In honor of the publishing of my book, Birthright, I am offering the Introduction as a post. I am honored to be the messenger.
I never knew I needed a midwife. It sounded like something out of Gone With the Wind. Empowered birth had never crossed my mind, much less, a midwife.
The turning point in my experience as a woman on the planet was witnessing the homebirth and midwife delivery of my nephew. Until then, I thought, as I’d been trained to think, that birth should happen in the hospital. Seeing the birth of Makena at home with friends and loved ones, the midwife masterfully slipping the cord from around his neck, not one, not two, but three times, suctioning his nose and mouth and then coaxing him to breathe, I was forever changed. It was one of the most deeply spiritual experiences of my life. How I wish that birth were something that we all experienced! I knew from that moment forward, any child of mine deserved that kind of reverent birth. The expectation of the midwife is nothing other than a holy, sacred, beautiful birth.
I still didn’t know I needed a midwife. I didn’t know until I found myself on the brink of a miscarriage. I called the only midwife I knew – the one who had delivered my nephew. She talked me through the miscarriage. Wow. Later she asked when my last “well woman” exam had been. I told her that it had been a while. She said that I really should come in for one, so I did. What I experienced at my exam was totally unexpected.
I loved it. I loved my gynecological exam. My midwife spent a whole hour with me, something that a doctor had never done. There was no exam table; there were no stirrups. It was so natural and unweird. You’re on a bed – the same bed in her birthing center that women can choose as a venue for giving birth if home won’t do. The midwife just has you slide to the edge of the bed, put the soles of your feet together, and she then kneels on the floor to complete the exam. She asked me when my last eye exam was. She made sure that I flossed my teeth because they’ve found a link between the bacteria that thrive beneath the gum line and eventual heart disease. She asked me how much I exercise, and what my diet was like. She told me to do Kegel exercises daily so that I will not only have great sex, but also I’ll have good bladder control as an older woman. She asked how my emotional life was. In a nutshell, I felt like I had really just had a well-woman exam, from one woman to another.
Within moments of giving birth, my midwife taught me how to breastfeed my newborn by shoving way more of my nipple in the baby’s mouth than I thought possible, and voila, he was a champion piglet. She taught me how to avoid mastitis, or a breast infection, by nursing in all different positions, which ensures the emptying of all of the milk ducts. She taught me to not give up on breastfeeding in those first few challenging days by telling me that my baby was on a mission from God to bring in my milk, and that it could take a few days. I stuck with it and nursed whenever my son cried. I had an abundance of milk until we weaned two years later.
My midwife’s the one who told me to make sure to stay horizontal in bed for two to four weeks after the birth of my child so that my uterus would heal correctly, and so I probably won’t ever need to have a hysterectomy.
She’s the one who taught me about elderberry syrup, a natural antiviral you can use to treat flu or take prophylactically to avoid a virus if the people around you have one.
She taught me how to snort salt water when I think I’m getting a sinus infection.
And on top of all the things about which she’s raised my awareness, she made my pregnancy and birth so easy, so predictable, so magical, so mine.
Thank you, Marimikel Penn, Debra Day, Ilyssa Foster, and Aleah Penn. There’s nothing like having true wise women around when you need them.
They enlightened me in so many ways. Every woman who gives birth – at home or in the hospital – should have access to all of the information I was so lovingly given during my pregnancy. So here’s this book. If you don’t have access to a midwife (geographically, financially, or even legally in some states) this book is my gift to you. In it, I’ve tried to compile all of the information that I learned from my midwives, which is an almost impossible undertaking, considering I can’t translate their wisdom and friendship into words. I have, however, done my best.
May our children be born with reverence, gentleness, and love –
Betsy Dewey November 2008 – June 2011
(An excerpt from Birthright) Click here to purchase the book.
Welcome to the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival
This post is part of the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey. For this special event the carnival participants have shared their perspective on Empowered Birth. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Women used to sit in circles, around fires, sewing or weaving together. They used to sit in sacred circles where their souls were fed by the nourishment of belonging. Some women still do, and we need to. Circles heal, uplift, and empower.
Particularly for women who are of a more global or earthy persuasion when it comes to religion, there aren’t necessarily too many opportunities to come together and fill their cups. We have to create them, and the blessingway is one way to provide that opportunity. That is not to say that women who subscribe to one particular religion can’t participate. On the contrary; women of all faiths need to be able to sit together in a circle and honor the spirit in all of us.
A blessingway is a circle of women. It is a spiritual gathering with the intention of blessing a mother and a child as they prepare to go through birth together. It has been taken from a Navajo tradition, but just like any ceremony, each one is different, evolving over time. After my blessingway, I felt so empowered to give birth. I really felt ready. I knew that the handful of women who were closest to me would light a candle and be holding me in their thoughts and prayers throughout the duration of my labor. It is unimaginable how helpful this is. Candles were lit and I had my birthing necklace next to me.
I recently hosted a blessingway for a dear friend. When I found out she was pregnant, I offered to give her a baby shower or a blessingway. Incidentally, whenever I’ve asked this question to a pregnant friend, they’ve always chosen the blessingway. Anyone can throw a baby shower, and most women will go through life never even knowing they could have had a blessingway. Although, maybe that’s about to change…
She jumped at the chance. She made a list of the women that she would feel very comfortable having at her spiritual gathering. I chose the prettiest evite I could find and described the gathering this way:
A Blessingway, also known as a Mother’s Blessing, originated from the Navajo people, although the practice of celebrating pregnancy and birth trancends almost all human cultures. Unlike the traditional baby shower, which is usually focused on the baby and baby gifts, a Blessingway is an opporunity for women to come together to offer support to the mother and to share positive energy to help prepare her for labor and childbith.
Please bring a small bead or trinket that symbolizes your wish for Stephanie during labor and birth. We will create a birthing necklace using the beads as we each share encouraging words, positive birth stories, poems, songs, etc.
In lieu of baby gifts, please consider a gift for Stephanie such as signing up to bring a prepared meal once the baby arrives. Also, if you have any ideas to add to the ceremony, just let me know!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
One of the ladies contacted me and offered to smudge everyone before we started. I was thrilled because this is something I always do, and I love to have others help in leading the ceremony. Smudging: burning dried sage and wafting it over everyone individually with a feather or wing. This is also a Native American tradition that has the intention of clearing any negativity one might have accumulated since one’s last smudging.
We then called a circle around Stephanie and her child by closing our eyes and having a prayer that grounded us, connected us to all, and brought the attention to blessing the two in the center of the circle. I brought out a large bowl of cornmeal with a few drops of lavender oil and we each took turns massaging Steph’s feet with it. This is a humbling act that is somehow also humbling to the recipient. It is heavenly.
You can have blessingways that are very quiet and pensive in nature, or the women can be more chatty and tell birth stories and give advice. There are no rules. It really depends on the spiritual nature of the women involved. I would love to try one outside or at night!
There is a beautiful song that I use at Blessingways. We play drums and sing: “We’ve all come to welcome you, welcome you to Earth. We’ve all come to welcome you, to celebrate your birth. And we are here to love you. We are here to love you. We are here to love you, to love you on this Earth.” I use a chanty, minor little tune.
I provided each woman with a cleared white candle in transparent glass to bless and then take home with her. Stephanie would then contact us when she went into labor and we would all light our candles until we got the good news.
Each woman brings a powerful bead or trinket to put on a necklace for the laboring woman to have during labor. The hostess, leader, whatever you call it, (after this last one, I got called a shaman, wow!) provides a beading thread. (Fishing line or dental floss work great.) Each lady passes the thread around and explains the intention behind her choice of beads as she places it on the string. The Birthing Necklace is one of my favorite parts of the blessingway. It is such a powerful piece that the honoree will have for the rest of her life. When I hold mine in my hand, the energy of it is truly awesome.
We ohmed at the end – three beautiful ohms directed completely at the vision of a healthy, happy birth. While we did this, we all placed our healing hands on Stephanie. If you’ve never had ten hands on you at once sending you healing energy, you’re honestly missing out.
We closed the circle and had some tea and goodies while everyone took turns adding a body part to a henna gecko on Steph’s ripe belly.
I was in a spiritual women’s singing group one time, back when I was pregnant with my first. It wasn’t a blessingway, but at one of our practices, the women (50 of them!) put me in the center of the circle. They each chose one word to offer for my baby and me. They physically whispered the word into their cupped hands. Then they went around the circle, each of them saying their word and then blowing it to us for us to receive. We received patience, beauty, wisdom, serenity, God, angels, compassion, surrender, laughter …
I was washed away in a river of blessings and my own uncontrollable tears. What a moment in time that was. One of the women afterward approached me and told me that she had seen the angel, Gabriel descend upon the two of us during the circle. My child was blessed.
Technically, I didn’t have a blessingway for my first child, but now in hind site, I see that I did. There are no right or wrong ways. Baby showers are still fun and they serve a purpose, but perhaps the blessingway will become as common an occurence. Every pregnancy needs to be blessed, and every woman needs to sit in a sacred circle from time to time. The blessingway, though honoring the pregnant woman and her child, is a powerful time of renewal for every woman who attends. And I suppose you have to experience it to understand it, but the emotional, psychological, and spiritual preparation that it provides is profound, tangible, and incommunicably important. Aside from learning how to give birth from midwives, there is nothing that I am aware of that prepares you to give birth, makes you feel ready, and gives you permission like the Blessingway. May it continue to be a tradition amongst women as long as there are women. Namaste.
We invite you to sit, relax and take time to read the excellent and empowering posts by the other carnival participants:
Empowered Birthing – Amy at Anktangle shares a simple list of things that support an empowered birth experience.
Little Miss Green’s Home, Water Birth Story – Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her (home, water) birth story. Even though it happened 10 years ago, the empowering feelings are the same to this day (and yep, it STILL makes her cry!). This post is also a tribute to her husband who was there mind, body and soul throughout.
Save Birth, Change The World – Toni Harman, mum and film-maker talks about the highs and lows of creating the ONE WORLD BIRTH film project dedicated to helping more women around the world have empowered births.
12 Steps to an Empowered Natural Birth – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle wants to talk to all pregnant women and tell them YES they can have an Empowered Birth! This is her personal 12 step guide.
The Blessingway: a sacred blessing for birth – The Blessingway is a sacred ceremonial circle of women gathered with the intention of blessing and preparing a pregnant woman and her child to give birth. Betsy Dewey describes the beauty and the how-to of a modern Blessingway.
Informed Birth is Empowered Birth – Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe tells us why it’s important to take control and be responsible for our own births. She says Informed Birth is Empowered Birth.
Empowering Birth in the Trenches – Over at Belly Tales the Midwife explores what empowered birth looks like in an urban hospital with a vulnerable population.
An Empowered First Birth – Zoie at TouchstoneZ follows the path she took to her first homebirth and finds she may not have started out as the best candidate for an empowered birth.
Certainly I’m not the only woman out there who has imagined what it might be like to just give birth. You know, like an animal. Like a giraffe or a cheetah or a moose. Just to figure it out. To go to that serene place of knowing but not knowing, you and only you. The rite of passage. Giving birth and becoming a mother.
Years ago, it crossed my mind that we can. Just give birth. I heard tell of a sixteen year old girl I knew back in Carolina, who had just squatted down and given birth. She didn’t have any money. She didn’t have a doctor. No midwife. No husband. Just her instincts. When the time came, she just did what came naturally. I remember being fascinated and the slightest bit jealous. I wanted to do that. I wanted to just “squat down and give birth.”
There are people who choose to have unattended birth. I’ve read wonderful stories. But in today’s society where there are trained midwives and doulas who can literally help someone out, I personally would choose to have a skilled attendant around. At the homebirth of my first son, I really needed help and support. I needed oxygen (well, apparently the baby did because his “heart tones” were low) and I needed supportive words, and I needed stitches afterward. Plus, my midwife taught me everything. If you want to know what everything is, read my book, Birthright.
I still secretly coveted unattended birth. At the birth of my second son, the stars were just right, and my dreams came true entirely by accident. I had been having contractions all day, since 4 am. My mom was on her way. My sister-in-law, Tree, was at the house. My friend, My-Cherie, arrived. We were filling the birthing tub. I called the midwife and told her how my contractions were really pretty strong but inconsistent. She said, “It’s late, why don’t you do the ‘trick’ and let’s have this baby tomorrow.” She had already attended two births that day and was exhausted. I sent My-Cherie home and told her I’d call her when I called the midwives.
And then, I did it. I did the “trick”: 3 ibuprophen, a glass of red wine and a hot bath. If your contractions are still far enough apart, this “tricks” your body into thinking you’re not in labor, your contractions will stop for a few hours, and you can get some precious sleep. It had worked beautifully for two nights with my first labor.
I was in the tub. I had my wine. The bath was hot. The wine was good. It was pouring rain outside. And the contractions got crazy painful. They did not go away. When you really are in labor, the “trick” just moves things right along! I remember my husband was sitting on the toilet beside the tub and I was so grateful that he was there beside me because the contractions were really intense. I had no idea I was just about to give birth. We called the midwife again and told her that she really ought to come on.
I got out of the tub and I was on my own. My sister-in-law had studied some midwifery a few years prior, my husband had attended the child birth classes and is an all around competent individual, and my mom arrived, mother of four. But none of them knew what to say when I asked, “Can I push?” The last 20 minutes had been raw there on the bed. Me and my contractions, no idea that it was just about to happen. ”Can I push?” No one dared answer. So I just intuitively gave a grunty little push and out came Heaven in a river of amniotic fluid. I ruined my memory foam.
The midwife arrived. She was there for the placenta. My three-year-old woke up and cut the umbilical cord. I had my new baby in my arms. We’d wait to put his name in stone.
How cool was that? I just gave birth. Like a mammal. With no words. No language. No questions. No rules. No hospital. No doctor. No midwife. Just me, my baby, and God, and I loved it. If I weren’t me, I’d be jealous.
1) You can make a smoothie with your placenta, and drink it, you can grill it, encapsulate it, make art with it, or stick it in your freezer and decide later.
2) No one sticks your newborn with a Hepatitis Vaccination.
3) You know everybody.
4) No one at your house knows how to give you an I.V., an episiotomy, an epidural, or a C-section.
5) There’s no risk of hospital error.
6) No one is going to ask you if you want to circumcise your little baby angel boy.
7) You can have wine and cheese.
8 ) You can get in the tub and out of the tub, and in the tub and out of the tub, and in the tub and out of the tub, and in…
For those of you who still aspire to be crunchy out there, I have a newsflash:
Crunchy implies that you eat granola, which used to imply that you are health conscious and spend much of your time outdoors. Well, when it’s not 114 degrees out, I do spend time out-of-doors, so I don’t know what you’re going to call me now, now that I’ve found out that granola is not a health food.
It’s loaded with sugar, which, if you don’t already know, is food satan. And it’s not the sugar on your teeth that is the criminal here. It’s the sugar in your bloodstream that causes tooth decay. Granola also contains whole grains, which I am now privy to know are satan’s little tooth decay helpers.
For those of you who might just be joining us on betsydewey.com, you need to know that for the last few weeks my family has been following the Cure Tooth Decay diet. If it works, in about 10 more weeks, I am going to savor and revel in the moment when I watch my son’s dentist wade through her befuddlement of where 8 cavities went. If it doesn’t work, I’ll be panhandling with the best of them, trying to come up with $2500 to stimulate the dentist’s economy. Yes, apparently teeth, just like your skin heals itself of a cut, can remineralize themselves and heal up from a cavity. If you don’t believe me, either read the book, or just stay tuned for the duration of my family’s guineapigdom to see whether or not I’m onto something.
In order to create the optimal medium in your body for this so-called remineralization, you can’t eat:
sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, white flour, wheat flour, whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, raw nuts, (yes folks – that was not a typo – no brown rice or raw nuts!) processed or fried foods
and you really must eat:
cod liver oil, raw dairy products, plain yogurt, eggs, bone broths, vegetables, liver, butter, fermented foods, fish and seafood
and you can eat in moderation:
organic fruit, honey, maple syrup, and sour dough bread
According to the astute Mr. Nagel, oatmeal is one of the worst things you can eat if you are prone to dental caries. Many plants, grains, beans etc. have a certain level of plant toxins in them and they are simply undigestable.
Most of what you’ve ever eaten for breakfast is rotting your teeth: cereal, granola, bran, sweetened yogurt, bagels, muffins, whole wheat toast, jelly, not to mention donuts, danishes, and pop tarts. All we have found to eat for breakfast is eggs, sour dough toast, butter, honey, local yogurt sweetened with maple syrup and fruit. Man, that sounds good.
One thing I must say is that raw cow’s milk is sorely underrated. I was a bit sheepish about drinking it at first. But OMG, it’s sooooooo good. And it’s fun to buy too. It feels like you’re buying drugs or something. You have to know somebody. You can’t buy it in the stores because it’s illegal. Oooh. Grin. I hear rumors that the Federal Government, our old buddy and pal, has its sights set on making raw milk, supplements and vitamins illegal. This is not one of my bits on our freedoms that are getting whittled away, but as of about two weeks ago, if anyone tells me that raw milk has become completely illegal, or that I’m going to have to buy my son’s cod liver and skate liver oil supplements on the black market, this little Ms. Smith is going to Washington and she’ll be seeing scarlet.
Sorry beautiful vegans out there, but if you’re disgusted by animal products, your teeth don’t have a chance. Apparently, the fat-souble vitamins A & D that are crucial to healthy teeth and gums are for the most part only found in dairy and organ meat. It’s really hip these days to not drink milk. My beloved guru-midwife even thinks that we can’t process the calcium from dairy. That might be because it’s pasteurized. We’re getting hugely conflicting nutritional advice these days, and if I can, I’m going to get to the bottom of it.
If you’re not into consuming organ meat, or brains, eyes, liver and such, then you really need to be eating bivalves and crustaceans that require you to suck the head. When you eat an oyster, you’re getting all of the organs. And, drum roll please. I did it. I ate my first oyster – a raw one mind you, from the Gulf of Mexico, in July. And not only did I survive the harrowing experience, I loved it. I have yet to make the fish head stew and I need some really good bone broth veggie soup recipes, but our eating habits are, well, hmmm, how would you describe it? Not crunchy. Perhaps the new describe-how-you-eat-status-symbol should be
Raw? Grassfed? Fat Soluble Vitaminy? Fishy? Slimey? Bivalvey?
Hmm, bivalvey. Now that has a ring to it.
The update to this post is: Does the Cure Tooth Decay Diet Work?
As Americans, it is by design that we have more freedom than anyone else in the world. It saddens me that there are folks out there who really want to water down American freedom. Risking sounding juvenile, I just wish they’d go to another country that fits their idea of perfect lack-of-freedom and leave us Americans alone. We want capitalism, we want to choose our own health care providers, we want to take supplements, we want to give birth at home, we want to provide our children with superior education, we want the old, ill, and hungry to have really good care, which means the government needs to get out of it. When was the last time the government provided something that was really superior? Think about it. The only thing I can think of is our military, and even it has a lot of room for improvement.
Anyone who thinks that it’s okay for half of the American population to not pay taxes and mooch off of those who do is not really an American in my opinion. Every time that President Obama mentions those “who need to pay their fair share,” I think he’s referring to all of those who don’t pay taxes at all yet get housing, food, education and entertainment paid for by everyone else. I think I’m wrong though. I’m not sure who he is referring to. What does “fair” mean in Obama’s head? Does he mean the “Fair Tax?” That would be great!
Now, to be fair, I must also say that I wish that President GW Bush wouldn’t have considered himself a “wartime president” on our dime. I’m both liberal and conservative and I’m neither Republican nor Democrat. I’m an American. And just like it’s hard to be a parent when “tough love” is called for, it’s hard to stand up for what’s called for right now. You don’t let your teenager have at your wallet when all he does is blow your wad on stupid crap, and you certainly don’t let him have your credit cards. Sometimes you have to say “No.” We need to reserve our military for our defense, and let other countries deal with the problems they create. It’s never going to end. After all, we live in the best country in the world – we can’t expect every other country to live by our morals or expectations.
When humanitarian crises are involved, we should absolutely retain some discretion to chime in and even help, but running the next 60 generations into debt and threatening our status as a model country should be unthinkable.
Our fathers and grandfathers fought and died for the freedom we enjoy. Our mothers and grandmothers endured hardship so that we might have better lives.
I normally write about parenting and giving birth, but as we give our freedom away, my interest in those things wanes. Yes, even parenting is second to freedom. If I sell my children into economic crisis, inflation, and lowered wages; if I sell the possibility of the American dream to feed the insatiable belly of our government, what kind of parent am I? Certainly not American by my standards.
From what I can gather, Ron Paul (and maybe Herman Cain) is probably the only candidate for the 2012 election who really has the American people in mind. We need to give him a chance. If you love your children or if you don’t have kids, but think you might love them one day, check out Ron Paul’s policies and the Fair Tax.
If you agree with me or if you know any parents out there who love their children, please email this to them along with my love.
One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel alright. – Bob Marley
Oh, and here’s some more Bob: Get up, Stand up. Stand up for your right. Get up, Stand up. Don’t give up the fight.
It’s fairly apparent that our primary job as parents is to care for the needs of our children. You’ve got mouths to feed, vitamins to give, floors to mop, baths to draw, clothes to wash, books to read… and… children to hold, cuddle, nuzzle, and cherish.
Babies naturally get our affection. They require so much and they’re just so darn kissable, juicy, and easy to tote around. Lots of lucky babies out there are getting “worn” by their parents for the first year. Baby wearing is all the rage.
It just dawns on me that especially when there’s a new baby in the house, older kids just might not be getting their needs met on the affection plane. That might explain a lot of negative behavior that seems like acting out. When you’re hungry, you know it. When you’re hungry for love, you show it.
Remember that bumper sticker of yore:
That’s a well-intentioned reminder, but I think it ought to read:
The Dalai Lama says, “Everyone can understand from natural experience and common sense that affection is crucial from the day of birth; it is the basis of life.” I agree. But I’m not sure that everyone understands. I think most people are probably walking around starving for affection.
I’m already a pretty affectionate person by nature, but there certainly is nothing wrong with doing something consciously. I am going to use my family as my guinea pigs here. I am going to love them up consciously every day. We’re talking serious physical yum here. If my intuitions are correct I should end up with a very happy husband and the perfect teenagers. If any of you would like to join me and make it a mass affection experiment, please leave a comment below. Those of us taking part in the experiment will get back to yall every ten years or so and let you know how things are progressing. Now, if I’m wrong and excess affection precipitates nothing, well at least I’ll have spent my time doing the most important thing I can think of – loving.
When my son was about 3 we came home from the library one day with a stack of books to read. That night, my husband came out of our son’s room after putting him to bed. He had a disgusted look on his face, and handed me one of the books. How I wish I had written down the title so I could share it with you now. He said, “I managed to censor it spontaneously enough, but man, who writes this stuff?”
It was an adorably illustrated book about a man who hated his little boy’s cat. He was always calling him “worthless” and “good-for-nothing”. As if teaching that attitude toward animals wasn’t bad enough, the story goes on to have a burglar enter the family’s home one night. The cat ends up saving the day by chasing the burglar away and thus wins the heart of the father.
I was in disbelief. Does this not strike most parents as monumentally inappropriate? My child at age five still doesn’t have the foggiest idea that people break into houses and I really want to keep it that way. Fear is debilitating and can be traumatizing.
The only thing I could figure is that it was published by a home security company. They survive off of the fear of home invasion.
Next was Thomas the Train. Also when my son was three, he was given a set of Thomas videos and we let him watch them now and then. At first glance, Thomas seems so innocent and wholesome for children. And honestly, Thomas the engine is quite a lovely character. It’s the other engines who have nasty personalities. They are always picking on little Percy or calling each other names. The vignettes always have a happy ending, but the damage has been done. We noticed that within a couple of weeks of watching Thomas, our little sweetheart wasn’t being so sweet. Out went the videos and back came our son.
He also got noticeably aggressive while we were reading a set of particularly gory dinosaur books ad nauseum. Again, we chucked ‘em and things improved.
I have censored about half of those old “Little Golden Books” that my mom has at her house. Some of them are just awful! The story of a giant who bludgeons people to death while they sleep is the one that comes to mind.
I’ve taken black marks-a-lots to books we own when they use words like “hate,” or introduce concepts like school sucks (even though we home school). Am I the only one?
Believe me, I love our constitutional rights more than anyone else I know, and I would never condone any censorship of our right to free speech. I’m just suggesting that we evolve beyond all of this crap, that’s all.
It doesn’t seem like we’ve evolved past the old archetypal stories that so need to become a forgotten thing of the past. Think of Hansel and Gretel. It’s the most frightening children’s story I could ever imagine. Children hated by stepmother. Father abandons them in the woods. They find their way home. Father abandons them again. This time they end up at a gingerbread house owned by an evil old lady who tries to fatten them up and eat them, so they kill her and go home to their father. Oh, and the little murderers live happily ever after with the dead beat dad.
Other old super-outmoded archetypes are the evil stepmother, the dismemberment of animals (three blind mice), giants, ghosts, oh the list goes on and on.
Almost all of the Disney movies and many others are really scary and I don’t want my kids to be scared. Think Cruella Deville of 101 Dalmations, the child snatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or any of the evil step-mothers.
Now, before I lose my proverbial way here, I need to get to what prompted this musing. It’s PBS. They typically have superior programming in my opinion. However, do any of you let your children watch The Electric Company? Apparently so because it’s still on TV. My son is learning to read, so after he watches Wild Kratts (his favorite show) as a reward for getting all of his stuff done, I’ve been letting him watch The Electric Company. I must say that the Kratts brothers show has villains that might scare younger kids, but it’s decent enough. However, The Electric Company falls into the category of totally irresponsible entertainment for children. It’s a bunch of irreverent tweens running around sassing each other and boasting while they spell words and teach grammar. Seriously, these kids are irritating and obnoxious. It’s very reminiscent of every time I’ve ever seen 5 minutes on the Disney Channel. Pre-pubescent girls being rude to each other and young, sexually charged, between-class locker scenes must be what sells children all of the crap they advertise on that channel.
So, after a few days of getting to play the misleadingly educational video games on the PBS website’s Electric Company page, my son has been sighing and eye-rolling at me, quick to anger, shaking his fists in rage, basically acting like a teenage drama queen – and he’s 5. When I came in and witnessed the sassy, bitchy, disdainful way he was being talked to by a cartoon when he “won” the game I was floored. Well, that’s the end of that.
I suppose it’s just my instant karma for being open-minded about screens. I’m not one of those moms who wants to shelter my child from the realities of our society completely, but until our society decides to be the tiniest bit conscious about what they’re serving up out there, I’ll take my toys and go home.
But before I go, I want to put a call out there to conscious children’s authors. Expecting society to change is ridiculous. Horrible children’s literature is like fast food. It’s never going to go away. We just have to choose to avoid it for the health of our children.
I would like to compile and publish a book of uber-conscious children’s work – stories, poems, art. People can only learn that to which they are exposed. So instead of fear, villains, and being rude, perhaps we could consciously write stories that introduce respect, kindness, honesty, trusting intuition, staying out of harm’s way, etc. I’m not saying that the occasional foil or villain isn’t okay, but leaving children wide-eyed with fear, unable to sleep and bitchy to their parents is getting old. Email me if this interests you.
And may your children be cheery and bright, and may the boogey men, rude pre-teens, and monsters in closet keep their distance…