November 1, 2014

Leila Revisited

Matti

Image via Wikipedia

In reflecting on the movie Leilait is easy to see the conundrum couples face in traditional cultures when they can’t have or don’t want children.  Many cultures just don’t accept childless unions.  How many people do we know, however, who really might be having children largely for their parents, or for the tradition of having children to carry on their family gene pool, so ingrained in every society, even the most modern of ones?  It’s not uncommon.

I have to admit, the continuity of family heritage, and pleasing one’s parents or in-laws with the gift of grandchildren are compelling reasons to procreate.  My own parents and in-laws have been exceptionally supportive of my decision not to have children, but if I told all of them tomorrow that I had changed my mind, or that I was pregnant, would they be over-the-moon elated?  You bet.  Multiple year-long celebrations would be initiated.  Who doesn’t like to make people you love that happy (especially because of all they did for you)? Who doesn’t like the idea of having your parents and in-laws helping to shape your child if you know they would be great at it?  That part of parenting would be ideal – the part where the baby’s grandparents are cooing over the child, playing on the floor, cleaning up the mess, while you’re reading a book or having cocktails with friends.  But, then the grandparents leave, and you’re stuck with all the responsibility.

Perhaps if we lived with our siblings and parents as adults, like in some traditional societies, raising a child wouldn’t be that daunting, what with all those extra hands to help out. Frankly, multiple wives made it much easier too (but don’t get too excited about that idea until you see the film Leila).

Leila grippingly explores the consequences of ignoring one’s own needs and instincts, and one’s own biological destiny to please another entity, or a culture at large.  It serves as an important reminder to know ourselves and our partners and to ensure that when our partner tells us that he or she does not want a child, to believe it and to discuss that choice with frankness and honesty.

Moreover, people choosing not to have children or questioning whether it is the right choice also need to have those same frank conversations with their parents.  Hopefully, if they love you enough, and if they are not as imperious and opportunistic as Reza’s mother, they will happily accept the grand dog or cat and more quality time together (because you’re not saddled with the time demands of parenting) that you offer them instead.

PANKs and PUNKs (Professional Aunties and Uncles No Kids)

Image representing SavvyAuntie as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

The number of PANKs (Professional Aunties No Kids) and PUNKs (Professional Uncles No kids) is growing and their influence on children is in the news. The founder of the auntie movement is Melanie Notkin at www.savvyauntie.com. She has an active blog and book that guides child-free aunties on all things kiddie. Notkin is the creator of the term PANK and she also owns the trademark.

From her website:

A few years ago, DINKs was the new segment marketers had their eye on – Dual Income No Kids. PANKs, while focusing specifically on women (married, partnered or single) who have no kids, is a pretty large market in the US. In fact, the 2010 US Census Report: Fertility of American Women states that 47.1  percent of women through age 44 do not have kids (check “All Races” report). And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades. In 1976, only 35 percent were childless.

Notkin gives statistics on the spending potential of the emerging PANK market:

-  According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?)

–  Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.

–  Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.

That means that these PANKs and PUNKs have money to spend on their nieces and nephews since they don’t have kids of their own.

A November Forbes article Raising Children: The Role of Aunts and Uncles says that many adults in childrens’ lives today are not relatives but close friends that are considered stand in aunts, uncles and godparents.

Notkin says, “The more aunts and uncles the child has, the more influences a child has,” says Notkin. “If the uncle is a fantastic artist, the child may be inspired by that talent.”

For kids the diversity of influences could be beneficial. Parents who share their kids with aunties and uncles might benefit too. And it fits with the notion that “it takes a village” to raise a child.

Author’s Note:

I’m not really an aunt, but I’m a godmother three times over and consider most of my friends’ kids my nieces and nephews, so that makes me a PANK.  I just finished shopping, wrapping and mailing all their Christmas gifts. I take my role of Auntie Amy very seriously at Christmas time, and put A LOT of thought into finding the exact right gift for each child. (One gift was noisy and I’m sorry for that.) And I hope, hope, hope the kids love them! I find that books are the best gifts and still remember all the books my PANKs and PUNKs and real aunts and uncles gave to me as a child. Hope you will share your favorites.

Hey WNKers (and PANKs and PUNKs) what is your favorite book to give to kids?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Kid Leash?

Kid Leash? I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!
Kid Leash?

I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!

I’m en route from the Adirondacks to the Sangre de Cristos. You follow me so far? Exit Essex; enter Taos. Only, the transition’s not that slick…

First there was a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. Spectacular! Warm, breezy and bluebird skies. Then there was a leisurely picnic with my bride near Burlington, Vermont. At the edge of a pond. With cattails. And dragonflies. Perfect. Then a smooth flight to Dulles with a fascinating seat mate who’s sailing through the Mediterranean then across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean with her husband. The flight vanished instantly. So far, so good.

Then a layover at Dulles waiting for the flight to Albuquerque. Dinner. A walk. And then this. A pet child being taken for a walk! I’ve seen it on ski slopes. I’ve heard of it in malls. But a father walking his son on a leash? Never before. Still processing it. Good? Bad? Ugly?

Update: I posted a reddit link to this post (“Kid Leash: A father walking his son like a pet Pomeranian… Good? Bad? Ugly?”) which has generated some of the expected reactions, but also a few frustrated/angry commenters. For the record, I wasn’t excoriating the man in the picture above or users of baby leashes in general. I was surprised. And I asked readers to share their reactions. Turned out to be a more sensitive topic than I anticipated, provoking some defensive emotions. But mostly some interesting conversation. And a link to Gadling’s “Dont use baby leashes” with a video that ties in nicely!

But wait, there’s more! If you’re still trying to make up your mind if baby leashes are good, bad or ugly, then here’s another little scenario to set your gray matter gears in motion. Or your emotion in motion…

A woman was in last week with her one year old son. He was wearing one of those child leashes disguised as a cute monkey back pack, you know where the tail is the leash? … his mom wanted to try on shoes so she tied him to the sale rack. Yes, she TIED him to the sale rack… The sale rack is near our handicap ramp, which all kids think is a playground. So naturally the baby wanted to play on it. He heads for ramp and almost gets there but he’s leashed, so he starts to stretch. He makes it to the rail and starts trying to flip over it to get to the ramp. He’s so close yet so far, and this is so dangerous because the sale rack could fall on him if he gets any further… (Awful little monkeys)

The subsequent conversation between sales supervisor and mother is less startling to me that the scenario itself.

For the record, I well recognize the merits of a leash. In fact, it’s occurred to me that an adult version could be marketed to husbands/wives with a tendency to wander! But I’m also inclined to see a dehumanizing quality in a leashed baby or spouse. Perhaps it is primarily symbolic, but a leash seems like a convenient way to circumvent the sort of “hands on” parenting that ideally nurtures and educates and guides a child during these formative years. It replaces a verbal, tactile and cognitive guidance with a merely physical surrogate. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I pretend expertise in infant development, so I’m not denouncing the use of people leashing. Certainly those wiser than I will set me straight!

When DINKs Become Ding Chongs

Griffin is keeping an eye on us

Griffin, by virtualDavis via Flickr

Laura Carroll joined the childfree acronym parade yesterday on her blog La Vie Childfree. She was responding to “In China, having children is no longer a given”, an article in the Los Angeles Times about China’s demographic time bomb. Although the one-child rule is considered the primary cause, problems are being accelerated by young Chinese couples who choose to remain childfree.

In addition to today’s trends of the Chinese seeing parenthood as a choice… “Dogs are the new bundles of joy for some childless families, giving rise to a new phenomenon known as ding chong, or ‘double income with pet.’” … So if ding chong includes childfree families, that makes me one too. But if it means my pet is my “bundle of joy,” I remain a DINK and a GINK, not a ding chong ~ (La Vie Childfree)

I often joke with Susan that Griffin, our three year old Labrador Retriever, isn’t our child.

“But he’s my baby,” she counters.

“He’s our dog,” I remind her.

I’ll let her know that she’s on a slippery slope along with Laura Carroll. DINK today, ding chong tomorrow!