October 11, 2005

Diaper Free & Psychically Scarred? Blame The Media

There is something in the air, and it ain't the smell of diapers. The NY Times has an op-ed from Prof. Meredith Small about going diaper-free. She boldly confronts the true source of the hypothetical psychological trauma that EC kids might face:

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the 75 countries that practice diaper-free training do not have a disproportionately high number of obsessive-compulsive adults. Of course, adults who were raised diaper-free may have other issues to deal with, like a strange sensation whenever anyone makes a hissing sound or the knowledge that at 7 months, a photo of you sitting on the toilet appeared on the front page of this newspaper.
That kid would be Hannah, and her Google results are already traumatized enough without my printing her last name. Suffice it to say that if your kid ever meets a Hannah, he could try "So, were you diaper-free?" as a pickup line.

Dare To Bare [nyt]

15 Comments

What is with the Times? Have they all lost their minds over there? There is a war on. There are natural disasters everywhere you turn. This country is in debt, the real estate bubble's burst, Tom DeLay is under indictment, there's a complete cipher/Bush crony likely to land on the Supreme Court and they are obsessed with diaper-free kids? Oh, and Bugaboo etiquette. And Yalies who say they want to be stay-at-home moms someday, but they are 18 at the moment, so what do they know? The burning issues of the day! And don't get me started on that ignorant Modern Love column.

Madness!

does anyone out there know of an umbrella stroller that looks NICe, weighs LITTLE (under 10 lbs pref.) and I guess that's it. we have a bugaboo and were looking at the quinny but it looks not very compactable. any suggestions?

[not really the best thread for this question, Tan, but I'd suggest the Maclaren Volo; we love the Volo/Bugaboo combination. Also, the Quinny Zapp IS very compactable, but not very light. -ed.]

I think you missed the best part of this op-ed:

I am ashamed to admit that, even though I've studied how babies are cared for all over the world, it never occurred to me to focus on how children in other cultures use the potty, or not. I certainly borrowed all the other kinds of child-rearing behaviors that I admired from other cultures like carrying my daughter all the time, co-sleeping and feeding her on demand. And I was against the Western ideology of making my child independent and self-reliant. I rejected the crib, stroller and jump seat, all devices intended to teach babies to be on their own. Instead I embraced the ideology of non-Western cultures and opted for the closest kind of attachment I could get.

OK- I don't want to start another attachment vs. non-attachment rumble (can't we all just get along?), but is this woman INSANE? God forbid that we try to make our children INDEPENDANT or SELF-RELIANT!!! I don't even know where to start my rant, my mind is so boggled.

And Greg, don't you feel ashamed to be a cog in the Worldwide Stroller Hegemony?

[Great, they find her unconscious in the gutter with Bugaboo tracks across her back, I'M gonna get blamed... -ed.]

Have you noticed the top emailed articles list in the NYT? The Dare to Bare Op-Ed is 1 and the orginal article is 3.

JJ Daddy--I think what the op-ed author was trying to say in that point is that we in the west do an awful lot trying to get our babies away from us the minute they're born in the name of independence and self-reliance. We spend 100's if not 1000's (and I'm guilty of this as well) on equipment like strollers, cribs, play pens, jumperoos, bouncy seats, swings, etc so we don't have to hold/deal sometimes. Would other cultures do this if this equipment was widely available and affordable to them? I wonder...

I don't think that I am mis-reading that sentence. I think that an educated person (and Ivy-League Professor), who can string 15 paragraphs together and get published in The Times should be taken at their word. Which was "I was against the Western ideology of making my child independent and self-reliant". This is emphatic and redundant.

But I will limit myself to making 3 points:

1) Frankly, I don't think the link between buying lots of baby gear and trying to kick the hatchling out of the nest has been proven. Lots of people just like shiny things, and if they weren't buying bugaboos with high-intensity headlights and built-in GPS, they'd be buying Hummels and Precious Moments figurines. Like Greg. [They're STATUES! statues. -ed.]

2) I'm going to make a sweeping generalization here, and no doubt I am going to be flamed to a crisp, but most of the couples I have met who have gone the attachment route, their choice (and I'm being generous by saying the Dad had a choice) says more about the mother's insecurity then the baby's.
There, I said it. Go nuts.
As I said, this is based on PERSONAL OBSERVATION, not any scientific method or a broad-based sampling of the population or anything. Maybe I just know a lot of people with, um, issues.

3) (and then I'll shut up) I have nothing against the theory of attachment parenting. It just seems to be too much of a square peg practice in what anthropoligists like to call the urban, post-industrial society. Oh, yeah, and a society with "bathroom issues", too.
I have no doubt that if I lived in a small village, tending my crops with my neighbors in the fields nearby, living in the same house as my parents and in-laws, rising with the sun, etc., then carrying my child in a sling and letting them eat, sleep and poop whenever and wherever they wanted would be the right way to raise my kids. They might be better, saner grown-ups for it. Unfortunatly, my Great-Grandparents decided that living that way in Ireland and starving created issues of a different sort.
And here I am.

JJ Daddy, you are my hero.

Also, there are kids that we do not choose to make independent. They are born that way, like our eldest. All the AP practices in the world would not (and did not) change her innate desire to strike out on her own and do things her way on her timeline.

[most of the couples I have met who have gone the attachment route, their choice (and I'm being generous by saying the Dad had a choice) says more about the mother's insecurity then the baby's.]

And your good wife has no insecurities about mothering? You're soooo lucky. Related to Tom Cruise, eh?

[hey, watch with the name-calling. I know JJD as personally--PERSONALLY--helped hundreds of women overcome their mothering-related insecurities WITHOUT AP. You don't know the history of AP. JJD does. -ed.]

Isn't it funny how early potty training is considered crunchy and AP--yet not fostering independence, while keeping your kid in diapers for as long as they want is supposed to be psychologically ok for them. It seems to me those who still have kids in diapers at age three are the ones "infantalizing" their children.

[age three?? I'm the worst kind of expert--the kind with no experience--about potty training, but that does seem pretty old to me. I'd chalk it up more to parental laziness/procrastination/inconvenience, though, than conscious infantilizing. That, and a desire to see your kid get rejected from ever pre-school he applies to.

I'll ask my mom about the shock-potty training some neighbor did on my brother when they dropped us off to stay for some weekend. Because what are family for, if not to publicize their potty training experiences? (Hi Hannah!) -ed.]

JK, I am sad that you have resorted to ad hominem attacks to bolster the AP argument. Dr. Sears is sad, too.
My wife has many insecurities about life in general and parenthood in particular, as do most parents I know.
She just tries not to foist them on her children.

JJ, it would be hard to reply to your argument, as you didn't make one. You merely wrote off your acquantances' parenting styles as neurotic.

And without knowing the particulars of my life, you lump me in with APers--now who's engaging in ad hominem attacks?

[um, JK, the Tom Cruise thing and the tone of your comment WAS ad hominem. If there are AP parents who don't seem overloaded with issues, then maybe JJ needs to get out and meet them. But we know who's really to blame for his declining social life *cough the twins cough cough.* But his original point is well-taken: that an Ivy League professor/parenting anthropologist/mom can toss off a parenthetical condemnation of "Western" parenting into the NY Times and no one raises an eyebrow. -ed.]

See, Greg knows- my posting is just a cry for help *sob*.

whoa! This got really ugly before I had a chance to share... BOYS! Go back to your corners and take some time out.

First off, when I read Prof. Small's piece, I agreed with most of it. Including the part about the possibly traumatizing effect of having a picture of yourself going potty on the front page of a major newspaper. Do you guys show revealing pics of YOUR kids to everyone? I wouldn't but maybe that's part of my nod to being raised in Western culture, where even our hangups have hangups. Ultimately, the most educated & informed parent will still make choices in child-rearing that are colored by their own interpretation of their needs and their culture and some of those choices will, in retrospect, seem flawed. My mother-in-law said the other day that she wished she'd cared less about keeping the house spotless and instead played more with her kids; I'm sure most of us will look back and find something we wish we'd done better.

Second, I do agree with JJ Daddy about the fact that those who like to acquire will do so regardless of the excuse. It is the judicious use of those acquisitions that makes ALL the difference. And this is where our agreement ends. I've seen too many babies who are barely ever held just for nurturing, they go from the carseat to the stroller to the bouncer/swing/Exersaucer... and the human comforting of their need for interaction and stimulation is replaced by flashing lights on their various toys and Baby Einstein videos.

When Prof. Small alludes to the Western ideology of making our children independent and self-reliant, she refers to the ludicrous and pervasive notion that babies are out to manipulate and control their parents with every cry and need they express. If you know anything about the latest research on the human brain (and I'm not in any way a scientist, just scientifically curious) you'll come across the information that, at birth, the human infant is the *least* equipped of all mammals to survive on its own. They are not out to manipulate us, yet our Western culture would have us leave them on their own as much as possible from the beginning so they can be independent and self-reliant, so they can get into an adult-friendly schedule and fall asleep on their own. Sorry, I don't buy that, to me it's scientifically unsound theory. SOME children, like my first son, come out of the womb with very independent personalities and low-maintenance needs. Others, like my second son, need more holding and constant nurturing. It's an innate personality thing. I can assure you I have waaaay less "issues" my second time as a mother than I did 15 years ago, the first time around. I do agree that some people seem to need to attach themselves (sometimes fanatically) to a rule-set, whether it is the AP/NP way or whatever the opposite of those is... that speaks to their own insecurities and control issues. Dr. Sears actually makes it clear in his definition of AP that it is NOT a set of rules but a principle of responding to the child's needs in the context of the family's needs. A three-day-old baby should be responded to diffently than a three-year old because s/he has a different skill set of understanding and awareness. Is that really such a radical thought? I could go on and on about the problems we all suffer because of our Western culture's insistence on self-reliance (in the US especially), how it feeds into a lack of respect for stay-at-home parents, a lack of affordable & universal health insurance, family-friendly leave policies at work, affordable daycare and/or after-school options, and a blame-the-victim approach to domestic violence, rape and hurricane survivors. It's every man, woman, child and baby for him/herself. But I need to get my own blog for that, and leave Greg's to whatever his ironic wit drives him to post about. ;)

Remember the report that declared the Aka Pygmy tribesmen as the "best fathers" in the world? (I'm quoting the DT post here) "Based on, among other things, their lack of gender-defined work/parenting roles, their willingness and readiness to attend to their children from birth, and their emphasis on holding infants almost constantly during the first months of life". I'm pretty sure the Aka fathers have never heard of AP, Dr. Sears or Prof. Small and that their children are potty-trained early on.

Oh, on late potty-training... it's not really always due to laziness on a parent's part. Brazelton and others advise not to force the issue and let it become a power-struggle between parent/s and child. So when your independent and self-reliant two year old refuses to sit on the potty, what are you to do? My first son (the very independent one) made it to 2years 10months refusing to even look at underwear or the toilet and then suddenly decided to train himself in two days. I think the very opinionated and independent age of two sucks for potty training and have begun trying EC out on my current 15mo baby. (sorry this is so long Greg!)

[thanks, though, and you're quite right: you do need a blog. ;) -ed.]

Just a brief thought here, since the thread is cooling down/tapering off, which is probably a good thing...

I agree with JJ Daddy AND JK AND micaela, which is to say that I know parents (of both genders) who have themselves a neurotic fear of their children's independence and call what they do in response attachment parenting, and I know many many parents (and grandparents, and non-parents, interestingly) who have similarly neurotic and punitive attitudes toward the dependent needs of children (e.g., the infamous Ezzos), and I am also a fan of the Sears books and the basic theory of attachment parenting, which is no apologia for neurotic enmeshment but a simple philosophy of responding to your child as an individual and fostering not only healthy attachment but a healthy sense of self and, yes, self-reliance.

Just a brief thought here, since the thread is cooling down/tapering off, which is probably a good thing...

I agree with JJ Daddy AND JK AND micaela, which is to say that I know parents (of both genders) who have themselves a neurotic fear of their children's independence and call what they do in response attachment parenting, and I know many many parents (and grandparents, and non-parents, interestingly) who have similarly neurotic and punitive attitudes toward the dependent needs of children (e.g., the infamous Ezzos), and I am also a fan of the Sears books and the basic theory of attachment parenting, which is no apologia for neurotic enmeshment but a simple philosophy of responding to your child as an individual and fostering not only healthy attachment but a healthy sense of self and, yes, self-reliance.

If the AP people think strollers and bouncy seats force independence too early, they should have seen how I grew up, naked and foraging for nuts and berries in the appalachian backwoods.

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