I read a good analogy that explains some of the absurd propositions put forward by these ‘professionals’. It asked us to consider a parallel between early child rearing and residential care for the elderly. The author points out that looking after the aged, specifically the mentally and physically infirm, which I suppose equates best with a new born child, can be trying. Care homes up and down the country are full of tired nurses working throughout the night to ensure that those under their care wake up and go to sleep feeling safe and happy. The way this is achieved is varied. There are small things and big things, but none are trivial. It might be something as simple as holding a hand as sleep takes over or responding to a buzzer in the middle of the night to reassure an elderly woman as she prowls the corridors disorientated and frightened or helping a gentleman to the loo to safeguard his dignity or to simply listen to stories for the nth time because it gives a measure of comfort and relief from the compromised state in which life is now lived. The author asks us to then imagine that these nurses are told that after consultation with academics and social workers that new guidelines suggest that it is better to leave these individuals to self soothe. It is even suggested that to do otherwise would be detrimental to future well-being. Okay, the analogy falls down here a little bit. After all, the idea behind leaving a child to self soothe, for example, is purportedly to enable the development of independence and give them the tools to detach and maturate more successfully (I must confess I’m not sure how absence equates to knowledge). Over attentiveness is deemed counter-productive, to be considered in some way as stifling or inhibiting (in this case delaying independence and detachment). Considering the two are in some ways equally vulnerable this disparity seems an odd one. What are we to deduce from this? That such attention has diminished value at the extreme beginning of our lives. Why else would we leave a person to cry for eight or twelve hours? There is a reason we respond to the distress of the infirm. We do so because they cannot help themselves. Rob me of my ability to get up in the middle of the night after a wretched dream or in response to a troubled mind to find solace. Tell me to stay in bed in the dark and scream to the walls. Tell me to repress the instinct to turn to a loved one and seek out their hand in reassurance. Tell me I’m alone and there is nothing I can do or say to change that and I might very well go mad.
To all of those who would disagree I say bah and bah again. There are times in life when these things are needed most. They remind all of us that we are sentient social beings capable of giving and receiving love and perhaps the only reason any of our lives make any sense. Who on earth gave these self-professed experts the audacity to suggest that in the interests of some invented notion of independence I should do anything other than respond? I’m not going to tell you that studies have shown that babies who have a strong psychological bond in childhood are more capable of healthy detachment in later life. This, true as it may be, it irrelevant. It’s not my (please insert expletive) business to get in the way of your relationship with your child. If I want to lie with my child at night until he or she falls asleep, because that’s what they want, then I’ll soddingly well do it. A few minutes to me means the world to them. We all know that. And if they creep in on me while I’m asleep because some dream monster has just scared them silly, then I say clamber aboard. I’m not about to send my child away because they’ve had the crazy idea that I represent safety, love and reassurance. I say, Aye Aye Captain, where shall we set sail? Okay, maybe I’m Peter Panning this thing a little bit. After all, kids in the bed can be sweaty, fidgety bundles of hair pulling insomnia inducing craziness, but I guarantee you, once that time is gone they’ll be moments when you would sell everything you have to get it back again. Listen to the slow swell of that little chest and tell me it’s not the best thing you ever heard. You watch that bundle roll over and reach for the curve of your neck where it reaches for the chin and…okay, so that’s me. But you have your own thoughts in the middle of the night. These are your thoughts and your babies. It’s not brave to leave them to cry. Liberate yourselves from the tyranny of opinions. You love your kids, you want the best for them. I think it’s time we start trusting our guts a little more.