Honore Daumier's The mother is in the throes of composition. The child is in the bath water!
Please tell me that I am not the only mother-writer here whose children set themselves on fire every time she sits down to attempt to put pen to paper. Or finger to keyboard.
Okay...that's not really me. But I still like it - although, I'm not certain whether Daumier was commenting on a woman's inability to multitask (as if I do anything else) or whether it's just a strong suggestion that mothers best tend to their babies and not try any fancy pants thinking.
In which case, Mr. Daumier is looking for a kick in the crotch even if he does happen to be dead. I'm not above kicking a dead man. You should all know this about me.
Anyway, the lithograph is in a book entitled Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species, by Sarah Hrdy.
How does one pronounce Hrdy, I have no idea, but no, my A key isn't sticking. It is, in fact, Hrdy. Without a vowel. Except sometimes Y.
Just to give you a hint at what path this book will be leading me down, here is a sampling of the chapter titles:
Motherhood as a Minefield
The Variable Environments of Evolutionary Relevance
Family Planning Primate-Style
The Optimal Number of Fathers
Born to Attach
How to Be "An Infant Worth Rearing"
Of Human Bondage
Alternate Paths of Development
And from the preface
What does it mean for a woman to have descended from ancestors who spent the Pleistocene (the time span between 1.6 million and ten thousand years agao) trying to gather enough food to stay fed and also obtain enough help from others so that her offspring would survive and prosper? What does it mean to be all these things embodied in one ambitious woman? To be a semicontinously sexually receptive, hairless biped, filled with conflicting aspirations and struggling to maintain her balance in a rapidly changing world?
First of all, hairless biped is a bit of a stretch when speaking about me and my unibrow.
But second...Oh! Oh! Isn't this good?! Haven't I been saying this all along? (Well, not here, but to anyone who will listen in the grocery checkout. And okay, a very bright friend of mine has been saying this longer than I have, but she's not currently online much, so I can plagiarize her.)
You don't just take a million or so years of hunting-gathering and fight-or-flight panic attacks over the possibility of grizzly bears - er, I mean snakes - swallowing your child in the middle of the night because the evolutionarily-challenged scamp rolled off the grass mat and away from the fire and then fastforward to 2006 and not expect to feel an uneasy, undefinable pang - a remnant of that same snake-eat-child anxiety - when struggling with a screaming 2-year-old who refuses to stay put in her toddler bed, even though you know there are no snakes in the house, even though she knows there's no snakes in the house, and even though no one has slept for three weeks straight ever since you had the bright idea to take said toddler out of the crib and put her in a damn toddler bed.
Somewhere, somehow, we're still hard-wired with the "dark-alone-snake-eat-child" instinct.
And that's just one hand-me-down from my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great, etc. grandmother.
Just scanning the book, there's evidently plenty more where that came from.
I swooned when I read this:
Today, mothers in developed countries, and with them fathers and children, enter uncharted terrain. Without anyoe raising their hands to volunteer, we have become guinea pigs in a vast social experiment that reveals what women who can control reproduction really want to do. Children, too, are finding out what it means to be born to a complex and multifacetd creature who has an unprecedented range of options.
Frankly, I can't remember the last time anyone referred to me as a "complex and multifaceted creature" and really, it's about time someone did. And not with a smirk on his face while I'm folding laundry, watching Sense and Sensibility for the 44th time, and eating Cheetos all at once.
Anyway, this looks to be a good read. A slightly different take on ongoing mommy (war) talks as written by a professor trained in anthropology, primatology and evolutionary theory. Back to the basics, servin' it up reeeeaaaalllll old school style, before SAHM and WOHM and WAHM were anything but AM radio call letters, before NOW and Zelda Fitzgerald, takin' it back to the days before Freud's first cigar-shaped pacifier, before social Darwinism was all the rage, before Amazons and goddesses, back back back, going way back to before that morning when Adam lazily awoke, belched, rolled-over and wondered aloud to Eve "You were great last night, Honey. But why do you keep screaming out Mojo Jojo! Mojo Jojo! in the heat of passion? I thought I was your first."
So, I’ll keep you abreast of my research. Toss out the odd random thought here and there. Post hilarious and probably offensive lithographs.
Hopefully, while I’m posting anything - this even! - my children aren’t being eaten by anacondas.
No…no…ha ha ha…anacondas! In Pennsylvania! The thought of it!
Heh heh…anacondas. Sure.
I’ll stop now.
And not because I’m going to check on my children.
With a can of Extra Super Hold Aquanet hairspray in my hand.
To, uh, stun…the uh…you know.