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The other day I was doing my little agricultural thing, going to the u-pick to gather delicious fresh BC strawberries. It was a weekday, so my willing slave and I were the only adults there of working/childbearing age who didn’t have a bunch of little kiddies with us.

A couple of rows over, a child starts wailing and screaming. She’s tired of this picking business. Waah, waah, waah, and making noises that you didn’t know a human could make.

In my row, concentrating on getting at the ripest, most lovely strawberries, I think to myself, “I’m sure glad someone else has to deal with the little screamer.”

Double-dipped chocolate strawberries

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There I was, playing with my nieces, ages 1 1/2 and 3. We were playing “school” which is the 3-year-old’s favourite pretend game. But, since it was dark outside, she stated that she didn’t normally go to school at night.

I suggested, in the spirit of pretending, that we pretend it was dark because of a solar eclipse. She looked puzzled as I waxed on about the moon moving in front of sun and making it dark for a few minutes. Then she ran away to her mom, wailing. I gathered up the 1 1/2 year old and went to see if what I had just said had really scared her.

And of course, it had. In my zeal to explain some strange beautiful rare event in the world, I had planted a picture in her three-year-old mind of the sun crashing into the moon and all the world going dark. Good work, Einstein, I thought, as I held the small crying girl and tried to make it right again. Nothing bad happens, no one gets hurt, I assured her.

What was I thinking, trying to explain the cosmos to a three year old, albeit a totally brilliant three year old. Who I made cry like I haven’t heard her cry since she was a small baby. Oh, there’s no worse feeling in the world than making a kid cry and knowing it’s your fault.

You never can tell what your words will do in the mind of your listener.

Check out the awful children in this commercial for a local skate shop. They could show the exact same thing with a tagline like “Birth Control. Think About It.” with no loss of meaning, eh?

Hope your little ones are the angels you remember yourself being on Christmases past, despite the pounds and pounds of sugar coursing through your tiny body.

Merry Christmas!

I searched high and low for the video of this skit, but those of you who are Kids in the Hall fans can remember it right?

Couple Disowns Son

[Dave and Kevin stand side-by-side in front of a suburban house, with a young boy next to Kevin. We see the scene through a television camera, as a press conference takes place.]

Dave: We’ve called this press conference today to announce publicly what is already a growing rumor in the community – that we are disappointed both in our child and in the experience of parenting. Now, we feel a certain sense of responsibility in that when our baby was born, we were often heard to encourage other couples to have children, describing it as, and I quote, “the most incredible experience in the world.” We would now like to retract that statement, and for all those who have only recently been stirred to conceive, we offer a word of advice – don’t.

Scott: Are you gonna get rid of the child?

Dave: No, no, of course not. We’re just gonna go one with our lives, but openly and honestly. Thank you.

[Dave, Kevin, and the boy turn and go into the house. As they do, the reporters yell questions and take pictures, and Dave and Kevin mutter replies back.]

Scott: Tommy! A little smile there, Tommy?

Dave: [quietly] C’mon, Tommy.

Kevin: No more photos, please.

Scott: Tommy! Can you smile still, Tommy? Do they treat you well?

Dave: [muttering] Treating him very well.

Scott: Just let me just see the kid, just one little picture.

Kevin: You’ve had enough.

[Dave, Kevin, and the boy go into the house, closing the storm door behind them. Scott follows them up the steps and squats, peering through the door into the house.]

Scott: Hey c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, hey Tommy? Whoa, what’s that, that’s just a black and white TV in there! Hey Tommy!


Mehehe.

My pristine ovaries are getting all twisted around today due to a story in The Tyee’s Book section. They posted an excerpt from a new book called Nobody’s Mother: Life without Kids, a beautiful essay by Lorna Crozier about not having children (by choice) and how there are simply no postive words that we’ve come up with in the English language to describe the condition of not having them. (Childless or childfree have never felt quite right, either.)
The comments are quite interesting, as usual, and yours truly could not resist jumping into the fray. Is it getting hot in here? I probably sound a bit defensive but it gets a little tiring to always have to explain to well-meaning fools why I don’t want to have children. Thank god that pack does not include my immediate family, who have never once pressured me to “c’mon and give us some grandkids.”
Via Matt,
this is the only mini-me I’m likely to produce:
Except I think her hair is too red. No child is perfect.

That’s the motto of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose aim is stop the unexamined breeding of more humans. In case anyone missed it, there are now more than 6 billion of us here, and many of y’all, either by choice or by accident, long to produce a mini-me to, I don’t know, immortalize yourselves.
There are a lot of groups popping up to defend the rights of the childless to stay that way and VHEM is probably the most radical one I’ve come across. Their site is a series of wonderfully honest questions and coherent answers, served up with plenty of links and movies and cartoons to make you think about the choice to bring another life into the world. VHEM argues that, given the carrying capacity of the planet and the capacity of humans to consume resources, such a choice is unconscionable.
My own stance is that I don’t want children because for the most part, I just don’t like them. And I know other people who feel the same way, and are sick of being questioned by relative strangers about not having kids. Well, VHEM just gave me some ammunition to use in the fight. I think I’ll buy a t-shirt.
Surrounded by so many pregnant women and mothers of new babies, I dare not speak of this website out loud. Perhaps I should make my own t-shirts – ones that say “I don’t have kids but I have time to knit for yours”. If children are likeable, it does make it easier for me to like them.
Thanks for the link, Rochelle! Childfree people unite!

“And the sign says ‘Long Haired Freaky People need not apply.'”***

This is a poem for my little man, Kase…

When I look at you and your little face,
I hope you don’t grow up to be a venture capitalist
or an outsourcing specialist,
or a middle manager or consultant of any kind.
I hope you grow up to be kind and smart and thoughtful,
the kind of person who holds open doors for other people,
and doesn’t drive more car than you need
or wear cheap clothes just because they have expensive labels.


In other words, kid,
don’t be an asshole
don’t be one of those guys
whose mother you just want to punch
because she raised a man who spits on the street
and shuffles.

I hope that you will be brave and strong
travel around the world (everyone should backpack somewhere at least once),
climb mountains,
and let your own two feet and hands take you amazing places with big trees and endless views.
Please, don’t grow up to be a person who envisions beautiful places as future locations for mini malls and condos.

Although I wish you will have an amazing career
bettering human kind in general by building stuff, creating things, teaching or helping people,
I also hope you’ll spend time with the (mad) general public
in some shitty customer service industry job
so that you don’t become a shitty customer yourself.
Economic rank does NOT equal rank as a human being.

There’s an Old Irish curse: “May you live in interesting times.”
Try to remember that, all evidence to the contrary, now is about as good or bad as it’s ever been.
I hope that you will live peacefully and be independent of mind.
In other words, think for yourself.

I hope you will be better than us.
I hope you will always be fascinated with the world all around you.
I hope you won’t grow up.

***Update: Well, colour me wrong. I’ve been advised by two knowledgable sources in music history that it is not Neil Young who wrote and performed “Signs”. It is actually a band known as Five Man Electrical Band who does the song. They were also a Canadian band, played extensively in the early 70s, and can now be heard ad nauseum on the classic rock station. Hence the confusion. Thanks for correcting me on this one, guys.

“There are Strange Things done in the Midnight Sun

By the men who moil for gold,

The arctic trails have their secret tales

that would make your blood run cold…

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge,

I cremated Sam McGee.”

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

As I was reading this to my 5-month old nephew the other week, it occurred to me that this poem makes a very strange bedtime story. Sam McGee dies in the first few verses and makes his buddy Cap promise to cremate his remains, so as not to be buried in the frozen ground of the Arctic. Cap hauls the corpse over the trail trying to figure out a way to dispose of the body. He chances upon an abandoned marge stuck in the ice at Lake Lebarge, lights a fire in the ship’s old boiler, tosses in the body of Sam McGee, and leaves so that he doesn’t “hear him sizzle so.” There is a surprise ending straight out of magic realism.

Still, the poem has this intoxicating rhythm that makes it vivid and funny. I used to be able to recite the whole thing by heart and performed it a couple times as a dramatic monologue (in my former life as a teenage theatre geek.) It isn’t hip or modern – some people don’t like sing-song rhyme – and it deals with death and fighting the elements and trying to keep a promise because “the trail had its own stern code.” Those grizzled prospectors wanted Gold! but they also had their honour.

The edition I have is published as a children’s picture book with gorgeous illustrations by Yukon artist Ted Harrison. When the wee babies get older, I’ll keep telling them Sam McGee, and throw in “Jabberwocky” and some of those violent old Norse folktales to boot. Gibberish doesn’t get much better than “The vorpal blade went snicker-snack.”

A lot of children’s literature, folk tales, fairy tales and fables are actually quite violent, no news there. Is it a recent tendency among adults to try and sanitize all that so that the kiddies don’t hear so much about the Troll under the Bridge eating the Billy Goats Gruff – couldn’t they just go and have nice picnic instead? I don’t know much about children – probably because I don’t have any – but I wonder if “protecting” kids from bad things in children’s books desensitizes them to all the sick shit they will face later on?

I haven’t been updating as often as I would like to this week. Yesterday afternoon, another little person came into my life in the form of Kase William Owen. Luckily, this little nephew of mine is also a very good looking kid, because there is nothing worse than an ugly baby everyone has to pretend is cute. And while I’m on the topic of Seinfeld, the line he used in one of his standup routines plays in the back of my mind: “They’re here… to replace us.”

Last night after we came back from the hospital, I finished A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle. I have been hearing great things about Oh Play That Thing, so I had to read this one first. I was trying to find a review link for the latter book, but the stupid Globe and Mail Books website makes you pay to access their archives! Boo! And its not like Amazon needs me to direct anyone to their site.

Anyway, A Star Called Henry is just one of those incredible stories, told by a storyteller whom the reader can trust to take them somewhere. And the language! Reading his work, especially an epic tale like this one, you see how much language and images can be played with – without feeling “overwritten”. There is a real sense of sweep here, as Henry grows up in the slums of Dublin, becomes an IRA revolutionary in his teens, and… I won’t give away the ending.

Its cool how a writer can create such a strong fictional character and surround them with true historical figures. I have to respect the amount of reading and research and travel that goes into a novel like that. Then again, it also makes me ball up my fists and despair of ever having that kind of creative power and craftsmanlike discipline.

At the very least, I am grateful for a room with a door that closes to write in, a place to be surrounded by books and implements of possibility.

Those of you who don’t know me may tune out for a moment, but I am happy to report that I am now officially an auntie. My niece, Lauren Kathleen, was born yesterday morning, Friday, September 17, just before 10 am. In a terrific breach of temp etiquette, I had my cellphone on and ready to hear the news. Unfortunately, I was not able to rush right out and get to the hospital, but had to wait wait wait at my post, with next to nothing to do.

But when I got there, she was just over 6 hours old, and beautiful. The nurse had her swaddled up in the little green blanket, but she wanted to stretch and make faces. Of course, everyone wanted to hold her. I marveled at her tiny fingernails, her funny faces, scared to death of dropping her at the same time. And you know today, I’ve got to go visit them again.

My sister is doing fine too, and we are so happy that there were no difficulties and that this new little person is healthy.

I want to make a time capsule of the day she was born with newspapers and such. Any other suggestions?

Flickr Photos