A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 24 “Boundaries”

Dear daughter,

If someone makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to be polite. You don’t have to smile. You don’t have to nervously giggle. You don’t owe anyone anything. Set boundaries and don’t let anyone cross them. 

Daughter — I’m not good at this. I’ve put up with so much shit in my life. Creepy guys. Abusive bosses. It’s hard for me to say no and I avoid conflict even when it’s necessary. People have used me — taken advantage of me. 

With time, I’ve gotten a little better at standing up for myself but it’s never easy.

Remember — you always have the right to leave. Set boundaries and don’t waver. Good people will respect them. The rest don’t deserve your time. 

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no. 23 “Holidays”

Dear daughter,

By now I’m sure you know, I hate Christmas. I hate Christmas shopping. I hate Christmas carols, and I absolutely hate that Christmas seems to last the whole damn month of December. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Eat. Hang out with family and friends. Simple.

You are turning five at the end of the month, and this year you really enjoyed Easter. We had a couple egg hunts at home and at Pop Pop’s and you had a party at daycare. You even said it was your favorite holiday. (I know that’s subject to change.)

Our little family celebrates Christian holidays but not in very Christian ways. Older generations of our family were Christian so Easter and Christmas are traditions, but these days the traditions are secular and we’ve made them our own. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fun parts of childhood; Jesus is not required to give Christmas and Easter meaning.

My favorite part of any holiday is getting to spend time with our family.

My beautiful daughter — you are growing up and soon will start a life of your own. Make holidays your own as well. Whatever you do, celebrate what makes you happy.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no.22 “Always Use Your Voice”

Dear daughter,

Yesterday was difficult. We’re still in the middle of the pandemic, so it was just another day of hanging around the house. 

You were putting up a fight for some very basic things — brushing your teeth and getting dressed. You’re four and you don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like threatening time-out but it seems to get the job done.

The fights and frustration continued throughout the day. I don’t even remember what it all was about. What was concerning was that by the end of the day when we’re all tired, you were crying and I couldn’t understand what you were saying. This has been happening more frequently. I wish I knew what was going on so I could help you.

Daughter, I’m sure by the time you read this letter I will be able to understand you when you’re upset. Language skills and emotional regulation will come (and hopefully soon.)

It’s okay to be upset. Always use your voice. Communication is crucial. If you need help, always speak up. Be clear in what you need.

I don’t cry that much. It’s not that I’m afraid to let go, it’s just me. When I do cry, it is a good indication that changes need to be made. So when I break down, I listen to my mind and body. You always should, too. 

Beautiful daughter, life is full of ups and downs and good communication will help you get through all of it. Always use your voice.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — no.21 “Frustration”

Dear daughter,

 

Your frustration is through the roof. It’s most noticeable when you play video games. If something doesn’t work right in the game, you yell, cry, and sometimes throw the remote. It escalates very quickly — zero to 100 in no time flat.

But it’s not limited to video games. Sometimes if you’re not understood in conversations you get very upset. 

I get it. I really do. I’m a very impatient person and am often frustrated, too.

When I look back on my childhood, I remember a lot of confusion. It just felt like I never knew what was going on. I didn’t know how things worked and I didn’t understand why people would act the way they did. I remember several times when I got in trouble and never understood what I did wrong. It was very frustrating.

My smart and beautiful daughter — you are a little more passionate and fiery than I was growing up and I think in life, that might serve you well. That doesn’t help the frustration you are feeling now, though. So many things are new to you and there’s a lot to take in.

I can tell you to try to stay calm, but you’re only four right now and I know that won’t work. So I will try to stay calm for you. 

Always ask questions when you don’t understand and give it time. Don’t give up. When you get older things will become a little more clear. Growing up is confusing and frustrating but you will get through it. I promise. 

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.20 “Learning from a Pandemic”

We’ve reached the end of the road! This will be my last letter for a while as I am hoping to start fresh with new ideas and posts in January.

Happy New Year, everyone! Stay safe!

 

Dear daughter,

In 2020, you turned four years old, and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. Some countries fared better than others; the US was not one of them. As I write this on a cool and windy September night, 207,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus.

I’m not saying all of those deaths could have been prevented, but there are very simple ways to slow the spread of the virus that many Americans are ignoring. Had our leaders expressed the seriousness of the outbreak and put mask mandates in place sooner, some of those we lost may still be alive. 

Masks are a very simple thing people can do to respect and care for others in their community. So simple. Scientists and medical professionals have been stressing the use of masks since the beginning of the pandemic, and yet some people refuse to wear them. Some argue it’s infringing on their personal freedoms.

When there’s a public health crisis, your “personal freedoms” take a back seat and you think about how to protect your family and community. This is a dire time and we wish we could return to some sense of normal, but for that to happen we have to think of our community as a whole. Even if you don’t like masks, wear it to protect others and because it’s the right thing to do.

Dear daughter — you probably won’t remember this time in history, but you’re here — you’re living it. This time has taught me to think of others. Wear a mask because it’s simple. Help out where you can. Think of your community, and trust the experts.

Hopefully, nothing else will happen like this in your lifetime, but if it does, learn from this chaotic year and do what’s best for the community — and country and even world — as a whole. Help others because we are in this together.

Love,

Mom

PS You have some adorable masks.

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.19 “Four-Letter Word” and “Blame and Responsibility”

Dear adorably innocent daughter,

You’re only four-years-old, but you can use the word “fuck” properly in just about every part of the sentence. 

I know it’s my fault. I really have a mouth on me sometimes.

I can’t help but laugh every time you say it even though dad tells me not to.

 Two adorable examples come to mind:

One summer day we were playing in the sandbox and you complained about the “fucking bugs”. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants. We live in an old swamp and I hate the fucking bugs, too.

But I think my favorite would be the night we were working on craft projects and you dropped a paper plate full of glitter. It went everywhere — all over the table, rug, and floor. You froze, then looked at me with fear in your eyes, and let out a soft and innocent “fuck”. I could never be mad after that.

Maybe I don’t have a lesson in this letter, and maybe I’m a nieve first-time parent, but I really don’t care if you swear. Pop Pop and dad really want to curb your habit, but I just always feel there are bigger fish to fry. Plus I’m not a fan of censorship.

Just always know there’s a time and place. If we’re hanging out at home, let it fly. If you’re at a job interview, maybe not so much. 

Love,

Mom

 

Dear daughter,

When you take god and the devil out of the equation, you become responsible for your own actions. 

Too many people use religion as an excuse for their wrongdoings. 

I’m sure by now you know what it feels like to be hurt. Keep that in mind in the way you treat others. Empathy is held dear to families of humanist parents. We are good humans and we own up to our mistakes and learn from them. We respect others.

God and the devil have absolutely nothing to do with the personal growth you will experience from the ups and downs of life and your interactions with others.

It is your responsibility to acknowledge when you are wrong and become a better person because of it. 

You don’t need religion to have a moral compass. In fact, you’re probably better without it. 

The Golden Rule isn’t Christian; it’s found in cultures all over the world. Please keep it in mind.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.18 “Self-confidence”

Dear daughter,

I sometimes struggle with self-confidence. I’ve always been an ambitious person and often define myself by my accomplishments. However, once I achieve a goal, it’s never enough. I need more — something bigger and better. I think it’s important to stay hungry, but at some point, you should also be happy with what you have. I always think “if I reach this one goal I will be happy” but that’s not always the case. No matter what I do, I’m never good enough.

Maybe there’s a way to change my thinking so this wasn’t always the case, but I haven’t made an effort to change yet.

Then there’s dealing with your physical flaws. I was cross-eyed most of my life, but two years ago I had surgery to straighten my eyes. Before the surgery, I wondered if I was doing the right thing — going under the knife for cosmetic reasons. It was pretty painful, but the surgery was worth it. It really improved my confidence. Before the surgery, I didn’t even like to look people in the eye. I was embarrassed. Now I look people in the eye and smile. 

I also hate my eyebrows. I have had several microblade appointments in the past couple of years now and l love it. It seems to have the same effect as the eye surgery. I was surprised that dad was okay with it considering it costs hundreds of dollars, but he knows how important it is to me. 

So those are flaws I was able to change and it had a positive effect on my life and self-confidence. But what about the things you can’t change?

I’m overweight, and as long as I’m on psych meds, I probably always will be. Not to mention, women in our family tend to be curvy. My weight sometimes bothers me, but not as much as one might think. Surprisingly, I have been able to accept this flaw. Sometimes I even feel sexy.

When it comes to confidence I try to focus on the positive, change the flaws I can and want to, and accept the flaws I can’t. 

People have inherent worth just in being a unique human being — logically I know this and it’s important to remember. Maybe you feel you accomplish more than someone else in certain areas, but that certainly doesn’t put them beneath you. All that ambition and those goals I have don’t put me above anyone else. We all have positive and negative traits, but as humans, we are equal. 

As you grow up, I can’t wait to see all your traits, qualities, goals, likes, and dislikes, etc. There’s so much that goes into making you a unique person, and I hope you will always feel confident in who you are. I will help in any way I can. You are amazing.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.17 “Be Different”

Dear daughter,

Nobody wants to be different growing up. I always felt I stood out in some ways, but most of the time I didn’t want to. As a child and preteen, I would try to wear what the popular girls wore. I wanted to do my hair and makeup like them. Thankfully, in high school, I broke away from that a bit, but I was still self-conscious. 

There was a girl back home the same age as me and about the same size — tiny little thing. She was pretty and bubbly and everyone loved her. We were in cheerleading together. 

This girl was different — and even proud of it. She stood out and that seemed to make her even more popular even though no one would dare follow in her footsteps. She listened to old music and dressed however she wanted. Her palms would sweat when she was nervous, and instead of being self-conscious, she found ways to laugh at her flaws and everyone thought it was cute.

She was a very genuine person and I always admired her confidence. I envied her even. 

As an adult, I know I’m different, and for once, I want to be different. When you’re an adult you kind of stop giving a fuck. I feel being unique has helped my career and strengthened my relationships. When you show people your true self, others will follow suit and do the same. Celebrating differences can be a great way to connect.

I know growing up is hard and you feel like everyone is judging you, but I hope you can find the confidence to always be yourself. I know you are unique — one of a kind — and I will always be proud of you. 

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.16 “Respect That Freedom”

Dear daughter,

Religious claims are often ridiculous and far-fetched, and it’s hard to believe that anyone truly sees them as fact. But, don’t be an asshole. Deep down we’re all just humans trying to get by. 

It’s true, religious people can often be assholes to those living a secular life, but don’t fight fire with fire. We don’t have to emulate disrespectful behavior. Show empathy and consider what might have brought them to the place that they’re at. 

Debates are one thing, blatant disrespect is another.

We all know that Christians try to “spread the word” and while it’s annoying, it’s probably best to walk away. I once was talking to a friend in high school who decided he wanted to convert me, and when I didn’t budge in my convictions, he told me he’d rather talk to a shoebox because it opens up more than me. It was uncalled for and the discussion was not worth risking our friendship over.

Don’t be like that. I’m doing my best not to either.

We’re all humans free to live our lives how we want. Respect that freedom.

Love,

Mom

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter – no.15 “Be Careful”

Dear daughter,

Be careful. It’s dangerous being a woman. I have been assaulted, drugged, and stalked, and unfortunately, that’s an all too common narrative in an American woman’s life. 

Always be aware of your surroundings and have friends and loved ones around as much as possible. In the three situations I mentioned above, friends and family were able to intervene. These situations could have turned out a lot worse if they hadn’t been around. 

I don’t have the answers. I wish life as a woman wasn’t this way. The best I can offer is to live by the saying, “Expect the best and prepare for the worst”. 

I will always be here to help you in any way I can.

Love,

Mom