Recently I was contacted by Alternative Families International to discuss my parenting choices (like breastfeeding full-term, unschooling and more), the judgement I’ve faced and how I have dealt with it on a video interview with AFI founder Athena Reich. Click here to watch.
People get pissed off at parents like me, because allegedly we protect our children from facing any difficulty. If only they knew that the world is already such a difficult place for children, particularly those who are atypical.
This photo was taken exactly 5 years ago today.
Looks like a sweet memory right?
Don’t let the photo fool you, he was up in our arms 90% of that day.
He is stressed out. He took like 5 steps and I got Neville to take a photo.
Because I wanted him to be something he wasn’t, and when he for a moment lived up to my expectation, my ego wanted it captured.
Other toddlers loved to run and explore… ours wanted to still be carried in an Ergo most of the time, and still nursed like a newborn.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that the world was a very overwhelming place for him.
Had I known what I know now:
- I would not have made him wear jeans, ever.
- The tags would already be cut from this outfit.
- I would have given even more generously.
- I would not have tried all those playgroups.
- We would not have thrown him that Yellow Submarine theme party for his 2nd birthday, and invited everyone we knew.
- I would not have been disappointed when he told me he did not want a 3rd birthday party.
- I would have advocated more.
- HE would have been more important than my expectations.
When I reflect back on moments such as this day, I get told, “Well, how were you to know!” and, “Don’t be so hard on yourself”. Make no mistake, beating myself up and calling myself out, are very different. I think there is POWER in my admissions.
While I could not have known my son had sensory processing disorder, I argue that the label doesn’t even matter. If love and empathy mattered to me more than ego, more than “success”, I would have simply followed his cues, and it was really quite clear what he needed.
If I didn’t want so badly to do all the things I had envisioned, and live the life I had pictured, we all would have had more peace at every age and stage along the way.
I aim to empower the parent who gets glimpses of parenting intuitively, but is told s/he is a “helicopter parent”.
I aim to soak in this perspective for myself, as I am still fumbling in so many ways! If I can look back and remember, that although “I could not have known”–I knew, and this knowing is *still* blinded by ego and cultural norms. Calling myself out in moments of the past, I am now removed from (except by memory), is an anchor. I use this anchor for the times I *still* parent from a place of fear instead of love. Like when I:
- get angry, coercive and punitive because of someone else’s judgement
- force book-work because I found out someone said they “should” be doing x, y, or z by now
- keep my distance during a play date because the moms want to chat, even though I know my kids need support
- pull away instead of lean in, during those trying days in the trenches
It’s cool to be free-range, tech-free, diaper-free, and the list goes on.
I learned I was never going to be cool in 1988, so why would I try now.
The problem with parenting stigma, with ANY assumptions about another human being, parent or child, is that it fails to consider the individuals and the dyad.
I found Attachment Parenting and Unschooling because it fit us. Learning about these principles made sense of us.
Yet despite all the work I have done, going against the grain, educating myself, taking the path less travelled, there is still a piece of me that yearns to belong and for us to be “normal”. Normal is just fine, if it works for you. But here is the problem with normal for my family.
“Normal” puts us into situations set up for us to fail and be burned.
“Normal” breaks my children’s heart irreparably and negatively affects their future relationships.
“Normal” causes anxiety to worsen and our hearts to harden.
If I knew what I know now, I would began with the end in mind… that our GOAL in parenting is to preserve their hearts and ensure my children always feel like a GIFT (not a burden) to their family.
My intentions going forward are to keep this goal front of mind, and give LESS of a shit about others opinions on how I raise my children.
You already thought I was radical? HA!
*These are my personal opinions for my family, right now, at the date of this post, subject to change at any time based on my acquiring of information, evolution, growth and state of enlightenment. These opinions are not meant to convert, to shame, or to judge another. Take it, love it, use it, share it. Hate it? Leave it!
Don’t forget to check out my interview with Athena Reich of Alternative Families International here.