Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Musings on Maternal Judgement

I was filling my car's tank with gas this morning when another car pulled up to an adjacent pump. A woman got out of the car and went in to the convenience store to pay for her gas, leaving a young toddler in the car...alone.

Not alone, really.

She could see the toddler from where she was in the store and I, a woman with a carseat in my backseat as well, was standing right beside her car, after all. It still disturbed me, especially when the tyke unbuckled her carseat and started trying to extricate herself from it. I stood there and watched the baby, just to be sure she was okay, until the woman returned a scant two minutes later. The woman, who probably was not the toddler's mother as she looked old to have a toddler, returned to the car with the expression of someone who expected me to say something or glare. I did neither, as I did not really think that my discomfort with where she drew the line in supervision entitled me to judge her. It still bothered me, though, and that line between worrying about the well-being of kids and being a supportive sister to other mothers comes up a lot, doesn't it? It can be frustrating.

The woman at the gas station may have been okay with leaving the baby in the car because she assumed that I would watch the baby, which I did, after all. In any sane, supportive society, that really should be a safe assumption. My discomfort is indicative of my belief that we do not live in a sane, supportive society, I suppose. More power to the woman if she has more faith in people than I do. And still, it bugged me.

We all have to draw the line somewhere; often, we draw it many times everyday. Texas law says kids have to be nine to be left in a car unsupervised for more than 5 minutes. That seems like a good guideline to me, but other people feel differently. I will leave my toddler in her carseat in the car in the driveway to run into my house and grab something fast if her 11-year-old sister is in the car with her. I believe her sister is enough supervision for that scant minute, but some people would be appalled that I would even leave the older girl in the car. Different lines.

I think most new moms start out pretty judgemental of other moms because we all start out so insecure about our own choices, but ideally, most of that wears off as we develop tolerance for differences and understanding of the challenges and ambiguity of parenting. It doesn't always wear off, though. I personally feel judged pretty often, since my family's values are so out of the mainstream. I am generally the only person nursing a two-year-old at school events and my eleven-year-old is generally the only one who wants to organize political demonstrations at school, so we get noticed. That can be hard, but I am pretty comfortable with who we are. That threatens people, too, though. The fact that I am very big on breastfeeding and carseats, for example, often makes other mothers assume that I will look down on them for making other choices. I don't.

I advocate for what I feel is right, but I totally get that we are all in different places. I do not approve of everything I see other parents doing in public, any more than they apprve of my ways all the time...but variety is the spice of life, after all. Things may occasionally disturb me enough that I feel I have to do something to assure a child's safety or well-being, like watching the toddler today, but I still sympathize with other moms and caregivers, even in those particular situations. Even in worse situations. When there has been something horrible in the news and I hear people talking about not understanding how someone could abuse a child, for example, I have to wonder how much time that person actually spends with children. I used to work for Child Protective Services and I am one of those parents who never, ever hits, but I totally understand the impulse. I don't think it ever helps to believe that we are better than other parents and caregivers. Everyone loves their kids. No one wants to cross the wrong line. We are all different, but we all need each other. I think we should all be in this together.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Milk Memos

There is an excellent new book out about being the working mother of a baby. The Milk Memos was written by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette, who met when pumping milk for their babies in a "lactation room" (read: janitor closet) at an IBM workplace where they were both employed. Several different moms used this room for pumping and they actually met on paper, before meeting in person, by starting a series of notebooks that the pumping moms would fill with the trials and tribulations of working motherhood as they pumped. The book is a compilation of those notebooks, along with additional helpful information. This book really caught my interest, both because I was a pumping mom myself and because I had seriously considered writing a book about my own experiences called The Pumping Diaries. I even wrote some of it, but not much. I think my idea was a good one, but not nearly as good an idea as a book that is actually the pumping diaries of several women, as this book is. This book rocks.

This book, along with Hirkani's Daughters and Nursing Mother, Working Mother make up the perfect survival kit for the woman about to combine babies and business, in Lone Star Ma's opinion.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ladybug Days

Yesterday, the Lone Star Girl's Girl Scout troop was visiting the Botanical Gardens as part of a badge they were working on and the rest of our family tagged along. We used to go to the Botanical Gardens every Mother's Day when the Lone Star Girl was very small but had not been in many years. It was a lot of fun and convinced me that we need a new membership there. Yesterday was their big annual plant sale so it was a festival atmosphere but the beautiful trails alone were very worthwhile. After we had been there for awhile and were getting ready to go, we heard that there would be a ladybug release in the hummingbird garden so we ambled over there to see it. A nice lady was giving kids handfuls of ladybugs from a sack to release into the flowers. At first, the Lone Star Baby and the Lone Star Girl only wanted to hold one ladybug at a time, but they soon became braver and started taking handfuls to put in the flowers. We had ladybugs in our hair and all over us by the time we were finished. It was great fun.

In years past, I had bought the occasional spring tub of ladybugs from the local plant store to release into our own front garden. One year, I had the Brownies release them as part of a Try-It they were earning and one year, all the neighborhood kids came over and released them. The Lone Star Baby had so much fun with the ladybugs at the Botanical Gardens that I took her to the plant store and got a tub of 1500 when we got home. She released about half last night and will release the others this evening. Such a fun way to celebrate the springtime!

Bad News For Babies and Mothers

Nestle is buying Gerber from Novartis for 5.5 billion. Gerber had its own problems, but Novartis was making efforts to move it more into compliance with the WHO Code - we can now kiss those efforts good-bye, I suspect. It is hard enough to boycott Nestle for its fatal-to-babies marketing ways with all the many, many companies it owns, but now it will be even harder for families to make the effort...sigh.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Sobrina!

My sister had her baby at around noon today! I won't get to see them until late-mid-May (arg!!), but am told that mother and baby are both doing great! I already have a four-year-old niece, my sister's other daughter, and now I have a new niece!!!! I guess I will call her the Lone Star Niecelet online to distinguish her from her sister, the Lone Star Niece. All day today, the Lone Star Baby was talking about her new prima. So wonderful! So exciting!

Oh, The Guilt

The Lone Star Baby was coloring at her art desk this evening and I heard her say, with a heavy sigh, I have SO MUCH work to do!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Road Mama

I not only really enjoyed Yearly Meeting, I enjoyed getting to and from Yearly Meeting by spending hours in the car. I really love road trips. Not the act of driving so much (I'd rather not)and not the loud screams from the carseat in the back when the baby is sick of the car...but the travelling itself. I love road trips. I plan to incorporate lots of them into my new life as a famous magazine publisher and writer. Here's a big shout-out to Lady Bird Johnson (and why didn't she ever run for President?) for getting those highway medians all seeded with fine Texas wildflowers for my family to enjoy on spring road trips...thank you, Lady Bird! The bluebonnets are exquisite!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Continued

When we got home on Easter night, we dragged all of our gear into the house and the girls found that the Easter Bunny had remembered them in their absence and left gift-laden Easter baskets on the table. They were pleased. Since it was cold and wet outside, the Easter Bunny had hidden our Thursday-night-colored eggs and a dozen cascarones in the living room. The girls had fun hunting them and cracking the cascarones on the porch. Now there is confetti all over my house that I am sure we will not have the energy to clean for a few weeks, but it was worth it. A very happy Easter.

Yearly Meeting!

I have so much to post will take me several posts and a number of days to catch up!

We made it to Yearly Meeting!

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has, like most religions, a number of structures. The basic unit for Friends is the Monthly Meeting, which is what meets on Sundays (First Days among Quakers), more or less. These Monthly Meetings are under the care of Yearly Meetings (a step up from Quarterly Meetings, but let's not go crazy), which are mainly geographic. Our Yearly Meeting is South Central Yearly Meeting and meets each year, on Easter weekend, at a lovely camp near Bruceville, Texas (half way between Temple and Waco). I had never managed to quite make it there before, but this year...we went!

We drove out on Friday morning and got there at around 3:30pm. An amazing 10 folks connected to our super-tiny Monthly Meeting went this year. Also, the old college friend of mine who was sort of responsible for getting my husband and I together, and whose mother is a Quaker, attended with her family. It was simply wonderful to see them and to finally meet her little boys. The Lone Star Girl thanked her for making her own existence possible - ha! We also met lots of new and wonderful friends.

The theme of this year's Yearly Meeting was Creating The World In Which We Want to Live. I went to some wonderful worship-sharing sessions on this theme as well as to regular Meeting for Worship and some Meeting for Business sessions, including the one in which a Friend from our Meeting read the Memorial Minute for our lost Friend. It was a very important time for me. I am in the midst of a lot of soul-searching about my path in life, career and parenting and the usual concerns for me...I may be continuing on the theme of big changes in my own life so I really needed this time to listen closely for the Inner Light and think about how to be the Light I want to see in the world.

It SNOWED on the eve of Easter!!! Real sticking-on-the-ground snow! On Easter! In Texas! It was gorgeous and amazing and...odd. Almost a miracle! The kids loved it and it was truly awe-inspiring.

The Lone Star Baby had a blast with our Meeting's new two-year-old in the daily programming for Little Friends. The Lone Star Girl, who had been surly about going, got to hang with the Junior Young Friends (middle school age) instead of the Upper Elementary Friends and she had the time of her life. It may well have been the first time she can remember that she was with girls her own age with remotely similar values - lots of vegetarians and radical leftists in the group all. She pretty much disappeared with her tribe for the weekend and I was ever so mature about leaving her alone and letting her revel in it. Although Meeting was deeply important to me personally, the Lone Star Girl's experience may have been the best thing we got out of it. She had been going through quite an annoyingly agnostic stage, and she came back, while not necessarily ready to embrace God-talk, All-About-Quakers. The rest will come. Quite a relief and, I think, the start of something very, very good for her. Lone Star Pa spent most of the trip helping out and being wonderful, but I think he had fun as well. He had quite a following of Connect-Four-playing elementary-aged boys trailing him. They even cleaned the snow off of our car.

We put the now-finished quilt on display and Friends made donations and signed their names to the border. We raised over $300 for the American Friends Service Committee...the girls were happy. The quilt is a thing of great beauty. It will go to the Ministry and Care Committee to be passed around to Friends in our Yearly Meeting who need some nurturing, and will be brought back to Yearly Meeting every year to raise more money for AFSC.

Both girls got to be in adorable plays on Talent Night on Saturday. The Little Friends class did The Funny Little Bunny With The Powder-Puff Tail, complete with toddler-constructed bunny ears and fluffy tails. The Junior Young Friends did a skit called If Pigs Could Fly in which the Lone Star Girl got to play W., before and after Flying Quaker Pigs turned him into a Quaker hippy. Great fun. We had singing and spontaneous jamming every night and folk dancing from all around the world as well. On Easter, there was even an Easter Egg Hunt for the Little Friends.

After lunch on Easter, it was time to go home, so we said our good-byes and drove away. It is hard to go back into the world. I will work hard to carry the Meeting within me.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Yesterday I turned in my portfolio and gave my final presentation for my certification program. I'd like to breathe a deep sigh of relief, now, but I do not think I will really find anything out until the end of May. At least Saturday classes are over, though.