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By Jim Mullen
My wife and I forgot to have children. We are so busy going to movies, plays and concerts, buying nice things for the house, taking long vacations without looking at a school calendar, reading all the latest best-sellers and going to restaurants with nice white tablecloths that it simply slipped our minds. You know how it is: You get busy, and suddenly think, “Boy, I wish I had to pay $50,000 a year to put some 18-year-old who thinks I’m an idiot through college.” But it’s too late for us. Instead we’re going to chillax this week at that wonderful Hawaiian B&B everyone’s talking about. Again.
Of course, the downside of not having children is that I feel left out when friends discuss time-outs, play dates, family therapy and joint custody. I sit silent while the discussion goes on and on about the pros and cons of one model of breast pump over another. As much as I would like to, I have nothing to contribute. The group wants to hear that my mother had eight children without the benefit of a breast pump – or Ritalin, ADHD or peanut allergies – like they want to hear I’ve volunteered to spank out-of-control kids in grocery stores.
The underlying message in all this seems to be that raising a child is hard, painful, demanding, unending, exhausting work. You’d think modern parents would be looking for tips to make life easier, not harder. Which is why I found the news of the latest parenting trend, Elimination Communication, so stunning.
Elimination Communication, called E.C. by parents enamored of it, is a growing cult that worships diaper-free potty-training. They try to figure out from a baby’s coos and ahs which ones mean “I love you” and which ones mean “Look out below!” Because, obviously, as a new parent, you don’t have enough to do. But you will have enough doo-doo.
I heard about this from Jackson, a new grandad.
“You mean they really let the kid run around buck-nekkid?”
“Not in my house,” he said, “but they do at their house. When they think the kid is ready to go, they hold him over the toilet, or over bowls they have set up all over the house.”
“Bowls? Remind me not to have soup at their house. Whose crazy idea was this? The Octomom?”
“No, their doula tells them kids go without diapers in Third World countries all the time.”
“Their doula. It’s a woman who is there to comfort the mother. It’s not really medical or a midwife, but a companion.”
“I understand,” I said. “I think the English word for that is ‘friend’ or ‘family.’ They don’t know anything about medicine, either, they’re just there to give you crazy child-rearing advice.”
“My daughter-in-law doesn’t seem to have any friends, and she doesn’t get along with her family. Ergo, the doula.”
“You mean no one is inviting her and her diaperless baby to the weekly bridge game? That’s hard to believe. What other Third World ideas are she and her doula planning to borrow?” I asked. “An open sewer running down the middle of her street? Throwing garbage out of the front window? Walking barefoot to the town well to get contaminated water for washing and cooking? Or is it just the no-diapers thing?”
“The doula says it keeps diapers out of landfills.”
“Really? I’ve been to the landfill, and what you see are a lot of old computers, printers and CD players stacked up to the sky. And washing machines and refrigerators, and a lot of construction debris from people who have remodeled their houses to put in nurseries. But I have never seen a diaper there. Maybe because, unlike the computers, they decompose. Still, there’s a much easier way to keep diapers out of landfills: Forget to have children.”