December 2006


I have recently come to a realisation, which as it happens I inadvertantly touched upon, tangentially, in my taggy post yesterday.

Introductory remarks

Small children frequently do or try or want something that is not allowed – and they get told “No!” Opening the kitchen cupboards, for example, or climbing up the back of the sofa in order to plummet onto a marble floor, or reaching for just one more chocolate Santa…

Small children, thus frustrated, understandably get upset about it.

They don’t necessarily understand why they are being thwarted because they cannot necessarily grasp an explaantion. How can they really understand how much it will hurt if they fall onto a marble floor from a great height, or why it would be a good idea to save just a teeny weeny bit of appetite for some vegetables later on? Sometimes they do not understand the reason beacuse nobody troubles to explain: the “Because I Said So” approach.

And if they don’t understand, they just feel thwarted and frustrated and angry and upset. They cry. Sometimes they wail. It’s just not fair, and I’m so sad and cross.

It is very easy to interpret this wailing over seemingly trivial frustrations as an attempt at manipulation. The sophisticated intelligence of an older person can easily see the logic of doing something unpleasant and/or putting on a show of inordinate distress in order to try and get the authority-figure to “give in” and change their mind, to let you do whatever it was you wanted to do.

But small children do not have this sophistication.

If nobody has ever changed their mind just because you wailed, why would you think that the particular person you are wailing at now will change her mind just because you are wailing? How could it occur to you to “use” false wailing as a “tactic” to achieve an end that you have never seen wailing achieve, even when it is real wailing? Manipulation is a learned behaviour, learned from seeing that it works. If a small, unsophisticated mind has never seen a big authority-figure mind changed by wailing (real or faked) it would never in a million years occur to that small person to put on false wailing purely as a manipulation tactic.

Small children are not manipulative until they have learned this behaviour.

How should we respond to the frustrated, wailing child? Well that’s something we all have to work out for ourselves. This post was not intended to be a discussion of how we should respond, but of the responses to avoid.

Personally, when Ariel is wailing with frustration, I try to comfort her, to explain if possible, to distract her if possible and generally to cheer her up without having to “give in” and go back on the decision that provoked the wailing. If it becomes obvious that my original decision was wrong, I try to at least change it in a subtle enough way that Ariel won’t catch on to the fact that her strongly negative reaction swayed my actions in any way. If I absolutely have to openly change my original decision, then I apologise, explaining why I got it wrong in the first place, and what if anything she can do differently in future to stop me making the same mistake next time – pretty advanced stuff for little Ariel but sometimes she seems to understand!

(But, as I said, this is not what I really wanted to talk about today…!)

Getting to the point

I believe pretty strongly in not allowing the wailing to change the original decision. That is the one sure way to teach a child the art of manipulation, in my view – I try to keep “giving in” as an emergency measure for when I really have to do it, and I try to remember to explain that I have changed my mind for some reason wholly unrelated to the wailing.

Just as I believe “giving in” to the wailing is a risky tactic, I think there is another one which is less obviously damaging. The other tactic I really, really want to avoid is that of ignoring the child, or telling her off, when she cries about being told “no”.

It is VERY easy to react by ignoring / telling off, if you think the crying is caused by manipulation.

But once you realise that the child is NOT being manipulative, and that she is only expressing how she feels on being thwarted, then it becomes not only much easier to respond in a loving way but also much more obvious that an authoritarian response is likely to be harmful.

Imagine being told: NO you cannot have that thing you dearly want more than anything in the world; NO I’m not going to even try and tell you why you cannot have it, you just have to accept my word without question or justification; SHUT UP whinging, you should not even be unhappy about this because my word is law and you must be happy to obey my whims; and you cannot expect any sympathy or comfort if you are stupid / wrong enough not to like what I say.

That’s going to suck even once you are an adult. But imagine the effect it will have, especially if it is repeated day-in-day-out, by one or both of the two most important people in your life, on the impressionable heart and mind of a small child who is not even two years old. Constantly frustrated, and not even allowed to express how upset you feel about that, totally alone with these huge, scary emotions that you can neither understand nor deal with.

Maybe, if it happened to you, you would build a coping strategy around locking up your emotions, cutting off connections, and using total self-control as a weapon. You might learn to wear a mask of outward balance in order to cover up the seething mass of Undealtwith Nasty Stuff inside: that Undealtwith Nasty Stuff is bad, wrong and stupid, so let’s all pretend it isn’t there. Right?

Maybe, if it happened to you, you would find yourself writing – a quarter of a century later – something like this:

One knock, one trip, one slip, one little push of the right little button and my equilibrium can be just – gone. The lid comes off and there’s some seriously nasty stuff in there. Keep the lid on, keep practising, keep a straight face. Maybe nobody will see what’s really inside.

My dad is pretty amazing and wonderful in so many ways that I cannot count them, but like everyone else, he is imperfect. And when I saw him responding to Ariel’s “tantrums” by raising his voice and telling her not to be manipulative and that “No Means No”… and silently disapproving when I comforted her… it gave me an insight into my own childhood and the effect it has had on me. And now that I acknowledge that insight, I start to heal. I stop blaming myself.

Even the best parents can screw you up. There is no way that we can not screw our children up. All we can do, I think, is to learn what we can, as quickly as we can, and to act on it as best we can. And to face what has gone wrong in our own lives.

This seems to happen scarily often – I go away for a bit and come back to find that someone has tagged me… eek! This time – Erika.

This is also a very hard one to do. No structure, no leading questions – just tell five things that nobody knew before. Trouble is, all the things I’m happy to talk about I probably already have talked about – and all the things I’m not happy to talk about, well, you know what I’m saying here. Also, my mum keeps threatening to read this blog!

However, I quite like getting tagged, even though I pretend to be annoyed, so here we go!

  1. My favourite song ever is Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. I just have to hear one quick blast and it cheers me up a thousand watts. I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that’s really real… And don’t it feel good!
  2. Underneath the glib facade, I’m a total fake. You wouldn’t believe how hard I work to maintain balance, to achieve my perfectionist standards – or at least, not to miss them by too unbearably wide a margin. I do genuinely and sincerely practice self-love. I practise a lot, and after many years of practice I can say that I’m definitely getting the hang of it. I try to tell myself that it’s OK not to be perfect. But, I feel a bit like a trainee juggler. One knock, one trip, one slip, one little push of the right little button and my equilibrium can be just – gone. The lid comes off and there’s some seriously nasty stuff in there. Keep the lid on, keep practising, keep a straight face. Maybe nobody will see what’s really inside.
  3. I can play the piano. When I was 16, I passed Grade 8 and since there were no more exams I wanted to do I stopped taking lessons. I then had no reason to practice so I also pretty much stopped playing. I’ve not played more than two or three times this year, for example. Stupid – you work hard for years to get good at something and then you just pretty much stop. I’m like that. Partly it is about being goal-oriented. If I have a target, something to aim for, a concrete ambition, then I am all determination and passion to achieve it. Somewhere along the line I forget why I started doing it in the first place – in this case, it was for the joy of playing music, not for the thrill of passing exams.
  4. The more I think about it, the more I don’t really see the point of having so many men lounging about on the planet taking up space that could more usefully be used for women. I mean, individually men are usually more or less alright. I’ve got lots of male friends and whathaveyou, and I wouldn’t want them done away with. But as a gender – what are they for? They are an excessively numerous bunch of people, as far as womankind’s sperm requirements go, and I don’t see what else the world (or the human race) needs them for. Put it this way: I would not do away with a single man currently living, especially not the ones I know and love, but would it sadden me enormously if TOMORROW the birth rate suddenly switched to, say, 90% girls to 10% boys? Who would lose? Half of me genuinely would love to see this happen. The other half thinks I’m just bitter because I haven’t got a man of my own…
  5. I blog because I am utterly utterly in need of an outlet. I want to SPEAK MY MIND. In normal life, when I try to listen, it’s hopeless. I can’t help it. I interrupt. I say “Oh, yes, just the same thing happened to me” or “That reminds me of something that happened to me” or “You really wouldn’t believe it but there’s something I just have to say and it’s about ME and MY OPINIONS and I don’t actually care what you have to say because IT IS MY TURN AT THE MIC, DAMMIT.” I also check obsessively for comments because although it’s great to be able to speak, it’s better if there is somebody there (or hordes of people there) to say – I hear, I listen, and Baby, you’re the best. Yeah – sad, but true: your approval, dear readers, really ticks my tock. Especially if you’re one of the ones on which I have a big fat lovely feminist crush. Yeah, I get crushes… Don’t you? They make me want to show off. And that is why I love this blog. It’s my personal showing-off place. Wheee!

What is it about this time of year that makes a person so introspective? Why does the death of one year and the birth of another provoke this grand confessional? In my case, it certainly isn’t the sherry. Maybe it’s the time off, the space for reflection, and the fact that everyone around me seems to want to count up the dead of 2006. Sweet Mabel. Too many dead.

Every time I go away for more than a couple of days, I have to clean the toilets before I leave. I just have to. Am I afraid that if I do not then in the time I am away the Big Scary Toilet Germs will invite all their friends round and have a big pukey party and I will come back to something unbelievably horrid?

Well this time, I forgot. The upstairs toilet got missed out. Perhaps it was accidental-on-purpose subconscious rebellion against this little holiday toilet compulsion that I have.

However, the Big Scary Toilet Germs have indeed shown that they are the Untrustworthy Teenagers From Hell in that they did indeed have a party and all the Gatecrashing Thug Germs from the whole district turned up to make it go with a swing.

Ugh.

Apart from that, I have only good things to report. The weather was lovely, we had Cava on the beach on Christmas day, the weather was largely warm and sunny so we went to the seaside several times (which pleased Ariel enormously) and generally things went with a swing. I even had a nice supper with an old friend on the way home (he’d picked me up from the airport), which was a great unexpected pleasure, especially as we’ve not had a proper catch-up for ages. Yay!

Hope you all had a good season of festive cheer. Speaking for myself, I’ve come back with quite a lot to say on assorted topics… so watch this space!

I am absolutely stuffed with chocolate and quite possibly will never move again, which would be a shame because I am due to go away for Christmas tomorrow and would not wish to miss it.

For the next week or two –

Peace and love
And too much food

And may you all remember as you gaze out of your rain-sodden windows upon the beauty of yet another Grey Christmas – I shall be sipping cava on the beach.

Raven, flying away

I – Birthing

In the beginning was the Great Mother, and her name was Penna.

From her womb was born the Earth, and her name was Petra, and from the blood of Petra’s birth grew up a great forest of the strongest trees, which was filled with running creatures who came to dwell therein.

And on the second day, from Penna’s womb was born the Light, and her name was Edna, and from the blood of Edna’s birth shone out innumerable stars which were strewn across the sky to dance in the night.

And on the third day, from Penna’s womb was born the Water, and her name was Callan, and from the blood of Callan’s birth swelled up the great oceans of the world and the monstrous sea serpents and other swimming things who came to dwell therein.

And on the fourth day, from Penna’s womb was born the Air, and her name was Corva, and from the blood of Corva’s birth arose the spirit, and the spirit laughed as it flew into the flowing Water and through the dancing Light and across the solid Earth, returning then to the sacred blood which is its beginning and its end.

The four daughters of Penna became the world, and everything in it and outside of it, bound together by the woven cloth of the Great Mother, and created from her womb.

II – Giving

It was the way with the daughters of Penna to strengthen their bond one to the others by the giving of gifts.

In the wintertime, Petra piled up the earth and stones into a huge heap, and Edna brought a fire and placed it therein to heat the stones; Callan set the stones to gush and flow. And so it was that the daughters of Penna brought to their sister Corva the gift of a volcano, which they called Bourkan that it might be a reflection of her heart.

In the springtime, Petra rolled out a great white rock, and Edna gave it Light and Corva lifted it into the empty sky. And so it was that the daughters of Penna brought to their sister Callan the gift of the moon, which they called Mahina that it might bring rhythm to the Water.

In the summertime, Callan brought the laughter of the running water, and Corva brought the laughter of the spirit. Callan brought the rhythm of Mahina, and Corva brought the rhythm of a beating wing. Petra fashioned homes for the laughter and the rhythm, in the wood of her forest and in the horns of her creatures and in the stones of her mountains. And so it was that the daughters of Penna brought to their sister Edna the gift of music, which they called Geet that it might be a partner to her dancing stars.

In the autumn time, Corva made a giant bird, and Edna destroyed the bird in a royal pyre, and Callan regenerated it with the healing of her salt tears. And so it was that the daughters of Penna brought to their sister Petra the gift of a phoenix, which they called Bennu, that it might be a companion to Petra in her labours.

And at the giving of each gift, the daughters of Penna brought to her their own blood as an offering, which was the blood of their mother reborn.

Will whoever got here searching for “child hairless cunny womb cervix” please get the hell out of my brain?

Location: Germany
IP address: 217.91.84.249

There was a time when, if you’d asked me what my thoughts were on religion, I would probably have suggested that either (a) it is true in which case we should follow its dictates regardless of how we feel about them, or else (b) it is false in which case we should ignore its commands – again, regardless of how we feel about them.

There was a time when, if you’d talked to me about “finding my own spiritual path” or some such ridiculous sandal-slapping beard-growing nonsense I’d have giggled behind my hand.

In those days, I was more rational than I am now. More what we might call male-brained. Now, I am guided by feeling as well as by reason, and I like the change.

The male-brain* thinking that dismisses feeling as irrelevant to truth, and elevates reason and rationality above all other modes of reflection, is behind a lot of things. I believe that it is behind the ever-increasing abstraction of religious thought, for example, and the way in which feeling and sensation / sensuality have been quite literally demonised in male-brain religion.

[* Clarification: I use this term very loosely to describe what appear to me to be traditionally masculine modes of thought, rather than to suggest that the male sex has any biological leaning to one particular method of approaching life problems. Masculinity, by the way, is just as much a social construct as femininity. It aint real.]

There is a different way of thinking about the spiritual. There is a deeper, more ancient, more fully human way to understand and appreciate the numinous.

A sense of transcendence, of reverential awe, of religiosity is built into every one of us. Some of us experience it more often or more intensely than others, but it is within all of us – especially if we are at peace to let it out. A spiritual feeling is as much a part of our human nature as is our ability to reason, our survival instinct, and our capactiy for love.

There is a reason why we are a spiritual species. I think it is probably a way of coping with the big unanswered questions that our rationality leads us to ask: where did we come from? where are we going to? what is love? how ought we to behave?

And because we are a spiritual as well as a rational species, we sometimes have to reject the cold purity of reason in favour of the warm strength of spirit. And so we make up rituals and stories, to enable us to make sense of the numinous, and to experience the great Other that transcendence allows us to touch.

The big question we must ask about a given religion is not is this true? but does this help me to make sense of my awe?

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