Photo by UggBoy♥UggGirl
When you first have children, the learning curve overwhelms you. You have certain thoughts about child-raising before you even begin. You may or may not know how to parent differently than mainstream society. You may not have even thought about it.
Some of your child-raising beliefs come from your personal background. Some opinions come from books you have read or other kids you've observed. Often peer pressure is involved as well (in terms of what other parents in your peer group are doing with their kids).
Whenever you step outside of the mainstream culture in any way--it's a little scary.
You may be right or wrong in what you think, and as a new parent, the only way to find out is...well, to experiment. As in experimenting on your new little ones. And it's not always easy to be different from those around you. (I know this because our family is different in almost every. possible. way. from the cultural norm.)
Stepping out as a pioneer parent takes guts. You may not see the fruit for your choices until many years later.
So you may be all gung ho about late potty training, for example, but your friends just notice that your 3.5 year-old still runs around in a diaper. Or maybe you believe fiercely in unschooling, but all your mom sees is that your eight-year-old still can't read.
Like I said--pioneer parenting isn't for cowards.
Now that my children are getting a tad bit older (they're currently 7.5, 6, and 5.5), I've entered a slightly new season as a mother. And this past holiday season, I began to notice the tiniest bit of fruit from our parenting choices:
- From our efforts to limit our kids' exposure to advertising & consumerism: Children who not once asked if there were "more" Christmas presents to open.
- From our establishing a consistent bedtime: Elijah asking to go to bed early because he was tired.
- From our limiting the types of videos they watch (We're very conservative about this and the only full-length movie we've allowed thus far is Dr. Dolittle - the old one from 1967): The kids coming out to tell me an episode (on a DVD they were watching) has a scary part so can we skip it.
- From our efforts to feed our kids whole, unprocessed foods: Jonathan saying he was going to eat less sugar on the day after Christmas because he had had so much the day before.
- From our goal of streamlining & simplifying toys: Kids who happily (at my suggestion) picked out toys to give away since they had received a few new ones.
- From our hope to give the children extensive time in nature: Three who joyfully spent Christmas Eve morning in the woods with Daddy (while Mommy was at home creating Christmas magic).
I'm writing this out, not in any way to pat myself on the back about what a great job I'm doing as a mom. Those of you who read here regularly know I'm just as likely to share my struggles and realities in this space as my triumphs.
And we have plenty, plenty (Did I mention plenty?!) of consistent issues to work on each and every day. There's no perfection in our home.
Instead, I mean this list to be an encouragement. If your kids are young, if you have thoughts that niggle you about typical parenting in our society today--don't be afraid to listen to them. Follow your heart and gather up all your courage; you'll need it.
But the alternative choices you make each moment will invest in the little chubby faces you now look down on. And one day, not too far from now, you'll have a front row seat as you witness the fruit.
**Is there a choice you've made to parent differently? Have you seen any fruit yet?**
P.S. (Is it possible to have a P.S. to a blog post? Hope so.) I want to mention that I recently finished a book that, apart from my own, best sums up what I feel is my parenting philosophy. It's called Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. I've also heard the author, Kim John Payne, on a podcast--the book is well worth checking out next time you're looking for a parenting read.