Friday, August 3, 2012

In good company

If you read nothing else today, you have to read Simcha Fisher's funny, sarcastic rant about parenting movements:

My baby, for instance, spent most of her night in a "c" word -- yes, a crib. I naively thought she was "safe" behind those bars, and it never once occurred to me that, behind her happy squeals and contented gurgles, she sensed that she was imprisoned, caged like a lab rat.

I bought shoes for her feet, if you can imagine such a thing (hello, is this 12th-century China? Unreal). I used to put her in a bouncy chair when I wanted to do laundry. I might as well have come right out and told her, "Yes, you little parasite, mother cares more about clean clothes than she does about you. You see this shirt? I love this shirt. It goes safely in a little basket. You, on the other hand, can stay on the floor."

I'm only telling you this because I'm safely on the other side of this madness, and my therapist has assured me that, with a few more years of intensive work, my daughter may start to heal.

I'm telling you this so you don't make the same mistakes as I did.

I'm ready to say it now: I used to push my baby in a stroller. Yes, using technology chillingly similar to what a Republican executioner in Texas would use when binding an innocent convict to an electric chair, and I would strap her in, and away we would go. The child, mind you, was facing away from me -- facing away, looking at faces and things that were not me, and I would pushing her. With every step I took, I was sending this message: get away from me. Go. Be gone. Do not be with me. Push, push, push. [...]

But even then I was not at peace. I didn't feel like I was giving peace. Luckily I still had my nose-blowing doula (the one who helps me feel empowered during allergy season) on speed dial, so I asked her what could be wrong. She was thrilled that I had called -- said she'd been waiting for the moment when I'd be ready to hear her message. She was starting a new movement, she said, and I could get in on the ground floor.

It's called Peaceful Unbirthing, and its premise is simple. We want our children to grow up as loving, non-violent beings. And yet the very first thing we do in the very first moment of their lives is to push them away! Think about it: what does a baby hear when s/he is being born? Push! Push! Push harder!

Welcome to the world, baby. Guess what? Your mother doesn't want you inside her anymore.


Read the rest here, including Simcha's idea about just not giving birth as the ultimate in attachment parenting.

Now, even though a lot of Simcha's criticism is aimed at super-duper attachment parenting as a movement, I think that she's really just poking fun at parenting movements in general; if super-duper free range parenting were all the rage (to the point where picking up your infant brought cries of "hey, helicopter parenting!" from casual observers) I'm pretty sure Simcha would criticize that, too. That is, I don't think her point here is to single out attachment parenting for special scrutiny; it just happens to be the sort of trendy parenting movement she has experienced the most lately, as she mentions in her personal blog.

And it's okay to poke fun at parenting movements. No, really, it is. Poking fun at people directly isn't okay, but saying that you think this or that trend in parenting is a little weird or a bit too much or misguided (though always well intentioned!) is part of what keeps us all sane and balanced (or at least less likely to go bankrupt from the parenting guilt therapy sessions).

Why is that? Because most of us moms spend much of our parenting years drifting between two extremes:

Extreme A: I have the best, healthiest, smartest, most virtuous children in the world, which clearly proves that my own personal brand of parenting is superior to every other method, and I should write a book about it all which should be a best-seller and produce thankful tears from every other mother in the world who will benefit from knowing my secrets...

Extreme B: I have ruined my children forever! I will spend the rest of my life answering to God, to their father, to my mother and mother-in-law, and to my children's eventual therapists (please, dear Lord, not their eventual parole officers)!

There is a very good reason for this: we are fallible human beings, and we are responsible for the first eighteen years (at least) of the lives of children of God with potentially saintly immortal souls. Of course we're going to veer between feeling like we're parenting champions and feeling like no sorrier parent has ever walked the face of the earth than our own unworthy selves.

But since nearly every other parent who has ever walked the face of the earth has felt pretty much the same way, at least we're in good company.

1 comment:

catholic traveller said...

And then comes your first grandchild. Regardless of how well you raised however many children, you will find that you simply did not know what you were doing, and the new parents are fully involved in the newest parenting craze, over which you dare not roll your eyes, lest this new generation need therapy as well.