Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parents who shine like The Man in the Moon

I watched "The Rise of the Guardians" last night for the 1st time and saw something that is there is a common "theme" you see in movies like this...and it's got me thinking...



Jack Frost wakes up one day "as Jack Frost" and has no idea why or who he is. 

There is a scene then where he looks up at the all-knowing "man in the moon" and asks what his purpose is. 

And, the moon...is silent... 




Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, etc...are told by the moon that Jack Frost is to be one of them: a guardian of children. So, Jack is brought in to be officially declared a guardian...He asks what would make them think he wants to be one? They said that the man in the moon told them he was.

For one thing this whole process reminds me of how Christians attempt to evangelize, but, that will be another day...

What Jack says next is what has me thinking. He says, "The man in the moon talks to you? Why didn't he just tell me himself?"

This is a common theme in movies. The "highest power" that all the characters seek out for wisdom, instruction, guidance and help...is mysterious, silent...or confusing. And, usually unreliable, absent, random, and no help at all with the main problem in the story.

Like...

The Lion King...Simba cries out to his (dead) father who randomly appears in the sky with some advice that leaves Simba with only questions.

The Lion, Witch n' Wardrobe...Aslan appears randomly and often gives very mysterious advice that again...leaves the characters with questions and fighting many battles all alone.

Harry Potter...Dumbledore also appears randomly to help the children and the advice he gives is often almost a riddle...and is not present when the children face all their battles.

You get the idea.


In all of these movies the "all knowing" character who is "like a god" in the stories...is who they seek for "wisdom" and look up to and revere...but they never get straight or helpful answers from this "god" and the main characters are totally on their own to win the battles and defeat the "evil" in the story. Always!

The people involved in making all these movies are not one tiny group of people. There are so many people involved and yet this theme comes up again and again. Where would such a common cultural "belief" come from?

"Neurons the wire together fire together."
"Your experiences in your first few years of life lay the foundation for what you expect for all future relationships."

I spent most of my parenting days "in the closet." No! Not to hide from my kids! But, from all the old wives! :) Most of what I did as a parent after my 1st child...was not "the norm." One thing I definitely hid was my habit of responding immediately to my children when they cried...or even responding to the signals that they were GOING to cry. I had gotten the "don't pick them up every time they cry or you'll turn them whiny/clingy" advice over and over. But, I suspected that if I responded to them right away that I would teach them to get what they want/need...without crying. 

When my 7th child was a baby, I took that a step further, even. I would leave her on my (king sized) bed to take her naps because I didn't use a cage (oops! ;) I mean crib!). I'd leave the baby monitor right next to her and close the door so all the random noises that happened in our house of 9 (at that time) that was also always full of neighbor kids wouldn't wake her.


She always woke up with the
most awesome wild hair!!!
I got to thinking one day of what waking up alone on my bed was like for her from her perspective? So, she awakens from sleep and is all alone. She looks and I am nowhere to be seen. She cries out to me but all she sees is...a closed door...and all she hears in response to her cry is silence... 

But, because I had that monitor with me, I would even hear her even as she started to change her breathing that signaled that she was waking up. By the time she was in the middle of a breath to let our her 2nd cry I was half-way up the stairs to the room.



She also always woke up
smiling :)
When I was doing this, I would almost always picture "certain people" I had known in my life who had  told me not to pick my baby up every time they'd cry or else they'd become "spoiled" and "clingy." I often thought how disapprovingly they'd look at me seeing me springing in immediate response to my baby's first peeps. (I guess not only was I going to make them spoiled and clingy but I was letting THEM be in control of me?!) 

But, I wondered, "how would consistently always coming when my baby cried out to me make my baby clingy?" Clingy is just another word for insecure. How would consistently and promptly responding make her insecure? It seemed more to me like I would make her MORE secure because I would fill her with that confidence that I'd ALWAYS come. But, it was just a gut feeling I had and so I kept it to myself.

Then, it even occurred to me that not only would it make her more secure in ME but...by extension...it would make her more secure with God.


I just couldn't take enough
pics of her crazy hair!!!
How many times do we cry out to God and hear "silence" and see only a "closed door?" How many times do we cry out to God and see nothing happening? And, how many times do we end up feeling like He is not responding to us? He's not hearing us? He's not...coming?

If every time...day after day...over and over...as my baby's little brain was shaping it's world view...if every time she cried out when she was all alone and all she could see was a closed door...if every time I showed up responsively...what else could it train her up to believe but that God...would be doing the same thing? That when she'd pray...that though she could "see nothing happening" somewhere inside her heart she'd "just know" that God was coming?

This was when I began to step out of the closet boldly. No more hiding and pretending that I agreed with the old wives tales...because I started to do research and found out that not only was this my opinion...this was hard science!

So, back to The Guardians and the popular movie theme of inconsistent, mysterious, unreliable and unavailable gods...If me being consistently responsive to my child when she was all alone and crying out could produce a person who would someday have the confidence in God that no matter what He was hearing her and responding even when she could "see" nothing...Where would the common theme that God is mysterious, speaks in riddles, is random in appearing, is actually sorta' useless and powerless and leaves you to fight your own battles, and always leaves you alone when all is dark...come from? 


"Neurons the wire together fire together."
"Your experiences in your first few years of life lay the foundation for what you expect for all future relationships."

Back in 1997 I bought a book in a "Christian" bookstore. "On Becoming Babywise." It is a book which reportedly has sold over a million copies...and then has surely been "loaned" out to just as many. Among the advice in this book is the advice to leave babies to cry themselves to sleep...to "learn to self-soothe." And, when you read thru this book most of the advice is basically instructing the parents to be UNresponsive to the child's cues.

This book is not alone in giving this advice, either. This book was not a response to new child development research or anything scientific. The author didn't even have a college degree when he wrote the book. All this book is is recycled old wives tales that we've all heard our whole lives. When I opened this book and started to read it back in 1997 I thought it "made sense" because...I didn't know any better. It was simply agreeing with what every old wife around had told me. 

Proponents of the practice of allowing babies to cry themselves to sleep insist that the children do learn to settle themselves and "self-soothe" because...they go to sleep. Proponents of being unresponsive to children's cues insist that the parent's being in this "total control" of everything promotes security in the children. Hmmm.

But, what...have they actually learned and why?

For the child left to cry themselves to sleep they learned that they wake up and are alone and that there is nothing they can do about it. They cry out and the one "all-powerful" one in their life is not there and most of the time does not respond at all (but is actually standing outside their bedroom door in pain because they are refusing to respond to the truth inside their hearts that God put there that's telling them to pick up that baby but they are clinging to the bad teachings they've learned!). They wait and nothing happens. They cry harder and still...nothing happens or...mom comes and is detached and dismissive and tells them to settle and then leaves again. They are alone...in the dark...and they learn that they are on their own. Then, at some time which means nothing to them since they do not understand "time"...long after the battle with their fears or discomfort in the darkness has been waged with them fighting that battle on their own...the "all-powerful" one appears and is smiling and happy and actually even often wakens them from sleep. 

Infancy is when we lay the foundation for our expectations for all future relationships. It's when we are learning what to expect from life.

A baby's only "language" is contact. It's his "waa" and your response that teaches him about life. Your touch, your response, your arms and your face are how you communicate to him. And, if his "waa" sometimes gets a warm and loving response right away...and sometimes his "waa" gets darkness, loneliness and silence...

Would this communication from the parent be comforting and make them "secure"...or would this inconsistent response be confusing?

The conscious mind would find this confusing.

And, as far as babies left on their own to cry-it-out...the child's subconscious mind protects them from this confusion by dissociating and one side effect of that is: sleep. They don't "learn to self-soothe" or "learn to sleep"...they dissociate and sleep is the side effect. (Look dissociation, and also learned helplessness up. It's a sad sad process that has life-long effects!!!)

So, although the babies do sleep when their parents ignore their cries in the middle of the night...I believe that the lessons these babies actually learned shine brightest in them when they grow up and are the adults who develop characters like "the man in the moon." 

And, when I see things like this and realize how BIG this problem is in our world...it just makes me sad. :(

Churches need to stop using Ezzo's materials. Churches need to start shining that light of Jesus in how we treat our children. Romans 1 tells us that the world God created tells us the truth. Science has been digging into early child development and brain development since the 90's and has revealed to us so much about God...about how we need to raise our children to be a true reflection of Him. 

He always responds.
He never ignores us.
He always picks us up when we cry.
He always responds no matter why we cry!
He never leaves us alone in the dark.
He never leaves us to fight our battles alone.

He is our example how to live and we are to reflect Him in how we communicate to our children so that they will grow up to have faith in Him...not expect silence and abandonment from Him...

"Babywise", "Preparation for Parenting" and "Growing Kids" is definitely not God's way...




And, it was a good movie, btw :)




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