Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thoughts on Crying Babies

Although I have learned much from Attachment Parenting methodologies and other Gentle Parenting and Non-Violent Communications techniques, I have to admit that I have met very few people who utilize some of the helpful information without becoming dogmatic. In that way, they are no better than those who who follow any other philosophy 100%. I'm talking about Ezzo Acolytes, Staunch Ferberizers, and apologists for any other parenting paradigm.

Urban Princess linked to Mothering Magazine's article: Crying for Comfort: Distressed Babies Need to Be Held
By Aletha Solter
. Incidentally, I remember reading this missive in its original print issue. Much useful information can be found therein. However, blanket statements like: "Another advantage of this approach is that toddlers who have cried enough as infants (while being held), and who continue to be supported emotionally as they grow older, are calm and gentle. They do not hit or bite other children. Toddlers who do not have opportunities to cry freely can become aggressive, hyperactive, obnoxious, or easily frustrated. These disagreeable behaviors are often caused by an accumulation of pent-up stress, or the impact of early trauma that has had no healthy outlet." are BS! And, like it or not, I think Mothering Magazine consistently undermines the value of the scientifically sound information they provide by publishing hyperbolic interpretations and pseudo-scientific hogwash as if it were based in the same empirical methods as the research (usually medical) it often intends to debunk. That said, I still love Mothering Magazine. Every once in a while, I'd just like to ask Peggy O'Mara if she's trying to marginalize the value of the information presented in her fine periodical by permitting such frustrating errors. *sigh* But, back to the quote, yeah, BS. All it takes is one meeting with your average granola-crunching, bunny-hugging AP or NVC group and I'll wager my favorite back issues of Mothering that many of the kids you see will cry and scream and tantrum and occassionally even hit other kids with toys or bite a beloved playmate or otherwise display some sign of not being the dulcet, complacent darlings that allegiance to these gentle practices apparently guarantees.

In fact, it pains me to admit that - at this point in my parenting experience - the most messed-up, freaked-out kids I've met were all spawned by ardent followers of the AP/NVC ideas. So there.

I suspect that each Church of Parenting provides doctrine that speaks to particular parents on the point of a specific issue... Most probably have some helpful tidbit at some point. So it is then up to the parent to decide whether they've added a helpful tool to the toolbox or whether to define themselves as ___________ (pick any method with a support group or some other form of congregation) and begin the tumble into fundamentalism.

Harsh? Maybe. I'm not feeling particularly charitable today.

But on this I think I'm right: as soon as a person accepts the comfort of a label, accepting the notion that I am this, they begin to shut off many complementary and competing notions of who they are and what they can or can't do.

I do it all the time, unfortunately. I'm getting better about recognizing that (I hope) and subjecting my assumptions of self to the light of skepticism.

My point is that sometimes that blotch on the wall is just mildew, not the Virgin. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a Mom just needs to put a crying baby down, still crying, so that Mom won't lose her mind.

And on a slightly less curmudgeonly note: I think many AP/NVC rules work best (or, in some cases work only) for families with one child (or two children, tops!) who have the luxury of a parent at home full-time.

(OOooh, I can just hear Urban Princess's knuckles cracking as she prepares to blast me with links and tear me apart for all my errors of logic and rhetoric - that's why I love you, sista!)

Nevertheless, I agree that kindness and sympathy and understanding are the optimal characteristics to convey in our relationships with our fellow creatures (except for wasps... they all need to be squished!), especially our children.

Here's a thought, though - in all our kindness and sympathy and understanding, how often do we (do I) actually teach them that a parent (most often a woman) is a martyred doormat who must always defer her needs to the needs of someone else? This isn't about comforting a crying newborn -- but at what point - and how - do we begin to teach our little ones about self-nourishment, self-control and self-value? This is not a rhetorical question. I really struggle with how to grow and develop the parent-child relationship so that my daughters will grow up to pursue their own goals and not lose themselves if they choose to have children of their own. Obviously, I must model what I want them to do and be. They will naturally assume my limits as their birthright if I don't break out of old habits and gender role traps.

Currently that means that, a few times a week, they have to attend childcare at the Y while I take a yoga class (even though they cry and don't want to do it). And occassionally it means that I put a crying baby in her crib or a tantruming pre-schooler in time out so I can assert some personal limits. In the case of the crying baby, I'm not trying to teach her to respect my limits or anything. I'm just trying to find a limit for myself so that I don't totally lose my own hope and vibrance. Yes, it is that big a deal.

Best of all, maybe I can lose that sense of guilt (with it's companion alter-ego of superiority) that dogma always fosters. I'm not a good AP parent. I'm certainly not a good authoritarian. Maybe I can be a good me and just be a good enough parent.

1 comment:

  1. I had a crappy night last night. This morning was more of the same BS. Occasionally, I can see the point of knocking a kid upside the head. That was a venting joke btw. I would never advocate or participate in that kind of treatment of children.

    "(OOooh, I can just hear Urban Princess's knuckles cracking as she prepares to blast me with links and tear me apart for all my errors of logic and rhetoric - that's why I love you, sista!)"

    Anyway, the above will not be happening anytime soon. Although, I'd love to. I'm up to my eyeballs with med changes and my own personal dealings with my children. So, I dropped WM off, bought hair color, came home planted Punky in front of a movie with lunch, cleaned my bathrooms, colored my hair, baked squash for squash walnut bread, and now and heading out for a walk, which Punky will probably fall asleep (YES!) and I will drool, twitch and otherwise try not to lose my freakin' mind.