A number of people have kind of touched on this, but I just wanted to point out how cultural these values are, and how pervasive the parenting beliefs were. I'm not thinking of any one on this particular thread, but I do read other people really seeming to castigate their parents (especially mothers
) harshly for their anti-AP practices. I believe that the vast majority of parents do the best they can with the resources they have at the time. In some cases, that "best" is terribly, terribly inadequate.
People had not begun to seriously question the authority or legitimacy of medical doctors dispensing advice about parenting. New mothers were cowed by the doctors' edicts and snapped to, overwhelmingly -- particularly, I think, certain kinds of mothers, like those who lived in suburbs away from the small towns or ethnic neighborhoods where they grew up and where their families still lived. The isolation was pretty stunning for suburban moms, away social support from people they'd known whose values they shared. So "expertise" was particularly sought. I also think a large number of the grandparent's generation walked into parenting with some substantial baggage from the way they themselves were raised. Dr. Spock might not have been so great but it beat the hell (use of this expression is deliberate) out of the way many of them were raised. Think about it: as AP parents, many of us know we wanted to do something different from the way we were raised, so we sought a text to help us re-imagine how childhood and parenting could BE. Lots of today's grandparents did the same. They wanted to raise their kids better than they were raised and turned to self-proclaimed experts for ideas and validation.
I would agree with the posters who questioned "instinct" -- I've always kind of felt that our real instincts are so cluttered up with messages from 30+ years of socialization that who the hell knows
what's instinct and what's, well, "programmed"? I felt really validated when I read more or less that same point recently in The Continuum Concept
. And I think that many people come from backgrounds where their first impulse -- their "instinct," arguably -- on hearing a whiny toddler might be to give the kid a smack. So I think questioning "instinct" isn't a bad thing. At least I thought that until my baby was born and I felt this incredible, primal need to be glued to him at all times, felt (okay, still feel) almost physically uncomfortable, like a junkie needing a fix when we're apart too far or too long. Hmmm, obviously I'm still kind of muddled in my thinking about "instinct"!
I wanted to echo and amplify the post from way back in this thread (I think
it was this thread, anyway) about grandparents feeling guilty or defensive in the face of AP practices. I agree that dynamic is at work. But I think there's something sadder going on as well: children who were raised with anti-AP practices missed out. But so did their grandparents. There's no do-over. I think many of them feel gypped, and wistful for all the intimacy they could have had with their children while they were small, if only they had felt "permitted" to.
My last point (sorry for this disorganized post -- I'm trying to structure it better to make it more readable, and I'm just nowhere in achieving that, I'm afraid!) is that I don't think most parents who practice CIO, Dr. Spock and the rest of it did it because they, individually, were selfish, insensitive assholes. I think many of them earnestly believed they were doing the right thing and that their child would be damaged
of they didn't do what they were doing. And here's my admission: I feel that way in many regards, too, and I did need the validation of Dr. Sears, Katie Allison Granju, Mothering Magazine
, et al not just to feel "legitimized" to do AP-ish things, but even to know what they were. I never saw anything AP-ish before I had Bleuet. It never occurred to me to co-sleep, and once I heard of it, I was pretty puzzled about why it would be beneficial. I can put myself in the place of the CIO mom who can't figure out why her baby is crying in the crib easily
So, I guess I just wrote an apologia of anti-AP parents. Not sure if it belongs in this thread. I now want to read all the books everyone else mentioned!