ENMESHMENT: THE LATEST WAY TO BREAK UP FAMILIES
In the introduction to Walden II, the B.F. Skinner novel about a Utopian community, Skinner, who kept his own infant daughter in a glass crib that he called a “baby tender,” states the following sage advice:
“Children are our most valuable resources and they are now shamefully wasted. Wonderful things can be done in the first years of life, but we leave them to people whose mistakes range all the way from child abuse to overprotection and the lavishing of affection on the wrong behavior.” (xii) Those people, of course, are a child’s parents.
Since the initial publishing of those words, in 1948, we have, via taxpayer money, successfully separated many families whose parents were deemed abusive or otherwise unfit. Skinner’s family, complete with baby in her own glass box, was evidently deemed normal. The average person believes that agencies such as Child Protective Services (CPS), an Orwellian name if there ever was one, do only good things, mainly taking children away from parents who beat them. The average person thinks that people who beat or starve their children or lock them in a basement--instead of placing them in a glass box--are the only people who have children taken away. Many Americans judge parents who lose their children to adoption or foster care as one step above an Andrea Yates and self-assuredly believe that their children are immune from a social worker’s call.
How else does one explain the rapid spread, only a few years ago, of a system in which anyone can now anonymously call a CPS-esque agency and report a neighbor, friend, ex-spouse, ex-lover, spurned spouse, spurned lover, spurned employee, or spurned manager as having abused or neglected his or her child. What was that thing in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution? You know, the thing about the “accused” having “to be confronted with the witnesses against him”? But really, who bothers to read that outdated document anymore? The general malaise of those who allowed this wildfire of unconstitutional family separation to spread through our country should help you to understand that our government schools are indeed becoming successful in dumbing and numbing us all to perfection.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when Deborah Stevenson, of the National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD), in an interview with Home Education Magazine, tells us that our tax money has already started targeting a whole new set of parents, those of us who may be too attached to our children:
“The psychological community has begun an effort to undermine parental involvement with children by introducing a new word in their lexicon, the word ‘enmeshment.’ It seems that certain influential psychologists have deemed parents who become ‘enmeshed’ with their children's lives to be neglectful of those children. ‘Enmeshment’ is viewed as too much bonding with a child to the extent that the child is not able to thrive independently from his parents. The theory is that children must become independent from their parents and the sooner the better. To do anything less is neglectful. Parents already have been charged with neglect for being too enmeshed with their children. This may be the next step in claiming that parents who homeschool and, who necessarily are ‘enmeshed’ with their children's education, are neglectful simply because they are homeschooling.” (Stevenson, Home Education Magazine, emphasis mine)
So if you think that government agencies take away children only from parents who beat them, how are you going to explain this new twist, this “enmeshment”? What does it take for a child to “thrive independently”? Is failure to toilet train by age two failure to “thrive independently”? Is a child’s crying when his or her mother leaves the room a sign that the child is not thriving independently?
Such vague psychobabble as enmeshment will only become worse unless Americans begin to understand the deceptions of the mental health industry, including governmental mental health screening under the New Freedom Commission. Deborah Stevenson, the Founder and Executive Director of NHELD, states that “one can conclude that the [New Freedom Commission’s mental health] evaluations will include a determination as to whether the child in the school is too ‘enmeshed’ with his parents and the parent in the hospital will become too ‘enmeshed’ with her child.”
We now have a way of taking children away from those of us who may hug our children a little too much, or spend a bit too much time with them, or homeschool them, or in general, like being with them. Those of us who’ve tried such so-called attachment-parenting techniques, as the catch-phrase these days goes, know that before the 20th century, most humans gave their children lots of loving attention; we were enmeshed and society benefitted. The honest truth, as parents for thousands of years have known, is that the hugely dependent baby and small child whose needs are met grows up to be the independent and loving adult. And I might add that humans knew all this stuff without using dependence and independence and attachment parenting and enmeshment and all that other psychological jargon. Human moms loved and gave and nursed when necessary and the child learned to trust his or her parents. And from trust in parents came trust in him or herself.
Something happened around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, however, and parents began taking the advice of so-called experts over the advice of their ancestors. As women’s magazines became ubiquitous, advice such as the following rules, contrived by Dr. Luther Emmett Holt in Care and Feeding of Children overrode the common sense of families: “In the newly born infant the cry . . . is necessary . . . for health. It is the baby’s exercise . . . [Playing with infants makes them] nervous and irritable, sleep badly, and suffer in other respects. (quoted in Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn’s How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor, 66, 67) While many of us today may laugh at such strange advice, moms were, as we are today, being counseled by the experts. Perhaps the dumbing down experiment until that time had been that successful; moms began to turn to these child development theorists instead of their own family members.
Holt’s other gems included that parents should not rock a baby because it is ‘useless and sometimes injurious’ . . . and he maintained that “under no circumstances should a child be allowed to sleep in its mother’s bed.” Sage advice against the centuries in which families had been sleeping together. But Holt’s advice, along with that of psychiatrists who complained about the then-newly-fangled Oedipus and Electra complex, permeated the mind of the masses. As a result, parents began physically and emotionally separating themselves from their children as early as possible. Americans, egged on by advice from the so-called experts, heeded all kinds of advice, fearing that not doing so would produce some kind of abnormal child. Being normal was what the psychiatric community preached and more than just the choir were listening. Common sense told the parents to listen to their instinct, but the experts won.
Feat accomplished, it then became much easier to separate children from their mom so that mom could work away from their home and family all day, a boon for the industrial society and a bust for families. And we see a century of results today: The experts tell us that it’s good for our children if we’re away from them for eight or nine hours each day, taking those hours for our own trivial pursuits. Raising children is not nearly the intellectual exercise that working for a corporation or a government entity is, according to the post-modern mom, who is fully trained in the idea that anyone can raise her child better than she. Some moms teach other children in public schools, but pawn their own child off to a daycare worker. It’s okay though, because we’re teaching our children to be independent, whatever that vague definition means. Our society refuses to believe that children actually need their true mom and dad, as infants and toddlers and even beyond.
Meanwhile, there are a few of us who are part of the backlash to the child separation theories. We believe that carrying our baby in a sling is healthy for the baby, that breastfeeding on demand is what God intended, and that God actually meant it when He said that we should teach our own children. After one hundred years of advice from the likes of Holt and his ilk, however, it becomes clear that what comes naturally to humans cannot be tolerated in a Skinnerian world. Our attachment to our children enmeshes us. And this enmeshment produces successful independent-thinking and working children and more loving and trusting families.
Ah, but the problem with loving and trusting families is that their children grow up to produce loving and trusting families. Walden II is pretty clear on how bad that kind of thing is. “We have to attenuate the child-parent relation . . . group care is better than parental care” (Skinner, 131). The Utopian community “replaces the family, not only as an economic unit, but to some extent as a social and psychological unit as well” (128) In Utopia, parents easily and willingly give their children to the professionals and the community is all the better because of it. “Many parents are glad to be relieved of the awful responsibility of being a child’s only source of affection and help.” By the time of Skinner’s Walden II, I might add, the extended family in the home, in which Grandmas, Grandpas, and other helpful relatives lived with younger families, was already becoming almost as rare as the do-do bird.
It is important to note that weaker families make stronger one-world governments. When families are weak instead of loving and trusting, separated emotionally and physically instead of together, it becomes “easy to induce the unfit or unwell to forego parenthood . . . The hereditary connection will be minimized to the point of being forgotten. Long before that, it will be possible to breed through artificial insemination without altering the personal relation of husband and wife. Our people will marry as they wish, but have children according to a genetic plan” (Skinner 131, 133). How old-fashioned the old-fashioned way of having children is becoming--almost as outdated as the U.S. Constitution! Happy natural families such as my children, their father, and me, are already on the decline; one day, we may become as extinct as the dinosaurs.
The loving mom and dad who see ourselves reflected in the heredity of our children will soon be gone if the Skinnerians have their way. And make no mistake—they are well on their way. Stranger adoption initially desensitized us to the idea of a complete stranger raising someone else’s child. At first, agencies made an attempt to match children with adopters who looked like the child. Adopters now are take children from completely different cultures, allowing people who are not even ethnically related to become a legal “family.” Angelina Jolie has stated that she doesn’t even want to try to have her own children; she only wants to adopt. Children’s shows portray such oddities as two Caucasian men and an Asian child and ask us to believe they are family, as normal as a mom, dad, and their natural child.
We are beginning to lose our hereditary connection, doing exactly what Frazier politely asked of the people at his Utopia. When movie stars and television shows promote as families people who are not related, we begin to accept that families are merely a bunch of people thrown together by attraction or legal documents or both.
When we become desensitized to what a family actually is, and to the importance of blood ties, an importance made clear in the genealogical sections of the Bible, it becomes easy to have blatant disregard for natural families. We stop accepting families for what they are and start judging who should and should not be a parent. We think, of course, that our judgment includes us as fit and proper parents, but the problem with judging who should be a parent is that when someone else does the judging, we may or may not pass muster. Then our children can be taken away.
And children are being taken from so-called unfit homes every day in our country, just as Skinner desired. “We discourage childbearing by the unfit, of course . . . the weakening of the family structure will make experimental breeding possible,” says Frazier. After Frazier continues as to how important it is to weaken this “frailest of modern institutions,” he states that [h]ome is not the place to raise children” (Skinner, 131-132). Indeed it is not--not if you want to have new world order consensus! In Skinner’s Utopia, the home and family succumb to the community and children are raised by experts and professionals, not by their parents. Under the guise of protecting children, we have figured out ways to take away children from homes in which we deem that parents are not caring enough; with enmeshment, we’ve figured out a way to lasso the rest away from their true families and into the Utopian herd.
© 2005 Tricia S. Vaughan
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Tricia Smith Vaughan has a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, and a Master of Arts in English. Before she became a mom, she taught first-year English Composition and Literature for five years at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
She has written for the Los Angeles Times, Durham, N.C.’s Independent Weekly, Raleigh, N.C.’s News and Observer, and other newspapers. She performs stand-up comedy and writes about homeschooling and other momly stuff.
Web Site: www.comicmom.com.
When we become desensitized to what a family actually is, and to the importance of blood ties, an importance made clear in the genealogical sections of the Bible, it becomes easy to have blatant disregard for natural families.