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Does anyone else find it challenging to shoot with both eyes open? Ever since I first picked up a gun, I’ve struggled not to close one eye, but getting a good sight picture with both of them open has proven elusive and thoroughly frustrating. It wasn’t until a week ago when I realized what my problem was.
My children have taken up archery lessons and I was (not unwillingly) roped into participating with them. Side by side, the four of us have been learning about stance and aim, and I’ve been struck by how much easier it is to hit a target with a bullet than with an arrow, larger and more muscles being involved in the latter than the former and all that. [If you think you’re still when target shooting with a gun, you might be surprised at just how wiggly it turns out you are when there’s an arrow in your hand.] As a right-handed shooter, I was similarly caught off-guard when the instructor told me to hold the bow with my right hand and the arrow with my left, standing with my right shoulder closest to the target, because I’m left-eye dominant. That was weird.
We can just dispense with the frivolities and get to the admission that I’m a lousy archer, though I do manage to pop my balloon targets eventually and feel that I am slowly improving. For now, archery is a fun activity in which my family can engage together and we all leave the range happy, peppy, and bursting with enthusiasm. Santa, if you’re feeling generous, we’d all love nice, serious, recurved wooden bows under the tree!
In a flash of inspiration, I asked Buddy if he wanted to go shooting this past Sunday afternoon. It has been far too long since we’ve been to the range together and the weather looked to be of the sort we tend to prefer: overcast, a bit nippy, and breezy. We drove out to our favorite spot, set up at our favorite table, and then I issued a challenge: today, we would practice shooting with both eyes open. I’d realized sometime between the most recent archery lesson and getting to the gun range that I’d had to make a conscious effort not to close my left eye at the archery range. You can imagine what kind of crazy that would make a shot (and it did… I popped my daughter’s balloon once doing that), and it occurred to me that I’d been doing the same thing at the gun range. That’s a face-palm moment, ladies. I know I’m supposed to sight with my dominant eye, but I kept forgetting it wasn’t my right one.
Getting a sight picture is easier for me with one eye closed, but the gauntlet had been thrown down and there was no choice but to stick to my own rules. It wasn’t easy or the most natural thing in the world, but after a few shots with both eyes open and looking through the sights with my dominant eye, I was tickled pink to hear the satisfying “plink” of the metal plate targets far, far more often than seeing the disappointing puff of red dirt dispersed into the air behind them as a missed shot punched the ground. Two-handed grip, right-hand only, left-hand only… I could do it all while sighting correctly with my dominant eye and both peepers open. Yes, it took more time, but as with all things, practice will make perfect.
There’s always room for improvement, so if it’s been a while since you reviewed your shooting habits, take a peek at Diane Nicholl and Vicki Farnam’s Women Learning to Shoot: A Guide for Law Enforcement Officers and see if you can’t find something that you can tweak to keep your shooting on target.
Happy Holidays from Missy Moo, Legolas, Bitsy Book, Buddy, and me, to all of you!
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Voting Our Guns
The mid-term elections are right around the corner and many Americans are waiting with bated breath to see whether the Republicans will overtake the U.S. Senate, not to mention what they’ll do with it once (if) they win it. Much of the country has been disaffected by the blatant First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Fourth Amendment violations inflicted upon it by the current administration, but is also wary of being too enthusiastic about the Republican old guard and a return to the past. What are we to do?
We are to vote, of course. Did you know that only about 40% of registered voters in America turn out for the mid-term elections? Did you know that women are increasingly voting more often? We know we count, and we’re making our voices heard by participating in the democratic process of election. What will your voice say this Tuesday?
I hope you will consider strongly what each candidate eligible for your consideration will bring to the table in terms of individual liberty and, in particular, the Second Amendment. While politicians talk about “the war on women” and attempt to woo us with ads telling us they understand our concerns about abortion, birth control, sexual discrimination, and assault, we are not self-absorbed enough to limit our concerns to “women’s issues.” Yes, those are concerns, but they are properly addressed within the context of a nation that is financially responsible, maintains positive international relationships, and respects its citizens’ rights to life and liberty. The Second Amendment makes those rights feasible, yet it is being eroded by the “enlightened” thinking of progressives who see private gun ownership as a threat.
It isn’t a good idea to become a single-issue voter. Politics are more complex than that. Most of the people I know are more complex than that, too, finding themselves leaning in opposite directions when considering, say, social politics and fiscal policy. Plenty of people don’t fit neatly into the categories of “conservative,” “liberal,” “Democrat,” and “Republican.” The beauty of being a perfect fit for such things is that it makes your voting choices very simple. The hardship in not being a perfect fit is that you have to give some issues greater weight than you do others, and that can be a tough choice. As a reader of this newsletter, my educated guess is that protection of the Second Amendment means something to you. Whether it is the overriding issue when you vote on Tuesday only you can know, but please research what Second Amendment ideology the candidates from among whom you are asked to choose espouse before you cast your ballot. Does she or he have a voting record of strong 2A support? Does her or his opponent? What do the candidates’ political parties have to say about it? Remember that once installed in office candidates come under tremendous pressure to support the party platform on issues regardless of their own opinions and those of their constituencies. If your candidate and her or his party does not enthusiastically endorse the individual right to possess and carry firearms, then your candidate cannot possibly be serious about protecting women in our society, whatever smoke they may be blowing to the contrary. Remember that while Oklahoma continues to support private gun ownership, the national legislators are up against voracious opponents to it, and that federal law trumps state law. Remember that the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma is only “a heartbeat away” from being Governor. And remember that counting on our fellow Oklahomans to vote the way they usually do may provide a predictable outcome, but your vote does count: when the election is over and the statisticians look at the demographics to see who did the voting and who they voted for, your one vote will send a message about what is important to you, and that message will influence politicians for years to come.
Both the National Rifle Association and the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association have released candidate endorsements for this mid-term election, and I encourage you to review those and take them into consideration before you head to the polls. You can find them by visiting nrapvf.org and ok2a.org/endorsements.
The women who participate in Oklahoma Personal Defense classes are proactive about firearms safety and take training seriously, and we understand why having guns at our disposal for personal defense is not a privilege or a luxury: it is a right which we jealously defend. Please vote this Tuesday and make your voice heard in favor of the Second Amendment.
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You Never Stop Learning
Following a year and a half of investigation and deliberation, my children and I took the plunge into homeschooling after years of their being in public school. It has been quite a journey and the most exciting thing we may ever have done as a family, along with being a challenge and blessing. It is amazing to see already how much children can learn when you give them a little bit of structure and a lot of time to be children in the real world! And what fun to learn right along with them!
While researching topics for us to explore together, an American holiday about which I’d previously been unaware presented itself: Constitution Day. It takes place on September 17th each year to commemorate the signing of our nation’s Constitution on that date in 1787. Constitutional history is interesting stuff, folks! Did you know that Rhode Island disagreed with the notion of a strong federal government so much that it didn’t bother to send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention? And that, unsurprisingly, quite a few delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention were dissatisfied with the final draft and refused to sign it? Many protested on the grounds that the Constitution did not include a Bill of Rights to specifically protect individual liberties from infringement by the government. Though nine states ratified the Constitution, several others held out, demanding a Bill of Rights. It was finally, formally added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791.
As the children and I read and sought to understand the literal and practical meanings of the ten amendments which comprise our Bill of Rights, it began to sink in that each of those ten amendments addresses not collective, but individual rights of the people of the United States. Rights are not things which are granted to us by government: they are ours by merit of our being human. Rhode Island, North Carolina, Virginia… those states wanted to protect individual rights and restrain the government from infringing upon them, much as the Constitution was intended to limit the power of the federal government and ensure a republic with individual, sovereign states.
Like anyone else who has been involved in Second Amendment discussions and debate, I’d heard about a billion times how the intention of the framers was to provide for a militia. I’ve heard discussion about how the National Guard is the current militia, or how we no longer require a militia since we have professional law enforcement and a standing army. I’ve heard the counterarguments, too. But it wasn’t until my children and I walked step-by-step through the other nine amendments that it truly sank in: every other amendment in the Bill of Rights addresses an individual right. That the right to keep and bear arms is listed among them is compelling reason enough to understand it as protecting an individual right. That it was important enough to be listed all by itself (unlike the First Amendment which prohibits the establishment of a state religion and protects free speech and peaceable assembly, among other things) says even more. Those holdouts for ratification knew that a disarmed people is an enslaved people, and they weren’t going to have any of it in their new country. It makes no sense within the context of the entire document to try to argue that the Bill of Rights protects individual rights except for the Second Amendment which only protects the right of the state to a well-armed militia. Utter rubbish.
The Supreme Court of the United States finally settled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right in the case of the District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. To read a Case Brief Summary, visit this link. Better late than never, right?
You don’t need me to tell you that private ownership of firearms is still widely debated, nor that there are people out there working every day to diminish or destroy your Second Amendment rights. You know Michael Bloomberg wants your guns, and so does Dianne Feinstein, as do the Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and others. Yawn. “Out of my cold, dead fingers,” many say. But did you know that the IRS under the current administration has targeted groups for special scrutiny which seek to educate Americans about the Constitution (see article)? As if spreading the word about our individual rights, protected by our Constitution in the Bill of Rights, is a bad thing? There’s the bone I want to pick today, folks. There could be no United States of America without the Constitution that established it and the Bill of Rights that brought all of the states together. Learning about and understanding those documents is something every American should do, so why is the IRS targeting groups that want to spread the word about American rights and limited government? Dare we suggest that it is because a thinking, educated population is less likely to submit to the sort of egregious violations of our rights that we are seeing today? Sheep are ever so much easier to control than wolves who are prepared to take back what is theirs.
Teaching your children about the proper limitations of government outlined in the Constitution and the individual rights protected in the Bill of Rights is something every parent, aunt, uncle, and grandparent should do. It isn’t difficult. The language is a bit weird for modern tongues but it isn’t hard to understand. Arm your children with a solid understanding of their rights. Teach them that American government exists at the will of the people and to serve it, rather than allowing your children to learn that they should serve the government. Teach them that the President of the United States is not, as one of my children informed me after a civics lesson at school, “the boss of the country.” Teach them the Preamble (Schoolhouse Rock on YouTube can help with that). Help them read the Declaration of Independence. Don’t allow those documents and the values they represent to fall into mere history in your home: bring them to life so your child grows up knowing what his rights are, what genuine American citizens should expect from their government, and that each of us is responsible for holding accountable the elected officials who are chosen to serve us and take oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Knowledge, as they say, is power. Let’s not give ours away.
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Enough is Enough
August saw the death of three Oklahoma children by accidental gunshot wound: 9-year-old Emsley Tate; 12-year-old Justin Ingle; and 13-year-old Lebron Davis .
I am sick to death of hearing about kids getting shot because a gun has been left where a child could get to it. There is no excuse for it. There is no reason in the world that children should stumble across a gun, loaded or otherwise, and be able to do themselves or others harm with it.
And then someone goes and puts an Uzi in full-auto mode into the hands of a 9-year-old girl at a shooting range in Arizona and pays for that mistake with his life after she lost control of the weapon, shooting him.
The politically correct thing to do is to say how sorry we are for the families. The truth is that we’re all thinking, rightly, that these deaths were entirely preventable and the adults responsible for those children
are also responsible for their deaths.
The choice to own or use a firearm comes with a weighty responsibility. People’s lives depend on that firearm being secured when it isn’t in use by a trained and safety-conscious individual in a controlled environment. Children’s lives depend on it. No, I cannot imagine the grief of a mother whose child died of an accidental gunshot wound, or from a pellet gun, or who will have to help her daughter through the trauma of having accidentally killed a man when more firepower was put into her tiny hands than she was capable of handling. I will not believe that people didn’t know these things were possible, however, and they have paid a terrible price for not preparing properly.
Firearms owners who allow guns to fall into the hands of children are irresponsible. Firearms owners who do not dispel their children’s curiosity about firearms and teach them proper handling and respect for guns are irresponsible. Parents who do not train their children what to do if they encounter an unsecured firearm are irresponsible.
OPD is offering the “Firearms and Your Young Child” class on Sunday, October 19th, and if you know someone who has a gun and children in the same home, or even just children and no guns, they need to be in this class. The deaths of children are unacceptable and must stop happening. Please get the word out and encourage people to attend. The more of us who know what needs to be done to secure our firearms and keep our children safe, the less likely that this sort of horror will continue in our backyards. One dead child is far too many.
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Got a Girl?
I’m just going to say it: girls can be vicious. When Missy Moo came home in Kindergarten and said that one of the tiny girls in her class wouldn’t play with her because she was too small, I thought, “Really? It starts this soon?”
Yes. It started that soon. And it got worse. Fast forward five years to a bunch of pre-teen girls who felt it necessary to tell Missy Moo that they’d had a sleepover while they were all mad at her over something and that they hadn’t invited her. My heart sank as she relayed that conversation to me, and I asked, almost afraid of the answer, “What did you say to that?” Missy Moo shrugged her shoulders and explained her bold reply: “I said, 'So? I wouldn’t expect you to invite me to a sleepover when you were mad at me.'” Asked how it made her feel, she said she truly didn’t care what they did when they were mad at her, but she’d rather they just talk things out than act like enemies.
I want to be my daughter when I grow up. Like too many women, I tend to be my own worst enemy: dwelling on my faults and mistakes, taking things on the chin, assuming the worst, and ascribing intent where there isn’t any. Naturally, I want better for my daughter. Protecting her, after all, isn’t just about making sure no one harms her physically; it’s also about making sure she knows how to shield herself against her own negative, defeating thoughts.
|For her eleventh birthday, which I cannot believe has already taken place since she was an inquisitive toddler in my arms only a moment ago, I gave her a book which it is a pleasure to now shamelessly endorse. It’s called A Smart Girl’s Guide to Liking Herself – Even on the Bad Days (The Secrets to Trusting Yourself, Being Your Best, & Never Letting the Bad Days Bring You Down), written for American Girl by Dr. Laurie Zelinger. Missy Moo already knows a lot of the information in that book intuitively and does an outstanding job of living self-confidence every day, but just in case she starts to slip into the bad mental habits her mother is finally beginning to overcome, this little book is a simple, direct, and approachable way to learn to manage one’s feelings and thought processes in order to keep a proper perspective and maintain a healthy level of self-esteem.
She’s fierce, this Missy Moo of mine, and carries herself beautifully with self-assurance and strength of spirit. I expect to continue to learn from that tiny, brave soul, and… I’m totally going to borrow her book on my own bad days.
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The day after the massacre at Sandy Hook, Shannon Watts decided it was time to speak for mothers on the issue of gun control. She founded a group that has since become a mouthpiece for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agenda: Moms Demand Action. The group’s website proclaims, “American mothers are an important voice that, when harnessed, will wield significant change. We may be accidental activists, but we are the wave of change in America.”
The kind of change Shannon Watts wants to usher in, however, isn’t change in which I as a mother am particularly interested: legislating gun control that affects law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. How does she hope to “harness” the power of mothers to effect change? Here’s a quote: “Moms are afraid our children will be taken away and in the end, I think that’s the emotion that will win the debate.””
Got that? Fear. Shannon Watts, like so many other gun control activists, intends to use fear – whether that of having our children prematurely taken from us by death or by the State (it isn’t clear to me which she means) – to spur mothers into the heart of the gun control debate and push legislators to restrict our natural and Second Amendment right to bear arms and to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
Shannon Watts doesn’t want to empower mothers to protect their children. She wants to exploit the natural concern we have for the well-being of our children and use that to accomplish her own misguided political agenda.
How should we, as a community of mothers who know the inherent value in the right of self-defense and (by extension) guns, respond to that? We respond by standing up and bucking the sheepish trend to cower in fear of that which we cannot control. We respond by taking control of what we can. We respond as Barbara Baird did in DailyCaller.com when she said, “All moms want gun safety. All moms do not equate gun safety with gun control. All moms want their children and families to be safe. All moms are not willing to defend the Second Amendment. Bloomberg’s moms believe that taking away all guns eliminates gun crimes. NRA moms know this is not true.”
What are the concrete steps we take to combat the ignorance that breeds this sort of mentality? As with everything else, we start in our own homes. One of the first and easiest steps is to join the NRA: America’s most powerful Second Amendment advocacy group. That takes no more than five minutes with a credit card and a computer. Sign up. Sign your spouse up. Sign your kids up. Make it a point of pride for your family that you support the organization that keeps watch over and advocates for our Second Amendment rights every day. www.nra.org
The second step, and most of our readers have already begun to take it through your classes at OPD, is learning how to responsibly use and carry a firearm yourself. Familiarize yourself with the basics, train, practice, and rigorously enforce safety.
The third step is to teach your children how to do all of those things, too. Learn how to properly store a gun in a home where children are present. Teach your children about proper gun safety and handling. Teach your children how to shoot. And teach your children what to do if they find themselves in a situation where they unexpectedly encounter a gun. OPD has just the class for that: Firearms and Your Young Child. Moms know that we are our children’s first teachers and should be their role models. Please join me on Saturday, July 19th, and let’s talk about how you can guide your children down the path to responsible firearms use and ownership.
Shannon Watts can choose to wallow right alongside Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, and a host of others who deliberately prey on people’s fear, ignorance, and inexperience while spouting misinformation and outright lies in order to convince them that guns are evil and gun rights advocates are crazy, but she doesn’t speak for me and her tactics cannot succeed where there is education and competence. Let moms demand that.
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And Baby Makes Three
On a fine spring day about two months ago, Buddy and I took our collective brood to the Oklahoma City Gun Club’s .22 Training Range for some family fun with guns. Missy Moo, Legolas, and Buddy’s daughter have all been shooting before, but my baby Bitsy Boo announced on the way to the range that she wouldn’t participate since I hadn’t purchased a BB gun for her. Nevertheless, she was outfitted with appropriate safety gear along with the rest of us and given the same instructional reminders that the other three received prior to the unloading of their rifles. Bitsy Boo found a chair to sit in, plopped down, and enjoyed watching her siblings and friend shoot at the array of silhouette targets on the training range.
Whether the children had more fun or Buddy and I did is anyone’s guess. It’s very satisfying to see your young offspring safely handling their own firearms as they load, aim, shoot, reload and responsibly celebrate the little victories inherent in the happy “ping” that lets you know you’ve hit your target. Legolas and Buddy’s daughter made great sport of a silhouette “tree” with chickens mounted up the post: the chickens switched sides of the post after being hit, and the kids fired as quickly as they could reload, each trying to clear her or his side of the post and send the chickens scurrying to the other’s. Missy Moo quietly worked on the targets of her choosing and also at correcting her somewhat funky shooting position (being tiny doesn’t always make for textbook positioning), meeting with considerable success of her own.
Through it all, Bitsy Boo sat watching contentedly. I’d ask periodically if she wanted to give it a go, but she insisted that she didn’t because she wanted a BB gun. Eventually, I ascertained that she was afraid the kick of a “real gun” would be too much for her. With gentle coaxing, my promise to help her, and firm assurance that there was never going to be a BB gun in her future as far as I was concerned, she finally acquiesced, agreeing to give it “just ONE try.” Missy Moo set her rifle down so she could take a break and watch, and Bitsy Boo marched up to the stand her sister had just abandoned. She picked up the little Henry .22, finger in register just as she’d been taught, and I helped her get her stance and shoulder the rifle. We loaded the gun together before Bitsy Boo took careful aim and fired her first shot. “Ok, FINE, one more time.” And with that, she was hooked. Almost immediately, she was unloading and reloading on her own and celebrating her own target hits. My baby is a born shooter, and I couldn’t be more proud to have all three of my littles learning how to use and loving firearms!
Missy Moo, Legolas, and Buddy's daughter at the training range.
(Click photos for close up)
Bitsy Boo takes a shot.
||"I hit one!"
|The difference between what little girls do with spent casings...
||...and what little boys do with them.
Click to watch a video of Bitsy Boo taking a shot.
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If Tomorrow Never Comes
Protecting our children is arguably the number one priority of parents. After all, if our children aren’t safe, there’s not much else we can do with them. Recently, I was reminded that protecting my children involves much more than the day-to-day care I take to ensure their physical and mental well-being.
About a month ago, a very dear friend of mine lost her husband overnight. He was young, healthy, and had no medical history of concern whatsoever, but he went to sleep feeling chilled and never woke up. Although extensive post-mortem tests have been conducted, we still have no idea what happened to him. He was simply here one night and gone the following morning.
His wife is a woman I’d describe as, among other admirable things, intelligent, self-sufficient, down-to-earth, reasonable, and deliberate. From the outside, her life appears effortlessly ordered: she knows what needs to be done and she does it. Yet through this ordeal she realized that she wasn’t at all prepared for the sudden, unexpected death of her husband and father of her children. Funeral plans and burial wishes had not been discussed, much less plans made. No estate documents had been put in place. They were a young, healthy couple with no reason to think that either of them would be left without the other so soon, and when the unthinkable occurred there was much scrambling to be done to oversee the details of the funeral while the shock was at its worst. Being the thoughtful woman that she is, my friend made sure before she left her home for the first time following her husband’s death that a will had been drafted and signed in order to protect her children should anything happen to her, and she is in the process now of preparing other documents as well. A month prior, however, such efforts may have been the furthest things in the world from her mind.
This article does not constitute legal advice. I’m not a professional or even an amateur. I’m a mom, and though I’ve never been unaware of my mortality, I’m much more aware of it at this moment than has been the case in a very long time. What would happen to my children if I died? Who would manage my affairs and what would be done with my possessions? It’s not a comfortable subject, but it is a necessary one to address in order to do right by my children and ensure that they are left a legacy of love and preparedness rather than chaos and uncertainty.
Have you discussed with anyone whether and how you want your memorial services conducted? Have you decided on cremation or burial? Do you have an idea of where you’d like to be placed to rest? Have you calculated the costs associated with such choices set aside resources with which to pay for those?
Have you chosen guardians for your children in the event of your death before they reach an age of majority? Have you set up a will? A trust? A health care proxy? A Power of Attorney who can manage your assets and debts should you die or become incapacitated? To whom will your personal property go? How are your vehicles, bank accounts, investments, and home titled?
Do you know what your children’s lives will look like, at least on paper, if you should be taken from them tonight? Is there money or insurance in place to finish the job of rearing your children?
Are you squirming yet? I hope you’re not. I hope you read this and walk around the rest of the day strutting like a prized peacock because you’ve got it all under control already. If you don’t, then please understand that the point of this article is not to make you lose sleep, but to encourage you to find time to discuss these topics with someone close to you (husband, parents, siblings, friends… whoever would be first in line to fill your shoes) and consult legal and financial professionals to put documents in place which will ensure that your children and your effects are overseen in the manner in which you would want them to be. It’s not likely to be the most fun you’ve ever had, but you’ll enjoy the peace of mind you feel when you know that you have done everything possible and necessary to protect your children after your death as fiercely as you’re willing to protect them in life.
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Keeping Your Children Safe Around Guns
As parents, the health, safety, and general well-being of our children is a – if not THE – top priority. We tell our children about the dangers around them, give them rules to obey and guidelines to follow, and reinforce all of those from time to time in expectation that our dear little ones will heed our counsel, make wise decisions, and live long enough to someday worry about their own children and grandchildren. We admonish them to use their best manners at all times, wear shoes so they don’t get stickers, eat what’s put before them so they don’t go hungry, wear sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburn, and keep their fingers out of their noses because, well, ewwww.
We also give them responsibilities appropriate to their ages and abilities. We encourage them to do their homework without being told, feed and water their pets without being reminded, brush their teeth after every meal, and make their beds before they go to school (Yeah… how is that last one working out for the rest of you? Unmade beds are my daily reminder that children are little masterpieces in progress).
There are, of course, also things that we let them figure out for themselves. Climbing the jungle gym in flip-flops isn’t the best idea. Going without a jacket when it’s cold may mean you come home earlier than you’d like, and with chattering teeth. Turning the jets on in the tub after you’ve washed your hair can create more bubbles than you can breathe in. Your friends don’t like being told they have to play “your way.” Kids learn some things best when they discover them for themselves.
But some situations can be so dangerous that we rehearse repeatedly what we want our children to do if they find themselves faced with those threats. We tell them not to run with scissors in their hands, and to never run from a dog. Don’t put anything into an electrical outlet, and never put a plastic bag over your head. Do not get into the swimming pool without our permission and supervision, and never get into a stranger’s car. If you or your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll. Our lives and homes are filled with potentially dangerous objects that we and our children live with every day. Curling irons. Hammers. Power tools. Gas furnaces and stoves. Matches. Kitchen knives. Chemical cleaners. But we don’t often lose sleep over wondering whether or not our children are safe with these things in our homes because we have taught them where the danger lies and either how to avoid it or how to handle it if they come into accidental contact.
Nearly half of all American households are estimated to have firearms within. In some places that concentration is higher, and in some places it’s likely to be less. But the odds are that even if you don’t keep firearms in your home, someone whom you know does. Yet how many parents teach their children what to do if they should encounter a firearm? What would your child do? Whether you are in favor of private gun ownership, vehemently opposed to it, or somewhere in between, you have a responsibility to be certain that your child is every bit as sure of what to do if she should come across a gun as she is about what to do if her clothes catch on fire or if she encounters a snake in her path. Telling her not to touch it isn’t enough; in fact, if your children are like mine – and I suspect most are – telling them not to mess with something only increases their curiosity about it. Telling her to notify the adult in the house isn’t enough, either, because it’s unlikely that a responsible gun owner with the proper respect for guns and firearms safety would leave a gun out for a child to find. So, what do you tell your child?
The most basic firearms safety for children, endorsed by the National Rifle Association and part of their Eddie Eagle program is that they should do the following:
- Don’t touch the gun.
- Leave the area.
- Tell an adult.
This is a great beginning place, and these rules should be an essential part of every child’s basic safety instruction, yet in the seven years that my children have been in school, none of them has ever once been given this information. In none of the parenting books that I read which were suggested by pediatricians or other moms did I encounter these rules. Why?
Because guns and gun talk are taboo for a lot of people. Too many parents would rather pretend that guns don’t exist and that if they keep mum on the subject and don’t have guns in their own homes, they won’t have to worry about their children getting hold of one. The folly of that sort of thinking makes the news often enough to prove them wrong, however, and the biggest tragedy in that is the loss of a human life that could very well have been spared had the child been forearmed with the information she needed to know how to handle herself and given the responsibility to take control of a dangerous situation.
It’s well past time that we as parents and caregivers, regardless of our convictions on the topic of personal firearms possession, teach our children the respect for firearms which those objects deserve, that we incorporate firearms safety into the lessons we routinely teach our children, and that we work to be sure that every child knows how to keep herself or himself safe in the presence of firearms. Can I get an “amen?
I wrote the above article in September 2011. Since that time, I have developed a class called Firearms and Your Young Child. This class teaches parents how to teach their children what to do should they encounter a firearm, and it's not what most would assume. For example, running away seems like a good option if a child's friend brings out a gun, but would you believe it's one of the worst choices? Parents with firearms in the home learn how to demystify the gun to their children, and in addition to learning how to properly store firearms for defense and recreation (they're different) you'll learn how to gunproof your child. I'm happy to schedule the class for a minimum of six people. Let me hear from you if you're interested in attending the class. Cherise.
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Mom to Mom
I hope you’ve been enjoying the snow days! This year, for the first time in forever, I made sure all three of my children had snow bibs, heavy-duty coats, good gloves, and snow boots since winter was predicted to be particularly snowy. It has paid off and my children have enjoyed the snow without shivering their timbers the entire time. Sadly, our igloo didn’t get all of the way built before this latest layer of the white stuff began to melt, so I’m holding out hope for one more GIANT dumping before spring gets underway. Who’s in?
One of my favorite things in all of the world to do is talk to moms about kids, guns, and safety. I’ve had two opportunities to do that in the last couple of weeks: one at the Norman Police Department’s 2014 Women in Policing Expo on February 22nd (see more below); and another via some email questions that Tammy Pinkston forwarded from a woman whom she met at a recent OPD class. Alicia is a thoughtful, conscientious mom with three very young children who wants to practice Defense Awareness while managing the added, indisputable complication of shepherding more children than she has hands. A lot of us have been there, and a lot of us are still there, and since Alicia has graciously agreed to having her terrific, thought-provoking questions re-posted here, I’d like to share them with you along with my thoughts.
1) How can a mother of small children really be aware? I have children, ages 6, 3, and 1. I try my hardest to never take them anywhere by myself because it’s always chaos. However, there are times where I need to make a quick trip to the store or something and have to take all 3. How can I pay attention to what’s going on, while carrying a baby, holding a hand, and making sure my 6-year-old stays near me? I understand I need to survey my surroundings before ever getting out of my car, but by the time I’ve unloaded everyone 5 minutes later, things can change. I also see the value of teaching my young girls to stop and look around as they come out of the store but sometimes, in the midst of the distractions, it can be difficult to do this.
It isn't easy! My children are spaced apart almost identically, and there have been plenty of times that managing three little ones with two hands has been taxing at best. Tammy points to two Mom’s Corner articles that address this: Defensive Awareness When You Have Children and How to Stay Safe When Out With Kids.
One thing I would add is that I talk to my children routinely about the need to be looking around. "Head on a swivel" is what I tell them. Look for anything unusual, like someone staring at us, or walking across the lanes where cars are parked rather than into or out of the store, people arguing, etc. If it looks weird to them, I want to know about it. But more than anything, I want them looking around so that anyone who might think we look like easy pickings would see that we are actually paying attention. Predators want the advantage, but they can't get it when someone is busy watching them. Do I go over those things every time we're out? No. Do I do it when I notice that the littles are goofing off in a parking lot? Of course, along with reminding them that people getting into and out of cars are "sitting ducks" and that we must move quickly and also be aware of what's going on around us. Are we role models of military precision by now when we approach or leave our car? Good grief, no. But we're working on it, and as with most things in life, practice makes perfect. So, I would encourage you to talk with your children about this as often as it enters your mind. The more you think about it for yourself, the more often you'll remember to remind them. Teaching children is always a process!
Getting into and out of the car is tough. As soon as possible, teach children how to properly secure their own seatbelts and also how to get out of them. The sooner the older two children can do those things, the sooner your entry and exit times are cut to merely securing or freeing the baby. Not so long ago, entering the store meant keys (on a kubotan) in one hand and the other arm holding my youngest child, so the two oldest children were instructed to grab onto one of my pockets: usually a rear one. There was always a risk that an overzealous tug would rip a pocket off, but thankfully that never happened and having tiny hands tugging on my britches let me know exactly where my babies were. Also, when leaving the store, I used to put the baby in the cart while having my older children hold onto either side of the cart with one hand. As long as their little hands firmly gripped the cart, I knew the children were out of the path of parking lot vehicles and could see plainly that they weren’t darting out of my reach. Not holding hands with the big kids also freed up one hand to push the cart and the other to wield the keychain (and, if necessary, access a firearm). Now that they’re older, all three of them tend to have hands on the cart as we exit the store, but the mechanics are the same.
2) While we are talking about children - how can I teach my children to be polite and respectful but still wary of strangers? It’s not uncommon for people to try and talk to them while we are waiting in line or shopping - most people say hi, compliment them, ask them if they’re having fun, etc. I want my children to learn politeness without being rude but at the same time understand that there are both good and bad people out there. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does! Rearing children who know how to be polite and yet own their feelings and protect their safety is a hallmark of good mothering, in my opinion. I love this question!
It is perfectly natural to wilt in embarrassment when a seemingly sweet, grandmotherly sort of woman extends a wrinkled hand toward your child and tells her how pretty she is only to watch said child disappear behind your skirt and give you a worried look, refusing to speak. We wouldn't act that way and don't want our children to, either. However, this scenario needs to be fleshed out a little further. Our children are often told not to talk to strangers. Supermarket Granny is a stranger, though. We don't know her. Our children don't know her. Yet, there she is, sticking her finger in our child's face and waiting expectantly for a reply from our rosy-cheeked offspring. Is she entitled to one?
I don't think she is. I don't want my children to start believing that anyone is entitled to anything from them. As I say that, there is a bona fide lady in the back of my head courteously waving her hands and admonishing emphatically, "You're wrong about that. Children should treat people with respect and courtesy." Though I'm inclined to agree with her, the fact is that not everyone is worthy of my child's respect and courtesy. In some cases, giving someone respect and courtesy could prove detrimental to my child's health, as predators use those things to their advantage. My job in this scenario, then, is to balance my child's reaction with the woman's expectations. I don't feel threatened by Supermarket Granny, but my child evidently does. What will it teach my child if I insist that she hold out her hand and say hello to this stranger? Will it teach her that she can't trust her instincts? Will it teach her that she has to override her own feelings in order to do the socially acceptable thing? That latter suggestion is something that can very easily wait to be learned until my child is older and has a better understanding of societal norms and her perception of personal safety. For right now, though, it would be a disservice to my child to demand that she interact with Granny. I want her to trust her gut. I want her to show people that she doesn't trust them if she feels threatened. More importantly, I want her to learn that I will back her up if she feels this person is not someone with whom she desires an association, even on the most casual level. Yes, people generally deserve courtesy and respect, but anymore I'm more inclined to think that those are things one earns rather than is given immediately, especially by a child. I would therefore stop my child from wrinkling her nose in disapproval or sticking her tongue out, but I'm not going to insist that my child interact.
How do we then get ourselves and our children out of that uncomfortable moment when Supermarket Granny is standing there expecting Precious Darling to be warm and smiling, while Precious Darling is giving her the stink eye? We could turn to our child and ask quietly, "Honey, would you like to say hello to this woman?" and then honor whatever response she gives. If the response is any form of, "Nope, not a chance," we can then turn to Granny and explain politely and unapologetically, "Now is not a good time," or, "Now is not a good time. I hope you have a lovely afternoon!" and thereby dismiss her. We can do that with a smile if we want, but never with an "I'm sorry" attached because to do that would be to diminish the validity of the child's beliefs about what is best done in this situation, and thereby make her doubt her instincts. We are not encouraging Granny to protest, to make comment about what a lousy job we're doing of teaching our child good manners, or to further engage us in conversation. There's no explanation needed.
After leaving the store, ask the child why she chose not to speak to that woman. When we listen attentively and try to understand where the child was coming from, we'll be able to better judge the appropriateness of her response and help her develop her intuition.
My children hear frequently that it is inappropriate for most grown-ups to ask children for help. Don't ask my child to help you find your lost puppy: that's inappropriate. Don't ask my child to help you change your tire: that's inappropriate. Don't ask my child to carry your empty trash can to your garage, or give you directions to the gas station, or otherwise assist you unless you have an established relationship with my child and me AND my permission to do so, because all of those things are inappropriate and probably don't mean anything good even if they aren’t sinister. Likewise, do not expect my child to involve herself in even polite chit-chat with you when she is feeling uncomfortable, because that is both inappropriate and disrespectful on your part. Think of it this way: we know better as adults than to hurl ourselves at very young children and dogs when we meet them for the first time. We approach quietly and patiently and wait for the child or animal to respond and approach us. It's easier that way for everyone involved and less likely to end in screaming, crying, running away or being bitten. When should we expect our children to react with at least stiff politeness in response to an unknown adult's conversational overtures? I'm not certain, but my personal opinion is that it's a lot closer to eight or nine years of age than it is to two or four or six. My brilliant ten-year-old has a suggestion about what to do when a child is ready to move on in such a manner: the polite thing to do, she says, is accept the compliment with a smile and a “thank you,” but then follow by saying, “Will you please excuse me?” before turning to Mother and explaining quietly that she does not wish to speak with the stranger. [How proud am I of my wise daughter!]
If the child is feeling friendly and chatty and engages the stranger, then she can do that in the comfort and safety of your reassuring presence. Again, remember to discuss your child’s reaction with her and give her the opportunity to articulate her feelings and thoughts. Ask questions: why did you choose to speak with that woman? What was it about her that made you feel comfortable talking with her? Tell me what your impressions were when you saw her? Your child needs your gentle questions and instruction in order to learn to trust her own instincts!
Gavin de Becker has written what I consider to be an excellent book on the topic of children and teaching them to honor their instincts. It is called Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane). In it, de Becker discusses teaching children to honor their feelings and instincts in interacting with adults, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
I get it, Alicia. I really do. We're Oklahomans. We're friendly by nature. And it is my sincere belief that the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans are also decent, moral people. It only takes a glance at the local evening news, however, to know that being an Oklahoman doesn't equate to being decent and moral. You and I are also women and we are expected by society to be pleasant and responsive when engaged by another human being. It's "the polite thing to do". I wish we lived in a world where being polite were some guarantee of safety, but it isn't, and because it isn't we have to temper our interest in being polite with the awareness that not everyone has our best interests in mind. That is not an easy thing to do, but again, practice makes perfect. Which brings us to...
3) My last question has to do with my most recent experience at Wal-Mart. I took my girls (ages 3 and 6) to get some groceries on Saturday. Wal-Mart was busy as usual and I was in a hurry. We finished checking out and headed out to the car. I opened the back hatch and the girls climbed in and over the seat to their car seats. I started to load groceries when an older, heavy-set man walked up to my car (the basket was between me and him) and said “I see you’ve got your hands full so I’ll be glad to put this cart up for you.” I recognized him from seeing him in passing inside the store. I said thanks and continued to load the groceries, keeping an eye on him and my purse. He stood there and made small talk about the weather while I continued to put the sacks in my car. He made another comment about shopping with kids or something about the time I finished loading. He took the cart and I told him thanks again and went to buckle my kids. As I started up my car, I noticed that he had parked right next to me and was also leaving the store - but I never saw him with any bags. I drove off, noticing that he turned opposite of me. Am I being paranoid or was this just a nice guy helping out a busy mom? I hate to think the worst of people but these days, with so much crap happening, I can’t help it.
Tammy referred Alicia to one of my Mom's Corner articles on this topic: Diligence
Was he just a nice guy helping out a busy mom? Or was he a predator of some sort looking for an opportunity? I don't know. What I do know is this: something about that exchange made enough of an impression on you to make you wonder about it. You noticed him inside the store. He left but didn't have any bags. He had taken notice of your being a mom alone and stood there chatting you up as you loaded the car. Those things add up to making you wonder what he was doing, and that is more than enough to justify your caution. He may have been a nice guy. He may have been lonely. Or he may have been waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of you in some form. If it was the latter, please understand this: he was counting on your hating to think the worst of people. He was counting on your not wanting to be rude or dismissive. Ask yourself, if you knew for certain that he had been "interviewing" you to see whether you'd be an easy victim, would you have felt the need to be polite? Of course not. If that were the case, you'd have been abrupt if not outright threatening.
The takeaway is that somewhere between your wonderful Oklahoma friendliness and launching yourself at a perceived threat is the middle ground in which you recognize that something seems off (Tammy talks about NQRs: that feeling that something is Not Quite Right) and react to that. For example, you might have said – when he suggested that he could put the cart up – “No, thanks, I've got it," in a firm, disapproving voice that doesn't broker argument. In doing so, you'd have used polite words but would have communicated that he needed to back off. A good man with no ill intentions would understand that cue and walk away. A man who challenges it is a problem and should set off all kinds of warning bells in your head, as well as earn your full attention and aggressive action, if it comes to that.
Nothing matters more when we're out than getting back home where we can enjoy our families; neither the hurt feelings of a little old lady in a store nor the irritation of a chatty man in the parking lot. I'm firmly of the opinion that we owe it to ourselves and our children to represent strength in situations such as these, where deference to a stranger might be "polite" but could leave us or our children ignoring gut feelings which are meant to keep them safe. Our children need an opportunity to develop those instincts so they can learn to trust them, and we – as adults who have been taught to disregard them for the sake of other people's feelings or to keep from seeming silly – need to remember how to tap into and respect them.
Thank you very much, Alicia, for asking these questions and for agreeing to share them in the OPD newsletter with our readers!
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Cover vs. Concealment (part 2)
Happy New Year! The start of every new calendar year predictably sparks a sense of renewal for me, as if the world is starting over and providing me with a good opportunity to improve myself and the things in my world that could use tweaking. I have a lot of work to do!
Among those things is figuring out why my computer likes to take electronic holidays and refuse to behave itself. This is compounded by my stubborn refusal to become the least bit technologically competent, and since said computer is presently in the middle of a hissy fit, I've enlisted help with Mom's Corner.
Last month's Mom's Corner article discussed "cover" and "concealment", their differences, and how to teach them to your children. Since then, my three children and I have made a routine game of identifying cover and concealment nearly everywhere we go. They're quite good at it! With the computer down and my thumbs tired of phone typing, my girls agreed to help with the article this month by drawing some pictures of cover and concealment. We apologize for the lack of color and detail, but attention spans have been woefully short during the winter break and anyway the last batch of holiday cookies is waiting to be baked. Bitsy Boo has provided "some random dude" with a gun in her drawings, lest you wonder why cover and concealment have become necessary. Missy Moo has taken a minimalist's approach with her artwork but has provided definitions for your convenience. If you've been discussing cover and concealment with your children, we'd love to see drawings from them showing what they've learned! Send them to me here.
May this year be one of your best ever!
Cover and Concealment by Missy Moo (age 10) (click photo for closeup)
Cover and Concealment by Bitsy Boo (age 7) (click photo for closeup)
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