Mayim Bialik: Too Crunchy for this Crunchymunchy Mama?

I eagerly anticipated reading Mayim Bialik’s new book Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Then I thought about skipping it entirely.

To say that I was disappointed when I read online that Bialik had not vaccinated her children would be an understatement. The anti-vax position is one that I absolutely cannot stand behind. But my disappointment went beyond my vehement disagreement with the anti-vax movement. I was disappointed that once again it seemed that a crunchymunchy lifestyle had to tick off certain qualities in order to fit into the crunchymunchy box. (She’s into co-sleeping and extended nursing so of course she must not vaccinate – ѵ Check!) Like I’ve said before, I find myself leaning towards the crunchymunchy end of parenting. But. In no way does that mean I’m going to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus and our own country’s history of public health and endanger my child’s health and possibly the health of weaker individuals as well. I’m not here to argue against anti-vaccers. What little of that I have attempted in my personal life was an exercise in futility.

Instead, my point is that various choices get lumped together as crunchymunchy, and it’s often assumed that if one practice (say not vaccinating) is a bad choice, then another choice (say co-sleeping) is equally nutty simply because it’s practiced by the same people. For instance, I read one review of Beyond the Sling that had me steamed. The reviewer, a supremely arrogant and obnoxious man, lambasted Bialik for her anti-vax views. But then he went on to attack her views of natural childbirth implying that natural childbirth was equal to squatting in a bear den in the Appalachian woods with nary a sign of medical assistance. And this he lumped together with not vaccinating one’s children.

It made me wonder, if I subscribe to one view (natural childbirth) that may be associated with anti-vaccers, how do I know that natural childbirth isn’t also crazy? Was I just off the deep end of crazy when I opted for a natural childbirth? Or maybe really crunchymunchy people have got some things right and some things wrong. Then I can pick and choose practices to build my desired parenting style. In other words, back to my original question: How crunchymunchy am I?

In the end, I went ahead and picked up Bialik’s book today. And I’m looking forward to reading it. Just because I don’t embrace every idea that a crunchymunchy non-vaccinating celebrity mom endorses, doesn’t mean that I can’t find positive ideas and insight from her experiences. At least, this is my hope. In the meantime, I will still endeavor to be crunchymunchy on my own terms, even if I don’t fit into a neat box.

(By the way, this condition of feeling like I don’t fit into neat boxes pervades the rest of my life as well. It can make me and my husband feel uniquely alone. For instance, I am a liberal feminist who is a devout Christian. I am also a devout Christian who does not believe that Christianity and science must be exclusive. If one were to believe the Christian conservative right, I don’t exist, because after all, all Christians necessarily agree on everything, right? No.)

Upsherin and the Hunt for Tradition (or “Sam’s First Hair Cut”)

I don’t want to be the stereotypical white person who cherrypicks and steals traditions from other cultures without respecting or understanding the meaning, but just because they sound kind of cool. Yet I’m craving tradition. I also recognize that some of what gets labeled as “tradition” serves to control women and maintain a patriarchal status quo. I don’t need that. But again, sometimes I crave “traditions.” So perhaps some research into my own waspy (boring?) heritage is on the agenda in order to rediscover lost traditions that speak to me. Or perhaps even better – create our own unique family traditions?

Where did this random train of thought regarding traditions come from?
I was reading about the Jewish tradition of upsherin and I liked the idea of it. Never mind that I don’t think of Sam as an unpruned fig tree. I just like the ceremonial nature of attaching meaning to the commonplace.

Upsherin, as I understand it, is the Jewish practice of not cutting a boy’s hair until his third birthday. Its origins are in a verse about allowing the fig tree to go unpruned for three years, and then it will bear fruit upon pruning. Metaphorically, the concept of “bearing fruit” has to do with growth, maturity, productivity, and living out the life God has planned for you and using the gifts God has given you. Upsherin also signifies the official start of the boy’s Jewish education. Of course, I could be misunderstanding this entirely. I only read about it on a blog by actress and celebrity mom Mayim Bialik.

The thing is, Sammy has not had his first hair cut yet. His hair is soft and golden and so beautiful. True, many strangers call him a girl, but that doesn’t bother me. I understand that with small children people look for certain indicators (length of hair, pink clothes) so that they may comfortably categorize your child into a narrow gender binary (which I believe is extra silly for small children.) But I digress. I don’t have any pink clothing for him, but his hair does go a couple inches past his collar and sweetly curl up a bit at the ends. Can you tell that I’m going to have a hard time cutting it off? Those days of having a wee baby passed by quickly. Once I cut his hair he’s going to look that much more like a “boy” and less like my “baby.” On a purely practical level, you should see how he kicks and squirms during the torturous toenail clipping episodes. Like he’s fighting off zombies. There was no way I wanted scissors anywhere near his head and face.

So we decided to wait until he turned two and might possibly sit still for the haircut. (Do two-year-olds sit still? Yeah, I might have misjudged that one.) Now his birthday is only two months away, and I’m already feeling sad about cutting his locks. Like I said, I’m not hung up on strict gender restrictions for a one-year-old. But it’s starting to look scraggly, hang in his eyes, and starting to – just the tiniest bit – resemble a mullet. I think everyone will agree with me that I can’t have my sweet Sam sporting a mullet.

Speaking of tradition… clip from Fiddler on the Roof – Tradition!