I hate to talk about the inter-netz, because it’s boring, but I had kind of a shitty day online, overdosing on content by people whose work – I realize today – is ultimately not contributing to my mental and emotional health nor my growth as a strong, compassionate and wise person. It sucks to realize I need to cull, to change, to edit a bit of my consumption, because I feel like I’m cutting loose those who in many ways I admire. Still, having subjected myself today I now suffer a hangover but not from anything corporeal; rather, a spiritual malaise from words ingested, words bereft of deeper meaning but rehearsed hurts and seemingly cyclical suffering and other-centered blaming.
I get so depressed with how the American mainstream conversation – everywhere I go – frames children (when it deigns to consider them at all). Sometimes it seems as I’m one of the few parents who truly enjoys most every moment with my children and truly has almost every moment with them (waking and sleeping). I’m going on a decade now of living life with them! I don’t make jokes (not sure if I ever did) about shitty teen years or when I’ll be “free again” when they’ve moved out. If I ever felt that way before I don’t now.
What’s wrong with me? Everywhere I look kids are either dismissed, dehumanized, sentimentalized (the latter is really a combination for the former two for our own convenience) – or erased. Parents act like it’s so much work and drama to orchestrate their kids’ lives (and it is!), but I don’t relate because I don’t do this anymore. Fathers absent themselves from nurture; we modern ladies are told we’re supposed to aspire to such separation from progeny, grab at “me time”. Work in-home is worth than far less than a paid and status-y career (middle class conversations don’t much concern themselves with jobs that aren’t terribly thrilling, jobs many Americans work), that if we take care of children we necessarily won’t have time to do more important stuff: earning, activism, brain-learninz (so I guess: so much for the idea women are strong and multitasking superheroes). “Mommy bloggers” are mocked or dismissed (and I guess, as someone who’s loved publishing my journal online for eight or so years to much personal reward and thanks from readers, I qualify as such), our concerns trivialized and sneered at.
So today I’m realizing the activist circles I glean my readings from are too narrow: depressingly bereft of anything but cosmetic cares for children for all their lip service to “intersectionality”. I’m gradually weaning off those who don’t take child rights and child stewardship seriously when it’s brought up (as many, many don’t) because you know what? – There are those who do. Few and far between, perhaps, but when I find them how wise, wonderful, and inspiring they are.
Many countries have outlawed discrimination based on gender and race, but still allow discrimination based on age. What justification is there for the assumption that anyone older than a teenager knows best what is good for those who are younger? Our adult grasp of life makes us feel superior to young people, and we use that to justify the substitution of our priorities for theirs. – October 31st, Wendy Priesnitz on Twitter (here, and so on…).
If any sensible person thinks deeply, he will respect justice. There is an inborn appreciation and respect for justice within our human body. In children, we find what is natural to be human character. But as they grow up, they develop a lot of conditioning and wrong attitudes. I often feel there is more truthfulness in a small child and I find reasons to have confidence in human courage and human nature. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Here’s some more from my life:
Last night my son was up late whispering in my ear. He kept telling me how much he loved me, and that he couldn’t wait to take me on “a date” (in our house a “date” refers anything one-on-one). He told me what restaurant he wanted to take me to. He asked me what I’d order. He told me what he’d order. It was his big Plan. I held him and felt him entirely bony and warm and not like anything else I could hold in my arms. So: a date tomorrow then.
I had nineteen dollars in my wallet. But I figured I’d have to make it work.
During the night he’d say in his sleep, “Is it time for our date?” He’d put his hands on me and drift back to Slumbertown, Population Nels.
This morning I was fortunate to have the car while Ralph bussed to work. After getting showered and dressed and putting some work in and some sewing done and spending too much time reading online and cooking up and putting aside breakfast for Phoenix and hemming some pants and sending birthday post, I was pretty excited to go out with with my son. At some point he popped straight of out bed, jumped up and dressed, brushed his teeth and hair and put on his newest homesewn coat and we stepped out into the sunshine. And I was treated to quite the conversational stream, Nels prattling along about pirates and parrots (the latter apparently serve as translator between the former and the ship’s crew, since pirates only say “Arrr!”), Minecraft, weather, animal husbandry, and parenting.
“Daddy told me he posted on Facebook you shouldn’t hit kids, and some people posted and said you SHOULD hit kids,” he told me (referring to Ralph’s anti-spanking linked article and polemic some time ago).
“Oh,” I said, surprised he was thinking of this now. “And what you you think?”
“Grownups shouldn’t hit kids,” he replied. I looked in the rearview mirror to see his brow a small thundercloud under his blonde hair. Consternation.
“What happens when they hit kids?” I asked. “Do you think kids get scared or angry?”
“They get angry,” he said emphatically. Then: “Angry enough they might kill themselves. Because they just want it to stop.”
At the restaurant Nels was the soul of courtesy, including gently reminding me to keep my elbows off the table, which I found hilarious considering here is a child who will slither to the floor now and then out of his seat (from boredom). He ordered pink lemonade and a personal pizza, asking for half the pizza in a box to take home to his father. I ordered fettucine and a salad. He said “please and thank you” to the waiter (without prompting of course). He asked if fingernails were bones. I told him about keratin, amazed I had one fact in my head that could be of use to him. He asked me about nutrition for dental health. We talked about green leafy vegetables. Just when I thought I couldn’t be having a better time he carefully pushed his lemonade close to me, then his plate – and came over to my side of the booth. “I love you,” he said, simply. A serenity beyond space and time.
He paid (with my cash), walking the leather billfold to the server, smiling, laughing. I slipped to the restroom while he settled the bill and while away the phone rang and he answered. “Is Mama there?” my husband asks. “Yes,” says Nels. “Who’s dis?”
Then: my son and I step out into the sunshine to head back home to my daughter, stopping at the Post Office for mail and City Hall to pay the water bill. I peel off twenties and remember my father, who paid most things in a huge bundle of cash.
Another day and another chance to appreciate those things deeply meaningful; trivial and sublime. Living and breathing.