Saturday, June 27, 2009

It takes a worried mind...

This morning at breakfast, couldn't decide what to get. Should I choose a scramble of eggs n' stuff, or go for more of an eggs over easy kind of deal. In the end, I opted for the runny eggs option. It was a decision based purely on my memories of pregnancy.

I went almost 9 months without eating a runny egg.

Why you ask? Well the many of current rules of pregnancy are structured to prevent mommys-to-be from contracting listeriosis, a kind of terrible food poisoning. And these rules say no soft cheeses, no lunchmeat (unless it's heated up), no smoked fish, no raw fish, no rare meats and NO RUNNY EGGS.

All the fun of food was suddenly forbidden.

Now, the intellectual side of me knows that the rules of pregnancy are ever changing. If you should find yourself knocked up in Japan, sushi is encouraged. If you're embarazada in Spain, you should drink a glass of wine every night, but avoid raw vegetables...and if you were pregnant when my grandmother was you'd probably be told to cut down, but not cut out, the whiskey and cigarettes.

But the emotional part of me, the part that had never been solely responsible for another human being's life, the part that was terrified of making the wrong decision and causing the unthinkable...well that part of me clung to any and all guidelines I could find.

And the rules said no runny eggs, so I ate no runny eggs.

When I was 5 months pregnant, the band was in Switzerland as part of a European tour. At breakfast in the Swiss Resort we were staying at I ordered an egg. It came to me in delightfully pristine egg cup (everything the Swiss do seems pristine to me). I tapped my knife across it's top to reveal...duhn duhn duhn..a soft boiled egg.

I quickly flagged down the waitress and explained to her in a more than slightly panicked voice that, you see, I was pregnant, and therefore this egg with the soft center would not do.

She gave me a look..was it puzzeled? Was it pitying?...and assured me that I was wrong...that in fact that egg was totally nutritious and good for me and my growing baby.

I knew she was right.

I still asked for a replacement egg of the hard boiled variety.

"Why, oh why," you must be asking yourself by now, " Why is this woman rambling endlessly about eggs? Isn't this a road blog?"

Well, here's why.

Here's why.

Because I've been thinking alot about parental fear. The egg was my first glimpse into what I assume will be a lifetime of anxiety over the protection of my progeny. I'll admit, I'm a worrier by nature. And this whole baby thing...let's just say that most of the stuff I have previously fretted over seems silly compared to the preciousness that is Lisel.

My first inclination when it comes to dealing with this fear is to shut it all down. Stop all potentially dangerous activity. Control the situation through avoidance.

In short, don't eat the runny egg.

And from what I can see, that seems to be the common practice among parents these days. There's this pervasive sense that our children are in constant peril of being snatched while our backs are turned, so the cultural trend right now is to never let children out of our sight. The world has become a collection of contaminated surfaces where diseases that could potentially infect our children live, so we combat the germies with a million anti-bacterial products. Our food supply is admittedly kind of wonky, so we strive to only feed our children all-organic, non-wonky vittles. Cars are unsafe, airbags unsafer, so we put our kids in the back seat and make them sit in some incarnation of carseats until their old enough to drive.

And on and on in an never ending struggle to control and protect.

And dude, I understand. Truly I do. The idea of anything bad ever happening to Lisel plops me on the express train to Panicattacklandia. But as parents, don't we have an imperative not only to protect our kids, but to let the world and all it's possible dangers in a little bit at a time, so that when our kids leave our sides they'll be able to negociate it independently and responsibly?

It's easy to theorize about giving Lisel a comparatively wide berth when she's older now, while she's still an infant, while I'm really the one in control. But I really would like to give her a childhood that is more open than closed. One that involves parent-free playtime and neighborhood roaming. Solitary bike rides and creative kid style cooking experiments.

I've been reading a blog called Free Range Kids lately, and I'm definitely a convert.

And I definitely belive that being on the road is already helping me to be a more open parent. Every day I have to make my peace with my lack of control over the situation. Someone else is usually driving, the hotel rooms are rarely of our choosing, we're constantly around strangers and their possible communicable diseases...I can only shield her from so much.

And that's just the way it is, right? Even if we put our babies in bubbles, totally shielding them from the outside world...bubbles pop. The universe intrudes. Always.

Being a parent is a nerve wracking endeavor. And I never knew until I got pregnant what a risk I was taking. By agreeing to bring a child into the world, Dave and I signed on for potential soul devestation should anything go wrong. By protecting Lisel, we're also protecting ourselves. I get it. But I also get that it's our job to teach our daughter how to live in the dangerous, beautiful, complicated world. And that means letting go responsibly, a little at a time.

At least I think it does.

-- Post From My iPhone


Stewart said...

Well said EMQ. There will be thunderstorms tonight downtown in the Q.

Brian said...

A few years ago, I was passing through my hometown, and stopped to see the area I grew up in. All the swings had been removed from the playground equipment in the apartment complex, and the woods had lost all of their trails. Even the swimming hole had been clearly unused for ages. It was 4 in the afternoon, and there wasn't a single child out and about.

That is what we have come to.

--Brian (friend of George, fan of the Wheel)

EMQ said...

Wow Brian, that sounds so crazy, and yet so typical of what's been happening lately. I realy hope this is a short phase in parenting.

Andee and Donnie Knutson said...

What a well timed post for me. The past couple of days I have been almost paralyzed with fear from thinking of all the terrible things that could befall Arlo, and how I can assure her safe and healthy human experience. Thank you for reminding me in the most eloquent way that the best thing I can do for Arlo is to teach her to live confidently, intelligently, and without fear.

EMQ said...

Andee, I think walking through the fear is going to be one of the hardest things we do as parents...I'm glad I helped this time, and when I'm freaking out (which is inevitable) I know you'll be able to help me through!