Saturday, July 25, 2009

"If You Want Convenience, Get a Doll..."

Wow- someone read my mind! Then, traveled back through time, and wrote it down. That's my stance, and I'm sticking to it.

I stumbled across this article, originally written in 1994 and updated later, by Katherine Dettwyler. It describes exactly why scheduling the habits of a baby is detrimental to the baby (and perhaps mom as well).

She describes the phenomenon of scheduled feeding, which a lot of "mainstream" parenting "experts" like to champion. These "experts" (many of whom, oddly enough, are men and thus will never actually give birth, deal with the swirling, twirling and whirling hormones involved, and will probably never lactate. Unless they're dedicated enough to induce lactation. We won't go there.)

Dettwyler only focuses on breastfeeding (and touches briefly on co-sleeping, as it relates to nursing on a natural schedule) but one thing I have found with the "Baby Trainers" is that every function of a baby's body is somehow related to discipline. And by "discipline," they don't necessarily mean a practice or a form of guiding, but they mean a way to shape and mold a baby onto an adult's personal time table.

Let's define "Baby Trainer," first. Not everyone who writes a parenting book is a "Baby Trainer." Only those who guarantee that a baby will be compliant, complacent, and will fit neatly into the current 9 to 5 work week schedule, by ANY means, is a Baby Trainer. Someone who recommends particular foods or recipes, then, is not a Baby Trainer. Someone who states that if a parent does X, Y, and Z and that they WILL get the results of an infant sleeping all the way through the night, is a Baby Trainer.

The first three months of a baby's life are currently referred to as the "Fourth Trimester." Human babies, it seems, are born prematurely. Even if they come at 41 or 42 or (gasp- "How did your doctor ALLOW this???") 43 weeks, they are still about three months behind other primates at birth- they are very fetal in nature, prefer to be curled like a little bug, and still require the closeness, warmth, heartbeat, and constant nutrition of the womb. Only, mom gets to do this from the outside, now.

Gianna, at age 2 years and 1 week, is now doing the following:
- Sleeping through many nights, often in her own bed.
- Eating meals with us, and snacking sporadically throughout the day, depending on her hunger level. She is NOT a picky eater- she eats everything from marinated eggplant and pickles, to kale (white bean, carrot and kale soup is her favorite meal ever) to raw zucchini.
- Working on the potty. Two steps forward, one step back.
- Exploring the backyard while I hang out in the distance and let her do her thing, playing independently with many different types of toys, speaking to other adults and children, and showing empathy when other kids are sad, or get hurt, or are happy.

None of this was trained into her. God knows, we had some nights where I just wanted to poke my eyes out and run screaming for the hills- parenting is NOT easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy- every single thing in life that is worth having requires work. A successful career, a happy marriage, one's own health and well-being, etc. It doesn't just "happen," and it also can't be forced into place. All the time that I was nursing on demand (and at three weeks and then at three months, "on demand" meant, "May as well not even wear a shirt today," thanks to appropriate developmental leaps)... all the nights where she woke up every 45 minutes... every time she kicked me square in the eyeball in the middle of the night... she did not turn into a selfish monster, demanding constantly that I succumb to each and every whim. There are many parts of the day I don't have to entertain her- she does really well on her own. All of the "What if's?" and questions that the "Baby Trainers" bring up just did not come to pass.

Snake-oil salesmen. Professors of lies. Heretics, some of them, if they are writing that God intends for all children to follow a clock. Really, they're cheats. They grab the attention of parents desperate to do the right thing by their child, by using all the right words, and promising the moon. Parents who buy into this are by no means stupid or even necessarily abusive (to begin with), but want the very best for their child. These crooks are selling just the right magic beans.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canine Rivalry

I'm going to hold off talking about another piece of attachment parenting- avoiding "baby trainers-" until I can muster a few more constructive things to say. Something about all of the swirling, crashing and looping hormones following a miscarriage leaves little but vitriol when discussing people who try to convince parents to do harmful and bizarre things to their infants all for the sake of "scheduling" or "convenience." Who has children for convenience? People who want accessories and are allergic to dogs?

So, yes. We shall save the shysters and con-men (Gary Ezzo, Michael and Debi Pearl, the loony tunes who wrote the "What to Expect... series, et cetera) for another day.

Today, speaking of dogs, we will carefully examine the relationship between a two year old and her loyal pooch. To do so, we need to first analyze the two year old. Contrary to popular belief, "Two's" (as we will call two-year-olds) are not "terrible." Tumultuous, yes. Tantrum-y, of course. As tempestuous as the sea, and as tormented as the most sensitive artist, Two's are also very energetic, loving, and are adorably learning compassion and empathy. Or, at least mine is.

For example, she just tripped and fell over Lola. At 75 lbs, and black with white markings, Lola is very hard to miss. However, my two year old has taken to trying to walk without looking. I think she's developing her sixth sense. At any rate, she fell right on top of the dog, who barked and jumped up. After tears and cuddles and reminders that our eyes need to watch where we are walking, she flopped back onto the floor with Lola, who went back to the same spot on the floor and resumed her lounge. "I'm sowwy, Lola, sowwy bumped. Bumped Lola," Gianna explained to Lola, from a distance of approximately three millimeters.

(Note: Dear Baby Trainers- I have never asked my child to apologize, nor have I expositorily taught her to apologize. Having modeled apologies myself to and around her since birth, though, she somehow is miraculously managing to pick it up! No switches or spankings involved! Imagine that! What a strange phenomenon- I actually treated my child the way I like to be treated, totally neglected to cram "apologies" down her throat, and hot diggity damn, she's doing it herself! In the appropriate context, even! Love and mush, Clara. P.S.- Let's all hope we never meet in a dark ally. Mr. Clarateaches would love to spend my potential bail money on something different. Insert hearts here, Clara.)

Things are not always so fuzzy and warm. Lola vacillates between fear and loathing, and curiosity and nosiness. I do not leave Gianna and Lola alone together, especially since we leave markers and chalk here and there. Over time, these art materials have managed to procreate, and rogue bands of markers turn up everywhere. Using the powers of "slight of hand," Gianna can fashion an impromptu tattoo right on Lola's fluffy white chest within moments of my eyes aiming in another direction.

Recently, Gianna has decided that Lola needs another collar. My tape measure is just the right thing to make that new collar, and she follows Lola throughout the day, trying to attach it. Lola skitters through the house, ears back, eyes horrified at the thought of strangulation by standard measurement. However, when I re-direct Gianna's attention to something else she finds entertaining (some differential equations, perhaps, or some Greek translations. It depends on the day), in approximately thirty seconds, Lola is peeking around the corner, looking for her strange little girl. An ice cube tray crammed full of play dough was vigorously offered to the Dogasus yesterday. Lola declined. Repeatedly. Then she walked away, while staring back at Gianna. As soon as she flopped down into her new observation spot, Gianna followed with more delicious play dough cubes. I redirected Gianna to the center of the floor, enticing her with more plastic utensils with which to mangle the dough. As soon as Gianna was occupied, Lola lifted her head and stared at me. And at Gianna. And back at me. Before long, she was walking back to Gianna, sniffing and poking her head into Gianna's business. And the dance continued.

On Gianna's end, she lives with concern that the dog will get her things or food. On the way to the kitchen for a "Grow-Lola-bar," (granola bar) Lola will typically follow us and at some point pass us and run for the kitchen door. She knows that following Gianna means following the action. Gianna, seeing this, yells frantically, "Lola's grow-lola-bar, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! NO LOLA'S GROW-LOLA-BAR!!!!!!!!"

"Does Lola eat granola bars?" I ask her. "Nooo..." Gianna says uncertainly, and by the time we get to the granola bars, Lola is circling like a shark and Gianna is screeching to Lola. I put Lola outside, and retrieve a bar for the girl. Lola peers through the window while Gianna starts to eat the bar, and then Gianna squishes her bar into the window, screeching, "EAT! EAT GROW-LOLA-BAR!!!" This scene repeats multiple times a day, with various edible and inedible items.