I believe that immersive experiences are the most important thing we can make available to our children. Babies have a natural need for immersion. They reach to be held, cry to be responded to, and engage in communicative efforts even from day one. When these needs are met, more often than not, parent and child experience mutual gratification through immersive moments with each other. But even more important, development and growth occur in these spaces. In the same way that creativity and hope are generated through immersion, so are physical, psychological, social, and cognitive maturation and development.
In our culture, we become concerned that we will spoil our children and make them dependent on us if we respond to them "too much". This hesitancy to allow immersion with our children comes, in part, from psychology and the idea that frustrating the child's needs for attachment and connection leads to the development of independence and autonomy. These views assume that independence and autonomy are the goal of development. Many parenting handbooks recommend letting a baby cry himself to sleep so that he will not become dependent on the soothing arms of the parent to fall asleep. The parent's fear is that if a child comes to depend on immersive moments to regulate her needs, she will never learn to self-regulate. The child will be forever dependent upon the parents, never separating or developing an independent identity.
This is one example of disengagement from our children. For many parents, it does not feel intuitively right. Yet, because they strive to be good parents, they force themselves to resist immersing with their child "for the child's own good." One parenting manual I read addressed this dilemma and actually made the suggestion that parents turn on the vacuum cleaner to drown out the noise of their crying child if it got to be too painful to listen to.
Thank goodness our psychological understandings about the nature of growth and development are becoming more sophisticated. Contemporary infant research is finding that quite the opposite of this notion holds true, in both physical and psychological development. Babies flourish when they are held. Babies who are not held fail to thrive. Similarly, psychological growth and development occur within relationships, not apart from them. In fact, current theories challenge the fundamental assumption that independence and autonomy are the goals of maturity. In our present culture, people seem to have a much more difficult time ATTACHING with others than being independent. Perhaps because we were raised for generations under the assumption that "for our own good" we should not rely on others for responsiveness to our needs (needing immersive experiences is bad or weak), what we really learned was that others could not be trusted to respond to us and we gave up. We instead learned to turn to pacifiers, then thumbs, then drugs to be soothed. And we wonder why the neurosis of our generations is a sense of emptiness, aloneness, and addiction.
Causes Anne Paris Supports
Savethechimps.org, Bonobokids.org, Elevate Hope Foundation