The powerful emotional link that binds families who grow up together often manifests itself in curious ways when adult adoptees meet their biological families. Yet as common as it is, few want to touch it because–well–incest. But this issue needs more awareness, and not only because according to recent reports it’s on the rise. Also because I believe that it’s a fertile ground for a particular type of abuse.
If your ‘early experiences were suboptimal’, so the article states, then your caregivers were surely ‘distracted, overbearing, dismissive, unreliable, absent or perhaps threatening’. Let’s just back up a minute. It couldn’t also be because few western governments provide so little parental leave, that they force us back to the grindstone to leave our children in the hands of strangers? Or that they stigmatize and otherwise restrict access to mental health support for everyone including new parents, instructing mothers/parents to be overjoyed at the birth of a new baby (or else, you know, social workers will be round to evaluate your competency as a mother)?
But six does not look as A.A. Milne described it in my childhood. Truth to be told, I now realise that it never looked like that, I only wish it did. Six is brutal and I’m feeling its brutality again through my children. It is not reasonable or rational. It is brutal.
What is here? Neglect is here. Overgrown plants are here. This hovel has never been occupied, never lived in, loved or cared for. It is dirty and lonely. It is private. It is the core of all things.
I believe that consistent and repeatable actions during childhood, no matter how small, will build up mental models that we continue to follow as adults. The flaps of butterfly wings do indeed sometimes cause hurricanes. Calling out and correcting unhealthy parenting techniques in myself and others, even I seem pedantic in doing so, means that we can stop hurricanes before they start. Giving children agency and responsibility too early before they are ready to assume them, will result in a catastrophe. Too late, and we risk disempowering them.
For all we want to help our children to be hygienic, in the long term at least making the ‘dirt can be fun’ narrative accessible to them, will later greatly help their appreciation of the often messy and beautifully ‘dirty’ activity that is sex.