Wednesday, February 7, 2018

I am not a thinker of good thoughts

I am not a thinker of good thoughts. My thoughts don’t float, or dance, or undulate inordinate intricacies of the feminine dialectic.
My thoughts mostly ooze out my nose or ear or sometimes from the left side corner of my tongue.  Sometimes they bounce onto the page, wiggling and scrambling about like puppies running across on linoleum. They are eager, curious, confused, and careen into jumbled piles of chaos. Before long the have all bounced, tugged and slipped over the page, leaving pale claw marks and the occasional turd as a remembrances.

Sometimes they sigh like a melancholy child with a dirty face and tangled hair.

Most of the time though they plop like balls of clay. They clay gradually puddles to reveal little wind-up men with pointed yellow hats and red noses. They all totter away of course, the little wind up men, so that upon reread my thoughts appear to be wads of chewed gum the color of slate stuck to the page to be discarded.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Midwife is a Sherpa

     So, I just read an article in Forbes describing 'Natural Parenting' as just another way of oppressing women. I have read other articles that addressed this indirectly, but this article does the best job of articulating what I have been feeling for a while. Though the natural parenting movement may have started with the goal of nurturing the relationship between parent and child, it has turned into something patriarchal, and frankly, racist.
     Full disclosure, I did and do follow a lot of what natural parenting prescribes. I'm a suburban mom, what do you expect? I wanted to go anesthesia free for my first delivery. I breastfed until my kids were two. I am very self conscious about the amount of screen time my kids get, and we eat organic produce. So, I am not saying by any means that the individual acts of natural parenting are bad. That would actually run counter to my point. What the Forbes article outlines, and with which I agree, is that natural parenting is a system of moral judgment that women internalize, and manipulates women into placing their own needs second. Anesthesia? Give it up for baby. Ease in diapering? Give it up for baby. Sleep? Time? Personal space? Sanity? Those things are nothing compared to the rewarding smile of your child, right? RIGHT?
     That said, I will now link to a skit by Amy Schumer that is hilarious and at least tangentially addresses this topic.
     As noted in the video clip, natural parenting is an attempt to refocus parenting to the way "supposed to be", So friggin white-privileged hipster: "You know, the way people parented before it was so commercial." I am very guilty of this. I have so idealized the "authentic" that I catch myself considering how parents would have done things thousands of years ago (Before parenting was cool) and then measure my own parenting style against it. This is what "natural parenting" is: comparing our parenting skills to people who beat animals to death with bones, and guessing that their parenting was probably more effective.
Bicycling before it was cool.
     And then there are the racist elements. I didn't really think about it until I started writing this article, but now that I think about it, Natural Parenting movement. has the noble native written all over it. The noble native is a stereotype that non-white people are more in tune with nature and therefore, wiser, more moral and in tune with life than other people from the more industrialized nations. It may be a more benevolent form of racism, but it's still just a way of insisting non-whites are inherently different than whites. While the natural parenting movement somewhat references the turning back to the way "parenting about how people in non-industrialized countries parent. The founder of attachment parenting started his philosophy after observing local women carrying babies on their backs. In Hypno-birthing, there is a passage about a Korean woman birthing a child without pain or fear on the side of hill. While it is true that women in less industrialized countries parent more closely to the way people have for millennia, the idea that they are somehow outside a world of material distraction and therefore closer to nature, well, that's just racist.
     I have spent a decent amount of time with women in Zambia. I love them. They are smart, and funny and awesome. However, despite using all of the hallmarks of natural parenting, they do not walk around in a state of fully-actualized bliss. It is true that most Zambian women breastfeed, co-sleep, carry their babies everywhere in slings and feed their children mostly organic foods from local farms. A lot have their own chickens, and I am willing to bet one or two of them have made something out of a pallet. Despite this, their babies still cry. Zambian kids are still just kids, who shout, and fight and ignore instructions, and Zambian mothers still holler at their kids to play somewhere else and stop causing trouble. Mothering is by no means easier in Zambia; the mere suggestion is absolutely ridiculous. The only way in which mothering could be easier is that Zambians don't have a bunch of people telling mothers how 'unnatural' they are.
     So what is my take away from this? I think I need to focus on breaking the unjust framework of natural parenting. Some of the elements of natural parenting are great: I like eating organic, and I think limiting screen time is important. I am frankly too lazy to put my kids back in their beds when they come in at 4AM, so co-sleeping is still a go for us as well. What I need to do is remember that it's a fad, not the eternal word of God. As long as I loved and cared for my kids, I could trash the entire mindset and it would make absolutely no difference. I need to remember that the entrenched mentality of natural parenting can be obnoxious at best and hurtful at worst.
Just keep repeating it: "Natural Parenting is way too mainstream. Natural Parenting is way too mainstream".

Saturday, February 18, 2017

It's not me, it's you

The other day some kids were mean to Amani. Not the innocent kind of mean; mean-mean. The kind of under the radar, sneaky I'm-asking-you-a-question-but-really-I'm-making-fun-of-you kind of mean. These two little eight year old twerps were asking Amani to read words and smirking at each other because she can't read. What the Hell? She's five! Why were they acting like assholes to a five-year-old who can't read?
Amani had no idea that they were making fun of her. She was sweet and genuine in her responses, which only made it worse. "No, I don't know that word but I can read a few. Do you want to see me write my name?"
I am totally unprepared for this. I couldn't really intervene because Amani would realize that the kids were making fun of her, and that would have only made things worse. I just wanted to grab those little shits by the shoulders and shake them, "What is your problem?"
The whole situation is not helped by my personal history. I was picked on a lot as a kid. Whenever I asked for help, adults often just blew me off. I got a lot of, "He just likes you"; "It will get better when you're older"; "Consider the source"; "Try not to be so sensitive"; "Just stay away from them".  Then there was a fan favorite, "What does it matter what other people think?". I HATE when people ask why I care what other people think. Ummm...the human need for approval is one of the foundations for a civilized society, so I guess I care because... I'm not a sociopath?
People gave me all kinds of ideas as to why I invited so much ridicule, and what I was doing wrong. Huh, I had never really thought about it that way, but that is in fact, what a lot of people did. Most people did not try to help me. Instead they tried to give me reasons as to why I invited ridicule. It's funny that in the adults mind the ridicule was not the problem. I was the problem. Maybe that's the case; I think I was pretty immature and I admit that little weird. Maybe that's why so many kids seemed genuinely offended by my presence. Oh, and also, kids are assholes. It would have been really nice if an adult had acknowledged that.
Now there is the Internet, and God help me, I have no idea what I am going to do about that. I'm going to keep working on it, but for now I am going to start by acknowledging that other kids can be really mean and she does not have to put up with it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Should this be the new normal?

     Depression has a way of making you question everything in the world including your own feelings. Outside of the generalized symptoms of insecurity and self-doubt, knowing I have a mental illness feeds my tendency to second guess myself. Unfortunately, it is really hard to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
     Case in point: these days I am angry all the time. I'm overwhelmed and sort of unfocused. I feel manic, but without the happiness. On paper, it totally reads like a time line of impending doom. On the other hand, this is a totally rational reaction to the state of current affairs. So, I go back and forth on it:
   On one hand: A lot of my behavior has changed, and it's sort of having a negative affect on me and those around me. I'm neglecting a bunch of my responsibilities just so I can fight with people on Facebook, and my relationship with my kids is changing a little bit because I ignore them a lot more. I know I am making some of my family and friends uncomfortable.
     On the other hand, this type of behavior is not necessarily out of character for me. even when I'm well medicated and stable, if I get pissed, I get pissed and am slow to recover.  I firmly believe real political push-back comes from people who are noisy, passionate and to some degree obnoixous.

     I told my psychiatrist about all this today and she agreed that I was in step with pretty much all of Seattle. She did however, adjust my meds a little bit.  I am not sure that's a good idea.
If I haven't made it clear thus far, second-guessing is my job.
Anyway, do I really want to medicate this away? Even if I am demonstrating a few symptoms and acting weird, do I really want to medicate myself out of it? Maybe we should have been behaving this way all along.  It is going to take some serious committment to outraged to fight what we are facing for the next four years. There is part of me though that is scared that my outrage and passion are symptoms of an on coming breakdown. Then again,  Maybe the world needs a little righteous-crazy to balance out the crazy from the other side.