of the parents of the children in our social circle are doing a bad job at parenting. They are all doing the best they can. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell each other what we are doing with our children or what is working for us or more importantly what didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for them. I can bribe my daughter into cleaning her bedroom by playing Funky Town by Lipps Inc, I realize that will not work for most people….okay I don’t know if that works for anyone else!

I think the most important thing about parenting is trying! If a person is really trying then their child will reflect this. I find the harder I try with little girl, the harder she tries and we me and we both have a better life. Trying also requires me to set up structure and give her safe boundaries to operate in so she knows what is expected of it. I just hope that we as parents can be a little softer with each other, easier on each other. None of us are perfect parents, and all of us are learning, so when a parent either hasn’t learned how to work on something you’ve got down, or what you did didn’t work with their child cut them some slack, smile and be happy that you child doesn’t do the same thing. Hopefully they will do them same thing when your child is driving them crazy!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mother's day- if you wait until you are ready

With Mother’s day being last weekend I thought I would share a little blog about my own journey to motherhood.

We had always had plans of adopting a child… when I was older! 30 seemed to be the magical age when adoption seemed to be within our future. Not only because 30 is the legal age to be eligible to adopt in places like China, but also because 30 feels stable to me. At that magic age my husband and I will be married 9 years, he will be done with school, we will be out of debt besides student loans and the mortgage, and we will be in our house for 5 years, more than enough time to make any improvements we needed to make before we bring a child into the mix. 30 was the age I was going to be ready to be a parent! 30 was the age where we would have our lives in order. But it’s been said before, that if you wait until you are ready to have kids, if you wait until you can afford it to have kids, you’ll never have them.

During the summer of 2012, 3 months before my 28th birthday we brought home our daughter. A beautiful brown eyed 4 year old full of energy, opposition, and just enough sweetness to make us still fall in love with her. She had been living in foster care at my parents from the age of 2 and had a pretty rough start to life. We had decided after much prayer and consideration that we would try to adopt her. We started before she was a freed child, meaning her biological mother was still in the picture, and went through a roller coaster ride of nearly 2 years before we were able to take her home. In this time we grew as a couple, grew as a family, and learned to rely on faith more than we ever had before. I have never been so stressed out, or cried so much in my entire life as at one point it looked like we were not going to be able to adopt her. We were very bonded to her, and she was very bonded to us. Every time she said “I want you to be my daddy.” To my husband, my heart broke a little bit more as we explained to her that we would have to just wait and see. I gained weight, gray hair, and more than anything else maturity as we went through this process.

This year, a week before Mother’s day we were able to finally legally adopt her! To change her name and let her know forever and ever she is ours. It was an unconventional way to build a family, but for my husband and I, it’s the only way that seemed right. This past year has been filled with building special amazing memories with our little girl, and going from being a couple who stayed up late, had tons of alone time and had little routine to thinking about this little girl first in every possible way. Like all parents we jumped in with both feet and even with knowing it would change our lives in every way, still had no idea how significantly it would change our lives. People become parents through a lot of different means, Birth, Surrogate, Adoption, Marriage, Death, and Fostering. All methods of becoming a parent are noble and good as long as the parent is willing to love their child, and work hard to set them on the right path to becoming decent human beings. For those people who every day make the choice to be the best parent they can be, they deserve honor regardless of the method they became parents. To them I gladly applaud you, on a Sunday, that isn’t a Holiday, but a day you continue to be a fantastic mother and lay down your life for your family.