Monthly Archives: November 2010

Relying on Kindness

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Kind

Pronunciation:, kīnd/

adjective

  • having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature:

A fellow mother once said to me, in reference to her own baby, “I just want him to grow up to be kind.” Much to her surprise I responded by telling her she couldn’t just stop at kindness.

I understand her sentiment because I used to feel the same way. Most of us truly want our children to grow up to be good, decent people. It’s why we like our children’s stories to be morality tales disguised as entertainment. It’s why we want our kids to share their toys with others. It’s why we ask them to say “please” and “thank you.”

And yes, I do want Baby E to grow up to be kind. What I have come to realize is that I can’t really teach my son kindness if I don’t also examine the unearned privileges we get just because we were born on a certain level of societal hierarchy.

Will my son really  be a kind person if he gives to charity regularly but freely uses classist, ableist, sexist, etc. language?

Will my son really be a kind person if he’s only kind to those who are most visible in society?

Will my son really be a kind person if his well-intended kind act causes harm to another person who is marginalized in ways that he is not?

Will my son really be a kind person if he says he loves all people but fails to see how his privileges reinforce prejudice?

I don’t expect Baby E to be a perfect child nor a perfect adult because he is only human. I’m certainly not perfect in this and I am learning, un-learning, and re-learning everyday.

So how can I teach my son to be kind and then some?

I know that it involves teaching and modeling empathy. This means that when he’s upset, I stop to think about his feelings from his perspective, and address them from that perspective instead of only from my viewpoint.

It also involves teaching and modeling respect. So when he doesn’t want to be tickled, or kissed, or picked up, then I respect that. It means things like teaching him a safe word when he’s older, to be used during tickle sessions so that we can be sure there are no misunderstandings when we want to stop.

It means watching my language and pointing out problematic language that serves to marginalize others.

It means talking about social issues at home, regularly.

It means reading him books that feature marginalized persons as fully realized human beings not stereotypes.

It means not excluding persons who are marginalized in various ways from our lives.

So yes, I want my son to be of a “friendly, generous, and considerate nature” but it won’t mean much if that’s where his “kindness” ends.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • Attachment Parenting Chose Us” — For a child who is born “sensitive,” attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting “choice.” Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • Parenting in the Present” — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • Parenting With Heart” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • Sometimes I Wish We Coslept” — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • Unconditional Parenting” — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • Supporting Natural Immunity” — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting” — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning “challenges.” (@myzerowaste)
  • Let Them Look” — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • Why I Love Unschooling” — Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Is He Already Behind?“Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning” — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

My Son is Not a Poodle

A corded Standard Poodle

Image via Wikipedia

NOT a poodle!

The other day I went to my local, organic-friendly yet cheap grocery store with Baby E in tow.  As usual, I wore Baby E in our Ergo carrier on my front. He was asleep, and because it was chilly he was wearing a hoody with the hood pulled up over his head as he slept. All you could see of his head was his dark brown, nearly black, curly afro peeking out from under the hood.

I was pondering some goods on a shelf when out of the corner of my eye I noticed an older woman reaching toward Baby E. I turned to look at her and she let out a semi-surprised, half-relieved, “Oh!”

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“Oh, I just didn’t know what that was you were carrying there. I thought it might be a poodle or something but I see it’s a baby.”

“Oh, ok…” I half-nodded my head and with a slight smile, turned away. She walked away while still offering her flustered explanations that kept stumbling over themselves.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of that moment. I suppose it could have been an amusing anecdote to tell C when I got home, yet, the encounter left me uneasy. Whether this woman realized it or not, she’d effectively “othered” my child. Here was a white woman mistaking the hair of a brown child for the fur of a poodle.

Whether she knew it or not she really said this:

  • Not-white hair is seen as not “normal” hair
  • Not-white hair when seen apart from other visibly human features can reasonably be assumed to be animal fur
  • My son can reasonably be mistaken for a poodle
  • It’s not harmful when mothers of brown children are told that their children can be mistaken for poodles or other animals
  • People wear poodles in baby carriers
  • People who might wear poodles in baby carriers should be questioned about it in public by strangers

I guess I should start taking Baby E to the dog groomer now, huh? :/


The Power of No

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve started saying “No” to Baby E.

No to nursing when my nipples have had enough.

No to him playing with electrical cords.

No to him playing in the kitchen cabinets.

He usually just looks at me and laughs then goes right back to doing what I didn’t want him to do in the first place. Such is the way of the toddler.

I’m trying to redirect him instead of just saying no all the time. Most of the time I am able to do this.

Well, some of the time.

That “No” comes flying out of my mouth before I’ve even realized what has happened.

Such is the way of the mama.

I know that the oft-cited danger of saying “No” to a toddler all the time is that it encourages them to start saying “No” back to you for any and everything. However, I think that children learn how to say “No” anyway, verbally or otherwise, regardless of how many times they’ve heard you say it.

But here’s the thing: I think “No” is a really important word for Baby E to learn. And as tempting as it is, I don’t mean this in a “reinforce the parent-child hierarchy” way. I mean that “No” is important because it helps us set up boundaries. And just like I have boundaries for Baby E, he has boundaries for me. By honoring his “no” I’m hopefully teaching him to honor mine and the “no” of others.

This is a hard lesson to put into practice when I’m steeped in a culture that doesn’t truly treat children as fully realized human beings. It’s a hard thing to practice when I’m trying to keep Baby E’s reasoning abilities in perspective while balancing his need for safety and care with honoring his right to say no.

But it’s important enough for me to keep trying and doing. I want my son to be well aware of his rights as an individual but I also want him to be aware of  and respect the rights of others. Honoring his “No” is just the first step.

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