Written by Liza Cumming
We all want what is best for our children, we want them to grow up to be happy, strong, independent people who look back with fondness on their childhood. However, sometimes we loose our way as parents and in an effort to give our kids everything, give them a lot of things they don't need and nothing they really want. So perhaps we need to stop and think, if I were them, what would I prefer?
When Finn started showing an interest in toys and other things around him, I rushed to the shops, where a range of marketing campaigns told me all the things that he would need. I bought him toy hammers, steering wheels, fish, books, rattles and cars. I wanted to see his face light up and see him playing happily for hours like the boys on the boxes. So what were his favourites? The TV remote that he saw mummy and daddy using, the wooden spoon that made loud banging noises and mummy used for cooking and the boxes that the fancy toys came in.
So did society get it wrong? Or did they never really care, they just wanted us to spend our money. Don't get me wrong, some toys are great but do they need everything in store? No.
Then there are all the things we are told we need for raising happy children that we just don't need at all. Prams that cost more than some cars, matching furniture sets, baby monitors.
So you have to ask yourself. If I were a tiny baby would I care which brand of pram I rode around in? Or would I in fact prefer not to be in a pram at all but rather to be in my mother's (or father's) arms. (Read about how the baby carrier replaced the pram in our house here). Would I want my own room with a theme and matching furniture and a machine for my parents to see me without coming in or would I want to share with mum and dad?
The choices we make about what to buy can have a big impact on our kids. The decision might be to buy "the best" pram and the latest toys and do an extension on the house to allow each family member to have their own room but to pay for all these things by mum cutting her maternity leave short and dad staying back at the office. If I was the child, I would prefer my mum and dad's time over most things.
For small babies, going to sleep and staying asleep can be challenging. So what does Western culture teach us to do? Teach them to "self settle" so that they can learn to be independent sleepers. Well I ask you, if you had just spent the last nine months being lulled to sleep in a warm cocoon, listening to mummy's heartbeat and voice, how would you like to learn to fall asleep? If it were me I know what I would choose between a nice long cuddle and drink of milk while I played with mum's hair and listened to her voice, and crying until I gave up and went to sleep alone.
Of course it is not just about what the child wants but also what is best in the long run. We want them to be independent and we don't want them to be spoiled.
Let's look at the issue of independence. At odds with most other cultures, from the moment our babies are born we want them to start being "Independent". Sure independence has it's advantages when you are 40 and don't need your mum to show you how a washing machine works but as a baby?
Babies are as nature intended them, extremely vulnerable, immobile and entirely dependent. So what is the advantage in making them independent? (If that were even possible). Is nurturing and looking after our babies by allowing them to be dependent actually stopping them learn independence? I don't think so. In fact I think it is quite the reverse. If Finn can see his mum or dad nearby, he is braver, more investigative and more inclined to go off on his own in pursuit of adventure.
We borrowed a Noah's arc boat from the toy library that makes rather alarming animal noises and when Finn sat down to play with it by himself he was petrified and needed to be held. Revisiting it with his dad sitting beside him he sat happily pulling animals out and investigating them.
As parents we are there to scaffold our child's learning, comfort them and rock them to sleep because it is in our arms that they feel safe and secure enough to find their own independence and confidence. Finn is constantly "babied" by being fed and rocked to sleep and sleeping in his parents bed, it didn't stop him deciding to crawl at five months or refusing to be spoon fed and learning to eat by himself at six months.
As for children being "spoilt" by too much attention, do you honestly think showering your baby with love and attention and comforting them when they feel scared will ruin them and turn them into little brats? Surely ignoring them when they cry and making them feel scared and alone would be more likely to do that.
Anyway, with all this focus on learning independence, do you ever stop and think that adults are never really fully independent either. We build communities, cohabit with our families and sleep cuddled up to our spouses. We are pack animals, this is how we feel safe and this is how we flourish.
About the author
Liza Cumming, mum to 9-month-old Finn, has a Degree in Psychology and a Post Graduate Degree in Primary Teaching. She writes baby and food blog, Pramsandwich, where she shares her parenting thoughts, stories, recipes, cafe finds and love letters.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Written by Liza Cumming