Breeding a generation of faddy parents
What is it with the crazy parenting theories springing up everywhere nowadays? When did we decide that what our parents and grandparents did was not good enough, and we had to reach back to the dawn of human history and emulate cavemen?
Behold free birthing, which goes a giant step further than home births: delivering a baby unassisted, sans midwife or any medical specialist in attendance - and sometimes completely, deliberately, alone. Free birth fanatics may argue that non-intervention delivery is how nature intended it… but since when has Mother Nature been so obligingly predictable?
Even with modern medicine in attendance, child birth can be deadly for mother and child, which unsurprisingly makes unassisted deliveries - as the NSW deputy state coroner found in a recent tragic case - extremely risky.
Even if you’re expecting a trouble free home-birth, what unrealistic sense of optimism makes a woman decide not to acknowledge the possibility that something can go wrong - and take precautions against it? Women’s bodies may be designed to give birth, but it isn’t a flawless design.
The logic, apparently, is that as long as it’s natural it’s bound to be better - a credo which informs some of the more interesting parenting methods which have recently been brought to wider attention by a swathe of Hollywood mums. (Apparently the kooky kids’ names alone don’t cut it anymore.)
Celebrity mothers used to be synonymous with the sort of poor parenting that would guarantee their child a lucrative tell-all book deal in adulthood. Now they are vying to be role models for alternative parenting trends which take the notion of “nature is best” to the extreme.
Alicia Silverstone likes to chew food and spit it, mumma-bird-like, into her infant son’s eager mouth. Horrors. Maybe that’s what our mud hut-dwelling ancestors did when they were weaning junior. Maybe. But we have food processors now. Potato mashers.
Even a fork.
A few stars stuck their heads up a couple of months ago in defence of Jamie Lynne Grumet, the young mother who appeared on the cover of Time magazine breastfeeding her three-year-old son, for an article on attachment parenting.
It was a confronting image; there cannot be many people who did not let out a little yelp when they saw it.
(It’s the type of discomfort Little Britain zeroed in on, in its typically extreme way, with its “bitty” sketches of a grown man helping himself to his nonchalant, elderly mum’s boobs as his horrified girlfriend/acquaintances watched.)
It does force you to question why we find it so abhorrent.
Though in the case of the Time magazine cover, people perhaps responded just as much to the provocative pose as the age of the child (take away the child and you have a sexy image that would grace any fashion catalogue. As one feisty single mum I spoke with put it, you’re a pervert if you can’t see something wrong with the way that photo was styled! Discuss.).
Breastfeeding is a no-brainer for women who can sustain it. But just because women can biologically maintain breastfeeding until the ages of five, even seven, should they? The argument gets pretty slim for kids who can forage for their own snacks - heck, climb a tree to pick an afternoon apple. Can’t lots of cuddles and affection achieve the same bonding?
Prolonged breast feeding made absolute sense (and still does) to supplement a toddler’s diet when food was scarce and unreliable, and a hungry belly needed filling. I’m pretty sure the main concern for parents then was survival, not the need to bond with their four-year old.
You cannot just talk about “natural” and what our bodies are capable of, and what humans used to do, and import it wholesale.
It may be what cavemen, or our pre-industrial forebears did, but we don’t live in those societies anymore. We live in a society that does a double take and freaks.
Which is why these decisions - while ostensibly for the child’s benefit - can be selfish ones when taken to the extreme. All this talk about a mother’s right to choose, or their faddy way of bonding with the child seems to focus on the parents’ needs as much as, or more than, the child and any repercussions for them. They are surely the ones left dealing with the embarrassing ewwww factor as they get older.
In the case of the boy on the cover of Time, his school peers won’t be thinking about the anthropological history and biological theories behind his mother’s decision to breast-feed him until he was learning his times tables.
Mayim Bialik, a star of the Big Bang Theory - who has a PhD on neuroscience and also practices attachment parenting, leapt to Grumet’s defence. Alanis Morrisette is another advocate, writing: “If a child’s needs during this stage of development are not met, he or she will be staving off a haunting sense of cellular disconnection and loneliness for a lifetime. They will not have effectively internalized a loving nurturance as their own love-style.’’
So what you’re saying, Alanis and co, is that a child needs nurturing, security and affection - ie, good parenting. Another no-brainer.
Good on them all for trying, but why the need to go OTT? Good parenting is good parenting, and all the psychobabble bells and whistles is not going to produce a more secure and well-adjusted child.
Parents of their own happy, social and well-adjusted offspring would know from experience, not a text book or fad theory, that giving a child love, attention, boundaries and stability can achieve the same ends.
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