Educated by Preschoolers

The image shown below is floating around FB.  The obvious topic is gender based behavioral conditioning imposed by society’s stereotypes, and I imagine that is what the majority of the conversations surrounding the image/message will be about.

When I saw this, and read through the captions, I was able to simply go through the first three paragraphs, with what might be considered appropriate acknowledgement and compassion, but then when I reached the final paragraph, my perspective shifted greatly.

The final statement reads as follows: “What does it say about society when a group of adults could stand to take a lesson in humanity from a class of preschoolers?”

 

It says, if they listen with humility and are open to growth, that they are wise.

There is great value and worth in adults paying attention and restoring the gentleness and wisdom in acceptance and equal value in one another that children are often inherently given to (before they are conditioned by adults to think otherwise).  Young children are no less intelligent or inferior in any way to an adult. We can, if we open our eyes and our minds, learn great things from one another. Universally.

A significant aspect of the concept of truly admiring and acknowledging our children, while in their childhood, is to inherently and intuitively know that children are wise, and able to offer perspective that often reaches far beyond and is much more thorough than adults often find themselves capable of.  Why is this?  I think it comes from simplicity found within a child’s mind, untainted, unconditioned, unscarred.  My ultimate aspiration is to raise my daughter without conditioning her, tainting her, or influencing her to associate anything negative with that which is neutral.  I hope to help her develop her discernment. Her ability to see clearly and discern what is beneficial from what isn’t is already very apparent and is demonstrated in her actions, words, and body language.

A child who has not yet been influenced to think otherwise, will see every creature as valuable, equal of worth, and worthy of acknowledgement and consideration.  Children see differences because their minds are attuned to seeking out patterns.  However, those differences are simply differences, that serve to assist the mind in categorization and recognition, not bigotry.

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offense of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Spanking is Not God’s Will

This means not allowing your child to go down the wrong road that could lead to a premature death.  This has absolutely nothing to do with actual crying as Dobson and many other Christian advocates of spanking believe!  Children need limits.  We wouldn’t let a toddler run out in the street to be run over by a car.  But instead of spanking the toddler, we should firmly tell the toddler that the street is dangerous, and then show the toddler the safe way to cross the street holding onto Mommy or Daddy hands.  Does hitting a toddler really teach him or her why the street is dangerous and how to be safe?  No!  It teaches them that danger makes Mommy and Daddy hurt me.   That Jesus wants me to be hurt when I’m in danger.  Remember, young children cannot make abstract connections like adults can.

 

Please take a moment to read the rest of the article found here, as well as the three that precede it in the series.

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.

 


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offence of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.

 


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Conveniently Artificial

From my FACEBOOK comment…. Continued here – and rather oddly placed in this blog, but the concept here is much farther reaching than its content alone.

Try this on – A society that in general, and as a whole, for as many years as is well documented, views women as inferior.  Why? My guess is it all stems from the survival of the fittest instinct that runs rampant, especially in males, and women are in a position where they need the physical efforts of men, especially while pregnant.   Could a society void of men survive?  From purely a physical survival standpoint, minus reproduction, yes.  Would it be more work for all women? Yes.  My guess is after a few generations, the women would adapt and their bodies would be bigger, to support the physical demands of the absent male bodies.

Wet nurses were a necessity in the event that the mother died, was too ill to produce milk, or… absent.

 

Now the rest of it…

I heard an argument once that a woman was disgusted by the thought of having another woman’s breast feeding her baby.  Science defeats this theory, given the woman tends to hygiene.  She could eat terribly, but hydrate properly, and her body would still come up with something capable of nourishing and sustaining, maybe even benefiting the infant.  You know what? In the south, women discovered something, their slaves made wonderful nannies. So wonderful that many women would force the slave to stop tending to their own babies so that they could nurse the master’s infants.  Boy, it was good that formula had already been invented because in the rare event that a slave was solo and didn’t have another slave to nurse her baby, while she was off nursing the master’s baby, the slave’s baby would die.  Perhaps preferable to many slaves, but as the slave’s status followed the mother, not favorable to the slaveholder.

“Make babies!”  The slaves were ordered to.

“But nourish my baby!”

Why?

The slaveholder was busy being a society woman, with her many slaves to show off among other things… but tell me, with the horrible opinion and assumed inferiority of slaves, why did these female slave masters assume the milk that came out of those brown breasts was safe for their baby’s little white mouths?  I suspect it was the same thing we know today, and instinct is what it is – breast milk is just that, and the baby needs it.  If it comes out of a breast, it is liquid gold, and it is what new life needs.

So, that takes us into the previous century, when a new reason became apparent for substitute human milk.  As Kate stated above – women joined the war effort.  As equals?  No.  Not only were they not given the same recognition and compensation as the males who were exerting just as much effort as the females, but the females had an extra burden to carry, that of motherhood.  While the men were off chasing their anger and proving their self righteousness, the women were obligated to support that game, tried to insist on equal recognition when it wasn’t automatically given, and managed to keep having and caring for the offspring that was continually created due to human nature running its course.

Were wet nurses in existence during the world wars of the early 20th century?  Yes, especially where there were enough women not stuck in a factory to provide for such a luxury. But, with the advent of society and/or, in stark contrast, families that settled themselves on land in the west that was annexed for their use, wetnurses became much less common.  Though some of those “settling” families saw fit to “employ” indigenous women to supply this crucial aspect of early life… much like the women in the south who turned to their slave’s breasts.

Enter mid-century, the silently tumultuous and oppressed 50’s, where, after centuries, women suddenly found their voices. Unfortunately for them, in the face of no equal respect for their contribution to humanity, yet in their need to demand appropriate recognition and compensation for their efforts and contributions, they went about forcing the issue the only way they could see how.  They decided that to prove they were not inferior to a man, they had to behave like men – like the very 1/2 of society that had managed to collectively raise itself into a stupor of superiority – at least those that came from the European influence (other regions as well).

Well, if a woman has to behave like a man to be considered as superior as man, there are a few things that happen (and that don’t).  First, she has to be capable of doing and managing the exact same situations that a man is capable of.  Funny how the men throughout history, have never had to prove the same the opposite direction – though I see some indication that may happen in the near future.

Second, while women conducted themselves during the day in the same environment that the men were in, those environments were not conducive for their children. Women couldn’t assemble or type very well while holding a baby at the breast, or chasing a toddler.  Men couldn’t assemble, type, or have adult conversations while chasing toddlers either.  Women seem to have the conversation ability a bit better figured out… while chasing 10 toddlers. Sort of.

See, when we forget how valuable each of our unique contributions are, we have to compensate to survive.  Instead of working together, which some societies still actually manage to succeed at (though few and rare), we tear each other apart.  And in so doing, the most helpless of our society suffer the most.

My life is a bit of a paradox in that I spent  my 20’s functioning in a career where I did manage and accomplish the exact same tasks and situations that my male co-workers did.  And when I discovered I was being paid less than my lateral male associates, I caused the situation to be remedied.

I have always taken a stand for “equality”, but not until the recent years have my eyes been open.  I no longer see women needing to demand equal consideration and recognition with most men, but they are now waging this battle among themselves.  I also now see men being diminished systematically by the very women (and their daughters) that took the only route they could come up with to make a difference in how they were treated. Albeit a sad route.

We are such an intelligent creature, are we not.

Now, in my 30’s, as a mother who has to routinely stand up for myself because somehow the work I do raising my daughter is viewed as something less than a career worth recognizing (let alone, the most crucial in the continuance of the species), I am starting to see a bigger picture.  Originally, it was men vs women, but now, more and more, I experience women vs women.  And in the process, we have shrunken the men to the point where many of them won’t even lift a finger to help us because they know we’ll criticize and belittle them for doing so.  This is not what was supposed to happen.

The fact is, that in order for a woman to work somewhere that doesn’t include her nursing child be with her continually, the child must take second chair.  Whether this means with formula, bottles of breast milk that the mother regularly manages to pump, a wetnurse, daycare, or some other solution, a substitute for mom must be acquired, on all fronts, while mom is away being comparable to the men and other women.

I develop websites.  I teach English to foreigners. I taught teens to drive for 6 years.  I teach music – multiple instruments.  I am a musician and artist.  I am a teacher – and now I independently educate my daughter.  I have been a nanny.  I have been a manager of others.  I have been a technician and responsible for lots of important (to those I worked with) stuff.  I write.  I speak publicly.  Someday I may run for office.  I am crunchy, advocate for animals, and try to protect our natural environment.

I am a wife, a soul mate that is a partner 100% and then some.  I am a mother, who believed in the strength of her body, the abilities of her body to naturally function, and believes in respect and wholly loving her child.

We are all connected.

So, in my Utopian society, we respect our men for their strength, their ability to solve problems, their physical ability to lift things that would wreak havoc on my body if I did it.  We would appreciate men for their sensitivities, their attentiveness, their protective and loyal qualities, and their ability to remain childlike while carrying the weight of a man with many children to feed, at the same time.

In my Utopian society, we would honor our women for their ability to nurture life, comfort the weak, teach compassion, organize insurmountable orchestrations of accomplishment (while nourishing life, sometimes), and heal wounded souls.

Further, we would value our children and the future so much that we, as adults, would never do anything to retract, degrade, diminish, harm, or hurt them.  We would not even go so far as to settle for anything less than the most healthy, most positive, most productive, and most beneficial environments.  This, my friends, is why I like Star Trek.

Hitting our children is not a productive and positive solution for a happy childhood and happy, non-harmful adults.  We know this now. Neglect and surrogate care is not what the child needs.  We know this now, thank you chimpanzees.  Women are valuable and do not do well when beaten or oppressed.  We know this now.  Men are valuable and do not do well when not appreciated or diminished.  We know this now.

Preserved meats are damaging and we all know it now.  Chemically altered anything is potentially harmful.  We know it and are learning more and more daily.  Artificial anything has its consequences.  We are learning quickly.  Neglect and abuse of the environment is lunacy. Some of us are aware of this now.

Formula feeding is not as healthy as human milk and we all know it now. There are presumed safeties, and as many concerns for long term effects in using this artificial substance.  I dare you to prove my statement wrong.

I have a friend who cannot breastfeed; she has no breasts.  She is in her 30’s and has a baby.  She knows well about the known dangers and drawbacks of human milk substitute, as well as the many questions and concerns that are not yet fully understood or proven.  She has decided that her child is too valuable to settle for something artificial, so she has involved a couple of her friends and other acquaintances (now friends) in the task of providing her baby with human milk, until the baby itself no longer needs it (this may be a few years still).

One of the friends that supplies this woman human milk no longer nurses her own children – they have weaned themselves – but this woman still routinely pumps her milk and gives it to my friend’s family.  It’s an annoying and time consuming task sometimes (especially to those of us like me who couldn’t get a pump to work for much of anything), but to these people (both the women and the men who are very much involved) it is the only option as they refuse to settle for artificial, even if it is convenient.

Disobedience Doesn’t Exist in Our House

Yes, that is what I said.  Disobedience doesn’t exist in our house.. and yes there is a child in our house. You don’t believe me.  I know. I’ll explain.

By definition, obedience is as follows:

 

1. The act of obeying, or the state of being obedient; compliance with that which is required by authority; subjection to rightful restraint or control. Government must compel the obedience of individuals.

 

2. Words or actions denoting submission to authority; dutifulness.

 

3. A following; a body of adherents; as, the Roman Catholic obedience, or the whole body of persons who submit to the authority of the pope.

Do I hope my child will grant me what I ask of her?
Do I want her to behave in a way consistent with what I have (hopefully) shown her as considerate behavior?
Am I of the opinion that I should attempt to maintain harmony by exhibiting healthy boundaries and giving her the necessary tools, from the moment of birth, to enable her to interact in her environment with ease?

Yes.

Do I expect obedience? No.
Do I expect compliance? When necessary for safety or sanity, only.
Will I routinely explain my reasons behind the expectations, boundaries, guidance, and requests? With every sentence I speak, with every expectation or request I communicate, I do indeed offer the “rest of the story” for her to ponder and become aware of.

Why do I do this? First, because it is what I would hope of another person causing the same constraints to come over me. Second, I believe my choice to provide her full, detailed explanations of her world gives her the opportunity and option to ascertain for herself what she will take in.  Therefore, even in compliance, she exercises her free will. It is in this honoring of her autonomy, she will build her self esteem, increase her intelligence, and improve her emotional confidence and stability. If she does not choose compliance when necessary, she will, by default, still increase her wisdom, improve her ability to interact on an emotional plane, and will, in fact, build her confidence and self image… and if she refuses, she’ll learn she must substantiate that choice with reasons within her own mind that compel her opposition.

She also learns that her actions always have a result. If her choice results in a situation where she must build her patience, she gains.  If her choice engages others, she will observe their responses and the result is she grows. If her choice results in the need for her to tend to an effort, she develops focus and stamina – and in all likelihood, enhances her imagination powers.

We have chosen to walk alongside our child, as a partner and guide when useful, and encouraging her to grow within the parameters of her own determining.  We believe that a human choosing compassion, respect, consideration, and generosity has much value.

Retelling here, a story that illustrates the value of not causing blind obedience to be the driving force in your home.   Let’s take a look at the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam.This horrifying display of blind submission resulted in the slaughter of an entire village in Vietnam; nearly 500 people were killed.

 

The troops sent into the village were expecting a battalion of Vietcong forces but were instead presented with a village of women, elderly men, and children. The company had been previously instructed to kill anyone they encountered and proceeded to do so, with a few lapses in their blind faith.   The leader of the company, an inexperienced captain by the name Calley, was later tried for the murder of 107 unarmed civilians. He blamed his actions on the blind compliance that members of the United States forces are expected to give their superior officers. He described the concept as a ‘shoot first, complain later’ process. His actions, although explicitly illegal by the law of the United States service, seemed completely appropriate to him. He was merely obeying a senior officer, an action repeatedly drilled into the heads of American troops.

 

Our education system is not far off in requiring and thereby creating humans who do not think for themselves.  Children are conditioned not to question the authorities, the routine, the expectations, or the assignments they are given. They are expected to blindly accept that ‘adults know best’. This typical shepherd leading the sheep routine results in a completely disinterested society and a youth that is inactive and dependent.

So, how is it that we have no disobedience in our house? Because there is no opportunity for it to occur: obedience is not an expectation.  My daughter has the space to choose her path, and her parents hold the willingness to allow her the space to experience the results of those choices.  It’s not about who’s boss and who is inferior in our home.  It’s not a hierarchy here.  It’s about mutual respect, love, and exploration of life.  It’s growing in courage, confidence, and stability… It’s trusting the process.

As she grows, we will grow with her.  Through communication and empathic awareness, we will all experience and develop, and the results of choices we each make will shape us. We will continue to impart the value of compliance in certain scenarios, where the cause for compliance, and the result of compliance is positive, rooted in respect, and brings enhancement to one’s life.  We will also communicate the value of knowing oneself, by demonstrating the value we hold independently for ourselves.  Believing and asserting that each of us, and our perspectives, is equally worthy.  And imparting, with great hope, a deep sense of discernment for what is just, what is honorable, and above all, what is compassionate.

The resounding benefit is simple:  Regardless of her choices, she learns, and her wisdom increases. So does ours.

We Have a House Again…

We finally, finally closed on the house yesterday.  Life can now begin to normalize.

I haven’t the energy today to give many details, but will soon.  And please forgive me if this is a bit scattered.  I don’t have much in the way of focus to give my writing right now, but need to try, for my own sake if nothing else.

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One of the topics I hope to begin writing on (the list is growing, I know) is the growth, stress, difficulty, and healing this entire journey has provided for us.  It’s extensive.  But one area most applicable to this blog is how the entire adventure has affected my daughter.  She is now almost three, and yesterday she learned that she is going to have yet another new place to live.  I can’t get into the specifics right now, but want to say a little about why I am so happy we have managed to establish the sort of relationship we have with our kiddo.

When her Papa told her about the house yesterday, he did so in a manner of excitement and happiness.  She didn’t respond like he thought she would.  Her response was one of fear, dread, anxiety, and tears.  We both flew into action to try to comfort and ease her concerns, but it didn’t help.  So, I shifted gears and instead of trying to “make it ok”, through her tears I spoke to her as I would another close friend.  The parent to child dynamics took a back seat for a few moments, while I simply told her the facts.

She quieted her tears enough to hear me… I explained that we now have two houses. I explained that we still had our existing house (she calls it our “TaosHouse”) and that we now also had a new house to play in.  She insisted that we needed to go to our “hotel home” (this is her safe place, nothing there scared her).  I told her we may spend a little more time in a hotel home, but that we would have all our stuff (ran through the list of items she has mentioned, like her purple bed, etc) in our new house in just a couple of days.

I spoke to her in a direct & connected manner, and as an equal.  She is not quite three.  She understands me completely and there is no speaking down or minimizing when we speak with her.  I can level with her, share with her, and interact with her authentically and with mutual respect and equality.  I don’t choose to be the authoritarian, the babysitter, or the “parent” that uses strict regimen, discipline, punishment, and constant harping. Our relationship wasn’t set up this way and such dynamics are unwelcome by both kid and parents.

We co-exist.

She learns, I learn.

She explores, I guide.

She asks, I answer.  I ask, she answers.

We feel, we love, we strive for harmony.  We have challenging days sometimes too; I call her out on her difficult mood, she holds my nose to the ground when I’m grumpy. I know life isn’t always harmonious, really… take a look at the last 16 weeks… BUT we keep harmony and happiness as our goal and we usually sit in the calm and contentedness that this goal provides.

Does she throw a fit sometimes? Yes.
Do I?  Uh-huh.
Is she annoying some times?  Yep.
Does she think I’m just plain frustrating? Yes
Am I impatient sometimes?  That too.

We communicate to each other how our choices affect one another.  The resulting two-way communication is generally sufficient to restore harmony.  I try to find tangible ways of explaining feelings to her, seeking harmony, respect, and happy interaction in the future.

And in the situations where I have unfortunately given in to my own weakness and insisted on my will instead of asking for her cooperation and working with her to achieve harmony, the result is my deep regret.  Behaving this way never makes anything better for any of us. I may get what I want, but I also get a whole bunch of what I don’t want.  I lose her trust in me as her “mama” and turn into just another mom.  In those moments, I lose her respect as a result of my choice to demonstrate a disrespect toward her. We lose our harmonious, peaceful environment, and either petulance or dark melancholy sets in.  BUT, ALAS, I GOT COMPLIANCE.

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My daughter, at 2, understands so much.  She is fully aware, even when I wish she were not.  Especially when I wish she were not… when I desperately wish I could spare her our reality.   Yet, she is not a task, a chore, or something to be conquered. She is what I choose to give my energy to, she is so much.

 

Working with Toddlers: Scene One

This morning my almost three year old found the “pupcake” pan.

Well, it was empty and therefore needing filling, and what better way to complete that task than to find a bunch of little things to sort into the empty cups!

We decided on rocks, as we have a large amount of them currently in what we are calling our backyard (that is all rock).

Bugs and I went out on a hunt for the most interesting, most lovely, most colorable rocks.  A few minutes later, she had a basket (actually it was Kevin’s nest – Kevin is her most favorite bird) full of “interesting treasure” to sort into the 18 or so cups awaiting her attention.

Two hours later, still interested in this activity, she decided to put all the rocks on the floor and declare the pan’s need to be empty, from there on, and for the rest of the day.  “It’s tired of the treasure rocks”, she explained.

Another 30 minutes or so, and about 1/2 dozen “oh!”, “ouch!”, and “yeeeawww’s!” later, I asked Bugs to clean up the rocks and told her that I’d help, and that my feet and knees just couldn’t take it anymore.  She was watching Oswald (the blue octopus) and sorta half way acknowledged me.

I muted the tv and asked her to tell me what she’d heard me communicate.  “Your knees and my treasure don’t have enough room for each other in this spot.”

A moment or two later, I knelt down next to where she was standing and started to pick up a few of the rocks. As I began, I said, “Bugs, are you going to help me pick up these rocks?”

“Yep!”, she chirped, while dropping to the floor to begin gathering.

We made it a game of “Bugs has amazing spy eyes that can see little, teeny rocks MUCH better than Mama;s eyes can”, and she found quite a few I missed, in fact.

Through this experience, she was able to become aware of the value of cleaning up after scattering the rocks everywhere.  She learned she has a great eye for noticing little things.  She also remembered that when she focuses on something, she succeeds at what she intends to accomplish.

She was happy to see the rocks had returned to their homes and felt no disappointment at the dismantling of her collection (is this encouraging a respect for the environment, at a very early and simple level?).

Win, Win, and Win. Can’t beat that.

The pan survived, and that’s a light house rock, by the way.