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For the Sake of Our Children
by Léandre Bergeron
translated by Pamela Levac

Excerpts from a father’s journal describing a life led respecting and trusting children, from the naturalness of home birth and breastfeeding on demand, through learning by living and through working together on a small farm and in a rural natural food store. Leandre Bergeron

May 14

When she emerges from between her mother’s legs, with her Chinese Emperor’s topknot, covered in a greenish lotion that makes her look like a clear jade statue, immobile, with me on my knees, holding out my hands to catch her, how not to be blown away? Complete wonder. She takes her first breath so naturally, opens her eye and gives me a look that is from another world. I set her on her mother’s belly. A holy silence reigns in the room, in the entire house. She looks at her mother as she had looked at me and then closes her eyes as if to say that everything is proceeding as it should.

I think it was at that moment that I felt and understood the respect that we owe our children.

Where did we get this twisted mentality that tells obstetricians to grab the newborn by one leg, lift her up like a ham and slap her on the bottom to make her cry out, to help her take her first breath? Even the most barbaric barbarians never did that to their newborns.

   

The peaceful silence of this newborn tells us that we have made the right choices so far. So why can’t this excellent beginning remain with us during the rest of the time that we have together?

Why is there often a break in the relationship with our children? At birth, we gaze at her in awe and we are centered on our child. We find her to be beautiful, amazing and everything else but, one day, sooner rather than later, this initial wonder is extinguished. Our daily routine doesn’t encourage feelings of respect for our child but, instead, becomes the chore of “raising” her. She’s demanding. We have to change her diapers, dress her fifteen – even twenty times – a day, feed her ten or twelve times that same day, soothe her for hours. The crack in the initial relationship has formed. We lose our patience. Our child is no longer the miracle that she once was, but an obligation that we have to wash, wipe, feed, drag around and raise.

I suspected when Déirdre was born that if parents knew how to meet the needs of their children, those children would never become chores but would remain, instead, a daily source of inexhaustible joy. Eighteen years later, I can say that my intuition was right.

If she didn’t cry when she was born, it’s because she wasn’t tortured – before, during or after the birth. This means that she was comfortable in her mother’s womb thanks to a calm pregnancy, thanks to a healthy diet. This means that she came out when her little body felt that it was time and not according to some doctor’s busy schedule. This means that she was welcomed into this netherworld with waiting hands, open arms, an open heart and, especially, an open mind. She was received without prejudice, without anguish, without the fear that makes our panicked minds cause precisely those problems we were hoping to avoid. This means that nothing, nor anyone, can halt her full development as long as I am there to watch over her.

May 16

She is welcomed like a distinguished guest. How should we treat distinguished guests who honor us with their presence? I’m not talking about someone from a so-called higher social class that we invite in order to make ourselves look better or from whom to beg a favor. I’m talking about a person that we respect, that we admire for who they are and who graces us with their presence, by sharing their human warmth and compassion. Naturally, we are going to treat this person with respect. We will seek her company, make sure that she is well taken care of and that her needs are met. Generally, a distinguished guest is with us for a limited amount of time. But if she decides to stay for good, then things might turn sour. Everyone must adapt to the new situation. Her presence disrupts our habits. Her halo begins to tarnish. She might get in the way. Sometimes there is tension. Respect and admiration give way to power struggles. “She’s taking up too much of my time.” “She’s there when I want to be alone.” “She is too demanding.”

And when this guest is a newborn baby – a marvelous being, but at the same time, someone who depends on us for even her most intimate needs – what then? Fortunately, there is instinct...if it hasn’t been buried under piles of absurd traditions.

June 1

Would I ever interrogate a distinguished guest? Never. I trust her. I give her the benefit of the doubt. How dare I ask my child if she knows this or that?

Testing, assessments, interrogation at home and at school are the fastest ways to destroy the trust that must reign between children and adults. Trust (or confidence, which, etymologically, means faith in the other) is what symbiosis is built on. When a child believes that a parent is on her side no matter what, when there is complete trust and closeness, the child can develop in a healthy manner.

If, however, the child feels constantly assessed, if parents doubt her and act as if they don’t trust her, then the fine fabric of symbiosis is torn apart and the child is thrown into a state of anxiety. How can this young and dependent child possibly reestablish symbiosis? She can certainly demonstrate her anxiety by crying. And how will the adult respond? Will the parent comfort the child? Or simply tell the child to stop crying? If the child is comforted, symbiosis is reestablished, anxiety dissipates, peace returns and life is bearable once again. But if the adult tells the child to choke back her tears, not only does the anxiety persist, the child has lost all ability to express herself.

And when the child swallows her tears, what can we see in her eyes? That she no longer has the right to exist as she is. If she wants to survive – and this is the fundamental drive of all beings – she is going to go crazy, off center, lose her way, submit herself, subordinate herself to adults, lose her integrity and lose herself in lies, hypocrisy and duplicity, simply in order to survive. Perhaps not right away, of course. She will try, who knows how many more times, with her tears, to reestablish symbiosis. Then one day, tired of the struggle, she will give up. She will acquire a tolerance towards the aggression of adults (parents and teachers) as she developed a tolerance towards the tasteless mush she was forced to swallow as her first solid food.

June 4

I have noticed that it is not necessary to teach a child to be polite if you are polite to your children. If we respect them, they naturally respect us. Genuine politeness is nothing more than respect for other people that is learned through symbiosis.

Léandre Bergeron is an author and activist who was born in Manitoba. He studied in France and taught literature at Concordia University in Montreal before moving to the Quebec countryside in the early 1970s with his wife Francine to live a life of voluntary simplicity. His many works range from a guide to home birth to the Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise and the best-seller, Petit Manuel d’histoire du Québec. He is a tireless champion for the underdog and has long advocated for educational, political and social reform. His book For the Sake of Our Children, from which these journal entries are taken, is published by Natural Life magazine’s publisher Life Media, under its Alternate Press imprint. Buy the book now or learn more.

 

 

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