Monday, May 5, 2008

The Incarnating Child

"This Divine Feminine principle is most fully represented on earth in the mother and child. Thus today does motherhood give the possibility of revealing the Divine in its archetypal feminine form. It should be said that a true and conscious art of motherhood as it is practised by an increasing number of young women, gives an opportunity for the Divine Mother Being to work into human souls on earth, to be manifested amongst us. "

On my bookshelf at the moment is The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter.

Its such a strange book that I almost didn't write about it. The combination of her generation (she would be my Grandmothers age) and her extreme Anthroposophism means that a lot of it it pretty out there. She recommends 'nipple preparation', is against extended breastfeeding, and recommends a level of controlled crying. She suggests that cows milk is "the ideal food to help the child incarnate" - and comes dangerously close to suggesting that mothers should give cows milk over formula even in the first year. Fruits which grow above the earth should be introduced before vegetables that grow on the earth, and then root vegetables which grow under the earth. That is, unless your child has a large head, and is therefore a slow incarnator. They need root vegetables early to balance out their dreaminess. I could go on.

All of this makes me nervous, and is certainly at odds with the way most Steiner people I have met go about their lives. The 'Anthros' I know (and I invite lots of comments please) seem to see the 'indications of Rudolf Steiner' as revealing, but don't treat them as gospel.

Although I would hate for anyone to think this is what all Steiner mums are like, I have thorougly enjoyed reading it. It reads a little like a 1950s home economics text, or for that matter Ms Stricy-Pants Gina Ford - its terribly precise and prescriptive with no room for questions. But, at the same, time, I actually found myself agreeing with an awful lot that she says.

- Exposure to the worlds rush and bustle must be avoided (for newborns). The best music for this ages is a softly played lyre or flute ; and lullabies, sund by mother and grandmothers down the ages, have a timeless value.

- The best colours for baby are rosy pink, mauve, pale blue, a sunny yellow, or creamy white. Brown and green should be avoided, for they are too 'earth' for the young child'

-For a child under a year old to wear a flimsy top only ... is contrary to the laws of Nature ... it is asking for body organ degeneration in later life.

- A common error is to expect a young child to be capable of making a choice ... How much better for the child if Mother, in a cheerful and authoritative voice says 'Bathtime now! come and get dressed"

- Television watching ... induces passivity and cripples initiative

- If someone gives you a 'horror' as a baby gift, have the courage not to use it! The well being of the baby is the prime consideration.

and my very favourite just to leave you with ...

- The deplorable Mr Men series is a sorry and degrading portrayal of everything human. It can only undermine a child's respect for what shoud be the dignity of man.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Sounds like a good read. Mind you I don't even know what the big word starting with A means, poor uneducated soul that i am :-)

Dawn said...

I'm fairly new to studying Steiner's teachings, and they aren't something that I always understand right away, but I find myself agreeing with ideas that at first, often seems pretty far "out there" after letting the thoughts just roll around in my mind a bit. I haven't read this book and I didn't know about these ideas when my kids were babies. I hope you get a lot of comments on this because I'm curious to see what people say.

Poppy & Mei said...

I've recently finished this book too.
My husband & I had a good chuckle through out at how many things we have already "stuffed up".
I'm glad you reviewed it here, I don't feel quite so guilty for being so cheeky...;) Xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry I have missed these posts! Time to play catch up.

I have had this book for many years too. It is, in my opinion, pretty standard anthro--meaning the anthro "gospel". Real world parents definitely pick and choose among these indications, which is after all how Steiner asked us to do things--try it for yourself and see if it is true for you. I pretty much approach this book and the others (Guide to Child Health, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, etc.) as guides only, not gospel.

I agree that a lot of these books seem very strict and pedantic, but to some degree I think they were meant that way. The thought is that in the "olden days" we all had our instinctive knowledge passed down from our ancestors, but now we need to learn afresh every time how to do things--especially parenting! So the anthro "experts" spell it all out for us.

Most of it is pretty simple if seen in the light of basic anthroposophy. Take the fruits and veggies: Steiner gave the picture of the roots corresponding to the head/nervous system, the leaves and stems to the rhythmic system, and the flowers/fruits/seeds to the metabolic/limb system. If the idea is that we want children to incarnate slowly and gently, we would avoid foods that overly stimulate the head/nervous system, since that corresponds with consciousness and wakefulness. Hence, giving children lots of grains (fruits/seeds), fruits, and leafy vegetables instead of roots.

But...there has to be moderation and consideration for individual needs! So it may be more useful to just take these things in general, and not give your child fried potatoes every day but rather enjoy carrots and beets in moderation and in season.

Similarly, when the child first achieves uprightness through sitting up and standing, and mobility through crawling and walking, that is seen as a sign that the child is starting to individuate, and extended breastfeeding would counteract that gesture by keeping the child overly connected to the mother. I experienced it that way myself with my two children; at about 9-10 months I was just done with breastfeeding, and my kids were ready to wean as well. Again, this would vary by child and family, but that is the overall thinking behind the timing of weaning.

I won't go on except to say that what's helped me digest and work with a lot of the "out there" sounding stuff is to remember that according to anthroposophy, nothing is purely materialistic. Everything is spiritual or has a soul/spiritual effect. So even the food we eat and the colors of our clothing affect our souls and spirits. It may sound like a lot of rules, but it's really a reflection of the fact that everything matters to some degree.

Gypsy said...

Thank you so much for all your comments, especially Anthromama - I am fascinated by 'the big word starting with A' and the way you explain it makes so much sense - its just such a shift in perspective.

Maymomvt said...

I've been behind in reading blogs. As my children have grown out of early childhood, I look back at some of the wisdoms imparted to me by books such as this or by early childhood Waldorf teachers. They now seem so very, very wise.

The idea of the child slowly incarnating on this earth also makes complete sense to me now that my children are past the age of 9.

Now that I understand just a bit better that everything impacts the soul, I do think about foods, colors, and sounds--do I want the images or particular sounds of a movie or a CD touching my child's little soul? It's not just her brain synapses, but also her soul that is touched by media, etc.

It sounds "out there" but it resonates with me! Good luck as you continue your journey with your young one. I think that my inner-life has developed amazingly by just being around my young children.

Gypsy said...

Thank Sarah for that comment - I love getting to understand what is behind this Waldorf stuff!

carla said...

i am grandma to 8lovelies,immersed in anthroposophy ,a Waldorf teacher ,and devoted mum to 4[all breastfed for 2 years just purely and simply because we all enjoyed that wonderful time together -not because it was written that this was 'right'or 'wrong ']
Steiner left us the legacy of a BASE for understanding the processes of a growing child --ie.
1/a child chooses parents from the safety of the spiritual world knowing these parents to be most suitable for the destiny on earth .[So trust in this when you feel uncertain and scared about your responsibility]
2/a child has a soul/spiritual nature which attempts to harmonise with the physical body for its earthly life
[hence the guidance for possible foods etc -but i suggest the individual child needs to be listened to here]
3/love,warmth,caring interest and honouring of the individual potential of your child are the guiding principles -
4/constant recognition of your child's angel guiding through life will give strength and courage to face whatever comes .
These are the guiding principles for parents and they provide the base for caring for a precious soul given from the spiritual realms .
Now there is no need to follow strict rules -just have confidence in your unique relationship with your child -after all mother knows her child better than any other person can ever do !
Listen to that which comes FROM your child ,follow your instincts and love,love,love your little one .
A useful prayer is to daily ask 'How can I best assist my child to follow his/her unique destiny?'
Modern times require this of us as parents ,there are no set rules ,just listen ,love and act on this knowing of your child .Your child has knowingly entered a world of materialism ,technology ,etc and the best grounding for a solid ,strong life on earth is the mindfulness that behind your child,s earthly experience lies a full life of the spirit .Remember this for the child until he/she can recall this consciously later in life .A child entering the earth forgets his/her spiritual base and needs at least some caring adults to hold firmly to these spiritual roots ,to nurture and nourish the spirit while the child goes about his/her task of adapting to the earth .
Waldorf teachers have this task -to nurture the spirit of the child so it will be strong and healthy when it is time for conscious reuniting in later life .
hope this helps give some understanding -Carla