I live at a bend in the road. I would like to take several minutes to describe how my home is situated, but I am not being paid by the word. And even though I committed to not use many photos, my kids are just too cute for me to pass up this opportunity, so here you go:
Not only is there a bend in the road, but the aspen trees you see create a lovely blind spot for cars coming around the bend. The posted speed is 25 miles per hour, but even 20 mph seems too fast at the bend.
When we bought this house, the only major concern I had was that bend. With a shorter driveway and yard than I am accustomed to, the angle of descent is steeper so that kids on bikes, scooters, skateboards, toddler legs, and Radio Flyer wagons could land in the street faster than I could stop them if we were having some front yard time together.
I have contemplated building a home on some land in the country. I know exactly how I would situate it so that every approaching vehicle was visible while I stood in the kitchen and while my children played in the yard visible from the kitchen window. It is tiresome to not always see my older kids and wonder whether they have put themselves on a wagon, bike, skateboard or scooter in preparation for a risky flight into the street. Sigh! If only…
Anyway, I made a terrible mistake the other morning. After reprimanding one of the older kids for leaving the front door open so my toddler could walk across the lawn to the neighbor’s yard, I decided after scooping her up (relieved that she was safe, of course) to go ahead and water the flower pots since I was already outside. I suggested to the older kids that they go across the street and say hi to a little boy whom we don’t see very often.
My toddler and I filled the water bucket and began watering flowers. As I pondered why that little boy was so rarely outside playing, I looked up with a start to see that my daughter was nowhere in sight. My husband’s truck sat in the driveway and blocked my view, but I knew my daughter was somewhere beyond it. I dropped the watering can and sprinted for the street, shouting at her to stop.
There she stood, right in the middle of the street. She glowered at me and stomped her foot. She had only been following her older siblings’ example and her mother’s instructions! How dare I stop her? It was awful because I had inadvertently allowed the whole event, but since my only spanking of my children at that age (horror of horrors–I do occasionally spank my kids!) is reserved for when he or she toddles into the road, I gave that girl a spank as I scooped her up. I want him or her to know that a sudden impact and pain are associated with that terrain. [I’m probably only teaching her that her rescuer is the cause of that sudden pain…shoot!]
No cars were in sight, and hopefully no witnesses to my idiocy either, but I had placed my daughter in a very precarious position. She was too young to realize that her older siblings were in “forbidden territory” for an acceptable reason and that they knew how to look both ways and look and listen for cars (though I try to watch them every time they cross the street and re-address any lapse in proper technique). They’re also bigger and more visible to cars (if their drivers are watching the road, of course). Plus, their mom knew where they were.
My toddler had heard my instructions to the older two to head across the street, and I hadn’t thought to warn her that I was only speaking to the others. I knew to whom I was speaking, and at the time, that seemed to be sufficient. Perhaps I’d already forgotten she was there (sad face).
You’ll notice in that first photo that my toddler is wearing a little backpack and holding a leash. I let her hold it while I took this photo, but for our part yesterday in the neighborhood garage sale, I decided to prevent, rather than treat, the inevitable toddler wandering into the street. And I tried to persuade the older two, who were selling their unwanted items in an effort to raise money for a pet, that they already had one, complete with leash and harness.
Here they are, just after receiving their second dollar each from generous people who didn’t want the kids’ junk any more than I did. They each have a mama dollar and a papa dollar. If they had left those two dollars alone for a while, perhaps they’d have gotten a whole family of dollars. But they wanted to spend them right away, which is how we ended up with a hamster cage and a giant, inflatable palm tree. I know what we’re selling at next year’s garage sale…
Heading into serious territory now…
But it’s not just mamas and papas who make babies together. Complete strangers, casual encounters, forbidden relationships, and violent, coercive and/or manipulative attacks also make babies. Babies who have no control over how they come into this world, but who come in needing just as much love, attention, and time as the baby who was planned and prepared for.
I don’t have time to look up all the numbers and back everything up that I say with a reliable source, but a lot of abortions happen every day in this country. What got me thinking even more about this topic was this blog post, which I read earlier in the week. And since I’ve seen the general spread of population in Provo, Utah, which he said is the number of unborn children prevented from experiencing birth and life each day in America, I think that is a significant number.
What I also found significant was his tone. Did he account for all the abortions that resulted after a woman (or child, really) experienced rape or incest? If a woman hasn’t consented to the event that creates the baby (it’s a baby to me, I can feel him or her moving completely independent of my own neural network long before the second trimester, so to me he or she is a life, not a mass of tissue or a nebulous, non-human “fetus”); then she has the right to discontinue that violation of her body and her will. I believe two (or more) innocent lives are at stake in those cases, as well as in cases where a woman’s life is threatened by the pregnancy, and that serious reflection and honest consideration of all the options can still occur rather than a presumed outcome of terminating the pregnancy. But in this case, she is defending her own body.
So I’m pretty sure that self-defense is not considered murder, and I wondered if he was casting all women who get abortions as murderers. That didn’t really sit right with me. However, how many abortions are for convenience (i.e., if this pregnancy had only happened when my career were more stable), for a lapse in birth control measures, for a realization that another child would be too much, for the undesired outcome of a child having a non-life threatening condition, etc.? Those situations really don’t sit right with me. Not because I want to deprive women of the choice of what happens to their bodies, but because I want each woman to know what her choices are long before she is confronted with abortion as an option.
When I put my daughter in the precarious position of standing in the middle of the street where a car could hit her at any moment, I had deprived her of most choices. She had followed the examples of people in her life whom she assumed lived by rules she could also adopt. She had heard one of her two most beloved adults encourage her peers to enter grown-up territory, which she also did, whether she was ready or not. And the whole situation was compounded by her home being situated where drivers from one direction would hardly have time to see her, let alone stop, before hitting her.
By guarding against having my daughter enter that street too soon, I am giving her more choices. The choice to know the difference between, “I am curious about walking into that road” and “I need to cross that road for an important reason.” I am giving her the choice to follow her peers just because she trusts them or to say to her peers (or one very specific peer), “No, I am not doing that. I am not ready, and I expect you to respect my choice.” I am giving her the option to observe that road a bit longer and notice how dangerous it really can be. And for those who might be rounding the corner, I am preventing them from suddenly causing the death of an innocent being because they had no warning. Warning can come in the way of not just posting a sign, but in educating that driver about when and why to be cautious.
Now hang on if you are a feeling like a naysayer right now. I am simply going off the impression I have gotten by reading news stories, watching mainstream movies and television shows, and from talking to people I’ve encountered in my life, but…
…it seems that sex is now treated like a form of expression and pleasure that should not have any restrictions other than requiring the consent of two adults (or nearly adults). The road in front of my house requires drivers to be a certain age (nearly adult) and to consent to some laws and the carrying of a current driver’s license in a vehicle that is registered, which is more than what two people (or just one, it would seem) need in order to drive on the road of sexual experiences.
Of course cars are a technological outgrowth of the demands we place on our civilization, thus requiring more regulation, whereas sex (at least the kind that makes babies) is literally part of life and so it’s much more difficult to regulate something that is as natural to some as breathing (though, on an individual level not actually necessary: you can actually survive and thrive in this life without any sexual exploration).
It also seems like sexual education in schools has accentuated the “well, you’re going to do this, so here’s a condom and the phone number to schedule an appointment at the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic” to the point that in this analogy, I might as well tell my daughter of less than two years to “put shoes on before you cross the road if that’s where your body takes you” and “just holler if you need anything while you’re out there!”
The more education a young man or young woman receives from those who love them about the capabilities, responsibilities, and consequences of their bodies as bearers of life and desirable sensations, the more choices that young man or young woman will have as they face the road ahead. I don’t think schools should stop Sex Ed programs anymore than we should stop the DMV from giving out licenses (but, boy, wouldn’t it be nice to skip the tedium of that ticking time bomb?)…
…so my point isn’t that parents need to keep their kids home from Sex Ed courses or abolish them from their schools. My point is that parents need to learn from helpful resources, to become comfortable with their own sexuality, to reconcile their past activities with their current desire to prepare their own child(ren), and then to start early (or at least simply) to create a healthy dialogue about sexual development and interactions. My parents did this for me brilliantly and successfully so that the dialogue continues. Not in some casual, disrespectful way, but in a profoundly comfortable way.
The sweet soul who gave my children their first dollars of the morning lives just around the bend on the other side of the street. It is her car you see in the first photo. Anyway, as she perused the neighborhood for any great garage sale deals, she drove up to our wispy sale and visited briefly before rescuing my kids from complete despair as they watched their efforts ignored by driver after driver. We chatted briefly about the bend, and she pointed out two things I find significant in my thoughts here.
First, that a speed bump on either side of the street to slow down cars approaching from either direction of the curves in our neighborhood would be a simple solution, and second, that she worries about her own child (older than mine) playing at the street’s edge just after the bend in the road.
What kinds of speed bumps slow down a woman (or at least a child of childbearing ability) before she is at an abortion clinic? And I mean the woman who, of her own will and choice, engaged in sexual intercourse with a male of the species.
Was there a speed bump called “education about her own body, her sex drive, and the implications of sexual activity?”
Was there a speed bump called “communication about the future between the two parties?”
Was there a speed bump called “a loving relationship with a trusted adult who could answer questions, give advice, and inflict painful consequences for violations of safety rules if needed (like being grounded for staying out too late or lying about whereabouts and the company she kept)?”
Was there a speed bump called “a male partner who had learned to respect another’s body and his own ability to help create life?”
Was there a speed bump called “contraception is rarely foolproof and requires correct use?”
Because picketing, blowing up, or shooting up an abortion clinic is about as helpful as making my own daughter into the speed bump. Even the lives of people who get and administer abortions matter.
My neighbor’s second point–that her own child plays around the bend on the other side–made me realize that I am sometimes that driver bearing down on his location a bit faster than I ought to–because I am focused on my own agenda, because I am distracted, or because I assume he weighed the consequences before setting up a basketball hoop on the street’s edge and will step out of the way as I approach. But he still needs space, which I can more easily provide with the vehicle I am in. Regardless of how his choices affected my plan, he still deserves consideration and compassion.
So on this road of sexual experience, as a culture we need to remember to slow down and think. It might be nice to think we could build a home in the country and prevent every single danger on our own little road. But in real life, we don’t always know when there will be a bend in the road of another driver and we don’t always know who (whether born or unborn) is on the other side. All we can know in advance is that they each matter.