Category Archives: Psychology

Cross post – Book Review: Beyond the Sling

A cross post review from my other blog:  In this day and age of detachment parenting Mayim Bialik, or Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler for you Big Bang Theory fans, attempts to address the myths, the trials and tribulations, and the benefits of attachment parenting.   As an advocate for birth empowerment as well as a prosthelitizing believer in natural childbirth the words of a woman with a PhD in neuroscience held allure.  To me it was about finding someone who had done a home birth, breastfed (even did extended breastfeeding), and unschooled her children who was so credentialed the world was sure to stand up and see the validity in what so many of us non doctorate holding moms already know: learning is innate, our bodies are designed to propagate our species as well as take care of our young, and submitting to your babe’s needs does not mean you are permissive.

 

Unfortunately, when I caught a few clips of her on television while promoting this book it seems as though the world does not want/need credentials to view these things with validity, and instead seems to hold fastidiously to the notion that kids should be separate and independent of the parent almost from birth – the sex life of the parents holding higher import than bonding of each parent with their children.

This book takes on the issue of a sex life and the family bed with anecdotes and personal examples, but the most important aspects -the biology, anthropology, and psychology of infants-  are dealt with in both a blend of science and personal outtakes from her life.   Take, for example, this bit from her chapter about gentle discipline and particularly about the notion of telling a child to stop crying/discouraging them from crying:

Tears have been found to contain small amounts of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone.  Crying may serve to release tension and stress from tiny bodies, and it is normal and healthy.  Seeing crying as a natural and reasonable form of communication removes the stigma our culture associates with it.  It may not be the most effective communication tool, but it is sometimes the only one small children have in their limited arsenal.

As was typical of her work this was followed up with a bit of psychology as well as an example from her own family:

Some family and friends found it funny (or perhaps uncomfortable or unsettling?) and mocked our boys’ crying, albeit playfully.  This is, frankly, not at all helpful, and it perpetuates the idea that children shouldn’t cry when we think they shouldn’t.

This next bit I’m sharing simply because I found it beautifully stated – from the same section, but in a subsection called “Violence”:

The distinction between hitting in anger (as in “the heat of the moment”) as opposed to hitting as part of a purportedly “calm,” regimented spanking is an academic one but not a practical one; both methods involve hitting a child, thereby causing a tiny brain to release neurotransmitters and hormones to cope with pain and fear while suppressing fight/flight pathways.  The simplest reason we don’t hit is this: hitting is hitting.  It’s not love.  It’s not teaching.  It’s hitting.  You can say you are hitting with love, or that you are using hitting to teach something, but it’s still hitting.

Her sections on breastfeeding and natural childbirth are equally important, although for more information on the benefits of these practices I can not recommend Pushedor Born in the USA (I will review Dr. Marsden Wagner’s book at a later date) enough.  It is my sincerest wish that more people would read this book with an open mind.  Kids have nothing to lose by a parent reading this and taking much of its wisdom to heart and everything to gain.

Have you read it?  Have a favorite or not so favorite section?

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The more I think I know….

On a recent rainy day I took the kids to a local children’s museum as my oldest needed to run.  And run he did.  There were all sorts of animals he could see – several varieties of snakes – as well as a big area designed to look like a small/old town complete with two stories on which to play.  He was in his glory.   To say he was excited when an employee announced a live animal demonstration with two of their snakes would be an understatement.  All I had to do was point him in the direction of the classroom and off we went; the only question he asked was where to sit.  [The google image searches on my computer have blessedly changed from ticks to snakes as a result.]

A couple of older boys, about five or six, sat next to him.  At which point that very outgoing child of mine proceeded to talk to them.  Looks were exchanged between those two boys followed by that shrug we’ve all received or made to indicate how that other person was “weird” and not someone to talk to or include.  The light and excitement dimmed on my son’s face; his exuberance muted and cut out as he got very still and quiet.  I saw it happen and then proceeded to discard it as important until it came to haunt me at about midnight – just after watching some of Downton Abbey.

Then it struck me.  He was being schooled on how society does not accept people for who they are, but rather in their ability to conform to social rules that are never said honestly and upfront.  As much as I find these “rules” to be odious and annoying they’re ones I subconsciously conform to.  And upon closer reflection I realized that lately I have been trying to get them (okay, him – ten month old is a wee young for me to even remotely project this nonsense on to) to conform to them, too.  Exuberance became embarrassing ; vocalized joy was discomfitting; funny words, phrases, anatomical statements made into jokes – horrifying.

I don’t know when it was I decided he should stop acting like a kid; when it became an embarrassment instead of something I was both proud of and exalted in.  It just sort of happened.  My criticisms started getting more frequent; just nitpicky little shit that had me whining and being a bitch all day long.  The Big Rule I had set out for myself as a parent had been forgotten amid the self justifying bad attitude of a rigid control freak: Rules must be founded upon a logical premise.  When I saw those two little you-know-whats make my kid feel like he was two inches shorter than normal the reality really hit.  I was doing nothing less to my child than those boys.

Perhaps that is slightly unfair to me, if only in the context that I’ve taught that rules have reasons for existing part pretty well up until recently and so many decrees have been greeted with a “so you think I’m going to stop running around like a crazy person when I get excited and humming really loud soundtracks for the drawings I’m making just because you said so – bwahahahahaha!”  Still, the lesson couldn’t have been clearer to me.  My son, both my children really, will go through a tough learning curve when adapting to “society”.  That these interactions and “how to be” around other people we just meet are done with cloak and dagger precision until all ritual formalities are met.  Sometimes even after then.  Our soft underbellies of personality, and with it heart, logic, opinions, are shrouded and guarded.  The vulnerability is hidden under taught shame and sometimes forceful exclusion.

How can one exist healthfully when such notions are unspoken rules?  How does one feel SAFE as they traverse through a life of landmines?

It became apparent to me, painfully so, that the best thing I could do as a parent was to go back to my original notions and thoughts.  To instill in my children that if nothing else – home is where they can safely be who they are.  The rules are spelled out and based upon logic and respect.  Behavioral requirements rest solely upon those two subsets.  And if you want to talk ad nauseum about your sea turtle shirt, or the imaginary kitties crossing in front of you in the kitchen, or sing songs with silly made up words – go right ahead.  This Attachment Parent will do her best to get past her inner curmudgeon and let the little ones be simply who they are.


Facebook = Soma

It is remarkable the clutter one’s mind can hold; how quickly it can fall upon you, invade, stretch its legs out, and then make its self so comfortable it’s as though you never existed without it. The experience of separating myself from THE social network has been an amazing journey I’m not quite done with yet. Within a few days of not posting I felt… liberated. The compulsion to comment and respond, the drive to participate in debates, to clarify my position, to rail against the logic fails I would take as a personal affront wasn’t present. My smart phone was left in my back pack in the trunk during outings. A quest for approval I had inadvertently embarked upon when signing up for facebook seemed to run out of steam.

Every night I was besieged by the news on my feed; article after article presented to me and threads to which I felt compelled to respond. And with all this time during which the kids slept I never felt rested, replenished, or even relaxed or productive. It was frustration and hostility – feeding mostly the negative things that reside within.  The absolute, in the doldrums, intensely negative self outlook.  There was always someone who was accomplishing more than me, certainly more of the things viewed by society as valuable and as actual achievements, and this sent me on a bit of a downward spiral.   I even mis-attributed some of that to being burnt out; that being the primary care giver of my two children, one teething and crawling while the other has extraordinary dietary restrictions, time while my husband worked his ass off in getting a new business launched while furthering the success of the existing one. A few days of no posting, a few painful days of cringing every time I had the thought “this is what I should post as my status”, was all I needed to realize how easy it was to let the single most precious thing in life slip through my fingers. Time.

Facebook, or so it seems to me, is the new soma. It lures you in with the promising glitter of “keeping in touch”, then of being “better than” those people from high school/co-workers/family members, and then it suddenly switches this thing that simply keeps you busy. That whiling away hours upon it “keeping up” with people or “sharing ideas” life was simply disappearing like water down a clean as a whistle drain even as the sensation of beautiful and precious moments became the noise and interruptions of my cyber drug. My anesthetization to them had been complete. But reversible.

The communications I had on facebook were, upon occasion, very meaningful to me. Some even made me feel powerful. But by and large the vicarious nature of the network its self left me with less power, less words, through the perpetuation of a myth of productivity. My writing, even my desire to do it, left me for a time. It was EASIER to fill my head and expend my energy on the false premise my arguing with someone would change their belief when I knew damn well that certainly wasn’t going to be the case in the reverse. There’s always that hope of those with strong beliefs, myself certainly not an exception to this, that a person might become converted to my way of thinking, of seeing things. It is not acceptance. It is not peace. It is not playing with my children. It is not a hug. It is not even tending to a relationship of value. I would contend that if people assert this to be the case (again – myself as recent as a month ago is counted in this) then what is worth valuing has been missed.

A hand written letter is what I crave doing most for my friends these days. A phone conversation or text. Even an email. Something that is quieter and allows for the more tender and subtle emotions to be spoken without the violent screams of so many others to clutter up the works. And so I write again. Articles, essays, and a break through on a manuscript I still hold so very dear in addition to the letters and emails to those I’m grateful to call friends.

The blog… I think I’m coming back to it as well.


To enculturate or not, that is the question…

Two parents in Toronto have decided to not inform society at large the gender of their third child.  For some reason this has “society” in a tither.  Before I launch into what will surely wind up sounding like a rant it is absolutely vital to discuss the terms involved.

A person’s gender role is merely something attributed to someone socially, a set of “norms” as to how people of a certain gender act, etc.  [This is paraphrased from Wikipedia.]  A person’s gender identity is something that is internalized and considered separate from sexual orientation.  Depending upon where you’re looking you might see that this is considered separate from the biological assignment of gender, but of course all this rests upon societal definitions of gender and how we perceive healthy individuals submit to typical categorizations of the same.  That kind of throws a bit of a wrench into this one with what boils down to something that appears to be circular logic.

Now, let’s get to the story, shall we?    The parents are raising their kid in an environment where gender is not pandered to.  That’s it.  There is no mention about how the parents won’t have the anatomy conversation with their child (who happens to have two older brothers).  None.  I looked.  And, let’s face it, any parent knows about the inevitable conversations that goes something like this (at eleven seconds in or so):

Some people may think gender roles are no big deal.  There was a time in society where they were everything.  Ask the suffragettes about gender.  Or perhaps those involved in getting women more accepted and to get equal pay for equal work.  It mattered.  Why?  It was a category that had been established as inferior.  This notion, this social norm was fought tooth and nail and now many people are righteously stating how this kid being raised in a manner that encourages wholesome ego development over enculturation is wrong, ignorant, screwed up.  [Enculturation is a means of assimilating, of taking on traditional values and practices of a culture.]

While I have concerns for any individual who is abundantly different in a society which only accepts certain differences the reasons those concerns exist is NOT because of the outlier, the exceptional childThe concern exists because of the intolerance of the different that is socially acceptable.  If each of us wants to encourage acceptance, TRUE acceptance, then categories can not be the rule nor can we be looking to force our notions of “right” upon others.