Reposted from 2/17/2011 because I had forgotten it until someone searched it out and read it. NOTE: This is an extremely shallow treatment of a complex subject…just so you realize that I’m aware!
My dentist and his assistant were talking about child rearing as they worked. I had been included in the conversation until it was impossible to talk. I listened. And I thought. And I still wonder.
They were discussing the pros and cons of constant holding of infants and young children. Always a hot topic!
It spoils a child…no, it makes them feel safe.
An infant is in danger sleeping with a parent…no, an infant feels cared for and nurtured in a mother’s arms.
A child must learn to sleep alone…no a child sleeps in the parents’ bed until he/she feels safe alone.
The more attention we pay to babies, the more they demand…no, a baby must have attention to know they are valued.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
I recently returned from a month in a Mexican village. I speak and understand quite a lot of the language and I’ve never heard a similar discussion there.
A baby is held by an adult or older child of the house unless it is swaddled in the hammock for a nap. It is held in the same manner one would carry an extra arm; tucked wherever necessary in order to accomplish what is necessary with it in tow. It is talked to, talked over, talked around and talked through. It is tended and shushed and patted and shifted from side to side.
There are no car seats or child carriers in the small town. Infants are held on laps or over shoulders in the back of the pick-up when there is no room in the front. Children are carried up and down the street until they are old enough to toddle, when they walk along side their mothers or fathers and older siblings.
I haven’t seen an entire family asleep in one of the small houses, but I know that there aren’t enough beds to go around. Children would by necessity be sleeping on corners of beds, nestled into a mass of sleeping bodies, and anchored by protective arms. It doesn’t seem to ruin them.
They don’t clamor for the attention of their parents once they are old enough to maneuver independently. They clamor to be included in the passel of kids running in the yard, or the street, or around the living room where the adults sit talking amongst themselves.
I get all of the safety issues.
I’m just not sure that the spoiling of children applies.
The “spoiled” children in Mexico are as easily identified as in any country. They are heedless of admonitions, reluctant to help out, and they lie down and beat their hands in the dirt (or on the floor) when they don’t get what they want. They are disrespectful in word and deed. Different issues entirely.
I’m wondering if the answer hinges on the attention factor. Is it better to have a child move through its first year as it spent its gestation, like a bump on its mother’s body? Is it possible that a baby never gets too much touch but that its sense of self can warp in the intensity of believing that everything in a household must revolve around it? Can we overdo the concept of acknowledging the presence of a small being in a group of people? Does it trip up an entire family when the wants of the children are more important than the needs of the parents?
And does any of that have to do with love and touch and inclusion?
Hmmmm… Just wondering….