what is truly damaging

June 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

im not sure if ive made this clear.  so please let me.

i am a really bad mother.

the latest incarnation of my bad mother status is that i take my daughter to places where people smoke.  yes, that is right she breathes in second-hand smoke.  thank goodness that there are people who care more about her health than i do, and refuse to hang out with us, because they dont want her exposed to their second hand smoke (sic).

actually, by that logic, what makes me a bad mother is that i let my daughter live in cairo.  you know, one of the smoggiest cities in the world, where simply breathing the air is a kin to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.  by that logic every mother in cairo is a bad mother.

now, dont get me wrong my daughter has spent some time in smoky environments since she was six months old.  not that anyone really bothered to notice.  other than n. americans.  in mexico, in our favorite bars, we hung out with aza and waved to the other parents out with their kids.  the only time we got the evil look was when some gringo with a waspy accent gasped at our heretical behaviour.  but you know wasps, i couldnt tell if it was the interracial relationship, the public breast feeding, or the sitting in a bar with a baby.  and honestly, i didnt really bother to find out.

i am a bad mama like that. kida kida.

now. you may ask why would i expose my daughter to such dangers.  think of all the damage that i am causing.

okay, give me a sec, let me just exhale and think about that…

oh yeah. it is damaging to my child to be treated like she is a different species, rather than a different age.  to be cordoned off and only associate with people her own age.  to see the ‘adult world’ as this completely different place that she doesnt and couldnt understand.

what is really damaging to her is how nearly everything she touches, tastes, breathes is filled with carcinogens.  my mother has worked for the epa, as well as my aunt, for most of her working life.  i grew up surrounded by pamphlets and papers about what was being pumped into our air, water, and soil.  that is what is really scary.  not that my daughter on occasion is in a smoky environment for a couple of hours, but that toxic chemicals, poisons are the weft and warp of our world.  srsly, cigarette smoke is like the scapegoat for how we have allowed our culture to kill everything living.

what is damaging is that probably the healthiest meat i have eaten was in the west bank and that is because the palestinians cant afford the chemicals that would increase their production.

mothers become the scapegoat for how we feel helpless in the face of our cultural self-genocide.

and i say this, even though i dont really like smoky places.  my lungs arent that strong.  i am usually the first person to open a window or step outside for a sec to get some fresh air or ask for a glass of water to clear my throat.

but what i wont do is internalize this scapegoating that others want to place in mother’s chests.  this fear of ourselves, as mothers, that n. american society insists on.  that our children need to be saved from our own complacency and ignorance.  when we are the ones who can love hardest, longest, deepest, and first.  when we are the ones who nurture the future at our own breast, and give up on believing the lies, so that we can teach our children how to live the truth.

the truth is we are destroying ourselves and the rest of the world with us.  what is scary is not that aza has to deal with smoke sometimes when i choose, but all of the shit that she is bombarded with daily that i dont choose,that i  know are dangerous, but also are essential for life.  water, air, vegetables and fruit.

maybe if i didnt know this.  maybe if i could spend most of my life in denial about what we are doing to the basic human needs, maybe then i could feign self-righteous indignation at the idea of a toddler being exposed to cigarette smoke.

but i owe my daughter more than that.  i owe her a life that is honest and beloved.  that is the life i fight for.  that my body and my words on the line for.  i can see what damages her.  a whiff of burning tobacco is the least of it.

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