, October 29, 2013
I read this book as a Freshman in college in '72 and forgot most of it except the main message on the importance of touching. I designed a course for a clinic to teach people how to better bond with their horses by using touch and thought I'd reread this to see what tidbits I might be missing.
I find that even though I consciously forgot material, I'd absorbed it into my thinking...like that on breast feeding and how incredibly important it is and how it advantages the child who receives it.
Sometimes, Montagu's use of English in a 'scientific' mode gets in the way of the flow of the ideas being presented but it's not unbearable: more an inconvenience and a wistfulness for someone who could have toned down the 'lab coat' persona for a more casual approach. It doesn't mean dumbing it down but using a language more suited to the intended audience.
An example is the use of neonate when newborn does just as well and has a tonality suited for the audience while neonate sounds a bit stuffy and put on. Eg, on p70 the lead paragraph ends with the word 'newborn' while the third paragraph ends with the word 'neonate.' Why? What is conveyed by using a different term when neonate means a newborn child or mammal? It just seems a layer of jargon for the sake of jargon and is a nuisance.
But I can overlook such trivial matters for the nature of the subject matter which is truly profound information to have and give a nod to all the work Montagu did in pulling this information together. I greatly appreciate this book and so do my children who were breast fed for a much longer time than the average pediatrician recommendation.
When I read the book in '72 it acted as an antidote to the truly horrific and barbaric information being pumped out regularly by the MD class under the influence of such ignoramuses as Benjamin Spock. Had I ever met a Dr who would have told my wife and I that it was best to let an infant 'cry' themselves to sleep under the pretext of 'learning to care for themselves' I would have punched him right in his ignorant nose. What a monstrous thing to let loose on unsuspecting mothers.
Doc Martin is a British comedy made around 2004 and in it, Doc Martin tells the mother of his son that picking an infant up when they cry is the thin edge of a wedge that leads to all sorts of behavioral problems in later life. The mother takes as much as she can and then tells him she can't do that...'when an infant cries it needs a cuddle.' So here you have, in a British comedy of the early 21st century, the two main views on rearing infants.
Infancy is a time when the nervous system of the infant is being wired for good or for ill. Is the world a great place or a terrible place? Is it painful or pleasurable? Are my needs met or thwarted and ignored? Am I important or a piece of furniture? Do the people closest to me have any awareness of me or am I invisible? You have to understand this becomes wired into the child not on a conscious level, but as an axiomatic reality of being. What the perpetrators of this vile view of child rearing, letting them scream and cry, don't understand, don't seem to have the foggiest notion of, is that a child learns to comfort himself from a position of strength, from a position of being comforted does he learn how to comfort himself and others. NOT FROM DEPRIVATION!! Deprivation is how you deform the wiring; how you create children who become lost adults.
And this is the message of Montagu's book: He brings together a great deal of research and focuses on the skin as the medium through which we communicate with the world and raises the subject in importance to where it, in my opinion, should be and should be taught to every prospective parent. The information in his slim volume, when put into practice, makes a profound difference in the world.
(I don't mean to make it sound like Montagu has written a book on pregnancy or child rearing...he roams much wider and the ideas have a far broader perspective but if you had to pick two areas that are profoundly affected by how we think of them and deal with them than those two are at the top of my list.)