Am I alone in finding the “Conscious Parenting” thing a bit off-putting, disrespectful, even?
I am not saying that the intentions and practices talked about in “Conscious Parenting” circles are bad or wrong. It’s the concept that bothers me, the implication that pervades parenting information and ideas almost more insidiously than religious ones–that the current guru and her followers have it right and everyone else has it wrong, or at least less-right than those within the circle. It’s also the practice of stating ideas as truths–truths along the lines of “If your toddler annoys you, it’s not about the whining/tantrum/poop on the walls. It’s obviously really about your own unhealed emotional wounds.”
Are you effing kidding me? Tantrums are unpleasant, poop is disgusting, and all of it harder to deal with when I haven’t had enough sleep. It is possible that I am incorrect, but I am fairly certain that my irritation at my three year old deciding not to put on his shoes to walk out the door in the morning but instead removing all of his clothes and running around crowing “I’m naked!” has no connection to how I was or was not hugged as a child.
And if the current mob is “Conscious” (the last was “Attached”), what are the rest of us? Are the 99.99999% of the world’s parents that don’t ascribe to this model religiously, or who might find it absurd, “unconscious”? Not yet “enlightened” enough to grasp what a few privileged, mostly white, mostly quite affluent people have “discovered” is “essential” to healthy emotional development?
Which brings me to another thing that gets my goat–the tendency of gurus of parenting to invoke the “noble savage,” objectifying and appropriating whole cultures in the process. I am talking about another kind of truth statement like “in Africa, women carry their children everywhere and there is no corporal punishment…that’s why they don’t have our social problems.”
First of all, where do people get this information? I worked with child protection staff in one African country who said they couldn’t tell parents not to beat their small children because it’s just part of the culture. Just like anywhere else, parenting styles varied and were shaped by a variety of influences. And, just like everywhere, there were plenty of social problems. Second of all, how were these conclusions reached? I have had a healthy dose of skepticism about anthropological “truths” since living for several years in Papua New Guinea and then reading/watching anthropologists’ commentary and conclusions about certain practices. Many times, the “truths” and “discoveries” of these well-meaning scholars were so off they were funny. Third, Africa is not, I repeat not a country or even a homogenous continent. The diversity there is astounding and generalizations about anything–culture, food, music–obscure its real beauty and complexity. But, I, as often happens, digress.
We are talking here about parenting. American parenting. My understanding is that child-rearing practices occur in complex contexts and serve varying purposes–purposes that are often invisible to those practicing them, let alone observers.
My theory is that the (seemingly primarily Western) drive to identify and commodify “good” parenting occurs in a context of competition, individualism, and perfectionism. “Older” parents seem particularly vulnerable to this drive. I think this is perhaps because someone who comes to parenting at thirty-five or forty in the U.S. has quite likely done so because they have previously been focused on academic and/or career success. We have long histories of being able to do things
Everything in our culture pushes us to do better, improve ourselves, strive for the top, constantly compare ourselves to others and ensure that we are winning. So, we become parents and approach it from this angle, to succede in this context. We read the books, research the products, do everything we can to do it better than anyone else ever has in the history of mankind. And if we’re unsure of ourselves, we’ll cite some abstract-enough-exotic-and-almost-kindalike-prehistoric (“Africa” being the go-to) example to verify our more-correctness.
Let me be clear, I honor every parent’s desire and effort to do the best they can for their child. If someone finds the books and gurus helpful, great. I am just wondering if there is anyone else out there consciously deconstructing the more insidious effects of this stuff in our lives and in our relationships to other parents who are also doing the best they can see for their child.
I also kind of hope certain people don’t read this. If they do, I really hope they don’t comment with long explanations/justifications/rationalizations/research to back up their positions. I hope even more that they don’t post patronizingly pacifying/negating ”of course I respect everyone” comments with links to their websites selling parenting perfection.
Because what bugs me most about all of this judgment, this disrespect, is that people don’t own it. They hide their fear behind half-veiled superiority complexes. Sometimes, I wish they’d just come out and say what they really want to believe.
I’d rather hear, clearly, “I think I’m better than you.” than ”Oh, we’re into conscious parenting so what I’d do is just let my child run around screaming ‘I’m naked!’ Getting to work on time is not more important than his freedom to express himself.”
Because that just makes me want to say express this. Which, come to think of it, could have something to do with some early childhood experiences.