“Do you have children?” It’s a question I’ve gotten repeatedly in my travels, as cultures everywhere celebrate children and women’s ability to produce them. I don’t, nor do I plan to for reasons both personal and environmental. But not wanting to spark an awkward exchange, I’d usually demur with, “Not yet.”
For the millionth time, just because I don’t want kids doesn’t mean I don’t like kids or don’t support my friends having kids. I have three amazing and perfect godchildren and I’m a children’s author – I need kids!
Still, when my besties started having babies I can’t say I wasn’t worried about things changing – I knew that they would. I’m genuinely excited and nervous about our new roles and how I will fit in. I want to be a loving “auntie” and hope that my childlessness isn’t a cause for concern.
While I’m trying to be a good prenatal buddy, I’m just not sure if I doing it right. Do I ask too many questions about pregnancy? Not enough? Am I offering too much help? Not enough? Is it bad if I still want to talk about reality shows instead of strollers? I’m afraid that I can’t still be myself and admit that I’m little jealous of junior.
But my biggest fear of all is: What if the babies don’t like me?
My solution? Buy the best baby gift! At WNK we promote an environmental agenda and prefer when people decide to have children they consider their carbon footprint by having green babies. In the past I’ve mentioned buying cloth diapers for my favorite green mama. And I just bought a personal website for a Christening gift. Unusual? Yes. Green? Absolutely!
Of course nothing says you care like a signed book by your favorite kid’s author.
Hey WNKs what is your favorite baby gift?
I’ve had rattlesnakes on the brain for the last few days.
It’s spring in the Adirondacks, and spring means critters, LOTS of critters. I witnessed a hawk shredding a live pigeon about three feet from our breakfast table before my bride donned her pink dish washing gloves, chased the hawk away and saved the wounded pigeon. Sort of. It died, but not in the hands of a vicious raptor.
The hawk’s an efficient and frequent diner at Rosslyn, and judging by the fresh piles of pigeon feathers every few days, we’re up to a half dozen in just two or three weeks.
And two nights ago we startled an ermine imitating a boa constrictor, coiled tightly around the bird feeder. I’m not sure if he was digesting a woodpecker, suet or birdseed.
A little earlier in the spring we had a red fox that cleared out about a half dozen squirrels.
Spring. Critters. Predation…
All of this backyard safari action got me to thinking about kids. Actually, it got me thinking about kids and predators.
Especially the hawk. That bird was a killer. And powerful.
Wikipedia doesn’t list human children as part of the diet of any of these critters, so I should be relieved. I mean, I don’t even have any kids to get eaten alive by a hawk.
And yet while whipping up a couple of posts about rattlesnakes, in particular one massive and extremely lethal looking serpent who appeared and promptly vanished in my rhubarb patch three years ago, I realized that it’s a pretty major relief not to have to worry about these critters getting hold of my own progeny.
I haven’t successfully identified the snake, but I suspect it was a rattlesnake.
I now suspect that I may have spotted a massasauga rattlesnake with markings totally unlike our local Adirondack timber rattlesnakes. (Rosslyn Redux)
I’m probably wrong. Odds are it was a timber rattlesnake (we have a large, healthy breeding population just a few miles up the road) with unusual coloring for our area. Or possibly, at least in the opinions of some naturalists I’ve spoken to, it was a Northern Copperhead that had wiggled a bit north of their usual northern limit which is apparently a couple of hours south around New Paltz, New York. Global warming?
Lest you’re missing the bottom line, these cool looking snakes are all venomous. (Read poisonous.) Adult fatalities are rare if medical attention is immediate. But kids? Especially little bitty kids? The odds are a bit spookier.
Fortunately rattlesnakes tend to be reserved, preferring to avoid contact and altercations.
Most resources concur that timber rattlesnakes only strike if/when provoked. And common sense should compel anyone happening upon a timber rattlesnake in the wild to avoid provoking it. If the snake is behaving aggressively, coiling and preparing to strike — perhaps even false striking — its defensive behavior indicates that it perceives a threat. Avoid further threatening the snake and withdraw cautiously, slowly. In all likelihood the rattlesnake, no matter how large and menacing, will slither off without striking. (Essex on Lake Champlain)
Good news as long as your tyke is prudent. But it’s a bit of a gamble, no?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no alarmist. I grew up in the Adirondacks’s Champlain Valley a short bicycle ride away, and I never had to ward off a hungry hawk or get pumped full of anti-venom to save my bacon. But I could have…
So, rather than worrying all the conscientious parents out there who are 100% attentive, shepherding their kids through life’s wilderness perils, I’m just taking a moment to savor the profound relief I feel about never having to worry that junior could stumble across that 3+ foot long snake in my rhubarb patch. The one that’s probably poisonous.
Have a great week!
- Rosslyn Rattlesnake (rosslynredux.com)
- Timber Rattlesnake: Fact, Fiction & Mystery (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Snakes at Split Rock (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Shocking Snake Study Reveals Rattlers’ Lovey-Dovey Side (huffingtonpost.com)
- Surprisingly social rattlesnakes cuddle with their kin (mnn.com)
- Venom without malice: On first meeting a rattlesnake (fragileandwild.com)
Is it only my observation or have manners largely gone by the wayside these days? Moreover, how many really well mannered children do we all know?
Okay, so I’m giving away my northern location because generally, the kids I know from the South could teach the northern ones quite a bit when it comes to manners. However, It follows that if many adults aren’t too familiar or interested in basic etiquette, then their children won’t be either.
Are you tired of rude children in restaurants, airplanes, theaters and the like? Do you cringe when your favorite child rips opens your thoughtfully chosen gift with little notice of you or a thanks for the gesture?
Fear not. For those of you who long for a more mannered world, Sheryl Eberly has created the book, 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette. It’s pure Genius. Has anyone attempted this before? If this kind of book has been offered in the past, it unlikely covered the extensive topics that Ms. Eberly offers. In this information-packed book, the author, a former employee of First Lady Nancy Reagan (well, no wonder – that explains some of her expertise), tackles every sticky etiquette scenario one could ponder.
Ms. Eberly’s advice roams near and far.
- Anticipating the needs of others
- Neighborly manners, sloppy language
- Active listening
- Writing letters with care
- Everyday table manners
- Dress appropriately for the occasion
- The valued teammate
- Be a model American
- Be considerate to people with special needs
And my favorite, Environmental Manners, because “taking care of the environment is everybody’s responsibility.”
She also demystifies “netiquette,” (net etiquette) museum, travel, restaurant, wedding and even funeral behavior. In doing so she goes a step further by breaking down the important details of religious holidays and ceremonies in every denomination. Not sure how children should act at a Ramadan or Kwanza celebration or at a Mormon wedding? She has all the answers. It’s clearly as much for the parents’ education as for their offspring.
Good manners, the author advises should begin at the onset of a child’s birth and “involve more than simply knowing the rules about forks and finger bowls in formal situations – they include good attitudes, respect, and consideration for others every day. If we want our children to be confident, poised adults, we need to teach them the rules of etiquette today. Knowing proper behavior is an essential part of being prepared for life.”
The book is informative, never preachy, and a great gift for parents (their children will thank you years from now, or maybe sooner if the lessons are well learned). The only question is how do we give this book without offending parents, without them thinking we’re suggesting their kids are ill-behaved? You’ll have to figure that out. In the meantime I’m passing it around to all my favorite parents. Thank you, Ms. Eberly, from the non-parents of the world.
“Where do your idle hands go while eating in America?” I quickly quiz my nephews on a regular basis.
“On your lap,” they sullenly respond. They’ve been through this before.
“And what if you’re in France?” I fire back.
“Wrists resting on edge of the table, fingers off” they dutifully retort. They are half German and part French so I have always found it important for them to distinguish manners in different cultures.
“What about your hands in Africa?” A harder question they don’t get asked as often, but they find the answer.
“The left hand never touches food, especially communal food. It’s reserved for the bathroom.”
Do they need to know this? Well, maybe if they live in Africa like me one day, or if they visit there, they will not offend. I am proud. At least their table manners are well rehearsed, but I have more work to do.
“Why do we need to know this?” they will occasionally ask.
“Because good manners are important and because you will dine with Presidents and Heads of State some day,” I proclaim. “Do you want to be forever embarrassed because you ate with the wrong fork?” They are not convinced but oblige their silly aunt nonetheless.
“How do you know we’ll ever meet Presidents?” they ask.
“Oh, I know these things.” And we leave it at that.
I suppose this book was just destined to find me.
- Raising Privileged Children Without a Sense of Entitlement – Why Manners and Etiquette Matter (hongkongetiquette.com)
- Show some manners, young man! Comprehensive school hires coach to teach pupils the correct etiquette (dailymail.co.uk)
Okay I’ll admit it I don’t want kids, but I still have imaginary baby names in my head and I’m curious about what my baby would look like. Just not curious enough to find out for real. For the other childfree and curious there is a place for us, or rather several websites that will take pictures of you and your significant other and mix the virtual, visual DNA to create, TA-DA – a baby!
Luxland Babymaker has the tagline, What will your baby look like? And promises that it’s not like the other sites because it can see the future:
Have a lust for someone? Eager to see what your baby will look like? No need to wait nine months to see your baby’s face — BabyMaker will accurately produce a picture of your baby. Satisfy your curiosity and peek into the future!
There are even baby maker apps and celebrity baby maker sites in case you want to see what your baby would look like if Ashton Kutcher is the baby daddy. I hear he’s available!
I tried Makemebabies.comwith mixed results below:
It is very entertaining if you want to laugh some milk right out of your nose. Amazingly my baby looks just like the baby on the ad and nothing like me or my mate. Baby G even has blue eyes and blond hair which is genetically impossible! This is kind of addictive and I can totally see why the Duggar family is eagerly expecting their 20th real child. It’s fun to make babies! But I will stick to virtual kids.
- The Duggar Family Is Having ANOTHER Baby!! (khmx.radio.com)
- Nineteen Was Not Enough: Duggar Family Expecting Their 20th Child (newsfeed.time.com)
- How to Explain your Childfree Choice (whynokids.com)
From the Ms. Magazine blog Twitter feed:
“Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended–how would making birth control less available solve this problem?”
There are some interesting points to this discussion and WNK would love to hear from our readers. Why should we pay for contraception for those who can’t afford it? Why should contraception be available and inexpensive? Would you rather pay for children that people can’t afford? Do you think people should be more responsible in making family planning choices?
“Contraception obviously is a deeply held value by American women. But the fact that in the United States a startling half of all pregnancies are unintended makes clear that birth control is used only sporadically by some. There are a number of reasons why this is so, but a chief one is that so many women cannot afford contraception, especially the most expensive—and most effective–methods, such as birth control pills, and long lasting reversible contraception, for example, the newer (and far safer) models of IUDs (intrauterine devices). In short, the same economic disparities that pervade every other area of American life manifest here as well: poor women depend on publicly-funded programs for their contraceptive services, but, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only a little more than half of the 17 million women who need these services currently receive them.”
Check out the rest of the article here.
- Restrictions on birth control hurt everyone (thehill.com)
- Editorial: Battling Over Birth Control (nytimes.com)
- Viagra 1 Birth Control 0 (whynokids.com)
- Many Women Use The Pill For So Much More Than Pregnancy Prevention (blisstree.com)
It’s time for a little visual food for thought. Is the stork the bird of war?
“Real reproductive freedom has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce.”
Borrowed from friends at GINK – green inclinations, no kids, this story includes some enlightening statistics, great writing and an apology.
“I recognize that I am the population problem. I’m trying to be part of the solution.”
Here are some of the many highlights:
“Population isn’t just about counting heads, although by this October we will be counting 7 billion of them worldwide. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. And as a financially comfortable American, I use a lot of stuff and take up a lot of room. My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than that of an average Ethiopian, more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian’s, and twice as big as an average Brit’s.”
“Far and away the biggest contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not bring any mini-mes into the world. A 2009 study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that in America the climate impact of having one fewer child is almost 20 times greater than the impact of adopting a series of eco-friendly practices for your entire lifetime…”
“Here in the United States, the Pill has been available for more than 50 years. It’s now almost universally accepted that women will use birth control to delay, space out, or limit childbearing. But there’s not so much acceptance for using birth control to completely skip childbearing. At some point, you’re expected to grow up, pair up, put the Pill off to the side, and produce a couple of kids. Deviate from this scenario and you’ll get weird looks and face awkward conversations with family members, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers.”
“Many women who have not already had children find it difficult if not impossible to find a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation. Doctors warn that sterilization is an irreversible, life-altering decision. But having a child is an irreversible, life-altering decision and you don’t find doctors warning women away from that. The broadly held prejudice, in the medical profession and much of the rest of society, is that becoming a parent is the correct and inevitable choice.
Over recent years and decades, it’s become more acceptable for mixed-race couples to have children, and single women, and gay couples, and women over the age of 40, and that’s all good. Acceptance has been slower to come for the decision not to have children. There’s now a fledgling childfree movement, but some who are part of it say they still feel like they’re violating a taboo.”
If you bristle when you hear four letter words uttered by a foolishly dressed man swilling beer, this video is not for you. You will be offended. Avoid the hurt, and skip this post. There are others…