Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


At BlogHer, someone said to me - referring to the fellow who is guest-posting here - oh, your husband is so sweet, taking such good care of your baby. I was all, him? He's just my internet husband. My real husband is taller. Which is to say that I think very highly of Mr. Backpacking Dad, and, also, that my real husband is really very tall.

Catherine is a philosopher. I hope to be one someday. She has also been quite heroic in her defense of mommy-blogging recently, and I want my heroes to like me. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her I immediately agreed. And I thought "I'll be all philosophical on her blog so I don't have to do it on mine."

So, Catherine, this is what you get when you ask another philosopher to guest post for you. You get all of my crazy. You're welcome.

There is a fantastic expression tossed around in philosophy of science: Carving the world at its joints. Imagine a roasted turkey, awaiting the blade. There are places on the turkey, edges, joints, where a minimum effort with a knife will result in the separation of a largely homogeneous piece from the bird; carving anywhere else results in tearing, or smaller pieces. There are natural edges, lying there, waiting to be found.

I used to have a t-shirt, one of those No Fear t-shirts, that read: "If you're not living on the edge you're taking up too much space."

Put my daughter down in the middle of a huge, green, playing field, and she will make a bee-line for the nearest gate. It doesn't matter where the gate leads, or how far away from her starting point it is, she wants to find out what exists over there, beyond the edge of the green. Every room she wanders into her first game is one of opening and closing the door, walking through it over and over again.

She lives there in the edge spaces, at the joints of the world.

I live over here, taking up space, keeping her safe. "No, Erin, stay in the middle of the field, where it is homogeneous, known, predictable, same, safe." She lives to find the edge, to find the door, because there is always a door, always a gate leading somewhere else, somewhere new.

She is a fearless Lewis or Clark; no, she is more than an explorer, she is the guide. She is Sacagawea. I am a reluctant Lewis, my wife a hesitant Clark. She leads us to the edges and we discover anew this world, this gift, this unappreciated territory that has always been there.

We are there to make sure that nothing other puts out that fiery inquisitiveness; she is there to fan the embers of our smothered curiosity. Smothered by years of predictions proven right, of safety sought and found, of contemptuous familiarity.

This thing we do, we parent-bloggers this writing about our children, this parental punditry: What is it? It is finding the edges, inspired by our great teachers to have frank and open conversations about whether or not that gate should be passed through. Discussing with each other where the edge is, where we will and will not permit them to go.

Do you know why mommy-blogging is a radical act? Because it says, as a movement, that more important in our daily life than the technology we use, the businesses that support us, or the politics that influence our society, is parenting, and the family. It says put away your childish things and let us discuss, now, how we are to live our lives every day, and teach our daughters and sons to find the edges, the gates in the fence, and understand which ones they ought and ought not pass through. Marginalizing mommy-blogging is marginalizing the most important conversation that there is. There is no point in discussing the leadership of the nation if there are no members of society worth serving. There is no point in talking about the cell phones our children will use to call their Senators to discuss nuclear proliferation if those children are wolves or sheep instead of people. The wolf finds the edge because the sheep has fled toward it; the sheep finds the edge if chased. A person finds the edge out of fearless curiosity, and then teaches others where it is out of generosity of self.

Hey, look at that. I turned a nice piece about grass and turkey into a rant.

Again, Catherine, you're welcome.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautifully put. I'm speechless.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

"A person finds the edge out of fearless curiosity, and then teaches others where it is out of generosity of self."


12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always BPD, I hear you.

But aren't most daddy blogs actually about your collective, you know, genitalia?? I could refer you to recent posts all around, but I think you know the ones I mean.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

You are right you know. It is the act. The decision to act that separates the sheep and the wolves from the people.

Nice job. I love a rant.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done. Unfortunately we spend too much time tearing each other down. We need to find a common enemy and rally. You herd the sheep, I'll get the gate. Let's blow this popsicle stand.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Dude, that was deep. And awesome. Big bloggy props to you.

1:52 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Loverly, BPD. And close to HBMs heart. I know she'll love it. After all, Wonderbaby is an inveterate gate-seeker. And climber.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Amelia Sprout said...

Most wonderful BPD. It explains why M is so facinated with doors recently.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just had to say that.

You kick butt. Nicely done.

9:20 AM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

"There is no point in discussing the leadership of the nation if there are no members of society worth serving." Why is this such a hard concept for certain folks to wrap their head around? Mommy-blogging will be a radical act as long as we keep it that way and don't let others tell us it is over. Because I hear that rumble and fear that some have started believing what "da man" keeps trying to tell us (not men but you know what I mean - I hope).

9:43 AM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

Stunning post, just stunning.

You may be Catherine's internet husband but you are MY internet boyfriend.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing like being torn between thumping my chest and weeping. Beautiful!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nicely done BPD lets hope our children find and go through the gates at the edges. no matter how hard or fearful or difficult some of them may be...

10:48 AM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Beautiful, BPD.

11:35 AM  
Blogger ScientistMother said...

thats telling them BPD. Very very well put.

11:44 AM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

Dude, I come over here and you've got Internet wives and Internet girlfriends?! What's up with that?!

This is awesome. I wonder sometimes if my own trepidation rushes in front of my kids and locks the door and then body blocks it before they can sneak around me. I have got to stop doing that. They're just going to divert my attention and get out, anyway.

Again. Awesome.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

Yeah, where do I factor in on Internet lover-boyfriend-husband scale?

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, that was great.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was brilliant, and you've reminded me why I need to stop constantly telling my kids to "be careful".
Thanks for that.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the Lewis and Clark analogy. I feel the same way, especially when my son busts the baby gates down and bursts through them like a savage. Chasing him around is the most fun I have every day.

12:50 PM  
Blogger scott said...

See, even though I'm a father of three (boy 16, girl 14, girl 12), I could never be a Daddy blogger? Why? For one simple reason:

As much as I love my children, I just don't find them very interesting.

If I feel that way about my own children, you can probably imagine how I feel about everyone else's children.

Interesting post about caution and the edges and stuff. My children are old enough that they pretty much do what they want. I just offer a little advice and then try to look the other way while all the ugly stuff happens.

Hello, Backpacking Dad (and Her Bad Mother).

1:45 PM  
Blogger AMR said...

Letting them wander, letting them fall, letting them bleed, allowing it all . . . to a point. That's what I try to do. I get tired of hearing people tell me that they could never do that (like stay seated while watching your daughter get up from a fall and inspecting herself for blood).

Independence isn't just a good thing. It's the best thing. Fostering it in a young child is a great place to start.

Super post, BPD.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

do we get to go back to hearing about you making pancakes??? because my brain doesn't handle this much philosophy all that well...

(my brain can, however, figure out that pretty much every woman on the internet wants to be tight pants shawn's internet girlfriend or wife)


2:13 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

And I have it on pretty good authority that he doesn't exactly hurt to look at, either.

Nicely done, BPD.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

@ali Shush, you. Over here I'm not TPS. I'm just BPD.

4:12 PM  
Blogger caramama said...

That was fantastic! What a great way to think about both my child (who fearlessly looks for edges to climb and go beyond) and blogging about family. Beautifully said. And oh so philosphical.

Thanks, BPD, for sharing your wonderful insight.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Sheila @ Dr Cason.org said...

BPD- Now I think I'm taking up too much space and wishing my three kids took up more!

Nice post. I knew I was right in subscribing to your reader!

6:29 PM  
Blogger Swirl Girl said...

WOW BPD...just wow.

I like to think of myself more like bread that surrounds the turkey. Adds a little flavor (like cranberry sauce) and fills it with comfort (like the stuffing)on those days the day(s) after the knife finds those edges.

7:43 PM  

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