How They Do It In...Lithuania.


How They Do It In… Lithuania

Kids are protected from alternative culture – by law.

by Kim Brooks

October 1, 2009


When my husband and I bought our first home a year ago, a condo in a north side Chicago neighborhood, I found myself both trilled and terrified by the prospect of raising our family in the city. I worried about taxes and public schools. I worried about flooding and the fact that neither my husband nor I would know how to operate a wrench. But one thing I didn’t worry about was our new home’s location just across the street from the METRA, Chicago’s main commuter rail line. I love trains. My husband loves trains. And our son loves them even more. He loves to watch them come and go, to sing along with their chug-chug and their whistle, to watch and wave to the daily commuters walking past our front yard each morning and afternoon. And he also, I was to learn, loves greeting and waving to and chatting with the vagrant men who sleep alongside the rail and from time to time stagger down onto our sidewalk and occasionally pass out or urinate into the gutter.

Thus far, my son’s exchanges with these neighbors have remained brief. He smiles at them and greets them. They smile and greet him back. He waves at them and points at their heads or the bottle under their arms, as though imploring them to share. I smile and tell him not to bother the nice gentleman. They go on their way. I’ll admit that at times his friendliness and lack of fear of strangers makes me nervous, but for the most part the men seem harmless and thus far it hasn’t caused me much distress. His natural openness and curious nature does make me wonder, though, what I will tell him in a year or two when in addition to greeting our local homeless, he begins asking me questions: Why do those men drink out of paper bags? How come they get to go pee-pee on the street? Or other questions about city life: Why does the woman on the bus talk to herself? Why is there a billboard off Ashland Ave. of two women kissing on top of a sports car? Why do the waiters at our favorite hamburger place, a transvestite-themed joint in the nearby gay neighborhood, get to wear dresses even though they’re boys?

My son’s intense interest in the rail-riders only made me more attuned to the fact that like all modern parents, no matter which city, state or country one calls home, we, too, would have to deal with our kid’s baby eyes and ears absorbing all the wonders and pains and complexities of a grown-up world. It is a ubiquitous part-of parenting, universal and unavoidable – or so I thought, until I read about a new law adopted in Lithuania.