Thursday, April 28, 2011
The Natural Parenting Blog Party--Why Creating Community Matters to Me
Welcome to all my friends, old and new who have visited through the Natural Parenting Blog Party. I am so very, very grateful that you are part of my parenting community!
I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, and around here, most people believe that the Bible tells them to use their belts on their children. Babywise and CIO are a given, and even a pediatrician gives out free copies of To Train Up a Child. It is one thing to stand up for what you believe in and follow your own conscience, but when you are the only one you know, it can feel like you are drowning. Just how important is creating a community of parents? I think it is incredibly important. We are designed to have relationships and to be part of a community. For many parents who find themselves on a path similar to mine, that becomes increasingly difficult.
If I limited my friendships to parents who agree with me on everything, I would have very, very few friends. I would also miss out on a lot of opportunities to grow and learn. I have deeply loved and respected family, friends and blog readers who disagree with me on most of my parenting choices. They believe that spanking is necessary, that letting their children cry it out results in better sleep for everyone, that vaccinations are lifesavers, that babies don't need to be held so much, that hospital births are the safest choice and that while breastfeeding is fine for the first few months or so, if they can talk then they are too old. They are not all extremists, of course--they may not follow all of those, and they may follow them to different degrees. I think that Granny2five is the only one who ever dares to leave comments ;) and even hers are very mild. But I appreciate the reminders to weigh my choices, to pray and seek God and to look at all sides of an issue.
All of that said, I also find that I need to limit some of my interactions with people whose standards are very different from mine. If I witness a spanking or vicious shaming, I feel the same sick feeling inside as if I had witnessed an adult hitting a disabled person. It tears me up emotionally for a long time. My daughter responds the same way, and will cry about it later in the night. For our emotional well-being, I would not spend time with people who practice that in front of us if I can avoid it. Even hearing a group of moms laughing about letting their infants cry and scream or spanking their kids (and I am horrified by how common it is to joke about this in church nurseries) evokes the same stomach-clenching, teary-eyed feelings.
I realize that to someone who is accustomed to it, it isn't a big deal, and that I probably seem overly dramatic. Once a care-giver threatened Ariana and Joel with a spanking. To my mom, it wasn't a serious issue since it was "only" a threat. However, my sister was able to remind her that for children who have never been threatened with hitting, it was very different. If an angry adult threatened to hit you and seemed prepared to do so, you would probably be upset and scared. If this adult was much, much larger than you and knew that they could get away with it, imagine how much more intense your fear would be. Or imagine how you would feel watching an adult caregiver hit an elderly person with Alzheimer's because they weren't following instructions. I feel that same horror, outrage and grief at the idea of hitting a child, whose cognitive and physical abilities may make them just as vulnerable. It is only when we have desensitized ourselves that the idea of hitting someone smaller and at a different mental level from us is not disturbing.
Much more insidious is the subtle adversarial mindset that comes with punitive parenting. Labeling, shaming, perceiving all of the child's actions through a negative lens. I hear it all the time, and I have noticed that it is contagious. I have found that even reading through Dobson or Ezzo materials starts to influence my thinking and perception of my children. I become less patient, more suspicious and less peaceful inside.
Another reason that I need to be intentional about my community is, quite simply, that I don't have all the answers. I need help, advice, wisdom, sympathy and encouragement from other moms who have been there. However, it is hard to be open about my struggles with moms who don't understand the reasons behind my choices. I don't feel as if I have the right to complain about lack of sleep, discouragement with breastfeeding, frustration with my child's behavior or similar things when I have no intention of accepting any of their solutions of CIO, weaning or punishment.
I *need* to spend time with other peaceful parents. When I do, I come away refreshed, full of love, peace and compassion towards my family. I feel energized instead of drained. A community of like-minded parents isn't just a nice thing to have. It is a necessity. But it doesn't seem to happen easily for some of us. It must be created intentionally. I am already planning a post on how we can create that community, but for now, I just want to thank you for being a part of mine. You are loved and appreciated. <3