April 29, 2007

Losing the battle, and pondering the relationship of the battle to the war

So you know how we are at war with this country, Iraq, and even though we are bigger and stronger and more technologically developed and so on, we still cannot seem to...win? This perplexes people. Our fine president seems to have this "bigger and stronger=winning" attitude, and apparently seems also to think that the solution to the not-winning problem is a greater use of our bigger-and-stronger-ness .

Well. I just think this means that George wasn't very activily involved in parenting when his girls were infants. Because let me tell you: as the parent of an infant, I am forced to realize every day that being bigger and stronger...well, it's nice. But it only gets you so far.

Okay, so: what I am thinking about here is that one of the ongoing issues of parenting is how to use your strength (one could also say that this is an ongoing issue of being the last remaining global superpower, but I'm going to stop with the foreign policy analysis now). You want your child to do something that s/he does not want to do. What does it mean to make them do it? Can you, even?

Tonight Elliot would not eat his dinner. Would not. We tried every food. We tried distracting with every toy. We tried multiple eating positions. And he was sort of overtired and strung out and was just not going to eat. He just sat there, whining, but with his mouth closed. And we were like: open your mouth, child! He didn't. Basically, he won his own little war of resistance. No solid food went down that gullet, and there was just nothing we could do about it.

As discipline problems go, I realize this is pretty minor (it's not like it involves car keys or a bad boyfriend or something). But it's very interesting! Because...you know, we could maybe pry his mouth open, or force feed him or something maybe. We wanted him to do a physical thing--eat--and we are physically stronger and more adept. But it didn't matter. Given that we were not willing to hurt him, all of our grand adultness was useless in the face of his small infant will.

Our powers as adults can help us raise our children, but given that what we want is indeed to raise them rather than wring their little necks (usually), in fact it is our children's lack of power (to reason, to defend themselves) that often makes them the "winner" in our parenting wars. Since we are not going to hurt them, at some point they are just going to do what they want to do.*

Which, I guess, is old news to parents (if not to the pentagon).** There's some sort of balance between diplomacy and acquiescence and tough love, and you just have to get to know your child really well and...figure it out.

*Which actually, now that I think about it, gives me a new perpsective on how and why sometimes people do hurt their children. You have all these powers...and you really want to use them. It's so frustrating to have so many useless, useless tools, and I suspect that the drive to make your physical superiority useful is what makes parents do such awful things.

**I wonder how our iraq policy would change if we stopped talking about winning the war and started talking about "raising" iraq, in a parenting sense? If we just admit that we're not going to nuke them, because we really do want the best for them, and so we are just going to have to try a different parenting strategy now?


TH said...

I have taken a pretty laid back approach to these type of things. Mainly because Aidan is so strong willed, and he has struggled to cope with the most basic situations. If there is no immediate physical danger then I let him do things his way, even if they are unusual to my way of thinking. This has worked out quite well because he really listens when I say no or stop.

If he just wants to eat frozen peas for dinner - fine. If he wants to pee outside because we are somewhere new and he does not want to use a new toilet I let him. So far no one has said too much about letting him do things his way, but I am sure they think I should control him more. I know him better than anyone else, and I try to slowly push his comfort boundary out, but I am not going to push him too hard and have him retreat just because someone else thinks I should.

Elliot is getting to the age where he will start testing you. You will have to figure out what is acceptable and what isn't. Personally I don't think it is worth the trouble of struggling over things that are acctually not that important. I think it weakens you strategic position.

I have no idea how America could possible succeed in the Iraq situation. We never should have invaded, and I said the same thing bofre the war started. I am not sure that we do want what is best for Iraq. And I am not sure I would even commit to saying that the Bush administration wants what is best for this country. I would say America is something like a bad foster parent, with a kid that already had a lot of issues. I am glad that you are not as jaded in your views as mine.

sarah said...

Tarrah, you're so nice. I love not being the jaded one! I've been working on it.

Though, truly, it's not that I think the US has totally benevolent foreign policy purposes. when I say we want "what's best" for Iraq, I mean that we want "a stable, secular, democratic ally in the middle east who will promise to consistently provide us with oil." (Though I guess, except for the oil part, I also think that would be good for Iraq). If what we meant by "winning" was squashing them to oblivion, we could do that...by "winning" we seem to hope they will see our point of view, and that's a much different thing that requires a much different strategy.

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MAC said...

Hmmm...we have been going through this with going to sleep. In the past four nights, it has occured to G. that she would rather hang out with us than go to sleep at night. Last night at bedtime, she cried in her room for 50 minutes, while I cried in the living room till I couldn't take it anymore. Of course, hyperventilating and everything, she still smiled and cooed when I went to her(which tells me she just wanted a visit). Lightly touching her face and head put her out in 3 minutes. Then I felt even worse-could I have put her in a deep sleep sooner and saved us both some misery? She certainly IS stubborn (wherever did she get that trait, anyway?). I am also wondering why two of the past 4 nights she went down without a peep, and two of the nights were just awful??

OK-I'll go here and risk being torched-I am one of those people that thinks GWB is an optimist, and his mistakes come from a naive desire to do good-the Ol' Texas way (brawn and muscle). Bushie probably really thought Hussein was an "evil dictator"-no argument from me-and that removing him and installing a democracy would be better for Iraquis and the stability of the Middle East (though he could have planned for once we got there a little-ok ALOT-better); he probably relied too heavily on crappy intelligence (which other countries also had-enough to convince everyone of the WMD argument-plus the obvious evidence that he HAD had WMDs in the annihilation of massive populations of Kurds in 1998, most of whom died by asphyxiation and chemical burns from attacks of mustard gas and sarin nerve agent). That wasn't the only (or even the major) reasoning for the war (though everyone used it to scare the crap out of Joe US Citizen)-fun reading is Resolution 1441, which the UN passed unanimously. I also don't buy the "war for oil" argument, since we get a piddly amount of crude oil and petroleum products from Iraq compared to the rest of the world (only 2.5% of our imports in 2005 came from Iraq, for example; we got three times as much from Venezuela in the same time period). So, is he naive, egocentric, and a piss poor planner?-absolutely; a crafty evil man?-I really don't think so. I don't believe he realized what the extent of civilian casualties while fighting the "enemy" might be (which, trickily, seems to not be the entire country, but the vitriol-spewing, hate mongering insurgents). Should we stop policing the world and mind our own business? Now-that's an interesting ethical debate.

TH said...


I don't necessarily disagree with you that George Bush maybe an optimist with bad planning skills. I can believe this of him because I think that he is a total idiot. I can't dismiss other members of his administration so easily, as I am not convinced that they are idiots. It is an unfortunate reality that many American companies have made significant money due to the war. It is also suspicious that various parts of the administration have strong links to these same companies.

I think that there are a lot of facets to the war and it is too simple to say that we are in for just one reason. Our government has a long history of attemping to change regimes, and in my view we have not been successful at it. If we are going to nation build then their needs to be some serious planning (think Germanny post-WWII). We are now in a situation that is awful, and we are also not focusing the proper resources on rebuilding Afganistan. Which is likely to revert to chaos, and cause us trouble in the future. I wish we would fix the first jar we broke before moving on to break new things... If anyone here would like to report me to the committee on un-American activities Amy knows where to find me...or better yet put me incharge of some rebuilding. Then I would have to produce results or shut-up. Part of the problem has been the completely over optimistic timelines. In my company it take about 3 years to drill a new water well, which is only a $1M dollar project. We spent several years on a big treatment plant. Rebuilding is bound to be a very slow process.

If we really went in because Sadam is a bad guy then why is it that we have been completely unwilling to lift a finger to stop the genocide in Sudan? Many in the intellegnce community feel that N. Korea and Iran are bigger threats than Sadam was.

As you can tell I can't wait for 2008! And I don't care which one of the Democrats wins I will be much happier.