Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Parenting and Broccoli  §

Being a parent is gradually turning me into a hippie.

By this I don’t mean that I begin to believe that I should only ever feed my child raw vegetables and never meat because broccoli has consciousness (so long as it hasn’t been cooked) and its “conscious spirit” is governed by a genetic code that, when ingested, will mingle with its host’s, contributing to a Genetic Memory of the Peace of the Vegetables that—if we all only lived this way for a few years—would make us genetically incapable any longer of making war, or something like that. Nor am I about to start eating fried hash omelets four times a day as “a prayer to the earth and her children,” nor do I want to move to the suburbs of Los Angeles and open a vegan restaurant.

I guess what I’m talking about is more along the lines of a newfound essentialism of human being—an incredulity, for example, that anyone would think it’s a good idea to “train” babies for “independence” and “individuality” by trying to have them sleep alone in another room at just a few months old and letting them “cry themselves back to sleep” if they wake up. People give this sort of advice as though it’s self evident that the best thing for an infant a few months old is self-reliance, just in case mommy and daddy should get caught in an unexpected series of cubicle accidents and baby should have to network, get a job, and find a roach-free apartment and a non-crazy roommate in the city to live with for the several years it might take to get adopted. Really, it comes off sounding as though these advice-givers have already Got Gotten by the Big Capitalist Ideological Consumerist Conspiracy that in previous circumstances had sounded overstated and a tad ridiculous to me.

I’m also talking about things like encouraging a child this age to regularly watch television and movies, or even moreso, using television and movies as everyday babysitting tactics. We’ve been told by some to start showing the Disney films in clusters because at six or seven or eight months the narcotic effect of television kicks in and we can sit them there in front of the Congition and Consciousness Structuring Machine, enrapt, while we…(insert something here, presumably something selfish and individualistic and self-reliant)…because the effect on them is so strong and complete as to render them silent and needless for hours. As the parent of a loud, socially engaged daughter, imagining her silent and without needs sounds horrifying and transcendentally empty, like a total and tragic loss of personhood.

And, of course, I’m talking about things like seeing two- or three-month-old babies in strollers on the town that face away from their parents, as though they’re already ready at that age to confront the dense, loud, kaleidoscopic space of the city on their own, without visual cues or guidance from anyone that they can conceive of being present with them, and as though their parents have ceded the responsibility for keeping an eye on these tiny, as of yet largely helpless and uncoordinated bodies. Let them fend for themselves! God knows it’s a tough world out there! How are you going to avoid getting fired by “The Don” if you don’t learn to hack it young—say, at four to six months old!

As I grow into parenthood and look at what others do and at what we are doing that is not what most others do, I more and more imagine that it’s no wonder American children grow up to universally shoot, bomb, or suck the life from other people, peoples, and the world in general as a matter of thoughtless, quotidian habit. This is exactly how we raise them—selfish, soulless, amoral, and deeply, radically alone.

It’s tragic and it makes me sad. And, of course, using a sentence like that makes me feel like a hippie.

But no, as I was saying as I started out, I still don’t think the broccoli in the grocery store has a spirit (much less the Universal Genetic Spirit of the Absence of War), or that marijuana is actually the miracle cure for obesity, hair loss, impotence, cancer, and depression, made marginal by a conspiracy between the monotheists and big tobacco that have cooked the scientific research “at the highest levels” to “convince us that the man is not the man” and that “weed is not the total enlightenment of a far-out nirvana” or anything like that. I’ve become a parent-hippie, not a brain-dead couch cushion that plays the guitar and sings badly in a Joni Mitchell voice.