My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Raise Me Up and Roll Me Over

Red hit a milestone this week: she can now turn over front to back. She’s three months old this week and very pleased with herself. She is now spending most of her waking moments working on back to front. She’s almost there and it frustrates her that gravity is working against her. It’s funny watching babies grow, to see such determination in their faces. It’s like they’ve got their little to-do lists and by damn, they’re gonna do it! Thursday: roll over if it kills me. Friday: perfect cooing. Saturday: giggle and squeal really loud. Those last two she’s got down. She makes a funny “aouw” sound, like a cat, that is quite charming.

Having Red in my life reminds me of how things were when Dusty was 3 months old and how, as Dusty’s grown, my Theories on Child Rearing have been constantly redefined. I didn’t think too much about things like the effect of television and popular culture on small children, except in theory, until Dusty was 6 months old and I realized she was actually watching the evening news with us. From her blanket on the floor, her head would move up to the screen and I suddenly noticed that the images the local news felt we needed to see (here in the Murder Capital of the South) were not images I wanted my child to see. Even – perhaps especially – at that age. Have I mentioned the bad sitter that let her 2-year-old charges sit in front of WTC footage on 9/11? Dusty was 9 months old. I was horrified. On many different levels.

We no longer watch the news. I don’t feel I’m missing anything since I can wait for the morning paper to tell me what I need to know.

But, I digress. The reason I was thinking about all this (and those long drives on country roads cause me to do a lot of thinking) is that yesterday was my stay-at-home-and-work-until-my-husband-returns-from-taking-Dusty-to-preschool day. He said one of the teachers put on “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors because one of the girls wanted to hear some music and he was not awake enough to deal with anything perkier. And some of that music aimed at children is gawdawfully perky. My husband jokingly asked if he was going to tell the kids stories about his visits to Jim’s tomb in Paris and the teacher (who used to be in numerous punk bands in the ‘80’s) laughed and said, “Yeah, he’s actually living in Vegas with Hitler.” Ha. You won’t find that conversation in a CorporateKidCare center. It’s that kind of thing I want my children to appreciate. Sure, Dusty can watch a CareBear video if she wants but she’s gonna dance to Robin Hitchcock and know the Beatles by name, too.

My Theories also involve an exercise in constantly redrawing the line, as in “where do I draw the line,” about things like the pervasiveness of Disney propaganda. Dusty has suddenly discovered Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Why? Because I needed to buy larger sized pull-ups (she’s still not dry at night) and the only brand that carries a 4T size has goddamn glow-in-the-dark princesses on them. I’m happy to report that she’s more excited by the glow-in-the-dark properties than the princesses but still. Unless I turn tail and raise my kids in a cave on Mars, they will eventually come in contact with the Commercial World. One friend I know has tackled this issue by discussing ads on tv with his daughter: “What is this about? What is it for?” “To make you want to buy that pizza, sub, detergent, etc.”

And it’s not like I want Red and Dusty living some Amish-like existence, completely unaware of their times and Dusty has learned all about most of these characters – including the insipid Power Rangers – from other kids in preschool. So, we’re already slipping down the slope. But, I guess I’m hoping to instill some underlying critical thinking and judgment skills. What’s better the Mona Lisa (which Dusty pointed out to me as a recognizable face the other day) or Disney’s bastardization of Pooh? How do you cultivate an appreciation of kitsch? “Here are Mommy’s Poker Playing Dog pictures! Let’s hang ‘em next to Grandma’s actual artwork depicting an Etruscan tomb!”

Generally, our line is drawn at battery operated gizmos (no computerized sounds or flashing lights for us, thank you) and characters that simply exist to sell a product or a line of products, whenever possible. I’d rather have Madelines and Olivias up the wazoo because they are characters from books than Teletubbies (not that I necessarily have anything against the harmless creatures). That said, Dusty does have Scooby Doo sheets. So sue me. Again, it’s that balance, it’s that constant work of instilling an appreciation for the eclectic mishmash that is our world. And discovering that painting your hands blue is more fun than a Sagwa rerun. That an Alice Provensen book at bedtime is better than playing the “kitty game” on the computer. That when George Harrison sings about, “This song, there’s nothing bright about it,” that “bright” is actually a musical term.

And Dusty’s a pretty swell kid so we must be doing something right. She’s almost four but she loves to discover a moth in her bathroom and then run to find the insect book so she can learn its name and find out what it eats. Her current favorite book is a visual dictionary that’s aimed at adults. She can now speak at length about bones and muscles and blood and all the parts inside her body. And she does as we watch Red struggle to arch her back (“That’s her spine, right?”), fling her left leg up in the air (“She has tiny bones inside her foot.”), and try, once again, to flip her bad ass over onto her belly. I think she’ll have it licked by the weekend.


3:23 p.m. ::
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