A few years ago I began compiling a list of thing I want my children to know before they leave my care. I have added and taken away, and will continue to do so, but here it is for now.

1. Life is shorter than you think.

2. Your life has a purpose and your soul (the greater part of you) knows what it is. Finding this out is the most important thing you will ever do.

3. There are many different ways of receiving information from your soul. You have to find the one that works for you.

4. You will meet very few people in your life that truly love and respect you. You will learn how to identify them using your common sense and intuition. Some of them will help you with point 2.

5. When you identify a person as one who loves and respects you, treat them with gratitude and respect always.

7. Do not have very high expectations of most people.

8. Currently people with white skin dominate the economy. They have achieved that through slavery and genocide. Do not think that being one of them makes you superior. You are equal to all people and should look them in the eye.

9. When you realize you have made a mistake, find a way to show you are sorry while keeping your dignity and knowing that mistakes do not make you unworthy.

10. Check yourself regularly for mistakes.

11. Other people will frequently make mistakes that hurt you. Use your common sense and intuition to protect yourself. Know that your soul is indestructable and let no human convince you you are less than perfect. Forgiveness is a blessing that comes in its own time.

12. Life on Earth is finite and filled with limitations. Accept these as part of life. The fun is working out how to create something wonderful despite them.

13. Using drugs and alcohol to avoid pain always makes it worse and always causes harm to those around you.

14. Read. Books are a record of the wisdom, truth and understanding that have been bestowed upon and created by humans so far. They will show you the way into your soul and how to love.

15. Never accept external definitions of truth, beauty and love. These are things you need to define for yourself. Devote plenty of time to exploring and contemplating this.

16. Do not believe the many stupid things you will hear in your life about sex. Your body is yours and you get to explore it and learn how to share it as you wish. Trust yourself. Have fun.

Give Reality a Chance

I had my two babies as a public patient in Katoomba, Australia. The birthing unit was run by midwives, with several doctors on-call to intervene if the need arose. The birthing room was cleverly lit to give the appearance of soft candlelight, with spotlights to allow the professionals to see what they were doing. There was a large bath filled with warm water. I was encouraged to bring my favourite ambient music. My children’s father was supported and given the option to participate at his discretion. After the birth I was given round-the-clock support by lactation consultants during my stay. Back home, these well-trained, compassionate, bossy, experienced women were available to come to my home whenever needed. All on the public bill.

After my babies were born, a theme arose in the social commentary surrounding the care of newborns. Many people told me of a time in history when we lived as a village, when mothers were supported by extended family, when raising children was as much a part of life as harvesting crops and celebrating the change of seasons. This utopian period stood in contrast to the present day, when the mechanistic medical model of the west had co-opted the wonders of natural childbirth and turned it into a production line of mothers churning out babies, factory-style.

I hear about this utopian village so often, in many different fields, such as home-birthing, complementary medicine, environmentalism, feminism. It seems a little daily comfort is  needed to foster the luxury of idealism. I have come to think of it as a kind of medieval Avalon, or Brigadoon. In other words, located entirely in cultural mythology. It seems to serve the purpose of allowing us to feel that we may, someday, stumble upon the magic formula that will allow the mists to part, at which time all will be well.

It is possible that the supportive village may have existed sometime or place, for a nanosecond in human history. The reality of childbirth and parenting in our cultural history, and nearly all others past and present, is so completely different it’s almost impossible for the modern human mind to comprehend. It is understandable that we could have created the utopian myth to protect ourselves from the psychological impact of reality.

In fact humans are pretty much unique among primates in our practice of infanticide within our own species (Broude, 1995). Abandonment, slavery, sexual abuse and battery are far more common parenting practices within our species than care and nurturing, a relatively modern development. A feature of life in Europe until the rise of foundling homes in the 17th century (the first established by St Vincent de Paul in France) was stepping over babies abandoned in the street, frothing at the mouth as they died of malnutrition. This would have been as frequent, and acceptable, as the sight of homeless male adults present today in the streets of most cities.

A history of child-abuse is not unique to developed countries. There is little evidence for humans treating children with the care and love we now take for granted, from anywhere around the world or through the ages. Note: Read Robin Grille’s book “Parenting for a Peaceful World” for some mind-blowing research into the history of parenting. I don’t agree with his conclusions, but his research is fantastic.

Somewhere in the last 200 years we have invented the idea that children are precious. To treat them with love and care is a fundamental principle going to the heart of our humanity. We have integrated these ideas to the point where we take them for granted and imagine they must be part of our ‘nature’. We have developed systems of child protection which, though fallable, would have seemed foreign in a history where most children were disposable.

We have changed the very basis of our human consciousness in a very short period of time. During the same period of evolution we have polluted and out-fished our water systems, over-exploited our soil reserves, over-populated, changed the climate of our planet.

If we insist on identifying ourselves with myths about who we really are as a species, we run the risk of needing to learn these lessons again, god forbid. As we hurtle towards an industrial environmental calamity, let’s take an honest inventory of who we really are and where we’ve been.