Friday, June 6, 2008

Parenthood: What a Journey!

Well, as you can see I am having a hard time deciding on a template to use for the blog. But I did figure out a way to get Amazon books on here! Check out the right hand side of the page where I recommend Alphie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting and Dr. Sears' Nighttime Parenting. These are the two books I wish I had used with Ellie and Joel when they were babies.

My parenting style has completely changed with the last 3 children. When Ellie was born I was 27. I was the first one of my friends to have a baby. I was still working and traveling and thought I could do it all - we had all been told so our entire lives, right? Well, Jeff travelled with work and I travelled with work and that left us in a pickle. Plus I was really depressed because I wanted to stay home so badly. On top of it - I didn't feel like I was parenting properly. Everything we were supposed to be doing seemed to make Ellie miserable. She didn't want to be put down. She didn't sit happily in the little car seat bucket in the grocery cart or anywhere else. The crib was her torture chamber. Yet I had had a huge baby shower and received all of these baby things that I saw mothers everywhere using.....and all she wanted was to be held! What a "bad" baby. And a "selfish" baby! I would do as suggested by professionals - so many minutes on the left breast, so many on the right....then she was supposed to be happy for 2 more hours. She wanted to nurse longer than that. She was also "manipulative" in that she wanted to be carried and would cry to get her way. When she was 9 months old I was able to quit my job and be home with her full-time. We joined a playgroup when she was about 14 months old. This group was full of "good" babies and "good" moms - all of whom had their babies trained and on schedules. I saw my inability to do this to be a sign of my own lack of consistency and will-power which as you can imagine, made me feel really good about myself : ). We are talking about the "Cry it Out" days. Ellie could cry the entire night - she really could. Was that good for her or her parents? No. But the goal was to keep her in her crib. If she slept in our bed, the experts said we would never get her out. EVER. If I had had a brain in my head, I would have known this was an impossibility -but I didn't. I only had "experts" in my head. The first book I read that was a turning point for me was "Raising Your Spirited Child." It helped me see Ellie in a new and delightful way, but still didn't address meeting her specific needs as a way to meet my own.

When Joel was born God was looking out for me. Joel was "the baby in the books". Hooray! Joel sat in the bucket. Joel slept in a crib. Joel didn't nurse well and so I was immediately encouraged to bottle-feed him, which I did. Ellie, in the meantime, became worse and worse. She was still trying to get my attention and direct me to a new path that would ultimately lead to a happier and more peaceful home and (here's a concept) a kinder and gentler world, maybe? Imagine what the world would be like if everyone stopped believing everyone else was manipulative and selfish. Imagine the world if we all stopped trying to control what everyone else did and instead focused on appropriate responses to legitimate needs. I mean, really....would there be world hunger? Or war, for that matter? Hmmmm......

At this point the Universe surprised me with Jules. I thought I had evolved into a better, more experienced parent. I had a perfect "scheduled" baby and one I had screwed up and was trying to fix. That wasn't going to happen again because now I was experienced. God is a funny. I mean really, totally hysterical. And speaking of hysterical - that is how Jules arrived and pretty much summed up his personality. He didn't care about my experience or that fact that I was now an expert at parenting. What saved his life was my sheer exhaustion. If the only way everyone was able to sleep at night was for me to nurse him (gasp) in bed, then that was what I did. If the only way to get him to stop crying was to take him out of the bucket and (gasp) wear him, then that was what I did. And immediately - I KNEW that I was doing the right thing and I no longer cared what experts said. By the time I was pregnant with Camille I had decided experts were the enemy.

With my newly found sense of self - I had the nerve to walk out on an appointment with my obstetrician who had delivered Jules. He was basically a know-it-all, patronizing, jerk who had OBVIOUSLY never had a baby. I found a doctor who believed in natural birthing. And then I had the best pregnancy and delivery I had ever had. It turns out that when I had wanted to push with the first 3 and was told to "hold it" - I actually could have been pushing. Which was what my body was telling me to do. It turns out I didn't need an IV. I didn't need to dehydrate and starve myself during the most exhausting and energy-consuming activity of labor, I didn't need an episiotomy (I was literally formed by a Source who had reproduction in mind) and I didn't need pain medication if I was allowed to move and put myself in the instinctive positions that enabled labor to progress comfortably....

Camille went straight onto my chest where she remained for the next two years (if she wasn't being worn by her father). I learned there was a name for the parenting style we found ourselves practicing and it wasn't called "lazy, inconsistent, or sinful" - it was called Attachment Parenting. By the time Jasper was born I was so in control that I barely felt the need for a doctor at all. I had another beautiful natural birth, although this time it was at Methodist hospital and I had several issues with them and wish I had had a homebirth. That would make up another post : ).

So Attachment Parenting turned into Homeschooling that turned into Unschooling that has turned into some unique and wonderful children who I am certain will go out and make the world a slightly better place, someday.

Maybe tomorrow I will be up to posting more about Unconditional Parenting and Attachment Parenting and Unschooling....and how we make versions of these philosophies work for our family (we are not purists in any school of thought or's where that word "inconsistent" comes in again). Although it occurs to me that my next post should be more light hearted : ).

Tonight is Camille's dance recital. The boys are devastated. But right now they are being highly cooperative in an effort to prove to me that they are not letting the new PS2 take over their lives. It is really funny. As soon as I ask them to do anything they hit "pause" and hop to it. "See, Mom? We can walk away. Really we can..." Then they walk out the door backwards still staring at the screen and drooling slightly.

I am going to try and put some pics on the site, now. I am learning so much with the blog. I want to find a template that will let me put "stuff" on either side of the journaling. I have seen it on other blogs but haven't managed to figure it out...
Sardine Mama


  1. wonderful, wonderful, wonderful entry!!!!! loved it. and it makes it seem that you had a baby every year... really close in age even thou u didn't... kind of funny.

    can i tell the sa api about? they'll love it!!

  2. Hey Mrs. CAROL!

    great post! You and your family are always to encouraging, you make me know that someday I can do it too!

    I just wanted you to know that I'm always reading even if I don't always comment (I'm a lurker! dun dun dun!).

    I need to call and see about maybe driving Ellie monday.

  3. Carol - I'm so glad Janet posted your blog link on the API group! I remember you from when they had the yahoo group.

    Love reading your blog!

    Another homeschooling mom to 5 (all girls) and can empathize with the need for a "child abuse prevention weekend"! ;)