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by Sarah on March 16th, 2011

I think the best way for me to summarise the last chapter of Our Babies, Ourselves, called Unpacking the Caretaking Package, is for me to tell you what I took from it, as well as what I took from this incredible book as a whole.

A big discussion in this chapter is what is seen as normal when it comes to parenting, and I guess the answer is that there is no “normal” for the world. This is because we all come from such different backgrounds and cultures. That is why it makes so much sense to look to nature, biology and evolution for answers. That’s what every human has in common. We have all evolved along a certain path over the last few million years. Which means that all our babies expect the same things from the parent-child relationship. And it means that up until only a few thousand years ago, us parents responded in similar ways. Ways that made sense according to biology.

What is important to remember though, is that evolution isn’t perfect. We are the result of a series of compromises which have taken place. A great example is that of childbirth: babies’ heads are large, and women’s pelvises are small, which leaves human adults with a very dependent baby for a lot longer than any other mammals.

Today, how we deal with these very dependent babies, boils down a lot to what other people are doing around us. The !Kung San carry and feed continuously, Japanese parents have their children sleep with them in their bedroom until they are teens, and Westerners, who place an emphasis on independence, encourage babies to have long intervals between feeds, sleep in their own rooms, and be pushed around in strollers.

Evolution allows culture to play a role, because all that it requires is for humans to have sex, reproduce and raise children who later reproduce themselves. It gives us a lot of room to experiment, and to do what we feel is best. From a distance, humans are doing just fine. We’re reproducing, we’re advancing as a species, learning and inventing new things all the time.

But in my opinion, when you look at us closely, many cultures are getting things really wrong. Hyperactive children are put on medication from young ages, more and more adults are diagnosed as clinically depressed, war continues, the inhumane butchering of animals continues, as does an overall disrespect for our planet. Could this be an indirect result of how babies are being raised? By forcing our children to become independent from such a young age, are we creating humans who, at their very core, have lost the value of close family bonds, of their ability to be truly loved, and of compassion and affection for others?

To me, it’s a very plausible option. I can’t help but think that if we give our babies that much more love, attention and comfort, they will grow into children who have so much more love to give. Children who will become adults with so much more love to give. Adults who love each other, love animals, love the earth. Perhaps just a dream, but one which I’m willing to give my best shot at attaining. And that all starts with Lily and how I choose to parent her. What about you?

From → Books we Love

  • Jacqueline

    thanks for this post, I’m inspired to buy the book after your reviews and comments on the chapters!

  • Anonymous

    I can’t recommend this book highly enough!