Slowly throughout the day my thoughts have been formulating into somewhat comprehensible words...
You see, as peaceful parenting gains more and more readers, we also gain more and more feedback. Which is great! Wonderful! I am so utterly thankful that this community of peaceful parenting moms and dads has formed - to support each other, encourage, empower, listen, share, and equip each one with resources to make a difference in their own circle of influence. We cannot change the world for all babies out there - but we can make a difference to ONE who is close to us. And each of us has a different 'one' that we know of right now. It is for this baby that I know now, that I work.
However, something has been happening as of late that I should have expected -- and really, should already be immune to. You see, the vast majority of feedback on any given peaceful parenting article is positive - encouraging. In fact, most is quite educated and reflective. Questions arise on occasion, and this is wonderful because it gives us an opportunity to dive deeper into answers that exist.
And with more readers comes more *love* -- but also more disdain. There are the occasional few who are very offended by any given subject matter that we deal with here at peaceful parenting.
There are those who believe circumcision will save the world (literally) and cite every debunked myth, and every Brian Morris and Edgar Schoen article out there, to support their pro-cutting stance.
There are people who believe that artificial baby feeding is superior to breastmilk because, after all, 'experts' have manufactured formula to be perfect. Right?
There are those who believe that children need to be hit - young, hard, and often - in order to learn a lesson. Or they will surely cause problems later in life.
There are people who believe that babies should sleep through the night by the time they are just weeks old, or something is wrong with them and they must learn now!
There are those who feel the 1-in-3 c-section rate is just fine and dandy, and after all, they are all emergencies! These women (myself included) are rescued from birth. Right? Pitocin doesn't do a thing. What domino effect? Epidurals are like candy for babies. It's all good.
There are people who feel that whatever the AAP or CDC or their doctor or their friendwhoisanurse or their mother tells them, is fact. Cold, hard, data that empirical science dare not mess with, or counter, or it surely is blasphemy!
And there are many, many, many who love, love, love to comment on articles before they actually READ the article. Or before they know anything more about the subject than their infallible doctor or friendwhoisanurse or mother has told them...
With such a wide audience, there is nothing that can be posted on peaceful parenting that someone, somewhere, will not take issue with it. No matter what the subject, and no matter how it is presented, there will be at least one person who gets thrown into a tizzy because of the post.
And, to put it simply, I got a little worn out this week from skimming over the *junk* that is sent my way as a result of the soaring popularity of this site.
As I mentioned, I thought I'd be immune to such reactions by now. I taught Human Development & Sexuality for many years - and this is one subject that everyone seems to think they know everything about. Just try to talk scientifically with someone about their sexual health - or the developing sexual well-being of their child. It is likely to be one of the more challenging areas of science. In fact, the same is also true of psychology (another graduate degree I indulged in). And when it comes to parenting...well, everyone knows someone who doesn't fit 'the rule' so this must mean that anything goes and nothing matters - or so I am told. And I am reminded of this often -- "Well, with MY babies we did such-and-such and they are just fine! So this research is bunk!" Hmmm. Yup. Must be.
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you cannot argue logically with individual perceptions of reality. Humans, in general, are tightly bound to conventional wisdom - the "body of assertions and beliefs that is generally recognized as a part of a culture's common knowledge" (Ruane & Cerulo 2004). Conventional wisdom is as powerful as it is flawed, is central to modern day American society, and is more often than not the source of our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. It takes what C. Wright Mills called, "the sociological imagination" to move beyond our individual, (forgive my bluntness - but occasionally delusional), perceptions of reality, private views, personal experiences, and intimate beliefs, and to come to terms with those that are grounded in empirical, research-based evidence and humanity-wide experience. Readers of peaceful parenting require sociological imagination to reflect introspectively and evaluate their personal realm in light of broader social/cultural, historical, and scientific arenas. In fact, any time you delve into scholarly material in any area, sociological imagination is necessary. So, I understand. I'll choose to forgive the ignorance and the lashing-out via anonymous comment posts. The 'delete' button is just a finger's reach away.
In any event, my feelings as of late have been compounded by the fact that there was one baby (boy) born a few weeks ago who I failed to save. He was cut up at birth so as to carry the scars that match his father's. And, also, because his mother thought his amputated little baby penis would be easier to clean than an intact, whole penis. Obviously no research had been done (though ample amounts were sent their way). Clearly there were no discussions with parents who have both circumcised and intact sons -- or they would be ready, willing and able to share the facts of this matter. An intact infant is 'cleaner' and easier to care for any day or night of the week than one who has been subject to surgical amputation after birth.
In addition, there will be another boy born shortly to parents I also know personally. Those who, again, refuse to read into the matter -- beyond the Googled pop media coverage on MSN, Yahoo headlines, and the Morris-and-Schoen sponsored websites (why DO these sites have to pop up first in Google searches?!). In this case Mom doesn't care one way or another about her son's well-being. (Which honestly, trips my brain just a tad -- how can you grow a baby within for 40+ weeks and not care about whether or not he has his one of his most prized body organs painfully chopped apart after birth?! Where does the mothering instinct to PROTECT above all go in cases like this??) So this little one will be cut -- again, to match his father. And no one cares much to pay attention to what is being taken from him. How he will be impacted. What his first days on earth will be like. What this will do to him. How he will respond to such trauma. And what he may have liked to have as a choice as an adult with a fully functioning body. But, after all, newborn babies don't have basic human rights. Do they?
We received word last night that a few of the articles here on peaceful parenting that we were granted permission to post about several months ago are now going to be re-sold as for-profit print publications. As a result, they can no longer be posted here. Those who own the copyright are certainly entitled to this, but it is unfortunate as they are frequently read articles - those which help and encourage many parents out there. Needless to say, I was kind of bummed. $$$ always trumps - even here at pp I guess.
So, with all this festering in my mind, today I took a break from the world.
My cell phone was turned off.
No emails were read.
No messages answered.
No responses formed.
Articles went unedited.
Proposals were left lonely on my desk.
Books begging to be reviewed had to wait.
Instead, my son (17-months & 35-pounds of pure joy!) and I went out on a day-long adventure together.
Our first stop was the National Aquarium. We sat and watched the turtles and the fish and the alligators romp and swim and play. My son ran around and led me to the best aquarium animals to see - with glowing excitement on his face each time he found a new *favorite*. We climbed up on the ledges and peered over railings. We imagined we were fish. S~w~i~m~m~i~n~g. No cares in the world but when we'd get that next tasty morsel to eat. It was a great day to lose myself in the watery world of imaginative toddler play.
Next we ventured over to the White House -- or, more specifically, the park in front of the White House. This is another favorite of my son's because the squirrels here are hand-fed by the war protesters who camp out in front of the White House 24-7. As a result, they are ubber friendly and chatter away as they run up and over your feet begging for a squirrel-scrumptious treat.
My son ran and played and chased the squirrels and we were asked several times if we could pose for a picture with foreign travelers snapping images of the White House. I'm not sure how well my son does at representing the 'average U.S. toddler'... but if that is what they want a picture of, he is happy to oblige with a friendly spirit and a big ol' smile on his face.
After the fish and the squirrels we stopped by Whole Foods (a favorite) for a bite to eat. For some reason Whole Foods is one of very few stores around D.C. where I really feel at home. Not sure if this says something about me. Or something about the store. Maybe a little of both. There is a big sign in the elevator right now with pictures of cattle in a field, that encourages patrons to "learn where your food comes from". Something I, too, feel is very important. I hope to raise children who participate in the process of growing and harvesting and really think deeply about why and how the item they are about to consume is on their plate. To digest not only the food, but the process, from field or animal, to harvest or slaughter, to fridge or stove, to plate and mouth. There is too much that goes on in-between that matters - that which we are not in the habit of learning and contemplating.
After our snack of grapes and an apple and steamed asparagus and black beans (I'm thankful my son prefers vegetables) and a couple jalapeno poppers (my indulgence), he snoozed while we ventured back to our neighborhood. Upon arrival, it was raining. And where there is rain - there are puddles! And where puddles and toddlers meet, there is laughter and fun to be had.
So we tromped out of our vehicle and took a much needed rain walk.
The goal? To see who could splash THE BIGGEST. The smallest. The most. The fastest. The s-l-o-w-e-s-t.
To experiment - does a stick make different ripples than a rock?
Does the wet grass feel different on my feet than the wet sand?
These are the things that toddler minds are made of and ours was on full throttle learning.
Our rain, our puddles, our water, was just what I needed. It served to wash away the crud that had built up over the past weeks as a result of negative things beyond my control.
I sometimes need to let go. Even when it is hard to do. Even when it hurts like crazy and breaks my heart into pieces.
Because, unfortunately, as much as I would like to have the ubiquitous power to do so, I am not in a position to save everyone. From my meager little position in life, I can only do so much.
Ah, yes, I wish often that I had 72 hours in every day. That I had my own personal jet to fly off and answer each and every pressing question that is passed my way. Or to help in times of call or crisis. I wish I had Oprah's influence to end MGM and provide all human babies with human milk. And speaking of Oprah - I wish, too, that I had her money to buy every new parent a co-sleeper/side-car, a subscription to Mothering, The Baby Bond, a Moby Wrap, and an Ergo. I wish I could stay up all night, every night, to feed and rock and comfort your baby - so that you could sleep and no tears would be shed from anyone at your house. Sometimes, I wish so much...
As my son and I rounded the corner for home - soaking wet from head to toe and filled to the brim with love and laughter from our wet winter walk - we paused to get the mail from our box.
Now, on any other day this would be an insignificant event and there would be no reason to tell you. But today, there was something special in the mail that I've never before received - a little treasure that instantly changed the world in a small way.
You see, there was a card from one of you -- from someone I've come to know only online as a result of peaceful parenting. It was from a mother who has requested before that I send a "Prepuce & Circumcision Information Pack" to her friend about to birth a boy. She lives in rural town, USA, where she sometimes feels alone in her gentle mothering ways. Her words touched my soul as I read of how encouraging it has been for her to become a part of the peaceful parenting community. She thanked me for providing this opportunity to get to know the rest of you. My heart smiled. There are few things I love more than connecting people to each other. Sometimes us crunchy parents could really use another one in our pack.
As if her grateful words of kindness were not enough, this mother's card contained something else, too.
She said that she was sending a little $ to reimburse me for the cost of the pack that I had sent to her friend. (Circumcision information packs are $10 each for printing and DVD materials - a bill which adds up quickly with all the requests we receive when people are unable to pay for them, and one I have repeatedly broke my bank account to pay for, because I feel that EVERY baby boy is worth $10).
But as I opened the check, I couldn't keep the tears from rolling down my face when I realized the amount she was sending was much, much more than the cost of her friend's pack. Her gift is enough to provide information packs for many more families out there. It is enough to change countless lives through education. Generations will be impacted by this mother's gift when the babies to be born are protected at birth, peacefully parented, grow up to become gentle fathers and mothers, who in turn protect their own babies.
Just as I was losing hope -- feeling very much like "I can't do this all alone!" -- encouragement arrives in a way I never imagined. And it tells me for sure that there are many of you out there who care just as much as I do. You who are willing to put your own time and resources and energy and anything it takes on the line to make the world a little more friendly to live in. To save just one more - and impact life forever. In her outstanding book, Why Love Matters, Sue Gerhardt describes how her research in neurology and psychology led her to believe something I, too, have found true throughout my years of study. "If the will and resources were available, the harm done to one generation need not be transmitted to the next: a damaged child need not inevitably become a damaged and damaging parent," (Gerhardt 2004).
Gerhardt goes on to use the analogy of a house that has been poorly built. We can continue to pour money into this house, and the problems that arise may be temporarily curtailed. But nothing changes the fact that the house was not well built, with a solid foundation, and one that would otherwise hold up to the storms that surmount. The poorly built house will always be high maintenance and will never function as optimally built houses are meant to. "Likewise with human beings whose foundations have not been well built," writes Gerhardt. "Although expensive repairs may be undertaken later in life, the building stage - when adjustments can be made - is largely over. For prevention to be effective, it needs to be targeted at the point when it can make the most difference," (Gerhardt 2004). And these foundations -- by far thee most important times of a developing human's life -- are the first 3 years on this earth. It is at this time that the brain is shaped and built. Emotions and social style are learned. And the next generation is woven together. Parenting matters! Big time. And as a result, our efforts to empower and inform and equip those around us is vitally important - to that mother or father, to their baby and child, and to the future we will see unfold around us.
So tonight, as my day draws to a close and I tuck my son into (our) bed with stories and love and momma milk, I have a heart that is refilled with hope for a peacefully parented world.
Thank you, Jesse, and all the others who have encouraged me along this journey.
Gerhardt, Sue. (2004). Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain. Routledge: NY.
Ruane, Janet & Cerulo, Karen. (2004). Second Thoughts: Seeing Conventional Wisdom Through the Sociological Eye. Pine Forge Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.