At first glance itís like any other preschool playgroup in town. Toddlers vie for a box of toys, grinding cracker dust into a well-loved rug. Periodically a diaper is changed. The hostess has a devilish toddler in tow and another baby on the way in mid-July. Everybodyís swapping sippees and crunching Kix.
Look more closely and youíll see that somebodyís kid is leafing through Victor the Vegetarian: Saving Little Lambs. Another has wandered over to the shelf of 'zines in the corner, dragging a copy of Lauraine Leblancís Pretty in Punk: Girls' Gender Resistance in a Boys' Subculture. The roomís back wall is plastered with stickers that read No One for President and Anarchists Take Turns Being on Top. You donít have to be a pierced punk parent to play at Monkeywrench Books, but it doesnít hurt.
Rosa-Maria DiDonato started "Baby Day" at Monkeywrench in November 2002, when a handful of parents with young children began meeting informally at the store. Though Monkeywrench, a cooperatively operated bookstore staffed by volunteers, aims to provide a place to "network and make connections over a cup of organic coffee or tea," Rosa-Maria is the only member of its collective who is also a parent. So she recognizes that community-building means bringing mamas and children together, too. "Everyone, including kids, is included," she says.
Rosa-Maria also slings a mean vegan queso and reaches out to punk parents with a quarterly self-publication, Placenta Zine. The most recent issue features tales from the familyís recent tour (daddy David DiDonato plays in two local punk bands, J Church and AFI), a recipe for DIY diaper salve, book reviews, and a eulogy for Sound Exchange.
AustinMama.com recently caught up with Rosa-Maria. Here's what she had to say:
Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?
I don't know that I had any single inspiration. I respected and loved my grandparents dearly. I spent a lot of time with them when I was young, as they lived very close. All three of the grandparents that I knew came to this country with nothing (my father's mother from Italy and my mother's parents from Mexico). Of the three, my grandfather, Chilo, was perhaps my biggest influence. We would spend hours together practicing math and playing chess, cooking him dinner after my grandmother died, and me listening to his stories.
You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?
Don't listen to the other kids; don't let them tell you who you are. Things are going to get much better, and you're going to realize that the rest of the world isn't in your fifth grade class, and you are going to have friends. Trust yourself and don't listen to what they say.
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What is the biggest challenge you see mothers faced with today?
For me, knowing what I want to do and what I believe in and then being able to finance it. For example, wanting and believing in "staying home" with my children at least through their younger years, but having little societal support in doing so, especially being a lower income one-income family. Or knowing that organic/whole food, at least certain items, are ideal, but having the black thumb that I do that turns all plants to death, having to make choices about what I can afford to feed my family.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?
Time and money, or more realistically, lack thereof. Theoretically, if we had more of one we could have more of the other. I hate that money controls my life the way that it does right now, but at the same time, there are so many things that I would like to do that would be a lot easier if I had a little more cash. And a little more time...
What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?
Community and friendship. I love watching communities, subcultures, microcosms expand and grow and intertwine. I love introducing people and seeing friendships grow. If I have a part in any of that, through having people come by my shift at the bookstore, or doing a zine, or whatever, that makes me happy.
What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?
The first thing that comes to mind is putting old Dubya together with any number of radical activist types, or a struggling welfare mother, or an "illegal" immigrant fighting for his/her family, anybody working below the poverty level, Saddam Hussein, or... the list continues. But really, when I think long and hard about it, the only people I really want to handcuff together for a day would be Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon [from Saturday Night Live]. Well, only if they are into that sort of thing... I have a feeling that's not the kind of answer you were looking for, though...
What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?
The permission and means to have guilt-free time alone and space. To know that even if you want to attachment parent, and co-sleep, and everything else, that doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your space and sanity.
Baby Day is held at Monkeywrench Books, 110 E. North Loop, from 11:00 a.m.Ė 3:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Call 407-6925 for more information.
For more information about Placenta Zine, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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