Sunday, February 05, 2006

baby steps

My wife and I are expecting our first baby within a month. As the due date approaches we have generously been given a number of items with which to feed, cloth, protect, enclose, teach, support, and entertain our anticipated child. Through this experience I am beginning to better understand how the consumer culture is engrained in us at an early age. Our Lamaze instructor (who also happens to be my mother) has taught this form of childbirth preparation for more than twenty years. She told us the story of how the companies that produce baby formula regularly obtain the names and addresses of expecting parents and send them a free case of ready to use bottle formula even before the baby is born. Babies learn early on that getting liquid from a bottle is much easier than getting liquid from a breast. Using bottles too early can affect the ability of a mother to breast feed effectively because the baby will want for the bottle. The formula companies know this and want their product in the perspective consumer’s home during those first few late night feedings that can be frustrating for the sleep-deprived mother. There is nothing wrong with bottle feeding. My point is that thus begins the life-long bombardment of advertising and propaganda designed to direct your decisions. Buy this, want that, desire things you do not have. More is better, you can’t have enough; and if you do we’ll make something new. A friend of mine recently defined human progress as the ability of technology to invent more ways to entertain us. I like to think he was kidding.

Corporate America doesn’t wait until children are born to begin to tell them how to live. They start before birth by advising and informing parents on what they’ll need and what they can’t raise a child without. I have been told by multiple sources that we simply have to purchase a number of products and devices if we wish to have a happy, healthy child. My favorite is the idea that an in-car DVD player is a must. Speaking of the screen… television seems to be next step in the education of consumerism. 65% of American children ages 8-18 have a TV set in their bedrooms; 32% for those 2-7 years of age. The average American seventh grader watches 3 hours of television a day. According to a 1999 Kaiser Family Foundation study, by time today’s kids become senior citizens they will have spent over three years of their lives watching television commercials. It’s easy to see how we come to believe we need so much of what we don’t have. In part for this reason we’ve gotten rid of our TV. link

It has been interesting and sometimes frustrating to consider raising a child in the current culture of America, where money seems to be the most important aspect of life. For me the fundamental focus will be on raising a citizen and not a consumer. I hope to teach my child to be content with what we have and to be responsible about what she takes. I hope to teach her to focus not on the material items pushed upon her but on the relationships created between her and the people she shares her life with. I hope to teach my child to do for herself and not to fall into the trap of dependency on the make-believe world invented by those who would profit from her lack of self-reliance. In a recent conversation concerning cell phones a man told me I will want my daughter to have a cell phone when she turns 16 and begins to drive a car so that when she has a flat tire she can call someone to come and change it. I responded that when my daughter turns 16 and begins to drive a car I will teach her to change a tire so she can do it for herself regardless of whether she has her phone. This is not to say that cell phones aren’t useful in emergencies. But what will she do when the battery is dead, she’s out of range or can’t communicate for some other reason. The emphasis has shifted away from first learning to do for ourselves and onto calling in the cavalry.

True freedom is not the ability to do what you want but the ability to do what you should. It takes a long time just to learn what this means. For me this means learning how to take care of myself, my family, my friends and the other creatures I share this life with. As I practice this concept I hope to share it with my child that she may learn to live harmoniously as she sees fit; not buying as it were what others are selling.

This weekend I am putting together a crib. I found it on the side of the road. It was some what disassembled and was lacking support springs for a mattress. A little effort will have it fit for use and looking good in short order. I have had to explain to several thoughtful family members and friends that we do not need the gift of a new crib. Our child will come home to sleep in an old crib recycled. There is great honor in reuse. I hope her first bed will provide the foundation for a life lived deliberately with effort towards the responsibility of living sensibly in this wonderful world. I pray for the strength and wisdom and the courage to help teach the way.


baloghblog said...

With posts like these, I think that you are quietly becoming one of the best bloggers on sustainability. I just wanted to give you my $0.02, and tell you to keep up the good work.

nulinegvgv said...

Thank you. I am grateful for your generous compliment. I will do my best.

Horatio said...

get rid of the "ride" :)...trying to phase out TV as well, but the addiction is a hard habit to break...trying to fill it with reading and writing...looking forward to the nice/naughty niece/nephew. cheers, j.

City Hippy said...

Nice one...became a dad myself for the first time 3 months ago...enjoy the ride.

Sadly our baby was in special care for 5 days and would not breastfeed...we were distraught and had no choice but to bottle feed...and once he hit the bottle the breast never stood a chance.

Pains us and will pain us forever...such is parenting I guess.

But ya just gotta do your best...and screw the guilt!

Funnily enough I was bottle fed too and I like to think I turned out ok...and that was on formula 3 years it must be better now.

Good luck...

Will add you to blogroll in five mins by the way...keep up the good work mate.



City Hippy said...

of course, that should read 33 years ago...either that or I am one helluva advanced 3 year old he he he



nulinegvgv said...


My sister-in-law just had a similar experience. She had her baby premature and was unable to breastfeed. Luckily the bottle is an option in those circumstances.

I’ve been warned by other parents not to be too hard on myself when it comes to parenting. This may hold especially true concerning the earth-conscious way in which I’d like to raise my child. I have to strive for the best but not be too disappointed in the inevitable compromises that will come up;
or so they tell me :)

I just want to raise this child deliberately. I think so many problems could be mitigated if real thought was give to our actions. I want to teach her that.

Michelle Eventide said...

A dear friend just gave birth to a preemie and it was a hell of a struggle with the nurses to allow her to feed her baby by the breast... the baby discovered on his own that the bottle requires no effort. She still gets him to feed first from her breast, and pumps to fill the bottle. He is a month old and only 6 lbs!
Also, have you checked to make sure the crib you recycled conforms to current standards for bar width? I seem to remember multiple recalls on cribs a while back for having bars wide enough to cause small babies injuries.
Great post, you have good "tone".

Anonymous said...


nulinegvgv said...

A Prieur fan and a Silver Springs one?

Thank you for your comment and your concern. The crib has been checked to make sure it conforms to safety standards. Even if I had been reckless enough not to, my wife would never have allowed it. The distance between the side rails is small enough. As always a balance was necessary between being resourceful and being safe. One of my life’s endeavors is better balance. It seems I was born deficient.

City Hippy said...


You should so guard against being too hard on yourself...enjoy the are gonna make great parents in my humble opinion. You care enough to sure you will do just fine! It is so much fun...the first few weeks are hard work but really brought me and my wife closer together. But then after 6-8 weeks you will get a smile from your little miracle...and man does that feel great :)

But know this! You will screw up. You are not perfect. You will contribute to your kids beautiful insanities and foibles. You will not have a perfect child. They will not grow up to be perfect human beings. They are not your are merely their guardian charged with raising them to adulthood. Once you accept all that it is just fun fun fun...oh yeah and not much sleep and lots of poop! ;)

Namaste...keep us all posted!


Anonymous said...

I heard there is a new law coming out that makes it illegal to drive your kids around without a DVD player onboard. I guess that will make us rebels.


Rev Sam said...

Try and get hold of a book called 'The continuum concept' by Jean Liedloff, which you might find yourself in sympathy with (best taken with a small dose of salt).

The thing I try to remind new parents of is the dictum that a perfect parent is actually doing something wrong - mistakes allow a child to grow up and _apart_ from their parents, whereas 'perfect' parents never provide the resources needed for that separation to take place, with all sorts of serious problems accruing in later life.

Hope the birth goes well.

lauren said...

Thank you for a nicely written post! My five month old daughter is sitting on my lap nursing as I type this, and your post brought back many of my own feelings in anticipation of her birth. Just bringing your own awareness of sustainability to your family will surely carry your baby far. Best wishes for the birth! As other commenters said, you're in for an amazing ride. I must say that, hokey as it sounds, seeing my daughter's smile is all the reason to continue on a path to greater sustainability in my own life...and to try to do my part for the planet she calls home.

nulinegvgv said...

many thanks for your comments. how happy to know i will screw up and it will be alright and apparently if i don't i won't be a good parent. ;) i am amused and enlightened and pleased with the approaching birth of my child and with the abililty to share my feelings with you, especially those interested enough to write and tell me what you think. thank you for your thoughts. i am always interested in hearing from others with a voice to offer. we are having a baby!