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.
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.
The gift of being able to feel your emotions is therefore the gift of survival. Emotions are signals from our bodies which help us devise strategies which we believe will help us survive. But in order to survive–and thrive–we need to be able to feel all of them. That’s what they are there for.
At least I thought, I can as much work as possible in the time I have left to prepare myself mentally to lie, as I felt I would have to… for their entire lives.
And when your small child reaches in his nappy to explore his own excrement and wipe it on the sofa, well bleach is really only thing for it.
Because the non-violent lessons I have taught her meant that I neglected the most important one. The one about respecting your own boundaries and protecting your own body. Instead I apparently encouraged my daughter to be a good cog in the kindergarten system, to report it to an adult and in doing so taught her to go against her instincts and passively accept violence on her body. She became a victim, because I taught her it was the right thing to do.
I would like to tell them about the wonderful man who gave to the poor. I would like to show them the legend of the Yule Lads from Iceland and get excited at how they have 13 Santas, not just one. I would like to explain how Coca Cola pulled off the biggest marketing marvel of all time and popularized him in red as opposed to blue. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it.
When I’ve said this in the past, there has always been a follow up question. ‘So you, who believe in honesty… do you lie to your children? Do you expose them to the harsh realities of life?’
My way, would be natural I’d decided (with not a little smirk of superiority). A water birth, maybe with a kick of gas and air to get me laughing like Uncle Benny in Lethal Weapon.
Then the Iraqi war comes. And with it Americans and British soldiers with their feet on naked men wearing hoods over their faces.
It takes a steel heart to stand up to that amount of pressure from people you care about, even if you believe in vaccines.
Many people don’t think it through before they have kids. Indeed such a level of forethought is not possible. And besides, having kids is something you do usually as a matter of course in our society. Its part of the relationship escalator.
I’ve asked other mothers. Just a few though. Because it’s not a topic that you can bring up with those who aren’t close to you. I’ve particularly asked those who like me, had a daughter first and then a son. Just to test out whether the way I love my children has to do with my first time mother anxiety. I ask them ~
Do you love your children differently?
Usually what people hear when I say that is “do you love one more than the other?”
Few would answer yes. Society forbids it.
There are some conversations I didn’t expect to be having with my daughter. Not now (when she’s three). And actually not ever (before I became a mother and a feminist). ‘What’s that a picture of Mummy?’ My daughter said looking at my Google image search results. ‘Well darling that’s a picture inside a very poorly vagina. It’s a grown up …
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