In Which She Gets Her Opinions On
I'm sitting at this uber-spare, self-consciously hip, wooden-and-metal cafe listening to the 20-something dudes across from me talking about how they should eat more greens and fewer tacos and why you should run outside instead of going to the gym.
They're totally charming and I never would've expected to hear these plaid-shirt-wearing, man-bunned kids talking about why fruit has a lot of sugar in it and where on your foot you should land when you run.
It makes me happy.
(Sometimes the world pleasantly surprises us.)
Two afternoons a week, for two hours at a time, I escape to this little cafe and pretend that all I have to do in the world is drink coffee and read and write. It reminds me of 2004, on then-seedy Polk St., with cloches and ecofeminist theology books.
It's kind of nostalgic. Medicinal, really.
Always at this moment, just after walking in and opening my laptop, I get a little anxious. Jittery. Not because the coffee has set in yet. And not because I'm particularly afraid of anything.
But because I'm so damn excited. Because there are so many potential new articles to write. And because being anonymous in a cafe is one of my favorite experiences of being a grown-up. It hasn't happened much in the last year, mostly because I've had a little boy attached to my boobs for much of the day. But this fairy godmother nanny named Charise (for real, that's her name) came into our lives in early February, and it's because of her that I can get away like this while my husband is at work and I can trust that my kid is playing his happy little guts out under the sun at the bright playground up the street, chasing woodchips and bugs and generally loving life.
other introverted parents admit the same thing, but wow, does solitude feel sacred when your days have gone from largely quiet and solitary to perpetually social. (First World problems! Poor me, with my healthy child and my indoor plumbing and organic vegetables and basic human rights.) I know this phase will pass; little man will start preschool in the fall, and that means three big chunks of writing time a week. So for now it's about appreciating what is right here, the fact that I can actually be with him most days instead of hustling my ass to a job I dread, and trusting that life will just keep on changing.
I keep reading more and more about shitty American parental leave policies and feeling grateful for my own situation. My husband and I have been so lucky to not have to hire permanent full-time childcare; between his regular corporate hours and my weekend/evening teaching hours, we can manage to mutually cover childcare and both remain committed to our careers. I know that's rare. And I'm realizing, more and more, that most people (women?) either would rather quit their jobs and stay home, or are staying at home and would rather be working. (The grass is always greener, we always want what we don't have, yada yada.) It's hard to find a happy medium.
I've had lots of Strong Opinions of late. About yoga and parenting and politics and, you know. The usual.
So can we talk about this bullshit article that was in the NYT a few days ago? Featured as a legitimate parenting option, this "sleep training your 8-week-old" crock of shit that's got all of us people with brains and hearts up in arms? It's appalling, neglectful, inhumane; straight-up child abuse. Long story short, this famous (and very popular) NYC pediatrician advocates locking your 2-month-old infant in his room at 7pm and not coming in again til 7am, no matter whether he screams the whole time, rolls around in his own vomit and/or feces, or worse. I read it and turned bright red. My heart beat fast. Smoke came out of my ears. The only thing that comforted me at all was coming back to stalk the comments and reading the outraged, compassionate, reasonable words of folks who were appalled, like me, to find such abominable content in the NYT.
Now, I have friends who've sleep-trained their babies. I know, I know; you were exhausted and dying from sleep deprivation and had to be able to function. Totally get that. Been there myself. I don't mean to judge you. I know you love your kids. I know you just wanna be good parents, like we all do. I hesitated to even write about this because I didn't want to offend you.
And I write as the parent of a toddler who's never slept more than 7 hours at a time (and that was a rare freak accident that happened back when he was about 3 months old and has never happened again). He still wakes multiple times a night and needs to be nursed or comforted back to sleep. And honestly, it's totally fine. I get it. I know he'll eventually sleep like a rock. (I hear all these stories from parents who have kids who magically slept 10-12 hours a night on their own, and simply cannot comprehend how different that kind of experience would have made my life. I've heard, too, that formula-fed babies sleep longer, because the formula is harder for them to digest than breast milk. I'm willing to get less sleep in order to accrue the benefits of continued breastfeeding.) The bottom line is: my husband and I haven't really slept in a year, and my radiant, brilliant kid is and always has been a restless light sleeper, so we co-sleep, because it's the only way we all rest, and it's actually pretty cozy and sweet and wonderful, even though we pretty much can't go out after dark because he needs someone near him cuddling or he'll wake up, but I still, still, love him so very much, and trust that soon, one day, he'll sleep, and would not, nor could not, ever EVER do the shit they propose in this article. Because it's fucking inhumane.
The thing is: babies aren't convenient. They don't fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they're not supposed to be convenient. They're babies. They're growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at "sleep training" (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you're training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.
Until then? I was so happy to find this excellent rebuttal. Please read it. The author makes such a great case for the insanity of this whole 8-week sleep training idea, comparing it to what would happen if we advocated a similar protocol for the "care" of the elderly:
To follow through with Cohen’s “advice” doesn’t require “guts.” Sleep training an 8-week-old doesn't require "guts." The instinct to respond to a baby's cries is empathetic, wise, and vitally important to the healthy development of future generations.
What requires "guts" is seeking out a new pediatrician when one's current doctor advocates medically sanctioned abuse and neglect. It takes "guts" to change our federal maternity leave system and finally catch up with the ethical and family-friendly legislation that characterizes the modern world. It takes "guts" to be present and respond to a baby who isn't physiologically wired to "sleep through the night." It's healthy for babies (and toddlers) to wake and breastfeed and connect. It's normal.
It takes courage to respond to our most vulnerable with compassion, connection, and evidenced-based clarity in America today. We stand together in opposing the neglectful abuse of our elderly. Authorities would shut down any nursing home that practiced the neglect described [here]. It’s time we stand firm in opposing the purposeful nighttime neglect of our children.
Read the comments in the NYT piece. Be comforted by the fact that so many smart, mindful people are aware that it's actually not biologically normal for babies to sleep through the night. That wakefulness is evolutionarily standard for babies and toddlers. That even most adults don't sleep through the night without waking to pee or have a drink of water or adjust their pillow. That breastfeeding is supported by co-sleeping and night feeds. Blah blah blah; I could go on. I won't. Just please. Don't leave your kid to cry his eyes out. There's a reason it breaks your heart. It goes against every parenting instinct we have. The end.
(And on that note: if you're interested in intelligent, biologically-inspired parenting, check out Evolutionary Parenting. It's a godsend.)
Next, let's talk about this piece from On Being: "Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists." I appreciated it. Now, I'm not so much an Iyengar lady (ok, it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out), and I'm not an atheist, but I get what the writer's saying. Really, I do.
The author writes:
I don’t want to be part of a yoga world of happy talk about unending potential and perfect happiness. I don’t have much time for the kind of self-impressed platitudes that give yoga a bad name. Like so many of the secular, health-oriented, somewhat prideful members of my clan, I do yoga to quiet my brain, not to fill it with nonsense.
And yet nonsense abounds. Several years ago, I dropped in on a class at another studio. As class began, the teacher offered her thoughts about the goodness of the world and its benevolence toward us. “If you just reach out with your intention,” she said sagely, “the universe will rise to meet you half-way.” I almost walked out. The earthquake in Japan had happened the day before.
Nonsense. Oh yes. I am familiar with this such nonsense. It abounds. My Facebook feed is full of this shit.
Anyway, she goes on. Cites a few great teachers. And then says
The point is that the practice of attentiveness — the fundamental practice that yoga cultivates — should lead us to contemplate the full reality of our life, which includes its inevitable end. As the yogi Richard Freeman puts it:
“Yoga is a rehearsal for death.”That is the universe rising up to meet you.
For me, this discussion was a rare moment when I had some inclination of what “yoga spirituality” might mean, particularly for someone who doesn’t actually believe in spirituality. In this version, there is no promise of health or happiness. There is only our embrace of reality, in both its quiet joys and its suffering. We recognize ourselves as part of the universe, and we accept that universe’s fundamental indifference to us. Then we see what flows from that.
I suspect that this embrace of death, and life, doesn’t arise from an act of will or from reading the right books. Maybe, though, it comes from the act of the placing one’s feet in exactly the right alignment, and paying attention.
Yes on suffering. Yes on practice for death. Yes on embracing reality, both in light and shadow. Read the whole thing. Really worth it.
Now, finally, if we wanna get really capital-S Strongly Opinionated: let's be real about eating meat, 'cause that shit's making the California drought 10x worse.
I try to be patient about this stuff and not be that annoying militant vegan. I try to respect people's choices and keep my mouth shut. But this drought is no joke. And it's time to drop the charming/exhausted "I love bacon-wrapped-everything" act and take some responsibility. The personal is political, yo.
Meat (well, both the meat itself and the resources necessary for producing it) is killing our water supply. It's unsustainable and environmentally damaging. It's implicated in the epidemic of sexual violence in this country. It's responsible for the devastation of the rainforests. It's not good for your heart or your cholesterol. It's steeped in drugs and suffering. There are a million and one reasons to stop eating it, even beyond the drought. So why not consider cutting it out? What's the worst that can happen — you lose weight, you improve your cholesterol, you live more lightly on the planet, you save a few bucks and whole lotta water?
Ok, whew. If you've lasted this long: great. Thanks for putting up with me.
I just don't have a lot of patience for woo-woo these days. There's a fine line between making an effort to respect everyone's opinions and moving through your life like a boring vanilla milkshake, too afraid of ruffling feathers to ever take a stand. I see a lot of the latter in the yoga world, and it feels disappointingly neutered and toothless. I'd rather opt for the non-milkshake route, myself, even at the risk of alienating.
I wrote this little FB post quickly yesterday while my kid slept in my lap. This is where my heart and mind are of late. This is the yoga that's calling to me right now:
Some of the most advanced yogis I've met in my life have never taken a yoga class. They don't speak self-empowerment mantras and they don't have websites proclaiming them healers and masters.
They're the old church ladies who bring tuna casseroles when someone dies. They're the quiet farmers who shovel the neighbor's driveway at 4am after a blizzard. They're the kind elderly women who knit teeny hats for premature babies in the NICU. They're the ones who show up, humbly offering, asking nothing in return. No glory necessary.
That's yoga. That's what I wanna be someday.
The tuna casserole ladies have been heavy on my heart. Their book will get written once preschool begins.
In the meantime, happy Tuesday, y'all. It's great to see you here.
Go cuddle your kid and eat some broccoli.
Sleep Training At 8 Weeks: "Do You Have The Guts?" (NYT)
It Doesn't Take "Guts" To "Sleep Train" An 8-Week-Old (Phillyvoice.com)
Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists (On Being)
Meat Makes The Planet Thirsty (NYT)