Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conscious Parenting

I subscribe to a list serve called "Conscious Parents" here in my town, and although the name makes me laugh (unconscious parenting seems like it would be more relaxing, but definitely not as effective), perusing it each morning is pleasurable, on many different levels.

One level is that it's genuinely helpful: I can post a question about remedies for Odessa's cough or ask which daycares are good in the area, and a lot of the people in the group have experience with that kind of stuff, so they write back with helpful suggestions. Which is great!

Other people post things like stories about how they feel guilty that they fed their kids Cheez-Its with Scrabble letters on them because they thought it would be educational, but in hindsight, they weren't organic and although the kids don't seem to have died yet, they'd like to get everyone in the whole town's reassurance that Child Protective Services isn't going to come after them in the night for feeding the kids SOYBEAN OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS. Which is great! Conscious Parents is a win-win, really.

So this morning I got my email digest from Conscious Parents and looked through it. Someone was looking for a bath ring (whatever that is), someone was asking for a dentist recommendation, someone else was trying to sell some lumber, etc. And then the following caught my eye: one post was entitled "Little House on the Prairie."

Now, it just so happens that I am currently reading Farmer Boy, which is the book Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her husband, Almonzo Wilder's, childhood in upstate New York. Basically, Almonzo's family just did chores and planted/harvested stuff and made "candy" and went to old timey Independence Day celebrations. It's soothing and yet interesting. Plus, I've learned about how to make butter.

Anyway, so this lady posted a message on the listserve about Little House on the Prairie, so I read it. It said that everyone in town should strongly consider "avoiding" (read: banning) Little House books in our homes, since they are not culturally sensitive to Native Americans. That's when I just about lost my shit.

So, I admit I haven't read the entire Little House series in many years, and it may be racier than I remember. However, I've read a couple from the series recently, and--spoiler alert!--they were written about a time in American history that was not very politically correct. Like in Farmer Boy, there's a story about the day the "bad boys" came to school and all the students were worried they were going to beat the teacher to death like they did last year. Everyone in the neighborhood was saying "Well, it would be a shame, but he knew what he was in for taking the job."

This is just to say that living in 1868 on the frontier was tough, and one of the difficult things about it was having to deal with the people whose land it was, aka, the Indians. So yes, Pa might have uttered some disparaging remarks about the Natives driving the wagon across the prairie while worried about getting shot at, and unfortunately the Indians lost their land to people like Pa. Does that mean I shouldn't let Odessa read an otherwise excellent firsthand account of life on the American frontier? I'm not sure it does, lady. And I consider myself a pretty conscious parent.


  1. Willow and I just finished Farmer Boy, and have moved on to Little House in the Big Woods. They're incredible! (I read the whole series as a child, but this is the first time as an adult.) I think they give us important lessons about living more... *consciously*. I've never felt like we should avoid letting our kids know about unpleasant things, as long as we offer them a context to understand them. I admit I'm a little uncomfortable reading to my vegan child about all of Pa's hunting exploits, but it opened the way for some valuable conversations. Viva La Little House!

  2. I completely agree, Amity. I actually read Little HOuse in the Big Woods a couple months ago and it was great! MAn, was it a lot of work being a frontiersperson!

  3. Your great-grandfather wrote books about Indians, (remember "Our Indians"?), and he always showed them in a positive, though sometimes buffoonish light. But at least they were kind and not savage. That was unusual for children's book writers of that time.

  4. these thoughts come to mind...
    1. only through knowing history will we not repeat it.
    2. silence through blocking knowledge isn't golden.
    3. the truth hurts, and only by ingesting and digesting our full history do we have any hope for our future (our children)
    4. the very notion of book-banning is despicable, horrible, and honestly quite terrifying to me, no matter the content.