The Rule Is…

Alpha and Beta were outside with DH today, playing with the animals and cleaning up some branches. Beta loves holding the chickens and ducks and gets very upset when she isn’t able to catch one to hold. So, she told DH “Ente! Ente” to indicate she wanted to hold a duck. Alpha heard this and sternly corrected her, “Nein, Malla, wenn du mit Papa redest musst du ankat sagen.” So horray! He gets the rule! Unfortunately he doesn’t remember it frequently himself. German comes easier to him than Finnish, and since DH understands quite a bit of German, often times Alpha can get by with it. But as his German grows in fluency, DH has a hard time keeping up, so Finnish is definitely more of a necessity.

I’m so glad my kids get such an opportunity to have their own language with their father. Most parents and kids have games or things they do together strictly when the other parent isn’t present and this seems to fall along the same lines. We have our own languages we speak to the kids and they get it. This is what’s normal for them and what they’re accustomed to. And it’s working!

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British Television and History

It’s occurred to me that lately I’ve only been watching British television shows. I recently discovered Foyle’s War, which is your typical cop drama…in WORLD WAR TWO, which makes it a lot more interesting. Watching Housewife, 49 rekindled my interest in the Home Fronts of World War 2, particularly that of Britain, which was one of the most tightly controlled societies in the world during the war outside of the Soviet Union. As a libertarian, whenever I hear people recounting the war and how it went (“Rationing started today,” “got fined for violating the blackout,” and so on and so forth), I can’t imagine how a libertarian would have reacted to it. We wouldn’t have wanted the rationing or the black out or being a “mobile woman,” and getting billeted where ever and with no ability to refuse. These are gross violations of every right we hold dear,  but in Britain, it was necessary. Did they really have a choice? Britain came extremely close to falling to Hitler. Arguably, had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, thus giving Britain some breathing room, they would have fallen. It was simply a matter a time.

But on the other hand, you can also argue that World War 2 destroyed British society. Rationing continued until 1953. It broke down all sorts of barriers to the government doing things. At the end of the war, Britain was broke—all its gold was gone. Cities were ruined as well. Consumer goods were naught. Government cheese remained the only cheese many cheese produces were legally allowed to produce until the 1980s. No wonder British cuisine is mocked! World War 2 totally ruined it. If you’ve been eating crap food from 1939 to 1945 or even until 1953,  how are you even supposed to know or remember how your food tasted before then?

I also watched Land Girls, which was, quite frankly crap. I only saw the first season anyway. If there was more I would probably watch it simply to see how it turns out. There’s only so much drama you can go for on a farm without making yourself look ridiculous and they already resorted to one character trying to break down social norms (fighting against segregation) that she would hardly have questioned otherwise. Not worth it.

Foyle’s War is outstanding, though. I imagine the darkness of the blackout served as the perfect cover for all sorts of illicit activity, though I do find it a bit annoying when they go after black marketers mainly because I want someone to just stand up and say FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOM! But I know, patriotism, it’s just for the duration and all that. I was disappointed to find out that when they found out it wouldn’t be renewed, they skimped over parts of the war to finish it by the time the show ended. And then of course it got renewed so now  they have to cover the postwar period.

Just yesterday at the library I picked up Berkeley Square, which I had been looking for after thoroughly enjoying The Duchess of Duke Street and Downton Abbey, not to mention Manor House. I just happened upon it at the library yesterday and so far so good! I love the Edwardian Period of England—the last hurrah before World War One, which set Britain on its path of destruction that World War Two merely completed. Sometimes I think the only reason the United States became a world power is simply because there was no one else. War exhausts resources as the United States is currently finding out.

I feel in a lot of ways that United States society today resembles Edwardian society closely. Wealth is very unequally distributed, there isn’t a whole lot of social mobility, and we all think these good times are going to last forever. But I love the beauty of the dresses and the general aura. While I know I would hate wearing a corset, I can’t help but admire the slim silhouette it gave its wearers.

I also watched a few World War Two era films that were on netflix. Though I was rather disappointed Mrs. Miniver was not available, I did enjoy Millions Like Us.

Mostly I leave these shows asking myself if American society would pull together as well as Britain did if we were under such a tremendous threat. The answer is obviously no. First of all, as a superpower, we could never be under such a tremendous threat. Strangely enough, conservatives really want that to happen: they want us to endure deprivations and restrictions similar to the ones we experiened during World War 2–they want a strong government. After September 11, many were hoping for it. You know, to defeat the enemy.

Friedrich Hayak was asked if there would ever be a reason for the government to take on a strong role in society and take everything over and he answered that maybe if it faced a huge external threat and such controls were the only way to save itself but even then, he wasn’t sure it would be necessary.

And, the more I watch, the more I read, the more I find myself agreeing with him. Some governments aren’t worth saving. Some ways of life–such as the Edwardian one–need to disappear simply because they are so unsustainable.

Language Updates

Beta’s language skills have been growing by leaps and bounds. DH took both the kids out for the day over the weekend and she told him that “Cola on hyvä” [cola is good]. I’m a bit embarrassed by her cola fixation. She’s never had any, we’ve never given her any, but she hears Alpha asking for it a lot. So she has reached the conclusion that every liquid is called cola, except for breastmilk which is called “mmm lecker.” Alpha ends up yelling at her that it’s “WATER, NOT SODA!” which is unnecessary but whatever.

It’s interesting watching the two of them interact and I definitely think that the oldest child loses out because they don’t have anyone to play with when they’re very young. Beta picks up so much from Alpha and the two of them have developed a lot of games together that are apparently a lot of fun. One is sitting at the table and suddenly declaring the other child’s food to be “meins” then the other child will say “nein MEINS” and this will continue. If Beta starts it up, Alpha will agitated very quickly and start yelling at Beta that it’s NOT HERS IT’S HIS. It really makes him upset and I have to try to reassure him that Beta will not be taking his food.

Other than that, Alpha seems to be the boss. “Komm, Beta, wir gehen ins Schaukelzimmer.” He will yell at her. [Come, Beta, we’re going into the swing room] or “Komm, Beta wir gehen nach oben.” [Come, Beta we’re going upstairs]. But today Beta surprised me and yelled at Haakon, “Alpha! Guck nach oben!” She was just repeating what I had just said, trying to get Alpha to look up at us in the play equipment, but it was still pretty cool. Her speech sounds a lot clearer than Alpha’s. His speech is still fairly garbled and he doesn’t pronounce a lot of letters right. Still no need for concern; even monolingual kids only start getting most of the sounds in their language right at age 4 and he has 3 languages to get the sounds right in. His doctor says there’s no need for concern yet and many of the things he says appear to be clearing up, so it’s very encouraging.

In other news, Alpha will be starting preschool tomorrow! It’s a big change for us, that’s for sure. He’s been really looking forward to it and hopefully still will now that he knows only he will be going to preschool; Malla and I will be heading back home. I’m hoping this will build his English confidence and competence.

He’s learned the names to all the Thomas the Tank Engine Trains and was telling me the names, but one stumped me. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I tried a few locomotive names but he kept saying no and repeating the name,” On-ri, On-ri.” then it hit me: Henry! In other news, my son speaks English with a French accent.

Parenting and Rejection of Modernity

One of the questions I continually finding myself asking since separating myself from Natural Family Living (an umbrella term that includes Attachment Parenting) is “why?” Why natural parenting? Why is it that we are now so concerned in making sure that our children are raised naturally? What defines “natural” when it comes to parenting? Anthropologists consider all parenting in every culture around the world to be natural because parenting is what parents do; how they do it depends on their culture. Today, a large segment of American culture has decided to reject what they consider ‘mainstream parenting.’ This designation covers things as varied from formula, bottle-feeding, 2 working parents, cribs, cry-it-out, sleep training, vaccines to strollers, parent-led weaning, baby purees, and diapers. By rejecting these ‘modern’ accoutrements, NFL parents aim to resemble more closely primitive tribes, who, according to them, breastfeed, are always held or worn, co-sleep, use child-led weaning, practice “elimination communication, and are always with mom. NFL advocates claim that babies raised this way cry less, are less anxious, calmer, learn more and have better cognitive development.

Brushing past the fact that there isn’t actually any evidence this is true, I’ll concentrate on pointing out that NFL proponents have created a very idealized view of primitive life. They want to see these people as living closer to nature, and do. They see that they nurse for 3 or more years and think that that is so wonderful and so natural. It doesn’t occur to them that they nurse that long because they lack any suitable foods for weaning, so they nurse as long as possible to shore up the chances of their baby’s survival. Should Mom get pregnant before 3 years are up, they don’t hesitate to wean immediately. They co-sleep, but mainly because they live in a one room hut. Having a room for ‘just parents’ is a luxury they can only imagine. They don’t use diapers because they don’t have any. They don’t practicie elimination communication so much as let their kids pee where ever simply because they have no alternatives. Their floors are dirt, while ours are carpet. They wear their babies, but it might not be mom who does it. It might be older sister, or Mom’s younger sister and this is mainly because Mom needs to go back to work. In all primitive societies, Moms are extremely important economic providers.

NFL proponents notice the breasfeeding, but ignore the fact that the nurslings are basically ignored. Due to high child mortality rates, in many primitive cultures babies aren’t even considered human until they turn 6 months old. Before then, they’re seen as exciting between the spiritual plain and real life. Unlike modern parents who aim to connect with their children on an emotional basis–or, in the words of Bowlby and Ainsworth, to attach themselves to them–most primitive tribes strive to avoid it, at least until their children are older and the odds of their survival are higher.

So why is this way of life so appealing? The German philosopher and art historian argued that we look for in architecture what we lack in ourselves. I theorize that the same is true of our parenting. By rejecting what they deem to be ‘modern’ parenting practices in favor of ‘natural’ ones, parents today are seeking to balance the endless modernity and technological trappings of modern life with an approach they perceive as being more natural. So they reject diapers in favor of rushing their newborn to the potty when they sense he needs to ‘eliminate’…and take picture of it with their iPhone and post it on Facebook.

And there we have the problem. The natural life NFL practitioners advocate is completely fake. It’s sanitized. We want what’s natural without having to give up any of the modern conveniences of our lives. When I EC’d my oldest, I got peed on a lot and so did our carpet. I ended up washing a lot of laundry in my washing machine and using a lot of chemical-ridden sprays on my carpet–options not available to my ancestors 100 years ago or more primitive contemporaries. I wanted to not use diapers, but not if it meant I had to give up my washing machine. Ironically, using diapers would have resulted in using it less.

Instead of searching out more genuine ways to add nature and more natural things to our lives, we’re cherry picking what we deem to be more natural things from what we’ve “heard” primitive people do. Primitive babies are held more and cry less! we enthuse. We ignore the fact that anthropologists report that nearly every primitive village has a few babies keeping everyone up at night with their incessant screaming; only those who come into the society with a need to believe that in primitive societies, babies don’t cry leave reporting that none do.

Nietzsche said that a mature adult is one who always looks truth in the face. Fake consolations always have to be paid for by a general and profound worsening of the original complaint. Natural Family Living is a fake consolation. It’s pretending to be natural, to be what more ‘natural’ tribes practice while raising their kids and promises to produce calmer, smarter, and more empathetic children and ignore the complete lack of evidence that any of this is true. We want it so badly we approach it with almost religious fervor.

Fortunately, we can always seek out more authentic ways to balance our modern lives with our desire for a more natural one. We could go camping–leave everything modern at home, just tents, sleeping bags and fire staters, maybe a transponder for emergencies. Emerge from the brush after a week of heating your own water over a fire, no air conditioning or heating, and very little protection from rain and bugs will give you a new sense of appreciation for the amenities of our modern lives.

How wonderful it is that we can put the baby down in its own room where it won’t be woken up. How convenient it is that we can use a baby monitor to know when our baby wakes up so we can continue doing what we want while he sleeps. How great that modern sanitation and vaccines reduce our infant mortality rate to such a degree that immediately attaching ourselves to our babies has become the norm, instead of the exception.

Modernity is a blessing best enjoyed when parsed by regular excursions into nature.