Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Returning to our senses


Learning and Education, Parenting

Bev Bos noted, “Experience isn’t the best teacher, experience is the only teacher.” I was sharing with Barbora, a bright twentyish lass from the Czech Republic, how the nuclear family, mother-father-children living in isolation, emerged as the extended family, still relatively intact in her culture, collapsed, a phenomenon that happened abruptly, within ten or fifteen years after World War II in the US.

It does take a village to raise a healthy, well adjusted, sane, empathic child. In the extended family elders are close, at hand, able to help new parents learn what it means to parent. Trusted models lived in the house or close next door. The number of people living alone has doubled since the 1970’s. When the village disappears new parents are cut off, abandoned by and from trusted role models, so they turn to YouTube, books, suggestions on Facebook, friends and pediatricians. Being with a trusted living model and a YouTube video are completely different experiences. They don’t even compare. New parents who grew up without experiential modeling often don’t recognize the discrepancy. How could they?

“As above – so below,” maxim goes. Imagine what takes place when the child raised in the isolated nuclear family becomes pediatrician, the go-to trusted authority for the next generation? My conversation with Jean Liedloff, author of the Continuum Concept, came to mind when reading this morning’s post from James W. Prescott, PhD.

The Latest report from Pediatrics. We have our work cut out for us. How are we meeting this challenge?

Younger pediatricians were less confident than older pediatricians in managing breastfeeding problems (P < .01).

CONCLUSIONS: Pediatricians’ recommendations and practices became more closely aligned with AAP policy from 1995 to 2014; however, their attitudes about the likelihood of breastfeeding success have worsened. These 2 divergent trends indicate that even as breastfeeding rates continue to rise, continued efforts to enhance pediatricians’ training and attitudes about breastfeeding are necessary.

Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, FAAP, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper University Hospital, Three Cooper Plaza Suite 309, Camden, NJ 08103. E-mail: winter-lori@cooperhealth.edu

National Trends in Pediatricians’ Practices and Attitudes About Breastfeeding: 1995 to 2014 October 2017, VOLUME 140 / ISSUE 4 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/4

Touch the Future – The Continuum Concept with Jean Liedloff
A conversation with Michael Mendizza, 1998


MM: Let’s go back. You said that you started to have a series of insights.

JL: I was taking my assumptions apart, thinking, “gosh, if this isn’t true then that isn’t true.” I was living for more than two years with these Indians, looking straight at them and not really seeing them, because I was so blinded by preconceptions. I didn’t even notice that, amazingly, the children never fought. They played together all day unsupervised, all ages, from crawling, to walking to adolescence. Not only did they not fight, they never even argued. This is not at all what we have been taught human nature is — boys will be boys. So I thought, “well, maybe boys won’t be boys.”

It was a long time before I began to notice what was before my eyes. One thinks well, these are savages. They wear red paint and feather loincloths, so they’re not people. But they are exactly the same species as we are, except they are behaving the way we all evolved to behave. We, on the other hand, are mistreated as infants and children, treated inappropriately for our species. As a result, we keep re-creating an anti-social population. Nobody’s born rotten. You just don’t have bad kids. It’s not true. There is no such thing. But we can make them bad. Ironically, the reason it’s possible to make these profoundly social animals bad or anti-social is because we are so social. Our parents, our tribesmen, our authority figures, clearly expect us to be bad or anti-social or greedy or selfish or dirty or destructive or self-destructive. Our social nature is such that we tend to meet the expectations of our elders. Whenever this reversal took place and our elders stopped expecting us to be social and expected us to be anti-social, just to put it in gross terms, that’s when the real fall took place. And we’re paying for it dearly.

Just imagine the neurotic and psychopathic people that we have become. Why do we have a 50% divorce rate? Why do we have so many police? It’s not just Americans; it’s the whole of western civilization laboring under a misapprehension of what human nature truly is. That’s what I learned from my experiences.

One of my later partners, a Belgian, when he saw the little Indian boys running around with their bows and arrows, whooping and jumping, used to say as a joke; they were playing Indians. The fact is, no matter how roughly and wildly they played, it was never antagonistic. Very rarely did they have accidents and there was no supervision by adults.

Children, three, four and five year olds would carry babies around all day. No one was saying, “Sit here and you can hold the baby while you’re sitting down,” or, “Watch out.” Very small children are trusted to take care of infants because five minutes ago they were babies themselves. They just know how to take care of babies. Here we are, great big grown-up louts in our twenties or thirties reading books about how to take care of babies. I’d be embarrassed to admit to the Indians that our women don’t know how to take care of their children until they read instructions written in a book by a man, a man they’ve never met. The Indians wouldn’t have any respect for me. If you were there, you wouldn’t either.

In the jungle every man, every woman, every child knows how to take care of babies. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to our experts. They may be able to distinguish a measles from a mump, which is very useful if you have one or the other. But that doesn’t, for one minute, give them deep knowledge of correct human behavior.

Jean began be observing how she was blinded by her preconceptions. We are swimming in the same preconceptions. For the pediatrician to be seen as an expert or model for breastfeeding is an example. The wisdom Jean described is there, in us all. Some call it the ‘blueprint’ or innate intelligence. The absence of the wise role-models we all need, demands that we dig deep inside. Midwife, author and poet put it this way:

“We ask our babies; how do you want to be born? Then listen and arrange ourselves to meet their needs and expectations. After birth we ask the same question again. “How do you want to be in these arms?” How do I nurse you? I ask my baby. I’m here to serve my baby.”


Real listening implies a heart that is full and a mind that is silent. Setting aside our assumptions, which is easier said than done, returns us to our senses. Thoughts disappear. The chattering mind becomes still. In that quiet stillness, like taking a deep breath, we see who and what our child is actually experiencing and expressing this moment. This seeing creates a new experience for us and, as Bev shared, experience is the only teacher. This seeing-experiencing-teaching moment elicits, draws out of us a fresh, stress free response. Careful attention and empathy pushes the reset button. The need for experts, in most cases, disappear. The child knows that we see who and what they are, something that is constantly changing. They can trust us. And that trust transforms what most call conflict.



Our challenge is reaching parents early. By the time they are pregnant the snowball is already rolling down the hill. Playful Wisdom is a perfect gift from midwives, fathers and new moms.  Order an advanced autographed hardbound edition of Playful Wisdom, and I will send an additional soft cover book for you to gift to a new mother or father. You keep the autographed hard cover edition and give the second to someone you love.

“Opening our minds and hearts to the joyous, curious, playful, zen-like nature of children helps us remember what it means to be “fully alive.” Playful Wisdom: A Father’s Adventure is delightful, especially the inclusions of Joe Pearce and Bev Bos as well as the skillful integration of the science that illustrates the remarkable development of a child’s brain. Michael’s synthesis helps us better understand how miraculous children really are and how important it is that we nurture them to reach their full potential. Our future depends on it!”

Lysa Parker, MS, CFLE, CEIM
Attachment Parenting International-API
Founder & Director Emeritus