Monday, September 19, 2005

Revisiting parenting in a new context

Today’s parents have some new issues to deal with as well as some new twists on the old ones. Here are some examples, based on my recent experience, of what is going on in the parenting realm nowadays.

Today’s parents grew up with television, in a different way from how my generation did. It came to me yesterday, when I was thinking about how the parents of my young charges use TV, that to these parents TV is as much a part of their daily life and experience as radio is to me and was to my parents. Quite a large number of people nowadays like to have the TV on, whether anyone is actively watching or not, in the same way my generation and several before mine would leave a radio on all day whether we were actively focused on it or not. (I still tend to do this with the radio occasionally, until the noise starts to get to me…) It doesn’t seem to occur to some of today’s parents that it might be inappropriate or even harmful for their children to watch many TV programs, or just to be sitting in front of the TV when they could be engaged in more active or worthwhile pursuits. I don’t fault these parents for not thinking along these lines – they get little encouragement from our consumer-oriented, media-saturated culture to question the status quo. This is just an observation, and something I will continue to ponder and occasionally voice. For those who would like to explore the issue of children and TV in greater depth, an excellent resource is The Plug-In Drug, by Marie Winn, which was released in a new edition a few years ago. My personal favorite book about TV, though, is Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, by Jerry Mander (lots of used copies are available from abebooks.)

Feeding children and babies… I won’t even get into my views on breastfeeding, as that could be a many-paged essay and there are much more competent writers on this issue. Check out La Leche League's website for comprehensive, reliable information on the topic. Anyway, I thought that it was settled years ago that the primary source of nourishment for babies up to the age of one year should be human milk, or if that wasn’t available, infant formula, but apparently parents today are not being told that. One mom told me her doctor recommended that she start feeding her 5-month-old "solid food" on a regular basis so he wouldn't refuse it later. I’d love to see some research on this one! (Why feed babies baby food from a jar if you want them to eat real food later, anyhow? There isn't really any resemblance between the two.) Also, years ago parents were encouraged to avoid feeding their children food laden with additives, nitrates, saturated fats… I thought that issue was settled, too! But in the homes I have been sitting in, there is a reliance on hot dogs and other nutritionally deficient foods that is truly remarkable. And it is not like these families cannot afford to feed their children well; that is not an issue. Is it like the TV issue – people are so used to eating junk that they don’t even realize anymore that it is junk? Are people afraid their children will starve to death if they refuse to feed them in ways that are unhealthy? In reality, these children’s bodies probably are starving for the nutrients that are missing in their diets. Or do they just think it doesn't matter what kids eat?

I read an interesting (though limited) article in the Charlotte Observer this morning (10/10/05) about how parents really could be feeding their young children spicier and more varied diets; according to this article, it might actually be okay to feed children the same food that their parents eat! What a novel idea. I don’t think too many parents are subsisting on a diet primarily of strained peas, "junior" meats, rice cereal, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, Goldfish, and chocolate milk, so paying attention to suggestions like this would probably be an improvement in most babies’ and children’s diets. (Here's a link to another version of the article.)

One other issue, something I came across in the newspaper yesterday… There apparently is a movement afoot to train babies as young as a few months old to use the toilet instead of diapers, an idea that people in my parenting generation would have found hysterically funny and quite ludicrous. But now that paper diapers have become the norm, this idea makes more and more sense. Our environment has got to be adversely affected, to say the least, by the thousands of tons of soiled diapers that go into our “sanitary” landfills each year. There has got to be a better way. People in other cultures have been "potty training" their children from an early age for many generations, so certainly it is possible. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting idea…if you have heard anything about this, or had experience with it yourself, please let me know. Check out this link for more information. And here's another one that is very well-written and convincing.

Enough for now… I need to get back to my real life… :-)

Crabby old earthmama

Blogging is still such a new thing for me. I started this blog so I would have a way to put some ideas out there, and maybe strike up a dialogue with some of you… so what are my ideas of late?
Recent babysitting experiences have gotten me to thinking about contemporary parenting issues. Parents today have choices to make that the parents in my generation didn’t even dream of, but there are also some areas where they are unaware that they have options --options that my generation of moms took for granted. Of course, anybody who knew me in my “young mother” days will tell you that I was just a bit on the fanatical side when it came to a variety of issues like nutrition, television, reading, the value of open-ended play time, etc. As I'm still rather opinionated, I am concerned about possible problems generated by my blogging about parenting issues:

1. My children and their present/future spouses might get the idea that when/if they have children I will be a nagging, irascible mother/mother-in-law who will criticize everything they do. I would hope not, and if I ever start showing signs of this, please shoot me! Every family has the right to choose its own methods, priorities, limits and so on, and I respect and honor that right.

2. One might get the idea that I have nothing but negative thoughts about the current state of parenting. This is not the case! Children are as sweet as ever, and the parents I have encountered all love their children and are striving to do the best they can. I have great sympathy for today's parents. They have so many more choices to make than I had to, and are subject to stressors that didn't even exist in the 70's and 80's, when my children were young. This is not to say that "in the good old days" things were easy or better or whatever... I'm not a proponent of "going back to the good old days", mainly because they weren't always all that good. We have to deal with things as they are, not as we wish they could be! And today's parents are doing that. But I do think that sometimes they lack information about what their choices are, perhaps because there is just too much information for a couple to digest and a lot of misinformation to sift through, too. Hence my comments...

3. By taking a stand on one side or the other of an issue, I may seem to be ridiculing those on the other side (or sides.) That is not my intent, and if I come off that way I hope that my readers will set me straight so I can make the necessary adjustments. I can have blinders on just as much as the next person! And, more importantly, I believe that every parent is the expert on his or her own children -- they are the ones who know them from birth, and live with them day-to-day. So any comments I make are general statements, not a criticism of any particular individual.

4. So what is the purpose of my discussion of parenting issues, or any other issues that may come up? I'm just trying to share my perspective, which at times turns out to be a minority or countercultural view that doesn't get a lot of air time. And my hope is that I will stimulate my readers to think about the issues more deeply.

5. It may seem at times that I take things far too seriously -- that's something I've been accused of quite often. But our actions, even the small ones if repeated over and over, have real and sometimes irreversible consequences for the health of our Earth and of our children and families. Blind acceptance of the status quo, as well as of the messages of our culture and the mass media, is not a reasonable option!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Life is just so interesting at times. This week I've managed to land myself two substantial babysitting jobs and I paid a visit last night to a friend who had a baby on last Saturday (9/10), so my life is rather full of young children at the moment. And that means that I get to enjoy the viewpoint of the very young on a frequent basis for awhile, which is a great blessing.
Last night's 4-day-old... how do I describe the experience of holding and being with a baby that young, especially after not seeing a tiny baby like that for a long time? I could have watched his newborn grimaces and smiles all night long, as I did with my own babies. All the craziness of the world comes to a screeching halt; all those tasks that seemed of the utmost importance before I walked into the door of that house fade into a whirr of unimportant background noise off in the distance, in the presence of this exquisitely lovely new soul.
Tonight's babysitting stint (one could hardly call it work) was another opportunity to enter the slow and relatively unspoiled realm of child-life. A 4-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl were my charges for the evening, and they were a joy, though in a whole different way from last night's infant. They were so full of energy, and they wanted me to participate in their play. They danced a lot, and it reminded me of my kids and how they liked to dance. They were very physical. At one point they decided that jumping onto my lap from the pillows next to me on the sofa would be a good idea. Another time the little girl asked me to do a handstand, and I found that I really can't do that anymore, or maybe I just have lost my nerve. Their curiosity was fun, too -- they wanted to know if I had children, and even though I explained as best I could about my grown kids, they just couldn't get their minds around it: I have children that don't live with me, how weird! They came back to this topic a couple of times during the evening. When I tried to explain that all of my children live a long distance away from me, that didn't make sense to them either, so I didn't even go into the fact that I have a married child!
There was more, but I am too tired to re-type it now: I had lots more in here, but somehow it got lost when I previewed the post... the learning curve on this is a little steep, sometimes. Maybe later.
All blessings!

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Okay, I figured out about the title problem (see below.) This [blog editing program] is really pretty easy to use! Now if I just had something to say :-)
Oh, I know what: I had a wonderful birthday and am quite humbled by all the good wishes and gifts and caring from everybody. I will remember this day always, as a blessing and an affirmation! Thank you to all!!

First post

Hi y'all! Well, I finally did it -- joined the ranks of bloggers.... I don't know yet what I will put up here, but for the time being I'm just playing around with the settings and format and all to see how this thing works. I'll write a longer post later... btw, does anybody know how to get a title on a post? It didn't seem to give me the opportunity to do that just now. Thanks! And I'm open to suggestions on what to write, how to format, etc.