Response to Matt Walsh on Sex Ed

photo-18I have been a fan of yours for awhile, Matt Walsh; a big fan.  Before becoming a full-time stay at home parent I was a health educator in the public schools.  I wish I thought your perceptions of comprehensive sex education were accurate, but I respectfully do not.  I would like to believe that parents who are incapable of teaching their children healthy, universal lessons about human sexuality are an “aberration,” but research shows we have not yet evolved to that level of competence as a society.  Since your arguments are not actually based in research or evidence, allow me to speak from the heart as you do.  In my experience, and I know that you are speaking from your experience, I believe comprehensive sex education in schools saves/improves/protects lives.  This is what I have witnessed:  1) Human sexuality is a part of biological science, which is taught in schools.  We do not restrict information about other sciences based upon the cultural beliefs of students.  We give them the facts.  2) What we teach in schools does not restrict what parents can teach kids at home.  If they are capable, loving parents, lessons from home will be primary, not secondary, to lessons learned at school.  3) You suggest we have a case of parentphobia.  Please consider whether you have a case of teacherphobia.  Health educators are professionals, and “most of them are…capable.  Most [teachers] love their [students].  Most [teachers] would do anything for their [students]. Most [teachers] know what’s best for their [classrooms].”  Teachers aren’t the government…I encourage you to have a little faith in them.  In fact, perhaps you still have some things to learn from teachers that will help you navigate the parenting “minefield” of which you speak.  Sometimes we need expert guidance from people who are trained professionals.   4)  One of our biggest failures as a society is our tendency to trust our assertion that “I can look around me” and see everything that’s going on out there. We need to doubt our beliefs about “most of us” because that is usually biased by what we see.  When we make decisions about the needs of our society as a whole, we have to remember, respectfully, that “most of us” don’t interact daily with a representative sample of the population.  Matt, we need to doubt ourselves every time we use the phrase “most of us.”  Herein lies the intended and constructive purpose of statistics; science and research that can help us make decisions about what kids as a population need.  “Most” researchers are good, smart people that have the very best for young people at heart.  As parents, we cringe at the idea of our kids rendered to numbers, but these numbers have the ability to remove our blinders when all we can see is what is around us.  The evidence, in this case, suggests that comprehensive sex education in schools has reduced the rate of unintended pregnancy, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  As a health educator, I can tell you that everyday I had that job, I went home feeling like I improved the outcome of someone’s life that day.  As a citizen, when I send my kids to public school I choose to be willing to have my children educated in such a way that is best for the common good.  And as a parent, I welcome the challenge to teach my kids what I want them to know about their sexuality in the context of what they learn in school, on the playground, and in conversation with other kids and adults.  I encourage you to broaden your view, doubt your assertions, and then tell us all what you think is best for our children.  Here are some resources:

You’re outta here!

IMG_1217I watch morning TV once every 5 years. This morning on the Today Show some “manners” dude expressed that parents should remove their children from public spaces if they cry more than a minute.  He could use a lesson from the Italians, who were 100%, without fail, incredibly kind, sympathetic and even helpful with our 18 month old cry baby.

I agree there is an occasional restaurant where I would like to go in the later evening and not listen to crying kids, and there are plenty of places in a church or at a concert where one can hang out with a crying baby so everyone can hear. However, the example he gave was the grocery store. The time he suggested was ONE MINUTE. What, pray tell, does he suggest we do with our children when we need groceries? And where do I go with my crying baby when I’m at a restaurant and its zero degrees outside? And are there really adults out there who believe children should only exist in homes and schools and parks until they act like adults? I believe we have the capacity to to be intelligent, discerning, thoughtful, happy people who understand 1) sometimes our need for quiet is a priority, and 2) sometimes kids act like kids, and 3) babies are a gift.

The last time I went to a restaurant we asked to be relocated because the adults at the table next to us were so rowdy we couldn’t hear each other.  100 times a day I am disgusted by adults.  You are too if you stop to think about it.  Today there were boogers inside my locker in the YMCA women’s locker room. Today someone honked at me for stopping for the humans in the crosswalk. Today a plane flew low over my house at 6AM and woke us all up and guess what, an adult scheduled that plane. Today a guy’s fart in my exercise class stunk so badly I gagged. And its noon! Adults shoot each other, steal from each other, and fight with each other.  Our elected officials can’t get along well enough to pass laws.  The CDC says 57% of adults don’t wash their hands after using the restroom.  Adults hurt kids.  Yet, we persist that babies and children should act more like adults or be left at home.  Most of them have better manners than most of us.  Children are delightful, expressive, and incredibly tolerant of us awful adults.  And needless to say, the world would cease to exist without them and their parents.

In Italy, when my Wes cried at a restaurant, someone having dinner in that restaurant would turn around and smile at him. A few times, honestly, some lovely grandfatherly beautiful graceful man would just come pick him up and parade him around. Waiters brought him cookies. I swear to you he never cried for more than 30 seconds the entire time we were in that country. And when we came home, as strangers approached he would smile in anticipation of their smiles or words or generosity. I can’t tell you how heart breaking it was to watch his confusion as they ignored him, or glared at him or gave me nasty advice as they passed by. Wilder just said this to me as I was here writing and its so pertinent I find it spooky. “Mama, what do you wish for?” “For people to get along. For happiness.” He replied, “if you like me, you’ll get happiness. That’s how easy it is. Just like me and then you’ll have happiness all over your body.”  People, its really that easy.  I challenge you, next time you hear a baby crying at a restaurant, instead of rolling your eyes at the parents and glaring at the child, pick up your napkin and play peekaboo.  Smile at him.  Just try it.  The difference between feeling angry at that baby and tolerating that baby might actually be within you!IMG_1427

Related Experience

Just added this to my resume, because its TRUE. “My parenting experience began in 2004. In both 2008 and 2011 my caseload was expanded to its current capacity of 3. As of September, 2009, I made the choice to become a full-time parent. No experience prior to this has challenged me to multi-task, manage, self-educate, negotiate, lead, create, document, assess, mediate, evaluate, plan, program and immerse myself more. This work is truly the foundation of my professional self.”

Mama, I want to marry a boy…

My four year old, who trusts me to love him unconditionally, pulled on my sleeve yesterday morning. From the corner of my eye I had just seen him, donned in sheriff’s badge and rubber band gun, staring at an orange sign. He pulled me down to his height and whispered, “Mama, I want to marry a boy.” I said “You can marry whomever you love.” He responded, “uffda.” If you aren’t from around here or Scandinavia, “uffda” is not so much a word as an exhalation. It is also a call to feel someone’s pain, suffering, fear, or relief. The closest expression to “uffda” I can recall I learned from my students in the 90’s; “you feel me?” The only appropriate response from a loving mom to her son’s “uffda” is, “I feel ya, baby. I feel you.” Someday he may want to marry a Jenny or a Jake, but what I felt from him yesterday was a natural desire to be free to follow his heart.

Today, I rest assured that 51% of Minnesotans voted in favor of freedom and we celebrate that Minnesota was the first state in the U.S. to defeat a Marriage Amendment. I am proud we will continue our evolution toward legalization of marriage for all. I am thrilled we chose to protect our Constitution from being used to restrict rights. But I will admit, I am also sad about the 49% who voted in favor of the amendment. I believe we will someday look back and see that voting “yes,” was a vote for separate but equal. I know it’s important to understand the views that oppose mine. I live by the philosophy of honoring differences in points of view, culture and religion. But I can’t get to the other side of this issue without seeing discrimination. I will not accept that asking our government to define marriage exclusively as one man and one woman is practicing the “freedom” of religion. In truth, it is the imposition of religion upon state law. Religion cannot be used to write law nor justify segregation. I believe it is possible to calmly and warmly say to marriage amendment proponents, “I think you are making a mistake.” My hope is that by the time my son is falling in love, the 49% of Minnesotans who voted “yes” will have new views on love and freedom. I would like to have a conversation with my son someday where his brow furrows, he recalls our orange sign, and he asks me, “Was equal rights to marriage really debatable? Uffda.” And I will say, “I feel ya, baby. I feel you.”

Marriage Protection

Last night I was watching Sandy and her path of destruction on the evening news. Amid shots of houses spinning like tops down the yards that once held them tight, an ad came on TV promoting the Marriage Protection Amendment. A couple from Massachusetts, just north of Sandy’s strike zone, warned, “don’t make the same mistake and think gay marriage won’t affect you.” The dismaying “affect” of which they spoke was that kids might be taught in public schools that some families have two moms or two dads. In response, first and foremost, children in schools across the U.S. are expected to show respect for each other and their differences, regardless of their religion, culture or opinions. Second, kids across Minnesota are already being taught in public schools about the vast variability in family structure. Third, kids attend schools that have gay students, gay parents, and gay employees and the federal government will not allow states to remove them, or quiet them, or segregate them, regardless of how we vote on this amendment.

I was astonished by their plea, but I didn’t wish a storm upon their house. Their lifestyle and their opinions were shameful to me, but I didn’t want to see their family go down in the storm. The proponents of this amendment, however, are mounting the wind and waves that will wound the homes of happy, high-functioning families. They are the genesis of a storm that is draining our state of thousands of dollars that could be allocated toward nobler pursuits. They are asking us to use our State Constitution to take rights away from our residents. They are sending the message to thousands of kids that their parents’ love for each other is less valuable than other unions. They are creating insecurity in the lives of kids whose parents have already faced bigotry, ridicule and judgment. Suggesting that same-sex marriage will affect us if we note “no” is like saying Sandy affected me because I had to watch the devastation on TV. Its absolutely insignificant compared to being hit by a storm. Bottom-line, this amendment demands that the proponents beliefs affect the rest of us, regardless of what WE believe. I want to protect my marriage too. I want to protect it from fear, from cruelty and from exclusion. Why do we have to keep learning over and over again in this country that it takes more energy to exclude people than it does to include them?