The Poetry of Parenting

...can be shocking.


Parenting is an emotional business. Poetry is the literary perambulator of emotion. It's no surprise, therefore, that many who write about parenting cannot resist the temptation to adorn their writing with poetic flourishes designed to elicit the reader's most powerful sentiments about the "special bond" between parent and child.

Consider this passage from Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., one of the titans of the "attachment parenting" school. 

"To help explain attachment, I like to use the metaphor of filling and refilling a cup. The primary caregiver is a child's reservoir, a place to start from and return to, in between explorations. The child's need for attachment with them is like a cup that is emptied by being hungry, tired, lonely or hurt. The cup is refilled by being loved, fed, comforted and nurtured." 

Maybe the milk in my cup is tainted, because I'm a little nauseated. I have nothing against Dr. Cohen. His book may indeed be well-researched and his techniques sound. I just wouldn't know. I read something like this and my brain shuts down. I have no patience for this kind of sappy rhetoric. 

Usually, that is.

The other day I came across an article that I found both helpful and moving. It's called "Life, Love and Lethal Dosage," and it's from one of my favorite magazines, Parenting for the Distracted Academic. Here's an excerpt:

To help explain attachment, I like to use the metaphor of a lab rat--or mouse, depending on the shape of the child's face. He came into this world shriveled and blind, with a tail. That tail represents the bond of love between you and your little squeaker. You can grasp that tail as hard as you want, but it will not break. This love-bond allows you to lift him out of danger, pull him close for a hug, and shift his posterior around until he's pointed in the right direction. 

Eventually, however, you will have to let go of that tail. (I'm talking about your physical hold--you never have to let go in your heart.) 

Life is a journey, a journey through a maze. You can share that journey from the front door of the cage over to the maze itself (make sure you keep a firm grip on that tail, they do so like to squirm). But you cannot enter the maze with him. Your duty as a parent is to help your child learn to navigate the twists, turns and dead ends of life under his own power. You're also way too big to climb in.

From birth you have prepared your scurrying little wonder for this moment. You have shared your dreams, values, faith and fondness for cave-aged gruyere with him by speaking in soft, soothing tones, singing, reading and holding up scratch-and-sniff flash cards redolent with the nutty, savory scent of his ultimate aspiration. You have imbued him with a sense of confidence and conditioned him to make good decisions, follow his better instincts and not be distracted by the false promise of processed dairy products, which are neither nutritious nor delicious.

Finally the big day arrives. You place Mr. Scampers in the starting box, gently scratch behind his ears and lift the gate. Off he goes! 

But your work is hardly done. This is when your child needs you the most, though he may not know it. No doubt he will make mistakes and stray from the right path. Fortunately, as your young one embarks on his explorations, maybe even losing sight of you, you still have the ability to herd him with the help of a special "love language" that you have spent years perfecting. 

Your vocabulary includes computer-generated auditory signals in a variety of pitches, flashing lights and an electrically charged "care collar" remotely connected to a master control panel fed by a hospital-grade 220v AC electrical mains supply (grounded, don't forget). 

Every flip of the "nurture switch" or twist of the "reassurance dial" lights up his neural pathways, triggering cognition, memory and reflection (to the extent his lentil-sized brain allows). Every time he strays he will feel the corrective caress of your gentle hand--metaphorically speaking, of course. You'll want to avoid actual skin-to-skin contact for obvious reasons.

Every child is a unique product of nature and nurture. Observing and documenting his special qualities is one of the most rewarding duties of parenting. This also means that no two love languages are exactly alike. 

However, there are certain parameters that apply to every child. Voltage can range from 150-450 (the "sweet spot" as determined from the Milgram experiments of the early 1960s). But please keep the pulses in the 10-15 miliamp range. Remember, it's the volts that jolt, but it's the amps that kill!

Parenting is a long, hard road fraught with frustration, exhaustion and chronic lack of vitamin D (it's best to keep the shades drawn so your work is not affected by variations in natural sunlight). But it is also the most rewarding job we can undertake as human beings. As your little one gets closer and closer to his goal, your heart will swell with pride knowing that your meticulous regulation of voltage, amperage and duration of "zap" helped him get there.  

You will feel even better knowing that your child's successful exploration of the mysteries of life's maze means he'll still be alive to watch you receive that "Parenting Ph.D."  for all your hard work. 

Happy Parenting!

Copyright 2013 Paul J. Rasmussen