Tag Archives: babies

Melting Away

After several returns of summer-type weather, we finally seem to be immersed in autumn. The leaves are wildly different colors, and are falling off the trees, causing Maggie to yelp “Uh-Oh, the leaves fell down!” half a dozen times every time we step outside.

Because it has cooled off some, we’ve started once again taking nice long walks in the afternoon. We walk in the cool air and watch as the Halloween decorations in our neighborhood go up, becoming more and more elaborate. (We have two carved jack-0-lanterns sitting outside, but other than that, we’ve relied on our neighbors to provide the ambiance.)

When we go for these walks, Maggie has started asking to walk for the first leg of the journey instead of being pushed in a stroller, and so yesterday when we left the house for a walk, Maggie walked next to David. I walked behind them pushing Beckett in his stroller.

As we walked, I had the opportunity to really look at Maggie for what felt like the first time in months. Of course, I look at her every day. I spend all of her waking hours in the same room with her. And yet, I realized yesterday that I had not really seen her for what seems like a long time.

She was wearing an outfit that she had picked out herself: red, polka-dotted pants; purple fleece jacket; bright blue sun hat. She chattered away to David as we walked, asking questions about the leaves and trees and pumpkins and Halloween.

And maybe it was the distance. Maybe it was the fact that I was just watching her instead of interacting with her. Maybe it was the few moments that I could spend around her, but not working to meet her immediate needs, but she suddenly seemed so grown up. I could not see the baby she was even just a year ago.

On the one hand, this is hardly surprising. Anyone who has spent any time around children knows that they tend to grow and change over night.

On the other hand, this is MY kid. She’s my firstborn, and I thought I would notice.

Instead, her babyhood has simply melted away. She has become a kid – one who talks and can walk to the library and back, instead of riding in a stroller. She is steady on her feet. She crawls only in solidarity with her brother. She can peel her own banana in the morning. She even sits and “reads” to herself when I need to work and write.

It’s not heartbreaking, or even bitter sweet. I love her independence. After all, this is what we all want for our children. We want them to grow into amazing, interesting, inquisitive people who can peel their own bananas.

But I really thought I would have noticed when it happened.

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On Inspiration

This is a post in response to Small Assignment 4. Also check out responses from Anecdotaltales and Prajjwal. Thanks for writing and sharing!

A few years ago, I had a supervisor who drove me crazy. The reason for the crazy-making is that I was supposed to get a written review every quarter, but quarter after quarter, I did not get a written review. Then, all of a sudden, I would receive four quarterly reviews on the same day. This was… unhelpful. The excuse that my supervisor gave for the late reviews was that he needed to “be inspired” to write. Let’s be clear. He had to be “inspired” to simply do his job.

Now, years later, I am a writer. I get assignments and deadlines, and I must meet those deadlines or not get paid. When I get to work (often still wearing my pajamas), my first step is staring at a blank screen, or maybe write a little chicken scratch on a notebook or on the back side of an envelope. But at the end of the day, the deadline does not move, and the deadline does not wait for inspiration.

The experience of writing professionally and on deadline has crystallized one thing for me: writing is NOT about inspiration. Writing is about, well, writing. The moments when I feel inspired are wonderful moments, but if I’m honest, I must admit that those moments are rather few and far between. I am always more capable of finding an excuse to not write than I am of finding “inspiration.” In fact, not feeling inspired becomes a wonderfully convenient excuse to avoid writing. It’s right up there with “I have two babies” and “I don’t get any sleep.”

Last week, some old friends came to visit us for a few days, and then we drove out to middle Tennessee a rented a cabin for the weekend. While there, all gathered under one roof, we decided to work on a little group art project, which took the form of a book for each of the three families. Most people drew a little picture or a sketch. The kids who could be trusted to not eat the pens made drawings of their own. Now, I am not an artist. The best I can do on most days is draw a cartoon cow, although I do think I happen to draw a mean cartoon cow. So it was suggested that I write a little something.

Now, we were in a beautiful cabin out in the woods. We were half a mile from a beautiful lake, surrounded by friends and children and a hundred different reasons to feel inspired. But I did not feel inspired. I felt pressured and on the spot and a little weird. I was busy trying to keep my kids from destroying the other kids’ toys, and I really just wanted to pour another glass of wine. But one afternoon, I sat down and wrote a little something to put in the memory book. It was not the best something I’ve ever read; in fact, it was a poem. I am really not a very good poet. But it fit on the small sheet of paper, and it was written.

I believe in inspiration. I do believe that there are times when the Muse whispers in my ear and the words fit together like pieces of a puzzle. But most of the time, writing is just about getting the words down. So let me go and pour myself a glass of wine, (or coffee, as it is not yet noon), and let’s get to work.

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Filed under Babies, Choas, Life, Parenting, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Uncategorized, Writing

The Impossible Days

I’m working on thinking up a new Small Assignment, but in the mean time, I want to talk about impossible days.

Since we have gotten back from Nashville, writing has been kind of like… pulling teeth?  No. Pulling teeth is kind of cliche. More like trying to catch fruit flies in a butterfly net, except not quite so whimsical. Maybe it’s been like walking through foot-deep mud – the really thick kind that clings to your boots and sucks the shoes right off of your foot.  So I’m left wading through the mud with my butterfly net. Or something.

Of course, Maggie has been kind of sick since the return from Nashville, though no return of the puke-like symptoms. She just occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night whimpering “My tummy hurts.” It is both the most adorable and the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen. We have continued the experiment of the shared room, and while it is getting better, Maggie seems to prefer sleeping on the floor right next to Beckett.  When she whimpers, he wakes up.  And the cycle continues.

So I’m tired.  I feel like creativity is kind of leaking out of my ears.  I have tried writing on the computer, in a notebook, on scratch paper, on a great big tablet with a sharpie.  Most of what I keep coming up with is halting and weirdly worded, at best.  Most of time I just end up doodling.  I can draw a MEAN cartoon pig, let me tell you.

So here I am.  Tired.  Trying desperately to remember that word.  You know, the one that means… that thing?

My guru Anne Lammott says we all have impossible days, and maybe even impossible weeks. During those impossible times, we need to keep on writing, even when it’s just a wet trail of snail slime.

So, here goes. Writing snail slime.

Time to strap on those boots and grab that butterfly net.  I’m hunting some words.

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Filed under Babies, Choas, Humor, Life, Parenting, Pregnancy, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Writing

Vacation: It ain’t what it used to be.

Warning: In what follows, there will be mention of vomit.  You are not obligated to read any more.  You have been warned.

Right, so I posted this last week, and then we packed up the car and flew the coop.  So this is my response to my third Small Assignment.

Last week, the small vacation that we had planned to go visit some friends in Nashville kind of… appeared.  I found myself running around the house making sure that the kids had enough clean clothes to get through three days plus sunblock, and Oh Yeah Maggie’s things that she insists on having in bed with her these days, including the plastic purple Easter basket that we got for an Easter egg hunt last year.

We stayed with the same person we always stay with when we go to Nashville.  The last time we visited, I was pregnant with Beckett, and our friend was living in a three-bedroom townhouse.  These days, though, he is in the process of building a house, so he sold the townhouse and is living temporarily in a one-bedroom high rise loft.  This meant that the whole family – David, me, Maggie, and Beckett – all stayed in the same room.  Beckett was immediately beside me and Maggie slept on the floor on a little toddler-sized sleeping bag.

All went about as well as we possibly could have hoped.  The kids went to sleep several hours before David and I crept into the room and climbed into bed.  Then in the morning, the kids somehow both ended up in bed with David and me as we tried to protect our friend (who was sleeping on the couch) from the noises of small children in the morning.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a vacation without some kind of hiccup, right?  That came when something shorted in the elevator on Friday evening, and the power to the entire building was blown.  It was about 4:30PM when it happened.  We spent the rest of our visit without power.  Fortunately for us, our friend lives on the 4th floor and not the 20th.  Maggie can handle four flights of stairs.  (For that matter, I can also make four flights of stairs while carrying Beckett.)  We figured that was our adventure for this vacation.

After spending a wonderful couple of days in Nashville (even despite the power outage), we headed back to Memphis, deciding that we would stop for gas .  The kids were exhausted, and so we figured they would probably just pass out for most of the 3-hour drive.  Well, 15 minutes into our drive back to Memphis, we ran into a traffic jam of rather epic proportions.  After about 40 minutes or so, we came to an exit (3 miles from where the traffic jam began), and we took it.  We wound our way to a gas station, where we stopped to fill up the tank.

While we were sitting in the car, letting the gas tank fill up, our leisurely drive took a turn toward the gross.

Maggie was singing peacefully in the back seat when suddenly, she puked.  All the way down her front, all over the car seat, in the buckles, everywhere.  It was unbelievably gross.  I got out of the car and got her out of the car seat.  I undressed her, and started cleaning her up as best I could.  Fortunately we were stopped at a gas station and could buy some cleaning supplies.  David bought a package of “Wet Ones,” which we used to clean the car seat and surrounding area.  Then we gave Maggie her little plastic Easter basket, in case she had to hurl further on down the road, said a little prayer, and took off to drive the rest of the way.

Maggie is doing better today.  She hasn’t puked since we were stopped at the gas station outside of Nashville.  But that event is likely to be the defining mark of this vacation.

I remember when my vacations were largely about reading a few good books, getting a little sun, and maybe sleeping in.  Now my vacation is about trying to keep my kids quiet so that we don’t wake up other people before 7AM, and then cleaning up puke on the way home.

Funny thing is that I’m having the time of my life going on vacation with my kids, puke and all.

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Small Assignment 3: Vacation

(Once again, there was one responder to the small assignment last week on School Lunches.  If you haven’t already, go and read his response here.)

I don’t really know about elsewhere in the world, but in Memphis, though it is not yet summer by the calendar, it certainly is summer in terms of temperature.

It is also the time of year when I look at the next three months and see travel plans stacking up every two weeks or so.  Now is the beginning of a season of traveling to visit family and friends and having family and friends come and visit us.  We’ll be taking some shorter jaunts to some more-or-less local-ish places, and one big, pack-the-rented-car-and-drive-for-two-days trip.

All of this planning makes me think of the days before adulthood when vacation meant waking up one day and getting in the car.  Being magically transported to a new place with new smells and new sights.  These days, vacation is more about watching my kids have that experience.  (Maggie is already running around saying, “Beach!” even though we won’t be leaving for our beach vacation for another two months.)

So the assignment this week is to write about vacation.  It can be a memory of a particular vacation, a meditation on vacations more generally, a short story about a dude who goes on vacation and gets more than he bargained for, or a haiku about a beach ball.

As usual, if you choose to write about this assignment, post the link to your response in a comment here, and I’ll share it at the end of the week on this sight.  Also, as usual, if you or someone you know might be interested in this little virtual writing group we’ve got going, share this post.  Anyone is invited to participate, with any writing style and really, any topic.  (Also, if you have a suggestion for a small assignment, let me know!)

Good scribbling!

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The Shared Room Experiment

Over the weekend, David and I began (yet another) great adventure.

We assembled an IKEA bed – a real bed – a twin-sized bed – for Maggie.

Now, Maggie hasn’t always been so good with the transitions.  She, like most toddlers, likes her things just the way she likes them, and that’s that.

So we were a bit nervous about transitioning her into a bed from the toddler-type crib-without-a-side bed into a real bed.

To make the transition a little bit easier on her, we spent about a week hyping up the “Big Girl Bed” that was soon to be hers.  We also spent a lot of time telling her that the crib would be Beckett’s bed soon.  And then… we let her help assemble the bed.

Anyone who has ever assembled IKEA furniture knows just how… edifying… the process of furniture assembly can be.  Throw in a 2-year old, and, well, let’s just say the process went about as smoothly as we could have possibly expected.

The very best part about the process, though, was that as Maggie “helped” to screw in the various bolts and push in those God-forsaken little dowels, she continually said (on her own) “Maggie’s Big Girl Bed.  I build it!”

Points to us for indoctrination.

When it came time for Maggie to actually sleep in the bed, she did!  Just like that!  She seemed a bit skeptical at first, but with a little encouragement, she fell asleep and slept the night through in bed.

So of course, getting Maggie transitioned so easily into her bed, we got smug, and decided to try our luck.

Beckett has been sleeping in our room since he was born.  At first, he was in a side-car co-sleeper, which I loved for the little baby.  But then as he became more aware of his surroundings, having him right next to me didn’t work so well.  So we detached the bassinet and moved him across the room.

Then he got HUGE.  (He’s about 25 lbs now, at 9 months.)  So we got rid of the bassinet and moved him into the pack n’ play, still in our room.  That worked for a while until he learned how to pull himself up.  So now, he can peek over the edge of the pack n’ play during the night and look at me and David.  It’s so much fun that he doesn’t really care to sleep.

So last night, in a brazen move of pure hubris, we decided to try moving Beckett into Maggie’s room.  We put the side back up on the crib that Maggie had called home for the last two years and put them both to bed in the same room.

It did not go well.

The first thing that happened was a feedback loop where Beckett, in unfamiliar surroundings would kind of complain.  Maggie, hearing Beckett’s complaints, would get out of bed and go to his crib and make him laugh.  Eventually, one of us would go into the room and instruct everyone to lay down and go to sleep.  Then the cycle would start all over again.

Eventually, they did both go to sleep, for a few hours.  Beckett woke in the middle of the night, and would. not. go. back. to. sleep.  So we bailed and moved him back to the pack n’ play in our room while David and I moved to the futon in our den.

We’re all tired today, and the kids are off their schedules, because we all slept in this morning.  But, it was the first step, and David and I got to experience the joy of being able to put away laundry after the kids have gone to bed.  That, my friends, is success.

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Mastitis

There is really never a good time to get mastitis.  I mean, let’s be honest here.  An infected breast?  That is never, ever fun.

I had mastitis about a week or so after Beckett was born.  It started with chills.  I couldn’t get warm, though it was not cold in the house.  I put on a sweatshirt, snuggled in closer to David, who was in the bed with me, and desperately tried to go back to sleep.  Eventually, it was time to get Maggie up for school.  I got up to try to help get her ready, but I was so cold and so chilled that my hands were shaking.  I couldn’t lift her.  I could barely stand up.  Now, I realize that this was a week after giving birth, but I had never experienced anything quite like that. I took my temperature at one point, but the thermometer told me that my temperature was normal.  Okay, I thought.  Maybe it was some mild anemia or something.

That afternoon, my midwife was stopping by for a home visit and to take some blood for the newborn screening.  (My midwives did home visits after Beckett was born at home!  It was great!)  I told her about my symptoms, and she immediately took my pulse, which was high.  Then she had me take my temperature again.  Surprise!  I had a fever.

Now, since I was in those early, newborn days of nursing, both of my breasts were sore.  There was really no clear distinction between “sore breast” and “regular, overly-full, engorged breast.”  So we just had to guess that this was mastitis.  The midwife held Beckett while I took a shower and tried to hand-express some milk.  Then when I had put on some clean clothes, she shooed me back to bed, brought me some orange juice and other Vitamin C-rich foods.  She gave me a prescription of Vitamin C, hot compresses on the infected breast (or both, since we didn’t know which was infected), lots of sleep, and LOTS of nursing. If the fever wasn’t going down after 24 hours, I would need to get an antibiotic.

So I slept.  I drank orange juice, and I stuffed a heating pad in my shirt while I napped.  And that night, about 24-hours after my symptoms started, my fever broke.  I was sweating and tired, but my fever was going down and I had stopped shaking.  I thought, “well, I guess that’s my nursing complication this time around.”

….

Yesterday was a very good day.  I’ve been busy lately, in the good way.  I have some new clients coming online, and some new and interesting projects that are taking my focus away from the interwebs (consequently, I have failed to write much on the blog lately.)  I had a productive meeting in the morning, answered some emails, and the writing came easily and fluidly.  In the afternoon, after Maggie came home from school, we decided to take a walk.  So I strapped Beckett into the Ergo, and we set out.

It was in the high 80s in Memphis yesterday, which means that by the time we got back from our walk, I was covered in sweat.  I walked into the house and felt the chill of the air conditioning.  Then I went about getting the kids dinner, getting the kids into bed, and making dinner for David and me.  By the time we sat down to eat, though, I had started to feel “off.”  My skin was prickly and overly sensitive.  My left breast felt sore and engorged.  I felt tired, but it was the evening, and I always feel tired at the end of the day.  As the evening wore on, I became cold.  I put on socks to keep my feet warm.  I put a sweatshirt on over a long-sleeved shirt and then huddled under two (2!) blankets, though the thermostat told us it was 77 degrees in the house.

This started feeling familiar.  But I was in denial.  At one point I took my temperature.  99.6.  A half hour later it was 100.6.  I made my way to bed after washing down a Vitamin C supplement with a glass of orange juice.  In bed, I stuffed a heating pad on the inside of my shirt and tried to sleep. After about an hour, I woke up, feeling terrible. I roused Beckett, who was sleeping like a champ, and nursed him for a while while he slept.

At some point during the night, I woke up, drenched in sweat.  I had to get out of bed to change all of my clothes.  Rather than change my pillow cases, I just turned the pillows over. When I woke up this morning, my fever was back down to 99.2 degrees.  It looks like maybe I have had my nursing complication for the quarter.

David is going out of town this weekend. He left this morning, in fact.  We loaded the kids into the car at 6:30am and drove to the airport.  I still feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, but it’s clear that I’m on the mend. So I’ll survive to take care of the kids for the next couple of days until David gets back.

 

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Filed under Babies, Home Birth, Life, Parenting

Playing in the Dirt, revisited

Several weeks ago, I wrote about planting herb seeds with Maggie.  At the time I was unsure of just what would end up growing where, and how well it would grow.

In case anyone was under the impression that I am a gardener, let me disillusion you now.  I am no gardener.  In fact, this has really been my first attempt at growing anything, ever.

When I was growing up, my mother maintained beautiful gardens.  My brother and I spent time weeding and helping to do things like mulch, but I suppose the kid version of me was just never interested enough in what was actually going on to really learn much except the proper way to pull a weed.  (Get the root.  Also, it’s easier to do if the ground is wet, though a bit messy.)

So several weeks after planting seeds, we have… some plants.  I have been able to identify with certainty basil, marjoram, oregano, and thyme.  Also dill.  The dill is growing like… I don’t know.  DILL!  This summer we will be required to eat lots of salmon and vegetable dip.  The mint just decided not to come up, so David and I packed the kids into the car and went and bought a couple of mint plants, along with parsley and lemon balm.  So we now have mint, parsley, lemon balm, dill, basil, marjoram, oregano and thyme.

And then there’s this… other plant.  See, I had thought that I had planted sage, and so I assumed that the very tall, grassy plant coming up was sage, since I could identify everything else.  The problem is, this is a plant that looks nothing like any sage plant that the Interwebs can show me.

Like a genius, I threw away the seed packets, thinking “I won’t forget what I planted!”  Of course, two weeks later, I’m looking at these grassy shoots and thinking, “What on earth did I plant?”

On the one hand, I’m kind of excited to see what these plants turn into, whether they are something edible, or if I grabbed a wonky packet of seeds.  On the other hand, the hand that likes to be in control and who really prefers to know everything, it is a little frustrating to know that I don’t know what this is.  I have resisted the urge several times to just pull the stuff up because I can’t identify it.  But then there’s this voice inside me that tells me that this is a garden that was planted with love and largely for fun.  Some things grow well.  Others don’t.  We seem to have a volunteer tomato plant that we’re not pulling up, so we can afford to wait and see.

So once again, I have been schooled by plants.  I am waiting and seeing, and most of the time, I’m okay with that.

(Oh, and here are some pictures of our plants.)

Basil

Lemon Balm

Rose

Mystery Grass-like Plant

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The Mommy Wars Go Political

By now, most of us have heard the Hilary Rosen gaff that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life,” and the shit storm that ensued.

And now, as usual, the coverage of the gaff itself has clouded the actual point that Hilary Rosen was trying to make.

You see, Ms. Rosen was not attempting to make the claim that mothering is not a legitimate and (for some people) rewarding life choice, as many of her critics allege.  Instead, Ms. Rosen was pointing out the fallacy that Mitt Romney has fallen into, namely, holding up his wife as an example of an average American woman.  Ann Romney may be a wonderful mother who has worked hard to become a wonderful mother to her five children (I have absolutely no means to know what kind of mother she is – also, THAT’S NOT THE POINT), but one thing she is not: average.  Mrs. Romney may have informed opinions about the economy and how the government can best support women, but again, she is not a representative of the average American woman.

I appreciate the plight of the stay-at-home mom.  I really do.  I am a work-from-home mom myself, and so I understand that it is work – in the sense that staying at home with kids does not constitute sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons and watching questionable daytime television all day.  It is exhausting and demanding and under appreciated and certainly not financially rewarding.  (Imagine if mothering were covered, say, under the Ledbetter Act.)

The trouble I have with the media’s (and the online MOMMY WARS) response to Ms. Rosen’s gaff is that they are missing the fact that even the choice to stay at home with your kids is an incredibly privileged position.  Most households require two incomes to really function.  I work at home largely so that we don’t have to pay for child care.  But between my income and David’s income, there are months when we squeak by.  AND WE ARE NOT POOR.  We’re just… doing okay.  Mrs. Romney may have worked every day (the work of being a mother), but I guarantee that she never had to give up movie night with her husband because they couldn’t afford a babysitter.  She never had to make a choice between sending a sick kid to day care or staying home and possibly getting fired from a job that she could not afford to lose.  She never had to take her child to the emergency room and wonder how in the world she was going to pay for it.

[Also, (and I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it), Mrs. Romney responded to Ms. Rosen’s gaff by claiming that “motherhood” has been her “career.”  In fact, this is not the case.  You see, a career includes the possibility for advancement and/or progress.  So, unless Mrs. Romney climbed the corporate ladder of her household to become the head wife and mother, then being a stay-at-home mother is not her career.  It is her work, her vocation, her calling.  But it is not her career.]

The problem here is that Ms. Rosen’s statement has been made (by the media and the Romney campaign) into a statement about motherhood.  It was not.  Ms. Rosen’s statement was actually a statement about economic disparity.  Mitt Romney has been pointing to his wife not as an informed expert, but rather as a person who, because she is a woman, knows “women.”  Ms. Rosen’s poor word choice does not change the fact that Mitt Romney’s wife does not actually stand in solidarity with women who have had to make impossible decisions for their families because their economic position does not allow them the luxury of real choice.

I’ve seen the phrase “Mothers need to stick together” splashed across the internet lately in response to this whole mess.  And I think that is true to a certain extent.  I believe that those of us who have the choice to take maternity leave or to stay at home with our kids or who never have to carry our sick kid to the emergency room knowing that we can’t pay for the treatment that they will get – we have the responsibility to stand in some kind of solidarity with the mothers who have to make the impossible decisions.

Mitt Romney and his campaign are proposing a budget that would cut programs like Medicaid and food stamps.  This means that the mothers who have to make the impossible decisions will find themselves stranded.  Mrs. Romney may be a mother, but she does not stand on the side of the mothers who really need support and solidarity.

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On Fear

I want to say something about fear.

On Monday, the Supreme Court released a decision – about strip searching.   In this 5-4 decision – majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy – the Court affirmed that jail strip searches do not require reasonable suspicion, at least for individuals who are being admitted into general population.  (Read all about the case at www.scotusblog.com.) These “strip searches” are actually equivalent to body cavity searches – displaying genitals, “squat and spread,”  without reasonable suspicion or a probable cause hearing.  The only thing required is the word of an arresting officer – for any offense.  (Jay walking, failing to return library books, or failing to use a turn signal could now legally result in a strip/body cavity search.)  The reasoning behind this decision is that any person who is arrested could potentially be smuggling drugs or weapons into the jail.  Therefore, according to Justice Kennedy, it is appropriate for every person brought into jail, even for a non-criminal offense, to be treated as if they are smuggling drugs or weapons into jail.  These, by the way, are people who are legally being presumed innocent, and some of them (as in the case of the defendant in this Supreme Court case) actually are innocent.

Yesterday, I was driving to the doctor, because Beckett had a fever of unknown origin that had reached a nice 103.6 degrees the night before.  It turned out to be nothing, but as I was driving there, I turned on some conservative talk radio.  (I occasionally turn on the conservative radio to listen to what the other side is saying.)  Anyway, the host was discussing the technology that is now available to police that allows them to track cell phones without warrant.  That means, if you carry a cell phone with you, the police can legally track your physical location for an extended period of time, without demonstrating probable cause or obtaining a warrant.  A woman phoned in to sing the praises of this technology, stating that “with so many bad people out there today, isn’t it a wonderful thing that the police can round up all of the information available, and then sort out the bad guys?”  Again, the desire is to treat everyone (at least everyone who owns a cell phone) as if they are criminal.

I know it is old-hat by now to talk about the TSA and the increasingly invasive searches that go on just to board an overly-crowded airplane these days, but I want to tell just a quick story about traveling with my daughter alone for the first time.  Maggie was probably about 6 months old.  I had her in the Ergo carrier, and I struggled to get through the line.  When I went through security, I forgot to take a water bottle out of my bag.  The search that ensued was, extreme I think, and a little embarrassing.  Maggie and I were both patted down and swabbed for explosives.  My bags were dumped out and searched, complete with maxi pads falling on the floor.  When the search was finished, I had to take my things to the side and try to repack my bag before I got o the plane.  Now, this was nearly two years ago, and I know that the TSA workers were merely doing their job.  But their job is to treat every person who wants to get on a plane as if they are intending to blow up the plane, when of course, most of us are merely trying to get where we’re going.

I am a big fan of Free Range Kids, the blog and the book written by Lenore Skenazy.  Her claim is that, although the rates of violent crime are lower now than they have been in half a century, parents (and adults in general) are convinced that it is more dangerous for kids today.  This is partly due to the 24-hour news cycle that publicizes every abduction case and makes it seem as if pedophiles and murderers lurk around every corner.  This is also because we have increasingly moved toward a what-if mentality.  “Anything could happen,” people are known to say.  Kids are not allowed to play unsupervised until they’re 14 years old.  We walk through public places and feel scared if a stranger (especially a man) smiles at our kids.  All adults, and indeed all people, are treated first with suspicion.

I started this post out with the statement that I wanted to say something about fear.  And this is what I want to say.  We live in fear of our neighbors.  Increasingly, we are living with a deep suspicion of those around us.  And here is the biggest problem with that, as far as I’m concerned: the African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.”  The fear and suspicion is growing and causing us to build up walls between us and the people in our lives who would potentially make our lives better and easier.  We are careening toward lives where all we can do is huddle in our houses, praying that the pedophiles and murderers and terrorists don’t get us or our kids.  That used to be the way crazy people lived.  Now it’s looking more and more like the “reasonable” and “safe” choice.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I can tell you this: I don’t want my kids to grow up seeing me suspicious of every human being I encounter.  I want my kids to know that they are safe with other people.  I want them to learn to take acceptable risk, and I want them to know that some risks are always worth taking.  I want to live in a world that is just, not just safe, and I want my kids to live in that world too.  So I am going to reject the fear as best I can, and let my kids grow up in the village.

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