Friday, June 14, 2013

Birthing a Radical: Anarchy and Parenting.

Occasionally, I feel the word "different" was invented to describe me. Even within typical outsider circles, I don't feel like I belong. Despite the fact that I've never really fit in neatly anywhere, I never bothered to be bothered by this fact.

Until my daughter was born. Then all the weirdness and unorthodoxy and eccentricity seemed to pile up and crush me under their combined weight.

I've been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. This never caused me any grief, but when it came time to start raising my daughter, I was bombarded with alarmist reactivity regarding the idea that I would DEPRIVE my DARLING DAUGHTER of the infinite meat-eating possibilities of life. Because of me, she would only grow to half-size, her IQ would be so low you couldn't register it on a chart, and she'd immediately vomit upon her first taste of rebelliously-procured meat products (in puberty). And how dare I do that to her? Easily. I sleep well at night knowing I'm such an awful person that I'd opt out of the factory farmed, antibiotic-laden, hormone-infested, carcinogenic junk-trap that is omnivorous food consumption. Not to mention the many animals whose demand for death was not made by my family. I'm pretty cool with that.

I've been an anarchist for most of my life. Now, possible misconceptions of anarchism aside, I've been through a very real schism from the rest of this community. Most anarchists identify as libertarian socialists or anarcho-communists. Ideologically, these kinds of anarchists intentionally separate themselves from anarcho-capitalists, whom they say are not "really" anarchists because they support the power structure dynamics of a hierarchical system. How dare they! Well, guess who thinks currency and jobs and companies and the free market and civil liberties and autonomy are awesome? Me. That makes me an anarcho-capitalist. Even in the subset to which I belong, I still disagree with many of the proponents. For example, I would probably enjoy bitchslapping Ron Paul. I think "can't stand" and Ayn Rand rhyme for valid reasons. Beyond this disagreement, many anarchists hate the fact that I've procreated. As if perpetuating the species with a child that has a higher-than-average chance of being an anarchist, I've somehow betrayed the most integral tenet of anarchism. I believe that parenting my daughter in such a way that teaches her the responsibility of autonomy and self-efficacy will be the thing that defines her life as she makes her way toward adulthood. She's only six now, but it's never too early to start.

Which brings me to my next problem. Er, point. Yeah, my next point. So, I teach my daughter autonomy and making responsible decisions. This means that I enable her to do things that would give most parents of similar-aged kids a heart attack. She uses the stove, cuts with santoku knives, plays barefoot outside if she wants, snacks if she's hungry, and she is a huge player in her own educational decisions. How do I manage these? Easily. I taught her how to use the stove responsibly, and I supervise when she uses it (for now). I taught her how to use a santoku knife (and scissors and lighters) so that she doesn't have to wonder about it, and I don't stress about her being barefoot or eating between meals. She's average height, on the thin side, and is so energetic I constantly joke with strangers that she's "powered by vegetables." I homeschool her, and she weighs in on how her lesson plans go.

Oh, I homeschool her! I must be religious, right?! Nope. All atheist, all the time. Which brings me to another issue: even within the minority homeschool community, I am still a black sheep. Foregoing the Bible in favor of Cosmos is seen as a Hellfire and brimstone transgression to many of the homeschoolers in my country. But, here's the thing... I don't homeschool my daughter to shelter her, I homeschool her to help her learn to think for herself. I don't want her to go through school with a blindly-patriotic, pro-'MURICAN slant. I want her to learn "just the facts, ma'am" and she can come to her own conclusions about them. P.S. If you think this isn't a problem, think of the way you learned about Thanksgiving in elementary school. Was there a table of brotherhood? A nicey-nice sit down meal where they all thanked the same Christian god? Cough. Many of the things we learn as children, we have to re-learn REALISTICALLY when we hit college (or HS if we're lucky).

So, that's a portion of me in a nutshell. And what I've told you isn't even the "worst" of it. But instead of these things making me feel angry or divided from humanity, I use it as an object lesson to teach my daughter all about the beauty, diversity, and infinite wonder of the world. I am allowed to have these differences and they won't be the death of me, as they may be in some other places. I can speak out against perceived injustice and I won't be immediately executed. She can live comfortably as a vegetarian without starving to death. My husband can pursue his medical school studies without being denied entrance due to caste issues. Because of our differences, she can experience an amazing variety of things, in life. The majority of her dinners are borrowed from another culture. I have major wanderlust so we travel across the country fairly regularly. She gets to see how all kinds of people live, and she is always a part of their festivals and events. We watch strange independent films about clowns and fairies, funky documentaries about spirituality, listen to oud and gamelan music, read stories from greco-roman mythology and amazing old classics, she has frequent exposure to all kinds of international art history. She's diversity-sensitive because she grew up with a throng of drag queens, queer artists, transsexual activists, performers, and strange birds. She's always curious, and I'm always willing to teach her more or help her find information. I named her after Salvador Dali and Roald Dahl. Her name is Dahlia. She's going to end up a name in your household someday. She is love.

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