DSM: Re: dsm

Allan Saugstad (asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca)
Fri, 17 Nov 2000 17:04:13 -0800

I would like to offer you an essay to read that was written by my wife a few weeks ago. It
addresses the whole issue we were speaking of earlier around the attack-defend mode we
sometimes get into.

It's interesting how easy it is to damn so many things, and e-mail makes it so easy. I
wonder how many of us would state our opinions so easily in public? Anyways, it's quite
long, so ignore it if you are pressed for time, but I think it's incredibly thoughtful.



Itís precisely because the political is personally based (to me), that I would never want
anyone to hide from me or buffer their thoughts or feelings to protect me. You see,
although Iíve never experienced unowned intellect and I canít receive information through
my intellect without the oxygen it takes to keep the rest of me alive too, I want nothing
more than to have friendships where wherever you are, however you feel, itís O.K..
Accepted. Just like we try for our kids. And you canít hurt me with your perspective. And
you canít disappoint me. Yes, I will have feelings about our conversations. No, I wonít
think you caused them. Yes, I want this to happen because we will, in the end, through
honesty with ourselves and others, be closer. And I think thatís so very worthwhile.
Watching you people parent is like watching someone eat homemade gelato out of a
sweet-smelling waffle cone on a warm day. Thanks for sharing the experience.

I have been so very drawn to so many of the people I've met through L L L, the
attachment parenting meetings, and the natural learning course at Wondertree because I
sense the practiced, gentle approach of understanding and trusting, that these parents
relate to their children in. You provide inspiration that shines onto my children. I
appreciate that you offer me personally this quality of connection in your friendship
also. I share, with this same appreciation, some of my writing.


 I have personally gone through a transformation of thought recently. I'd like to share
some insight which I have encountered for myself. Let's start at the new beginning. The
whole reason I held Anya in my arms, that first night, instead of putting her in the
plastic bassinet in the hospital was because she was restless in the bassinet and
peaceful in my arms. I brought no expectation of not putting her in the bassinet. In
fact I was so excited I took pictures of her in it because it had her name, on pink paper
yet, attached. There was no argument in my mind of how good or bad the bassinet was, nor
how appropriate or inappropriate her restlessness was. I just picked her up and held her
where she was content. I was blessed to be in a time and place where I was able to offer
completely fresh trust to my child. I was lucky to have trust to offer and the courage
to will myself to do it. And I instantly felt the beautiful, enjoyable truth of
connection. The seed of my parenting relationship was offered to me in the experience of
how right it feels when I trust my children's dignity, communications, desires, and needs
as being more important than the expectations of the people around me. I have recently
been learning to trust myself in this spirit which Anya and Sophia have taught me. I am
nursing, tandem nursing, co-sleeping, and living and learning alongside my children
because in the moment, day by day, this is what has been respectful of our truth. I was
raised by a society that expected me to please, shine, avoid punishment and criticism, be
outstanding, achieve, get good grades, be judged, run fast, win the ribbons, join the
right groups, get the university education, get a good job, shine at that job, make
responsible choices, fight for the right causes... Then I had kids and lost all of that
tangible measure of how good I was doing compared to all else. The temptation is there
to find a measure of my love for my children. To do it the right way. To somehow know
that I'm a good mother. To keep score even though I'm not, as a full-time parent,
required to be in the game anymore. Even though no one is tallying points and handing
out the trophies anymore. I have noticed that one way to keep score is to clearly define
the opponents by recognizable uniforms. Another is to believe that they are plotting
against oneself with ill will so that one can feel justified in bringing out the
defense. Another is to put up goal posts: stay at home moms at this end of the field vs.
working moms at that end, parents who have it together at this end vs. parents who lose
it at that end, being in the know at this end vs. being ignorant at that end, home
learning at this end vs..institutionalizing at that end, good health practitioners at
this end vs. bad practitioners at that end, good food at this end vs. bad food at that
end, good parenting at this end vs. bad parenting at that end, anti-establishment at this
end vs. establishment at that end.

Where have we learned to play this game before? Good behavior at this end verses bad
behavior at that end. Rewarded behavior at this end vs punished behavior at that end.
The right body, cloths, status symbols, school-friends, at this end vs. being the kid
whoís the ďoutsiderĒ at that end. Did we learn to play this game so proficiently and to
cling to it so desperately that we continue to play even when the stages of our life have
completely changed the landscape? I didn't have a clue that I was still chasing the ball
about by still trying to do things "the best way," and in other ways was purposely going
to the wrong side of the field when I felt wrong in being. I still believed I was making
choices for my children based on the same criteria available to others. You know, the
ridiculous notion that a level playing field could even exist on this bumpy globe. And
even if it did exist could there really only be a few positions to play? What I have
since learned is this;

∑ If I believe I'm doing it right I must believe someone else is doing it wrong. (even
if I want to do acceptance right and so I deny that I think others are wrong)

∑ If I believe in a good way then I must believe that there is a bad way.

∑ If I believe in systems of parenting and providing learning opportunities then I do not
believe in the inherent good intent and dignity of every human being. If I trust Ferber
or Dr. Sears or the kindergarten teacher or the un-schooling friend instead of allowing
all of my own feelings, and all of my childís feelings, then I am not accepting of my own
nor my childís good intent. If I want to fix others then I probably donít accept my own,
nor their good intent. This is because I would then believe a system, or philosophy, or
policy of politics, is needed to take the opportunity of unintimidated choice away from
the human lives which are affected by them.

 ∑ When the fear of trusting all human dignity from a place of equality threatens me
because it will take away my cause, Iíve found it interesting to ask myself ďHow am I
benefitting from my cause?Ē

Cheri Huber writes "As adults we're still trying to survive our childhoods. " I'm
learning to say to myself "Wow, itís amazing how I survived my parents' parenting, my
church's preaching, my society's training, my school's grading, my universities
requirements, and my job's description. And I'm learning to say "Wow, my parents,
preachers, neighbours, teachers, professors and employers did something amazing by
surviving their childhoods. And these days I'm practising giving up internally for
myself, just what I've given up externally in order to parent my children. Iím giving up
the pressure to fulfill the expectations. And then I'm thankful to the part of myself
which brought me here. I survived, as do all, by figuring out, judging, what I should do
and shouldn't do to win security. I could judge myself for being judgmental; or, I could
realize that it is this beautiful strength of spirit, this will to sustain the gift of
life within me that all creatures share, that kept me alive.

Cheri Huber writes "The degree to which I am delighted when I am "right" is the degree to
which I will suffer when I am " wrong". If I don't need to take credit, I don't need to
take blame. " The reason it upsets me to percieve that I am being judged is that my
learning has set me up to believe in the merit of judging and I have, in some degree,
thought that way for a lifetime. That is why I take percieved judgements in and hurt
myself with them. In a few years, I will be able to leave ownership of other people's
thoughts to them. And I won't feel compelled to take them in. And here I access so much
compassion for the part of most of us, sewn in so fine it seems both invisible and
inseparable, wanting so much to be good and thinking that we must earn the right to feel
good. We don't expect that of our babies. Why do we of ourselves?

Can we afford ourselves the compassion and trust that we meet our children in? Can we
parent by our natural connection, without paying any attention to the direction of play?
Parenting in a naturally attentive present, without questioning itís merit in relation to
ďthe direction of play,Ēis like giving our children the time and freedom to play, without
questioning itís merit in relation to education. Can we live what is wonderful, alive,
interesting, comfortable, and enjoyable for us and accept that we're whole, equal,
worthy, and deserving and that we don't need to weigh it any further? Can we stop grading
ourselves? If we don't have to grade ourselves is there any need to compare ourselves
with, or even define, others? I 've challenged myself to afford myself the simple grant
of not judging the appropriateness of how I feel, just as I try to, for my kids. I am
touching but not yet holding this new understanding.

And when I stand where I need to, to touch this, I see that I don't need others to be
wrong in order for me to be right. I am understanding that, just by being a living part
of this beautiful intertwined world, I am right in being. Period. And so is everyone
else. And they are all trying on some level, by the surviving they've learned, just as I
am. And they're giving their kids what they've got to give, with the same love in their
heart that I've got for my kids.

If we breastfeed, go vegetarian, un- school, because it's the right thing to do, we do it
for our own identity. Sometimes to appease the outer judges. Always to appease the inner
judge. To score, to win, so that we will not lose. Lose our conditional worth. Then we
do it because we need to be right, responsible, kind, educated etc. to feel good enough.
Or, we need to be right in order to control the fear of what wrong would bring.
Punishment - the kind adults get: regret, emotional- revealment, isolation, pain, ill
health, death, misfortune, rejection, having kids that end up getting sick, beating the
crap out of the neighbourís kid or otherwise "going astray". But we are good enough
without doing anything. Look into your child's face and see your own. And then tell me
this isn't so. If we find ourselves breastfeeding, having a vegetarian meal, or spending
our time outside of a school, because in this moment, it is what seems compassionately
respectful for our own self, and for the beings we are attentive to in the moment,
without anxiety about the future, fears from the past, nor concern about others beliefs,
then for this time, only this particular moment now, in only our own particular life,
we're living our present truth.

 I have loved with all of the same heart that I love my own children with, many children
through day cares and schools. And I know in my held experience that those children are
as worthy and beautiful as my own. And that their parents gave of themselves, of their
hopes, love, dreams, abilities, realities, situations, pressures, and within the confines
of their self identities with precisely the same devotion to their children that I am
giving to mine. And in that very same place of personally limited, gifted and applied
caring devotion, many day care staff and teachers give. And I thank the stars, the moon,
the fire, the water, the devotion of everyone who has cared for me, that in my loot bag,
at the end of the party that got me here to my present reality, I found the enjoyment,
clarity and peace of having my children at my breast, and beside me in my care. I do not
long to be the woman, who having given all within herself, and all that is around
herself, walks to a day care or school in the dark of the morning, to hand her
childrens' day to someone else, because it is best, in the truth of her own assessment of
their life, in that moment. She doesn't have something I want to take away from her. So
why would I present to her my expectation that she give something that doesn't fit for
her to give, based on her own assessment? I've wondered; does this mean that the world
will go to hell in a hand basket if I don't draw circles around the places where I see
injustice and cruelty and then try to fix it? After all, I think, itís out of empathy
that Iíve tried to do the right thing, to fix some of the injustices. I've noticed for
myself, that what comes between my natural compassion and my children is the clutter of
feelings of isolation, hidden fears, rejection, feelings about conflicting needs in the
family, and self doubt. From this I can guess that the less pressure each parent feels
to be better than the present reality allows, the easier it it is to tap their own
inherent good intent. This is something I have observed in children too. The fewer people
there are telling them what to do, and how to do it, the closer they are to their own
intuitively connecting, uncluttered selves. My hunch is that if we felt free and safe to
live without anxiety, fear and regret, we would be more aware and attentive to our
natural connection to the earth, other people, and other beings. "When we attack justice,
cruelty, and suffering with intolerance and loathing, when we whip ourselves into doing
good by telling ourselves that we're bad when left to our own devices, we make the
mistake of believing that hatred can generate compassion and goodness. Hatred is
suffering, and can only perpetuate suffering, not alleviate it. " Cheri Huber again,
(can you guess who I've been reading lately) referring to self-hate. We have grown up in
a time and place where the natural self is not trusted and is even punished. To survive
then, we have to learn to alienate ourselves from,and hence hate the part of our natural
self which is integral to being human and yet gets us into trouble. I have experienced
this. I have also struggled with the notion that we can hate the political thoughts of
people without hating the personal.

I now can't see how it is possible to talk politically about parenting without talking
personally. No rule or philosophy or insight has ever cried much less cried it out. No
thought of protective hope has ever followed a child through the playground disattached
from a caring soul. No angry outburst has ever erupted outside of an unmet need in an
emotive being. Each cry belongs to a name. So does each hope. So does each call for
fulfillment. No notion of discipline, of appropriateness of human interaction, has ever
existed outside of a human mind, connected with a human history, making a personal human
perspective. Sure we can find a whole bunch of people who agree, discourage the company
of those who don't, and believe our philosophy exists outside of each person. But it is
still just the agreement of many personal perspectives each owned by a name. No home,
nor school, has ever existed as anything except an empty building without the spirits,
and hearts, and the learned personal perspectives of each person interacting under their
name within. Believing that politics are separate can only be empowering when people
agree because it fits their own experience. It makes one person's identity step in front
of the crazy mirror at the fair and suddenly one looks like 20. It also fills our human
need to feel accepted and this is what can be lost when the personally reflected
political, is seen as being real outside of that which makes it living. No person's
imperfect present truth fits the perfection that only ideas extracted from reality can
achieve. I'm having to ask myself then " What is more valuable? Dead perfection (the
kind of dead that never lived at that) or present living imperfection? Maybe living
imperfection is the actual definition of perfection? Perhaps there is perfection
everywhere there is life? How much of myself do I have to deaden, control, or remedy in
the pursuit of ideals? In achieving a hope of being good enough? And, with the help of
others I've started to answer the question for myself. I figure we are all glorious
living imperfection. And so I've started the celebrating, for myself, for my friends,
and for that woman on the street I don't know who's parenting out the harshness of her
learning along with her love. There's no need to wait for perfection. We can party
now. And still I will mourn for the next new soul I hear wailing, pleading, to connect
in safety. But I'll know that her parents aren't wrong. And I'll know that there's pain
in the world that can't be fixed. (Unless we stop and suspend everyones heartbeat until
we, without living, figure out perfection.) Mourn and party both.

 So I'm keeping the uniforms off my kids. And off myself. And then there wonít be an
expectation to run away from ourselves towards the goal posts. And if I don't need to
wear one then nobody else does either, because we only need uniforms if we need an
opponent to beat for fear of losing. And I've got good news. The new coaches (a great
therapist, the authors she's recommended, and Brent at Wondertree) have given me a new
seat on the bench. And from here it doesn't look like there is any other team.

We're all in this together. Just with different present realities. Our names are
different. But we are all pulled into, securely attached to, and nourished by, the same
spinning planet. Wherever weíre at, our feet are all planted on the same spinning soil.
And gravity pulls and embraces all mass with equal force.

Imperfectly Yours,


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