August 28, 2003

Why we parent the way we do... Serona and I parent in the way that we find most natural and the way we feel is best for our family. Many of our decisions can be classified under "Attachment Parenting" or "Natural Parenting" or some combination of the two. Dr. Sears has found a place in our home as we own much of his parenting library and as many of you know I am a LLL leader and our decision to breastfeed each of our children until they are ready to stop themselves (child led weaning) has also informed many of our parenting decisions. It is moments like this that remind me why I love parenting our kids the way we do.

For those of you who don't know us and are unfamiliar with the concepts of "Attachment Parenting" some of the decisions we have made include: extended breastfeeding (past the age of one or two), tandem nursing (nursing siblings who are not the same age - which includes nursing through a pregnancy), baby-wearing (most often in a sling), high-touch parenting (we are in physical contact with our kids especially when newborn and infants nearly all the time), co-sleeping, never letting our kids "cry it out", and staying with our kids until they fall asleep. As I type this I am nursing our newborn and sitting in the older kids room as they drift off into sleep.

Many people disagree with many of our choices, or atleast don't understand them. That is fine, parenting is very individualized and everyone makes the decisions that are best for their family. In our family these decisions have led to happy well adjusted kids. They have a desire to please us as parents and others around them, they are self-confident and feel very loved and supported. There is very little sibling rivalry or jealousy between them. They are compassionate, caring and kind kids who are very sensitive to other people's needs and have a desire to help people feel better. My older two are very different children in many ways and yet they share these charachterisitics and much of it I believe is from the environment in which they are raised. Despite having children very close in age we have kept an intensive way of parenting for each of them and they do not feel replaced or left out and my older kids are the first to tell me the baby needs to nurse or just be held. When someone is hurt they are right there to help in whatever way they can (prayer, hug, kiss, getting them mom's help,etc) and it is wonderful to watch.

Some people wonder how I can manage this and how I am not exhuated all the time. Well the truth is, I can mange because Serona is wonderful and supportive and very involved himself. But more importantly we feel we are following the way God would have us parent and he gives us what we need each day. In reality there are times we are both exhausted but for the most part I just think we have more realistic expectations. I don't expect to sleep for more than a few hours at a time or a night for that matter. I don't expect a newborn to follow my schedule (our two year old is better), and I plan on holding my kids alot (almost all the time in the beginning) and I recognize they need alot of attention and support these early years. So I adjust my desires, expectations and thoughts on what life should look like.

These years will pass by quickly but I am enjoying each moment and I have not felt like - the time flew by or dragged on.
I feel like it has gone just right (though I do wish the newborn days lasted longer) I have been pregnant and/or nursing for nearly 5 years now continously - I don't really remember what "sleeping through the night" is like, I average 4-6 hours a night, and I can certainly relate to the "touched out" feeling as I am almost always being touched by someone. But I gaze into my newborns eyes or cuddle with my two year old or watch my 4 year old comfort her sister and I know it is all worth it and I wouldn't change a thing!

You may think these decisions lead us to do nothing but spend time with our kids. Well we do spend quite a bit of time just with our family and that is some of our most special and meaningful times, but we both have many other interests and hobbies we find time for (though perhaps not as much as we would desire - would i ever stop reading?) and some are individual, some are couple and many become family interests as we pass them on to our kids. Now I grant you we have made other choices that free up our time to balance family/work and personal interests (NAMELY - NO TV!!!) but that is part of the beauty of our choices and we enjoy the things we do so much more than the things we don't and our quality of life is very good.

Serona manages to find time to act in two major performances a year (some recent ones include: Honk! The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (he was Aslan), Love Rides the Rails, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat) in addition he is working on writing a fantasy novel (he would like more time for this), blogs regularly at CyberEcology, reads avidly, occasionaly gets involved with local or national politics especially around campaign time, and co-teaches a bible study with me on Apologetics and Postmodernism.

As for me I am very involved with breastfeeding support through both LLL and some other community and national work I do. I help run a food buying club, a cooperative preschool, and homeschool our kids. I enjoy water aerobics, yoga and pilates (when I'm not pregnant) and am an avid reader as well. I am trying to get better about blogging, keep family journals for each of my kids and think about writing several different books. And of course research, which is a natural passion of mine (parenting, health, medicine, breastfeeding, current events, bible study, politics, homeschooling and vegetarianism to name a few). So I think we find a balance of the personal and the family.

Part of that balance comes from the way we do things, around our family. Oftentimes our kids (especially when it was just one) would go to watch dad's rehearsals, or listen to him as he practiced guitar. They have been read to from adult books since they were in uetero as we read aloud to them from whatever we were reading at the time )this is especially true during the early months of life). The kids watch us research and read and include them in most everything we do. When we got involved in local politics we did things as a family, sign waving, attending rallies and so on. Our kids have seen President Bush, First lady Laura Bush, Ralph Nader, Governor Pawlenty and Senator Coleman at rallies and speeches we brought them to. Our daughter could identify president bush by picture at age 3 and knew that Ralph Nader was an activist and presidential candidate. Our kids love to read and are very interested in the computer to gather information (note I did not say just to play games) and know it is a tool I use to get "school materials" for them. They have a desire to learn and to read and to do things just like Serona and I and I believe it is because that is what they see us doing and in many ways they want to be just like us.

To be sure they ask to watch videos like any normal kid does, they play computer games occasionaly and I think they are pretty normal kids in many ways. Yet they don't know who many "charachters" from children's tv shows are, have very little marketing influence from advertisers and know the star wars universe better than many adults I know. So it is just different, but it is a good fit for us. Anyway not sure what my point was when i started but now you know a bit more about our family and how we do things here.


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