Monday, November 30, 2009

This Post Has Been Brewing....

Some may think I'm being brazen, given that my child is still unborn and yet I have very strong opinions on this topic. Brazen or not, I have given a lot of thought to and done a lot of research on this issue.

First, to get you caught up, please check out this article.

Part One: The Parent Police

I hate people who think they have the right, responsibility, or reason to tell a parent how they should raise their children. FUCK you. That's my opinion on these assholes. Choosing not to breastfeed is not a mortal sin. Letting your 9 yr old child ride the subway alone in a city with the 297th (or some crazy number like that) lowest crime rate in the country does not mean you deserve to be in jail. Feeling a bit resentful that getting pregnant requires you to give up your body, your mind, drinking, smoking, and the other fucktillion things that warrant vigilance does not mean you're a selfish person and shouldn't have children. Fuck you assholes who believe you have the right to say otherwise.

The GUILT that has been imposed on parents in this country is the primary culprit for the insanity that has taken hold of parenting practices in the last decade. The secondary culprit is the spreading of the nonsense belief that there is such a thing as a PERFECT parent.


Which brings me to....

Part Two: Fundamentalist Parenting

What is it with extremes in this world? When did we decide that we could learn how to raise children by reading books written by strangers?

The child-worshipping culture that has emerged is no doubt harmful and handicapping to an entire generation of children who can't handle failure and are unable to make their own decisions, and who feel entitled to having no boundaries. These kids are likely to be useless adults - with finger-pointing as their favorite hobby.

And now we have what's being called "Free Range Parenting." First, I should say that this particular parenting style is a gazillion times closer to the kind of parent I want to be than the so-called "helicopter" parenting.

But, The Hypocrisy!!!

"Become a "Free Range Parent! Learn why this is the BEST way to raise your child! Buy the book! Buy the CD! Read the blog and the newsletter! Buy the t-shirts and the 'best' handmade classic toys!"

Once again, we need someone ELSE to tell us how to raise our children! And we wonder why douchebags in the park feel entitled to judge your non-organic snacks!

Part 3: The Good Old Days

This is my favorite email forward ever. I've had it for almost 4 years and never fail to be reminded of it when I think about becoming a parent. Enjoy and please feel free to comment.

"TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, AND EARLY 80'S!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking .

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because.....


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem .

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,
made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned....


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gender and Violence

The other day I was reading The Liars' Club by Mary Karr, a memoir of her childhood in Texas, when I came across an incredibly disturbing scene that made me start to shake with disgust and horror.

In this scene, 7 year-old Mary has just finished reading Charlotte's Web up in her bedroom and has this revelation about the importance of the book and its true meaning. She calls for her male babysitter to come upstairs so she can tell him about it. He comes upstairs and she starts babbling to him about what she had read, about the significance of Charlotte and Wilbur's friendship. He asks her if she would like to be his special friend, and at this point we know where this is going. In the next few paragraphs, Karr describes (very graphically) how this babysitter gets (forces) her to perform oral sex on him. At SEVEN YEARS OLD.

Now first of all, I read books like this all the time - I was not shocked out of innocence by this occurrence or anything. Second of all, she had already described being raped by a neighborhood boy at an even younger age earlier in this same book. But something about this particular scene - the way she described it or perhaps the vividness of the image in my head - this one had a very different effect on me.

I sat there stone-faced and shaking on the couch, book in my lap. My husband asks if I'm okay. I say "no," he asks why not, I explain the scene to him. He shakes his head in disgust/anger and says "See? That's why I don't want to have girls."

At this point I realize that my take on the situation is quite different from his. I get angry and ask quite forcefully, "Oh, you'd rather have the perpetrator of the crime be your child than the victim???"

I realize that this was a very sexist thing to say, and a very sexist feeling to have in the first place. But I have heard so many people express a preference for having sons because of similar reasons, claiming that boys don't need to be worried about as much, that I reacted viscerally to both the scene and my husband's statement.

What does it say about us and our culture if we would rather raise violent perpetrators than victims? What does it say about us and our culture that we associate a specific gender to one status or the other?

I have heard strong, independent females say things like "Oh, I'm so glad I never had a daughter. Boys are just soooo much easier." As if girls require some kind of high-maintenance parenting and boys just kinda take care of themselves.

My thoughts after reading the passage in Karr's book were essentially that I have to imagine it is much easier to teach a child how to never be a victim than it is to teach a child never to be a perpetrator. How do you teach your son (effectively) not to ever touch another person or force them to touch him against their will without making sex and sexual contact seem dirty, wrong and forbidden (Because we all know where those lessons lead.....Jeffrey Dahmer, anyone?).

Isn't it easier to teach a girl that she has rights, that her body is her own, that she doesn't have to respond to intimidation and that fear doesn't have to control her life? Isn't that easier than teaching a boy to control his hormonal urges, to respect females as equals, to respect female sexuality in a world where all the messages he is bombarded with are to the contrary?

I think the most disturbing aspect of that passage for me was the fact that I never once got the impression that this boy wanted to hurt Mary. He wasn't being mean, he wasn't malicious. I believe he had a strong sexual urge, he needed an outlet for it, he saw an opportunity and took it. I don't think he believed he was hurting her. I didn't get the impression that this boy was the type who would grow up to be a child molestor or a rapist. But nonetheless, he did what he did to her.

And I'm willing to bet this shit happens all the time and no one ever hears about it. The sick fuckers always seem to be adults and get caught because they do it over and over again. But what about the ones who, just once, lost control of their shit and no one ever finds out what happened?

We all know of ways to protect kids from bad people in the world. Sometimes we can't control it, but we all do our best.

But how can we effectively protect our kids from themselves?

The Question of Afghanistan: Your thoughts?

I keep getting emails in my inbox from various political organizations I have dealings with regarding Afghanistan and the question of whether or not to send more troops. 90% of the time, I am in near-perfect agreement with these organizations' stances on various issues, but this is one issue I can't get behind them on., Code PINK, Progressive Democrats, etc., all seem to want me to protest the sending of troops into Afghanistan, and call for the complete pulling out of troops. They want me to engage in protests if Obama decides to okay the troop surge. I'm not sure it's a good idea to do any of these things.

Afghanistan is where we should have been in the first place. I want all of our troops out of Iraq, without question or hesitation. But Afghanistan is a different issue. Call me old-fashioned and bloodthirsty, but I still want Bin Laden's head on a stick.

But I am now a military spouse, and I understand the sacrifice our men and women in uniform and their families make in order to perform orders handed down by our government. I don't want to see more injuries and loss of lives as a result of another war. But we're having these things happen day after day after day in Afghanistan and the military is telling us it's because they don't have enough troops there for security efforts to be effective.

Now if I were president, I would remove all troops from Afghanistan and send a team of CIA special operatives into the area to find and capture/kill Bin Laden and bring his body back to the US. This would be done in secret, of course - the plan only coming to public knowledge once the capture was successful. I am a big fan of targeting the specific enemy rather than an entire group of people who may or may not be marginally related to that enemy. I think it sends a better message about use of power for justice than bombing entire cities and villages full of innocent people.

But maybe I've seen too many spy movies.

What do you guys think? Where do you stand on this issue? Should we send more troops or call for a complete withdrawal?

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Sucks.

Being knocked up sucks. Anyone who says differently is either extremely lucky or is suffering from a mental disorder characterized by delusion.

At first it's all, "Wow, holy shit! This is amazing, I'm so excited!" And then the hormones kick in.

I'm not even SICK. I have been lucky enough to escape the morning sickness, which is probably some function of my evolution, seeing as I am such a wuss about nausea that I would have already drowned myself in the bathtub if I were unable to stop vomiting.

Even without THAT, this completely sucks balls.

The exhaustion is unbearable. Have you ever seen a 2 year-old that is utterly wiped out and hasn't had a nap in like forever? That's me - a whining, miserable, exhausted, weepy mess. I have never been this tired in my life. There is no such thing as "enough" sleep - I could nap all day, get 10-12 hours of sleep at night - doesn't matter, still feel like shit. Worse than that, it is nearly impossible to get comfortable in bed at night and I have to get up to pee at least twice. Why on earth is it so hard to sleep at this point, before my physical shape is even a factor in my discomfort?

And the cramps. Oh my god, the goddamn cramps. No one tells you about this until AFTER you're knocked up. I have been down on all fours at 3am on my kitchen floor with tears in my eyes because apparently my uterus decided it would be a great time to play twister with my ovaries. The stupid cramps come and go constantly - it's not like PMS or your period, when you know they'll go away. And to add insult to injury? You can't take anything but fucking Tylenol. Not even extra-strength Tylenol. Definitely not Vicodin, though the situation seems to merit it more than others I've experienced.

But probably the worst thing, for me, is the stupid pregnancy brain. Becca pointed out in my previous post that I kept referring to swine flu as "H191" rather than "H1N1." Fucking DUH. This is your brain: :) This is your brain on progesterone: O. Yup, big empty space. I have been missing exits on the highway, leaving bags of stuff I just purchased at the checkout counters of stores, leaving my coats/jackets in places I visited for work, forgetting words in the middle of conversations, forgetting CONVERSATIONS in the middle of conversations. Saying "Yeah mom, I'll email that info over to you right now while I'm thinking of it," hanging up the phone, and having no recollection of what I was supposed to do or why.

I'm not exaggerating. In fact, I'm sitting here right now thinking "There were way more examples than this, but I've completely forgotten them." Dammit! I am so frustrated that I can't get my brain to work properly I don't know what to do with myself. For those of you who did this while in grad school, or while conducting research that required cognitive effort, or while simultaneously raising another little one at home - you are my heroes. Because I can't even fucking load the dishwasher these days. I don't like feeling dumb. I don't like worrying that there are typos in my emails and blogs, or that I'm saying the wrong words, or that I'm forgetting something important. This is not me, and I hate it. I hate it a lot.

Not being able to drink also sucks. But that doesn't suck as much as not being able to smoke. I'm not resentful about it - I should make that clear, seeing as this was a choice I made. But there are times when I'm just like "Fuck. I could use some damn nicotine" and it becomes apparent how much my little routines have already been changed.

I think the hardest thing about being only 8 weeks is that there is nothing to show for it. Not that I'm in a big hurry to blow up or anything, but there are no flutters, no ultrasound photos, no heartbeat, no knowledge of biological sex, nothing. It's like I have to get up and remind myself every day - "Why am I not smoking a cigarette with my cup of coffee? Oh. Oh yeah. Damn." I ordered a non-alcoholic Strawberry Fresco with dinner tonight, and immediately felt like the waitress assumed I was underage. When I go to work and there are bags under my bloodshot eyes, I feel like my clients assume I have a drug problem.

Which leads me to the last thing I want to bitch about - not being able to tell everyone. I mean, yeah, you CAN. But given the risk of miscarriage in the first 12 weeks, it just seems really stupid to tell people you wouldn't tell if something went wrong. So I'm not. But then you have to try and remember who knows and who doesn't, and try not to slip in front of those who don't, and hide pregnancy books when acquaintances come over, and explain the Tigger puzzle you've been working on that's sitting on the dining room table as nothing more than a diversion to keep you from thinking about Marlboro Lights.

So far, the only thing even remotely entertaining about pregnancy is the food cravings. Though in my case, I won't call them "cravings." They're more like food fantasies. I don't "need" them, I just "want" them. Up to this point they have included spicy food of all kinds, frosted strawberry pop-tarts (which I hadn't eaten since I was 11), hot dogs, baked chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes, and lasagna from Olive Garden. Not even that weird in general, but very weird for me.

Hopefully the next 4-5 weeks will pass quickly, I'll start to feel better, and I can stop bitching about this thing I did to myself. But in the meantime I feel somewhat responsible to let any other clueless young women out there know what they're in for. I wish someone had told me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vaccinations and Insanity

I support Amy Wallace:

Perhaps the aspect of this so-called "debate" that I find most fascinating and frustrating is its lack of pre-existing platform. Eg., it's not a conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat or northern versus southern kind of debate. There is no pattern of irrationality to be discerned - just one, single, stupid, fucking, poisonous, pandemic idea that is grasped by some and ridiculed by others.

The foundation problem, as I see it, is that when parents find out that something is wrong with their child, they need to find someone to blame - some semblance of control they can regain over their lives. That someone to blame can't be themselves, not entirely. And random bouts of unfairness in life is just an unacceptable idea - surely there must be a REASON!

I've mentioned before in my blog how I feel about yuppie, child-worshipping, paranoid, Lysol wipe-obsessed parents. Did I forget to say selfish? My bad.

Parents nowadays have this irrational fear of germs and dirt. It is selfish. They don't want their children to get sick. Of course this doesn't sound selfish at the outset, who wants to see a little one feeling miserable? But if you try to save your child from being sick as a child when they can stay home and be cared for by an adult, they WILL spend much of their adult life being sick instead because you never let their immune system develop. And I think that's selfish. And it's all about control.

You cannot control anything in this life except for your own behavior. If your child is autistic, there is a pretty good goddamn chance that there was nothing you or anyone else could have done to prevent it. We don't know yet what causes autism - shit, there is still debate over what, exactly, autism IS. But if you begin with major distrust of the medical community that is trying to help you, how can we ever make progress toward understanding, treating, and preventing autism?

But beyond that - you have no right to endanger my life or the life of my children because of your personal beliefs in celebrity tales of woe. How many children have to die? How many is ENOUGH for you before you realize that you are playing with fire? If Jenny McCarthy believed her child was strangled by swimmies, would you throw your child into the pool without them and hope they learn how to swim really quickly?

The utter lack of common sense in this country right now is staggering. This whole belief that correlation equals causation, the lack of understanding of how probabilities work - are so many of you really that uneducated? Do we need to start a mandatory statistics and probability course for adults in this country?

Why does everything have to have that flavor of hysteria?

Less than an hour from now I will be getting the H191 vaccine. I originally had no intention of getting it, because I was more concerned about making sure the most vulnerable populations had the vaccine available to them. And, I won't lie, I had some concerns about the safety of it, given how quickly the FDA approved it and sent it to market.

But my job requires me to spend a lot of time in schools across my state. And several of them have closed down recently due to H191 breakouts in which huge numbers of kids were sick with the virus. I am also 8 weeks pregnant. That fact combined with my job puts me in an extremely high risk group. When I started to see that the virus had come to my neighborhood and then found out I was pregnant, it was no longer a question of "if" - it was a question of "when."

It is my responsibility to make sure my baby (even if it is the size of a raspberry) is as safe and healthy as possible, and sometimes you need the numbers game in order to make that decision. But in order to do that, you have to make sure you know what the numbers mean. When the virus was in Mexico, I wasn't worried about it. But when it came to New England and started hitting hard, the minute risk became justified.

All you can ever do is make the best decision you can using the information that is available to you at the time. Moms smoked and drank and did god knows what else while pregnant right up until the 90's. The vast majority of us were born healthy and turned out just fine. Does that mean it's okay or safe to smoke and drink while pregnant now? (I wish.) No, and the Pregnancy Police will be sure to point out every reproductive felony you commit, rest assured.

The point is that your unvaccinated children are dying. And you are risking the infection of children who are not yours. Do you really want to send the message that a dead child is better than an autistic child?

Because that, my dear readers, is fucked up no matter which way you try to spin it.

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