Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alternative Mama, or: Did She Really Just Say That?!

When my good friend Mer asked me to blog about being an alternative mama, my first thought was "well, I can't blog what I don't know; and in what universe am I alternative?" You see, friends, I consider the great city of Asheville to be home; and I am not, by any stretch of the imagination "alternative" by that community's standards. In fact, nothing short of NAMBLA is considered alternative by that city's standards, but that's beside the point.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I could see where she was coming from. Earth Mama aspirations aside, I'm not what most people would call alternative (ok, Kim, get a thesaurus for the love of pete!). However, the definition of that very word could mean a multitude of things. So, like any good geek, I took out my dictionary (read: typed "define: alternative" into my google toolbar) and found this: "pertaining to unconventional choices." Now doesn't that just warm the cockles of your heart? It does mine!

By this definition, I am indeed alternative because I just happen to live in a very white bread, Pleasantville-type city at the moment and I am anything but conventional by those standards. I'm fairly certain my friend based her request for this blog on the fact that I have tattoos, but I won't really be addressing that aspect of the alternative community because there are just so many more fun things to talk about! Suffice it to say that I have tattoos (four of 'em) and I'm a mom. Get over it, people. (See my comments about body modification in this entry.)

Here is a list of things people have given me sideways looks about:
  • wearing hats other than baseball caps
  • wearing my baby in a Moby Wrap baby carrier
  • wearing Chacos
  • bringing a reusable mug to the chain coffee shop
  • dressing my daughter in "boy" clothes (I'll have to write another entry about the gender binary and it's particular brand of uselessness at a later date)
  • wiping my daughter's nose on my shirt
  • stating a preference for cloth diapers/homemade baby food/secondhand nursery furniture
All of this I could probably get over, though. And I genuinely understand that I make some choices as a parent that other people don't agree with. But I had a realization, and I'd like to share it with the public: folks, pick your battles. I'm totally okay with a complete stranger telling me what to do with my child if I'm neglecting, abusing or putting her in danger. I'm even okay with complete strangers disciplining her if it keeps her safe, i.e. "Don't climb on that shelf, sweetheart, it's not safe. Let me reach that juice for you."

But this woman called me out last weekend on the choice of words I used to describe putting my daughter to bed. Really? Was that necessary? The munchkin and I were out with a friend, but it was getting close to her normal bedtime and my friend asked if she would be ok. I noted that my sweet girl was doing just fine, and that she'd probably sleep the whole way home in the car and once there I could "just put her jammies on and throw her into bed and she'll probably never wake up." And this complete stranger turned to me and said "Place. You mean 'place' her into bed."

Let's just clear one thing up here: I DO NOT THROW MY BABY. And if you seriously think I would, you don't know me at all. I turned to her and replied, "Clearly, I wouldn't literally throw her into bed!" I was all geared up for a fight when my friend said "Why not? Don't you think bedtime would be more fun for her that way??" And I lost it. Cracking up, I responded with "Of course I don't throw her in bed. She doesn't even go to bed, really, I leave her on the floor with the dogs. Duh." And this strange woman just stared at us AS IF WE WERE SERIOUS. Whatever happened to benefit of the doubt? Whatever happened to giving people a chance? Whatever happened to common sense?

Now, this woman might have been judging me an unfit mother based on several factors. One: we were in a tattoo shop at the time. It was my daughter's second trip to a tattoo shop and she loves the sound of the tattoo machine. White noise, folks. Comes in all shapes and sizes. It's not like I'd taken her to a Vegas strip club. Hell, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to touch anything in a Vegas strip club myself, no way in hell would I let my daughter in one! But, on the other hand, this woman had her 8 year old son with her as well.

Maybe she made assumptions based on the fact that Care Bear was wearing a "boy" outfit consisting of an white/black onesie with her favorite band's logo and jeans with black socks. In my defense, she was also wearing a color-coordinated headband with a bow. But, then, what does it really matter what a baby wears?

Maybe she was thinking I was a young, teenage mother. I guess I could see that? No, actually, I can't. Even when I was a teenager, I'm pretty sure I didn't look it. Maybe she got the wrong idea from what I was wearing (kids' size skate shoes from Target, anyone?) but I doubt it.

I think she was just nosy. I had forgotten for a few minutes, in this bubble of alternative culture known as the tattoo shop, where exactly I lived. Here, it's not ok to use exaggerative vernacular. (Is that a word? Exaggerative? I looked it up, but you can't always trust google...) Here, it's not ok to wear clothes that make you look like anything other than the picture of a mom. Unfortunately, I'm not just a mom.

I'm young. I'm into body modification and theatre. I like hats and crazy necklaces and plastic vintage bangles. I enjoy brightly colored shoes and loud rock music. And you know what? I'm still a good mom. My personal preferences have nothing to do with my ability to parent my child. And, no matter where I live, I refuse to feel guilty for not giving my entirety up for the sake of my progeny. Because, one day, she'll grow up and she won't need me every minute. And, by Goddess, I intend to have something left of myself to go back to. And I won't apologize for that.

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