Pick of the Clicks 08/14/15

They’re BACK!!!! Jump for joy! It’s the Pick of the Clicks!

Curated for your joy, entertainment, and stimulation, here are my best-of-the-web suggestions for your weekend:

Tanya Marlow on Church, Disabled People and Awkwardness. Read this. A snippet:

Offers of prayer and alternative medicine come with two big assumptions: that I can be changed (which, outside of a miracle, is unlikely to happen) and that I need to be un-disabled to be okay.

Imagine if someone came up to you when you were at church and said, ‘hi – I’ve noticed you are not reaching your beauty potential. Have you tried a face lift?’ or ‘hi – I’ve noticed you are intellectually inferior to others. Have you tried playing chess daily?’ Imagine hearing this sort of question from someone different every time you went in a public place.

Brilliant: Maciej Ceglowski (aka Idlewords) on Web Design, the first 100 years of the internet. Don’t be put off by the title, which you think you are not interested in. You really shouldn’t miss this: a REALLY funny, well illustrated look at the history of airplanes along side the history of the development of the web. It is insightful, helpful, interesting.. and did I mention, funny? (For example, he talks about competing visions of what the internet is for. Vision 1? Connect knowledge, people, and cats. His comment? “This is the correct vision.”)

A fun Tumblr account: 2 Kinds of People. Check it out. For example:

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Wonderful: Esther Emery with The God Who Sees:

Turns out, the most dangerous things I say aren’t the mean ones. Mean is everywhere. Mean is a red herring. No, the most dangerous work I do is the work of visibility. When something becomes visible, such that the natural compassion of the heart makes reparative action absolutely necessary? That’s when walls crumble. That’s when systems alter, hearts are changed.

THIS, from DL Mayfield: her reflections on being a a girl, and a parent of a girl, in a world where we are told to “be nice, and polite”, in a world where there are Bill Cosbys: Focus on the Family:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.

I am very grateful that my husband has never been critical of how I spend my day, but I thought these observations were right on point: Samantha Rodman on Why Men Criticize Their SAHM Wives.

I loved this from Ashley Hales, on marriage in the midst of mayhem and motherhood: Losing Us and Finding Us as Lovers.

Nora Calhoun’s essay Learning from Bodies is excellent: her experiences in being with people in birth and in death have taught her about the value of physical life in a way that academia could not – and it is an education available to all of us:

We stand to gain so much by learning those lessons. Having a big family, or living with our grandparents, or working in hospice, or being a doula or doctor or what have you, is not necessarily everyone’s calling—but the corporal works of mercy are open to us all. We need to draw on the experience of spending our time and energy on the care of other people’s bodies. If we confine ourselves to ideas that are best suited to legislation, picket signs, and the combox, we will lose the richest vocabulary of human dignity, one better expressed in embraces and diaper changes than in words. If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.

I am currently reading Deb Hirsch’s excellent book Redeeming Sex. Here’s a glimpse of her thesis that our sexuality does not compete with our spirituality – it completes it: The Church’s Sex Problem. This is someone I WANT to talk to about sexuality.

This is a few short minutes you should pay attention to. Watch through to the end. I plan to watch this with my kids in a few years.

From me?

My first review up at Books & Culture on Karen Dabaghian’s Travelogue of the Interior. Think of Book Reviews like a well made film trailer: just a short glimpse highlighting the film, and yet entertaining in its own right. Now you want to read it, don’t you?

And the surprising situation in which I called 911 (and in which I hope you would do the same)…. on the blog here, and then picked up by the Huffington Post here.

8 thoughts on “Pick of the Clicks 08/14/15

    • I thought it chilling, too. I’d love your thoughts on Alastair’s comments below, if you wouldn’t mind – since you are a parent of a girl that age while neither of us are.

  1. I am very wary of the use of scare tactics such as those of that video (to my knowledge, there is no shortage of literature on the failure of and damage caused by ‘scared straight’ approaches in various areas—in relation to drugs, sex, etc.). The whole dynamic of fear—the parents’ exaggerated fear of unknown predators (most sexual predators are well-known), the scare tactics of the stunts themselves, and the children’s fear of their parents’ fear-driven anger and discipline—strikes me as potentially quite counterproductive. I wonder whether the children in the video would be quite so secretive were their relationship with their parents driven primarily by trust and a lot less fear. There are dangers out there, but I suspect that perhaps the best protection against them is fostering a relationship of deep trust and love that drives out fear between parents and children. The child who is most at risk is the child who can be separated from their parents. Wouldn’t it be better if unhealthy and bad secrets weren’t given the ground in which to grow in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better if fear of getting ‘caught’ (or experiencing rather rare threats) were replaced by fear of breaching the loving trust that parents willingly sought to invest in their child, as they prepared them to face the world?

    Teenagers will always want and will almost always express autonomy, something which can be wrested from the hands of fearful and reluctant parents—producing mutual resentment—or empowered and entrusted as an act of love and faith. Teenagers will also make mistakes with their new autonomy. I would far prefer my teenager felt able to return to me for supportive assistance and advice, as the proud sponsor and cheerleader of their growing independence, rather than fearing that I was always looking for a pretext to take their autonomy from them and give them an ‘I told you so’ speech. The world undoubtedly has its dangers, but informed and developed agency, courage, and trust are a far more promising posture for healthy and safe engagement with it than fear.

    All so much easier said than done, of course, but that is my concern about this approach (speaking as someone without children, let alone teenagers, but as someone who was once a teen himself!).

    • I appreciate your caution: I don’t usually appreciate scare tactic type videos either. I’ll confess that I didn’t think of this as a video to scare teens, for me it was scary as a parent to realize that there were entire corners of conversation I hadn’t thought I’d need to have with my kids before entrusting them with social media accounts (e.g. “what will your policy be for accepting friend requests: only people that you know, or people known by someone you know?)

      I absolutely agree that I hope to be a parent who seeks to empower and entrust our children with autonomy as an act of love and faith: we hope and pray and work towards closeness. However, what I think was most frightening to me in this video was the gap between what parents thought their children understood as “Agreed” between them, and how differently the kids thought. Two of the parents said “we’ve talked about this!” and “we trusted you!”, and yet the teens’ behavior suggested that they had not really processed any of their parents’ concerns as being really real dangers. Even in the van, the parents were saying “I don’t think she’ll do it,” and “she would never do it”, which makes me—as a mom—feel deeply insecure about my ability to “read” my children whom I am trusting in these situations.

      I shared this envisioning that if my daughter was 12, rather than the very naive 7 she is right now, I might want to watch it with her not so much to scare her but to talk with her about it: what did she think of it? what did she think of the girls being “friendly” to the new kid in town? is this something she and her friends have talked about? Does she see her friends making friends on the internet, or (and this is the more likely scenario), do people they know ever send them message which are scary or threatening or secretive? What does she think about how the parents reacted? How could we do these things differently in our family?

      I don’t know… I would just want to talk about it with her.

      I also thought the parents’ reactions were severe… but then again, in those moments where I’ve lost track of my kids and been genuinely afraid of their safety, the emotion on being safely reunited with them is almost overwhelming: anger/fear/relief all bundled into a few critical seconds.

      I’m finding this a very challenging aspect of parenting: wanting to alert my kids to the real evil in the world, and yet to shield them from it at the same time. I want my kids to know (and care! and pray!) about ISIS, but I don’t want to terrify them. I want them to know enough about the manipulative ways of predators, but not to be suspicious of every person who walks through our door.

      We have talked at length with our kids about fear vs caution (starting young: we were careful to use the words “she is cautious around dogs” rather than “she is scared of dogs”, because we didn’t want to label it unhealthily). When it comes to issues of sexual predators, I want my kids to be cautious rather than fearful. I would hope that if my kids were of an age where this video clip could be watched with them, that we would have a cautiousness-raising conversation rather than a scare-them-into-paralysis kind of response.

    • You’ve made some great points, Alastair. I’ll confess that I was rather alarmed at the parents’ intense response to their children’s actions; it made me wonder what the home environment was like, how involved the parents were, what communication styles were used, that sort of thing. But if my kid had been one of those girls, I might’ve flipped my lid, too.

      I discussed this video with my husband last night; he hasn’t seen it, but he expressed a similar concern to yours. Is this scare tactic necessary? Moreover, would this video tell our daughter that parents are deceptive? Should parents ever be deceptive (snooping in child’s things, etc.) to find out information?

      My thought is no. Under ordinary circumstances, parents should respect their child’s boundaries and privacy. They shouldn’t use scare tactics. However, if the child/teen refuses to tell the parents the truth about their behavior (whereabouts, activities, etc.) and the parents have valid reasons for concern (odd behavior, possible drug use, abuse, etc.) then they may have to resort to snooping. For example, a boy I went to school with was suspected of drug use. His parents had valid concerns, the teen wouldn’t be honest with them, and they tapped his phone calls. Unfortunately, their concerns were realized; the son was dealing drugs. But that’s not what is ideal.

      Ideally, the parents have open and honest communication with their kids. I try to have that with my 7 and 12 year old daughters. I don’t want to be like that mom in the van in the video, denying that my daughter would ever go off with strangers. I also don’t want to be “all in their business” and not allowing them any autonomy. They need room to make mistakes, but I’d rather their mistakes not involve predators.

      We’ve discussed this as a family. “Don’t put anything online that you don’t want the entire world to read,” we’ve said. We’ve discussed specific examples of people who have made poor decisions. We’ve discussed what’s okay to keep as a secret and what isn’t. I’ve shared mistakes from my past (in an age-appropriate way) and why I want them to know it’s okay to tell some secrets. We’ve discussed sex, reproduction, sexuality, “good touch” versus “bad touch”, etc. But I always try to emphasize positives rather than negatives about sexuality.

      So far, my older daughter has been open with me. She still asks me questions. I always answer her questions truthfully, even though when she was much younger, the answer was, “This isn’t knowledge that you can handle yet.” When she got an email account through her Christian school, the school urged us, as parents, to look over our child’s email periodically. (The school monitors it, too; there are strict policies about what’s considered acceptable email and what isn’t.) I’ve told my daughter that I’ll read her email at random times. She didn’t seem bothered by that, and so far, nothing alarming has appeared. It’s mostly school assignments and typical junior high silliness between her friends.

      And yes, I try to know all her friends and one or both of their parents. I’ve made an effort to have her group of buddies over every once in a while to keep an eye on the group dynamics and what the kids are discussing. I try to keep in close contact with other parents and hear what’s going on in the school environment; ditto for teachers, though it’s harder at this age than it was in elementary school. Sometimes those teachers see things that parents don’t because they’re around them so much. Sometimes, though, even the most observant person may miss clues.

      My daughter doesn’t have a cell phone; she’s the last of her friends not to have one, a fact she laments despite her hatred of talking on the phone! She doesn’t have a Facebook account. I suspect that if she does get a social media account of some sort, either my husband or I will have to monitor it and (at least at first) limit who she friends to those she knows in person. Then, gradually as she proves to be responsible enough to handle it, we’ll allow her more say in it. Same deal with getting her driver’s license, by the way. She gets it when she proves responsible enough to drive a vehicle safely, not automatically when she turns 16.

      I want my kids to know they can trust me to tell them the truth and follow through on what I’ve said I’ll do. I want them to know they can trust me and that I’ll listen and not just lecture. These are tough days for parenting. But then again, when has parenting ever been easy?

      • Bronwyn and Laura, thank you both for your thoughtful responses.

        Raising a teenager in the current cultural context—and perhaps especially a girl—is a task I envy no one. To be honest, my natural instinct is one of terror. For me, perhaps the deepest threat facing young teenage girls in particular is hypersocialization, a problem that is, to my mind, even more concerning than the immense threat of hypersexualization, not least because the former drives the latter. Teenage girls have always had intense and particular forms of sociality. However, in the age of the mobile phone, Facebook, Twitter, and other online media, there are vanishingly few places where teenage girls can extricate themselves from their webs of sociality and their conditioning power (and new forms of connected sociality can be far more intimate—the mobile phone is like a limb to many—private, and invisible to parents and concerned adults). At a particularly formative and vulnerable stage in their lives—during which their sense of self will probably experience a significant degree of disequilibrium—this makes them radically exposed to the conditioning of their peer groups. With this hyper-social existence, girls will likely become extremely dependent upon the opinion and behaviours of their peers and far less likely to develop the capacity for independent thought, self-confidence, self-presence, introspection, and self-differentiated agency, all of which require solitude, silence, disconnection, and non-social spaces and times in which to develop. It also requires disconnection from the world of peers to connect with the adult world of parents. These traits are a person’s immune system to the pressure of peers and the crowd. Without them, it will be our peers that we rely upon to give us our sense of self. Of course, as both schools and peers press kids to be more technologically connected in their own ways, it would be exceptionally hard not to appear to be the bad guy and be somewhat resented if you placed anything like healthy limits upon your teens’ mobile phone and social media use.

        I quite agree with Laura that there are times when parents should not trust their kids. But these are, as she says, not ordinary situations. Frankly, one of the only things that gives me any comfort in such situations is knowing that, even where we feel completely powerless, we can turn to a good God in prayer.

      • I find your remarks on hypersocialization very perceptive, Alastair. It’s a huge concern for me, and I hate that schools require technological connection so much. I want my daughters to be able to think for themselves, not simply follow what their peers do, think what they think, be like they are (whether that’s healthy or not). We’re already seen as odd ducks because we don’t have a television in our home; we haven’t since 2001 and we’ve all survived quite nicely, thank you! Lots of time to read and see that the world is a lot bigger than my (or my child’s) immediate social circle or Facebook feed.

      • I and my three brothers grew up without a TV and I would want the same experience for my kids (my girlfriend had the same experience). We spent most of our free time playing outside—football, cricket, exploring local hillsides, having mock battles, cycling, etc.—or reading, writing, making art or music, cooking, producing shows, doing crafts, jigsaw puzzles, playing snooker, board games, etc. indoors. I don’t think that any of us own a TV now and our lives are richer for that fact, I think.

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