reductionism

Defining Character

There have been several occasions when people have made comments to me about how the personalities of my children are related to the order in which they were born into our family.  I resisted this idea, thinking that the stereotypes and reductionism of this approach are not helpful.  Not only that but I have a disliking of the idea that something like birth order, which is so far beyond our control, surely could not be such a strong influence on who my child will become.  What I am coming to realize however is that it is life in the home that changes with each addition to the family.

I did a quick search to come up with this information about the stereotypes based on birth order:

1st born = the achiever

2nd born = the peacemaker

3rd born = the life of the party

In my quick overview of the information from a few sources, the idea is that we as parents treat our children different based on how they fit into the familial structure.  What I find interesting about this is that the parents are actually the ones determining a child’s fate.  Why is it that we try so hard to have control over our firstborns, and relax so much by the time we get to number three?  I would say experience, but more aptly it is out of necessity.  When I had my first, I wanted to do everything ‘right’ in order to raise my child to be the best he could be.  But in my effort to control the directions of his growth, what has been overshadowed?  What has been lost?  My first does fit into the stereotypes above, because of me.  Not because I treated him differently based on some preconceived notion of how he should fit into the family, but rather my preconceived notions of what it means to be a parent.

So I am left feeling like I have actually failed my firstborn!  Now that I have three children, I have had the chance to do a lot of inner work, and observation about my parenting.  I have come a long way in my parenting journey in five short years.  I have relaxed a lot more with my children, see more opportunities to enjoy the journey, and have far more trust than I ever thought possible!  Rather than feeling like my third child has gotten the short end of the stick, I feel like she has the opportunity to figure out who she is without so much of my well meaning influence.  Even statements like ‘be careful‘ uttered repeatedly whittle away at our children’s confidence.  I have learned to sit back and watch a whole lot more.  That is also thanks to RIE and the work of Magda Gerber and Janet Lansbury  She is a very independent child and can occupy herself quite nicely.  What are we losing of our children when we try to direct them toward our own agendas?  What could they be if we offered supportive compassion without hidden agendas?

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Nature Knows No Perfect

Reductionism.  Rob and I have been commenting a lot during discussions in our home about this phenomenon.  It is one we come up against again and again.  One which permaculture seeks to override with its tenet of ‘integrate don’t segregate.’  Our culture often tries to reduce things to their very essences in an attempt to understand them.  Examples would be in our diet (‘fats are bad for you’), healthcare (‘high cholesterol causes heart disease’), consumerism (‘it’s the cheapest price’), or any other number of other approaches to justifying our choices.   But what is lost when we have this ‘tunnel vision’ is that life cannot be reduced to its ingredients.  Just as bread is bread once baked (and even once mixed into dough)  It is only when something is in its wholeness that it can be fully understood.

Our calendar of days must be adjusted for leap year every five years because nature doesn’t operate on mathematical schedules.  Even in music, as you go up by octaves, the notes become slightly ‘off-pitch.’  Modern instruments have been adjusted to accommodate this natural phenomenon, so now when we hear a ‘natural’ scale, it sounds out of tune.  Our minds can’t seem to handle nature, uncertainty, and the possibility that we can’t get it just right.

I have veins of perfectionism that run deep…ingrained from years of engaging with the traditional education system.  I am afraid of messing up, and this fear comes up more than I would like.  I am trying to accept this emotion, by acknowledging it but not investing in it.  If I can embrace the fear, it won’t have to shout quite so loud to be heard above the clatter of my life.  I am trying to understand it as part of my wholeness and to have compassion for its presence in my life.

Nature is not perfect.  It can’t be.  If it were, it would not perpetuate itself.  It is through diversity that species survive and growth is able to happen.  A few weeks back during one of our many discussions about my fears, Rob said to me, “There is no perfect, there is only nature.’