Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Baby in the Mirror

I had some reservations about this book by Charles Fernyhough. I thought a man would write too objectively about the development of his daughter and would fail to acknowledge the impact she had and continues to have on his life.

I thought he would be more interested in pursuing his research and academic goals.In fact all the technical cortex-schmootex stuff in the early chapters did make my eyes glaze over. But I persevered - or should I say skipped past all of that - and by about half way through I discovered that Charlie is giving himself over to simply telling a wonderful story about his daughter's developing mind.

A student could find the book a helpful guide to putting loads of different research into context. It's probably more likely to be aimed at someone like me who wants to understand more about their own child's development.

He uses her story to illustrate the findings of various researchers and philosphers. He is something of a house husband, writing at home while his wife lectures. His daughter goes to nursery 2 or 3 days a week. In my eyes I see him as his daughter's principal carer though he sees himself having 'daddy days' for just 2 or 3 days a week. 

During the course of the book the family move from northern England over to Australia for a six month sabbatical. His wife gets pregnant and miscarries. Inevitably these real life events draw you in. His consideration of how children see themselves in relation to the world, people and time are inextricably linked to his and his wife's parenting decisions.
  • How (much) do you tell a child about their lost brother or sister?
  • How long can/should you protect them from death?
Their self doubt is endearing - mostly because I recognise it in mine and Recaro's discussions about bed times, tantrums and controlled crying.

The miscarriage is a tough part to read. But it does offer some interesting thoughts on how to deal with death. Small children struggle to understand the duality of body and spirit so even atheist parents can find merit in telling small children there is a heaven when someone special dies. This helps them understand someone has gone without scaring them half to death with the fear of someone precious being buried underground or burnt. (Shocking to think some people might regard their 'truth' to be so much more important than a small child's comfort).

A big theme in the book is about the significance of story telling. Stories illustrate a child's development in terms of imagination, metaphor, jokes, ability to lie, take control, making up rules, mirroring and so on.

So while a small child might first tell a random story or word as a joke, their ability to tell a joke will develop along with their language skills.

Imaginative play ( say using a spoon as if it is a brush) shows them thinking about using objects to tell a story about the experience of hair brushing.

There can often be an overlap between understanding other people's emotions are separate from themselves and developing empathy for others. So if mummy is upset or grieving a child will worry if its their fault. Their empathy for another's sadness will coincide with their feeling that the world IS all about them.

He also considers whether his book is exploitative or might later embarrass his daughter. If you have read a particular Candian newspaper recently you'll appreciate what a hot topic this is.

Well Charlie comes to the conclusion that a toddler is a very different person from the older child or adult that person willl become. There's a lifetime of personal experience, memory and reflection to accumulate and that will allow for significant distance from any writing about the child in its early years.

"Perhaps she is simply proving that the things that matter to you when you are small are not the same things that matter when you're bigger. Or perhaps I am learning that not everything that is valuable in life takes the shape of a memory... That doesn't mean that it (the book) wasn't worth doing."

So even if she reads the book one day and objects or quibbles about details "it's her word against mine, her story against my story. The point is, there's a story. In a way, that's all I've been trying to say."

And on that note - I think we can conclude that Charlie is alright. He gets the parenting gig. Her story is his story too and sees his behaviour, life and attitudes reflected in her (sometimes dimly and sometimes with startling clarity). That's true for all of us I think.

So here's a game. Here are some questions you might have the opportunity to ask a 3 year old. It's not a quiz or a test and don't think you should ask them all at once, but they might net you some interesting responses:
  • Where do dreams come from?
  • Tell me a joke? (Will you get an abstract idea, a story, a dream or an attempt to repeat an adult's joke?)
  • Do you remember being smaller?
  • Ask them to draw a lollipop on a stick and a balloon on a string. A while later ask them to tell you about their drawings. Will they recall their creative intention?
  • Ask if they remember a specific event 6 months ago? (Do they rememember a feeling, an object, a person)
  • Ask them to imagine doing a specific thing in 6 months time. How might they remember today?
I look forward to reading about any good answers.

This post was brought to you entirely by Blackberry. My poor thumbs! At least I made good use of my commute home.


Reluctant Housewife said...

I''m impressed that you typed all that on Blackberry. Good review, I'd like to check out this book sometime.

LaskiGal said...

I need to add this to my list of parenting books. I kid you not, I have over 25 and I only have an 8 month old. I guess the English teacher in me just devours books.

Thanks for the review!

Amanda said...

I can't believe that you did that on your Blackberry, either. But good job being productive.
It sounds like it is an interesting read. I am going to have to ask Jackson and Madi those questions seperately and note the difference in their responses. I'll let you know how that goes.

Don Mills Diva said...

This sounds like a really fascinating book - must rememebr to check your archives if we do summer book club this year...

scrappysue said...

i'm doing the draw tonight! thanks for entering

Anonymous said...

A片,A片,A片,A片,A片,A片情趣商品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,情趣商品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,情趣商品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,,情趣,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品.情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,視訊聊天室,情趣,情趣用品,情趣,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣麻將,台灣彩卷,六合彩開獎號碼,運動彩卷,六合彩,遊戲,線上遊戲,cs online,搓麻將,矽谷麻將,明星三缺一, 橘子町,麻將大悶鍋,台客麻將,公博,game,,中華職棒,麗的線上小遊戲,國士無雙麻將,麻將館,賭博遊戲,威力彩,威力彩開獎號碼,龍龍運動網,史萊姆,史萊姆好玩遊戲,史萊姆第一個家,史萊姆好玩遊戲區,樂透彩開獎號碼,遊戲天堂,天堂,好玩遊戲,遊戲基地,無料遊戲王,好玩遊戲區,麻將遊戲,好玩遊戲區,小遊戲,電玩快打情趣用品,情趣,A片,AIO,AV,AV女優,A漫,免費A片,情色,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色文學,色情,寄情竹園小遊戲,色情遊戲,AIO交友愛情館,色情影片,情趣內衣,情趣睡衣,性感睡衣,情趣商品,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片,成人貼圖,成人圖片區,UT聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室 ,哈啦聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,聊天室尋夢園,080苗栗人聊天室,080聊天室,視訊交友網,視訊借錢,黃金,黃金回收,黃金價格,黃金買賣,當舖A片,A片,成人網站,成人影片,色情,情色網,情色,AV,AV女優,成人影城,成人,色情A片,日本AV,免費成人影片,成人影片,SEX,免費A片,A片下載,免費A片下載,做愛,情色A片,色情影片,H漫,A漫,18成人a片,色情影片,情色電影,a片,色情,情色網,情色,av,av女優,成人影城,成人,色情a片,日本av,免費成人影片,成人影片,情色a片,sex,免費a片,a片下載,免費a片下載,成人網站,做愛,自拍