Tag Archives: parenting

When I’m 88…

Have you seen the movie Big Fish?  Brilliant flick.  A must-see, if ever there was one.

Anywho, inspired by this movie, I love the idea of “knowing” when you are going to die, although I DO NOT actually want to KNOW that information.

Allow me to elaborate.

I am one of those people who is mindful of the impending event of death to an excruciating degree.  Whenever I hear that wise advice, “Don’t forget, we are all mortal, enjoy every day as if it were your last… blah blah blah” I think to myself, “Welcome to my life.”

So on the positive side, death is not going to catch me without having appreciated every second of every day.

On the negative side, I think there is a damn good reason that most people live blissfully unappreciative lives, and that is because it makes you INSANE to think about death all the time.

Let’s put it this way: the joy I felt surrounding the birth of each of my children was painfully tempered by the realization that… 

  1. I was going to be afraid every day not only of my own death but of my children’s death, and…
  2. In giving them birth I was simultaneously giving them their eventual death, as well as all the suffering they might experience in between those two events.

So I was able to appreciate the father character in Big Fish, after he’d seen his own death in the witch’s eye, as he went through his adventures, starting to feel afraid and then remembering, “Wait!  This isn’t how I go!”

I have decided that I “know” I am going to die in my sleep when I’m 88.  (Anyone who’s suffered through enough of my blog knows that I am partial to the number 8.)

Now, whether this is what really happens or not, who cares.  The point is, I won’t face every single, day-to-day perilous situation, like, say, driving down the road in the car, with so much fear.  I can look the oncoming semis confidently in the headlights and say to myself, “Don’t panic!  This isn’t how I go!”  I am absolutely exhausted of being afraid all the time.

(There’s no chance that I will actually put myself in a dangerous situation with a false sense of immortality… you can’t erase 38 years of paranoia THAT easily.)

But if I could only convince myself to play along, to believe against all reason that everything is okay… I might at least add a couple of years on to my life with lower stress levels.  It’s worth a shot, anyway.

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Filed under Life

Tragic End to a New Life

I read a story online at CNN this morning about a baby who died from being shaken.  Normally I try to avoid these tragic tales because I empathize so deeply that it colors my whole day a dark depressing shade of gloomy.

But in this case I feel the need to give testimony from my own life that I wish would prevent this from happening to anyone else.

I remember among my life lessons with my first baby, stuck at home all day with this little being that depended completely upon my good will, the first time I got violently angry when she wouldn’t stop crying.  I remember there came a point when an clear image popped into my head of me throwing her against a wall.  I was just at the edge of losing control.

I wish I could tell new parents, this is okay.  This moment does not make you a bad human.  You are probably going to feel this angry, these feelings are normal, they happen, don’t freak out.

Somehow I knew to do the right thing.  As soon as I saw that image, I put her down where she was safe and I went in the other room.  She was still crying, but I knew she was safe, so I just sat by myself for a minute and tried not to be scared at how mad I was.  When I felt a little calmer a couple of minutes later, I went back in to her and I tried again to soothe her.  

I don’t feel proud of myself that I’ve never shaken or otherwise injured a baby, I just feel lucky.  I  know how strong the feelings of anger and frustration are, and I know how hard it is to be alone for extended periods with a baby.  To the people who have succumbed to the violent feelings, I feel the deepest sympathy.  I feel like it could have been me.

But no one ever talks about this.  No one ever admits to young parents how there might arise violent feelings, and how to just let them pass, which is not easy.  No one ever talks about how unnatural it is for a parent to be isolated with a young one; we are supposed to live in a tribe, are we not, with people all around to help us when life threatens to be too much to handle?  But too often we are separated in our own little box, expected to be independent and deal with things on our own.  

I am so sorry that this ever happens.  I cannot express that strongly enough.  I don’t feel like an ad campaign by the Department of Social Services is going to do the trick (I’ve seen the posters), though it might get the ball rolling.  I feel like we all have to talk about it, give genuine support to new parents and tell them the truth.  Not laugh and say, “Well, you’ll never get any sleep now!  ha ha” but tell them about the real frustrations, and let them know that we can offer advice and support if they’d like.  

I can’t stand to see this sort of tragedy happen and know in my heart that, if we behaved as if we were all in this together, we might prevent it.

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Filed under family, society

Can you afford offspring?

Not tickets to see the band.  I mean the small, loud, often times stinky creatures that make life so fulfilling.  Mine, at any rate.

As I wish desperately that I had some vocation I could dedicate my life to, a nagging but tiny voice says, “Um, pardon me but don’t you love being a Mama?  Don’t you find joy in every aspect of traditional homemaking, from cooking to gardening to organizing?  Isn’t is possible that this is your calling?”

Then of course the rational voice, the part that relies solely on reason, intelligence, logic, the one that has gotten me out of all manner of fixes in the past, the one that usually takes over projects, after my muse has flitted off to something new and exciting, and ensures that they turn out well, this thinking part of my persona retorts with something like, “Hello, you can’t afford to stay home.  Duh.”  (Although it certainly says it more intelligently, throwing out a couple numbers and inserting “thusly” at the correct moment.  I am currently using my feeling self to translate.)

I really and truly do understand the intellectual argument, but every once in a while I just gotta ask, WHAT THE HELL?

How did we get to this point?  Can you imagine a society evolving to the point where the basis of civilization, i.e. continuing the species and cultivating the space wherein it is nurtured, is a hobby or luxury that must be earned by abandoning said space and species and joining an assembly line or squatting in an office cubicle?  

I would never say that everyone should be a parent or that every household needs a full time homemaker.  Some people are obviously so evolved that they can ignore our fundamental animal purpose and have moved on to more lofty purposes.  Acquisition of wealth and power, I guess.  Maybe writing the great American novel.  I honestly have nothing but respect for these decisions.  

But when they turn to me and say, “And you shouldn’t have children either unless you are willing to leave them in daycare or unless you are independently wealthy or unless your partner can land an amazingly well paying job.  Otherwise, you are a lazy loser trying to mooch off of me.”

Why should a poor person not be allowed to choose parenting as a vocation?  Am I the only one who finds this absurd?  

I think the question “Can you afford offspring?” implies that a person’s financial situation is completely a choice.  You COULD have enough money if you weren’t so lazy.  You could earn the right to have kids be your hobby if you worked hard enough.  As though no one ever got stuck, against their will, unable to find work, or unable to find work that pays a living wage.  As though poverty were always simply a bad lifestyle choice (which it certainly is, in some circumstances.  Sniffing glue and ending up living in a dumpster comes to mind).

And if poverty isn’t purely a choice, if there is any element of luck or destiny to it, then the question “Do you have enough money to be a parent?” and our attitude of moral incorrectness that is directed towards poor parents are just cruel.  We are saying that, for reasons beyond your control, you are living in poverty, and therefore you are not allowed to have descendants.  That the continuation of someone’s genetic code, the enjoyment of having rugrats and the pursuit of the support of children in one’s old age are activities that only the financially lucky deserve to engage in.

Does any of this make sense, or have I gone off the deep end?  Is my rational self forgetting to remind me of some key logical step that makes our current view of parenting completely reasonable?  

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Filed under society, work