Sunday, July 20, 2014

It Takes a Village, Whether You Want It or Not

This is not a bash of Hillary Clinton, or her book (which I never read), but simply a commentary about the reality that new parents seem to face. 

Obviously, whether desired or not, some mothers, mothers-in-law, and complete strangers may dispense advice like Pez dispensers to the new parents.  But this was probably the case even in Paleolithic times.  And there are siblings, themselves in some stage or parenthood themselves or not.  And busybody neighbors.

But there are the infancy and childhood cause advocates, who seem to have an opinion on just about any topic there is.  Breast feeding it is hot button one.  While there are some advantages in doing so, it might not be possible for everyone.  But there are some who take breast-feeding up beyond the next level: until the child is four or five or so.  (Hopefully, this is long over before he starts dating, or it may some awkward moments with his girlfriends!)

And there are those who admonish the parents on how to dress their children.*   Not just regarding modesty or comfort, but even color.  There are some feminists that argue against allowing little girls to wear pink or lavender (Hello Kitty colors?), even if that might be the child's preferences.  Seriously, most preschool girls don't want to dress in colors that look like they're from the Duck Dynasty.

Some parental advocates argue for attachment parenting, including baby-carrying, co-sleeping, breast feeding until nearly kindergarten age, and so forth.  This is despite the fact that there is zero evidence to demonstrate that child-mother attachment requires going to such lengths.

How much supervision should children get?  There are some that see having a child unscheduled in an activity at any time to be undesirable: each day for the child is scheduled; and those who call for free-range children.  In effect, like kids were in the 1950's, as folklore has it.  Children do need some unstructured time.  They don't have to have totally structured days.

In the history of child-rearing advice, there were different viewpoints: the rigid-scheduling proponents such as the rational, limited emotional expression approach such as John B. Watson advocated, the "Tender Loving Care" school, and the advocates of attachment theory, including some who went beyond the scope of known data. 

And how should a child act?  Should budding left-handedness be thwarted?  What about gender less common behavior or interests?  What about cussing?**  And -- major issue -- what about excessive activity?  Presently, the frequently-chosen strategy is pharmacological: methylphenidate HCl, also known as Ritalin.  Unfortunately, there's no really objective assessment of hyperactivity.  It often devolves into the little boy (usually) pissing his teacher or mommy off.

Not surprisingly, what kind of television fare is allowed the child is a matter of extra-familial opinion.  At what age may the youngster or tween watch "adult fare"?  Is it so awful is a parent allows her daughter to watch such classics as Animal House?

Anyway, there's a lot of people willing to get into the act.  But especially those who are quite willing to assert that children are going to the dogs nowadays!  If you look hard enough, you can dredge up some support for your presupposition.

*My Mama allowed me to wear a Hello Kitty playsuit and a fake tiara when I was aged three or four years.   Still, she recounted being criticized for doing that.

**The F-word and the S-word were forbidden; but it was okay to say that school sucks with my family.  I had to go anyway.


Chuck Bear said...

There's also the people who try to push kids into sports, even if the kids or parents are not sports-minded.

Mike said...

"Children do need some unstructured time."

So do adults. And when you retire all your time becomes unstructured.

Linda Kay said...

Oh, my... as a grandmother I have to really keep my mouth zipped when it comes to my grandchildren. And a sure fire way to do that is to ask yourself if you did everything perfectly. No doubt we have all learned from our mistakes, but this is a different time and place. I remember when my junior high teacher sent someone to the office for having their collar turned up, looking like a hoodlum! So the parents need to be somewhat watchful, but have to keep in mind that what applied in the last generation may not apply in this world.

Cloudia said...

Wise and well written. How old are you, 60?

"no really objective assessment of hyperactivity. It often devolves into the little boy (usually) pissing his teacher or mommy off."

ALOHA from Honolulu
=^..^= <3

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Wise words, Linda Kaye.

I'm in my 20's, Cloudia.

Mike, sometimes it's hard to find unstructured time.

Chuck, that orientation is particularly present here.

Anonymous said...

a parent would end up in the loony bin if they tried to follow all the 'right' advice....I just try and set the right example for my kids (and the wife is not backward in offering her views on my example at times)

John Hill said...

When the time comes, I'm sure you will be an awesome mom!

Bilbo said...

We learned very early that our daughter was not particularly interested in our advice on child-rearing unless she specifically asked for it ... and then she usually did the opposite. We don't always agree with what she does, but the two local granddaughters seem to be doing all right.