Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Road Rage and Raising Rugrats: How to doom your children

A few months before I became pregnant with my first child I experienced a true horror. There's a nice, quiet, country road leading out of the seaside town that I live in. It's not uncommon to be tailgated from one end of this seven mile road to the other. Even when one is driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit. My husband and I usually just pull over and let the annoyed driver, who has often been one car length off our rear bumper for a mile or so, go by and therefore lowering our blood pressure back down to a normal rate.

Over the last two years I've begun to notice that more than half of the tailgaters are actually women, and most of them on their cell phones. My husband told me once that he actually has a female friend who claims to be uncomfortable unless she's right on someone's bumper. I have no idea why this is, but I can see it must be true by the number of clueless people who seem to kiss my bumper on a daily basis.

My horror occurred last winter, and it recently popped to the front of my brain when I was tailgated by yet another minivan with kids in the back and a mom on her cell phone. I was quietly driving 50 miles an hour in a 45 past a farm with horses huddled against a barn for warmth when I noticed an SUV literally one car length off my rear bumper. I cocked the rear view mirror to get a better look and it was a woman, on her cell phone, looking very annoyed that I wasn't going faster. Because it was winter there wasn't a cleared spot to pull over as the snow banks were right up to the edge of the road. Unless she pulled into a side street I was stuck with this woman for at least another four miles.

I could have sped up, but this stretch of road is often patrolled by bored country policemen with nothing else to do but hide behind a barn to nab you so I stuck to 50 in a 45. Still speeding. Well, I swear this women actually inched CLOSER to my bumper and I could clearly see her waving her arms around getting more annoyed with me and yelling something thankfully I could not hear. I stuck to 50 and slowed to 40 when the speed limit dropped to 35. Until I got to the red light at the end of the road. This is where I became completely horrified.

I was turing right. The SUV was going straight and pulled up next to me. I took a deep breath and turned to look the driver in the eye. She flipped me off. FLIPPED ME OFF. And then I saw it. Two kids in the back. Awake. Looking at me with a look of contempt. Those poor kids. They're gonna grow up just like their mom.

I want to think that they were rushing to the hospital to see an ailing grandparent. Or one of the kids was sick and they were going to the doctor. But I doubt it. The mom was just run-down, annoyed, grumpy, whatever. She probably needed a break from her bratty kids. And why were her kids so bratty?Well, look at her driving. Look at the way she flipped me off in front of them.

When I did become pregnant a few months later and had my first child that fall I made a vow to myself to never, ever, be that obnoxious to another human being in front of my daughter. Because if we want respectful children we must be respectful ourselves. Otherwise we'll have a whole generations of tailgaters flipping everybody off. So parents: BACK OFF. Teach your kids respect. Whether it be not tailgating, letting someone cross the street, not yelling at another driver who's following the law. Good behavior starts early and starts in places where you don't think it matters. Sure, my four-month-old won't be driving for another sixteen years but she sees everything I do. And I'd better make sure that I'm the best example I can be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

musings of a soon-to-be-working mom

I know I have more Holdfast Seeker to work on, but a very demanding four-month-old often prevents me from writing. Although, my husband and I just had an interesting conversation over breakfast that prompted me to write this short musing on the evolutionary roles of moms and dads and what that means in the modern world. Enjoy:

Four months after the birth of my daughter I am truly beginning to understand human evolution. Mind you, I hold a degree in biology with evolution as one of my concentrations. But until I actually had the chance to witness my own part in the human cycle it never occurred to me why men and women often struggle in their modern parenting roles. It started when we were leaving the hospital and came across a couple and their baby who were just wheeled down from delivery to the post-partum ward. The husband asked if there was anything he could do for his wife, she screamed something that sounded like “go find food!”. He quickly left the room muttering “hunt and gather, hunt and gather, hunt and gather.” 'Cause that's all a man can do in that situation right? Provide for his family.

I could get stoned by women's lib groups worldwide for saying this but it's true: women are programmed to stay home with their kids and men are programmed to hunt and gather. I'm currently battling with the issue of returning to work and never ever thought that I would want to leave my dream career of working at a public aquarium (I mean, come on, how cool is it that I get to swim with sharks, pet jellyfish and play worm-catch with common terns and get PAID for it?). But there's this little computer chip in my brain that's telling me “No! You are the mom, you stay home and nurture your child and build a home for your family.” Do I listen to it or ignore it?

Likewise my husband had an unexpected reaction to fatherhood. He had planned on staying home for at least a week but his little dad-computer chip switched on and he felt an urge to go to his office. It wasn't that he wanted to get away from the newborn, he practically cried every morning when he went out the door. But evolution was telling him, just like the new dad at the hospital, to go hunt and gather. Or in the modern sense: go make money. Because providing for a family is literally the only thing a man can do in this situation. He can't lactate, right? Sure, he can change a few diapers and maybe if the baby is bottle feeding do a few overnight feeds to give the mom a break. But until the modern age after the birth of a child hominid males generally went out, hunted down a wildebeest, and dragged it home for the women to prepare. And you know what? I'm kinda fine with that. I hate grocery shopping.

So stone me. Tell me I just put women's liberation back 40 years. But for all you moms out there, you have to admit that you know there's a little chip in the back of your brain, a little link in your DNA, that told you to stay home, curl up around your baby, and kick the dad out of the house to drag home a wildbeest. Now if only a grandmother would come along and cook it up that would be perfect. But an essay on the benefits of raising a child in a village versus the typical American nuclear family will have to wait for another time.