playful parenting

Male and female roles in pre-agricultural societies were egalitarian. God was nature. Assumed male superiority with its implicit violence against women and children emerged with monotheism, the old-testament, a single male-dominate King laying down the law. Can you believe we still believe this fairy tale?

Down through the ages children were livestock, bred as a buffer for survival. Abuses of all kinds were harsh and systemic. Women nurtured when they could and men disciplined. The extended family was communal. Children more or less belonged to the tribe. Personal identity was not individual rather communal. One was a Cooper, a barrel maker or a Smith, blacksmith. Allegiance and values were set by family, village or community and these were controlled by the iron fists of magician-priests.

Children have always lost their fathers to wars and there have always been wars. With the industrial revolution we disposable males were herded into factories, with a corresponding loss of influence in the lives of our children. A century later, in the mid 20th century, the 50’s and 60’s to be more precise, children lost their mothers to women’s liberation and the work place, by design. Women’s Liberation meant the Rockefellers and other old-money social engineers would ‘profit’ from the missing 50% of the labor pool and children would be forced into government certified conditioning factories with nice doublespeak names like ‘day care,’ earlier and earlier.

As the influence of nature, community and family diminished in the lives of children it was replaced by corporate-government and commercial influences. The communal identity of the village was replaced by an emerging and increasingly selfish ‘individual identity’ we all take for granted, the bloated all-important ‘me.’ Children became consumers with disposable incomes and childhood a commodity. To accomplish this the family bond, influence of parents and extended family in the lives of children, must be neutralized and it was.

To insure the conditioning was complete what little free time and space left to children would be constrained and domesticated by commercial television and an endless line of virtual reality gadgets that flash and buzz for profit.

The goal behind this dedicated progression always has been to insure that children obey authority, do as they are told, not question, not develop their capacity to imagine with its implicit critical thinking, but only mimic and show up on time, all under the false-flag of benefiting the natural intelligence and development of each unique child. Rubbish then and rubbish now. The more costly and professional day-care and compulsory schooling became, the dumber kids got.

But what about parents? Prior to World War II 90% of US households had a grandparent or two living in the home. Less than ten years later 90% of US households did not have a grandparent living in the home. For better or worse the extended family represented the primary, hands-on, mentored, experience-based education system for new parents. This disappeared in a blink. Crowded together but more isolated than ever in human history, mothers turned to professionals, Dr. Spock and a wild-bunch of misguided males for support. Jean Leidloff, author of the Continuum Concept was ashamed to share with her stone age friends in the Amazon that modern women get their mothering information from books written by white males.

Breaking the family bond cut two ways. It created a learning gap and retarded or failed development of mother, father and child. The child abandoned to stranger-care and TV lost the intimate, dynamic, moment-by-moment communication with mother and of course dad, and mothers grew more and more clueless about the subtle day-to-day development of her child.

Never completely bonding as nature intended, due to all sots or technological interventions during pregnancy, most severely at birth, and a cascade of social pressures, this was an easy trade for the falsely liberated woman to make. One, who happened to be the head of a county child development agency, described breastfeeding as holding an oversized sweaty tick. Really, that is what she said. The poor woman and millions like her (and their babies) missed the orgasmic opiate-hormone-ecstasy nature planned, flowing through every cell of her and her babie's body flooding both with pleasure tenfold what she would ever experience sexually, during the magical moments of birth.

Don’t forget, pleasure bonds. Fear, anxiety and pain isolates. Which do we see more of in our male dominated, holier than thou, comparison, guilt and shame, keep your hand to yourself, corporate-government society? Any wonder prisons are overflowing and childhood suicide is epidemic?

And that pretty much brings us up to date - plus the internet. Just as TV and media represents sensory deprivation for children, the internet is equally sensory deprived for mommy and daddy. Try learning how to surf on the net. (No, I mean on a wave!) Can you learn to swim on the internet? Can you swing on a rope and splash in a wet moving stream on the net? Most of the sensitivity, new capacities and skills needed to be a great parent are sensory and empathic: instantly sensing the difference between a pretend ‘acting-out’ cry and a real cry, or understanding deeply in your gut that children don’t need praise, that praise cripples much more than it uplifts. Where do you get that? Not in a book or on YouTube. It takes experience, caring peers and wise mentors who can touch young parents on the shoulder and whisper – ‘it’s OK, they need to do it this way at this age,’ people close by, that you trust, love and respect.

Because of these systemic global losses parenting and real child development is more difficult today. Yes, we have tons of information and some is fabulous. But what we need most is the sensory-emotional intelligence to use it appropriately, with care and every day joy. Let’s begin with that, by communities coming together and nurturing parents. Let’s water them every day, give them plenty of sunshine, remind them to be available, stress free and to approach parenting with the same playful genius as a young child and puppy discovering each other for the very first time.

Michael Mendizza