Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Evolutionarily Appropriate Parenting

I'm fascinated by genetics and epigenetics (environmental factors that affect how genes are expressed), I think mainly because they are a link connecting us to our ancestors and all the ancient wisdom they were attuned to.  Our genes have expectations for us before we are even born.  They expect we will live in an environment with plenty of light, so we grow eyes.  They expect that we will walk on two legs and our body structure is set up accordingly.  They expect us to develop language, tools, and culture.  They also have expectations for how we will be cared for in our incredibly long and arduous stages of baby and childhood.  From all the information I have gathered about this, it seems some of our genetic expectations for child rearing (what I've dubbed "Evolutionarily Appropriate Parenting"/EAP) are:
-breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years
-kept in close body contact (at birth the baby should be constantly in bodily contact with a caretaker
            [does not have to be the mother], and then it can gradually lessen as baby starts exploring it's
            surroundings, but it should never be cut off completely.  Even adults need bodily contact with
-baby sleeping next to caretaker
-children learning things contextually and at the appropriate time
-group of adults and adolescents looking after a child ("It takes a village")

The last one is key and it does not fit in at all with our 21st century American lifestyle.  By placing so much emphasis on independence and individuality in our culture, it is now incredibly difficult to rear children in a evolutionarily appropriate way, the way our genes expect.  So, I totally get why most people don't do it this way anymore.  At times I question my sanity for trying to do all these things, but these are things I can't unlearn.  I've already taken the red pill, so to speak.  But I do think this is one reason that media (tv, computer, movies) is so entrenched in the lives of kids in our modern age.  It offers not only a relief for the primary caretaker, but it offers the additional stimulus children would be otherwise receiving from other people.  So, I really don't have any answers here.  I can only try to find a balance between EAP and living with fulfillment and gratitude in our current culture.

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