Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Nursing and the Taliban
by Marion Winik

My daughter Jane will be two next month and sheís still nursing. Noonie, as she calls it, is a regular feature of her daily diet along with other favorites: peas, cheese, "sue-da,""purple yoggit," and "ah crim" and "tokka muk".

I weaned my older kids, who are teenagers now, when they were each about a year and a half. I was ready and I guess they were too because I donít remember it being all that traumatic. This time around I think I'm gonna be one of those mothers who has her breastfeeding middle schooler removed from her care.

And why? Partly I blame my age. Partly I blame her gender. And partly I blame the Taliban.

I was 42 when Jane was born, and without a doubt having one last chance to nurse a baby was one the carrots that dangled ahead of me during that rather tedious pregnancy. Because I already knew: If labor and delivery is one of the most excruciating physical experiences known to woman, nursing is one of the sweetest. As amazing as the transfer of immunities and other benefits may be, itís the feeling of your little baby lying beside you, curled into your body, little feet kneading your stomach, face at your breast that really blows your mind. Nursing is the last concrete form of the physical bond you have with this being who came from an egg that was inside your own body when you were born. When itís over, something is gone forever.

So thatís the wisdom of age, the flipside of which is the exhaustion of age. While my other kids didnít have sugar until they were well into pre-school, Jane sometimes nurses with a tootsie pop in her hand. She goes to bed at 10 and watches quite a lot of TV. I gotta pick the nos I have the strength to defend.

So Iím a geezer, and sheís a girl. Kind of a girlie girl, in fact, with big blue eyes and curly blond hair and a bow-shaped mouth When her brothers, at eighteen months, would barrel up, knock me over, pull up my shirt and demand to nurse, I didnít have that hard a time saying no. Nobody wants to nurse Attilla the Hun. But when The Nooza, as we call her, gives me her Cindy Lou Who eyes and that "Peeze, mama?"I canít resist.

I recently read two memoirs by young Afghani women who spent most of their girlhoods living under the rule of the Taliban. I read about their memories of the day the talibs outlawed kites, pets, dolls, photographs, music and school. The day childhood ended just like that. I tried to imagine raising my daughter in a situation of such severe institutionalized misogyny, where the sound of a womanís voice or the sight of her face is considered virtually pornographic. I tried to imagine the despair those mothers felt as they lost all control over the lives their children would have. I read these books with Jane in my lap, nursing, tears of outrage forming in my eyes.

Nurse on, Jane. Grow tall and strong and free. To raise my daughter as I see fit, in comfort, in safety, with hope, is a gift. How I wish it for mothers in Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya, the ghettoes of Los Angeles and St Louis, for all mothers everywhere.
After 20 years in Austin, the hometown of her heart, Marion Winik lives in a farmhouse in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania with children and stepchildren ranging in age from 1 to 14. She is the author of The The Lunch-Box Chronicles and Rules for Unruly.