I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

25 January 2013

Girl Effect Sidebar: The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin

As some of you may have noticed, I've added a new code to the right sidebar of my blog, where I list what book, or which books I am currently reading. Partly for accountability to continue reading the book, and partly so I remember to go and write a review.  I just finished reading "The Family Bed" by Tine Thevenin. She has written another book that I'm looking to get, entitled "Mothering and Fathering: The Gender Differences in Child Rearing." - It's an out of print book, but there seems to be a lot of copies floating around out there.

I don't remember where I first heard of this book, but I recall that I heard of it when I was early in my walk towards attachment-parenting and "crunchy" living. I had not yet given birth to my first son, and I had dismissed the idea of the family bed as something that was cultural, and unacceptable in not only my culture, but for the most part was talked against in the church. Not necessarily by the pastor, but by all the really über-spiritual women in the church. And if the older ladies said it is a bad idea, it's a bad idea. Right?


I shelved the idea of getting the book for 4 years. I heard of it again somewhere, somehow via Gentle Christian Mothers. So I put it in my ever-enlarging Amazon wishlist under "Parenting" and just waited until I saw it go on sale.  One day, I had a few extra Euro laying around, logged into and voilá, there was my book on sale. "A match made in heaven!!! It is now time!", I exclaimed and purchased it.

I hadn't had the book in my hands for more than a few minutes when I noticed who had commented on Tine's book. Jane Goodall. Hmm, interesting. This piques my interest even more than it already was. I'd already read "Born Dancing: How Intuitive Parents Understand Their Baby's Unspoken Language and Natural Rhythms", "The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost", "Beyond the Sling", and "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding", "The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business", as well as "The No Cry Sleep Solution". (which, I honestly did not like.)

I'm slowly, as stages come along, referring to "Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development", when I had begun purchasing in the series of books "Your ____ Year Old" by Ames and Ilg. I'd heard of the larger "compendium" and purchased it in the last few months. I'll continue along with the other series, but I'm finding this one rather helpful as well, to understand better how children develop and fix the issues I have with my own self for some of the needs that were not met when I was little.

Sometimes I find it rather strange how I am driven to learn... and sometimes, I find it absolutely hilarious how the little puzzle pieces come together. I throw in some history, some studies about women of faith, some religious studies, then I go back to child development.  I might switch up the order, but it always will have a theme running through the books that echoes and feeds each thing that I am learning about. I might even, for good measure, throw in a fiction book. Guess what? Somehow it fits into the theme.

I want to say that this year, since Rosh Hashanah, the themes that keep coming up are "Healing" and "Grace", "Tikkun Olam".

You have to imagine my surprise at reading the books I have read since September to only have this same theme over and over in my mind. Healthy boundaries, Healing, Grace...Tikkun Olam.  It does probably help that I am on Gentle Christian Mothers and every single day (and time I log in!) being reminded that not only is grace for parents, it is always available and there for children.

You cannot begin to imagine how healing it is to be told that over and over, and read it over and over again being told to many other women in their varied parenting journeys. It doesn't matter if they are Orthodox, Messianic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic,  Anglican - we can agree on more than the very basics - that our children deserve to be treated with respect, with grace, and with understanding while they are in their early years so that they do grow up to be well boundaried, healthy adults.

I wish I had found the community sooner than I did, but G-d had reasons for guiding me where I was guided on my journey through The Babywearer, and Diaper Swappers, Christian Forums and eventually to GCM.

Initially, I was very against the idea of a family bed or co-sleeping as it is now known. It'd been drilled in that children sleep in their own bed or rooms, might co-sleep with siblings, but rarely if ever with parents. That's just "weird" unless it is within your culture to do so. Which I find hilarious, given the fact this was normal until about 100 or so years ago for the middle and lower classes to do just this thing out of necessity.

My husband however, was raised with a family bed. He had his own, but at any time, he was welcome to "room-in" with his parents.   For me, that was kind of interesting since we did climb into bed with our grandparents when they visited, or we visited them - but only in our parent's bed if we were sick or scared.

It was my husband's idea to just toss conventional wisdom and let JD sleep with us after he was born. Eschew stupidity, and just go ahead and make life easier while breastfeeding. I was exhausted, why argue? It worked.

It's taken four years though to get rid of the mindset I had, and become more comfortable with having one or both children in bed with me when we are asleep. I can honestly say I am appalled and very sad to know that for almost five years, I'd been fighting my children to assert my right to my bed, when honestly, they were asserting not only their right to be with their parents, but their biological need to do so.  I've come to terms with the fact that I can't have my childhood back, and I can't change how I was raised, but I want to look forward and know that if there were things I could change to make us happier and healthier - this is one thing that did change and that we have a better attachment, understanding and that we extend grace to the children, and they in turn, extend grace to us as well.

I'd like to share some quotes from the book that were my "clincher" that this is definitely the right thing to do for our family.  I don't often underline or highlight in books, even used books that I purchase, but this book was so awesome that I had to underline the things that jumped out and screamed at me "Pay attention! Pay attention to this!!!"

"All of our birth experiences were happy ones...  It's interesting to me, though, that my ways of baby care at home reflected the way in which I was or was not allowed close contact with our babies in the hospital... as if I were programmed in a certain direction."
- Page 20

"Parents should take pride in the fact that they are the ones the child seeks in time of need. To the child, they are more important than all the toys and teddy bears and dolls and blankets in the world. Only they can give him true security. How frightening that the child is discouraged from telling his parents that he would rather be with them than with his toys."
- Page 26

"...tactile demonstration of affection between parents and their children, especially with children of the opposite sex, is frequently open to misunderstanding and ridicule...
 ...the great  importance of the emotional transaction that takes place through the skin by touching, has until quite recently [1970s-80s] been ignored." *brackets mine, Page 38

"...our physical isolation from one another has been plotted since infancy. Single Beds. Separate rooms. Stop fighting. Don't touch." - Page 39

"It is a real eye opener to count the number of times we say "NO!", or remind a child that he is dealing with potential danger. Should we, therefore, frustrate him even more by putting restrictions on emotional wants and needs?  The child's sleeping... should be understood as an important fulfillment of a basic human need." - Page 49

"When our response to a crying baby is inconsistent, we are teaching him that people are not trustworthy, and he may feel confused and powerless. The interesting thing is that young children... will immediately respond with concern to an unhappy baby. But as adults, we want a reason, and excuse, a label that we can attach to his crying..." - Page 79
These quotes certainly remind me of the following "Silly Song" from VeggieTales:

And this Youtube clip:

One of the funnier (to me) quotes, is something that I am finding, having come out of a very patriarchy-friendly / complementarian, spiritually abusive church-related childhood  and the Purity movement was this quote:
"If you want hanky-panky going on in your family, play down affection and have lots of taboos about sex. ...without exception, any person I have seen with problems in sexual gratification...grup up with these kinds of taboos..." - Virginia Satir, author of People making; Page 116
Tine also wrote this gem after her book was published, which draws heavily on her books:
"Children should be given the credit that, provided the home environment is healthy, they will mature. As each need is fulfilled at each stage, they will move on and become more mature. (We did. Let's hope.)
It will be found that one phase passes into another, and another, and another. Please trust that in a sound surrounding the child will graduate from each stage of development."
Need vs. Habit  By Tine Thevenin

Flowermama, the owner/admin at Gentle Christian Mothers said this:

" Children are not animals who need to be broken. Not to mention that using harsh ways of training animals is not good or healthy for animals either. The fact is, there are so many ways to discipline our children -- there are so many ways to help children learn. They can learn without spanking. They can learn without being purposefully hurt in any way. Pain is not necessary for someone to learn something. We adults learn things *all the time* without having pain associated with it. "
Some thoughts by flowermama

 I am coming to see my world as somewhat detached, consumerist, and that it doesn't value children.

Contrary to this wave of consumerism and detachment is the attachment parenting movement, usually coupled with natural living.

Some of us might be neo-hippies, but hey, don't knock it if it works, right?

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you have noticed that I have been struggling with the world's (and church's!!) perception of women. I've been struggling with the rape culture around me.  I'm struggling with the acceptance and  pervasiveness of spousal and child abuse, and how difficult it is for victims and survivors of this abuse to get the help they desperately need.

I am beginning to think that a lot of the problems we see in the world would actually get better and/or end entirely if we simply:

  • Slowed down
  • Took time with our children and actually engaged in their learning processes prior to and during their schooling years.
  • Removed obstacles that would take the place of our love and care (bumbos, props, bottles (unless absolutely necessary of course!), strollers, carrying our children in bulky car seats (can we say UNSAFE?!), and other ridiculous contraptions such as crank swings and walkers)
  • Carried our children / wore our children in child-safe baby carriers (When in doubt, TheBabyWearer)
  • Breastfeed (if at all possible. Sometimes it isn't, and that's ok - skin to skin while feeding also helps!!)
  • Co-slept / Family bed
  • Learn about child development prior to, and after having children
  • Give our children grace and expect them to act like children, not rebellious miniature adults
  • Banish punitive/shaming childcare practices
  • Be "The Village" and help each other raise our children.

I know that Dumbo is generally not a well beloved movie in my inner GCM circle, but I love it for my own reasons. It shows mothers being mothers to their children, even if they have a job. That we need to cultivate a good relationship with our peers and elders, as well as other species. That our children deserve respect, patience and protection from the evils of this world.

Others don't like it because of how the elephants are treated (pretty par the course in the 1930s, sadly), and how Mrs. Jumbo is separated from Dumbo after she struck a child for hurting her baby. (I still get teary-eyed 20+ years after I first watched this film for that very reason)

Yes, there is bad in the film. Yes, there are stereotypes in the film... but there are so many touching, tender moments where there is right in the world... where others are helping each other out, and eventually, mother and child are reunited.

I believe we can learn from the past and show our children how things were, and discuss how things ought to be ideally, with values from the Bible (in the best of our understanding) and work towards Tikkun Olam.

Another similar Disney film that had an impact on how I saw mothering and childhood, is Goliath II.. You might not actually know this short film, but it was a favorite of mine growing up.

It shows the typical "Parent-y" attitudes of the child being a nuisance / never-do-well,  until a crisis where s/he stands on their ground and makes a big impact.  (If you're a big Disney fan, you'll recognize a lot of the voice actors here. *ahem*)

I believe there are many, many lessons in this short film about what needs to change in our cultures... in our parenting.. in our marriages,  how we relate to and discipline our children, community...
I do dislike that Goliath II is spanked, especially so harshly... but I think it can be a teaching moment. Why we do not do that, why it is not good, and how that is NOT what G-d ordained in Scripture.

Maybe this is why Healing and Grace - and Tikkun Olam keep coming up so much this year...

I still have a lot to learn, but I have a lot to share too.


  1. Thanks for compiling such a thorough post on the family bed in AP. I'm wondering what about No Cry Sleep Solution you don't like, since it's so popular in AP circles? I wasn't a big fan myself, seemed like a lot of effort to get your kid to a point they'll arrive at on their own after making good sleep associations as happens naturally via cosleeping, anyway. But I did learn some from the troubleshooting sections (mostly charting baby's sleep patterns to help him be in sleep mode when he's about to be tired) and recommend it to exhausted parents, not really knowing any other resource.

  2. Lori, I'm so sorry it has taken me a few days to respond to this. I've been sick and distracted, and decluttering, and I honestly did not want to go pick up my copy again to remember why I didn't like it. *blush*

    While it was informative as far as REM cycles and how babies sleep and such, it was the scheduling and the fact the baby was sleeping elsewhere, introducing "loveys" (mine were not accepting any... TB latched onto one at 2.5), keeping a sleep log etc - I did not have time for that.

    Both of my sons started teething at 2 months and had teeth at 3 months. I had nursing issues with my oldest, and we needed to sleep together. We kept trying to sleep apart for a month, but by month 3 we were solidly in bed together and nursing and *actually sleeping* at night. (we were not sleeping before!!) He had free access to nurse, and I could do that AND sleep, which was a miracle. All we had to do was change him after his second feed. I finally got my breastfeeding issues hammered out, and it turns out that JD is one of those kids that didn't nurse much in the day because there was so much to see - he nursed at night all night long for his first 12 months. I was waking every hour on the hour or sooner when he was in his crib just to feed him.


    1. We tried when I had my youngest to get the eldest to sleep alone. Not happening. Even with all the love he got, he was not getting his safety and comfort at night alone.

      We tried when my DH was going away to the US to work for a couple weeks and then for a month - it broke my heart. JD was CIO, even when I "did it right". I was being a slave to a schedule. It was really killing my heart and the little girl inside me that he was CIO. I knew in my heart I was just going to have to suck it up and get over my big introverted-ness and just deal with this stage, as it wouldn't likely last. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but these are kids that needed so much hands on and holding and wearing during the day for over 2 years..

      There was this "Right way to sleep" business. I guess it works if you have children who are very schedule oriented, but mine just were so not there at those young ages.

      I tried for a few months, I think they said usually a month and a half is how long it should take when you "do it right" to make it happen, but rescheduling naps made for a very weary mama and very pissed off children. I figured if they need 2, 4, 6 naps at 9-12 months, then maybe their body needs those naps... who am I to tell them to split it to two or one, because "babies at ____ months only have ___ nap(s)."

      It bothered me really deep down about the "Comfort without pick-ups" when making the kids sleep alone in their own bed/crib. I can't put a real bead on it, but I believe it's a leave over of all the sleep training and CIO I did as a child. I can't do that to my kids. ;(

      So, I leaned more on my Continuum Concept and Born Dancing knowledge. I knew deep down inside that they really need what they begged for at night. They were very conscious of each other, and were very careful. As worried as everyone was about the youngest - that child is the strongest baby I've ever known. He could kick me and leave big giant welts that I was terrified the OB would think my husband gave me, until he tried to hold and check over the baby. There's no way, ever, that my eldest could hurt him at night... even as a newborn.

      Right now, with the boys being 3 and 4.5, I can totally see the concepts from the book working. *BUT.* Both are not nursed any more. They are not as high needs as before. Both go to kindergarten 5 hours a day, one is still napping, and we have a schedule every night for bedtime, even on the weekends. They know they have about an hour of TV before it goes off when Disney Junior does (even if it's a recording - every night the good night video comes on) and right around 8 it's "What time does the clock say? 20:00? That's right... good night, I love you."

      I think if it was heavily modified and people took it more as a guide than "the right way" and they themselves and their children do not have so many night time needs, it would work. But the book is definitely NOT for children with higher needs or who require a lot of night time care/feeding/touch.