Dec. 15th, 2009

baroquestar: (Default)
So, Maeve picked up a copy of the daily rag on the tram today, and was flicking through it. We were seated directly across from a suited chap, and behind an elderly Italian woman talking nineteen to the dozen at the tram driver. I mention the chatting, because there was no way I would have thought she would overhear or be able to listen to any other conversation.

M. turned to a page with an advertisement showing a statue of a seated Buddha. She pointed and asked, "what is that, Mama?"
"It's a Buddha statue."
"What's a Buddha?"
"Who, really. Buddha was a person. He lived a long time ago, and people revered him as being very wise. Sort of like a god, but not really."
"...what's a god?"
"Oh, wow. OK. Um, you know ghosts? Hang on, start again. Gods are beings. Not people, sort of more than people. They are meant to be very very powerful and can do almost anything, and know almost everything. Some people believe they CAN do anything, and know everything!"
"Well, some people believe in gods. Some people believe in many gods, some people believe there is just one God. Some people don't believe in any gods at all!"
At this point, M got distracted by some other shiny thing or concept, and we had to ding the bell to get off the tram.

As we disembarked, the black-clad Nonna leant forward and poked me in the hip. "You are a GOOD MAMA. You do good job. They ask hard questions sometimes, eh?" I couldn't do anything but beam at her and say "thanks" as I was wrangling a 4yo, two bags and a pile of kinder artwork off the tram. She waved to Maeve. "Bye bye, Bella."
Maeve twisted in my arms, and yelled, "I'm MAEVE! Not Bella! My name's Maeve! Bye!"

M turned to me, amused. "She called me Bella, Mama!"
"Hee! Bella is not a name, sweetie, it's a word. It means beautiful girl in Italian."
"Oh. I AM beautiful!"

Yep, that you are. And so was that woman. She made me feel awesome.

Parenting in public is really hard. Kids are a marginalised group with very little individual power and only developing autonomy, and it is fashionable and acceptable to hate them and wish them out of public spaces. People, who would otherwise describe themselves as accepting and tolerant, feel quite free to make horrific generalisations about all children and their behaviour and state the most appalling resentment towards them for existing, using the kind of language and terms they would NEVER consider acceptable about, say, POC or homosexual people.

And the same resentment is often directed at parents, most usually the mother. There's a definite raison d'etre for I Blame The Mother - motherblaming is practically a sport in our society, and certainly a rich source of revenue for companies who maintain a vested interest in making mothers feel inadequate. I specify mothers, because we are still perceived as the "default parent". Fathers taking care of their children are referred to as "babysitting". A friend of mine, out with his son, is asked, "so, you're giving Mum a break?", totally negating his role as co-parent to his child. Fathers are practically awarded medals for performing any onerous or odorous baby-related task, whereas a woman expressing distaste for the repeated performance of same will be met with "well, that was your choice when you decided to have a baby!"

All this is part of one's daily lived experience when being a Parent in Public. The raised eyebrows, child-hating language, relegation to Default Parent or Understudy depending on one's external gender appearance. I've experienced all of it, and I have what people refer to as a "good" child; one who rarely arcs up in public, does what is asked of her most of the time, and is friendly and outgoing. No matter what we do as parents, we will inevitably be the target of resentment and criticism by people who don't agree with our parenting decisions, or who merely resent our very existence.

So, for once, it was a delight to be told I was doing a good job when I was answering the hard questions as best I could.


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