Continuum Problems

When I was pregnant I read 'The Continuum Concept' by Jean Liedloff. It was lent to me by a friend whose relaxed parenting style I have always intended to emulate, and, although it is emotive at times, it didn't disappoint, and confirmed my decision to bring up our child like that. Phil is happy to go along with it, which is great.
From the website (because I'm too lazy to paraphrase):

The continuum concept is the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings — especially babies — require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution. For an infant, these include such experiences as...
  • constant physical contact with his mother (or another familiar caregiver as needed) from birth;
  • sleeping in his parents' bed, in constant physical contact, until he leaves of his own volition (often about two years);
  • breastfeeding "on cue" — nursing in response to his own body's signals;
  • being constantly carried in arms or otherwise in contact with someone, usually his mother, and allowed to observe (or nurse, or sleep) while the person carrying him goes about his or her business — until the infant begins creeping, then crawling on his own impulse, usually at six to eight months;
  • having caregivers immediately respond to his signals (squirming, crying, etc.), without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of his needs, yet showing no undue concern nor making him the constant center of attention;
  • sensing (and fulfilling) his elders' expectations that he is innately social and cooperative and has strong self-preservation instincts, and that he is welcome and worthy.
In contrast, a baby subjected to modern Western childbirth and child-care practices often experiences...
  • traumatic separation from his mother at birth due to medical intervention and placement in maternity wards, in physical isolation except for the sound of other crying newborns, with the majority of male babies further traumatized by medically unnecessary circumcision surgery;
  • at home, sleeping alone and isolated, often after "crying himself to sleep";
  • scheduled feeding, with his natural nursing impulses often ignored or "pacified";
  • being excluded and separated from normal adult activities, relegated for hours on end to a nursery, crib or playpen where he is inadequately stimulated by toys and other inanimate objects;
  • caregivers often ignoring, discouraging, belittling or even punishing him when he cries or otherwise signals his needs; or else responding with excessive concern and anxiety, making him the center of attention;
  • sensing (and conforming to) his caregivers' expectations that he is incapable of self-preservation, is innately antisocial, and cannot learn correct behavior without strict controls, threats and a variety of manipulative "parenting techniques" that undermine his exquisitely evolved learning process.

The problem is that not everybody else knows that when I'm allowing Alfie to explore something potentially dangerous/dirty/hot, I am (usually) fully aware of what he is doing and seeing if he will stop doing it before I have to step in. I get a bit miffed when someone else yells 'Alfie, no!', thus wrecking the whole continuum, because they think I'm being a lax, rubbish mother. It's more difficult at other people's houses as obviously I can't allow him to hold the china/empty the drawers/touch the oven there. Although yelling, 'Alfie, No!' of course
ensures that the the only things he is interested in doing are to hold the china/empty the drawers/ touch the oven.
I do believe he has an instinct for self preservation, although at the weekend he fell off the bed three times and has the bruises on his head to prove it.
Hmmm. Maybe I
am a lax rubbish mother. Don't call social services or Gina Ford though(boo hiss). He'll prove all the doubters wrong. I hope.


Leisa said...

It's very difficult I think to find a balance between pure continuum concept parenting and protecting your child (and others' children for that matter) in a Western environment. For example, the children Leidloff describes would obviously know the fire was hot and capable of hurting, and would probably have seen it being built and watched things burn and/or cook on there. It's less obvious when it's a radiator, a gas fire, an oven...and more difficult as a parent to demonstrate the potential dangers to your child. As such you have to adopt new parenting skills that work for both of you and go some way towards reflecting your values.

Beds are the same - did they sleep in Kingsize divans from Ikea? I think not - it was probably the floor or low strung hammocks. A different kettle of fish entirely.

I think you're doing a grand job and don't forget a toddler is a whole different ball game to an infant, a creeper and a crawler. What other people do and say is most likely immaterial as Alfie will look to you and Phil first as his guides and assurers.

Princess Boo said...

Yes, that is what I was trying to say - albeit in a tongue in cheek way!