Tag Archives: trust

Pregnancy Is Not An Emergency

Over the years, our number one gripe about TV drama, scientifically measured by the number of times we roll our eyes and let out a big groan, is that you never get to see a child born without some terrible disaster taking place. One of our old favorites, the hospital drama E.R., was one of the worst offenders. Granted, it was an emergency room, but the number of times that seemingly healthy mothers were doomed by the very fact of being with child was ridiculously high. Cue the pregnancy alarm and turn on the ‘Oh no she’s dead’ music, STAT! … Fast forward to today, and NBC’s remake of the ultimate childbirth horror story, Rosemary’s Baby, is due in 10 days.

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Why would anyone risk starting a family after watching a season of primetime TV? It’s terrifying. Our first child was born in a hospital, and we survived. Add that to the plus column. But we chose to have our second child at home, because, we reasoned, childbirth was not a disease that needs to be cured in an operating theater. Our midwife was an R.N., and we were glad for her experience, because we were happy to have someone who knew the signs of trouble, just-in-case. But, we did not want to treat the beginning of our child’s life like a medical emergency, because it wasn’t. Of course, there are times when giving birth in the hospital is the prudent thing to do, and these days, hospitals do their best to make the experience less clinical and cold. We hope parents get educated about the options available to them when their baby’s ready. And we know that some parents will feel more comfortable giving birth in a hospital setting, and not because they expect things to go wrong, but for good reasons that we wouldn’t dare second guess.

But the wider culture seems determined to equate birth with danger, even horror. On the science fiction blog io9, a recent article lists 10 science fiction and fantasy stories that editors are tired of seeing (some graphic imagery on this site), and there, among the usual suspects (zombies, parallel universes, time travel, etc.), is “pregnancy horror”, because apparently, that’s a thing. Think about it: science fiction editors alone receive enough story submissions that feature a mother’s body as an object of horror that the market is saturated. Even though we personally don’t read these stories, we are not surprised. Strange as it is to see pregnancy listed along with zombies, we know that in our weird culture, what happens inside mothers’ bodies is enough of a mystery to become a metaphor for all sorts of fears.

We were tired of it years ago. How about this for a story idea: a man and a woman love each other very much; they come together and in the mystery of their love-making the happy outcome is that a child begins to grow inside the woman; and at the fulness of time, this child is born, not without some pain, but with a far greater measure of joy. Does this sound like a story we might tell to children? And what if it is a childlike perspective on childbirth? Does that make it less true?

 

This post first appeared on the Parenting On The Peninsula Blog

Utility and Experience

In class yesterday, Anghelika introduced rhythm sticks to a group of five-year-olds. Rhythm sticks are foot-long wooden sticks for knocking together–these simple toys/tools are fun and noisy, so are an easy sell to kids. But they also offer a number of covert benefits for a growing mind. With some care on the part of the teacher, kids can smack away while “accidentally” learning rhythm and math, following a leader, and working together.

In the midst of the knocking and counting, Anghelika noticed a single student holding her sticks in the middle, while the majority held them by the ends. We thought about this and it occurred to us that for most of the kids, there was an understanding that the stick could be a tool or instrument. Tools and instruments are for doing something with, for making music: you hold tools by their ends. For this student, however, the stick was for holding, not so much using. The thing had not yet become for her a utilitarian object: she had a stick to hold, and holding means grabbing it in the middle. From her perspective, we imagine, holding on the end is a nuisance: it requires more strength, balance, and what’s the point anyways? She had something in her hand; it felt good!

Sure, this is on the one hand a simple opportunity to introduce the idea of utility to students along with different ways of interaction. She was open to instruction that day, and her particular relationship to the object was no cause for concern. She would have gotten it, no problem.

On the contrary, there is enough emphasis on utility in our education system … what’s wrong with relating to an object for the way it feels in your hand? We take notice of this outlier for the uniqueness of her interaction. Sure, there’s an opportunity to teach her about the tool and it’s usefulness, but there is also an opportunity for us to learn something about her perspective and what is important to her in the moment. Both are true, and rich opportunities for growth, in her, and in our community perspective.

The wrong approach to the situation would be to correct her grip and tell her the “right” way to hold a stick, to point out “how the other children are doing it”, and call attention to some failure on her part to align with the crowd. The right way would be to acknowledge and respect her way for what it is, letting her speak to her own reasons why. Then, together, teacher and student can work out the best way to hold a stick for different uses.

Childhood and Adulthood

Let’s say there are three kinds of grown-ups. It’s not true, but let’s pretend.

On one side of the scale (that doesn’t really exist) is the grown up who has no time for kids; couldn’t wait to grow up, and has no interest in being reminded of what it was like to be small, weak, and dependent.

On the other side of the scale is the grown up who will always choose to hang out with kids over adults. With a purity of motivation, they prefer the ‘innocence’ of children, the lack of irony, and the willingness to have fun. They aren’t sure they trust the big people.

We’re not sure we trust either of these made-up adult-types. We would prefer the one who lives somewhere in between. The one who loves to kneel down to look a child in the eye, ready to offer some wisdom, but also ready to receive some gift that only a child can give. But this grown up doesn’t reject other adults in favor of kids. They know that the best thing a child can do is grow, and that what we grow into is adults. So they enjoy both the aged and the young, and they have no trouble moving between the two.

After all, if you don’t love adults (and adulthood), then you can’t very well shepherd a little one as they grow. And while we grown-ups always need to be reminded what it means to be child-like, we also need celebrate our own maturity and wisdom, and welcome growing children to join us there.