|November 14, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Yesterday, I decided to start day-weaning Dylan. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed it back. Then I changed it again. Maybe some more times, too. Then I started to get really upset at my lack of decision. Then I realized that most mamas have complicated feelings about weaning. So I gave myself some slack and nursed my baby.
I’ve been nursing Dylan for 17 months now. He nurses 6-8 times a day still, which means he’s still getting significant calories from breastmilk. He comfort nurses some during the night, and he nurses to fall asleep, and he still has at least two “meals” at the breast.
My reasons for thinking about doing some weaning are complicated and sad and sometimes desperate feeling. I go back and forth about whether I want to treat my mental illness/es with medication and if so, whether I want to do that while nursing.
What I settled on yesterday is that I really love breastfeeding. Sometimes when I am severely depressed it’s hard to know what I want and what’s important and what matters. Breastfeeding is all of those things, and I have no doubt about that.
Today I’m making a phone call to another potential doctor and I’ll go back and forth about whether or not to try another medication. But for now I’m still committed to breastfeeding.
|November 12, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Parenting has a lot to do with trust. You set the stage for so many things. You prepare, you explain, you suggest, you encourage, you discourage, you show and you tell. But you also trust your child to pick up on the other side of the equation, to take what you’ve offered and run with it, to be a person, and specifically to be a new person. To be an individual who has never existed before.
A lot of parents want to do more than set the stage. They want to guide their kids in a particular direction. From the day their kids are born they are pushing them to make the next milestone.
But that isn’t me.
I was excited to see when Dylan would roll over, but I never laid interesting toys just outside his grasp and encouraged him to roll towards them. No matter, he learned to roll over anyway. We never did any “practice walking” with me leading him around the house held up by his hands. No worries, he learned to walk plenty quickly! Right now I’m not doing much in the way of teaching him to say certain words. I talk to him, and I figure he’ll learn how to talk.
Even for the more milestone oriented parents, most of them don’t institute some kind of “walking program” or “sitting up training” or “first words school”. The early years are pretty educationally laid back. The years go by, and somehow your child learns to do a million things – roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, jump, run, climb, talk, point, turn the pages of a book, stack blocks, eat with a spoon, help put on clothes, pull the cat’s tail and then not – all without any kind of formal instructional effort on the part of parents.
Check out the beginning of this post, Natural Learning: One family’s story:
I have 3 daughters. Tannah, my eldest at 5, walked at almost 18 months. Willow, the middle child, walked at 10 months. And Harper, my baby who has just had her first birthday, is yet to walk-but she can climb!
I did not put Tannah in remedial walking. I was not taken aside by an expert to say that she was behind her peers and we would have to work hard to have her catch up. Willow was not in a gifted walkers program. There was no pressure on her to then perform all her milestones early to keep that “gifted” label. Harper does not have a “walking difficulty” because she is learning in a different way to other walkers.
That’s the language of schooling, of course, and many of us are familiar with that language. School is about making sure a child learns certain things and fits in certain boxes. It’s the opposite of trust. It’s control instead.
I’ve long been intrigued by unschooling. I read the blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write which is written by a person who did not go to school and is now an adult. In the post Unschooling and Trust, the author explicitly ties the two together in several different ways:
Trusting that Nature/evolution/the Divine/God/Goddess has created human beings capable of learning, capable of following their innate drive to learn, capable of making the important decisions in their lives. It’s trusting that nature got things right.
Trusting, as a parent, that you have the capability (and strength, ability, surety) to make the decision to take your kids out of school, or to never send them to school to begin with. And trusting that your children are capable people, able to learn and grow guided by their innate desire to explore the world around them.
Trusting yourself, as someone who is themselves of an age to be in compulsory schooling, to have the insight, foresight, strength and ability to take the leap of leaving school, or if your parents made that decision at an earlier point for you, trusting that you really have always been and continue to be capable of controlling your own learning, “education,” and life.
What causes us to go from the trusting days of early childhood to the controlling schoolhouse years? Some people might say that school subjects “matter” more than babyhood skills. But surely walking and talking are pretty damn important. Maybe you would say that walking and talking are “instincts”, but that doesn’t account for all the other things young children learn to do.
Right now I feel very trusting about my relationship with Dylan, his desire to learn and grow, and our ability to navigate an enriching experience together. But how long will I continue to hold onto that trust?
|October 16, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
This article of mine originally appeared on the site Write About Birth. I recently noticed that Write About Birth no longer exists, so I want to republish that article here. This was written in March 2011, three months before Dylan was born. The path his birth took differed from my imaginings, and you can read the whole birth story as well, starting here.
Planning a Freebirth Experience
I’m pregnant with my first child, and sometime in May I’ll be having a freebirth – that is, I’ll be at home, surrounded by my partner and friends with no medical personnel in sight. Freebirth, also called unassisted childbirth, is a fringe choice. I live in the US where around 1% of birthing women give birth at home, usually with a midwife. The numbers for freebirthing women are even tinier. An interesting question that arises then is what leads a woman to choose this, and more to the point, why have I chosen it?
Some women think that birthing at home is safer. The research on this is hotly debated elsewhere online, and frankly, I’m conflicted. Medical emergencies happen sometimes whether you’re birthing or not, and it seems like if we lived in a hospital 24/7, that would probably be “safer”. If everyone ate all their meals in a hospital, probably no one would ever die from choking or allergic reactions, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we do that. I don’t eat my meals at home because it’s “safer”, and I’m not birthing at home because it’s “safer”, either.
Some women choose to freebirth because of religious or spiritual beliefs. They believe that god designed their bodies to give birth easily and they trust in god’s will to get them through birth however the grand plan is intended. I’m an atheist and have no such beliefs to drive me.
Some women seek out homebirthing or freebirthing because of past trauma with the medical birthing system. They may have had a C-section that they felt railroaded into or experienced physical violations at the hands of doctors. This doesn’t apply to me, either.
In fact, some women who choose to homebirth or freebirth shy away from modern medical care entirely. They are more interested in natural remedies of healing, such as herbs, homeopathy, and other alternative medicines. I’m the complete opposite. While some women use natural remedies to boost fertility, for example, I had a LOT of modern medical help getting and staying pregnant. The one time I tried a home remedy for something, I ended up over-dosing on parsley. I’m a skeptic when it comes to natural remedies.
So if I’m not doing it because it’s safer, I’m not invested in a spiritual practice, I don’t have a negative medical experience in my past, and I’m a pretty big fan of modern medicine in general, what the hell am I doing have a freebirth?
Olivia [the owner of Write About Birth] posted recently about the often mocked “birth experience”. People who are opposed to homebirthing or natural birthing talk down about women who are seeking a particular birth experience. I loved Olivia’s point that aren’t women who go to the hospital seeking a particular experience as well? But whatever it is that you’re after, whatever your goals are, whatever leads you to give birth in the hospital, at home with a midwife, or at home alone, you’re supposed to deny that you’re after an “experience”. You wouldn’t want to appear “selfish” or overly concerned with your “comfort”. You’re supposed to have reasons like safety, trusting god’s will, or something, anything that sounds like a “good” reason.
Well, I’m here to confess.
For me, it’s all about the experience. My experience. My comfort. Giving birth is very important to me, and it matters to me what kind of experience I have while doing it. It matters who is there with me and what gets said. It matters that I feel free to be myself and am not being watched by strangers. It matters that there’s no one there guiding me in a particular way and that I’m going with the flow with only myself as a guide. Even the really supposedly petty stuff that anti-homebirthers make fun of matter to me – how dim the lights are, what music is playing, what clothes I’m wearing, and that I can sit in my favorite chair.
I’m going to be at home, with my own bed, my own bathroom, my own stuff, my partner, my friends, my cats, and my own comfortable self. Me. I just want to be myself. Giving birth will be one of the most important things I do in my life, and I do not want to hand it over to someone else. Neither the experience itself nor the responsibility that comes with it can be given to someone else. If it all goes right, that will belong to me. If something goes wrong, that will belong to me, too. Being in a hospital is a fundamentally impersonal experience, and I’m just not signing up for that.
Going back to the safety question, if giving birth at home really is just as safe as giving birth in a hospital, then that’s perfect. I’ll have given birth just the way I like with no additional risk. If even the scariest proposed numbers are true, though, then the risk to the life of the baby goes up a couple of percent, at most. To my mind, this is still small. This is still worth it. I know some people would reel in horror at me saying that I accept some additional risk to the baby. They say all that should matter is a healthy baby. And of course I care about the baby! I’ve tried very hard to have this baby, and to suggest that I don’t care about the baby is silly. But I want to remind the critics that there are two of us here, and we BOTH matter.
In the end, it’s okay if people want to call me selfish. Too often it seems like the directive of “you shouldn’t be selfish” is code for “you don’t matter”. I matter. I matter to myself very much. So, fine. It’s selfish. I’m okay with that.
This birth is MINE. It belongs to me. It is of my body. And you can’t have it. You can’t dictate how it will go or where it will occur or who will be there or any of that. It’s mine, and I’m not giving it away.
|October 15, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Dylan has gotten to the stage where he needs new, bigger cloth diapers if we’re going to continue on with cloth. I got an offer to check out a sample of Itti Bitti brand’s new one size diaper called Bitti Tutto. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to check out a new diaper possibility for Dylan as well as review it for you guys. My product review went through a few stages – the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Let’s start with the beautiful!
If you’re into cloth diapers, you know that the colorful fabrics, the soft textures, and the neat styles can really draw you in. When I first started reading about cloth diapering, I couldn’t figure out why all these parents were swooning over diapers. But, after I started getting into it I got swept along, too. Cloth diapers are neat!
When I got the Bitti Tutto, I was so delighted at how it looks and feels. The diaper I got is a gorgeous multi-color stripe. The outer minky fabric (no cover required!) is so silky soft, and the inside and inserts are super-soft as well.
The three included inserts immediately delighted me. The different shapes and the color coded snaps make sense and make this diaper stand out in it’s versitility. This is a cool diaper.
Okay, let’s talk features and quality. This is a luxury diaper, no doubt. It retails at $27, so you want a lot of quality details for that price, and the Itti Bitti comes through.
- The fit is trim through the legs, making it suitable for smaller babies and comfortable for older ones. You can use the inserts to achieve the desired absorbency rather than having a lot of bulky redundancy built in.
- The rise is adjustable to four positions. The waist is adjustable to five positions PLUS crossover snaps that hideaway if you don’t need them. This gives the Bitti Tutto incredible adjustability, especially on the tiny end.
- The diaper has leg gussets to prevent leaks PLUS the gusset goes all the way over the back, giving extra protection against poop leaks.
- The whole package is well-made with attention to detail and worthy of the luxury price.
Okay, with all that said, what could possibly go wrong? Well, it turns out the Bitti Tutto has a tragic flaw, at least for my family.
The diaper has so much adjustability for different sizes and shapes of babies. They advertise fitting babies from 8 pounds to 44 pounds. Dylan weighs 35 pounds so we should have been sitting pretty. Unfortunately, Dylan needed the biggest rise position and the biggest waist position, meaning there wouldn’t be much useful life left in them for us as he continues to grow. BUT, the worst part is that even at the biggest sizes, an inch and a half of his butt crack was sticking out. I don’t care how good the magic poop gusset is if his butt crack is showing!
So sad! All these different sizing possibilities and none that fit Dylan!
I’m in the market for a diaper system solution right now. Everything else was just right about the Bitti Tutto. If it hadn’t been for that wayward butt crack, I would invest in these right now.
Can you recommend another option that might work for us?
Or have you tried the Bitti Tutto? How did it work out for you?
Click here to buy your own Bitti Tutto diapers!
|October 8, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
When I was offered a free copy of Fed Up with Frenzy for review, I jumped at the chance. Slow parenting? Escaping the fast-moving world? Yes, that sounds just right to me. This is a book I definitely wanted to review for you guys. I don’t know if any helicopter parenting, over-scheduled types are reading me, but if you are, I wanted this chance to encourage you to slow down. And if you’re already a slower type like me, I figured this book would provide some always needed encouragement and support.
All that being said, I expected to be a little bored when it came to actually reading the book. I don’t really need an entire book extolling the virtues of slowing down. Sounds kind of dry. Would it be great to learn some supporting science and interesting to hear some on-point personal stories? Sure. But I’m already convinced, so why bother?
Imagine my delight on discovering that that’s not what this book is at all!
Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World by Susan Sachs Lipman has an introductory chapter with the personal story and bullet points and some science. And then the rest of the book tosses the facts aside and is instead a delightful recipe book for how to actually go about making this slower life you dream of.
Instead of answering the question of “Why should we slow down?” to which most of us are already acutely aware of our own answers, here you will find answers to the question, “What is slowing down made of?”
If you are looking for ways to slow down with your children or add to your already slow repertoire, this book is packed with gazillions of ideas. Learn to make things that go – trains, boats, planes, kites – from materials you already have. Find the instructions for invisible ink and making your own bubble solution. Run a lemonade stand. Go camping in your backyard. Sing songs and play games. You’ll find slow crafts, slow kitchen ideas, and slow gardening, plus simple ways to enjoy nature and the passing seasons.
Whether you are just learning to slow down or are searching for new ideas to fill your slow days, and no matter how old your kids are, you will find some neat ideas in this charming little how-to for enjoying a slower paced life.
Check out Fed Up with Frenzy for yourself, and find your own way out of the fast lane.
|September 19, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Have you seen these new baby-food-in-pouches things? Dylan tried some sample applesauces that way awhile back. He was newly excited about drinking from a straw, so drinking applesauce was a big hit. But…. I just couldn’t justify buying them. I could just buy regular applesauce.
Then I got an email about Baby Gourmet. I was offered a free sample 9 pack of flavor combo packs so that I could do this review. I’ve got to say, the flavors are what drew me in.
Have you ever seen the name of a baby food and thought, “Disgusting!” Oh, yeah, pureed peas, let’s get right on that. And then you open the package and it smells even nastier than it sounds? Yuck. I spent a lot of years as a nanny spoon-feeding babies gross food that I wouldn’t dare taste myself.
On the other hand, the Baby Gourmet flavor combos are things like Harvest Pear/Pumpkin/Banana combo, Old Fashioned Apple Crisp, and Juicy Pear/Garden Greens. They actually manage to sound edible! Turns out they are edible. Dylan likes all the flavors, and I even like the tastes of them I’ve taken.
It took Dylan a couple of tries to figure out the pouches this time around. He just wanted to squirt it all out and play in it at first. Now he’s seemed to discover that there’s yummy food in there, and he sometimes doesn’t spill a drop. The pouches are completely easy to eat from and are resealable. The only risk is that squishing will be more fun than eating.
Baby Gourmet has lots of other selling points to set them apart from some other pouch brands. All the Baby Gourmet flavors are organic with no thickeners/fillers, no added sugar, no added salt, and they’re Kosher. But the leading reason to go with Baby Gourmet is the flavors. I’m not a big fan of “hiding” vegetables to trick kids to eating them. These recipes don’t feel like that, though. They seem like genuine creations of delicious combinations. Roasted Squash/Fruit Medley? Orchard Apple/Carrot/Prune? These aren’t sneaky. They’re just tasty.
We’ve been doing baby-led weaning with Dylan. I even bragged in that post that Dylan would never have purees. Well… I know these pouch foods are basically baby food in a bag. And I always said I wouldn’t buy baby food. But… they’re yummy! And Dylan likes them! Hard to say no to that.
The truth is that Dylan is getting a little tricky to feed lately. He’s wanting food instead of breastmilk more and more, and he sometimes gets really hungry. But there aren’t a lot of things that he likes, can eat himself, and can eat fast enough and competently enough to fill him up. So surprisingly, these pouches take on a welcome role in giving him new enjoyable tastes while still letting him be in control of feeding himself.
Have you tried Baby Gourmet or another pouch food with your kids? What did they think? What do you think?
|September 17, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
One of my jobs as the parent of a small child is to pay attention to the things Dylan wants to do and declare whether or not he gets to do them.
YES or NO, I decree.
This is a great and heady power.
It would be so easy to default to NO. Chances are, whatever he wants to do will make a mess, risk injury, or bore me to tears.
A casual NO, a default NO, a careless NO has an effect on Dylan. NO is restrictive, controlling, closing off, and NO so easily becomes no no no no no no no no no.
I try to push for YES. I push past my own boundaries, shallow preferences, and reflexive rejection.
YES you can make messes that take me mere seconds to clean but that build a sense of creativity and exploration that will last you a lifetime.
YES you can take some physical risks, because I’ll be here to catch you or to comfort you if I don’t, and that has value, too, while turning away from the risk of life isn’t valuable at all.
YES, I will help you with things that bore me, annoy me, and “waste my time”, because holy shit this time is so short, so valuable, and too amazing to fill it with NO.
If I’m going to say NO, I’m going to have a damn good reason.
Somewhere along the way, I picked up the phrase, “Yes, unless…” The idea is that the answer is always yes, unless I can come up with and state a good reason why not. YES is my default.
That’s the ideal, anyway.
In reality it probably sounds more like my default is, “No. Oh. Well…. I guess so.” It’s just so easy to jump in with a NO, that I still say it a lot.
I catch myself pretty quickly, though, and so we move farther into a life of YES.
(Here’s Dylan doing one of those messy, annoying things. This is the day he discovered the shelf with the flour on it.)
|September 12, 2012||Posted by Issa under Blogging, Parenting|
I love writing publicly, which I can easily tell by the fact that as soon as I discovered online writing (LiveJournal, circa: back-in-the-day) I almost entirely stopped my private journalling and have been thinking out loud on the internet ever since. I get a HUGE satisfaction from having an audience, from getting comments, from seeing my stats, etc.
“Lifestyle” bloggers, the sort of niche-less catchall category into which I fall, are the ones I see mocked most often (well, there’s the scrapers, but I don’t even count those). We’ve got big egos, I hear. We just like the sounds of our own voices. We think we’re awesomesauce. Well, yeah. I agree with all that. I DO love the sound of my own voice, and I DO love my own writing. I blogged for years with none-to-few comments. I love knowing there’s an audience out there, but I don’t require a ton of feedback. I do, in fact, just love talking about myself.
Many of the things I write are advice, which is a certain kind of writing. It’s a kind that must, by definition, involve a receiver. Someone must be being advised. I definitely appreciate it when someone enjoys my advice or finds value in it or makes changes based on it.
But another awesome thing happens as well. Since I like my writing, and I like my ideas (obvs!), and I work so hard to get my ideas down into manageable chunks, I am able to give myself advice.
Because, you see, I’m not always the same person from day to day. My moods change. My priorities shift. Especially as a person with depression, I can forget things that are really important when I get lost in Everything Sucks Land.
Just this past couple of weeks, I’ve had a really hard time with Dylan and with sleep. He’s been nursing almost constantly through the night. I was tired. On good days, tired is okay. On depressed days, tired turns me into cranky, bitchy Issa, which is not a great combo with a sweet baby who just wants to be close.
Fortunately, I had just written the post Good News and Bad News About Childhood Stages, and it was fresh in my mind. I’m able to tag back to that advice in my mind and take my own word for it that this stage will be over before I know it.
I have other bloggers and writing I look to for advice, as well. There’s a yahoo group I belong to that really improves my parenting. Ariadne at Authentic Parenting writes amazing posts that are just what I need.
And it’s also just really nice to have this own record of my own thoughts so I can be there for myself when I need to be reminded of what I think matters.
|September 5, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
In 2008, I moved into a van and I started blogging. I named that first blog Holding The Empty. That was a strange turn of phrase, and I was frequently asked to explain the name. Here’s what I posted in explanation (slightly modified):
I started this blog when I decided to move into my van. Moving into the van was an odd decision for me, made on impulse and with a desire to “give up” on certain aspects of my life more so than a specific desire to live in a van. Trying to decide what to name the blog dovetailed with thinking about my motivations for moving into a vehicle.
Here’s what I came up with.
Our culture tells us that we need to have goals. We need to be doing, growing, gaining, getting, and always in the process of being something else.
You’re in high school? What are your plans for college?
You’re in college? What job field are you going into?
You’re dating? When are you getting married?
You live in an apartment? Are you going to buy a house?
You’re married? When are you planning to have kids?
You bought a two bedroom house? What will you do when the kids arrive?
You’re an assistant manager? Are you going to be promoted soon?
It’s October. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?
Oh, cute baby! When are you planning your next?
When are you going to lose those extra pounds?
Are you up on the latest green activities you’re supposed to be doing?
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Oh, and by the way, do you have the new car, the big screen TV, the latest cell phone, the trendy religion, the right length skirt for this year, coordinated living room decor, the right teeth whitening products, new shoes, the latest bestselling novel, and are you volunteering often enough?
The main theme that I hear with this is that your life is supposed to be full. Full of plans and goals, full of the right this and that, full of meaning, theoretically, and also full of stuff.
I’m not interested in necessarily denying the value of having certain things in your life, but I wonder if we are collectively denying the value of just not. Have we left any space that isn’t full? And if we haven’t, where will we put the things that come along that could truly add value to our lives? Someone needs to mind that space. There needs to be room for empty.
I think of myself as holding that empty space, at least for myself. I’m making room for other possibilities by denying the drive for fullness. My own life has certainly been overly cluttered, mainly with the expectations of other people – expectations that aren’t in line with my true values. I’m not sure I even know my true values, because there’s simply been no room for them.
Living in my van and having no real job isn’t exactly a goal or a path for me. It may not be what I’m doing a year from now. I honestly have no idea what I want from my life right now, and I’m just giving myself permission to do that. To not buy things. To not have aspirations. To not make plans. To not have any idea what I want or how I’m going to get it.
I’ve tried holding the fullness, clinging to it, really, and I don’t think I was ever better off for it.
For now, I’m holding the empty.
I’m no longer holding the empty in my own life. I own a house! And a truck. And, at last count, 16 animals. And I have a child, of course, which makes a great big fullness in my life. But curiously, my parenting of Dylan involves holding another kind of empty.
Especially when he’s so little and new and dependent on us, I want to create and protect a physical, emotional, and spiritual space in which he can do what he needs to do and feel what he needs to feel. We have to do that for him, because he can’t do it for himself yet; he doesn’t have the freedom or authority to surround himself with the people or information he chooses, select or significantly alter the physical space where he lives, or even just decide he wants to bake some cookies because he feels blue and self-indulgent one night.
I want to be careful not to throw my weight around and unthinkingly wield my considerable privilege as an adult, because I know that his emotions and perceptions right now are just as real and valid as my own. Regardless of what our culture says, a child isn’t an inconveniently not-yet-finished adult but a whole person … even if he needs more help than I do.
But I try to remember that if someone simply refused to let me do what I wanted to do or go where I wanted to go, or served me a meal I didn’t choose and didn’t feel like eating, or wouldn’t let me have food or a drink when I was hungry or thirsty, or physically restrained or moved me against my will, or ignored me, or locked me in my room because they didn’t like the emotions I was expressing, or took one of my belongings away from me … that would make me feel really frustrated and out of control, and in some cases downright frightened. Holding the space sometimes means not doing those things because we can find another, less invasive, way.
It’s important to me to acknowledge that Dylan is a real person, right now. He will also grow and change over time, and I see my parenting role as making room for that.
I’m good at pushing back against the expectations of our progress-oriented world. In 2008 it led me to sell all my belongings and move into a van. It’s nice that that same drive serves me well in parenting as well.
It’s not my job to impose a bunch of restrictions and expectations on Dylan or to let the world pressure him with its demands of progress and growth.
It is just my job to hold an empty space big enough for him to stretch out in.
Whatever Dylan wants to do, whoever he wants to be, I will make room for him here in this world.
|September 3, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
A couple of weeks ago on the Unconditional Parenting (UP) discussion group that I moderate, the terrible dangers of cell phones on kids was brought up. One parent mentioned that parents these days felt pressured to give young kids cell phones. I said I didn’t feel pressured about it. Rather, I’m looking forward to Dylan having his own cell phone! I love my technology and don’t fear it in Dylan’s life. Other parents see things quite differently.
Shortly after that conversation, I received an offer to get a free copy of the book Raising Generation Tech by Jim Taylor, PhD so I could do this review. Dr Taylor has written several other books, including Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You, and as a parenting and psychology expert he blogs for popular websites and appears on news shows. On the heels of that UP discussion, and as Dylan gets more and more interested in the technology around him, Raising Generation Tech popped up at just the right time!
Right off the bat, Dr Taylor makes a distinction between authentic popular culture and synthetic popular culture. I was resistant to this distinction because I don’t want to just reject current popular culture because it’s current and I’m increasingly not. Isn’t it a cliche that parents are always worried about “kids these days”? You can find texts from centuries past moaning about the perils of popular culture. I hate to fall into that trap. On the other hand, Dr Taylor makes the case that because of our fast-pace, broadcast-to-millions technology what we think of as popular culture is not really “popular” but instead comes to us from a limited number of materialistic, capitalistic companies. “Popular culture” these days is advertising. It’s important to pay attention to what we’re being sold. Some of the potentially alarming things that Dr Taylor mentions don’t concern me at all. Kids listing god/heaven last on a list of important things? I approve! On the other hand, the sexualization of very young children is a big concern of mine.
I appreciate Dr Taylor’s attempt to not be alarmist about technology itself. Other books demonize the hardware, such as The Plug-In Drug, which argues that the evils of television are inherent in the machine. Instead, Dr Taylor talks about how it’s not the tech that’s the issue, it’s the particular relationship your child and your family develops with the technology. This can be difficult when parents and kids can view and approach tech so differently, but it’s important not to increase that rift by attacking the equipment itself. Dr Taylor promotes setting a good foundation for your kids’ use of technology.
Raising Generation Tech dives into the potential positive and negative effects that technology can have on kids’ self-identities, self-esteem, thinking, decision making, relationships, health, and more. Dr Taylor gives each aspect of kids’ lives a multi-faceted look and presents research to help fill out the picture of how technology and popular culture interacts with these different parts of life. Since these aspects rely on values and judgements, I suspect that most people will find some disagreement with Dr Taylor’s conclusions. I cringed every time he tossed around “obesity” in the health section, for instance. And I disagreed with much of what he said about what makes positive relationships, because I have experience with people with disabilities that make them less able to benefit from traditional, face-to-face relating.
That being said, it doesn’t matter if you agree with each thing in this book or even most of them. What matters is that this is an important topic worth exploring, and Raising Generation Tech does an excellent job of leading the way for that exploration. There are many practical tasks offered to help you think through your own values and the effects of technology on your kids, and you will come away from reading with a greater understanding of yourself, your kids, the world you are navigating together, and the technology you’re using to do it.