Hello from the Parsons family! I'm Sharon Parsons. I've watched
the drama between NPZ and your blog and have questions I was hoping you
could both answer. I am a moderate Christian who likes to keep an open
mind about what other people believe or feel about religions. Let's
try this. If you fill this out we will have a better idea about who you are.
I will ask Nancy the same questions by e-mail. We may find common
ground or we may find debates.
I've gone in circles about doing this. For one, I really don't think I need to defend my parenting anymore. I have four great kids. I have no idea how they will turn out after all is said and done. Then again, Possum#1 wants me to do this because she thinks surveys such as this one will help theists understand how atheists parent. As she said, "Maybe it won't matter to a theist parent, but it may help someone who things theism is necessary think twice." Smart kid! So...at her request, let's do this.
1. What are your priorities as a woman? Why?
My priorities as a woman differ from those I have as a mother. As a woman, my priority is self-esteem and the promotion of advanced math and science for all children, but in particular, female children. I think they still get over-looked. As a woman, I want my girls to reflect strength of character and independence. Now, as a mother, my priorities are (in order):
1. My children
2. My marriage
3. My intellectual and personal growth.
4. Encouraging the use of logic and reason.
5. Being an example.
Four and five are probably pretty close to a tie. Why? Well, my children being first should be obvious. Given that I do not believe in an afterlife, I see my children as the future of my line. I want them to do great things and enjoy life. The things I do right now matter. They matter tremendously. Ask any child who's been treated badly by a parent; it takes a while to break those cycles and right those wrongs. My best friend, Middle Aged Vampire Atheist, talk about this quite frequently. The only way to break the cycle is to be the hammer. So, every decision I make is made with regard to my children. My marriage is also a fairly obvious priority. The others are important to the institution of the first two priorities.
2. What role does your husband serve in your marriage? - Pdaddy has an invaluable role in our marriage/family. He stands with me in wanting our children to be great people who do amazing things. And, he's one of the most caring men I know. He's not afraid to take on things that may traditionally be a woman's job. He's changed just as many diapers as I have. He was completely supportive of me breastfeeding, to the extent that he would get up and change the baby before handing him/her off (AND asking if I could use some water or pillow fluffs to get comfortable while nursing). We have our moments. We're both human. But, I think we're united on the critical issues. What role does he serve? He's my best male friend and knows me inside-and-out. He is the male role model. He teaches our sons how to be be good husbands and fathers...he strives to teach our daughters what they should expect in a man.
3. How many children do you have and how old are they. Use initials or numbers for names. It's not important to have their names.
We have four children. P1 (female) = 13 years. P2 (male) = 12 years. P3 (female) = 5 years, 10 months. P4 (male) = 4 years.
I'm really glad it turned out the way it did. P1 and P2 can't recall any time when the other wasn't there (as P1 is just 17 months older). P3 and P4 are the same (22 month gap). They've always been playmates. And, something I never anticipated was how protective P2 would be of P3 and P1 of P4.
4. Do you homeschool? - No. We believe that a public education is valuable. Working with a community of peers is important. That said, we do heavily supplement the primary school curriculum (after that, honors programs kick in). We try to engage each child in their interests and keep them culturally literate in subjects like: art, music, history, philosophy, and humanism. We spend a good chunk of time giving them enrichment in academic subjects, too.
5. How many books are in your home? Do you believe children should be allowed to read anything? What should be censored or what bothers you enough to make it off-limits? - Hardly anything is off-limits. Pornography and exceedingly violent materials are not welcome. But, we don't try to ban these things because we realize that banning usually creates a feeling, in the child, that you've laid down a challenge. Forbidden fruit. *wink* I'm okay with books about sexuality and/or anatomically/biologically correct materials. We have an open door policy on those things. I really think children should be exposed to a broad spectrum of reading material. Thus, we have not hundreds of books, but thousands in our home. Most of our books are non-fiction.
6. Give us a brief over-view of your day, if you would please? (this will be important later)
That would be almost impossible to do. Sorry.
7. What does religion mean to you?
Religion is something people participate in to find fellowship with like minded people and/or take comfort in the alleged promises made by their deity. I hope this isn't taken wrong, but (to me) religion means giving up your own ideas to be part of the group. It means prizing faith over discovery. I realize that not all religious people feel this way and I would agree that this is over-generalizing, but the question was how I feel about religion. Your mileage may vary.
8. What does God mean to you? - Nothing.
9. What is the best possible outcome that you can think of for your children? If you have different thoughts for different kids please list for each.
To be happy and productive in their chosen field. I think the best possible outcome is a child who can: think critically, solve problems, help the world be a better place, find contentment and happiness so that they may be happy adults, who are empathetic and educated. I also hope the realize how much they are loved.
10. Is there anything your child could od to make you disown him/her? Give us an example of some of those things.
Disown? No. Even if my child did something heinous, he/she would still be my child. You can't put conditions on loving your child. That said, I would be extremely disappointed if they purposefully harmed another person without good reason (in self-defense). I would be upset if they threw away the chances they had or wasted their minds.
11. Discipline. What does it mean to you?
Teaching children the consequences of their decisions -positive and negative.
12. What educational goals do you have for your children?
I really hope that they all get an undergrad degree at the very least. P1 wants to be a physician, so my goal for her is her goal. P2 wants to get a PhD and teach like his dad. P3 wants to be a vet or a princess. P4 wants to be Lightning McQueen, so...
It's hard to say what I want for them academically because it's not my choice to make. My job is to give them all the tools to be who they want to be and then help them navigate towards their goal.