That's what Xir told me this afternoon as we walked home from a long outing.
"Most of the farmers in the world are women," I replied evenly.
"That's because they are tricking the men to think they can do it."
"Why would they want to trick the men? Farming is hard work. Women and men farm because they need to eat."
"Well I guess that is all right. Women should be doing most of the work anyway."
Well. I had been holding it together pretty admirably thus far, I should think, but that just hurtled me over the wall between reasonable mom and screeching lunatic. In the "conversation" that followed (meaning, in this context, a shrill rapidfire monologue coming from me and increasingly hunted and shrinking remarks he managed to sputter out when I drew in breath) I learned that
a) people in China think women should do most of the work.
b) a man's job is to have fun.
c) people in China are the smartest.
and he learned that
a) Mama is a screeching lunatic. And
b) NEVER say that thing again about women should do all the work.
I tried to lower my register and decibels at one point and describe, in a reasonable facsimile of my normal voice, a scenario in which his little brother got to play with toys all day while he had to cook, clean up, wash his brother's clothes, fix his brother's broken toys, etc. How would that feel?
"You got it wrong mama. We are both boys. That's not how they do it in China. WE would both be playing and having fun. If we had a sister she could do all that stuff."
AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHH. Needless to say, the whole thing ended in tears. And I forgot, several times, that it was a five-year-old with whom I was dealing. A five-year-old who was merely repeating opinions he'd heard from Satan. I mean his dad. Whoops.
This whole cheerful frolic coincided with the loss of Xir's first tooth. I had always meant to make a special family ritual of this moment; rather than go along with thoughtless lies about fairies with toothy castles I would take my child out to the garden and we would plant the tooth under a special bean vine to put the calcium back in the soil. Then when that bean vine began to produce, we would cook up the beans, sing a special song, and he would eat them to complete the cycle.
Yeah RIGHT! There are so many fallacies in that particular fantasy that I can't even begin to address them. And I was so steaming mad that I went on and on about the tooth fairy just to get back at Xir's dad--whoops, I mean Satan--who hates, above all else, imagination of any kind. Except the kind where you imagine that someone will actually stay married to you when you hold an opinion like "women should do all the work".
After both boys fell asleep I decompressed a little by writing in my journal about the whole thing. And I realized why I had gotten so angry. It's because, as stupid and unevolved and ludicrous as the idea that women should be doing all the work is, WE ACTUALLY ARE. It is still happening. Innocent eyes looking around this world would find plenty of proof for it.
I know it is not just I who does all of the cooking, all of the cleaning, all of the childcare; whose husband (when we were still married) referred to his care of the children as "babysitting"; whose dreams and education were put on hold simply because I had participated in the creation of the next generation. Or maybe I am just still bitter about what a crock Mother's Day is when there isn't another parent around to coerce the children into expressing (forced) sentiment or better yet to just cart the critters off for the day.
But taking it out on my 5-year-old is not going to change things. I don't know that there is anything that could change things. Because the very act of being an involved mother removes involved mothers from the circles that make the plans, the art, the culture, the rules. We are invisible and so it never changes. Urban planners forget, for the most part, that children exist. Organizers of events. of parties, of entertainment, exclude small children as a matter of course and thus exclude their mothers from participation in the adult world. There is no job that I know of--including the care of other people's children--in which bringing your own children along is acceptable. It is entirely inhumane, and somehow almost completely unquestioned.
I know this is not news to anyone. Time to climb off of my soapbox and into bed. Oh wait. First I have to do the dishes, sweep the floors, prepare tomorrow's lunches...
and sneak a quarter under the pillow of a very special, very deluded little boy.