Our surreal, virtual, synthetic world.
The most recent Times cover caused quite a stir in American child-rearing circles. A woman breastfeeding her three-year-old child is practically a cultural anathema in this country, where we wean babies earlier than most of the rest of the world. I was no different than most of my friends on the subject. It seems unnatural to nurse a child that you can have a conversation with, who can probably make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich if they’re feeling peckish. So I came to today’s blog with the idea that I would find evidence to support my feelings in the animal kingdom. After all, today’s human is a poor judge of what’s “natural.” Our worlds are surreal, virtual, synthetic places that bear little resemblance to nature. I looked at chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives on the DNA chain, and found out I was completely wrong.
Chimpanzees nurse their young up to five years and gorillas wean slightly later than that. Hmmm. Well, apparently I’m the one operating under unnatural cultural biases, and not that mother on the magazine. Then I started to wonder why we’re living longer than ever before in human history if we wean our children years before we should. The answer, of course, is our surreal, virtual, synthetic worlds. Our babies continue to get the milk they need, but from a lab (formula) or a cow instead of their mother. And somehow this is natural to me. This is acceptable, where a nursing three-year-old is not.
I can see the nonsense in my sense, but I think I’m too far down the rabbit hole to crawl out now. This little girl coming to our family will suffer the same fate as her brother, and be weaned long before she can debate me about it.