Monday, June 25, 2007

Parental Guidance Suggested

First of all: it's good to be back.

Before you read any further, you should know the following:

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

(via Joel of Cup o' Joel).

Good old Blog Meridian has achieved this rating because, somewhere, I used the word "corpse" one time. I know that in this blog far, far worse language appears, though very infrequently. But the engine or algorithm or whatever it is apparently doesn't scan very far, and only for language, because you should also know that when I ran the whatever-it-is there appeared on the current home page a (painting of a) bare-breasted woman. Well, okay: a picture of a painting. Perhaps pictures of naked goddesses don't count as, well, naked people. Or, maybe this rating system is symptomatic of our more "permissive" times, or maybe that we're becoming desensitized even to images and it takes the rhetoric of our mutability, however mild, to shock us, however mildly, into cautioning the kiddos. So many Things to distract us from the Death Thing. To be reminded of Death: how . . . vulgar!

So: my friendly advice to Joel, disturbed over his blog's "G" rating: forget moralizing about Paris Hilton. Talk about Death--corpses--more.

In this post, though, I'll be speaking on something a bit more life-affirming.

During my week away from "here," I have been thinking much about parenting and what sort of guidance it is/is not appropriate to offer parents--about little else, in fact. This blog doesn't dwell on the personal very much, but as I was musing on the phrase "parental guidance" in conjunction with how I spent my past week, I feel compelled to post on some of what I observed.

Beginning the afternoon of Father's Day, I spent a week during which I provided a large measure of that required for the general welfare of a nine-month-old girl. How this came to pass is a sadly-familiar one, and I am truly sorry that it has occurred in my extended family. But there it is. One mercy of its familiarity, though, is that I can dispense with the naming of these people's relationships to Mrs. Meridian and me and just sketch out here the personalities involved, starting with the happy part of this mess, the baby herself.

Baby M. is a happy, happy and busy, busy baby. She may, in fact, be busier than my younger daughter, C., who managed to climb on the top bunk of a bunk bed before she was one year old. Baby M. is smart and inquisitive, a fast learner, afraid of very little. At the beginning of the week, she was a little afraid to stand with help; when I left yesterday, she actually stood unaided for a couple of seconds. Maybe another week, I suspect, and she'll be a decent walker. So, she crawls. And crawls. And crawls. She doesn't like to be held or rocked. Her thing is crawling--into exhaustion. I crawled a lot with her, as long as my knees would permit. How she could stand to crawl on the fairly-rough slate floor of the kitchen is beyond my 45-year-old-knees' immediate comprehension. But the kitchen was her favorite place to crawl around in. The rugs, the wood floors--those are for sissies. And for middle-aged people otherwise willing to crawl around with babies.

Baby M. isn't always a blur of activity, though. There were times when she would pull up on her high-chair and study--what else to call it?--its mechanical intricacies, almost as though she were a quality inspector. She is also just beginning to enjoy books, and--books being one of my things, you know--it was fun to establish a routine of looking at her picture books with her and making animal noises and watch her smile and laugh and, occasionally, try to make the sounds, too. She's also learned how to do a raspberry when prompted--Mrs. M. and I have earned much sarcastic thanks for that, especially at mealtimes. And, she's learned what a kiss is and how to give one.

Fans of ER may remember, in one of the earlier seasons, Susan's becoming responsible for the baby of her sister Chloe. In one of those episodes, Susan says something like: I can understand how you can love a child, but I never thought it'd be possible to fall in love with a child. That is how I quickly came to feel about baby M. this week.

Now for the less-pleasant but still-familiar part.

Here's an indication of baby M.'s parental circumstances: her paternal grandmother told me that if it were legally possible she wishes that we Meridians could adopt baby M.

Her parents aren't married; they're both in their early 20s and presently live in different towns. The mother doesn't seem able to hold a job for very long; the father wants something better than the one he has now (a night-shift worker in a warehouse), which is to his credit. The pretty word for their relationship would be "tempestuous." Before baby M. came along, neither could be described as giving, selfless people able to look beyond their own immediate desires, much less their needs; unfortunately, having a baby doesn't seem to have reoriented their thinking.

Baby M. hasn't been abused--I'd describe her treatment as being more like a benign neglect. Things like her being bathed only once a week, with the diaper rash that comes along with that. That fact, though, does not make her situation any less sad. Her parents, for all sorts of reasons, aren't ready (or perhaps even willing) to be parents, yet they are.

We Meridians became involved in all this when, a couple of days before Father's Day, baby M.'s father went to visit her and learned that her mother had left her with other relatives the day before and, it appears (I haven't inquired too closely), literally or figuratively disappeared. For those reasons, but also I suspect because he also learned while there that the mother had been unfaithful to him, he took it upon himself to take baby M. back with him to where he lives with his parents. Well, fine . . . except that it's proven to be the case that neither he nor his parents were able or willing to adjust their schedules to make this work. Stress levels began rising all around. Well, someone knew that a) I love babies and am actually pretty good with them; and b) I am free for the summer. In fact, I may have occasion to go back at least a couple more times between now and when school resumes to fill holes in schedules.

I don't pretend to be a perfect parent. I do think that my daughters' mother and I did a lot of things right, but I know that, all these years after their infancy, I think about things I wish we had done differently. I also know that not everything that one "should" do works with every child. Nor do I think I'm especially noble for choosing to spend a week helping out with baby M. It's for those reasons that I won't get into the particulars of what I thought as I observed more immediate members of baby M.'s family interacting with her. At least no one pretends that things as they stand now are best for anyone, least of all for baby M. But I will just say by way of closing that, granted that every stage of childhood is important, surely baby M.'s stage--on the cusp of toddlerhood, wanting to engage with her world and the people in it, her ability to learn what she should and should not do (she understands and respects "No")--surely this stage is a crucial one. It sure was/is a fun one to be a part of. I cannot help but feel sorry that those closest to her, by circumstance or by choice, are missing out on this grand adventure--sorry for them, and sorry for her.


R. Sherman said...

Too, true.

Although the circumstances you describe perhaps result from a combination of financial and maturity issues, I think that the "benign neglect" you describe exists across all socio-economic lines.

The sad fact is that too many procreating people see children as a prop or accessory to a lifestyle and not as little lives which parents are charged with guiding and protecting. Thus do children take a backseat to the parents wants if those wants conflict with actual parenting.

Glad you had fun, though.


John B. said...

"too many procreating people see children as a prop or accessory to a lifestyle . . ."

If baby M. is a prop or accessory, she was one her parents hadn't planned on acquiring. But yes: I agree with you that what I've described above isn't confined to any particular socioeconomic group; the wealthy's version of benign neglect is just more expensive.

The County Clerk said...

Of course, this post resulted in three immediate reactions from me:

First, I had my own blog rated. PG.

Second, I had some pages rated where the language was shocking (even to this former sailor). All PG.

Third, I found myself REALLY WANTING to find an R Rated blog... you know... just to see.


fearful_syzygy said...

Well mine's a "G", would you believe it? Actually, I wasn't too surprised, since I do make a point of not swearing overtly unless it's strictly necessary (which it has been on occasion, but, again, this thing didn't pick up on it). What I was surprised by were the words it flagged: 2 x 'dead', 1 x 'nigger'. The latter being a word I seek to avoid even more than the 'F' or even 'C' words, so I'm curious where that may have come up. If anyone remembers, please let me know.

John B. said...

Fearful Syzygy,

Thanks for dropping by, first of all.

As for your question: I cheated by Googling so as to speed things along, but it was in a post of yours where you were discussing the phrase "call a spade a spade." Here
is the link.

Like you, I just don't cuss very much. I do know, though, that I started cursing more (relatively speaking, of course) once I started graduate school, and I know of others for whom that is true. Something to investigate/speculate on, perhaps.

Pam said...

I adopt things way too readily. It is a good thing that I wasn't around Baby M.

So - are you and Ms. M going back to visit her again? I hope so.

Oh, and now I have to rate my site. It'll probably come back a boring G. (Wait, is there a G? I do believe that I have forgotten).

Pam said...

Oh! It was a G. I just knew it. That makes me oddly unhappy. I wonder why that is?