Thursday, March 13, 2008

gather ye rosebuds while ye may, but don't even think of putting them in your mouth, missy

I took a walk with Lucy today. This is a near-daily occurrence; I need to get out of the house, she needs to get out of the house; we both seem to enjoy some time of me pushing her around the neighborhood. I even get some exercise and time to think. Since we bought Lucy a super-cool trike with a pushbar for Momma, she likes it even better.
Except. Sometimes I feel guilty. (Big surprise, right?) Because tho she does like to ride, she likes to walk even more. And stop, and smell things, like flowers (by smell, I mean yank off the stems and occasionally cram them into her mouth). And so while riding strapped to her trike, she waves at flowers and says, Ass? Ass?

I know it means: Hey, Mom, can I get a closer look at those? Down, please.

Except it kind of ruins the momentum and the exercise and the thinking to take a leisurely stop-and-eat-flowers break..
So usually I ignore the gestures and the requests and keep on triking.

But today I felt magnanimous. Plus, she'd earlier put up with a two hour car ride. So I undid her little jerryrigged safety harness (my dad's old belt) and let Lucy gather rosebuds! While she might!

Except, instead of gazing meaningfully at the roadside blossoms, she took off down the sidewalk. Happy as a clam to walk, rather than ride.
That's when I realized I had made a serious miscalculation.
She would not get back on the trike. And since it's the trike, with the jerryrigged harness, and not the stroller, with an actual harness, there was no convincing* her otherwise.

Thankfully, I'd had my moment of magnanimity fairly close to our house, instead of a mile away. Because I had to carry a very wiggly baby part of the way home, while pushing a trike at the same time.

Gather ye toddlers, while ye may.

*"Convincing", ie, strapping her in because I'm bigger than her. Sometimes it pays to have a small kid. Though she is wiry.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

noble morality

I heard about two minutes of an interview with Richard Dawkins yesterday on NPR. It was on Fresh Air, with Terry Gross of the wonderfully comforting voice. Dawkins sounded eminently reasonable and smart, and I always sigh when I hear very hard-line atheists on these programs, because being me, I am always swayed by (as a friend put it) a good argument. And, being Dawkins, of course he had a good argument.

Except I wasn't swayed so much this time. (Perhaps all this time praying through my faith doldrums is helping?)

His argument is that the reason religious people have to be moral is either a) because they think it's God's will, and/or b) because they're afraid of Him punishing them if they're not moral. Which, he says, is not very noble, because it's only being moral because someone is watching us. Much more noble, Dawkins argues, is being moral when you think we're alone in the universe, because then you're doing it for the right reasons--the morality itself.

Except when I thought about it, I don't think he's right.

Dawkins' argument assumes that each of us is this independent, wholly other being that can be separated completely out of the web of interconnectedness that binds us to other people (and I would argue, God). Because morality is, after all, about relationship, is it not? So how can you be "independent" in your morality? I think that's ridiculous. In other words, even the most hard-core atheist considers the opinions and interests of his loved ones (or just the neighbors) when he's deciding whether or not to be moral or not. Which makes his or her morality no more "noble" than anyone else's.

What is morality, anyway, if you take relationship out of the equation? Some kind of cold, scientific decision made in the privacy of our minds? No, it's an acknowledgement of our connectedness to others--our shared humanity, or life, in the case of animals or plants, or the earth. I think were in relationship to God, as well as our neighbors, and so have to weigh His (or Her) opinion and interest just as we weigh others' interests. Because if God is the creator of all of us--he's hardly disinterested. To make an analogy: if someone is mean to Lucy, it affects me, too. It pains me. Just as God is affected by our immorality.

And that idea of us all being independent actors, atomized and separate from everyone around us? I'm tired of that idea. I think it's ridiculous. And vain, and selfish, and probably ridiculous, if we're honest with ourselves. I think this idea is largely a construction of our time, that would seem incomprehensible to most other cultures and times. And I think it is going to be less and less useful as our society runs into the limitations we've been ignoring so long (like depleted water, oil, and natural resources).

So there you go, Richard Dawkins. I think you are a very smart, articulate person, but I heartily disagree with you. Although your accent is pretty sweet.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

bad playgroup mommy

I joined a playgroup.
It's a pretty cool group of women that meets once a week in random parks and peoples homes. The children are pretty well-behaved (for toddlers) and they play nicely together. Lucy loves it.

Why do I keep putting off going, then?

Each week, I say, "I'm going to playgroup," and then when it gets to be that hour, I hesitate.

I think I'm not a people person. To put it mildly.

The problem with playgroups (and other larger group settings--say, over 5 people) is that I often feel more lonely than when I'm just by myself. I'm surrounded by people, and I think, "They all know each other. No one is talking to me. The voices! Oh, the voices!" Then I start hyperventilating.

Why do I feel so much anxiety in these situations? Give me a four-person group, and I am happy as a clam. I can connect with each person, and I don't worry about forgetting names. Add a few more people, and I am afraid I'm talking too much. Or not enough. I'm wondering if the person I'm talking to is bored. Or I'm bored. Or I think that person over there would surely be more interesting to talk to than the one I am, in fact, talking to.
It's like I revert to the 7th grade playground. Next I'll be saying "Like" after every sentance, and snapping my gum.
Breathe, Heather, breathe.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

age appropriate

So Lucy keeps picking up new words. It's pretty awesome, when it isn't confusing. Here's a sampler.
Duh-dee: Could mean Daddy. Or doggie. Or duckie. Or perhaps she has them confused?
Nah-noh: Eleanor? (Our cat) Oatmeal? No-no? You be the judge.
Ass? Ass?: Possibly nurse. Or yes. Or have I been saying inappropriate things?

Things could be worse: I know a friend whose daughter always used to say, very politely, "F$%^ you!"
Which meant "Thank you."
Not sure how long that lasted. But oh, it was funny. For us.

Monday, March 3, 2008

taking a stand

On the back cover of last week's New Yorker is an ad for Allstate. Here's the surprising headline for it: "The average woman spends 11 years out of the workforce taking care of family. Leaving her without enough retirement money to take care of herself." Another paragraph in, they cite that most women will give up 650 k as a result of those years out of the paid workforce.
Wow, I thought when I read that. They're going to advocate for some changes to our nation's social policies/workplace expectations as a way of changing that, and leveling the playing field for caregivers.
Man, was I naive.
Their prescription?
1. Women shoudl make sure they participate in their employer's retirement plan.
2. Women should make sure they invest while they're out of the workforce.
3. Women should make sure they get education so they're motivated to save.
Am I missing something here?
Okay, granted, we all must take responsibility for our futures. We're all participants in this process. But is that really the only part of the solution? Women: take care of everyone! And then, work a little harder, so you don't get screwed! It's all on you already--and now, even more so!
Their tagline: "Let's save retirement by saving for retirement. That's Allstate's stand."
Translation: "Let's transfer responsibility for our ridiculously thin social services in the US to you, the consumer, leaving absurd workplace expectations, and bad politicians off the hook, so we don't have to pay more corporate taxes! America, you're on your own."
What really struck me about this ad was that it's purpose was to make Allstate seem all generous and interested in womens' welfare.
Why did they bother?

How about this for a prescription?
1. Both men and women should get more workplace flexibility to care for their families. They shouldn't be penalized because they're human. They shouldn't be penalized in their careers--by passing up promotions or raises--and they shoudln't be penalized financially--when part-time work is paid a pittance, with no benefits.
2. We should have some state-supported daycare for those parents that would like to keep their jobs, or re-start their jobs when their kids are small. So that people can actually bring home a paycheck, rather than paying for the privilege of working.
3. We should reform social security and the tax laws so that women aren't penalized for providing our society with a) future paid workers b) home care for the sick or elderly that our country is probably not willing to pay for.
4. Talking about realistic taxes to provide healthcare for everyone, so people are slaves to a corporation, just because they need to provide doctors visits for their children.
Let's actually save retirement. And childcare. And healthcare. That's my stand.