Americans

We’re all working hard.  All of us.  Mom’s, dads, farmer’s, chefs, activists, healthcare leaders, lawyers and doctors.  We’re all wearing 3+ different hats a day working at our professions, caring for kids and our homes, and perhaps, every now and then, taking a moment or two for ourselves.  And the latter is rare, I probably don’t need to remind you.

I read about parenting.  Attachment parenting, the Ferber method, time outs, and personal space.   I read about a child-centered life, and the potential pros and cons.  I think about what’s best for my kids.  I read about how American’s parent past and present, how the Machiguenga parent, how the French parent.  Evidently, American’s are the worst of all time.  We help our kids put on their shoes, we cook for them, we even (gasp!) do their laundry & get their silverware.   And sometimes, don’t tell anyone, I lose my patience with my little cherubs.

Don’t get me wrong, I too can frequently get tired of waiting on my kids.   I wish when I asked for help in the kitchen, my four year old would say “yeah!” with the enthusiasm he used to have.  Perhaps I pushed him away one two many times.

I read a ton about food issues.  How we, as Americans, are messing up the world.  Large corporations have enough financial influence to basically control politics, and so our food supply is comprised of low-quality food best left to nobody.   Many states disallow raw milk, and government representatives harass Amish families.

I lived abroad for quite some time, and in those years I had to do a whole lot of explaining about American foreign policy, our voting system, and why we don’t up-rise.  I also had to point out many, many times how split down the middle our country is politically.

The average American diet is a buffet of sugar, highly processed grains and fillers.  Our children are sicker than ever, more often then ever.  They can’t function in schools that have very low standards compared to their developed world counterparts.  We’re fat, stupid, and too lazy to vote.  Does that sound about right?

My answer- NO!  I’m tired of hearing about how badly we’re all doing.  I work hard at my job, and work hard as a parent.  Not to fill my kids with shit food and stand them in front of network TV so they can watch commercials and then  scream at me in the store to buy the toy they saw on TV as they develop a sugar crash.   That’s not my life, those aren’t my kids.  Why is there hardly a literary article that ends without getting at least one jab in at American feeding or parenting styles?

My husband and I make a point to be conscious.  I garden so my kids can see pumpkins and tomatoes grow, and so that they can pick them daily.   I let weeds run ramshod so they understand that mother nature hates a void (or at least, that’s the reason I give them).   I take my kids to our CSA farm and show them where real food comes from.  We go to the farm to buy raw milk, so they know where their milk and cheese comes from.  We buy a slaughtered cow each year, from a sustainable farm, not from some CAFO.

We are deliberate about our parenting.  Nobody gets smacked around here, tempting though it might sometimes be.  Our children do have some minor chores around the house, and we are careful about our consumption.  No excess toys; indeed, our son has been obsessed with shooting rubber bands from store-bought broccoli for the last week or two.

We swim in lakes and ponds, go hiking in the woods.   We show them the moon, the simple pleasures in life and let them chase ants with flashlights well past their bedtime.

Our kids are patient, say please and thank you, and almost never tantrum in the stores.

We eat well.  I make almost everything we eat from well-sourced ingredients.   We are deliberate and conscious of our food choices.  Yet we eat out from time to time, and I let go.  I too need to breathe.

I’m tired of hearing or reading about how we’re doing it all wrong.  I manage a farmer’s market, and I see people coming to buy their organic vegetables with food stamps.  I see people taking their kids to say hello to their neighbors, to pet a dog, and to help and old lady get off the bus.  We must be doing something right.

People cook for women who just had babies.  We pick up each other’s CSA shares when another is away, the same for our gardens.  We watch each other’s kids and dogs when necessary, and offer a helping hand when we can.   We’re conscious of our waste and our consumption.  We organize informal preschools for our kids to meet their needs when the system doesn’t, we’re creative about our careers and incomes and are ever-changing and evolving.

I know activists who work hard, all day every day for the greater good.  Fighting for food rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights, forest conservation.   People voice their opinions about injustices around the world and at home, doing something whenever we can.  We fight so that our kids have a better future, and so that perhaps children from distant lands might also.

We’re also happy.  We find sources of joy every day, relax in the presence of friends, and hug often.  Our kids are secure and comforted.   Perhaps they’re not particularly tough or self sufficient, but they’re healthy and well and learning and improving.

Are we privileged compared to the struggles of the rest of the world?  Of course many of us are, but all of us are not.    I realize this complaint might sound trite, but I’m tired of hearing just how bad we are, and how we’re really messing up in a new way now!    I know we’re not perfect and there are a bazillion ways we can improve, but I just can’t hear about it all the time.  I think we’re doing a pretty damn good job at this business of living.

I’ll stop reading the internet now, as all I ever find is criticism of an America I don’t know.  They write about an America full of zombies who consume whatever Monsanto, McDonalds, and ABC/NBC/FOXnews/CNN/MSNBC/Hasbro/Fisher-Price shove down their throats.  I’m sure those people exist here in this huge country, but I don’t know them and can’t relate to their experience.

My America is wonderful, full of beauty.  It is full of community, of people who care about the world and the greater good.  We volunteer and clean our streets, and get up early to see sunrises.  We take care of animals, the planet and each other.  We are aware of the evils of the world, but are conscious about our role in it and the people we are raising, what we’re feeding them and how our actions affect it all.   We’re sustainable, conscious, and thriving.  We’re a growing population, this America of mine, and although we get little press, I think we’re here to stay.  Maybe I’ll write more about that, about just how well we’re doing in spite of it all.

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