Is it wrong to make babies cry?

The story seems to be, babies are given a lollipop, which is then snatched away from them — and great photographs are taken, to convey the sense of desperation, sadness, frustration that society is enveloped in.

The photographer defends this idea, stating, “The first little boy I shot, Liam, suddenly became hysterically upset…It reminded me of helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation.”

This series has sparked a controversy in the art community: is it okay to make babies cry for the sake of art?

I know it is only a lollipop, I know that parents often do much worse.

I also think that maybe we are a bit too sensitive when it comes to children.  In a bid to rise up against abuse and poor parenting, I have found that people have actually just gone shit balls over board.  Everything you do as a parent is micro-examined and you need to constantly on the looking for the “parent police” – usually disguised as know it all, hemp wearing, organic eating, people with questionable body hygiene talking to you about breastfeeding until your child is at university, co-sleeping, never letting your child cry ever, and well lots of things …… but I digress.

Suggesting that taking a lollipop away from a child is a good idea, is just enough to get you lined up next to Hitler and that guy who locked his daughter in a cellar, as Not the Greatest Parents of the Year.  Just not a good idea.

Last night I sent Isabelle to her room for 2 minutes as she had drawn with a pen on a table cloth.

I forgot about her, and only realised she was still in her room screaming her head off about 10  minutes later.  It was also her birthday, so the fact that I had made her blow snot bubbles and cry huge crocodile tears was even further down the scale of “bad parenting.”

I think the images are amazing.

I think the images can be used to make a comment about pretty much anything – in this case it is the artist’s frustration about politics and christian fundamentalists in the United States.

Is this worse than strapping bombs to your children and sending them out to blow themselves up as martyrs in the name of religion 0r for a political party?

Is this worse than children who are sold by their family as se.x slaves or servants?

Is this worse than taking children along to demonstrations that are clearly going to end in blood shed and with a few bullets being thrown around?

Is it worse than parents who drag their children through beauty pageants and apply layers of really good for you yellow spray tan?

Is this worse than children who are allowed to watch WWF and South Park?

Part of me wants to say, hey, its not nice to take lollipops away from children — it is okay to take lollipops away from fat children, or children with tooth decay, or children who have already had 5 ….. but not nice children like these appear to be.

The other part of me wants to say “Its a lollipop for goodness sake, get a grip.”

I guarantee Liam, Noah and Emily  in these photographs are going to be far more pleased with being part of a kick arse art exhibition, and having these images of themselves, than they ever are going to be upset by the lollipop thing.

Blankie seems to be fine.  And he got hung out of a window.  If that kid can bounce back from the one leg dangle out of a hotel window, then we really are under estimating how resilient our children are.

Angry Country by Jill Greenberg

angrycountry

Prayer by Jill Greenberg

austin_prayer

See more of the images by Jill Greenberg at  http://kopeikingallery.com/exhibitions/view/end-times

Just so that we keep this lollipop thing in perspective — here is a “not so bad” versus “yep that is pretty bad” sliding scale

 

130612_notsobad

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Sleep outs and play dates ….

I am a bit more lenient when it comes to “allowing” the children to attend play dates and sleep overs.

A bit more lenient than Kennith.  A but more lenient than all most moms I know.

Connor has been sleeping out since Grade R – he made friends at his new school.  I met the moms/dads and then playdates became sleep overs.  There were two kids that he slept over at, and those children also slept over at our house.

Connor is now 10, and he probably has about three friends who he sleeps over at, and they sleep over at our home.  I am fine with it, and I don’t get all flustered if he is away from me – I know where he is, and I know he is having fun and he is safe.  And I have one less bum to wipe and child to scream at to brush their teeth, so it is all good.

Georgia has one friend (her bestie) who she is allowed to sleep over at.  She also stays over at Kennith’s sister’s home on occasion.

Kennith is not a fan of Georgia sleeping out.  The two places she stays at I trust implicitly and Kennith, I think, just gives in to me overriding his wanting to say “no” …. and the hope we may get an extra hour of sleep at some point.

I recall going to a drop off and go party with Connor.   I was not quite ready to drop off and go with parents I did not know.   I was the only mom there and I hung around in the kitchen like a bad smell.

The parents of the child whose party it was I am sure thought I was demented and they promptly ignored me.  I hung out with the housekeeper who was washing dishes, she was kind enough to make me tea and suggest I steal pieces of cake.  It was a very long three hours!!

I realised at that party that (a) Connor is old enough for drop off and go parties (b) Hanging around with other moms at a party for children milling around talking, usually about their child, is almost the least unfun thing I can imagine doing, drop off and go parties are pretty cool for the moms!

At this juncture I do wish to ask why is it that moms always get given this thankless and actually really not fun party-duty task?  Taking kids to parties, and then hanging around for 2 -3 hours making chit chat with people you would never chit chat to, and to cap it all you are normally served tea instead of wine. How is it we get all the sh&t jobs of parenting ….. but let’s get back to the subject at hand.

I have started doing drop off and go parties with Georgia.  I go in, steal a cupcake and a sausage roll, scope out the scene and if it looks fine, then I am outta.

Georgia was invited to a weekend away with her bestie this weekend.  Initially Kennith said no, he did not think it was a great idea.

I sold the idea and explained that Georgia would be safe and and and ….. I was really chuffed she was going, as I knew how excited she was and a weekend with her bestie was going to be the treat to top all treats.

K (Bestie’s mom) contacts me on Tuesday and explains she has decided to invite a friend of hers along for the weekend.

Me: {deep breath} huh-huh ……

K explains that it is a man person, but there are three bedrooms, and Bestie and Georgia will be in one bedroom.  She assures me she will not let them out of her sight for a moment.  And I do not doubt it for a moment.

I think Georgia will probably be more closely monitored with K than she will ever be with me.

The previously-near-perfect plan now includes a man person who I do not know.  What was a brilliant idea is now a less than attractive option.

I want to say “sure, I trust your judgement … I am sure it will be fine” but there is this feeling that just is not sitting well with me.  I do not know this guy, and even if I met him for 15 minutes today, will that be okay for me to pack my daughter off with him?

To say it went down like a lead balloon with Kennith might not hint at the extent of it.  We spoke about it, and I had little in the way of “pro’s to upsell this idea.”

Last night at bedtime we sat on the bed with Georgia.  Kennith suggested we not tell her, I went with the “rip it like a plaster” approach.  Kennith bravely opened it with: “Georgia, Mommy has something to tell you..!”

I proceeded to break Georgia’s heart, she cried like I had wrenched her leg off.  I decided to stick to the truth, there was a “stranger to us” man there and we did not know him, and we could not give her permission to go.

She sobbed, she howled, she blew snot bubbles out her nose, she begged, she pleaded, she promised she would be good.  We let her come lie in our bed and play on the iphone!

We spoke about stranger-danger and that was all we could say.

We did not want to indicate he was a “potential bad man” but the reality was that we did not know him, and that was it in a nutshell.

I am comfortable that the choice of her not going was the right choice, but not a “nice” choice.

The thought that gnawed at me a bit today, was how are we preparing our children in this rather unforgiving terrain called Life.

When I was Connor and Georgia’s age, I was arranging my sleep outs, weekends away and everything else.  No one asked if there were going to be strange men there – cripes the world was full of strange men and I negotiated my way around them as best as I could.

I know the quick response is “But times are different now…”

How are they different and why?

Are there more predators now than there were back in the 70’s?  Or does it just seem like it because through the immediacy of information, we are hit with a daily dose of how-shit-the-world-is-and-why-you-must-protect-your-child?

Are we not conveying to our children that the world outside our house is a dark and foreboding place?  Full of danger and threats.

When was the last time you saw children playing a game with a ball in the street?  When was the last time you let your child play in the street like we did as kids?  Well never I am afraid.

When was the last time you saw kids playing and building a “gang hut” in a veld or a bush? Definitely never – I am sure I saw a movie like that and it did not end well for anyone.

My kids aren’t permitted to play outside in my drive way without someone watching them.  And we have a large gate at the end of our driveway.

I do not allow Connor to ride his bike in our cul-de-sac ….. unless one of us sits with him.  He is 10.

At 10 I was hiking into Cape Town or catching a bus alone to go and shop in the Golden Acre!

When I left school, kids in my era were backpacking all over the world, and trusting their fate to strangers they met along the way.

{All/most} of the people I knew who headed out the front door to unchartered territories returned unscathed and un/mol/este/d, with stories of adventure, and adapting to life through Europe or where ever they had gone.

Are we possibly teaching our children to be afraid of everyone – to not trust anyone?  To not dare go anywhere without a parent firmly within eyeshot?

Does all of this not make teaching our children to be self-reliant and resourceful because they have to be, a bit tricky.  The reality is we never really let them wander off  further than the umbilical cord can stretch?

The thing I am taking away from all of this is, are we cotton-wooling our children in layers of terror/fear of the unknown/fear of strangers/too much caution, which will impede their spirit of adventure and healthy curiosity as they grow up, but we rationalise we must because it will “keep them safe”?

<note this post was written last week Thursday, I delayed publishing it as I kept amending the copy>

Save Green Point Park …. use it!

On Sunday we popped along to the Green Point Park.  In Green Point.  In the event the location was unclear by its name.

It is a lovely large park, which is beautifully maintained.  It has lovely walk/dawdle areas and great play areas.

The kind of place you could take a basket, a blanket, a clutch of kids and let them run around until they fall exhausted into a heap, whilst you lie on the rolling lawns and read a novel, or just lie there and scream at your kids at a distance.

STOP IT.

STOP FIGHTING.

CONNOR HELP YOUR SISTER.

HEY, I WILL COME OVER THERE AND SMACK YOU.

You know, that stuff, that you do not mind if fellow picnickers look at you and your unruly brood with disdain and judgement.  As long as I have my 2 litre wine box near by, I really do not care who judges me.

Only kidding.  Really, I only drink wine out of bottles.  With screw tops.  No cork fancy pants for me.  I like to keep it real.

But back to all things park related.

Seldom do I get excited about parks.  But this one is supremely good – I walked around going “Wow, kids how cool is this!!”  “Wow, have you seen this?” “How cool is this garden?”.

I like Kirstenbosch as much as the next picnic crazed person.  But it is a bit of a schlepp and costs a bit.

By the time I drag myself through the entrance which is always 2km from where ever I have had to park, I usually hand over a hundred rand or something similar to the very nice smiley person behind the perspex glass marked “no firearms allowed…”

When you are a family of five and really just looking for somewhere to eat your 6 x portuguese rolls and tin foil chicken from Pick ‘n Pay, well then it starts to not just be a picnic, but an outing.

At Kirstenbosch Gardens you start shouting things at the kids along the lines of: “Have a good time running on the grass.  Go, hop, skip, just do something that does not involve sitting on top of me and the picnic blanket I brought.  I paid for you to enjoy the garden.  Now go and play in the garden — GO NOW, do you think money grows on trees?”

But a free park is something special to behold.

Normally the free parks I have been to, have used condoms wrapper lying around the picnic bench and an old bottle of Black Label under the jungle gym – and is in a general state of decline.  That is sort of the free parks I have grown used to.

The Green Point Park and Biodiversity Garden is in a class of it’s own.  And to not stress a point, IT IS FREE!

So what ever your budget is this one definitely comes in under the wire.  There are also no annoying hawkers trying to sell you something or want to paint your kids face at R30.00 a pop!!

Just fresh air, lots of grass and the hope of a quiet few hours of kids being kids.  Playing on stuff.  That you did not have to bring.

As we entered the park, I was a reading a sign showing me a map of the park.  I am looking at the map and ooh’ing and ah’ing, and Connor is finished so he nips over to look at the sign that lists all the things you cannot do in the park.  No doubt to see if they allow fishing — the boy is a born optimist (obsessive compulsive fisher person)

He goes – totally unrehearsed: “Mom you can’t drink wine in this park!” at the top of his voice (he is looking at a martini with a red cross through it – clearly Green Point Park does not like cocktail hour)

<the couple walking past with thier dogs did get a laugh…>>

So here is my message, other than do not bother bringing along martinis as you cannot drink them in the garden.  The sign is very clear about that.

Cape Town has a divine free garden open to the public.

The Green Point Park and Biodiversity Garden – it is so adult and child friendly it will make you gasp. It will make you feel all smug as a Capetonian.  You puff out your chest a bit and go “look what we have done” even though you had absolutely nothing to do with how the park got there.

The trick is, let’s use the park.

The more we use it, the longer it will remain. Ignore it and don’t visit it, and someone with an accounting badge and a mean disposition is going to take it away from us.  And convert it into a shopping mall or another hideous block of flats.

Go to the PARK!!  Get your arse outside.

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