Friday, March 29, 2013

They Judge My Children Because of Me

I can generally get along with people who don't agree with my parenting views.  It is so much harder, though, to know that my children are being judged for my choices. People who disagreed with me began to see my kids through a negative filter based on their opposition to my decisions. I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut about any of my own frustrations or doubts. I tried to never complain about a sleepless night or sibling arguments or how much I hated elimination diets while breastfeeding. I didn’t want to drip blood in front of sharks. That wasn’t enough, though. Even times when I was perfectly satisfied with my children’s behavior, it was still viewed darkly by some people.
Image credit: A_of_DooM on Flickr

At first, any deviation from their ideal was blamed on breastfeeding. I was told multiple times that everything from personality traits, social interactions, sleep habits and food allergies were because I breastfed. If they cried when we left them at the church nursery, they were seen as clingy, shy and spoiled because we would come back and get them or stay with them. Later, anything other than instant compliance with a smile was magnified because we didn’t spank, even when their behavior was age appropriate.

It is hard to respond gently to criticism about our own choices. It is a thousand times harder not to unleash our mama bear when that criticism is directed at our children. Even (especially?) when it is subtle. Knowing smirks, a shaking head, raised eyebrows. I know if I say anything, it will come across as petty and defensive, but the attitude still leaves stinging welts on my heart.
What’s a gentle mama to do?

Read the whole thing over Natural Parents Network (link fixed)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jesus Wasn't an Extrovert

Hello My Name Is Introvert
Image credit: One Way Stock on Flickr
"Just I was beginning to make peace with that side of my personality, I married an extroverted Hispanic who loves to host parties.  And we had four kids.  That we decided to homeschool.  Suddenly, I was caught in the tension of my expectations and who I really am.  I watched with envy as my mother in law played with the kidlets for hours at a time.  Although I love them more than life itself, playing for more than a few minutes leaves my soul gasping for breath.  I read blogs and posts by amazing moms warning of the need to put down our phones and be fully engaged with our children, and felt weighted down with terrible shame and guilt for the number of times I check Facebook during a day.
My kids need friends, and some days I feel like I am failing them because playdates don’t come naturally to me.  I am not shy, exactly–I will talk about anything with anybody.  It is more like easily overwhelmed.  Competing noises from several people at once fry my mind.  And related, but different, is that I suck at small talk.  My brain just totally freezes.  Not to mention the inherent difficulties of focusing on a visit with another adult when I am constantly keeping one eye and ear on the kidlets.
Did I mention that there are four of them?  Each only two years apart?  And that I am with them all day every day?  The truth is that that *is* working for our family.  But I had to let go of a few things."

Read the rest over at A Deeper Family.  :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The DDL Statement of Beliefs, Hot Button Parenting Edition

My verbal filter has always had a leak, but the older I get the more I suspect that it has broken altogether.  I was so excited about learning and experiencing new things that work for our family that I have always just blurted them out.  Fortunately, I have been blessed with the kind of friends and family that can agree to disagree and still love me, even when they think I am loony or just plain wrong, so sharing my views doesn't take much courage.  I hear a lot about mommywars, but don't really experience them, for which I am very grateful.  That said, here's what I think about some of the hot-button parenting issues today.

Birth:  I went from an epidural-by-two centimeters-dilation-please to a passionate home birth advocate over the course of four births.  I believe that doulas and midwives are superheros.  Every woman should grow up hearing about normal, beautiful births, and I want to make sure that my kids have confidence in their birth choices and experiences.  I don't care where or how you give birth as long as you know what your options are and the benefits and risks to you and your baby. 

Breastfeeding:  Well, there is a reason that I am Dulce de leche, after all.  Having nursed all four kids over a period of nine years and counting, tandem nursed for more than seven years and through three pregnancies, triandemed for two and a half years, persevered through nursing aversion, food allergies and more makes this one of my favorite topics.  I fully support child led weaning and full term nursing.  I also think that nursing in public is more than just a right of the nursing mother and child:  it is important for all people to witness and affirm, especially Christians.  There are many reasons why breastfeeding does not always work for every mom, and I won't judge you--but I will mourn with you if you had to wean before you wanted.

Sleep:  God listens to my cries even when it is dark.  He doesn't tell me to soothe myself or ignore me so that I won't bother him.   I would be heartbroken if the people I loved refused to comfort me when I was hurting simply because my obvious physical needs were met.  It seems pretty logical to me that I should treat my kids the way I would want to be treated there.  Besides, we all sleep better together, anyway.

Circumcision:  His body, his choice.  I cannot find any moral excuse for cosmetic surgery on a healthy baby.  There are no purported health benefits that are worth the risks and damage caused by routine infant circumcision.  And I don't even have printable words for the arrogance that would assume to remove part of a child's genitals because the parents would prefer a different appearance.  (For the record, we don't pierce our babies' ears, either.  I believe that without an overriding health concern, their bodies belong to them and they should be the only ones to modify them.)

Vaccinations:  We started off vaxing according to schedule until my son had a severe reaction at four months.  I honestly believe that it is only the mercy of God that he survived and has no discernible damage.  That caused me to begin researching everything I could find about vaccines.  Nothing I have found so far has convinced me that the benefits outweigh the risks for my family.

Schooling:  We are almost unschoolers.  I attended public school and was later homeschooled through high school.  I also taught K-12 at private schools for five years and have been teaching college courses for fifteen years now.  I can see benefits and drawbacks of all the different options, and we will probably try out more than one approach, but for now, homeschooling is working.  As a college instructor, I have noticed that the homeschooled students that I have taught stand out for their initiative and motivation, and I want to nurture that in my own kidlets.

WOHM vs SAHM:  I have been working part time ever since having kids.  For her entire first year, I wore my youngest baby to class with me (and wore all the others often, as well).  There were times with the others where I cried on my way to work, felt milk letting down before I could make it home, and wept over the moments that I missed or anxiety about leaving them with someone else.  There were also times when I thanked God wholeheartedly for time to myself and for the opportunity to be with adults without having to keep half my attention on my children.  I wish all parents had the opportunity to choose what would work best for their families.

Discipline:  I am a spanking abolitionist.  I post on this one frequently, because there are so many voices that twist Scripture and try to teach that God wants us to hit our kids.  Prayerful study of the Bible, the Proverbs passages and more, and the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart has convinced me that God has called us as parents to show the same mercy and grace to our children that He has shown to us.  How will they believe that they can be forgiven through Jesus if our actions teach them that they cannot be forgiven without a spanking?  I do believe that we are called to disciple our children, the same way that Jesus taught His disciples: through our examples, through patient instruction, through washing their feet and using our authority to serve and protect rather than as a vehicle for our pride and selfishness.  I will go even further, though.  I honestly don't see any benefit whatsoever to punishment.  Kids learn better without it, and I have no more right to demand vengeance than the unmerciful servant in Jesus' parable did.  We have found better tools for our discipline toolbox.

Sex Ed for Kids:  From the very beginning, we knew we would never have The Talk with our kids.  Instead, we just talk, all the time.  I want them to be glad that God gave them a clitoris, to learn about sex and healthy relationships (and how to avoid unhealthy ones) from us, without shame, and to understand why sexual purity matters.

Parents vs Kids:  One of the tragedies of church culture today is the perpetuation of the adversarial mindset that insists that parents form a united front against their children.  We are not to be marriage centered OR child centered.  We are on the same team, and our goal is to be Christ-centered.  My husband and I submit to each other and ultimately to God. 

Misc:  As far as other things like TV, food choices, diapers, kreeatiff spellings for names, our kids' appearance and all that, we lean towards a radical unschooling take on it, with lots of freedom for whatever we need.  We aren't strict about screen time, but the kids prefer to play, anyway.  I love raw milk and making my own kombucha and we buy organic and pasture raised as much as possible, but we also do fast food when we are in the car and in a hurry. I used cloth diapers full time on two children and part time on two, but was lucky that my younger three all potty learned on their own before they were two years old. 

Faith:  Knowing Christ makes me want to live a life of radical grace.  I am still learning exactly what that means, but this is where I am right now.

So this is a peek at some of the choices we are making.  Thanks for joining me here!  Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I am pretty sure that you love your kids and are seeking the best for your families.  I am glad that we can learn together.  :)

My Motivation

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages (Book Review)

 [This is part of the Virtual Book Tour for the launch of L.R.Knost's Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages. Click here if you’d like to check out all of the other stops on the tour!]

"So then, you will know them by their fruits." ~ Jesus (Mt. 7:20)

When I first began to research gentle parenting, I had two important questions: was it Biblical and did it work?  Studying the Proverbs passages in Hebrew and looking at the rest of the Bible as well as my own walk with Christ made it clear to me that this was what God was calling me and my family to do.  But I still wrestled with a few doubts--after all, I and nearly everyone that I knew had been parented with spanking, shaming and other adversarial parenting tools.  I could see some of the rotten fruit that had produced, but I wanted to know if the fruit of peaceful parenting was better.  

L. R. Knost, the author of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, has already seen that harvest.  In an interview for Gentle Christian Mothers, she describes the results of gentle parenting in her family: 
L.R. Knost: "My oldest two are, respectively, a happily married Pastor with two adorable children of his own and a happily married Family Therapist with a high-stress social services job working doggedly to protect children from the fallout of unfortunate parenting choices. My next oldest is graduating this year with a pre-med degree in BioMedical Sciences before heading into med school, but even with an incredibly tough university schedule he takes the time each week to go to a local teen hang-out spot and work in an outreach ministry he created and has been building for the last year. All of them, along with my younger children, have tender hearts that feel others’ pain and discouragement deeply, and all of them seek every opportunity to reach out with a helping hand, a kind heart, and a friendly smile."
This kind of thing makes me pay attention to the wise Titus 2 women who have something worthwhile to say about how to best love our families.  And what she has to say is delightful, both in content and style!

Two Thousand Kisses a Day strikes a wonderful balance in being informative and still easy to read for a parent with limited time.  The newborn section covers sleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing.  The toddler chapters deal with topics like sharing, potty learning, rejection of a parent and food issues, along with setting gentle limits.  I appreciated her perspective tremendously.

The subsequent chapters were especially interesting to me because I have not seen many resources that talk about attachment parenting in older children.  The preschooler section contained some must-read chapters, including my favorite of the whole book, My Little Caboose and the Very Bad, No Good...Month which is available online, as well as excellent articles on the problem with punishment, helping children cope with anxiety, delightful ideas for fun memories and dealing with mommy guilt.

The sections on middle childhood and teens are also helpful and full of wisdom and understanding, and the conclusion with 12 practical steps for month by month gentle parenting is beautiful.

I loved this book.  More than just the content, which was excellent, I loved what this book did in me as I was reading it.  I have read books by punitive authors such as Ezzo, the Pearls, Tripp and others who left me feeling at war with my children.  I would find myself being less patient, quick to anger and assigning evil intent to their motives.  In contrast, when I read Two Thousand Kisses a Day, I felt so light and loving.  Little love waves kept splashing on my family the whole day, and we all experienced more peace, joy, patience, kindness and self control.  That is the kind of fruit I want.

Note: Anyone who purchases the hard copy of the book by March 16th, 2013 can receive a FREE Kindle version of the book!   Don't miss the rest of the tour.  :)  Also, be sure and check out the Little Hearts blog and Facebook pages.   Seriously, y'all.  I have been blessed with access to a ton of wonderful parenting pages and I simply don't have time to stay caught up on all of them, but this is one I never want to miss because it ALWAYS refreshes my spirit.