In between welcoming our first and third children, a lot changed. Car seat recommendations changed. (Seriously, people! Rear-facing until at LEAST two!) The colors of Dr. Brown’s bottles changed. Hyland’s teething tablets changed, then changed again. (And by the way, they’re perfectly safe.) New research is forever coming to light, making what was once commonplace, taboo. Opinions and styles are changing, approaches, gear, trends… But mostly, we changed. In the 5+ years between our oldest boy and our only girl, we matured. Learned to become well-versed ourselves, rather than just trust what commercials or the free issues of Parents magazines say. Having a baby with dozens of unanticipated allergies has made us researchers, made us flexible, made us healthier. I, personally, have reached a place as a parent where I trust myself, my judgement, my abilities, even my body to produce what my baby needs. So many new moms that I speak with are terrified to trust their bodies… but that’s another topic for another time.
Anyways, along this journey I have met countless other parents. Our ideals, opinions, and methods all differ as wildly as the stars in the sky – from far away you really can’t tell a difference, but up close, they’re light years apart. For the last several months, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Since we do some “granola” (read: hippie) things in raising our children, I get funny looks from most parents I meet. Most of my friends don’t understand, but several are very supportive. In learning more about these granola “hippie” practices, I’ve met a whole new world of parents: the crunchy moms. Some of these women have become my closest friends. But some are pretty intense. They howl at the moon and don’t brush their teeth… stuff you’d see on Wife Swap. The problem is, I’m somewhere in the middle, what my friend dubbed “the soggy end of crunchy”. In anything there are extremes. Hot-cold, tall-short, rich-poor, Backstreet Boys-N*Sync. I’m the lukewarm hippie, the soggy granola. MAN I wish I’d named my blog that now… I’ve been feeling a little isolated. I feel the stares of the mainstream parents who don’t know what the heck I’m doing, why my baby is on my back, or why I don’t eat Taco Bell. I feel the wrath of the hardcore crunchy parents when I say I’m looking to start weaning my baby (toddler). It’s been pretty lonely out here in the middle, dodging bullets from both sides. I’ve kept the fact that I’m still nursing my nearly-18-month-old largely a secret because of the comments and looks. I’ve kept the stress of immunization day to myself because of the judgements of the hippies.
I even created a little visual to show how I fall in between the two camps:
Now, of COURSE there are plenty of delightful parents out there. Not every crunchy mom will judge you and not every mainstream parent is scared of you.
When I say I’ve felt isolated, I really mean it. For God knows what reason, I lost several friends when we found out that our third baby was a girl. Most of my crunchy granola friends don’t live nearby, and most of the moms nearby look at me funny. So here I’ve sat, petting my pretty cloth diapers and going about my psuedo-natural living, feeling ashamed and embarassed and lonesome.
But no more.
Because you know what? Every choice my husband and I have made for our family was made with love, with thought, with intention and research. I’m PROUD of the family we have. I’m PROUD of the way we raise our kids. Is it the way you raise yours? Probably not. Do I expect you to raise yours the same way? Of COURSE not! Parents can be such bullies once they make up their mind on an issue and make parents who don’t agree feel pretty small. But we’re raising individuals, PEOPLE. There is no one right way to do it. There are plenty of ways to screw it up, but we, as parents, stumble upon those nearly daily. We don’t need “help” from others who would make us feel like we’re running head- first into disaster. (Exception: CAR SEAT SAFETY)
Advice is healthy. Far too many parents get offended by advice. If someone points out that the chest clip on your child’s car seat should be at armpit level (NOT at their belly button), they are not suggesting you’re a terrible parent. They’re saying something because they care enough not to keep it to themselves. Unsolicited advice is uncomfortable. Judgements are just bad. You know the type. You ask for advice on where to get the best pizza, and That Person comments “We don’t eat pizza – it has far too many chemicals and additives and uses child slavery to stretch the dough.” That’s one of those extreme-ends-of-the-spectrum people. Rather than saying “You’re doing it wrong”, why can’t we all say “Hey, great job! Have you looked at doing it this way?” Or, better yet, “Hey, great job!” When did parenting become so bipartisan? When did ANYONE discover the one single key to parenting that opens the ONLY door to healthy, well-adjusted kids?
So here I am, announcing once and for all, that I like the way we raise our kids. I am not so egotistical or narrow-minded that I think it’s the only way to raise children, but it’s the best way to raise OUR kids. The best ways to raise yours differ WILDLY, and that’s awesome.
We all vote differently, eat differently, enjoy different kinds of tv shows, if any. We attend different churches, schools, enjoy different kinds of foods, have our favorite soft drinks (or “Devil Juice”, to the hippies), our favorite sports, our favorite colors, scents, times of day. Our names and birthdays and sizes and shapes and colors all vary. So who on EARTH told us we couldn’t hang out because I vaccinate and you don’t? Where did the idea that my cloth diapers make me unwelcome take root? When did your kale bedding make you a better parent than me? We’re adults, by golly! Let’s sit together at the park and talk about the Kardashians! Let’s celebrate these little people we’re given the extreme privilege to raise and the fact that they are breathing and thriving. Let’s celebrate the miraculous ways they came to us, be it pregnancy, science, or adoption. Let’s encourage each other, learn from one another, be NICE to each other.
Breastfeeding is hard work, good job! Formula is expensive and there are SO many kinds to work through, great job! Your baby’s poop is being caught somehow, great job! We’re all after the same end result, so let’s link arms and get there together. Don’t play dirty and push other moms off the path. Don’t give the stink eye to the mom who is on a completely different path. Own your choices as a parent, I’ll own mine, and we will have some rockstar kids.
And I DARE you to say something else to me about my C-sections.