At the playground the other day, as I was helping my son into the sandbox, I heard another mom say: “You must worry so much about the sun since he’s so pale.” I smiled, handing my son his bucket, and replied, “Not really, I just slather him in sunscreen!”
There was a pause during which my son poured a bucketful of sand into my sock and in the resulting stunned silence (both his and mine) the other mother remarked, rather sadly, “It’s just that sunscreen has so many chemicals. I almost worry more about them than about sunburns.”
I stopped fiddling with the beach in my sock to look up at her. I had to check if she was serious. She was. So, in the interest of not upsetting a lunatic, I made a noncommittal sound, smiled vaguely and turned my attention to the leaf that had made its way into my son’s mouth. If he swallowed it, I found myself thinking crazily, at least it’s organic!
It’s not like I haven’t encountered this woman before. Well not this specific woman, actually (we’d just met), but moms just like her. Moms who make their own sunscreen (I kid you not) because store-bought sunscreen is full of chemicals. Moms who inspect the labels of each item at the grocery store, not because their children have life-threatening allergies, but to make sure it’s organic. Moms who buy their child’s blankets and clothes from special stores that can trace each thread back to the sheep it came from to make sure they’re all natural. And do you know what all these moms have in common? A burning need to impose their beliefs on me.
Listen, in my world no one has time to collect the magical ingredients you say you need in order to make sunscreen. (Beeswax was one of them. Beeswax?! And a unicorn horn?) Honestly! The reason my nearly translucent son has never had a sunburn is because somebody in a lab somewhere invented sunscreen. If you want to rub beeswax all over your kid, I really couldn’t care less. He’ll have a sunburn, but that’s your problem. Can’t my son’s chemical-covered body be my problem?
And I mean, look, I obviously don’t know as much about the differences between organic and non-organic foods as you do. I haven’t spent my time (as you clearly seem to have) studying organic chemistry and interning on a sustainable farm. But I do know that a box of organic strawberries is nearly twice the price of the regular kind. And, that when I go to give my son some strawberries on Friday from the box I bought on Monday, they’ll still be fresh and juicy. And seriously, can’t we all agree that feeding my son nice, juicy, red strawberries is preferable to giving him withered moldy ones? Oh wait, no, sorry we can’t all agree. Because at least mold is natural so . . . you’re nuts.
But my point is: you’re allowed to be nuts. And so am I. If it seems crazy to you that I would bypass the organic section in the produce aisle and use sunscreen from a bottle, then I’m cool with that. You be you! All I’m asking is that you recognize that my choices are my choices.
I will never sit you down and say, “Don’t you worry that your child will get a sunburn all covered in beeswax like that? I just buy the sunscreen from the store. It’s so much cheaper. And it saves time, too, because we’re not in the hospital every other day with first degree burns and a bunch of bee stings because our sunscreen doesn’t work and the bees came back to collect what was rightfully theirs.” Instead, I’ll just smile politely at you and try not to touch your very sticky kid.
If we’re over at your house, I won’t demand you feed us non-organic food because I don’t like those little bruises on your strawberries and those crackers are tasteless. If you show up to my son’s birthday party with clothes made from organic hemp, I won’t turn you away from the door.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. I’ll definitely judge you. I’ll definitely think you’re being ridiculous with your moldy fruit and your itchy clothes. But I’ll judge you silently. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Because, however much I believe that my choices make sense, I’ll know that you feel just the same way about yours. Converting you to my way of thinking does nothing for me. What does converting me to your way of thinking do for you?