people like me don’t exist

It is an increasingly frustrating situation. When you were a teenager, there were still those who imagined a future as bohemians. As a 33 year old, you find the entire world in praise of the family. You find that everybody wants to be in their family cocoons, only mixing with people who are in similar cocoons. And you are supposed — it is assumed of you! — to want to create this kind of cocoon for yourself. There’s no place at all in this society for people who don’t want families. People like me are excused as defiant, immature individuals as 17 year olds. When we’re 33, we can no longer be allowed to exist. Everything in this society is geared for people who want to build families and live in families. You’re supposed to make money to sustain a family. It’s supposed to be the Meaning of Life. There’s no way you can go on with life as a social being without this desire for conventional family life. You’re a fucking pervert. Not wanting monogamy or taking care of used diapers makes you a low-life. You must be sick. You must be like this because you’re demented. You must be like this because you’re totally inferior; morally, psychologically, and so forth. You’re unfit for life. At least ‘healthy’ life.

I suppose it’s an undesired consequence of my occasionally writing about education — I should stop because apparently people cannot fathom I don’t give a shit about child-care or family life — but I get these comments from Mothers (who have found Meaning of Life in pushing out these divine Babies) who somehow seem to think they’re an authority and I should listen to them because they have procreated, and didn’t have just one child but… like 13. Or I don’t know. I’m sorry, but that kind of thing makes me want to puke. I have no respect for anyone’s opinions just because they had functional ovaries and a provider of sperm. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. No, I’m not sorry. I’m resentful. I’ve had enough — not just on this blog — of missionaries spreading the gospel of eternal bliss of Babies. I’ve had enough to such a degree that just seeing a mother push a trolley makes me want to puke. Not because of the mother herself, but because human life is disgusting. I don’t understand it. It makes me sick over the fact that there’s no way to understand why people in general make these decisions; they’re incomprehensible to me. Why is everybody like that?

Thus, the blog aside, this is a constant terror in real life. If you don’t have a family, if you don’t want to get married, if you’re not looking for a partner to make children with, you’re constantly judged. It never ever stops. It is the assumption from when you are a kid that in the future you’ll imitate your parents and ‘get a family’. It’s the only way to get Meaning of Life. It’s like there cannot be any other idea of what makes life worthwhile. Only one. This hegemony creates nothing but misery. All our lives — from when we’re children ourselves — people who don’t want children are forced to have other people’s ideas about blissful procreation shoved down our throats. It never stops. I’m sure that when I’m 65, people will tell me I hate children because I wasn’t able to have any. The sentiment is the same as it always was, but the excuses for this kind of put downs will change. Of course, now that I’m over 30, I’m the only one who hasn’t given in. I’m the only one to maintain I want nothing to do with children. Perhaps I am really alone in it, or perhaps there are others who just don’t want to admit it. I don’t know. It’s possible I am this spectacular aberration of a human being.

Sure, some people don’t have children, for various reasons. But they’re still supposed to celebrate family life as the ultimate, meaningful pursuit. They’re supposed to admit that their life aren’t as full as those lives lived by parents. People like me are sick for not accepting this big ‘truth’; thus people who don’t have children generally pay lip-service to it, at the very least. I cannot respect it because to me it seems like a really big lie. I’m saying ‘people like me’ but I know of nobody else. It’s really just me. The rest say ‘oh, I didn’t have children, but it still is the superior way to live!’

And then people say, ‘but you cannot hate children, you were once a child yourself!’ — but it’s not something I can help, can I? I had to be a child, whether I wanted to or not (I didn’t, I hated being a child, and I hated other children). And they say, ‘but you’ll be lonely!’ — yes, I suppose I will, it is inevitable, I will be lonely. Everybody else is in families, and they want to be around families, not around adults who hate their children.  I understand that. But it kind of makes me an outcast. It’s not anybody’s fault, but it’s the inevitable consequence. If my brother has a child, I won’t be a part of the (extended) family anymore; I’m incapable of coping with it. And everybody will resent me for it, because they will think that me being as old as I am, I ought to have reached a minimal level of maturity. A maturity which means accepting other people’s family life and children as a collective blessing. I cannot. Because I despise babies as much as I did when I was a child myself. I want nothing to do with the phenomenon. Ever. And people say, ‘but everybody loves their own children!’ — no, that’s not true. Moreover, that in itself — even if it were true — would never justify enduring the terrors of living in a family.

But I have nowhere to exist with these feelings. Nobody thinks they are for real, because a human being cannot possibly feel what I feel. It is (presumably) human nature to feel protective towards children and family life. I’m not natural, I’m a perversion. I sometimes think people have an easier time understanding paedophiles than understanding me.

I have this feeling I will never quite learn to live in this world. I wish it were different. It won’t be, though, because you cannot change other people and their desires. And I cannot change me.

153 thoughts on “people like me don’t exist

  1. Cool!

    Jag har dock aldrig ens haft (eller begripit) den här typen av framtidsfantasier:

    ‘När man var liten var det där vuxenlivet med hus, jobb, man och barn en sådan självklarhet att man knappt reflekterade över det. Jag tog för givet att jag skulle göra som alla andra, trots att jag inte visste om det var nånting som jag verkligen ville ha. Jag var ointresserad av romantik, men satt ändå och hittade på en massa berättelser om bröllop och “sann kärlek” för att det liksom var det normala.’

    I och för sig trodde jag nog att man var tvungen — ungefär som att man skulle bli satt i läger och tvingas anpassa sig till det livet. Ja, bokstavligen talat så ungefär. Men jag har aldrig någonsin föreställt mig att jag skulle göra det frivilligt. Jag trodde inte att någon gjorde det frivilligt.

    Jag kan fortfarande inte begripa att människor inte helt enkelt hittar på när de säger att de vill ha sådana där saker. Jag tror inte att de kan mena allvar. Egentligen.

  2. Alicia,

    How wonderful is your paean to misanthropy. I love it! Thank you for it and I fully support you in your disgust at children and breeding — and this coming from someone who has 3 children himself. Interestingly enough, I have a son your exact age of 33.

    OMG, Alicia, I just got the pun. We could found a society of misanthropes and call it the Misanthroposophical Society because there is so much wisdom in misanthropy.

    And of course, Happy Valentine’s Day. And on that note, may I say to you with all love and affection: Please don’t be my Valentine!

    Wait! We need a heart with the universal NOT sign: a real heart inside a red circle with the slash through it.

    Oh, God, Alicia, reading your blog today has made me so happy!

    You know there really is hope for human evolution if we can only stop all this fucking breeding!

  3. Wait, Zooey, those surgery sites all pre-suppose that the sexual urge is some kind of necessity like eating and breathing. However for the last ten years or so there has been a growing movement called “asexuality” for people who do not have any interest at all in sex and indeed find sexuality in itself as disgusting as you find children. Here’s their main site.

    http://www.asexuality.org/home/

    You know it’s a valid movement because they sell a T-Shirt!
    It reads:

    ASEXUALITY! NOT JUST FOR AMOEBAS ANYMORE!

  4. You must have heard of the voluntary human extinction movement?

    http://www.vhemt.org/

    They have a point.

    I don’t think you’re alone at all, you just need to find a cadre of the like-minded in your area. I know lots of people who are appalled at the very idea of breeding and/or consider it outright unethical to bring children into the world.

  5. Alicia,

    How amazing to find such a spot-on quote about not existing in society by William James here in the lead article in the latest AVEN newsletter. I quote some of the article.

    http://www.asexuality.org/avenues/2009_01_31.pdf

    “No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof.”
    — William James, Psychology.

    This is the quote that begins the first known article on asexuality —“Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups” by Myra T. Johnson. Such women were so unnoticed in society that Johnson found it difficult to find a vocabulary to describe them:

    “There appear to be relatively few appropriate words in the English language to describe the individual who, regardless of physical or emotional condition, actually sexual history, and marital status or ideological orientation, seems to prefer not to engage in sexual activity. Oppressed by a consensus that they are non-existent, these are the ‘unnoticed’ who in this article are called ‘asexual’ — by default.”

    This chapter is found in a book called The Sexually Oppressed. It is precisely because asexuals—and asexual women in particular—could be considered oppressed that this chapter was able to appear in that book, and this chapter seems to be the spark that started most of the (very scant) appearance of asexuality in subsequent literature. It was published in 1977, and the first model of sexual orientation that included asexuality appeared in 1978—my suspicion is that the existence of this article, along with work on measuring masculinity and femininity that recognized a difference between being high in both and being low in both, played a key role in producing that model of sexual orientation.
    ====================

    Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation.

    AVEN: The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, an online community and resource archive striving to create open and honest discussion about asexuality among asexual and sexual people alike.

  6. hilarious Tom! Misanthroposophy. Let us adjourn to our Molière,

    Alicia: there is no need to multiply or have a mate. Plenty of us have multiplied on behalf of the species. But not with each other.

  7. ‘We could found a society of misanthropes and call it the Misanthroposophical Society’

    I have thought about it. The problem is, I suppose, that the misanthropes don’t tend to gather in groups easily. They aren’t out to save the world and humanity, pursuits which keep people flocking together.

    ‘You know there really is hope for human evolution if we can only stop all this fucking breeding!’

    I think so, yes!!

    ‘Wait, Zooey, those surgery sites all pre-suppose that the sexual urge is some kind of necessity like eating and breathing.’

    You’re right about that. It’s another topic which is filled with… mythology. Filled with assumptions about what people ought to want. They are different mythologies, but overlap, of course — the sexual urge is suppose to give rise to other urges or the other way around, I don’t know.

    And, haha!, I really like that t-shirt.

    ‘I know lots of people who are appalled at the very idea of breeding and/or consider it outright unethical to bring children into the world.’

    But you’re never supposed to say this out loud. Maybe it’s some kind of local conception of sin here in Sweden. You should never hurt someone’s feelings, and saying children are unnecessary (or anything negative about ANYTHING) per definition hurts the feelings of parents. So you can’t say it. I’ve been told all my life that ‘you can’t say things like this’. It’s some kind of taboo. Talk about sex or whatever, that’s ok, to some extent. But to express that you don’t like children, even if it’s just saying it’s not your thing, is met with unbelievable disapproval. ‘But you can’t say that! People are happy from having children! Well, look, your parents had children! You can’t say it’s not nice, it’s not possible to think like that!’ As a child and a teenager I was told I had to drink milk, ‘for the sake of my children’. Saying something simple like ‘I don’t like children and won’t have any’ meets with — I don’t know, but everytime people looked like they’d call the nearest mental institution. And it’s still like this. That’s actually the reaction, even from people who you’d think would know me and who would KNOW that I cannot do it — ‘but you can’t say things like that! of course it’s a blessing with children! don’t be such a truant! why do you always have to behave like [insert insult]?’ — and I fear that this will never ever stop. Everybody looks like they never even heard of an adult person who didn’t like children — it’s like the unthinkable. It’s not only that you can’t say these things, it’s that you can’t think them. Thus, I assume there can’t be many people like me. Who don’t want children because they don’t like children.

    I can’t even justify it by saying I want to save the earth or something. The only thing there is is my antipathy against children and the family stuff. And plain simple antipathy is not socially acceptable. My mum agrees I should never have a family, she realizes it would be a disaster. But what I don’t think she can tolerate quite is how deep my antipathies go. For her too, it’s ‘you can’t say things like that!’ … and I’m beginning to think, why can’t I? Not that I ever obeyed people when they said I couldn’t say this or that. But more and more I realize that I don’t have to make up all these excuses. (I used to say my genes are too defective to spread, but this made people just as appalled as saying children are awful. They think I’m being a nazi. I feel it should be ok to be a nazi about oneself. It’s not really entirely a joke either — some of my defects are certainly inheritable. I don’t think anyone else deserves them, especially not a child who doesn’t have a choice.)

    I could never have surgery for anything in the world though. I’m way to scared of doctors. If I’m ever ill or have to have an exam of any kind, they have to put me under general anesthesia. Not kidding.

  8. ‘Alicia: there is no need to multiply or have a mate. Plenty of us have multiplied on behalf of the species. But not with each other.’

    Oh dear. With goats or with aliens?

  9. “the sexual urge is suppose to give rise to other urges or the other way around, I don’t know.”

    I’m a bit confused … what’s all this about asexuality? There is no need to give up sex because you don’t want children, as far as I know.

    I think the idea nature had in mind was that sex is so much fun precisely because raising children often is not, and many people wouldn’t do the latter if it weren’t a (sometimes unintended) consequence of the former.

    Perhaps in the US there is less of this social pressure that you feel. I am sometimes offended in the other direction – there is a tendency among some young people to refer to anyone who is a parent as a “breeder” – I assume these people are not interested in reproducing, and have some contempt for those of us who have.

    Maybe you were born in the wrong era. Not so many years ago, one had to justify the decision to have children, it was considered quite irresponsible.

  10. Well, let’s bring the discussion down to Steiner and Waldorf. Just imagine if Rudolf Steiner, a man who himself did not procreate any children, had lived his life dabbling in all other fields EXCEPT for childrens’ education? Would any of us be here and now? Would any of us have ever known of the existence of each other in this life without the “child” of WE being born and bred?

    Would anyone in the world ever have even heard of Rudolf Steiner, except for a few hard-core esoteric types, who usually hate children anyway?

    I mean think about it! All this ridiculous sound and fury about Waldorf Education we experience now. On both sides of the issue. What if Emil Molt had never bothered to ask Steiner that H-bomb-loaded question about educating children?

    Well, as the saying goes: “There’s no use crying over non-aborted fetuses, now, is there?”

  11. ‘I’m a bit confused … what’s all this about asexuality? There is no need to give up sex because you don’t want children, as far as I know.’

    No, obviously not. I’m sure it one thing sometimes coincides with the other, but there’s no compulsory link at all.

    ‘Maybe you were born in the wrong era. Not so many years ago, one had to justify the decision to have children, it was considered quite irresponsible.’

    I think so too, in a way. But at least here, choosing to have children is somewhat of a hallmark of responsibility. Even more so in the city — people have children when they’re 30+, have earned lots of money, bought homes, et c. The children are status symbols, dressed up in Burberry and, well, all that.

    The whole teenage pregnancy problem doesn’t exist at all — unlike in some parts of US society.

    Living the way I do, having the views I do, isn’t socially acceptable among men even — and I’m sure it was perfectly acceptable to men a half century ago to not want to take care of children. Now all responsible men change diapers. I suppose this is good (for equality and for women’s opportunities to earn their own money), but it’s made not wanting to do it seem even more like an aberration from normal human existence. I can’t even say, ‘well men don’t do it, so why do you say these things?’ because these days men are supposed to be caretakers too.

    ‘ ..some people liked swans. In antiquity that is, not recently. ‘

    A few years ago, in central Stockholm, a lady was found to cohabitate with dozens of swans in a one bedroom apartment. I’m not suggesting it was sexual, but it was slightly odd.

    ‘ Would any of us have ever known of the existence of each other in this life without the “child” of WE being born and bred?’

    Probably not.

    ‘Just imagine if Rudolf Steiner, a man who himself did not procreate any children…’

    I don’t think he did, but we can’t really know this. Not with absolute certainty. It doesn’t make any difference of course, as far as consequences are concerned (I mean WE and us talking about it).

    ‘Well, as the saying goes: “There’s no use crying over non-aborted fetuses, now, is there?”’

    Nope.

  12. Diana: I’m a bit confused … what’s all this about asexuality? There is no need to give up sex because you don’t want children, as far as I know.

    I think the idea nature had in mind was that sex is so much fun precisely because raising children often is not, and many people wouldn’t do the latter if it weren’t a (sometimes unintended) consequence of the former.

    Diana, the part of your statement that would be questioned by the asexual community is your implicit assumption that the sexual drive is something so strong or so innate that it “has to be given up.” Or that “nature” or “God” had to resort to trickery to fool us into propagating the species by making sex so much fun and so irresistible. I mean maybe you’re right, but so what?

    The points you make are really moot because the asexuals do not have any interest in sex. They do not find it fun. They don’t believe they are missing out on anything. And they resent people both straight and gay who ridicule them and call them psychologically sick because they are not “normal” in their attitude toward sexuality. They must be deviant. It’s fascinating to read their testimonials and how much it sounds like the Gay Liberation movement in the 60’s when being gay was still considered a deviancy from the norm and a psychological disorder. Took till 1973 for the DSM to change it.

    Anyway, here is the original Asexual Yahoo group that has been around since 2000. I copy their Homepage blurb below.
    It’s called: “Haven for the Human Amoeba.”
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/havenforthehumanamoeba/
    So what exactly is asexuality?
    It’s a lack of sexual attraction.
    Asexuals are generally very different from one another: some experience romantic attraction, some don’t. Some experience arousal, some don’t.
    Asexuality is not celibacy — celibacy is a choice to abstain from sexual intimacy while asexuality is an orientation which results in lack of sexual attraction.

    (I love their graphic which is a satire of the old “Joy of Sex” books from the 70’s)

  13. Fine Tom, but I never figured out where a discussion of asexuality came into this. All I heard Alicia say was that she doesn’t like children, which is hardly the same thing.

    I also questioned the notion that sexual desire is somehow supposed to lead naturally into a desire to have children. I was pointing out that it is more the case that sexuality is such a strong drive because so many people do NOT want children. Sex is a compensation for the fact that children are so awful, or nature’s tricky way to get us to keep having them anyway.

  14. >A few years ago, in central Stockholm, a lady was found to cohabitate with dozens of swans in a one bedroom apartment. I’m not suggesting it was sexual, but it was slightly odd.

    That is very funny.

  15. “Saying something simple like ‘I don’t like children and won’t have any’”
    A- I caught myself referring to my daughters’ future children, she stopped my in my tracks and questioned “what if I don’t have any kids?” Funny I hadn’t really thought about it before then. I didn’t think I’d have kids either, thought it was unethical (more so unfair to the children) to bring someone into this messed up world. Then something snapped, and after a series of events found the man who would father my kids and the rest is history. It was a bizarre moment when everything I had thought about myself shifted 180 degrees.
    There really is a societal expectation to procreate, no one believed me when I said I didn’t want kids. I believe you.

  16. Diana,

    The asexuality trigger came from my memory that I had read this same kind of rant before about loathing children, society’s expectations about procreating, and not being allowed to exist, etc., on the AVEN (asexuality) sites. I hadn’t read any in 2 years I figure, but Alicia’s rant was so similar. Then when I clicked on the latest issue of their newsletter, I saw that William James quote right away.
    http://www.asexuality.org/avenues/2009_01_31.pdf

    Also, from the looks of all the photos I’ve seen and from reading the blogs, it’s clear that the vast majority of confessed asexuals would fall in the 20-40 year old demographic, of which Alicia is smack dab in the middle.

    And again, the issue is not the sex, or lack or it, per se, but having to deal with society’s reactions against a new way of relating. So Alicia’s rant was a “second paragraph” of a typical asexual rant. In the first paragraph the asexual would talk about the sexuality, but then quickly shift into the societal issue of loathing children and feeling “not being allowed to exist.”

    And since I have 3 children of my own in that demographic, I’m fascinated by what makes them tick — but they don’t even tick anymore because they’re so digitized and I’m a vintage analogue. (I can still work a slide rule.)

    So like the old TIMEX watch, I keep on ticking, but they have a vastly different sense of time, like it doesn’t elapse any more. It’s all in here now. be here now. The power of now. And I say: cool! But then: Tick, Tick, Tick. . .

  17. As far as expectations go, I think, yes, it’s not that different. And not wanting children or to start a family, and being over 30, you’d better be asexual. Nobody would waste time on somebody who they know isn’t looking for stabled, settled family life. Not that any of this is bothering me much. I don’t think it’s entirely about the sexual side of it either — people look for friends who are in the same situation, who are in families or are starting families. Families are supposed to hang out with people in family settings. You go out of the door, and all you see are families hanging around with other families. They’re everywhere. And I live in the city center! I assume it’s way worse in the suburbs.

    I’m really a hermit and a misanthrope, so it’s not a big deal that there are no people left like me. What drives me to panic several times a day lately is really my brother. What if he has children, and everybody is ‘ooooooooooooooooooh look at the baby’… and I know I won’t be able to cope. There hasn’t been any babies around since he was a baby. And it has always been the same thing in regard to this: ‘oh, no, you didn’t really hate the baby, nobody can hate a baby! you really loved him, deep down!’ — and it’s just such a lie. I didn’t at all like him. I didn’t want him. At all. And I left home before he grew up. I like him as an adult, of course (or perhaps it isn’t an ‘of course’ but it’s worth saying anyway). But he’s 25. Maybe 5 years from now, he chooses to have children?

    I can’t even talk about it, because it’s bound to make everyone upset. Somehow I think I ought to tell my mum that, if he does, I won’t be able to be around. Because I think she expects something of me I can’t manage. I keep worrying about what hasn’t happened, sadly. But then… if she spends years thinking I will cope like a reasonable adult, I figure she’ll be even more upset when she realizes I won’t, that I’m still an immature 8 year old who hates having a baby in the family. They all have to live their lives, naturally, but I’d hate it if they all assume I’m able to deal with something I’m not able to deal with.

    Tom: ‘the vast majority of confessed asexuals would fall in the 20-40 year old demographic’

    Not surprisingly — it’s the time in life when their peers are starting families and have children, et c, and the ‘condition’ comes more into conscious awareness. It’s not so acute an issue for people who are 17 or 55, I would assume. Society’s assumptions about what you ought to do are perhaps more focused on children/family when you’re around 30 +/- 10. Where I live people have their first child when they’re somewhere around 34-35, statistically. This is quite old, compared to other areas/nations. Which means that perhaps I should say these issues are more acute when you’re 35 +/- 10.

    LB: ‘A- I caught myself referring to my daughters’ future children, she stopped my in my tracks and questioned “what if I don’t have any kids?” Funny I hadn’t really thought about it before then.’

    Yep, it comes naturally to most people to say things like that, even to people who don’t see it as self-evident that everybody is going to have children (I mean, you didn’t think you were going to have any, so at least you somehow knew what your daughter meant when she replied like that).

  18. I woke up thinking about references in movies and books regarding people (usually grumpy old men) who hate children. There is always a child hero who turns their heart, and we learn that old grump was really a softy inside who just needed love.

    My earlier post was not at all an attempt to say that you too will have a pivotal moment. That was my experience. I hope it didn’t read that way.

  19. “And again, the issue is not the sex, or lack or it, per se, but having to deal with society’s reactions against a new way of relating. So Alicia’s rant was a “second paragraph” of a typical asexual rant.”

    Ok, I see, thanks Tom.

    Of course, then again parenting tends to LEAD to asexuality too :) Little kids put a damper on things for a LONG time … and by the time they’re not little anymore, it’s something of a project getting things going again, involving “dates,” rituals, potions …

    Really having children does suck. Even for those of us who love our children and certainly would never regret having them – there’s no denying much of it is misery, the early years are practically hand to hand combat, emotionally, and by the time that stage is somewhat past and some semblance of normal life is again possible – like just going out to dinner now and then – by that time one is too old to enjoy it anymore anyway.

    Alicia, all I would say is I don’t think your viewpoint is truly that unusual. I COMPLETELY share your “Barf” reaction to the Waldorf-Madonna-Earth Mama complex, it’s sickening and destructive. Any mother who claims it’s all wonderful is full of shit; if she’s totally unconscious of any negative feelings, that simply means she’s depositing the load unconsciously on her children, who will suffer for it. At the risk of getting too personal … my own mother was like that, she claimed never to have been angry at me, and it’s true she never raised her voice to me and was never (openly) critical of me. The result is I bear all the rage she couldn’t acknowledge. She also claims never to have been angry at her own mother … who once threw her down the stairs and broke 14 bones in her arm and shoulder.

  20. I’m a bit confused. If you are a hermit and a misanthrope, why does it seem to bother you so much that you won’t be able to be around your family if your brother has a child? Shouldn’t that be your ultimate goal as a hermit and a misanthrope? Avoiding all forms of socializing, that is.

  21. @ ‘Anonymous’: BECAUSE I want to still be able to see my mother and my father.

    And I’m bored as hell living in a world where children and families are adored by everybody. Such a world of perfection — perfection being the bliss of Baaaaaabiiiies… (uttered with an insipid voice) — is utterly boring and makes me want to smoke dope, get awfully drunk and swear all day long.

    ‘Shouldn’t that be your ultimate goal as a hermit and a misanthrope? ‘

    Who are you to tell me what should be my goal or not? Why the fuck do you think you’re able to do that?

    @ Diana: I fixed your name in that comment above since there’s another ‘anonymous’ commenter.

    Aside from this, I’ll return to the comments in a short while. I just have to stop being in the mental state of a rabid wolf, frothing at my mouth while growling and showing teeth.

  22. Diana: very interesting. If I were to interpret my own mothers attitude, it’s not dissimilar from your. Especially in this: ‘Really having children does suck. Even for those of us who love our children and certainly would never regret having them – there’s no denying much of it is misery …’ She wouldn’t recommend having children, not unconditionally, not to me. So at least she isn’t completely off in dream-land. And she would never claim she was never angry with me (it would be a ridiculous claim, she could get away with it in regard to my brother, but me… haha!).

    The amount of work it takes… I mean, I’ve seen it. My brother wasn’t a difficult child, he was really easy-going. But still. I wondered how she dared after having had me, to start again almost 8 years later!

    ‘I COMPLETELY share your “Barf” reaction to the Waldorf-Madonna-Earth Mama complex, it’s sickening and destructive.’

    It is, I think. On so many levels. Not least for other parents, if they’re surrounded by folks who hold on to the mythology.

    Also, a woman (or a man for that matter) raised with the attitudes you describe in your mother… could easily cause huge emotional issues and feelings of inadequacy when she (or he) decides to have children and discovers all is not so happy and simple. One would have to either adopt the illusion or find reasons to reject it.

    Luckily, most children probably suspect a claim that the parent has never been angry at them isn’t entirely sincere. Even from the tone of voice, as a child you know. Parents who pretend otherwise are often fooling only themselves, I think.

    LB: ‘I woke up thinking about references in movies and books regarding people (usually grumpy old men) who hate children.’

    Yes, these grumpy old men! I always had a feeling that grumpy old men weren’t as easy to soften up as it is sometimes depicted in such stories. Grumpy old men (real ones) used to have an excuse; they weren’t used to children, their wives had tended to the family, and they’d been the absent providers. It could be said they don’t know how to handle children. I suppose these excuses won’t work as well in the future, since fathers are expected to be much more present in their children’s upbringing nowadays. (A good thing. But perhaps not for grumpy men. I don’t know how people excused grumpy old ladies — probably by saying they had been childless, barren, unmarried… in short, and more explicitly, they hadn’t had enough sex and no man who had wanted their domestic services (i e, their lives were deprived of meaning)…!)

  23. Sorry, it was meant as a joke, Alicia.

    Who I am? Another female who never, ever wants to have children. For pretty much the same reasons as you. But I gave up on trying to explain this to other people a long time ago. When they ask me about why I don’t want to have kids, I simply say that it’s because my cats are allergic.

  24. Ok, I’m sorry I shouted! (I’m awfully stingy these days. Probably my unfulfilled life without children. Or something.)

    ‘When they ask me about why I don’t want to have kids, I simply say that it’s because my cats are allergic.’

    I’d tell people mr Dog is allergic, but nobody who knows him would believe it. He adores children. He certainly didn’t inherit that trait from me. It’s a mystery.

    But, yes, it is impossible (or very difficult) to explain in a way that will be accepted by people who have a different (pro-children, in want of a better word) outlook. Brutal honesty usually doesn’t do the trick in matters such as this.

  25. In fact, mr Dog is like one of these baby-bliss ladies who shouts ‘ooooooooooooooooooooh!’ at the sighting of an infant. I’ve asked him why, but he can’t explain it in a way that I understand. I have resigned. I realize there are things he values that I don’t. Rolling in carrion. And human babies. (We share an appreciation for puppies, however…)

  26. Nah, 3 blogs won’t be enough ;-) But you can never know with Sune.

    In a way, anything which keeps him away from more destructive pursuits is good. Plus, I like to think about the fact that the waldorf federation wastes money on utterly unimportant matters. It’s not so funny to be the target of the lunacy, I admit that, but I don’t think Sune will change. (The waldorf federation will have to. Some day. They can’t keep doing what they’re doing. They may try to but in the end they will have to change something in their attitude. They will have to realize Sune’s work isn’t uniformly positive for waldorf education…)

  27. Yes, it’s quite evident that Waldorf works because zooey doesn’t want to have children! Now I just have to fill out the details. Can you help me with that Sune? XD

  28. Well, I recall awhile back you wrote just one line about hating to hear babies scream, or something like that, and he took it and ran with it, posting detailed analyses of your supposed mental disturbance, and how that explains away any criticism you might have of Steiner education.

    You’ve now given him an encyclopedia’s worth of material. However, he may have to take some time to work through it and figure out how to use it against you without making a total fool of himself, considering he is also single and childless, I think. Of course, fear of making a total fool of himself doesn’t usually stop him.

  29. ‘You’ve now given him an encyclopedia’s worth of material. However, he may have to take some time to work through it and figure out how to use it against you without making a total fool of himself, considering he is also single and childless, I think.’

    I like to think that, if nothing else, it should keep him busy ;-)

    But I remember that incident with the screaming baby. It was on a bus, and I had a headache, or maybe it was my eyes, or both. Anyway, it wasn’t such a big deal, except I used some harsh words on twitter. I mean, come on Sune, lots of people don’t feel happy when they’re in a bus with a screaming child and they happen to have a headache or not feel well at the same time. I think even parents sometimes have a hard time enduring the screaming…

    ‘Alicia, why don’t you just suggest to your mom that she read your blog?’

    Now, that would be scary for real… (And I think there are many things about my childhood she’s happier not knowing about.)

    ‘I’m new, who is sune? I follow waldorf answers on twitter, is this the same person? robert mays?’

    Yes, though it isn’t Robert Mays, it’s Sune Nordwall in Sweden. I don’t know why Robert Mays lends his name to that crap. Sune tweets under the names @mycroftii and @the3bee too. He often calls himself The Bee. And sometimes Eva. Eva is his anima. Apparently. There are lots of other aliases too.

  30. It is true that I don’t socialize, not anymore. I’m too much of a misanthrope, too much of a loner. I tire easily. I can’t cope with the demands of social life. Partly, I think, because everybody else takes it so seriously. You’re supposed to ‘be there’ for this or for that. Supposed to ‘stand behind’ people and ‘support’ people and be useful in all manners. There is no low-key variety of just hanging around.

    If you’re not in a relationship, you’re supposed to be seriously looking for one, ’cause your time is running out. It feels like an unspoken demand. If you’ve had a relationship, you’re asked if you aren’t seeing that person. It’s easier to say you’re not, because otherwise the assumption is you should hook up again — no time being just friends and seeing someone sporadically as friends, I mean, for dog’s sake, you’re 33. How do you explain to people nothing was ever that serious in the first place? How do you explain you never want to be in a relationship, that you never want to have someone living with you, that you’d just rather be alone than having to deal with someone else, day in day out? This whole couple thing is such an important thing for people. How do you explain you don’t want it and never wanted it? When everyone’s assumption is that, in this desperate situation, everything that even looks like (whether it is or isn’t) one step closer to marriage is DEAD serious! Can’t dawdle about like a teenager!

    The ‘plot’ above I’ve made up, but the expectations are very real.

  31. “even parents sometimes have a hard time enduring the screaming”

    Even parents? Oh, dear dog, LOL, you don’t know the half of it!! From the POV of the parent under siege, the person on the bus who has to listen to it for a few minutes really has nothing to complain about … strangers glaring at us like “Why don’t you stop him” are kind of missing the point. We don’t WANT the child to scream and if we could quickly and easily stop them don’t you suppose we would? The parent of the screamer is often going home to listen to several more hours of screaming.

    My son was an extremely difficult infant. It is really a special kind of hell. His first couple of years took years off my life, there’s no doubt about it. Of course today he is a lovely person, very calm, a pleasure to be around and never screams at all :) It passes, but in the screaming days, one sometimes doesn’t believe it ever will. Please do realize the parent of the screamer is often barely hanging onto her sanity; if she looks glassy eyed and doesn’t seem to care if strangers are getting annoyed, assume that she is mentally probably a shred of her former self and probably hasn’t slept more than 3 hours at a stretch in months, or even years if she has more than one child.

    It is into this vacuum of desperation that all kinds of wacky parenting theories step. Vulnerable mothers are desperate for a program, a theory, an educational method etc. that promises to solve everything.

  32. Exactly! But, I don’t know, it seems to me that Sune might think that not being able to cope with screams is a hallmark of a bad person — thus, no good parents would ever find themselves losing patience over the noice. Of course, they do. Of course they get awfully tired. Honestly, I see these parents with screaming children, and I think ‘well, at least I can get of the bus’. Yes, it is utterly unpleasant to listen to, and if you’re already tired or the circumstances are bad, you’re irritated. But I always think that it’s good I’m not the parent because I would stuff a sock in the kid’s mouth. I wouldn’t be able to cope — I can’t cope a few minutes, I have no idea how people cope for months. I would go crazy.

    I think my parents were awfully patient not to kill me, because I screamed all the time too. At home mostly. If I would have had to cope with one week of myself as a baby I’d have strangled it. I know it.

  33. LB,

    This calls for a celebration.
    It looks like you have been officially . . . Sunetized!

    (It’s akin to being “sanitized,” except that the scrubbing and bleaching agents are applied to your mind and soul and not to the body.)

    Do follow some of the links he sent you, as that will give you a sense of the scope of his cleansing mission to rid the Waldorf world of critical Waldorf mothers and a pernicious bacterial strain called Peter Staudenmaier.

    The whole operation we may call

    The Department of Sunetation

    with its motto:
    “Cleansing the world of Waldorf one critical germ at a time.”

  34. >Sune might think that not being able to cope with screams is a hallmark of a bad person

    A person who believes this, and uses it to spread malicious gossip about someone else, is merely telling the world about his own emotional immaturity.

  35. LOL!

    … though it isn’t really the kind of cleansing which is worth celebrating. It’s more like cleaning with sponges and water which are already more filled with nasty things and bacteria than the objects being ‘cleaned’. Or like a vaccuum cleaner — in reverse.

  36. That’s because they lack “rhythm” in their lives, or they are are allowed to watch television and play video games, or they need more eurythmy, or they need to learn to juggle or to walk on stilts, or their parents don’t light enough candles, or they have mirrors in their bedrooms, or their mother dresses them in black, or in clothing with overstimulating patterns, or their parents offer them too many “choices,” like whether to have toast or cereal for breakfast, or they have a sock monkey for a toy, or they are allowed to play soccer, or they learned to read too early, or they have heard some rock and roll music, or they have been taken to a shopping mall, or their parents have not told them any Grimms fairy tales, or their bedrooms are not painted the right color, or they are simply “choleric.”

    All reasons Waldorf teachers will give for difficult behavior in children …

  37. I did read Grimm’s fairy tales to my children – there really were grim too and many of them hardly suitable for children. I was ticked off for reading Narnia and my mother once bought them a copy of ‘When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit’ which caused consternation. I didn’t realise at the time that the vast Aryan ideal which looms over this education system might make this book not only inappropriate but also embarrassing. It was my mother who also asked me, when we first got involved, if I knew these people had ‘something to do with the Nazis’. Perhaps she thought this book would jog the kindergarten teacher’s memory (or awaken her dormant conscience). Meanwhile my children, who lack even a hint of anything that could even vaguely be described as spiritual, pulled their gnome’s trousers off and buried him head-first in the garden.

  38. Meanwhile my children, who lack even a hint of anything that could even vaguely be described as spiritual, pulled their gnome’s trousers off and buried him head-first in the garden.

    Wow! That sounds like a great plot device for Conner Habib in one of his specialty films.

  39. The ways to fail as a parent — Diana’s comment: https://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/people-like-me-dont-exist/#comment-7149 — I think most parents who shop at my local supermarket fail on most accounts. My mum failed at some, which would obviously explain my childhood insomnia and other behaviour issues. Most of all, I never seem to have benefited from the eurythmy.

    @Thetis: I read ‘When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit’. My mum got me books like that; she also thought it absolutely appropriate children read Donald Duck from an early age. She never understood a thing about the anthros’ literature tastes. She’s still completely confused over it, how teachers and other parents frowned upon certain kinds of literature, saying she can’t understand why some parents demanded to know and approve of the books their kids read. I think she still just thinks these parents were just plain stupid, and not that they had ideological reasons for it.

    ‘Meanwhile my children, who lack even a hint of anything that could even vaguely be described as spiritual, pulled their gnome’s trousers off and buried him head-first in the garden.’

    They are obviously very spiritual — they knew instinctively what gnomes like. Awkward positions with a tinge of bizarre eroticism. Plus, any gnome with their pants off will be spared ending up on display in a waldorf classroom. Waldorf teachers are a bit hushed around gnomes with no pants. Thus, some gnomes are using this moral squeemishness to their advantage, and position themselves upside down without pants when they spot a waldorf teacher. Your kids simply helped the poor fellow to remain a free gnome and not become pinned like a butterfly and attached to the interior design of the waldorf school. There was obviously a waldorf school not too far away.

  40. Sune retweeting Sune who’s retweeting Sune who’s retweeting Sune… wait, did I forget anyone?
    rt

    It’s worse than I thought when I wrote ‘You’re retweeting yourself retweeting yourself. I think you’d be confused enough without me confusing you.’

    I change it to: ‘You’re retweeting yourself retweeting yourself retweeting yourself. I think you’d be confused enough without me confusing you.’

    (To people not on twitter: retweeting is posting a copy of what someone already said. Sure, you could parrot yourself for an eternity, but it looks rather silly. Of course, sometimes something is important enough to be repeated, but the way Sune does it is rather silly…)

  41. Ps. I don’t have a clue why I posted it in this thread. But it seemed fun.

    Maybe Sune is reincarnating his tweets. Or is it merely recycling? Or is it really the same thing? What’s sure though, is that there’s no improvement between incarnations.

  42. Thetis: I did read Grimm’s fairy tales to my children – there really were grim too and many of them hardly suitable for children.

    Ah, don’t get me started on the subject of children’s reading material and Waldorf. We read Grimms too, in fact I took pains to be sure I had the “right,” Waldorf-approved edition. You have to buy the one that isn’t sanitized, i.e., none of the blood and gore removed. In fact some Grimms tales are appropriate for children and many are not, IMO. There is never a concern in Waldorf not to frighten children. You shouldn’t “overintellectualize” children and you’re supposed to be concerned not to “overstimulate” them, but somehow, terrifying them out of their minds with stories about parents who kill, cook and eat their children (for instance) doesn’t count as overstimulating.

  43. enough has been said about that gnome and yes, there is undoubtedly a significance.

    @Falk – it was quite a mild disapproval which I ignored since my internal approval rating for literature far outweighed any other considerations. But it always makes me laugh when US fundies get upset about Harry Potter.

    I read an unsanitized version of Grimm – it did seem extraordinarily bloody.

  44. ‘You have to buy the one that isn’t sanitized, i.e., none of the blood and gore removed.’

    This is one of few times I think waldorfians are on to something. Living in that fluffy, pink, silk-clothed (supposedly) paradisical environment, Grimms’ blood and gore is as close to reality as some of these kids will come in many years. It’s certainly preferable to the waldorf kindergarten teachers’ swishy-swooshy-wooshy talk about fairies and angels.

    ‘terrifying them out of their minds with stories about parents who kill, cook and eat their children’

    Being around waldorf teachers is, in general, scarier. Some of them are worse than that psychologically, even though they don’t kill and eat children.

    Maybe I’m odd, or disturbed (well, not unlikely), but I was never afraid of fairytales. I was afraid of some of the other children, but fairytales, never ever.

  45. Well, you have a point about Waldorf itself sometimes being scarier than the fairy tales … still, I don’t agree with reading gruesome things like Bluebeard to 4-year-olds. I don’t think it’s kind and I don’t buy all their crap about “archetypes.” To me it looked like an excuse to enjoy terrifying small children.

    We’ve discussed the issues around fairy tales in Waldorf on the critics list many times … you have to remember – as I’m sure you do, personally – the whole context of story telling in Waldorf. The kids are not allowed to ask questions or make comments on the story, so the normal “processing” that would be present in other classrooms is absent. That, combined with the flat, affect-less voice Waldorf teachers are trained to use when telling stories, adds to the chilling nature of this event. If you can talk to the kids about it, if you can stop if someone is getting scared or upset, that might be different, but the zealot Waldorf teacher doesn’t do any of that, she doggedly tells her fearsome tale without regard for the kids’ emotional response, or any kind of reality check (e.g., the assurances that “It isn’t real” that a parent will normally offer).

  46. Oh, yes, I remember. It’s a topic where I usually disagree (more or less) with other waldorf critics.

    I don’t think these fairytales scare children. I don’t think children are that easily scared.

    ‘If you can talk to the kids about it, if you can stop if someone is getting scared or upset …’

    Of course I can’t say anything definitive about the other kids’ (inner) experiences of the fairytales, but I don’t remember anybody ever getting upset or scared by any of the tales. I certainly never was.

    I’m not sure if Bluebeard ever featured though, I have to read it again. Is it really a Grimms’ fairytale?

    http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/bluebeard/other.html

  47. Off topic, I know, but I can’t find Bluebeard in my Grimms’ fairytales collection. It’s not a complete collection though.

    Anyway, from what I’ve read online, it’s not something I would have been upset about as a child. I don’t see the fuss, really.

  48. By the way, and entirely off-topic, I found this: ‘@thetismercurio ‘s zealous primarily ideological defamatory anti #Steiner #Waldorf and anti #Anthroposophy campaign’.

    Guess who, I bet you can’t. No, sorry, of course I don’t. No wonder he’s confused by trivial things.

    And the twitter limit of 140 characters must be a pain.

    ‘… zealous primarily ideological defamatory anti…’ what? eh?

  49. It would be interesting if there’s any research on how children cope with gruesome fairytales? If there is any disadvantagous emotional impact, short term, long term?

    I mean, it seems almost intuitive for many people that children should not hear about blood, murder, atrocious stuff. But is this just intution or is there something to it? Maybe if adults are distressed by these bad things, they think children ought to be really distressed to? While in fact they react much less to it than hyper-sensitive adults do? Adults who, moreover, have a dream about the paradise of childhoow — soft, pink, fluffy?

    To me the answer isn’t obvious at all. The entire upset/scared/distressed reaction may pertain to adults, not to children. I don’t know. I know what I was like, but that’s certainly not much of a clue in terms of what children generally are like.

    My brother only wanted to hear stories about historical war and battles — the more gruesome the better, basically. It began when he was 2-3 years old and continued for years. We had to visit Lützen and Waterloo and all these places. He’s well-adjusted today, but he draw nothing but butchered people and blood. Very rudimentary drawings, artistically speaking, but he’d write these texts to accompany them: ‘ouch!!’, ‘I’m dying!!’, explanations about people’s limbs being torn off, et c. He didn’t use colour except for the blood.

    I’ve never figured out if he managed to keep this up in waldorf kindergarten as well as at home. Or what the teachers thought about it. My mum had taught him to read very early, so he read fluently when he was 3/4. Thus the explanatatory texts to the drawings.

  50. Bluebeard is an old French story ~ gruesome.
    I was super sensitive, still am!
    My son was obsessed with drawing bloody pictures during his kindergarten sentence. I assumed it was his processing of something else happening in our lives until near the end of the year when I realized what was happening in the class. He doesn’t draw these anymore…

  51. Yeah, I found the name of the fairytale collection it was in, and I recognized it from long ago, so I must have come in contact with it as a child. Maybe at older relatives’ or something.

    I’ve always been quite callous. Except when cute animals are being hurt. Can’t see that. I have this wonderful painting which was painted by a Russian girlfriend of my grandfather, he’d be 110 if he lived, so I guess the painting is quite old. Anyway, it’s a ship-wrecked dog. He’s sitting on a rock in the middle of a black sea at night, the moon shining over him. Just thinking about it makes me almost cry. I love dogs and I would love having this painting on my wall — but I can’t. My mum assures me that ship will come and pick him up, but I can’t believe her. I’m very sensitive to abandoned dogs.

    But depictions of blood, death and such things don’t bother me the least.

    Good to hear your son stopped with the paintings, especially since they seem to have been partly a kind of a symptom of something he needed help with. My brother stopped too, well, at least he’s not doing it now, but he’s 25 ;-)

    I’m not sure what came first, his interest in history or the drawings. In his case, I don’t know if there was a deeper meaning to it — it may or may not have been. He was a well-adjusted and cheerful kid. When we (my parents and I) were cleaning up my parents house recently, we found a few drawings, and it occured to us how paradoxical it is that my drawings were so harmonious. I was so deeply troubled all the time — but painted houses, flowers, birds, suns, et c. And the (otherwise) well-adjusted, happy child drew blood, war and mayhem!

    If people had seen our paintings next to each other, they’d have picked my brother’s paintings as those of the disturbed child, no doubt! It can be misleading.

  52. Zooey,

    I hate to be the bringer of bad news to you about children, but I think you ought to brace yourself for the possibility of this German law finding its way to Sweden in the near future.

    Law to protect German kids’ right to noise

    http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/16/law-to-protect-german-kids-right-to-noise/

    BERLIN— Children of Germany take heart — it may soon be perfectly legal to make noise.

    Germany is so desperate to encourage people to have more children that the government is proposing a bill allowing citizens under six to laugh, shout and play at any volume.

    Germany is a land of many rules, especially about noise. The government’s move comes after a series of lawsuits about children and noise, and a recent call from a senior citizens’ chapter of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, who sought to ban kindergartens from residential areas because they are too loud.

    The government said Wednesday the proposed law would exempt children from strict regulations on noise limits, which force construction sites to stand idle for hours at midday and prohibit mowing lawns on Sunday.

  53. It sounds like something from The Onion.

    To your surprise, perhaps, I can reveal that Swedish children are allowed to make as much noice as they pretty well please. Anywhere and anytime.

    (It doesn’t make everyone else as happy though. I would never ever move into a building which houses a kindergarten or a nursery. Hardly anybody wants such an establishment in their vicinity. Too much noice. You can forget open windows or sitting on the balcony in the summer.)

  54. I do disagree with you about the fairy tales, Alicia. I think it’s a matter of judgment. If some children are fine with gore then no problem, but a classroom by definition is a large mix of children, and some are going to be upset by stories of stepmothers who cook and eat their children, or serial killer husbands who string their dead wives’ corpses in a dungeon, etc.

    The teacher should pick something age- and genre-appropriate for everyone in the class, and has to be sensitive to different responses, willing to talk about it, and ALWAYS willing to explain, “It’s just a story, it’s not real” to a 3 year old who is crying about a scary story. All of this is what a classically trained Waldorf teacher will NOT do. There’s no question quite a few Grimms tales are totally inappropriate for small children. They aren’t children’s stories at all; they come from an era before there was even any notion of a “children’s story.”

    (I’m talking about the kindergarten, and maybe first and second grade. I’m not talking about shielding older children from any violence in a story.)

    I was one of those kids who cried for an hour if I saw a dead animal in the road (actually, I still have a big problem with it … one early morning recently I hit a possum in the road, and I’m still haunted by the look in the poor creature’s eyes in the moment before the THUD).

  55. In some ways I’ve always thought it a worse thing when adults say ‘it’s not real’ when you know very well it is not at all such an unrealistic scenario. Children know there are murderers!

    I found Bluebeard in Swedish in one of my fairytale collections today, and I read it. Ok, the guy butchered his wives. But let’s say you tell the child ‘don’t worry, it’s not for real’ and the next day in the supermarket the child reads the latest newspaper headlines: ‘Man slaughtered five people, witnesses say there was blood all over the walls!’ … or something. Well, you know, I made it up, but similar things happen. Any child who isn’t entirely behind will wonder what’s not really real about things like that.

    I remember news about children being taken by strangers and mutilated. News stories about fathers and mothers killing their children. And so forth. You’d have to live in a vacuum to spare your child from knowing such things.

    Of course any child realizes that if a murder victim is found with its limbs in different plastic bags, some violence, gore and blood has gone into creating this result.

    Maybe it’s a stupid thing to read the worst stories in class, I can see the argument. But I don’t see the argument that these stories aren’t for children — I think all stories are for children, if the children want to hear them. Which may not be the case in a classroom, thus calling for some good judgment (as you also point out) on the part of the teacher when choosing stories.

    There are some absolutely horrific stories in Swedish/Nordic folk lore — and I just loved them! Psychologically much worse than Bluebeard.

  56. >In some ways I’ve always thought it a worse thing when adults say ‘it’s not real’ when you know very well it is not at all such an unrealistic scenario. Children know there are murderers!

    LOL, well I agree, but the answer is with a five year old, they will hopefully NOT see that headline or see that on television. There is where *I* agree with Waldorf – at that age they should be sheltered from all of that, and shielding them from media in particular requires vigilance (which is, in turn, part of why kids fuck up your life …) You really do have to distract them in the grocery store checkout line or in public places where CNN is reporting the latest horror story. My kid NEVER saw anything like that when he was five. I *did* keep him out of malls and/or structured his experience in such places very carefully. The first big challenge we had like that was 9/11. He was already 9 years old. He did NOT see most of the television coverage of that – not until years later. It wasn’t easy.

    Again, if we are talking about 10 year olds, I am in agreement that you can’t stop them knowing bad stuf happens. Our newspaper reported the other day that a kid killed his mother because she took away his Playstation …

    >I remember news about children being taken by strangers and mutilated. News stories about fathers and mothers killing their children.

    Sure but my point is what the child wants then is reassurance that this will not happen to HIM. HIS mother will not cook him and eat him. Etc. Any normal parent is going to recognize that the child will apply this to himself. Any normal parent immediately says, “Your mommy and daddy love you and we will never hurt you. That was a scary story but it won’t happen to you.” etc.

    The Waldorf teacher, OTOH, believes these are “archetypes” and that explaining them is exactly what you CANNOT do. Archetypes only “live in” the children if the children do NOT understand them consciously/intellectually. That is why she refuses to answer questions or offer reassurance. It’s not just that she doesn’t bother or doesn’t understand child development. It’s part of the deliberate plan NOT to explain or reassure children that “scary stories aren’t real.” It’s not just an omission or oversight; reassurance and understanding are WITHHELD. That, to put it mildly, is sadistic.

    >I don’t see the argument that these stories aren’t for children — I think all stories are for children,

    Well that’s an interesting argument. Perhaps the point is not so much the age of the listener as simple human kindness. If you’re going to tell a story and some members of your audience are frightened out of their wits, that’s not very nice, is it? And if you know that this is often the case with the younger members of the audience with certain types of stories, perhaps you’ll start to select stories with that in mind, or put the kids in bed first. You won’t make THOSE stories the center of a planned curriculum for small children. (And then refuse to change your program in any way when parents come in saying, “What stories are you telling, my kid has had nightmares for a week …”)

  57. ‘LOL, well I agree, but the answer is with a five year old, they will hopefully NOT see that headline or see that on television. There is where *I* agree with Waldorf – at that age they should be sheltered from all of that …’

    But it requires that you shelter your life. You can’t live in the city, because the newspaper headlines are everywhere. I virtually stumble on them when I step outside my building. Big capital letters: ‘THIS IS WERE HE BURIED HER SAWED OFF HEAD!’… you know. I grew up in the city. We hardly ever used the car, and never for going to school. You can’t even go to the subway station without seeing newspaper posters.

    I was an insomniac so I hid in the hallway and watched or listened to the tv from there. This happened long before we moved to the suburb, which was when I was seven.

    I went with my mother and grandmother everywhere shopping. I remember going to the market on saturdays as a small kid, and I loved bunnies, but they had dead bunnies (intact) hanging upside down on hooks. I thought that was kind of awful.

    And all parents — I thought — tell their kids not to go with strangers if they are approached when out alone. I, at least, was taught when I was very young that there are people who do all sorts of things. It wouldn’t be realistic to tell a child: ‘don’t worry, people are really nice, but never follow a stranger!’ — how’s the child to know it’s serious?

    ‘Sure but my point is what the child wants then is reassurance that this will not happen to HIM.’

    Well, perhaps, but the child also knows that the parent cannot guarantee that this doesn’t happen. Sure, murder within the family, that’s one thing. But the looming threat of the Scary Evil Stranger? You can’t both warn the child and also reassure him/her it’s not going to happen. You can tell him it’s not likely to happen, of course.

    I may be a bit odd, but I never sought reassurance from adults. And if they occasionally would offer it anyway, I never quite believed them.

    ‘If you’re going to tell a story and some members of your audience are frightened out of their wits, that’s not very nice, is it?’

    Well, I believe there’s an entire genre with this specific purpose, so I suppose people enjoy being frightened out of their wits ;-) And there’s obviously a reason these horror stories (and fairytales) continue to thrive — they appeal to people. I mean, ghost stories for children — isn’t the whole idea that they are scary?

    I can’t really let go of the feeling that it is the parents who have the nightmares, LOL! It’s that (awfully realistic!!) nightmare which tells them the paradise of childhood may not really exist after all!

    (I, of course, was an insomniac and had nightmares regularly. But was never afraid of fairytales. However, when I was old enough to start kindergarten, I was very afraid of other children. That’s what I was frightened of and no assurances in the world could help me with that fear.)

  58. ‘You really do have to distract them in the grocery store checkout line or in public places where CNN is reporting the latest horror story.’

    … the modern parent is too busy fiddling with his/her iPhone!

  59. >But it requires that you shelter your life. You can’t live in the city, because the newspaper headlines are everywhere. I virtually stumble on them when I step outside my building. Big capital letters: ‘THIS IS WERE HE BURIED HER SAWED OFF HEAD!’… you know. I grew up in the city. We hardly ever used the car, and never for going to school. You can’t even go to the subway station without seeing newspaper posters.

    Yes it requires that you shelter your life; remember we were talking about how kids fuck up your life? :) We live in the city, too, though not downtown. Keep in mind under 4 or 5 they don’t read those headlines (parents of kids who read even earlier than that have it rough). I don’t know what else to tell you except yes, when our son was under 5 or 6 we rarely ate out except in kid-friendly places (or we left him with a sitter, but even that was rare); we didn’t go anywhere except school, local stores, parks, and friends’ houses. Parents of very young children have practically no life except the children.

    >I can’t really let go of the feeling that it is the parents who have the nightmares, LOL!
    >(I, of course, was an insomniac and had nightmares regularly.

    Well, you said it yourself, some kids do have nightmares and some kids are afraid of a lot of things. It’s totally normal. Kids are individuals, some are afraid of a lot of things and some are not, and what one finds perfectly fine another is terrified of and vice versa. Animals, planes and trains, loud noises, tall people, short people, toilets or tubs or shower stalls (I’m still afraid of hand dryers, personally, and I’m afraid of the drain at the bottom of swimming pools …), you name it, there’s a thousand things that frighten kids, and parenting that kid means working around that – either avoiding the frightening objects, working on desensitizing the kid slowly etc. But one thing you wouldn’t do if you have a shred of kindness is deliberately expose them to the things that you know frighten them without warning, without preparation, without explanation or reassurance. Why would you? You wouldn’t do it to an adult, either, if you cared about them.

  60. >And all parents — I thought — tell their kids not to go with strangers if they are approached when out alone. I, at least, was taught when I was very young that there are people who do all sorts of things. It wouldn’t be realistic to tell a child: ‘don’t worry, people are really nice, but never follow a stranger!’ — how’s the child to know it’s serious?

    We’re talking different ages here. You don’t tell that to a 3- or 4-year-old; that child simply isn’t out of your sight. You tell them that as they pass the age where they are not within your view (or trusted caretaker’s view) 24/7. Earlier than that it doesn’t mean anything to them and is only frightening.

    Of course that’s a generality … with individual kids it might be different. If you had a very adventurous, independent minded, fearless kid, maybe you have to start with the warnings even earlier. If you have a very clingy, fearful kid, maybe you start pushing them off a little earlier and delay the “stranger danger” talk, since it will only frighten them and make them cling more.

  61. ‘Parents of very young children have practically no life except the children.’

    That’s scarier than Bluebeard!

    ‘… there’s a thousand things that frighten kids, and parenting that kid means working around that – either avoiding the frightening objects, working on desensitizing the kid slowly etc. But one thing you wouldn’t do if you have a shred of kindness is deliberately expose them to the things that you know frighten them without warning, without preparation, without explanation or reassurance. Why would you? You wouldn’t do it to an adult, either, if you cared about them.’

    Tough question, because it’s not unlikely I would. I would probably be sort of oblivious to the issue. I was used to going through my fears on my own. There has never been any question of desensitizing, it’s more like I was left to my own devices. You know. I’m not sure I would recognize the need in someone else. I didn’t run to adults complaining about my fears, ever. It wasn’t part of the picture. If I had, I think I would have got ‘well that’s life’ in reply. Or from my grandfather something about how if something doesn’t kill you… I didn’t tell anyone I was deadly afraid of kindergarten or other children; not that it couldn’t be discerned anyway, but it wasn’t ever talked about. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to tell anyone. It wasn’t an option. And I probably wouldn’t expect other children to do it either, so I might not be able to recognize the signals.

    I didn’t read until I was six, because nobody deliberately taught me. But my brother read much earlier than that, and I can’t remember it had any consequences whatsoever for daily life. He had to go with mum to supermarkets, on the subway, all sorts of places, every day, too. I don’t know if she ever had any inclination towards sheltering him, but since it would have practically impossible, it’s no use worrying. But no, I don’t think it occurred to her it could (or should) be done. I most definitely never saw her distracting him from newspaper stands in the supermarket! Or from newspapers at home, for that matter.

  62. ‘You don’t tell that to a 3- or 4-year-old; that child simply isn’t out of your sight.’

    Hmm. I wonder if there isn’t a slight difference between the US and Sweden. Or was, back then. Maybe it’s different now. Though maybe not, because kids from 12 months of age attend nurseries. It would be humanly impossible for the staff to keep watch over every single one of these kids all the time when they’re playing outdoors or in the park.

    Or when the kid is out in the garden, if you have one, like we did after we had moved. You can’t possibly stand there idly keeping watch every minute of the time? What if evil stranger comes along and offers candy? Unlikely, but not impossible.

  63. >Tough question, because it’s not unlikely I would. I would probably be sort of oblivious to the issue.

    Well oblivious is different from “deliberately” exposing something to something that frightens them. Parents are always oblivious to some things our kids are going through; you don’t realize some innocuous thing will frighten them until suddenly they’re screaming. We took our son, at about age 3, to an Easter event for children, where a giant (human) Easter bunny appeared, and all the kids ran to him for hugs, shouting “Easter bunny, I love you!” (that kind of thing). Our kid took one look at this six-foot tall freak and began screaming bloody murder. Utterly terrified. (It was pretty funny.) Who would have thought? Well, the same way many small kids actually are terrified of Santa Claus at the mall (our son would never sit on Santa’s lap, either).

    >I was used to going through my fears on my own. There has never been any question of desensitizing, it’s more like I was left to my own devices.

    Well, that’s sort of an issue :)

  64. >Or when the kid is out in the garden, if you have one, like we did after we had moved. You can’t possibly stand there idly keeping watch every minute of the time? What if evil stranger comes along and offers candy? Unlikely, but not impossible.

    Well, some part of it is a crap shoot, of course. You work from the basic idea that you can’t leave them out of your sight or your control (i.e., perhaps within a fence where they don’t know how to open the gate) until you’re pretty sure they won’t walk off with a stranger. You can’t know exactly when this is. So you balance trying to protect them with trying not to smother them. (It’s virtually impossible.)

    Our son actually once nearly walked off with a stranger while we were standing right there. A man who had a booming voice, and several children with him, at the playground, suddenly said, “Come on everybody, let’s go,” and his kids started gathering and getting ready to leave and our kid trotted right along with them and would have been out of the park in a minute if we hadn’t been right there. Just an automatic response to a deep, authoritative voice … if an adult said “Let’s go,” he was ready to go. Well, they don’t exactly have minds of our own at that age (he was about 3). Telling him not to talk to strangers would have been meaningless. We had to watch him, that’s all.

  65. ‘Tell me about it!!’ cries mr Dog. ‘One day in December, when I went out for my morning pee, and around the street-corner stands a GIGANTIC plastic Santa! With lighting. I jumped out in the street!! Not because I was afraid, of course. But I didn’t trust the guy.’

  66. Actually, mr Dog also shares your fear of pool drains, Diana. Though in his case it is the shower drain. For good reason, he’s managed to fall into it, when he stepped on it, and the thing flipped over.

    Funny story about the easter bunny. I mean, funny in retrospect. Probably not fun at all for your son when it happened, but I good story later ;-) (I never went near these dressed up monsters either. I knew there were humans inside. No sitting on Santa’s lap for me…)

  67. Fascinating thing about that man. It really is impossible to predict and prevent things like that. Also, when warning kids, it’s so easy (I assume) to try to explain things, and explaining things you revert to stereotypes about ‘bad’ men and how they act or what they’d ask for. And then comes someone who behaves in an entirely different way, or who acts in a way the child is accustomed to and assumes is safe.

    After we moved, we had our kitchen window on the opposite side of the building, so the garden was out of sight most of the time (i e, for someone working in the kitchen, which mum was bound to do; if she was lucky, she would have spotted him running over the street though ;-)). We never put up fences, because my mum thought they were ugly, and any kid could open the gate without problem. Maybe it worked because my brother wasn’t the kind of child who caused trouble; you didn’t have to watch him that much. Of course he was watched, but not constantly. I remember he ran off the 1+ meter high terrace on his tricycle, and nobody saw it happen. He was really tiny then, but bravely lugged his tricycle back up the stairs, and didn’t start crying until mum suddenly realized what had happened.

  68. More off topic. From twitter. ‘On “Lovely” ThetisMercurio’s ideol anti #Steiner agit-prop campaign’

    — I don’t know if this means you’ve stopped believing Thetis is Cathy or Cathy Thetis, Sune, but I can reveal to you that Lovelyhorse_ is a separate person too. They are 3 different people! Amazing, huh?

    What’s an ‘ideol anti #Steiner agit-prop campaign’? Somebody who can explain this terminology?

  69. Ideological anti-Steiner agitator [on a] propaganda campaign

    more literally

    Ideological anti-Steiner agitation-propaganda campaign

    (But “agitation” in English is more commonly used to describe what a top-loading washing machine does during both the wash and rinse cycles.)

    Even “agitator” is somewhat dated to describe what an “agent provocateur” does.

    But Thetis could also be termed an “agitator-propagandist.”

    Therefore Thetis can be much more mellifluously described as an:

    “ideological anti-Steiner ‘agent provocateur’ on a propaganda campaign” against Waldorf.

  70. This reminds me of an ad I saw posted in or organic food store:

    “Natural mother looking for like minded friends…
    Natural childbirth, breast feeding, cloth diapers, organic food, no media, etc…
    Please call 000-000-0000. ”

    So I called her and said “hey , I didn’t do any of this but will you still be my friend?”
    I never heard back.

  71. Haha! That’s very funny.

    And it makes me think of all the unnatural mothers. The implications are unpleasant. Watch TV, you’re unnatural. Fail breast-feeding, oh damn, you’re unnatural.

  72. “I may be a bit odd, but I never sought reassurance from adults. And if they occasionally would offer it anyway, I never quite believed them.”

    I had just come from a stint nannying for a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, and was babysitting a 7-9ish year old girl. She was fine going to bed, then I told her that her ‘guardian angel’ would watch over her while she slept… BIG MISTAKE! She freaked out, bawling that some spirit/ghost was going to watching her. I didn’t even believe in angels and had only said it because I assumed she did!

    Even the best intention of reassurance from adults can majorly backfire. No one really knows what we’re talking about, we’re all just making it up based on our experiences and exposure.

  73. > I told her that her ‘guardian angel’ would watch over her while she slept… BIG MISTAKE! She freaked out, bawling that some spirit/ghost was going to watching her.

    That’s very funny because I did that too and that’s EXACTLY what happened with my son. He also was not at all happy with the notion that some creature was going to fly by his window and look in at him while he was sleeping. I had to do a lot of backtracking after I told that whopper.

  74. I guess no one likes to be spied on :-)
    I had the girlfriend of a friend stay with with me once. She claimed to be clairvoyant and proceeded to tell me about all the spirits circling my house. “don’t worry they don’t want to come in” didn’t exactly settle my nerves… when she saw I was a bit agitated (not the washing machine kind) she tried to backtrack and tell me they were everywhere, not just around my house. Oh, gee thanks! I thought I wouldn’t care, but I didn’t like staying there alone after that.

  75. Especially not by an invisible being! You can’t even hide from them!

    I think that odd figure some religions call god can freak some people out too. Even adults. Because god is watching. That’s part of the point — and the attraction, at least for some (perhaps in particular to the priests who want to instill obedience in their flock). A god who is constantly watching and keeping track — now, that could surely make a child insecure.

    I didn’t have any such traumas. Not with angels either. Despite the concerted efforts of waldorf teachers, and reading and hearing quite a lot of fairytales, I never thought there was reality to these beings. Not as I can remember anyway. I suppose we forget a lot. But if it had been important, I probably would have had some remaining memories of it.

    I remember that I was really scared of bands of robbers in the woods. Because my father, I think it was him, had told me that in earlier times, people who travelled through the big forests were in danger of encountering these fearsome robbers. I had seen it in movies too. And I figured these robbers could have survived like some lost tribe in the jungle or on remote islands. Not the kind of thing we have in Sweden, and I don’t think anyone ever encountered a medieval band or robbers in a Swedish forest, but somehow I thought it was completely reasonable to be nervous about it.

    But to return to what you say — it is indeed very difficult to predict the reaction, an angel seems like a nice thing to lots of people. Obviously these kids were as frightened about the prospect of an (invisible) angel hovering around them keeping watch as they would if you’d said there’s an invisible madman (with a knife) hovering around the room. Well, not as frightened, but it’s more a matter of degree rather than a matter of difference in the nature of the fear.

  76. LB — you should have sad you had lured all the spirit into your visitor’s bags and that they were all happy to leave with her when she left because, frankly, spirits aren’t too happy around people who doubt they are real anyway. Like everybody else, they prefer to be around people who see them; nobody wants to be treated like air (a well-known occupational hazard if you are a spirit) ;-)

  77. ‘She freaked out, bawling that some spirit/ghost was going to watching her. I didn’t even believe in angels and had only said it because I assumed she did!’

    Well, she apparently did! But not in a good way.

    I was thinking though… if, when similar things happen, and there’s lapse of judgment on the part of the adult who thinks s/he’s telling the child something quite innocent and ends up with an unpredictable reaction, that it could be turned into a fruitful lesson about not believing everything adults tell them. A lesson in healthy skepticism, as it were! Of course, one has to be prepared to shatter some illusions in the process. But it’s basically a good thing I think (and waldorf teachers don’t agree) to tell kids that there are people who believe all sorts of things that aren’t true and try to convince other people that these things are true (in the form of supposedly nice phenomena, e g, supervising angels)… for a variety of reasons. The reasons and the motives are as important when it comes to relieving fears as are, for example, the actual contents of the (untrue) beliefs.

  78. A- I appreciate ‘people like you’ it is the mothers who have the bumper sticker on the rear of their car ‘my child is on the honor roll’ that I find odd and quiet honestly I would like to strangle!

  79. Well, that is odd. I’ve never seen such or similar bumper-stickers in Sweden, so I guess I’m pleased that not every kind of crazy idea finds its way over here. I mean, we have enough of crazy ideas as it is, some of them home-grown, no doubt…

    Not really related in kind, but your car story reminded me of one odd trend…

    Dimwitted ideas spread quickly — and most importantly perhaps: extremely forcefully — among parents, is my conclusion. This particular, odd phenomenon very suddenly spread like wildfire, and consisted in attaching license plates to prams. Just like on a car, but with the child’s name instead of a number. Every freaking pram in this city suddenly carried such an utterly pointless piece of plastic.

    Thus, if one wants to make money, come up with an idea of something really cheap, preferably something which includes the child’s name (can’t put the first child’s plate on the second child’s pram, wrong name), something that can continue to lure new parents to buy it, and make everybody think it’s really important to have, although it really is not. Nobody cries if the plastic plate breaks, because it never really mattered in any significant way. It’s just that everybody has it. And who are you not to put one on your infant’s pram when all the other mums who frequent the local café have plates? Poor kid, the only one without an identity!

    It’s a genial idea somehow. And it managed to trap virtually every parent, from the affluent to the relatively poor. I don’t completely understand how, but it’s interestng because it’s been such a powerful trend. While the actual object of it is as trivial as it could possibly get.

  80. hmm -that is strange names on prams! My eyes would go ‘buggy’ trying to read all those names!

    My beef is when parents live vicariously through their kid. That’s why the bumper sticker gets to me- and when you meet these mom’s the first thing they have to tell you is that their kid is on the honor roll or won this award or that competition.

    Regardless of all the ‘perfect’ parents out there and all the bogus parenting info – My take is that raising an emotional healthy child into an emotional healthy adult is a bit of a crapshoot.

  81. HAHAHA!! That could be my brother when he was a baby. He had these liquour and wine bottles you get on the plane — the miniature ones. And then, of all things, he had an egg-cup made of brass (it was a gift he had got when he was baptized). He used to sit at the kitchen table in his baby chair, slamming and banging these bottles and this egg-cup on the table (causing some nice, uh, marks). Then, every now and then when he got tired of making noice, he poured drinks. We have really funny pictures of him as a small baby, perhaps 1-2 years old (I don’t know, I’m hopeless telling how old kids are, but he’s barely sitting up and has a very round, fat face), looking dead serious, whisky bottle in one hand, shining, golden egg-cup in the other. Pretending to drink, and I don’t know what, too. He could have been a baby bartender, I promise.

    (I’m not kidding. I don’t know if it’s particularly Swedish though. I think some Swedes would be appalled, thinking such toys would influence the poor child in the wrong way. It’s true, of course, that he didn’t turn into a teetotaller as an adult… ;-))

  82. ‘My eyes would go ‘buggy’ trying to read all those names!’

    One becomes very aware of name trends. If you spot a group of parents with prams, at least a few of them are bound to be the same.

    I have a very unusual name, it hardly existed in Sweden when I grew up. I was used to it being so unique, exotic. Now I see it everywhere, for examle on prams.

    ‘My beef is when parents live vicariously through their kid. That’s why the bumper sticker gets to me’

    Oh, absolutely. And one sense such a thing isn’t done just for fun or as a humourous thing. Even if people surely would justify it with such arguments, and other. It is, deep down, a serious matter taken seriously, even though the manifestation is odd and, well, in material terms, a trifle.

    ‘and when you meet these mom’s the first thing they have to tell you is that their kid is on the honor roll or won this award or that competition.’

    Have you seen the British comedy series Keeping up Appearances? Poor Hyacinth Bouquet is exactly like that. But the viewer never gets to see her elusive son. Which is probably necessary otherwise she couldn’t maintain the magnificent myth about him. Though, of course, there are hints of sizeable cracks in the facade of perfection.

    ‘Regardless of all the ‘perfect’ parents out there and all the bogus parenting info – My take is that raising an emotional healthy child into an emotional healthy adult is a bit of a crapshoot.’

    Losing the pretense of perfection is probably the best step to take. It’s easier to solve everything else then.

  83. To my mother’s defence, it has to be said that drunk-driving was not the reason my petit brother ran his tricycle over the edge of the terrace. It was just plain inability to steer properly, caused by motorical and cognitive immaturity.

  84. Probably not. In my brother’s case it was real alcohol, but he couldn’t open the bottles. Besides, small kids don’t usually like the taste of alcohol, do they? I remember thinking it tasted yuck. Couldn’t understand why anyone would drink it voluntarily. Same with coffee.

  85. @Alicia
    Although I have a family I do recognize what you are saying. Having a family is no guarantee for not experiencing in a way the same things you are describing.
    Besides that, I think in the near future the number of people experiencing themselves as alienated from “normal” life will increase. The trend that the percentage of one-person-households is increasing and the percentage family- households is decreasing will carry on. It means that more people will choose a life without partner and without children. We are all individualizing. People will act less traditionally and take decisions more consciously, which is a good thing. I think you are in front of this development.

  86. Just wanted to point out, while we are discussing “individualizing,” that plenty of people parent without partners or have partners but no children. There are also partners who don’t live together, at least full time, and partners who aren’t monogamous or who don’t have sex at all.
    Then there are single people who live in an apartment full of swans … it takes all kinds.

    I’ve been surprised to learn that a single person with no interest in pairing off feels so stigmatized in a city like Stockholm (which I think of as sophisticated and cosmopolitan). I don’t think it is that way here. Then again, being single and childless is so long ago and far away to me, maybe I’m unaware of how single people feel about things here. It just seems to me I know many people like Alicia and am not aware of them being unusual or being stigmatized.

    I also know many, many people whose lives revolve around their animals. I would say this used to be more stigmatized than it is now. It used to be – and you can certainly still find people to say so – that this meant you were immature, refusing to grow up or live an adult life. It is much more accepted now as a valid course for one’s life, I think. People realize much more than before that there isn’t a solid demarcation between species, that it isn’t “second best” to prefer animals (or a particular animal) to humans or a sign that one is somehow a case of stunted development. People are more aware now of how badly treated animals are overall and how badly both humans need animals and animals need humans and how much is to be gained from these passionate relationships.

    I’m not single or childless but my animals are absolutely central to my life, and awhile back I lost a beloved cat whose loss I definitely took harder than I ever took losing any man!! He was definitely a central figure in my emotional life story.

    We could easily steer this back to anthroposophy now … anthroposophy is an ideology that strictly delimits humans from (other) animals, a position that is completely and totally indefensible any way you consider it (ethically, philosophically, biologically etc. — spiritually …)

  87. Diana‘I also know many, many people whose lives revolve around their animals. I would say this used to be more stigmatized than it is now. It used to be – and you can certainly still find people to say so – that this meant you were immature, refusing to grow up or live an adult life.’

    Oh yeah. I don’t think I’ve heard this from a woman, ever, but some men — total strangers — feel that they have a right to tell you off in the most revolting way. Really. It was worse when mr Dog was still young. Maybe I’ve become more self-assured too, I don’t know. But a couple of times I’ve thought, next time I’ll get a Belgian shepherd dog or an Alsatian. Something that would keep these men away, because I somehow doubt they’d dare it then.

    There really are (a few) men who hate people who like dogs and, most of all, hate people who prefer walking a dog. I gather they think people like me ought to fall at their feet begging for, I don’t know what, but I suppose it’s sex.

    ‘… in a city like Stockholm (which I think of as sophisticated and cosmopolitan)’

    I think it’s because it’s become a sign of sophistication and maturity… of being capable of responsibility… to have children. It’s a way of showing off, to a certain extent.

    It’s perhaps not so much stigmitization as it is an underlying assumption that this is what all people are striving towards. And if you don’t yet, then you ought to want to change. To want to be someone else.

    Jan L: ‘I think in the near future the number of people experiencing themselves as alienated from “normal” life will increase. The trend that the percentage of one-person-households is increasing and the percentage family- households is decreasing will carry on. It means that more people will choose a life without partner and without children. We are all individualizing. People will act less traditionally and take decisions more consciously, which is a good thing. I think you are in front of this development.’

    I think Sweden has been kind of modern, in this sense. But I fear that the trend has been reversed, that we’re going back to idealizing conventional family life. Perhaps even because of an earlier trend in the other direction. I wish it weren’t so, but I fear it is. Even the houswife issue isn’t taboo anymore. Marriage and committing to someone for life aren’t seen as antiquated notions anymore. Responsibility is equal with procreation and giving up yourself for someone else. Ok, I may be exaggerating to make a point. But I have a feeling that younger Swedes today are much more traditional and conventional than the generation that grew up in the 60s and 70s. Well, even people who were born earlier than that.

  88. @Diana
    “We could easily steer this back to anthroposophy now … anthroposophy is an ideology that strictly delimits humans from (other) animals, a position that is completely and totally indefensible any way you consider it (ethically, philosophically, biologically etc. — spiritually …)”

    Using the anthroposophical methodology while looking at animals my respect for them has only grown and is still growing.

  89. >There really are (a few) men who hate people who like dogs and, most of all, hate people who prefer walking a dog. I gather they think people like me ought to fall at their feet begging for, I don’t know what, but I suppose it’s sex.

    There are women who hate dogs, too. I have two co-workers, one with a passionate attachment to her dog and one who holds her in disdain for this; they are constantly snarking at each other. The dog-lady will report some situation with her dog or some problem, and the other lady will always snort that she’d never put up with that etc.; “Why don’t you just lock him in the basement …” and the other lady feels it is not legitimate to miss work because your dog is sick. Etc. The dog-lady conversely feels the non-dog lady is an extremely shallow individual who values her sofa cushions more than living creatures, because the latter might get hair on the former …
    I tend to agree with the dog lady …

    It’s funny, it’s always seemed to be more socially acceptable for a man to bond with an animal than for a woman to do so. A man with a beloved dog is somehow humanized by this, made softer and gentler and seemingly better socialized, etc. I know if I am on a street late at night (not that I usually am, but years ago ….) and I saw a strange man approaching, I was not afraid of him if he had a dog with him. Not only because it meant he had a reason to be out walking, but it also meant he had at least one important relationship in his life and some ability to care for another life; whereas a man alone is an unknown quantity, possibly a loner and dangerous.

    A woman with a close relationship with an animal, however, is suspected of being unable to get a man, or maybe simply crazy. If she were able to have normal relationships, of course she would prefer one with a man …

  90. Jan: Using the anthroposophical methodology while looking at animals my respect for them has only grown and is still growing.

    Feel free to expound on this – if Alicia doesn’t mind? I kind of feel lately like I am monopolizing things on Alicia’s blog so do let us know if you want us to conclude this, Alicia …
    The subject of animals in anthroposophy is fascinating to me. I’m very familiar with all the statements anthroposophists will make about their respect, admiration etc. for animals and how this is totally compatible with dangerous and stupid attitudes. Of course, I’m talking about karma again … I’m usually talking about karma.

    Namely, Steiner said our karma with the animals is to protect and care for them because they can experience pain but can’t understand it; and because they “sacrificed” for us, karmically speaking – we humans “evolved ” spiritually in a way that animals gave up the opportunity to do. As if absent this supposed karmic obligation, we just wouldn’t need to bother caring for animals.

    Would this sort of thing be the basis of your “respect” for animals?

  91. Respect is overrated, but you can come a long way with a piece of cheese, a sausage or some dried liver. Now, that’s a brief lesson from dr Dog.

    Now, it’s true that Steiner set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. (Much like dr Dog does with cats.) On the other hand, the way he talks about animals and what they’re capable of, well, it does indeed show a lof of respect. I know somewhere he talks about the work of police-dogs that do things no human can do, for example. (Some other things, like the advanced group soul of bees, that’s a bit more bizarre, of course.)

    But, yes, at the same time, he sees them as spiritually entirely different. Humans aren’t animals. They’re radically separate.

  92. Well, one could argue that it’s hard to have meaningful “respect” for someone or something the basic nature of which one has completely misunderstood.

    I agree Steiner makes many interesting and positive observations about animals, but his philosophical premise (radical separation, as you say, spiritually) is too flawed to be worthwhile. He views the spiritual “tasks” of animals as on a completely separate course from those of humans, and even if you believe in his spiritual premises, this will strike many spiritual people as quite wrong. His notion for instance that humans gave up more “specialized” abilities like the animals possess, in order to develop a special separate destiny. I would think it a much more spiritually meaningful view to see our destinies as one.

    He separates animals from humans the same way he separates human “races” from one another – a sort of “separate but equal” thing, special “tasks” for each species the same way “races” have “tasks.”

    The fact that in anthroposophy, one’s destiny proceeds through successive incarnations, but humans can’t reincarnate as animals, says it all.

  93. ‘There are women who hate dogs, too.’

    Well, absolutely, but in my experience they don’t approach strangers with misogynistic suggestions. And even though there are women who don’t like dogs, I think they’re fewer and usually just ignore dogs so you don’t hear anything from them, and there’s like half a billion women who love dogs. As for these men — it’s not about dogs, it’s not that they don’t like dogs, it’s something else. Being an obnoxious twit, obviously, but probably some other pathology too.

    ‘The dog-lady will report some situation with her dog or some problem, and the other lady will always snort that she’d never put up with that etc.; “Why don’t you just lock him in the basement …”’

    — not the best way to maintain a cheerful relationship with someone who lives with a dog ;-)

    ‘I know if I am on a street late at night (not that I usually am, but years ago ….) and I saw a strange man approaching, I was not afraid of him if he had a dog with him.’

    I am the same way. But some really nasty people have dogs. One of the most gruesome child killings in Sweden remained unsolved for many years, but they knew the man who killed her had had a dog, because of dog hair found on the body. I’m sure it isn’t uncommon, but the sadism in this case was horrendous, and I was still a child when it happened, and also the fact that it remained unresolved for so many years, 15 years or so. (Turned out there was evidence this man had killed an older woman as well.)

    ‘A woman with a close relationship with an animal, however, is suspected of being unable to get a man, or maybe simply crazy. If she were able to have normal relationships, of course she would prefer one with a man …’

    Indeed. It’s strange, because in general women have an easier time finding willing men, than men have finding willing women. It’s what makes up the foundation for the prostitution trade, after all.

    ‘I kind of feel lately like I am monopolizing things on Alicia’s blog so do let us know if you want us to conclude this, Alicia …’

    Go ahead, please!!! Anything, anytime! I enjoy it. Off topic, on topic, doesn’t matter.

    ‘As if absent this supposed karmic obligation, we just wouldn’t need to bother caring for animals.’

    That’s an interesting observation that hadn’t occurred to me, but it’s related to the similar case with children: that karma-thinking shouldn’t prevent interfering if it’s needed to help the child, because if so, it’s the adults karmic obligation to help. Which is supposed to explain why the teachers who ignore bullying due to considerations of karma aren’t really doing the right thing. As if, were it not for a karmic obligation, they wouldn’t have an ordinary, every-day human obligation to do something.

  94. ‘Well, one could argue that it’s hard to have meaningful “respect” for someone or something the basic nature of which one has completely misunderstood.’

    Indeed. But Steiner’s philsophical underpinnings and his intuitive feelings were perhaps contradictory. As so many other things with him. Thus you have both a theory about animals that is basically off (not to say quite disrespectful to animals) and an appreciation of animals nonetheless.

    ‘I would think it a much more spiritually meaningful view to see our destinies as one.’

    Well, canineosophy doesn’t agree, of course. But, that aside, you’re right.

    ‘The fact that in anthroposophy, one’s destiny proceeds through successive incarnations, but humans can’t reincarnate as animals, says it all.’

    ‘Not to worry’, says mr Dog, ‘you may not ever be able to reincarnate as dogs, but you’ll fulfill important roles as providers of snacks and tummy-rubs!’

    But, well, yes that’s interesting. It’s because Steiner thinks the human spirit which is what’s reincarnating doesn’t have a counterpart in animals, thus, it can never end up in an animal, because there’s no place for it there. Just like it can’t end up in a rock or a tree.

  95. Diana,

    The anthroposophical dichotomy between humans and animals is explained from a Reichean perspective by Peter Nasselstein who quotes Wilhelm Reich from his book: “The Mass Psychology of Fascism”
    http://www.orgonomie.net/hdoeng12.htm

    “It would be worthwhile to make a thorough study of (…) the various theosophical and anthroposophical trends (…) as socially important manifestations of patriarchal sexual economy. . . .

    “The setting up of ‘animal’ and ‘man of spirit’ as opposites, follows from the setting up of ‘sexual’ and ‘spiritual’ opposites. It is the antithesis that always forms the basis of every theosophical moral philosophy”

    “As might be expected, the mystical attitude operates as a powerful resistance to the uncovering of unconscious psychic life, especially to repressed genitality. It is significant that mysticism tends to ward off natural genital impulses, especially childhood masturbation, more so than it tends to ward off pre-genital infantile impulses. The patient clings to his ascetic, moralistic, and mystical views and sharpens the philosophically unbridgeable antithesis between ‘the moral element’ and ‘the animal element’ in man, i.e., natural sexuality.

    He defends himself against his genital sexuality with the help of moralistic deprecation. He accuses those around him of not having an understanding for ‘spiritual values’ and of being ‘crude, vulgar, and materialistic.’ In short, to one who knows the argumentation of the mystics and fascists in political discussion, and of the characterologists and ‘scholars’ in natural scientific discussions, all this sounds all too familiar. It is one and the same thing.”
    ============================

    NOTE: ‘scholars’ in the last sentence is really ‘spiritual scientists’ and is thus Reich’s direct reference to Anthroposophists.

  96. It’s interesting to fimd Tom quoting Reich who is another purveyor of ‘mystic barm-pottery’, on a discussion about Steiner. Does one form of barm-pottery explicate another?

    To say that animals and humans have a different spiritual trajectory is perhaps misleading. We have our whole nature in common with the animals except for the ego, the eternal individuality which re-incarnates. Our destiny is linked to that of the whole earth and everything that is a part of it. Our evolution is earth evolution and vice-versa. What affects the animals, the way we treat them matters enormously, for us and for them. For them because they are sentient beings and for us because they are our kindred. (though I personally am not too keen on poisonous spiders)

    In all my reading of Steiner he never seemed to have any hang-ups about sex. Neither an obsession with it,(such as you find in Freud, Reich, Barry Long and other movements based around kundalini-yoga), nor an underestimation of it as a potentially determining factor in the way people behave. The only notable things I recall him saying, are, first it’s important to separate sex from love, which seems to be simple common sense. Secondly that the separation of the human being into sexes was the necessary pre-condition for the development of independent thought, and, thirdly that this evolutionary necessity will be superceded, ie, we will one day be sexless beings again.
    Now how is one to understand the second statement? It is clearly not a scientific explanation in the accepted sense. And the third statement?

  97. ““The setting up of ‘animal’ and ‘man of spirit’ as opposites, follows from the setting up of ‘sexual’ and ‘spiritual’ opposites. ”

    Thanks Tom. I think the sentence I quoted there is on to something … for the rest of it, I’m inclined to agree with Falk that you can’t really ask one mystical barmpot to explicate another mystical barmpot. (Though I guess falk’s comment was more by way of taking the heat off anthroposophy, rather than exonerating Reichianism, or whatever you call it).

  98. “To say that animals and humans have a different spiritual trajectory is perhaps misleading. We have our whole nature in common with the animals except for the ego, the eternal individuality which re-incarnates.”

    LOL. We have our whole nature in common … except the really important part … except the part that, er, distinguishes us from the animals. Other than what distinguishes us from the animals, we’re just like the animals. Thanks for that insight!

    No, it is not misleading to say that Steiner said animals and humans have a different spiritual trajectory, that is what Steiner said.

    “Our destiny is linked to that of the whole earth and everything that is a part of it. Our evolution is earth evolution and vice-versa. What affects the animals, the way we treat them matters enormously, for us and for them. For them because they are sentient beings and for us because they are our kindred. (though I personally am not too keen on poisonous spiders)”

    That’s very sweet, sounds eco-green-groovy. “Our evolution is earth evolution.” It’s total bullshit. It’s a layer of fluff laid gently over something reeking. Steiner did NOT stress that we have our destiny in common blah blah with other animals. He stresses exactly the opposite. The point is always the ways we are different; the point is always that animals were “left behind” while humans advanced. Anthroposophy is not green. You can sell that to parents in pretty brochures and bullshit on websites, you really can’t sell it here where people have studied the doctrine. Every Waldorf kindergarten teacher is at pains to make sure children understand they are not animals. And every Waldorf kindergarten teacher is WRONG in this.

    “In all my reading of Steiner he never seemed to have any hang-ups about sex.”

    LOL again. Yeah, it’s always “In all my reading … why, I never …”
    Well, it’s going to have to wait for another day. Surely you are not serious about this. I will find some of his remarks about sexual deviations a bit later, out of time for today.

  99. Maybe the hang-up lies in the fact that it’s the one topic he didn’t talk profusely about.

    I have a post with weird sex-related Steiner-quotes; I was inspired by something you wrote on the list, Diana. I just never came around to posting it.

  100. Falk – I would suggest the last statement would be an undesirable outcome. ‘vive la différence’ I say.

    Recently a lot of people have been confusing my avatar with a man, which has been curiously liberating. There is either the suggestion that my prose is masculine or an acknowledgement that my avatar image has a small beard. This scenario ignores the possibility that in reality I DO have a small beard or even a luxuriant one, even though I am otherwise female. And do not have a career in the circus.

    I love the use of the term ‘barmpottery’. It must pass into the language. I want a mug with the words ‘this is barmpottery’ inscribed thereon.

  101. Tom sent me this brilliant news. Soon dogs will rule the world!

    ‘Annandale civic association elects dog as president’

    ‘The dog’s photo appeared under the heading, “Dog Rules, Humans Apathetic (Pathetic).”‘

    ‘ “Our charter language did not mention that a human had to serve,” Crawford said. “The way it was phrased was very accommodating, to be frank.”‘

    ‘The dog occasionally attends the monthly board meetings, usually held the first Tuesday or Wednesday of the month in Crawford’s home. “She’s sometimes sitting under the table, listening to what goes on,” Frederickson said. “Until she gets bored and wants to be let out. I don’t know if the board members need to pet her on their way in.”‘

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/18/AR2011021807506.html

  102. ‘Recently a lot of people have been confusing my avatar with a man, which has been curiously liberating.’

    Not easy with the ancient gods!!

    ‘There is either the suggestion that my prose is masculine …’

    Everyone who isn’t positive and nice & kind all the time (remember, lots of people don’t think satire is nice and kind, but evil) must be male. Besides, women are obligated to say things like ‘if you think the world is flat like a pancake and constantly in orbit around a gigant green dragon, then this is true for you!’ Otherwise you’re mean and deny other people their experiences — and all experiences are equally valid and a blessing to humankind. Keep your mind open! Women should never reject blatant stupidity out-right. If they do, they’re really male. Males brain are more close-minded, and they’re endowed with less natural spirituality. It’s all the evil rationality getting in the way.

    ‘I want a mug with the words ‘this is barmpottery’ inscribed thereon.’

    I want it on my grave. ‘A life wasted on the pursuit of knowledge about mystical barmpottery. … By the way!! It’s not really possible to get more than one lifetime (on earth as well as in jail)!’

  103. Falk: ‘Does one form of barm-pottery explicate another?’

    No, it’s more likely you have an utterly mad loop of barm-pottery. Everytime one is used to explicate the other they both get 10 times madder. And round and round it goes. Until one of the barm-potteries gets nauseaus and has to jump of the carousel.

    Like when fundamentalist christians try to explain anthroposophy. It certainly doesn’t get saner (or prettier). But your head spins in a pretty interesting way when you try to figure out what they’re saying. And why.

    ‘(though I personally am not too keen on poisonous spiders)’

    Some animals are surely less animals than other animals. Ticks for example. I don’t feel the slightest whiff of bad conscience squashing a tick.

  104. This post came up in another recent thread, and I was reminded of a column in the newspaper this weekend. Unfortunately it’s in Swedish, it is not about the same but similar things as those I wrote about.

    ‘Man kan ”söka efter lite extra krydda i vardagen” men att laga en ny rätt är det inte tal om, än mindre att pröva att äta den utan sällskap ibland. Den eviga tvåsamheten är grundpremissen och den är självklar. Parrelationen underförstås som ett ont slit, därför kan man behöva vara otrogen. Men man ska sköta det snyggt så att fundamentet inte ifrågasätts: att en officiell, uniformparsamvaro (syftande till avkomma) är det enda stadiet av livsduglighet. Den som inte lever så behöver åtgärdas. […] Från tidig ålder lär sig barn att det som förväntas av varje individ är att hon möter en person att dela livet med. Det är ett krav för att undgå social utstötning och ensamlevandets förmenta skräck. Barnet lär sig att man är halv tills man hittar den som gör en hel.’

    http://www.dn.se/ledare/signerat/karlek-eller-parliv

  105. Hello. Consider some therapy for yourself or for whatever hang-ups plague you so much you give anonymous psych advice to total strangers. It might just help you to be able to understand what others write in a more nuanced fashion.

  106. Ah yes, canineosophical counselling — I highly recommend it! Best way to get your human flaws analysed and taken care of. A good howling session can cure almost anything! Except two-leggedness (that’s a difficult one).

  107. Woof indeed!

    Funny how old posts float up to the surface like this, often thanks to random loons. Must read it again. I don’t exactly remember what I was saying.

    One post I’d like to see resurface is the one where Joe promises us that aussie study!

  108. I took the opportunity to re-read the thread, which is quite interesting, so perhaps the random loon did us a favor. We should thank him/her for basically proving your point. Say you don’t want to get married and have children, expect a few vocal reactionaries to try to smack you down for stepping out of your place.

    Anonymous, I suggest you wake up and smell the coffee; wishing to live without marriage/family/children is not a mental disorder in 2012. Randomly insulting strangers online, anonymously? THAT sort of behavior fits a few disorders I can think of in the DSM.

  109. Woof!

    Surprisingly, not a few people see that kind of lifestyle as a mental deficiency. If they feel charitable, they conclude it must be involuntary. Basically, I have nothing against men, I just don’t want to take care of children.

    But reading that post just made me laugh. The fun thing about writing is that when you go back reading things later, it’s not always so clear what prompted the writing of them.

  110. I enjoyed remembering about the lady who lived with (multiple) swans in a small apartment. Now, it is possible SHE is a candidate for therapy. Or maybe just inspection by some city regulatory agency?

  111. I think the swans needed therapy ;-) I have a vague memory that the lady was caught again, in action, trying to take ‘care’ of some wild bird.

    It’s true though that the lady might have needed therapy. Somehow she didn’t realize she can’t give swans what *they* need (freedom, the sea). Now mr Dog is looking at me in utter contempt… I’m sure it’s supposed to mean something.

    Instincts gone wrong, to the detriment of swans. Personally, I seem to lack the care-taking instinct. I like the companionship of a dog, the care-taking thing, frankly, not at all. With children, and swans (unsuited as they are to apartment living), *all* they need is care-taking, guardianship, being helped day in day out 24/7. I’d suffocate.

  112. It’s funny, though, how things change. What scares me more than the prospect of my brother having children is having to cope with my parents’ aging. And my own aging and my own mortality. Getting old without having lived. The panic of time wasted. Having been too self-conscious and too much of a damn misanthrope, thus having missed out on much.

    Counselling in all it’s glory — I’m quite certain anon is over-estimating the wisdom of professionals — what it can never do is tell you how to lead your life. Or how to overcome your darn self. Or become more like that person that is your darn self in a pleasant way. It can’t teach you to enjoy anything; you’ve got to teach yourself that.

    (I’m back in the city, btw, filled with dread for the future and regret for what’s lost, sleepless and don’t have the sea to look at and no comforting stars that watch over me… and how come it takes so long for some people to learn how to be happy and when you do, you find half your life has passed and the burdens that trouble you are not at all the ones you had anticipated? Dear Dog. I wish there IS reincarnation!! I certainly have learnt a lesson this time. I’ve spent so much time neurotically. Improductively. Stupidly. When I should have spent it learning to live. Ok, going to try to fall asleep now. I was dead tired two hours ago. Then I thought, well, things change, and that was horrifying. It’s vastly better to be 35 than 25 (and to be 25 compared to 15), so logically I should look positively on every year that’s been lost ;-) After all, things get better. And then you die. Damn damn damn.)

  113. Anthroposophically — this hit me when trying to sleep — 35 is the beginning of the 6th 7-year cycle. Perhaps I should squander some time pondering the possible significance of thar ;-)

  114. ‘Can’t imagine anybody having wasted time!’ – that’s so funny. I waste all my time, or at least as much as I can get away with. Just can’t help it. It depends what you call wasting time, though. Some people think reading a book is wasting time. (I know some of them).

    I was out walking with a retired vicar a couple of days ago (don’t ask). He said, in a sermonish sort of way, ‘We must live in the moment – the next moment is not likely to be any better than this one.’ I accused him of pessimism, but of course it is an admonishment of always looking ahead. But then the clergy are full of good advice.

  115. Well, actually, that piece of advice is probably one of the better, coming from a vicar!

    Of course, you’re right, not all time-wasting is a waste. I’ve learnt a lot while wasting time. Still, I have a feeling there should be something more meaningful! All these things I ought to be doing but am not doing.

Comments are closed.