First, God. Then porn.
Yesterday Eryn and I went to "Dinosaur Park." I don't know what it's actually called, but Eryn calls it Dinosaur Park because of the big purple dinosaur she can ride there:
There was a family there with apparently six children, though it turned out three were not actually siblings to the others. Dad was reading at a picnic table and ignoring everything. Seven-month-pregnant Other Mom was chasing 18-month old Boy around while the others looked after themselves, mostly. Two-And-A-Half-Year-Old Boy wandered over to the swing next to the one where I was pushing Eryn, climbed aboard the chair swing and loudly demanded that his older sister come push him. She was busy, so I asked him if I could push him, and began about 30 minutes of pushing both him and Eryn. (Really. Who knew they might have such attention spans? Perhaps it was hypnotic.) Mom noticed after a while and was appreciative. Then the kid she was chasing decided he wanted to swing, and she came over with him and offered to take over with 2.5 Boy. I declined (I was already pushing Eryn, what difference did it make?) and suggested she sit down with the younger kid, who wanted to be in her lap anyway. Again, she was grateful. So far, better than my other park experiences with moms during weekdays. Eventually the kids I was pushing got bored and wandered off to play at other games, and I sat on the swing next to Other Mom and 18-Month-Old. I said I bet she was worn out. She agreed. Then we had this conversation:
Me: How many of these kids are yours?
Other Mom: Three. [gave their ages: 18 months, nearly three, and eight]
Me: Ah. You're home with them?
Other Mom: When God wants something, he makes a path.
Me: So you homeschool, then.
And so on. As soon as I could after that, I claimed Eryn looked like she needed help tipping over her sandbucket to make a building and excused myself, but not before Other Mom had explained all about how God had contrived one day to give her some tadpoles for her kids to study, using as a conduit a class of public school kids and their teacher (who were gathering tadpoles for a science project and offered to give this family some of what they found). Before having Eryn and staying home with her, first all the time and now part time, I hadn't realized just how involved God is in the minor details of homeschooling mothers' lives. First, improvised laundry baskets
, and now free tadpoles!
took Eryn via Burley to a park we'd not visited before. Skyland Park on Cliff in Burnsville - absolutely wonderful park. I met them there later. Shortly before we left I saw a man in his early thirties with a t-shirt I was fairly certain said I [heart] Porn. I thought, that can't be right.
I don't really care if an adult wants to wear a shirt with such a lame sentiment on it - after all, it can serve as a warning to anyone who might consider him dating material - but at a park full of kids? We passed him on our way out, and he actually was wearing the shirt.
Mostly, I was glad Eryn hadn't seen it, because of her tendency to ask me why things say what they say. ("Mommy, why does that trash can say 'thank you'?" "Mommy, why does that sign say 'Make checks payable to postmaster'?") I was expecting to be walking past this man and have her ask "Mommy, why does that man's shirt say 'I heart porn'?" Then, "Mommy, what's porn?" She sounded out checks
, and most of postmaster
without knowing the words - read them and understood them - so I know damn well I'd have had to explain in some way, and not try to fob it off as being something it wasn't. Besides, it was the God stuff that made me crankier.*
Look, I go to the park to play with my daughter, to get us both outside and out of our space, and to interact with other kids. I know that means she's going to be exposed to other kids' germs and manners, and she's going to encounter the unfairness and meanness that is standard in the societal microcosm that is the playground. It's my job to help her learn how not to be a jerk even when other kids are, how to watch out for littler kids, how to share and take turns, how to respect other modes of dress, speech, and behavior. What's difficult is when other adults don't do the same. My belief that we should be respectful even when other people are not (including when they are unconsciously religion-centric) is why I never allow myself to respond with anything other than dry observation (Them: "God, god, god" Me: "Oh, so you homeschool.") If I did, the conversation would go more like this
Other Mom: God gave us tadpoles.
Me: Want to go doorknocking in Pierre with me to support abortion rights?Or this:
Other Mom: When God wants something, he makes a path.
Me: My female lover and I are getting married this weekend. Should we sacrifice a male or a female child on our altar to Satan?
But I don't do that. I don't go broadcasting my particular brand of agnosticism-teetering-on-atheism at innocent parkgoers. I don't ask them what Wellstone would do. I have a Darwin fish on my car in the parking lot, but I don't grab them and make them look at it or expound on the principles of evolution so nicely demonstrated by the tadpoles God gave them. Jesus Christ, I am annoyed!
*Wow, has that changed since I was in my twenties. The existence of porn sent me into orbit then, and now it's the God Nuts that piss me off. It's not that I think porn is a good thing - in many cases it's prostitution on film (and I'm sorry, but I must insist that there are times when it's easy to distinguish between porn and erotica, and therefore between filmed prostitution and harmless adult entertainment, so there), and after my experiences doing therapy with women in prostitution, I would have to be stupid or cruel to consider anything related to prostitution humane or acceptable. [Look! A footnote in a blog post! I will always be an English dork no matter how far I move away from teaching.]