Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Lots of Landmines, No Metal Detector:  The First of Several on This Topic"

When a child is born, the parent enters into a decades-long negotiation with the world.  The script for this give-and-take reads:

Parent, puffing out chest:  "Surrounded by a loving village of friends and family, my child will never question that she is loved."

World, yawning:  "Fiddlesticks."

Parent, still confident:  "I will provide steadiness and an open heart and opportunities, and they will help to form my child's character."

World, dashing off a quick text to Mars:  "Hogwash."

Parent, bristling and speaking in clipped syllables:  "I love to ski, read, and walk in the woods.  Therefore, because I will model positive experiences with these things, my child will also love them."

Worldgazing into the mirror and fluffing its bangs:  "Suck it."

Parent, absently running a hand across a well-thumbed copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting:  "If I lay down a good foundation in the home, my child will be prepared to take on all of life's challenges."

World, ordering a Large Pepperoni, Extra Cheese:  "Up in ya."

Hmmm.  Upon review, it would seem World isn't ceding much at all--not even feigning consideration of the parent's agenda.  Rather, World enters the negotiations wearing ear plugs, bound and determined to hum "la-la-la" and do whatever the hell it wants to, even in the face of the very best intentions. 

World can be a serious bitch.

As I've watched and experienced this interplay over the last ten years, since having kids, I've noticed that the room gets particularly tension filled when Parent is also...um...how to put it?  Crunchy.  Does that work?  Is there a term for modern-day lefty/boho/hippie types (besides "Alicia Silverstone")?

No matter what you call us (er, "them"), there are parents--mostly white, mostly well educated, mostly Dems--who greet much of the world with tolerance and compassion.  We--sorry! "They"--buy fair trade and embrace whole grains and present their friends with donation gifts of "one cow, good for milking, which will transform the lives of a needy family in Ghana."  At their best, we/they live thoughtfully and deliberately and hope to be agents of change.

There are flaws in the profile, though.  For example, while such people buy Christmas ornaments made by "a women's cooperative in Nicaragua," they are less comfortable supporting the cottage industries that transform the lives of their own nation's poor--i.e., rapper 50 Cent's G-Unit clothing line.  Even more, at least in my community, while Loving Whitey Libs are largely anti-consumerist, they're also incredible gear heads; you better believe the bleedingest hearts top their $20,000 Subarus with $700 Thule cargo boxes to help carry their $300 Karhu skis. 


And, okay, sometimes there's a certain moral self-righteousness that crops up in the Crunchies (for more of this, SEE:  The Extreme Right).  Finally, when it comes to Crunchies having a baby--and I tell you this as someone well acquainted with Tree Huggery and all its related lentil eating--there are some pretty uniform values in place.  To delineate just a few:
  • ideally, labor and delivery will occur at home; bonus points for water births
  • there will be a 5-10 page birth plan handed over to those assisting with the delivery; should this plan ultimately end up in the hands of hospital staff, the laboring mother will be privy to laughter echoing down the hall, from the nurses' station, if she is able to hear anything over the sounds of her own animalistic grunting
  • the labor and delivery will be "natural," and any mother-to-be worth her uterus will soldier through without medication
  • the mother will nurse for a minimum of one year, preferably two or three
  • all babyfood will be homemade
  • the baby will benefit from the close contact provided by a sling
  • cloth diapers will be used, lest there be no planet left for him/her to inherit
  • co-sleeping is not only safe and easy, it creates a family bond
  • exposure to technology and screens will be virtually non-existent
  • toys will be wooden, not plastic
 This list could continue ad nauseum, of course.  My personal Mommy-Crunch-O-Meter score on the previous items hovers somewhere around 4, but that's a rough calculation, as I did some things with Kid #1 that I didn't with Kid #2, and Kid #2 was the beneficiary of a few things we hadn't known about with Kid #1.  Let's round my score to a 4.16489.

I nursed both kids as long as it worked; we used cloth diapers with Girl (there was a service in town, so every Monday morning the dirties went away, and a new bag--a plastic one!!!--of cleans dropped with a plop); we used a sling with Paco, which, as I recall, allowed me to wash four dishes one day when he was a month old; we co-slept like crazy, in the hopes of getting even 20 minutes of sleep, but it was hardly an instrument of family bonding, as Groom had to to sleep in a different bed, given the limitations of our full-sized mattress; and, em, I would have loved a water birth, but only if a team of epidural-wielding, Speedo-wearing doctors were in the tub with me.

What I've learned, since achieving that initial 4.16489, is how complicated every values decision becomes as the child's life continues...and how that controlling bitch, World, becomes increasingly adept at interferring.  So long as it was just the three of us, then the four of us, dancing around the living room to Joni Mitchell, we remained on the Path of Liberal Righteousness.

Well, except when Girl was colicky for three months, and the only thing that preserved anyone's sanity was our nightly watching of "Blind Date" with host Roger Lodge, a program whose jejune highjinks I still thank for being the sole bright spot in a very dark time.

But when we weren't watching crap tv on Volume 72, we, assuredly, pureed sweet potatoes and talked birdwatching.

Then the colic receded, the baby grew up, we had another, they found friendships, we enrolled them in activities, they went off to school...and before we knew it,

they were citizens of Writhing, Delightful, Unpredictable, Bitchy World--affected by values we hadn't orchestrated.

------------------------------------------
More anon.

23 comments:

choochoo said...

I'm assuming that the world using the word "fiddlesticks" at the beginning there, was just to lull the parent into a false sense of security.

diane said...

I think World might be my oldest sister.

I've been down the road of Mother Earth, and am now a grand mother who lives to tell the tale. My view is not so cynical. My youngest daughter approached me when she was 13 and announced that she was a Buddist. She has impossibly high standards. President of Gay Awareness two years in a row in high school in spite of the fact that she's straight. She is a college student who would rather study world economics than drink. I think she will give World a run for her b*tchy money. (my other kids are equally awesome, but this is your comment section and I've already hogged it). Sure, there were a lot of things that didn't go as well as planned, but I don't regret one single day of the 6 years I nursed. (2 yrs each kid) I even managed to wet nurse some kids along the way.

kmkat said...

Yeah, the world can screw with ya, but somehow most of us make it through anyway. Some of our kids even plan to repeat the process -- now THAT is an affirmation to take to the bank.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I call them granola, but crunchy works, too. Interestingly, though I am decidedly NOT granola, I think I have exactly the same score as you do.

Logophile said...

Yah, I think I probably scored about a 4 or 5 on that list.
World is a total bitch. I ended up homeschooling and I had assumed (foolishly) that it would diminish, or at least delay, World's effect.
Yah,
"Not so's you'd notice"
is the report on that.


P.S. I wroted about you on my blog

:D

diane said...

Hey Jo, thanks for your comment today. Sometimes I'm not understood, so when I am, especially by someone I like as much as you, it makes my day. xo d

secret agent woman said...

With the second child, you realize much of it is a crapshoot and compromising becomes a more reasonable option. That's okay.

Pam said...

When daughter hit adolescence, and husband found me crying into a teatowel at the kitchen table sobbing "we used to get on so WELL" he, as the high school teacher in the family,said confidently "leave it to me, I'm familiar with this territory". Not even a week later he sat defeated at the same table."Forget what I said" he conceded."I know as little as the next man.Hang on for the ride." Was the cosmic snigger I heard World?

Patois said...

Well, I'm glad Diane clarified her six years of breastfeeding wasn't on one child!

"I would have loved a water birth, but only if a team of epidural-wielding, Speedo-wearing doctors were in the tub with me." Bwahahahahaha. Best line here EVER, and you have fabulous lines all the freakin' time.

cathy said...

I tried, really I did, and my kids love raw veggies and fresh fruit salad...but they also love coco pops and icecream... slinks away in shame.

chelle said...

ahhh yes, we too are the earth loving, new car and the *almost* latest technology lying around crunchy ones.

lol much like secret agent woman we have totally learned through breeding more than once that a compromise is always an option.

jess said...

My mom fed me carob, homemade plain yogurt, and homemade whole wheat bread and never let me have sugar. I blame her in part for my current addiction to dessert and junk foods. :)

phd in yogurtry said...

Add "locally organic" to each of your crunchy child rearing laws and you've got my city's most chic mothering down.

Fragrant Liar said...

That Worldly Bitch is always imposing herself on us, despite our best efforts to shoo her off. But the chitlins survive -- mine are proof, and I never once wrapped them in a cloth diaper.

actonbell said...

Great post, as usual!
...a team of epidural-wielding, Speedo-wearing doctors... Too funny!
I'm not a parent, and really don't think I would've been up to the task of preparing someone new for some future, unknown World. You're doing a fantastic job.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You pretty much described my style of parenting, too. My kids thought Tiger Milk cookies were the bomb until they were corrupted by Oreos in preschool, their toys (wooden, of course) came from Creative Playthings and all they wanted was plastic guns and Barbies. They hated pow-wows. But best of all, they didn't turn out to be little me's, and that has been so much more fun and interesting.

geewits said...

I've never heard the term "crunchy" before. My husband and I call "them" something else. You don't want to know.

Jazz said...

Re. the speedos...

It always depends on the doctor. George Clooney in a speedo, yay. Dr. Welby, not so much, ya know?

Jeni said...

Regardless of which grouping any of us falls into, I'd be willing to bet each and every one of us has uttered at sometime or other that we would never do this or that thing that annoyed us greatly that our parent(s) did to/with us. And sooner or later too, we all find ourselves repeating something that made us stop and think of where we'd heard that line before and most often it was something our mother had said. And then we get a bit frightened too because Gee, I'm starting to sound just like my mother! For me, it was the day I heard myself telling my oldest to please put shoes or slippers on because I had a hard enough time trying to get those damned socks clean. (The only difference between what I said and what my Mom always said was the insertion of the word "damned" as that was rarely part of my Mom's vocabulary and for me, a very mild utterance, to be sure! Today, I probably would toss the F-bomb in there instead of the "damned." Ah, age, wisdom and freedom of speech all coming together as one!
Peace.

monica said...

I once saw a documentary on having birth at home, in water, and there were candles and soft music, and tea and a caring husband - AND THEN THE 3 ELDER KIDS WITH SWIMMING GOOGLES WERE LINED UP BY THE TUB - " because it would be a wonderful experience for them", and they were absolutely petrified in horror of their agony screaming mum... I was appalled!!

anyway - there is a joke for you over at my side... :o)

lime said...

oh sistah, i am all too well acquainted with "the world" and all her derisive mockery of my plans and best intentions.

*pouring us each a hard cider and settling in to hear your story.

Pearl said...

Being a bit on the crunchy side myself, I, too, have noticed that the world just doesn't care; which, in a way, makes me feel pretty good. I mean, I know people who are as far-right as you can get, and the world doesn't care about them either.

So all said and done, it's even. :-)

Pearl

Liv said...

and oh, the gear! the chic glass bottles wrapped in rubber slings just in case nursing is somehow not an option...the cloth diapers that cost $24 a piece...the ergo carrier that is over $100...all the trappings of the earth mother do cost teh money. which just makes me want to play Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills"