Sunday, October 23, 2016

Daddies and Daughters

My personal Facebook page is often dotted with memes that I find funny about children and parenting. I call them "Your Pediatric Moment for (insert day)" 

But today's few lines of Pediatric Moment have turned into a blog post, so here it is...

This is the piece that got my brain rolling.

I've been especially attuned lately to articles like this, as I've had a few patients and a close friend who are new daddies of daughters, and I've noticed how the daddies get sort of lost in the sea of pink.

While I thought this article was adorable, and actually LOL'd at #7 and #19, 
I thought maybe this daddy was leaving out a few important things about daddy-ing daughters.

Little girls' lives don't HAVE to be entirely princesses and sparkly make-up. That's just a cultural thing. If we want to raise the strong daughters that everybody talks about, and break the glass ceiling that this dad mentions, then complete immersion in the sparkle culture of little girlhood may be doing them a disservice.

Don't get me wrong - I still to this day like splashes of pink on my gear. I love my sparkle pistol backstrap too. They help me remember that I don't HAVE to be one of the guys in order to enjoy the activities I do. But what I AM wondering is why does this daddy feel like he has to virtually become a princess himself in order to relate to his daughters? It shouldn't have to be that way. 

Why can't this gender-raising business meet in the middle somehow? I'm not saying raise your kids "gender neutral" - that's just weird and confusing IMO - but share with your opposite sex kids what it is that YOU are good at and enjoy, instead of solely immersing yourself in whatever the current culture says your kid should like.

Nobody bats an eye when a little boy helps his mom bake cookies. So, why aren't there more dads sharing basic repair knowledge with their daughters, for instance? Our young adult population is marrying later and later, so most of them are living on their own for quite a stretch of time. Thus, girls need to learn some basic home repairs just as badly as boys need to learn to cook a meal.

I think our culture is losing something special by slowly denigrating that which has been considered traditionally "masculine". As sweet as it is that today's men are secure enough in themselves to do the princess thing with their daughters, it is equally important for them to introduce their daughters to the flip side of the coin. Daddies have an important masculine role to play in teaching their daughters about the world. Life will not be sparkles and tea parties for these girls forever. They need to be equipped early with real life skills that do not involve pouring imaginary tea for teddy bears.

So, Daddies - here are my words of advice for you ...
While you are wearing your pink tutu, don't forget to teach her about screw drivers and Allen wrenches. While you are building the Dollhouse - get her to help you, and teach her a few construction terms. When Barbie goes on a date - send GI Joe with her to show her how to watch out for suspicious behavior, and how to avoid that T. rex lurking in the bushes over there. 

When she's old enough - teach her to fish. Doesn't matter if it's a princess fishing rod, the skills are the same. (Though fishing never really caught on with me, I have a few special memories of my dad teaching me to tie my own flies. I still remember the smell of head cement) Teach her how to turn a wrench. Teach her how to shoot guns. Teach her how to shoot a bow like Princess Merida. Teach her how to defend herself when that boy gets grabby.  And teach her resilience of spirit. Help her to hop back up, brush off that boo-boo, and get back on the monkey bars.  

As tempting as it is to let her wrap you around her little finger, part of a Daddy's job IMO is also to be the one who says "No". You aren't doing her any favors by caving to her every whim and tear. That only teaches her that she can manipulate men with her emotions. You don't have to be a complete hardass - but there's nothing wrong with being firm, and teaching respect. 

I suppose that my bottom-line message is this - Being a daddy of daughters doesn't mean that you have to allow yourself to be wholly assimilated into the Sparkle Collective. Crossing over into that world can be sweet and fun, but you ALSO have many very important things to share with your daughter just by being yourself, and introducing her to "your" world as well. Hang in There!

This poor GI Joe was found "as is" in a box of Barbies in my basement this AM.
He's been languishing that way for at least ten years ... Or maybe he has daughters now :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Weekend with The Cornered Cat

"The most dangerous place I ever stood was between a cornered cat and an open door."  

"If you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat."

These are the motto and premise behind the self-defense philosophy of Kathy Jackson - otherwise known as The Cornered Cat

I recently had the privilege of attending one of Kathy's weekend firearm self-defense classes. My skills - and more importantly, my mindset - are markedly the better for the experience. Additionally, my personal bar of expectations has been reset for quality of instruction.

Throughout the weekend, the emphasis was placed firmly on the goal of defending yourself and getting to safety - not "revenge", and not being a "badass". It was about doing what you HAVE to do in order to keep yourself safe, so that you can go home to your family and sleep in your own bed. It was serious business. But it was also a fun time, and a great learning experience.

This class had a whole different focus than other firearms courses I have taken. Babes with Bullets is more "intro to guns", and "match"-type training.  Gunsite is more "Sheepdog"/Law enforcement-type training. They are all good courses, and all teach safe gun handling skills. But The Cornered Cat taught me more about "living with a gun" than my previous training had.

Our weekend of education and fun was held at the New Holland Rifle and Pistol Club , which is located smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Amish Country. Dodging Amish horse carts and pedestrians (with and without push scooters), on two-lane rural roads is always an adventure. But with such challenges came other pleasures - like shoo-fly pie, scrapple, and quilting fabric shops. I got to feed several of my addictions on a single excursion - I win! My waistline and wallet however, did not :-)

Our staff for the weekend included:

Kathy Jackson - Lead Instructor and President of The Cornered Cat.

Don Stahlnecker - Instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle.
Don taught the handgun retention workshop Friday evening, and acted as valuable assistant instructor and all-around "token man" for the otherwise "Ladies Weekend".


Annette Evans - Sponsored Shooter, Match Director, Assistant Instructor,  and our wonderful club hostess for the weekend.

I should state first off, that Kathy Jackson's style is decidedly NOT "Tacti-cool". I was extremely happy about this, as there is an awful lot of Coyote Brown/Flat Dark Earth "posturing" out there in the firearms teaching world. It's not "impossible" for me to learn in that type of environment (I did attend a Gunsite 250 pistol class the other year), but it does take a good bit more concentration for me to remain "in character" as "one of the guys", and not let my girly side slip. Trying to maintain that facade though, takes mental energy that could otherwise be devoted to absorbing and storing more information during class. Thankfully, such distractions were not a factor in this Cornered Cat course.

Because of all this, I purposely wore jeans for the range work, and not tactical pants or my usual range clothing. I did that because I wanted to learn, and test my performance in the "real world". I've accumulated a fair amount of experience on the competition range these past few years. But my remaining discomforts with concealed carry stem from the fact that it ISN'T the range.

When I carry, I'm not carrying my full-size match gun, Velcro belt, and multiple spare magazines - with tactical cargo pockets to hold everything else. I'm in jeans and a sweater, with a normal-looking (though heavier/reinforced) belt, a compact/micro pistol in a concealable holster, and normal pockets (if I'm lucky enough to even HAVE pockets. Women's pants - ARGH). Thus, it doesn't do me much good to take a carry class with my range gear. Because then I still have to go home and figure out how to use what I've got when I "really" carry. 

To that end, Kathy encouraged us to bring the gun we "really" carry. So I brought my Glock 43, and Crossbreed Minituck IWB holster. I brought the Glock 42 as well, in case of malfunction, but I really wanted to run the 43 hard and see how well we performed together. Turns out, we are a pretty good team :-)

Soooo, I showed up to class all weekend in my regular jeans. I also left my phone on my belt, and my wallet in my usual pocket -- all the things that I usually DON'T do at a match -- because I wasn't shooting a match -- I was learning how to save my own life in the real world, with my real gun and gear. This class was the closest I've yet come to how things actually work when I carry a gun in my real life.

Despite misty, rainy weather we had two productive days in the classroom and on the range. Plus  - we had a bonus evening handgun retention workshop to start us off on Friday evening.

     A sampling of our weekend weather

None of what our class of approximately ten women was taught required us to be anything other than what we already were - average women who wanted to learn more about how to defend ourselves with a firearm, if our lives depended on it.

The retention drills did not require us to be martial arts masters. We were taught simple ways to react if an attacker attempted to grab a firearm away from us.

    Kathy and Don demonstrate retention techniques with a non-firing "training" pistol

The range work did not require us to be SWAT team members. We were taught SAFE manipulation of the firearm, holster, and surrounding clothing; and consistent, reliable grip and trigger press. The instructor staff monitored us for safety at all times, and provided immediate feedback, encouragement, and problem-solving when needed.

I cannot say enough good things about the level of safety that was emphasized and maintained throughout this course. I had a bad class experience elsewhere in the past, but THIS class never made me feel less than completely comfortable and safe.

Yes, the range work was safe and serious. But that's not to say that it wasn't also fun. We did have our share of laughs and moments of levity. Let's just say that I'll never hear a particular children's ditty in my head the same way ever again - LOL!

This course was about more than just running the gun - although that was an important and essential component. It also covered the legalities and potential consequences of armed self-defense, including information from the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.

There was no swagger or chest-thumping here - just serious information about the serious business of making necessary choices in bad situations. This is what Kathy called "counting the cost", and this component really helped my mindset immensely.

We discussed ways to "think like a criminal" to avoid being sized up as a victim in the first place. We discussed ways to de-escalate and avoid a confrontation. We discussed the stages of violent crime, and we discussed ways to talk to the police. All of these things can be useful whether you carry a gun or not. So even those women who may have decided that carrying a gun isn't for them after all - still come away with valuable information and skills.

Kathy Jackson is also particularly adept at finding the thoughts that swirl around inside many women's heads, which hold them back. She then brings those issues out into the daylight and addresses them gently and compassionately. One of those areas is body image issues related to holster choice. Another is many women's inability to say "no", and their compulsion to be "nice" - even in dangerous situations - because that's the way we were brought up as girls.

Something else that Kathy said really hit me between the eyes, and it's something that many of we women struggle with. She said that we have to give ourselves permission to save our own lives - even if it might be at the expense of someone else (i.e. the criminal) - because "I" am worthwhile in my own right, and "my" life is worth defending.
I'm not afraid to admit that this realization brought tears to my eyes. 

This is not something that most of we women ever hear. Most of our lives are about giving up our own comfort and safety in order to serve our children, or our spouses, or our elderly parents. Nobody ever talks about our own lives being valuable. But for some of us, this realization/acceptance is key to overcoming our misgivings about carrying a deadly weapon - and using it if we HAVE to.

As part of the "living with a gun" lessons, Kathy discussed the essential elements of a safe holster, and brought many examples of different styles of holsters for the class to examine. She also offered us the opportunity to show-n-tell our own gear. This was an awesome side-element to the class. We women aren't built like men, and even amongst ourselves have many different shapes and needs when considering location of carry, and style of holster. What our husbands, or sons, or gun shop dealers use may not work for "us". There are SO many options available that do not involve an off-body purse. I've already had a little experience at this, and still, I personally wrote down the names of several companies whose products I want to investigate further. 

By the end of this course, I was much more comfortable with several aspects of gun-carrying and self-defense than I have ever been before. I have been making a slow, steady progression of comfort level, and Kathy Jackson, with her Cornered Cat Class, successfully broke down several of my remaining mental barriers.

I can heartily recommend a Cornered Cat Class to any woman (or man - Kathy doesn't only teach women) who is looking for safe and supportive, but no-nonsense, EXPERT firearms and personal safety instruction.

I just cannot say enough good things.

    My class gear - Glock 43, TTI basepad, Crossbreed Minituck,
    And a souvenir of a wonderful learning experience.