Saturday, January 15, 2011

parenting book review: The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff

The front cover of my book has a quote by John Holt that states, "If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book."

After reading this, I was expecting quite an eye opening experience. A friend told me I would feel quite guilty after reading this book. Neither of these things happened for me.

I was expecting a list of rules, a background on where attachment parenting came from, and well.... a plan to change the world. I also got none of these things. I never usually disagree with Holt.

The book is an anthropological view of the Yequana people in the South American jungles and how they function especially in regards to the care of infants and young children.

It was fascinating to hear about this culture which guides the premise for the entire book. The culture is one that seems to have been untouched by the western world which is always so inspiring to me. There were many things about how they view life, work, and relationships that refreshed in me the goals I have for myself and for my family.

There were moments of utter sadness as the author describes what it must be like for an infant left to cry alone in his crib at night or one who is left in a car seat and not held against a loving adult. This is the section I think she got right on, it definitely hit a chord in my soul

There were moments of guilt when I would read about how these creeping and crawling babies are left to explore their surroundings without fear that they will get hurt. She describes a situation where a baby was playing just next to a five foot gaping hole and would go right up to the edge but never over. This happened multiple times in her observation. The idea that children have instincts to protect them from danger and we do not need to do all of that for them was quite a revelation to me while I spent my days keeping my toddler from dashing into on coming traffic. Could it actually be my overriding of his own instinct that possibly diminished part of all of this natural tendency to protect himself?

There were moments of doubt when she would take every anti-social personality trait and link it back to deprivation in infancy. While I do believe that deprivation in infancy can cause some major problems and I will even give her that all the things she mentions could be from a lack of these "continuum principles" as she calls them, I cannot believe that it is the only possible cause. Also some traits she mentions are to me not negative attributes at all like becoming an actor for example. I do not believe all actors had a deprived infancy and therefore need to be loved by all. So this chapter was a little far reaching for me.

The book also ends talking about how we can get back into preserving the continuum in our daily lives. The suggestions are good.

Overall, this was not a groundbreaking book for me. It was very interesting, but as far as a great parenting book, it does not make my list. Those needing guiding principles for attachment parenting, there are so many other books I would recommend:

The Natural Child by Jan Hunt
and simply
Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears

However if you are looking for anthropology or deep look at why attachment parenting principles are so needed from this view, this would be a good read.
Basically, if you have lots of time for reading, put this on your list.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things that keep me awake at night....

I have said before that it is very difficult for me to even go out in public and watch parents interact with their children, I have told you the story of when I stepped in quite passionately (some might say interfered, actually some did) for the child being hit by his dad, and I have mentioned to you how leashes on children make me cringe.

These are not just ravings of a complete lunatic (well, maybe a little). One of the main reasons I write this blog is to get this stuff out of my head and into writing. I need this blog. I need it because I don't have a school to run anymore as an outlet to help families, I need it to remind me of the parent I never want to become, but mostly I need it so I can attempt to sleep at night.

Let me give you an example of what it is like to be me. While visiting with another family, I watched the dad walk up behind his baby and wipe his nose startling the baby in the process. Not once did this happen, not twice, but three times. If I had not known better, I would have thought the dad was purposely trying to be a stealth agent whose main goal was a surprise attack. The fourth time it happened, I was holding the baby and he startled me in the process too. I told the dad that later on when he least expected it, I was going to walk up behind him, grab his face and wipe HIS nose!

Now I did say it in a rather funny joking tone because well I guess I was trying to get the point across in a way that would make the most impact. Those who know me well, know that I have always struggled with this. Most people don't say everything they are thinking. When it comes to children and parenting especially, I DO. People have told me often that I could make more impact by changing my delivery. You know, the whole you get more flies with honey concept. Over several years of learning the this the hard way, I do it somewhat better, but here is why I continue to struggle with it.

Lets say I was at my sisters house and I came up behind her when she wasn't expecting it and wiped her nose. Now knowing my sisters and their families everyone in the room would probably laugh hysterically, everyone except maybe my sister. But imagine that I repeated it over and over again. Eventually, people in the room would at the very least say, "Tracy, knock it off!" There may even be a few that thought it was immature and I am pretty damn sure my sister would be pissed. And no one would question those people who stood up for my sister, not one person.

Well, that father was the one who was irritated, it was all over his face. How dare I tell him how to raise his child? How dare I interfere? Why don't I just keep my mouth shut and mind my own business?

Because I can't! I cannot keep my mouth shut when people treat babies and children in ways no one would stand if it was happening to an adult. It boggles my mind that so many people see children abused or at least disrespected frequently by the ones who are suppose to love them the most.

This situation is probably one many people would not even notice. And if I am to be honest, it is not the worst thing in the world to do to your child. I choose this example because it illustrates my point well and because it is one most people would not think twice about. Some might step in if this father had hit his child, but many would not. Most people would step in for foul treatment of a dog before anyone would question a parent and child interaction. And just think about how many things we say to children that we would never utter to our best friends.

So I will continue to work on the phrasing of things, but I will not stop speaking up because when I keep quiet, it implies that the action was OK and I will not teach my son that it is OK to treat small people this way.

Maybe I worry too much... maybe I AM a lunatic... I know I offend people often!

To me I guess it is the price I pay for being me and for not allowing these things to simply tear me up inside.

And as for sleeping at night.... I don't see this coming any time soon.

Meanwhile, I will continue to write, to read, and to educate when given the opportunity. I will begin here. Over the next few months, I will be starting a parenting book review on my blog. Many of these will be reviews of my favorites, but I also want to read all those popular ones out there and give my two cents on those as well. It should be worth months of free therapy! Bring on the books!