Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rock on

Yesterday was the first time Ulysses asked me if I was ready to rock.

He was playing The Sims, which he learned to play yesterday. When I came home for lunch, he was watching Donald play on Don's computer and fumbling a bit with the mouse himself.

By the time I came home after work, Don had installed the game on U's computer, and he was building rooms, buying multiple clean-up robots and cooking grills, and had jukeboxes lined up in the backyard.

He pointed Betty Newbie to the boom box in a room with a pink and a green couch and directed her to turn it on and dance. To me, he said, "Mama! Are you ready to rock?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on Multatuli

Branshea's comment to my last post piqued my interest in Multatuli even more.

I found this site devoted to him:


To read it in Dutch, take the /en/ off the end of the URL. And then of course there's always the Wikipedia entry.

I found the duck eggs quote here:
in a "limited preview" online of "The Oyster and the Eagle: Selected Aphorisms and Parables of Multatuli" by E.M. Beekman, 1974.

It can be found on page 102, listed as No. 852.

Presumably Beekman selected the quote from some other Multatuli source material, but I can't identify it from the online preview.

Reading through the pages available for preview on the Google Books site, I was instantly fascinated and drawn to this figure. He's irreverent, forthright, dry, darkly humorous. A writer who belongs in the company of Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken.

Right away I found another comment about parenting, although the aphorisms are mostly about all sorts of other things. This is on Page 49.

A mother who does not have nourishing milk is to be pitied.

A mother who does have nourishing milk and forces it back into her disappointed glands, robbing her child, is criminal.

Wow. That sure beats the heck out of the modern pussyfooting so common around this issue. I get angry every time I hear or read the suggestion that "this decision is a very personal one," cast as an answer to the question of whether or not to breastfeed.

I hate that "personal decision" garbage. Well, of course it's personal. Very personal. No duh. What do I need anyone to tell me that for? It's as if the writer, or organization, putting forth the statement imagines they're bequeathing on me the right to think through and ultimately make that decision for myself. I have that right already; I already know about that right; to suggest otherwise is downright insulting.

Beyond that, the statement is devoid of useful content. It's really just a cop-out, a way for parenting-related books and articles to sound wise and encompassing, while backing away from taking a stand.

In effect, "it's a very personal decision" translates to, "It doesn't matter either way." But it does matter. It's a huge deal, for nutrition, for normal human development: emotional, social, psychological. Sure, many babies can grow up happy and healthy enough without mother's milk and the comfort of mother's breast. But why should they have to?

Eggs in the water

I came across this fantastic quote this morning. It was in my A.Word.A.Day e-mail.

One does not advance the swimming abilities of ducks by throwing the eggs in the water.

-Multatuli (pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker), novelist (1820-1887)

I never heard of this guy, but now I have to look him up.

This expresses beautifully my quarrel with those who say that infants should sleep alone in their own rooms with the door shut so that they can learn independence. That they should be left to "cry it out" so that they can develop self-reliance. That every child should be steeped daily in an environment of toxic peers and authority figures (instead of, say, homeschooling for individuals better suited to that) so that they can learn resilience and other advanced social skills.

And a hundred other different ways that people push babies and children into overwhelming situations they aren't prepared to manage, on the theory that this itself will give them that preparation. That waiting until a child is strong and ready is no more than unhealthy, effetizing coddling.

Monday, July 7, 2008

His name was Robert Paulson...

(If you're a fan of the movie Fight Club, the headline will make sense.)

Ulysses's relationship to language continues to evolve. His interest in words and naming and syntax has become more directed, more active and intent.

Sometimes he repeats our phrases in a whisper, as if studying them for meaning. As if meditating on them, opening himself to receive their secrets.

Last weekend I offered him an apple and he accepted, following me to the kitchen -- the "cooking room," as he calls it these days. I fetched an apple from the refrigerator crisper, saying, "This is a Pink Lady."

He frowned, looking at the apple. "That's not Pink Lady," he said, correcting me. "That's a apple."

"Yes," I said, washing it under the faucet. "This is an apple. It's a Pink Lady apple."

He watched as I brought out the corer, a sharp, serrated cylinder of stainless steel on a bright red handle with a picture of red apples set into it, and drove it into the apple.

"That apple not pink," he said. "That apple red."

I looked at the apple. True enough. You could call it pink as far as apples go, but as far as pink goes, it was red.

"Yes, this apple is red," I said. "This apple's name is Pink Lady."

Ulysses whispered: "This apple's name is Pink Lady. This apple is red. This apple's name is Pink Lady. This apple is red. This apple's name is Pink Lady."