Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Have Become Ebeneezer

I read this post today by Matt Walsh, and it got me thinking. If you haven't read it yet, you should. He makes an excellent point that I've been trying to articulate for years. Let me start out this post by making a confession, right from the get go:

I HATE Black Friday.

I hate it. Loathe it. Have nothing but contempt for it. The whole idea of it is strange to me: we spend an entire day supposedly thank God for the incredible blessings that we've been given and for the people with which we share them and then rush rush rush to eat so that we can go stand in line for MORE stuff. More crap that we do. not. NEED. More garbage that's just going to replace the garbage that we already have, which will now end up in a land fill. More junk and excess that we buy so that our loved ones will be able to have a visual, tangible idea of just how much we love them based on the amount of stuff that we give them for Christmas. 

Doesn't that seem a little...sad? And...backwards?!

"Oh, but I go for the appliances!" you might say. "I need a new bluRay player/dishwasher/dryer/whatever." I think my favorite justification was hearing a family on the news talk about how it's become a family tradition to camp out in front of different stores together so that they could be sure to get a good spot in line. They actually had the father of the family bring them their Thanksgiving dinner to the line in front of Best Buy. So the tradition of sitting down with family, spending time with the ones you love, actually taking time to talk to each other and thank God for the blessings in your life has now been usurped by the all-encompasing need for MORE. MORE MORE MORE. 

Thanksgiving dinner isn't even about the symbol of the bounty that we've been given. Rather, it's become about getting the BIGGEST turkey, the BEST place settings, NEW dishes and linens, candlesticks and flatware, Martha Stewart this and Rachel Ray that.

Do we really need new dinnerware for Thanksgiving dinner to be meaningful?
Or are we only buying it because the commercials on t.v. tell us that we NEED it?

I worked retail for 10 years and after that first time that I found myself driving to work at the mall at 3am because I had to work Thanksgiving night/Black Friday morning (that's right folks, most places will FIRE YOU if you can't or won't work Black Friday), I vowed that I would never, ever participate in this stupid, awful, shallow event. Ever. 

Because it's the worst.

While you're in bed, sleeping soundly and dreaming of cheap smart phones and cut price iPads, the people who have to be at work are either already at work, having to leave their families to get to work, or are missing their Thanksgiving entirely. They are going into work early so that they can be abused, yelled at, ridiculed, shoved, and belittled by the good shoppers who less than 12 hours ago were saying family grace over their meals, giving thanks to God for all that they had. People are AWFUL on this day, and I'm getting all capsy about that because it deserves it. People are mean, they are tired, they are often hung over, they have been whipped into a frenzy by clever marketing which has told them that their families won't feel loved if they don't get everything they ever dreamed of for Christmas and if they don't buy those things now they will no longer be available and then their kids won't believe in Santa or Baby Jesus ANYMORE. 

Wanna know some secrets of the trade?

1. That "awesome" gift bag/tote/free whatever that is being offered by a lot of stores as incentives to show up is garbage. It's cheaply made crap that you probably wouldn't buy, but since it's free, they've made you think that you desperately need it. It's junk. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't BUY it if it wasn't free, it's not a deal. It's just more crap to clutter up your house.

2. When I worked at Express, they would send TWO shipments of everything: one to put out for Black Friday and an IDENTICAL SHIPMENT to put out two weeks before Christmas. And they're not alone in that. The KNOW that they can sell the American public the idea that if they don't buy something right now that it won't be available and Christmas will be ruined. You are statistically more likely to buy something that you don't even want or really like if it's cheap or if someone tells you that might not be able to get it later. Basically, they're selling you stuff that they KNOW you don't even want...because they can. Oh, and Express, the Limited, Bath and Body Works, and Victoria's Secret are all owned by the same company. Guess what stores all have the same policies.

Now let's talk some more about the employees:

Why should you care?

After all, they chose to work at Wal-Mart/Target/K-Mart/Wherever, right? At least they have a job, right? If they don't want to do the job, there are literally thousands of people who would love to do that job, right?

Really? How about you?
You wanna leave your family on Thanksgiving to sell crap to mean people at unGodly hours of the morning?
You wanna explain to your kids why you can't tuck them in?
You wanna wonder WHY THE HECK you're doing this since, as a single mom, the money you're going to making from working this shift is going STRAIGHT to the childcare company?

Didn't think so.

You realize, too, that all of those justifications for making them work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are the same ones given by Ebeneezer Scrooge to Bob Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol," right? Ever last one of them. 

Because Scrooge was greedy. And mean. And a hoarder of THINGS. Of STUFF. The only difference is that the STUFF that he hoarded was money while the American public at large chooses to hoard STUFF and give away their money. Hm. 

But wait, you're not Scrooge, right? You just want your kids to have a nice Christmas!

That's totally fair. It is. But what if we taught our kids that STUFF isn't what makes Christmas nice in the first place? What if we reject this idea that Christmas is about excess ad piles of stuff under the tree? What if we refused to play the big box stores' games? Because you can BET that they're not working the cash registers on Black Friday, dealing with the mess they've made. Nope, they're with their families. Where the rest of us should be. What if, on Black Friday, the doors swung open and...no one was there? What if people were willing to wait until 8am or 9am the next day? What if they didn't feel the need to get aggressive or physical or mean over something made of plastic that they don't really need anyway? What if Thanksgiving and Christmas were allowed to be about what they have always been about, which has nothing to do with things and everything to do with love. People. Family. Hope. Home. Jesus. Togetherness. 

What if being a minimum wage employee working the best job you could get to support your family didn't exclude you from getting to take time to appreciate and thank God for those things?

I'm going to leave you with this last question:

Are Thanksgiving and Christmas only for those who can afford to celebrate them? Is that the direction in which we're headed?

It's looking like it.

And that makes me ill.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Don't Think I'm a Better Parent Than You

I wanted to set the record straight about something, since the way in which the Hubs and I have chosen to parent tends to get a bad rap in a few regards. Some of them (most of them) I can't do much about, but one I can and that's this-

JUDGMENT.

See, we attachment parent. We are baby wearing, non-circumcising, bed sharing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, Dr Sears worshiping type folks. 

Trust me. I know. My son has been on this earth for six months and I think we've already heard it all already:

"You'll never get that baby out of your bed if you share with him now!" (For now, I think we're good, but if it turns out that he's 15 and still in our bed, I guess we'll admit you were right and go from there.)

"You...you share your bed? But...when do you have sex?!" (Not to put too fine a point on things, but we figured out pretty early on that sex doesn't require a bed, bedroom, or even being alone in the house. You get creative, which keeps things...interesting. Hey, you asked.)

"Your baby will never learn to walk/sit up/crawl/whatever if you carry him all the time!" (Wes is doing just fine with all of his milestones, thanks, and I don't have to worry about cramming a stroller through a too-narrow door when I'm out and about or trying to navigate rough terrain like festival grounds with one. My baby carriers are dead comfy and I was able to navigate two airports with Wes in my ring sling with almost zero fussing. Plus...he looks adorable in them.)

"You're still breastfeeding? You need to get that baby to learn to take a bottle!"
"I heard that there's no nutritive value to breastfeeding past four months."
"What're you going to be, one of those moms that breastfeeds until her kid is in college?"
(I love to breastfeed. Not only do I believe that it's best for my baby, but the World Health Organization, the American Association of Pediatrics, and a wide variety of other sources will back me up on that. Wes is only seven months old, so still very much a baby. I'd definitely like to think that he'll be weaned well before college age, although I'm unclear who those moms are that people refer to. I've never met one, although just for curiosity's sake I think I'd like to at least once in my life. Perhaps they'll be covered in National Geographic someday as some exotic tribe of lactationally gifted women. Dreams come true. I will say that I will breastfeed as long as both Wes and I choose to and I will not apologize for that. Who knows, we might get all crazy and do it in public. Stay tuned.)

I could go on and on. Really. When it comes to parenting, people seem to have the same boundaries as when it comes to pregnancy, which is to say "none." Everyone has an opinion, everyone has an idea, everyone's heard something from someone who heard something from someone who read something. It's all very involved and confrontational.

And I get it. Human beings are social, tribal dwellers. We believe that what's best for the tribe is best for the individual, which means that we tend to be deeply suspicious of individuals who deviate from the accepted norm. That was true of early man and it's still true in the produce section of the grocery store. So normally I try to respond to these criticisms and calls to question about my (very) personal parenting choices and then just rage about them later to my family and bestie on the phone in private. The "That's What I SHOULD Have Said" conversation is my wheelhouse.

But there is one assumption that people make about me when I tell people that we're attachment parenting that I couldn't let slide because...it hurts people. Not me, so much, but the people who are assuming that this particular thing is true about me:

I don't think that I'm a better parent than you.

Seriously. I don't. I'm not looking down on you for your choices, judging you for not doing things the way that I do them, sneering at you for using a stroller or formula, jeering at your behind your back because I think that I've got it all figured out. I'm not getting together with my other attachment parenting friends and exulting over the fact that, obviously, we are far superior parents and our children are going to grossly outstrip yours in happiness, healthiness, and prosperity. 

I have made choices about the way that we parent largely the same way that I think most people do: lots of reading, lots of praying, lots of research and back and forth, and some trial and error. I parent the way that I do because I truly believe that it's the best way to raise my child. Did you get that last part? MY child. See that? 

My philosophy on this is that I was given the children that I was for a specific purpose and you have the ones that you have for a specific purpose. I was prepared to raise the children that that I now have and the ones to come and I have been given special, Heavenly stewardship over these children. Just like you have over yours. So when I pray for inspiration or about a specific thing, I'm getting inspiration and confirmation/negation for my children. Not yours. Not all the children in my congregation at church. Definitely not all the children in the world. 

Just mine.

The answers to what will work for my children will oftentimes be different from what will work for yours. I will probably discipline my children differently, play with them differently, feed them differently, and teach them about Jesus differently than you. We may have some similarities in our approaches, but there are bound to be differences. And that's okay. You know why? Because we have different children to raise.

So, when you hear that I didn't circumcise my son and you ask why, I'll tell you. I'll tell you about the research that I did if you're interested and I'll tell you about the promptings that led to us choosing not to have it done. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you chose to do it.

If you ask me about breastfeeding and why I'm still doing it, I'll tell you, if you really want to know. I'll tell you about the bonding that I experience when Wes and I spend that special time together, about how good I feel about being able to boost his little immune system, about how happy we both are that we have this sweet connection. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you use formula.

If you ask me about co-sleeping or vaccine schedules, baby wearing or gentle discipline, or any of the other decisions that we've made about how we'll raise our children, I'll tell you. And if you want to talk about the research that I've done or why I ended up choosing to do what we do and how we do it, I'll tell you. But sharing that information isn't the same as judging you for coming to a different conclusion or doing something that works better with your lifestyle.

I don't think I'm a better parent than you are.
I think I'm muddling through this experience the same way that we all are.
I think that I'm having the same frustrations and fears when I'm up in the night with a sick baby.
I think that I'm scared that I'm screwing it all up just like you are.
I think that I love my baby with such an intense love that it makes me want to do the best possible job that I can - just like you.
And I think that I'm working hard at finding answers and figuring out what works - just like you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Disaster Mom

I'm an organized person. I like labels and files and perfect little plastic boxes with their perfect little plastic lids that perfectly contain the uncontainable. I like lists and organizers and ping-y reminders sent to my smart phone about when and where I'm supposed to be places. I like the smug satisfaction that goes along with returning library books on time and I like knowing that my Netflix DVD cue is organized so that the perfect DVD arrives to coordinate with the upcoming holiday.

I like to be...right. 

And most days, I am. Truly. It's something that I wasn't born with, I've had to work at this "rightness" for literally years. Years of working at check lists and memorization and forcing myself to write things down. 

Thanks to my years of careful training and concentration, most days that sort of organization comes naturally. Like breathing. Well ordered breathing.

Today was not that day.

What happened today?!

Today, I was DisasterMom. Today, I was distracted, fluff-headed, and scatter brained. The Hubs will be SO pleased to know that there is a chink in my Armor of Organization. 

Today, Wes had to be schlepped to the doctor's office because I was worried that he was coming down with whooping cough (he isn't, thankfully). I was nervous because our pediatrician already thinks that I'm a loon who probably lives on a commune somewhere, breastfeeding my sister wives' 10 year olds and wearing love beads. I can see his "here comes to the crazy hippie" face every time we go to the office and I see him tense up every time something is suggested for my son's treatment. It's actually become sort of delightfully passive aggressive, like a holiday dinner with family. I feel like Wes will be 18 and my doctor will still be asking me if we've "considered finally doing something like taking oral vitamins to combat that newborn jaundice." To which I will gleefully answer that no, we have not. 

BUT. The DTaP is one of the vaccines that we have decided to have Wes get. I read a lot. I researched a lot. I read papers and pamphlets and books and websites. On both sides of the argument. 

So Wes is currently up to date on his DTaP. Which means that if he had ended up with whooping cough (pertussis) I would have skipped passive aggression and gone straight into the "I Told You So Dance" right there in the office. Possibly with hand gestures. While attempting to get meds right in that moment to simultaneously stuff into Wes' mouth while dancing. 

But it wasn't whooping cough. A FACT FOR WHICH I WILL ETERNALLY BE GRATEFUL. Because whooping cough is scary.

Unfortunately, I am now the crazy mom who takes her kid into the doctor's office for (wait for it) post nasal drip. Yay me. DisasterMom.

To help me to lick my wounds, the Hubs (who came with me to the ped's office) took me out for a deeply bad-for-me lunch. We ordered. Our food order came up. And then had to be sent back THREE TIMES. At which point I almost lost it. Over a taco. I almost became that lady in line. You know who I'm talking about. Thanks to the Hubs' calming influence I managed to cap my taco-fueled rage but...barely.

Then we went to the library to return some books. Books which, thanks to the fact that I had misplaced my glasses yesterday (!) didn't get returned on time (!!) and were now overdue (!!!). I pulled into the library parking lot and realized that I had forgotten to put the stroller in the van's trunk, which meant that I now had to struggle to juggle the Wes=laden carseat, my overstuffed diaper bag, and overflowing library bag into the library with my sad, breadstick arms. Things were falling out of bags, Wes threw his Sophie le Girafe toy straight into the parking lot, and I ended up walking into the library with my wallet clutched between my teeth. I shamefacedly handed over my library card to the librarian and explained my situation and then felt the need to explain that I NEVER do this and that things had be CRAZY this week (um, it's Tuesday...), and that I'm usually SO organized, blah blah blah. I yammered, she stared, the people in line behind me got all shifty and irritated, and then...then she told me that there was still a book overdue that was unaccounted for in the stack that I had handed her. It was still in the van. All the way out in the parking lot. I finished checking out, telling her that I would bring it right in, and went to grab Wes. When I bent over to pick up the carseat, I realized that I had left the top on my travel mug of herbal tea which was stored in the side pocket of the diaper bag open and I now had Tangerine Zinger running down the leg of my jeans, into my shoe, and onto the carpet. I just managed to avoid cussing a blue streak all over the entrance to the library, grabbed my bags and the carseat and juggled everything out to the van. I grabbed the stupid book, which happened to be a book on CD, and ran it to the drop slot on the outside library wall.  I finally got to the van when I realized- disc 2 of the book that I had just returned through the slot was still in the van's CD player. 

I almost lost it entirely, right there in the parking lot in my mom van.
With my mom hair and my tea-stained jeans.
With my poor sick baby in the backseat that now had to be unloaded and carried into the library so that I could return that STUPID CD. LATE.

I simply rushed into the library, thrust the CD at the poor librarian with a mumbled excuse about what an idiot I am today, and ran out of there as fast as my sloshy, squishy shoes would carry me. I jumped in my van and drove home, trying not to cry.

So now I am at home. I am currently installed on the couch with an immense tub of Jif peanut butter, saltine crackers, Hershey's kisses (which are delicious with peanut butter...), and the brand new Bridget Jones book (which I didn't even realize was a thing until I saw it on the Book Express shelf!). I may never get up again.