Mr. Blandings and I--not fans of McCommerce in general, and true loathers of the faux "you can have it all!" fantasy shoveled in these kinds of arenas--had put off making some post-Christmas returns until the 11th hour. Armed with a fistful of gift receipts sweetly sent our way by Madame Blandings, we were ready to do battle with the Powers That Be at some of the trendier chain stores. We would no longer glower guiltily at the $95 GAP sweater lying on the floor in our closet. No--we would send it back to the pit of h@ll from which it came.
But first we had to squeeze into a parking spot. And unload the kids. Put Manolin in the ergo. Harness Oli into the stroller. Make sure everyone had their coat, their water bottle, their marching orders. Double check the snack supplies and ...
Yes, we can go in now.
Three steps from the end of our vehicle, the older kids started snickering.
Directly across from our van was a small, derelict Geo, circa 1989. It had once been metallic blue-green, but was now a mostly forgotten shade of tired dirt brown and road film grey. The tires were bald. The back taillight was missing on the driver's side, and had been artfully replaced with a series of red bumper stickers. The area around the sagging tailpipe was sooty with discharge.
What caught our attention, however, was a prominently displayed sticker on the bumper:
REPRODUCE RESPONSIBLY! 2 IS ENOUGH!
Just to the right of that was another sticker:
ZERO POPULATION GROWTH! ENSURE THAT WE CAN ALL EAT!
"People?" Jo asked innocently. "They mean people?"
We enjoyed a brisk walk to the shops while explaining the premise of zpg to our children. They were, to put it mildly, amused.
Some of the questions were pedestrian, child-like insights:
"How is telling someone else how many kids to have o.k. in a free country?"
"That's like China."
Others were a bit more thoughtful--the questions that start a true intellectual dialogue:
"But what happens if everyone starts doing that and all of the older people keep getting older, and there are fewer young people to support them?"
"Does that work with our kind of government?"
"What if you end up with more males than females, or more females than males?"
"If our country decided to do that, and no other country did, wouldn't we eventually be so weak that we'd be kind of picked off?"
"Why are they concerned about people not having enough food when we're standing on acres and acres of what used to be farmland that's now a bunch of coffee shops and Apple stores?"
I love raising intelligent, free-thinking children. I love the fact that we have largely crossed over the border from parroting back what mom and dad say to reasoning through arguments and positions to form their own positions. And I love the fact that no topic is too big, too small, or too obtuse to catch their fancy. A bumper sticker can ignite a debate; What an amazing gift to see your children grab hold of knowledge in that way!
In the end, we all decided that, if nothing else, it was ironic that our emissions-spewing 206 E350 van was parked alongside an emissions-spewing 1989 Geo. And that we were probably that particular person's worst nightmare. Who knows... maybe we even passed by the Geo owner, and gave him his own reproductive nightmare for the day.