Film Questions Right and Wrong in Parenting

mari-japan-babies-film-focus-filmsWhat would you do if you saw a baby tied to a bed post and getting spanked? Or a mom smearing mud on her child’s head? Would you let your toddler walk among grazing cattle? Or stick her fingers in a strange dog’s mouth?

How do you feel about exposing your child to a constant barrage of stimulation — traffic, dance classes, TV, talking, talking, talking?

What if you knew these seemingly cruel and/or dangerous situations are the norm for some cultures. What would you think of a filmmaker, who, after spending months and months and shooting some 400 hours of video decided that, if he could do it all over again? He’d wish to be born into the bedpost/spankers culture.

French director Thomas Balmes says of the spanking:

…this is reality. I felt a lot of love in the way he was spanked. In terms of him being tied to the bed, absolutely every child in Mongolia is tied to the bed because [the parents] don’t have any choice. They all live in this kind of tent a yurt and there is a very warm heater in the middle of the yurt and if the babies touch it, they are really going to burn themselves. The parents don’t have any babysitters and they have to take care of the cattle and they cannot take the baby outside because it’s minus 34 degrees, so there is absolutely no other option. And there is no violence and no bad treatment in that.

Balmes’ movie “Babies,” set for release May 7, follows the birth and first year of four babies from four different cultures. Without narration, the film shows those early months in a family in Namibia, Japan, Mongolia and the United States (San Francisco).

The lesson, perhaps shocking to those who have expended much energy and resources into figuring out the best way to parent, is that there is no “right” way to rear children.

Most surprising might be the assumptions we make about the superiority of certain cultures — not to mention assumptions we make about what other cultures are doing. So attachment parents who mimic some kind of generic “tribal life” might be surprised to find the Namibian and Mongolian babies are often left to cry it out.

And industrialized cultures with all that education — all those classes? Those parents might be astounded at the child who can sit still and watch flies, and blown away by the bovine-dodging toddlers?

Watch the “Babies” trailer here:

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