Friday, February 05, 2010

4am Lessons

Before I had a son, I wrote about feminism as a subject. It was a noun, sometimes even a verb. Feminism existed as a THING to be written out, explained, debated.

As the past seven weeks of my life have unfolded, I've either woken up to a new form or writing, or I've undergone some sort of lobotomy where I have no recollection about that kind of writing. You know, the kind of writing where I blatantly write FEMINISM IS THIS, IS NOT THAT, IS MORE LIKE THIS, IS DEFINITELY NOT THAT...

I breastfeed Isaiah and this painful learning process about the wonder of the body and the miracle of nurturing has captivated my writing in new subtleties. His eyes are dark and I stare into them. I don't see anything but openness. His open pupils stare back into the dark storms of my eyelets and I wonder what he sees in me. And I think about the world and what it will tell him about being a boy, a growing man. The window alone reveals a half-snowed road and the neighbor's holiday lights still hanging red and white, yet I see a colder world than the winter temperatures. And I worry.

I don't believe teaching "Feminism" is going to do anything for my son. I don't know if attending gender and women's studies courses are going to save him from a hypermasculine society and sexually-distorted media driven world. Maternity leave has let me soak up the world without paid work and I am listening to the sounds of the news. The conversations around me. The behaviors of strangers in stores. The fragments of life are there for me to observe and I'm not convinced Isaiah will learn how to survive that world with "Feminism."

There's no bargaining in raising a child. The world, as I see it from Cleveland, does not bargain with mothers. It doesn't exchange or make deals. Isaiah, with his soft cooing and heart-melting pouts, will be taught messages about his soul, his worth, his identity...and I'm praying I know how to raise him how to reject most of it.

Counter-cultural child-rearing is going to be a monstrous feat in my future. It already is...And the "Feminism" I knew - the kind that had me chasing conferences, journalists, and blog wars - has quieted itself, perhaps even buried itself. A new ecdysis is shedding, rapidly. In its place are questions of health care and education, public breastfeeding, family consumerism, and equal parenting.

To be of use, for Feminism to be of use to mothers, it must come complete with relevance to women's lives. Ordinary lives and extraordinary responsibility. There is no room, in my son's life, for classes or blogs, podcasts, or lectures.

All he has is me. All he knows is me his mother. His father, my partner. WE are all he will know for a window's crack of time before the rest of the community begins to warm his world with ideas. The doubt and insecurity of my own ability to teach him weighs heavily in my heart.

And so I write. I write him letters. I whisper things into his ear at 4am when it feels like no one else in the world is awake. Just us, mother and son. I whisper things, things far too complicated for his tiny brain to comprehend, but I believe the introduction of my voice as a whisper will allow me into his psyche as a voice of reason. A guiding force of love.

I continue to write him letters and whisper into the night. And pray, that for now, it is enough.

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