Monday, July 29, 2013

Change (Part 1)

Change, when it comes to people, happens every second of the day and is inevitable. And I would assert that humans are the most common and powerful agents of change there are, on themselves and on each other. Going a step further, parents are the most influential players shaping the changes occurring in children.

tkWhether we like it or not, we decide everything for them in the beginning. Remember breast vs. bottle? And it goes on from there. We make those choices with love and determination, a kind of thoughtfulness that looks at the present and into the future. We choose their playmates, their schools, their extra activities, where they live, what kinds of food they eat, what they are exposed to both physically and mentally; all with the hope that our choices will somehow help our children to become whatever our personal idea of a good (well-adjusted, successful, insert your own word here) grown-up is.

Now, when we talk about trying to change someone we need to break that down into smaller chunks. Like are we talking change as in having a big ole’ strawberry birthmark removed from the middle of your baby’s face? Or are we talking about not feeding the boys Froot Loops for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day because it isn’t nutritious for them? Or is it purchasing the braces the orthodontist recommended or not buying the Nerf gun because you don’t let your kids play with weapons?

Am I getting where I am trying to go? Do you see the difference between change and change, and change? Change for the sake of beauty, health, academic success, personal beliefs, or... Do you see the difference between change that is orchestrated and change that is incidental? Do you see how intertwined it all can be?

Those changes that we (and others) introduce constantly to our children create the physical and psychological structure of their body and mind, and the meaning they attach to themselves and their world—in most cases for their lifetime. We give them the world we want them to have and we teach them how to understand it. We help build their multifarious skill sets and their schema for filtering life.

We change our children, that is what we do. There is no getting around it.

And it is ok. Because if you didn’t change your children—just imagine you were magical and had that choice—you’d be a crappy parent. (Of course if you change them for the worse because you suck at being a decent human, then that too makes you a crappy parent.)

So when we talk about changing our children, maybe what we mean is that we are trying to figure out when or how it is ok to change them more, or less, or in different ways than the prescribed cultural norm, or the counter-cultural norm, or the norm you think is the norm. When you have a child who is born outside that imaginary norm, the questions surrounding change become even more complex and more confusing.

Even when you have a baby with a difference like say, Down syndrome, you still exert change on that baby every day of its life. So the question becomes not if you will change your child, but why and how you will do it.


Extranjera said...

For me the word change doesn't go very far in catching all of what you're discussing here. I personally prefer to differentiate between 'raise' and 'profoundly alter in order to attempt to adhere to a societal convention', as in if my kid doesn't say please I'm going to try to tell her to do so repeatedly and explain to her why it would be cool and 'fitting' to do so, but I'm not going to get it tattooed on her forearm so that she will never forget. Make sense?

I swear this makes total sense in my head ;-)

TUC said...

That was the point I was trying to get to, that raising our children is made up of a zillion little (and some big?) changes that we willingly, accidentally, thoughtfully, thoughtlessly, etc. act upon them at every turn.

So now yes, realizing that the next steps are to classify which changes and methods are acceptable for what reasons. A very personal thing, and yet it has communal ripples.

Unknown said...

I hear you on this Sandra. I actually believe quite strongly in cultural construction theory so for me it's problematic to think about changing some essential nature as I'm not sure if there is even a thing as "essential nature."

Thus my objections to some treatments to restore "cognitive" ability etc has little to do with not changing who my child is. But that's another topic yes?

The thing I would add is that change is vital but I try to encourage a change that makes my child a better person in terms of their relationships with others. I'm hesitant about changes that make them better able to fit into the category of "normal." I also am aware that there are many changes that I won't be able to control nor will my children be able to control.

Hope I make sense this late at night:)

krlr said...

This is exactly why I have a hard time grasping the ableism/anti-therapy debate (though I gather you're aiming at the more profound (gene) changes?). I'm trying to get it, I swear, and I might be unfairly mushing the two together, but if at one end of the spectrum we have "natural", and if we really, REALLY embraced natural, then my kids would eschew forks & plates and clothes and reading... some days I suspect we're just one napkin away from Lord of the Flies. So when we make these choice as parents, for example to teach our child to read and, let's say, it takes a little bit more work than "normal", maybe even 3x the work and some special flashcards or even a tutor or reading specialist, is that ableist? Reading isn't really a "natural" thing to do, anyway. How is that different from working extra hard on walking or getting OT to use said fork? I understand that the "norm" is undefinable & maybe the issue & concern is motivation?? I think forks are good because little hands are little petri dishes of pestilence & it's less laundry for me after - that seems reasonable, but encouraging forks because OMG, what will everyone else THINK! seems bad. Obviously a small example but the same agruement can be reapplied.

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