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photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, September 6, 2010

When Natural Parenting Is Anything But

So I've skipped a few days, but I've had good reason.

My family and I attended an Un-schooling conference this past weekend. We were pumped, ready, excited to go and be with people like us, who home school in a sort of nontraditional manner- instead of "having school at home" where there is a designated school area in our home and our son sits there for 6 or 7 hours 5 days a week, we un-school. Looser, more laid back, much more eclectic and flexible which works for our crazy schedules we still use a curriculum as reference to be sure we don't forget important stuff like fractions...and grammar...and all that other stuff I forgot as soon as the test was over.

And there WERE people like us there- people who travel and explore museums and parks and do extra-curricular activities with their kids like music lessons and tae kwon do lessons and other worthwhile endeavors that are so much more attainable and enjoyable when you're not confined to the public school year and whose children are all reasonably polite, and clean, and respectful, and poised. The children were confident and moved throughout the resort with an aura of calm mastery of the world around them. They needed no supervision, and didn't need to be within their parents' sight at all times. They were the ones holding doors open for folks, watching younger siblings, attending sessions.

And then there were...The Others.

The Others are the children of the parents who believe the best thing they can do for their offspring is to abandon them. Which is weird because they are the parents who read books like Attachment Parenting and The Family Bed- books that tell you your kids can't get ENOUGH of being close to their parents.

I believe those books. I believe in home birth (and Alec was born right here- 3 feet from where I'm sitting- with 2 midwives, Ward and a collie named Slippers in attendance) and the Family Bed and not letting your baby cry itself to sleep. I believe all that.

Here's where The Others' parents and I apparently part ways.

The Others' parents believe that children are born- right out of the box- knowing what they need and it's their job as parents to Release Them Into The Universe to find it. Their children are not fettered by things like bedtimes, or baths, or anyone forcing them to eat healthy foods, or teaching them manners, how to read, what 2 + 2 equals. All that knowledge is theirs for the finding as they need it.

What that looks like in Real Life is packs of feral unwashed illiterate rude urchins over-running a very nice resort- scuffling in the dining room, dropping stuff off of balconies,dancing on the pool tables- all things we personally witnessed. IF they attended sessions, they just sort of drifted in and out. A great number of them could be found in the darkened Violent Video Game room (actual title from the literature- NOT my own assessment of it), which was open 24/7 with no time or age limit. No shit.

If the goal of these parents is to raise children Freely and Naturally, I'm for it.

BUT

They need to work with the entire Nature scenario, not just pick and choose.

In Nature- animals have their young at home- not a hospital. Home birth- I'm there.

In Nature- animals keep their young close to them day and night, sleeping in the same nest. Family Bed- I'm there.

*Asterisked to insert that if you are a reptile or insect In Nature- you do, in fact, throw your children at the universe and abandon them, but generally that's why they have many, many young (or eggs) at a time instead of just ONE and up to this point, The Others' parents have acted in a very birdlike or mammalian way, what with that Attachment Parenting stuff so I'd assume they'd keep it up as follows...

In Nature- animals TEACH their young how to eat, how to act, how to care for their physical selves, how to be a part of the family group. Children need to LEARN how to act, eat, bathe, play together- they DON'T automatically know that stuff. Children need to know that they're not the center of the universe- that while yes, they are each as special as Christmas and unique as snowflakes, so is every other child and that needs to be respected. They need to understand that their bodies need certain foods to stay healthy and a certain amount of sleep to be well and they need to know you love them enough to MAKE them take the steps to be good citizens, healthy people, good friends.

In Nature- animals know where their young are at all times because the world is a dangerous place if you're small, and helpless, and don't understand that THERE'S A FREAKIN' INTERSTATE HIGHWAY RIGHT NEXT TO THE RESORT. Children aren't stupid. They are fully aware that they are smaller than adults, they don't have car keys, checkbooks or other things to facilitate being Fully in Control of their destiny. They need to know, NEED TO KNOW that the adults closest to them ARE there- they know where they are and are available to help them and keep them safe from the world, from each other, from themselves.

In Nature- if a little cubbie steps out of line and acts ugly towards another cubbie, momma corrects it- fitting the severity of the reprimand to the severity of the crime, but they DO get corrected. Allowing a child to be rude and run wild not only makes for a very disagreeable person to be around, but makes it damn near impossible for the rest of us to appreciate that child's innate "awesomeness". I sat in a session run by a young man who was a product of this type of upbringing. His hands and feet were filthy and his hair matted (trust me- it wasn't dredlocks) and every time someone said something not right in line with his thoughts and ideas you could visibly see him sull up (a great term I learned after moving to the South) and pout. This guy was well into his 20's and it wasn't a good look for him.

In Nature- if an offspring becomes too much trouble, you eat it.

Just kidding. I'd never eat one of The Others. No telling what sort of germies are attached to 'em. I'd be askeerd to even use 'em in the compost pile.

*Seriously*

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