Monthly Archives: June 2009

Two things I do believe and several things I don’t

I believe “crying it out”* is not good. I believe it should never be the default method of sleep training, and I question whether “sleep training” is even the way we should think about babies and sleep. I believe it can be ever so slightly bad, or pretty bad, or very very bad, depending on a whole load of variables, and while I believe it might sometimes be the least bad of the limited options available (and I blame the kyriarchy and a society that isolates women who mother for those limitations), still I believe it is never a good thing.

Now here are many things I do not believe:

  • I do not believe using CIO makes one a bad person.
  • I do not believe using CIO makes one a bad parent.
  • I do not believe that parents who use CIO do not love their children.
  • I do not believe that parents who do not use CIO love their children more than those who do.
  • I do not believe that all children are measurably and irreparably harmed by CIO.
  • I do not believe that using CIO will definitely make your child hate you, or think you don’t love them.
  • I do not believe that CIO should be illegal.
  • I do not believe people who use CIO should be shunned or ostracized.
  • I do not believe I have any right (or desire) to tell any other parent what to do.
  • And I do not believe that saying that I believe CIO is not good says any of the above.

Another thing I do believe is that it is possible to critique a widespread (dare I say dominant) parenting practice without criticizing individual parents — and I believe it is necessary to try to do so. I believe it is my right, and possibly my responsibility, to explicate the ways that patriarchy both creates and benefits from a society that promotes and routinely uses detachment parenting practices such as CIO — and I believe that until the society changes such that patriarchy is not limiting and influencing our choices this way, getting sucked into attacks and defenses of individual “choices is not only missing the point, it is supporting the patriarchy.

Which is not any individual’s fault, of course. But we can choose to work to avoid it — work to avoid both giving and taking offense as we work to change minds and cultures — and I believe doing so has the power to change the world.

*”Crying it out” or CIO is here defined as any method of sleep training involving leaving a child or infant alone to cry for any length of time with the intent of getting them to go to sleep by themselves. Crying in arms and leaving a child crying alone for a time because one is unable to cope with the crying any longer without risking damage to oneself or the child are not CIO.

A matter of perspective

Let’s consider two scenarios:

  • The first: I was accosted by a rude woman in the deli aisle, who questioned my parenting — no, accused me of Bad Mothering! — by interrupting me dishing up a soup sample for the Boychick, with a snotty voice, saying “This stuff is really hot!” How dare she insinuate I was negligently going to burn my child’s mouth? She needed to bugger off, mind her own business. Some people!
  • The second: I met a nice woman today, while I was getting a soup sample for the Boychick. She wanted to help keep him safe, so she, having just gotten scorched by the soup herself, let me know “This stuff is really hot!” I knew that already, but I was touched that she would take the time to get involved and offer a helpful word to a stranger. It really takes a village!

Sometimes there are absolute truths, and sometimes people are absolutely being douchebags. But so often, it’s a matter of perspective, and it’s at least as much up to us to avoid taking offense as it is to others to avoid giving it.

It’s so hard as mothers: we get on the defensive, because we are so often being attacked by society, by misogynists and child haters and moralists who use us as a battle ground for their causes. And sometimes, doing the oft-draining work of parenting in an oft-unhelpful society, we don’t have the reserves to open ourselves up to others, for fear of such an attack. But sometimes, oftener than we think, the stranger we meet with the maybe-helpful, maybe-not advice is well intentioned, a potential ally, a village aunty, another struggling mother — and if we could just open up, shift our own interpretations, we could be renewed and sustained by such contact, whether we needed that help or not.

An unpleasant incident that leaves us feeling attacked; a kind moment that leaves us smiling: sometimes, we get to choose. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Murphy’s Law and other superstitions

I might have mentioned before about my firm belief* in Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will. Now, true followers of Murphy know that this seemingly simple law, when meditated on and investigated experientially, has numerous corollaries and extensions. One of these states that if you are aware of the thing that could go wrong, and are prepared to deal with it, then something entirely different, unexpected, and inevitably more catastrophic will happen.

Therefore, because I have just enrolled in a five week course on Wednesday afternoons, The Man will not get a job, and he will not not get a job; instead, something awful that I have yet to think of will happen such that this will turn out to be a Very Bad Idea (or it won’t, because I just said it will). I could say I am tempting Murphy to get The Man a job next week, since then we would have no way of caring for the Boychick lined up, but having said and thought about that, of course He won’t do that. But, since not getting a job would also be both bad and anticipated, He can’t allow that to happen either.

Life as a follower of Murphy can be complicated.

But regardless, Summer Quarter is upon us, and I am taking evening classes Tuesday and Thursday, and an afternoon class on Wednesdays for the next five weeks. I believe I may be something of a masochist. I might also not be blogging as much, although I think I’ve given up on trying to predict my blogging abilities in advance, so no promises either way there.

Wish me luck.

*By “firm belief” I of course mean that His and its existence are an obvious and irrefutable truth, like the existence of Santa Claus.

The Adventures of The Family Lactational, and a Fathers’ Day postscript

Okeedoke, I was trying to write an entire actual, y’know, post to go with these comics, but… nah. Later, maybe.

For now, a quick explanation: several years ago, long before the Boychick’s conception much less birth or extrauterine life (which is to say, way before I had any first-hand experience with any of this), I came up with the idea for a comic-based handbook for new fathers/non-lactating coparents. It would address the concerns non-lactating parents often express about how to be “involved” when their mamababy is a breastfeeding dyad. I liked the idea so much, I drew up half a dozen examples, starring the superheroes Nursing Mom, Supportive Partner (originally conceived as Super Dad, the rejection of which title and my ambivalence toward SP meriting a post to itself), and Amazing Babe.

They sucked.

But that’s OK, because I liked them.

I redrew them, from lined paper (bad for photocopying) to beautiful textured journal paper (er, also bad for photocopying, in hindsight)… and then forgot them.

Well, not exactly forgot: I’d pull them out and look at them and go “hey, this was a neat idea!” every once in a while, and then I’d carefully put the originals back in to the journal with the newer sketches, and put the journal back on the shelf, and not do anything with them.

Consider this a slightly more public, virtual rendition of that tradition.

For your titillation (sorry, I had to), may I present the partial adventures of

The Family Lactational

[Image: Mom in rocker nursing baby, partner bringing plate with drink and apple. Text: Supportive Partner helps keep Nursing Mom hydrated and healthy!]

[Image: Partner wearing baby in sling, on a walk holding hands with mom. Text: Supportive Partner spends lots of time with Nursing Mom and Amazing Babe!]

[Image: Mom nursing babe in sling, partner blocking talking head pointing and "blah blah blah"ing. Text: Supportive Partner guards Nursing Mom from Interfering Ignorami!]

[Image: Partner and Mom in family bed, superhero capes hung up for the night, babe asleep in between them, cat at foot of bed. Text: Supportive Partner spends the night with Nursing Mom and Amazing Babe!]

But what I wanted to say with this, what I really wanted to say and have been having trouble finding the words for, is:

Beloved, when I drew these, I had no idea how far you would blow them out of the water with your fathering, your parenting, your love for our Boychick, your thoughtfulness for me. I had no idea how insulting these caricatures would be to the reality of your deep, rounded, complete parenthood. You had no need for such a guide, and could write your own handbook on how to be a parent (full-stop, not a coparent, not a helping parent, not a mom’s-assistant father) as a feminist male in a patriarchal society — and you should, because the world could and should learn from you: you do nothing miraculous, you never expect accolades for what you do, you expect more from yourself than any one, you just simply, and beautifully, parent our child. It should be nothing out of the ordinary, but it is, and it irritates you that it is, and for that alone, even if I didn’t have the hundred thousand other reasons I have, I would love you.

Thank you. Happy Fathers’ Day.

An entirely serious conversation, in prose

Gmail Chat, Friday night, 19 June 2009

Feminist X: I want a t-shirt that says Fight the Kyriarchy

me: Yes!
It’d need to have a definition on the back though!

Feminist X: we should have an Etsy store for it
except I can’t stencil, lol

me: We’d have to source fair trade tshirts in XXS to 10XL.
Long and short sleeve, dye free no chem.
Mastectomy compatible.
Maternity and nursing.
Am I forgetting anything?
Men and women and unisex, of course.

Feminist X: :-D
I’m telling you…

me: Free alterations for assistant/medical devices as needed
Available embroidered in braille?

Feminist X: LOL

me: Oh, and optional add-ons for assistant animals!
Can’t you see a seizure dog decked out in “Fight the Kyriarchy!” gear?
Maybe a flag for scooters and wheelchairs.
Stop me any time…

Feminist X: :-D I’m shaking too hard with laughing to stop you!
you’re on a roll…

me: Alas, I think I’m out!

Feminist X: and they say feminists don’t have a sense of humor!