Thursday, January 16, 2014. I SO WISH this body of information was available in book form but so far it isn’t —
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
By Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate M.D.
A dear friend let me listen to his copy of the expensive version available in dvd format. If you do an online search for Dr. Gordon Neufeld you will discover a vast body of important attachment-related information that points to the many flaws in current attitudes toward caring for children as well as extremely helpful and hopeful information guiding concerned people on “how to fix it!”
I bring this up this morning because I am holding my breath on one of the approaches I am determined to retain (for now) in how I am caring for my 18-month old grandson. I am FEEDING HIM! My daughter, I can tell, is not enthusiastic about my determination to retain what Dr. Neufeld calls “being alpha over food.”
From a practical standpoint living in this small apartment I don’t want to deal with the mess of rapidly discarded food from the table that flies through expert baby flings anywhere but into his mouth. I do not want to deal with an extra carpet of smashed cracker crumbs and lose cereal all over my floors. I don’t want to argue about any of this. I don’t want to spend one split second worrying about whether or not this little one is getting enough of the right kind of food down his gullet. In his LONG day away from his home and parents and brother — as is true Dr. Neufeld points out for so many little people in today’s world — my grandson’s reliance upon me to be alpha over his food is going to HELP and NOT harm him, although my daughter questions this.
Doesn’t he need to “practice” feeding himself?
We know perfectly well he CAN get his food into his mouth in a coordinated manner — when he wants to. I am not convinced that when the food goes airborne that it has anything to do with being full or with not liking a certain taste. I think the risk is that other emotions related to stress in his life just appear in that arena out-of-place as they literally “mess up” our shared life.
Dr. Neufeld describes how forcing our little ones to become self-sufficient and independent when they are TOO YOUNG is interfering with their ability to live in a safe and secure world provided for them by their attachment adults. Littles MUST be dependent and NOT alpha during the stages when that is what nature intends for them.
One part of the problem is that if little people can not experience their dependent state appropriately and feel their dependency feelings in safety Dr. Neufeld says that they will cease to grow their compassion circuits (my short version of his very detailed accounts of these processes).
When it comes to food it is through the toddler years especially that caregiving adults can maintain their “safety and trust” alpha powers over young children. Having understood my version of what Neufeld is saying (and being unable to pick up a book and flip to those pages) I am flying by instinct. I watched my grandson who is OF COURSE able to hold his bottle while being rocked before his morning nap LET GO of his bottle yesterday. Every time he has done that in the past I have taken that action as he hands the bottle to me to mean he is finished with the portion he wants to consume.
Yesterday I tried an experiment. I held the bottle and touched its nipple to his lips — he relaxed and drank the rest of it. It made me think of when I breastfed my own children, the 3rd until he was 26 months.
The breast is not something little ones are responsible for holding to their lips. The amount of relaxation they can feel is then much greater than it is when they have to hold their own bottle. Certainly as old as my grandson is none of this is about independency or manual skills. It is about dependency in a safe and secure attachment environment with his alpha people!
It is about being dependent at an age when it is appropriate and NECESSARY for his development — at those times when encouraging that dependency is NOT interfering with the rest of his growth process. We do NOT need to worry about that!
I do not wish to do battle with a young child or to overrun their developing self. I think there is a line of pretty perfect balance that can be SENSED by a caregiver — a kind of tipping point that can be felt and then acted upon regarding the natural need for dependency that will allow infants and children to grow into optimal health all through their developmental stages. I am sensitive to the feelings within my grandson at the same time I am sensitive to the feelings within myself.
If mealtimes are stressful it is up to me to find the effective pathways of least resistance. Eating is not gametime. It is not fight time. It is time — in a shared social context — to participate in the ancient task of consuming nutrients to sustain a body.
Consuming food has always been a social-system related process for our social species. When we — as we – break that link between self and others regarding our food patterns in a profound way we are replacing the comfort of social connection with the supposed “comfort” of the food we consume.
It is pretty obvious where THOSE patterns are getting us as a nation. Is it as obvious where most of them came from?
With maybe one hour of chaotic exhausted family time when everyone gets home during the week who has time to cook a good balanced nutritious meal — let alone to eat one? Without THAT food available baby cannot eat right, either.
I don’t cook anymore and baby won’t patiently chew up my salads. I don’t have the food at my apartment to cook for his family and my talent has evaporated, anyway. Jar food is what I am asking for on my end for now — and NOT the kind stuffed with pasta and rice (which I accidentally picked out the other day while shopping with my daughter ’cause I was after the cutest animal pictures on the Gerber lids – which make great toys!). Just vegetables and meat and a bit of fruit.
Baby can be picky. One day he loves bananas. The next day they are stimulus for face-scrunching head-turning howling exercises. No thanks! Same with fresh apples.
Baby just arrived for the day. Strapped into his little booster chair I sang him songs and spoonfed him very soupy sweet potatoes from a jar. He made it 3/4s through and then suddenly – DONE!! Well, he is all tidy and satisfied, down and off carrying new Pamper diapers around in each hand because ELMO-MO-MO is on them as he heads toward his plastic handheld mirror toy. Seeing himself in that mirror literally cracks him up with giggles!
Oh that he can feel that way about himself for the rest of his life!!
NOTE: Any time I write a post like this I am reminded of the currents of thought I have about what it was and is like for infant and early childhood abuse survivors. Many received NOTHING of what we needed and in fact received the OPPOSITE. I marvel at “HOW did we survive?”
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