Not Equal to the Sum of Its Parts

I’m not entirely sure where I first heard this phrase, but I want to say it was 11th grade AP English with Mrs. Roberts.  And I think it went. . .

“A novel is not equal to the sum of its parts.”

I think this phrase has a lot to offer me. And maybe all of us in this age of information, scientists, studies, media, state standards, and parenting books.

There is something bigger.  Something that can’t always be named, analyzed, quantified and labeled.  It’s there in our homes, how we raise our kids, the kind of food we eat, what kind of people our children are.  No matter how much information we gather, how many small pieces we break something into, how many different ways we analyze it, we are left with something missing.  Unless we realize this.  Science is not the answer.  It’s a tool.  A piece of the puzzle.   The answers lie within us—-HUMANS.  And we cannot possibly be quantified.  Ever.  And we have other tools at our disposal.  Things like intuition, feelings, hunches, perceptions.

I’m realizing this as I read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.  He is saying basically this same thing about food.  In our current times, we are now relying on scientists and the government to tell us what is the right thing to eat.  And we have attempted to break food down into its smallest parts (protein, vitamins, poly unsaturated fats) and then use that information to feed ourselves correctly.  But he points out that this is only part of the picture.   How we eat, who we eat with, our feelings about what we are eating all play a part.  Similar to how some think that breastfeeding is simply about milk, when it is really so much more.

So, I liked his Food Rules so much, it got me thinking about how this concept of taking a step back from all the data could be applied to so many areas.  And in particular to parenting.  Could we come up with some common sense “rules” that rise above the overwhelming amount of information out there about how to raise the perfect child?

It starts with realizing that our children are so much greater than all the “parts” we try to do perfectly….

*they are more than the diet they eat.

*they are more than where they sleep.

*they are more than bottle-fed versus breastfed.

*they are more than where they go to school.

*they are more than gentle discipline or time outs.

*they are more than vaccinated or not.

Michael Pollan takes his rules from common sense and from history.  I say we do the same.  Applying his logic, people have been raising children for thousands of years and we all wouldn’t be here if they didn’t so something right.

And perhaps we should start by asking our grandparents. . .

(I feel I must share that I was inspired by this post by one of my favorite writers.  After reading it, I went to put Big C to bed and my mind was just spinning!)

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