Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rational Nursery - Part 1

The outer world you create for yourself is a reflection of your inner world.

If your home is a chaotic mess, your life and thinking are probably similar. If your home is an energy sapping vortex of unfinished projects and broken things... your life and thinking are probably similar.

An objective look at the space-you-call-yours will reveal how clear you are on your values and priorities, what you think you are doing with your life (time), what are you really doing and whether or not you are trying to do more than you possibly can. 

The outer world you inhabit also helps to create your inner world.

The way you set up your home influences your actions. For example, giant homes with tons of storage space will encourage you to buy more stuff, putting a television in every room will encourage more television watching, etc..

If you design your home consciously so that your very space encourages and requires the behaviors you want, your home will become an aide in the accomplishment of your goals. "An ordered home means an ordered mind," wrote Karen Kingston in Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. "Whatever your personal situation, it is important to get organized so that the mundane level of your life supports you."

This is even more true of the space you create for your baby. Shall his room be a place to do work or to be entertained--will it encourage him to do things or sit and watch? Will his room be sized for your convenience or his--will his space encourage dependence or independence?

Modern nurseries, whether intentionally or not, create dependence, short attention spans and passive, entertainment-focused people. Stuffed with cribs, chairs, bookshelves, massive changing stations and swings, the room isn't designed for a baby at all. It's designed for an adult to do things to a baby: get the baby up, change the baby's diaper, feed the baby, read to the baby, play games with the baby, etc. When Mom is tired of keeping the baby happy, she hands him over to a machine-mom: things that light up, make noises, rock, talk, have heart beats, etc. At no point is the baby deciding for himself what to do, entertaining himself or taking pleasure in using his mind. Since he is not permitted to do for himself what he is capable of doing, he never learns that he can. He only learns to be entertained.

The mom in this scenario has devoted herself to keeping her baby entertained and when she can't take it anymore and desperately wants her bundle of joy to leave her alone, she feels immense guilt. She thinks something is wrong with her rather than what she has been told parenting should be. Maybe she will conclude what most people conclude: that any job is more fun than the job of raising children. She will look forward to the day she can hand her kid over to a government school and escape the torture she doesn't want to admit she is experiencing. Perhaps she will start thinking that the government should provide "free daycare" (government-parenting) starting at the age of two....

Rational Nurseries, on the other hand, create an entirely different way of life.

Imagine an empty room. There is a window with sunlight streaming in and trees blowing in the wind outside. The room has a virgin wool carpet on which the baby can practice rolling and then scooting and crawling. In one corner, it has an organic cotton mat, only an inch thick, where the baby can sleep. The only toys in the room are things like handkerchiefs and wooden spoons, toys that are inactive until a baby brings them to life. There is a gate at the door--the room is a giant playpen. This is a room designed for a baby.

In this kind of room, when your baby is first born he will lay around staring out the window for long periods of time. He will also stare at the wall, anything you hang on the wall and the handkerchiefs that you have "stood up" within an arms reach of him. When he is tired, he will zone out at the ceiling.

After a few months and a lot of concentration, he will be able to reach for the handkerchief and eventually grab it. He will make that square piece of cloth fly through the air. He will touch it, feel it on his face, taste it and cuddle with it. "You will be amazed at how many different ways and for how long even a very young baby can manipulate such a scarf," said Magda Gerber in Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect.

After a few more months your baby will spend his days working on turning over and then scooting and crawling. He will have ample space to do this work and plenty of baby-safe toys all around the room that he can get on his own.

Your baby doesn't need your help to learn how to reach and grab, scoot, crawl or walk. He doesn't need you to "motivate" him. He doesn't need toys that dance or sing to distract him from the work that he will want to do if left to his on devices. He will create his own goals and work to accomplish them--like that wall across the room that he absolutely must check out. Because you have never distracted him by moving him from here to there, from this toy that vibrates to this toy that sings, he will be comfortable in his own skin, in his own mind, with his own self. He will be quite the scientist! Whether manipulating a toy or staring at a shadow, he will be on the brink of a great discovery and you will respect him enough to not interrupt.  Alison Gopnik, who wrote the The Scientist in the Crib says to imagine you are an American traveling in India for the very first time--the sights, smells, sounds, everything you touch and taste--it's all new to you. You don't need any entertainment or "stimulation". The world is stimulating enough.

During all this time your baby is working, you will have hours to yourself. Because his room is so safe (the light sockets are covered, there are no cords to pull, nothing that can fall on him, no shelves or drawers to pull out, climb on and fall from, no pointy furniture to roll into and get stuck under, no toys with dangerous parts, nothing to choke on) your baby can be in this room alone. You will always want to be within hearing distance, of course, and when the two of you want to hang out you certainly can but otherwise he is in his room, a place that is totally safe for him to roam and explore, a room where he gets to do whatever he wants and there are no "no's".

Your Rational Nursery will help create the self-calmed, focused, self-entertained, independent baby that no one believes exists except by luck. You will be that mom whose baby is welcome at parties. People will comment, "I don't like babies... but yours makes me want one!"

You will have enough time to bathe, check your email, read, write angry blogs, etc. You will not be harried and exhausted all the time. You will not be sick of your baby. You will think parenting is fun.

And it all started with how you designed your nursery.

Develop your nursery philosophy:

Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui: Pregnancy is a great time to get rid of the old and make way for the new

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: will help you create systems that work and enable you to stay on top of your To Do list, even when you have a baby

The Child in the Family: Maria Montessori specialized in 3-6 year olds, so her ideas about babies are not perfect, but they are still brilliant, worth reading and some of the best ideas out there

Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect: is the most important book about babies you will read

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