Friday, April 12, 2013

How I Became Such a Hippie

I've had lots of friends from my past ask me how I turned into such a hippie.  If you knew me ten years ago, you knew I was about as mainstream as they come. And I never planned on changing that.

So, how'd it happen?

The short answer: I became a parent. 

That's what started it all. Someone introduced me to cloth diapers.  I started researching.  But more than cloth diapers, my husband and I decided way before we ever had kids that we wanted to practice Attachment Parenting.  I'm pretty sure that was my hippy gateway drug, more than anything else.  Let me explain.  

Once The Princess was born, I began doing all these "strange" parenting things.  Like sleeping with her in our bed, breastfeeding her exclusively, wearing her on my body most of the time, cloth diapering, and not leaving her with other adults for more than a few minutes until she was about two years old.  I started feeling really lonely.  We were invited to weddings and other fun events, which we turned down because children weren't allowed, and I wouldn't leave my baby.  I also refused to let her Cry It Out (CIO), or sleep train her, but had zero freinds who were in the same boat.  I wanted more sleep, but the only suggestion I got when I mentioned my sleeping woes, was to make her CIO.  I'd researched enough to know this was potentially very dangerous for my baby, and I was adamantly opposed to it.  But then I realized I had to keep my mouth shut around my friends. 

I was a lonely new mom.

So I started Googling.  I found this forum called Gentle Christian Mothers, which is an online community of christian moms who practice Attachment Parenting (AP).  I began looking for friendships there, and even found some moms local to me!  We got together for play dates, bible studies, and family dinners.  We began forming an awesome bond, which we still have today, after seven years, and many miles between us. Even our husbands and kids became close. I cherish those sweet friendships. 

Through Gentle Christian Mothers (GCM), I began learning about all sorts of natural things.  Like natural healing through nutrition, homeopathy, and essential oils.  I also started learning from them how to make my own non-toxic cleaning supplies and toiletries. I learned about family cloth, the Diva Cup, and how menstrual matter is amazing for my garden plants!  (Did I just admit that publicly?). I learned about the wonders of coconut oil, unassisted childbirth, and tandem nursing. I was introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation. These are all things I've come to love, and that have inspired me to research and learn more. 

The moms on GCM are some of the most researched and well-informed moms I've ever met.  We don't all agree on everything (there are people from all walks of life....the Right, the Left, Unschoolers, Public Schoolers, Vaccinators, Non-Vaxers).  But we all agree on gentle parenting, and we're all aiming for that goal together.  In those moments in my parenting journey, when I've been at a loss on how to gently teach and guide my children (without using punitive measures like spankings or time outs), I've been able to go to these moms for help, advice, and encouragement.  It's been my safe haven.  When I didn't have friends in real life to talk to about my challenges, because I knew I'd only hear "she needs a spanking!", I had some friends to go to who would give me practical tools to try to actually teach my child how to behave.  It has been so comforting, and so empowering!

A little background on how Mark and I decided we wanted to practice Attachment Parenting:

When Mark and I were newly married, we were trying to figure out how we would raise our kids.  We took note of a few families in our church whom we really respected, and whose kids we would want our own kids to turn out like.  We had dinner with two particular families, and informally "interviewed" them, to find out their parenting philosophy.  We knew that in the christian church, there were two main perspectives on parenting, both diametrically oppposed to each other.  We'd heard that churches had split over this parenting issue!  It was that big of a deal! So we were curious about it.

Because we weren't yet parents, it wasn't a heated, emotional topic to us.  We were open to anything, and just wanted to honestly expore our options.

The first family told us they practiced Attachment Parenting.  We hadn't heard much about it, but they gave us a brief description.  I remember the mom saying, "I just always want my kids to know I am their safe place.  Whether they're four or 40, I want them to always know they can find safety in me."  That was so profound, and it has stuck sharply in my mind to this day.  It's an attitude I'm attempting to emulate with my own kids.

The second family we met with (the father also happened to be the counselor who did our premarital counseling, and whom we respect highly) also told us they practiced Attachment Parenting.  We started to perk our ears up a little, and take note that both of these families, whom we regarded so highly, practiced this kind of parenting called "Attachment Parenting".

We also asked a little about why these churches had divided over parenting, and tried to learn a little about "The Other Side".  There was one other family we interviewed, who were neighbors of ours, whose kids were so perfectly well behaved, it was amazing! We were awe-struck by their kids' compliance and obedience, even as toddlers!  We thought there was something to it, so we "interviewed" them too.  It turns out they followed "the other side", a book called Growing Kids Gods Way (GKGW) by Gary Ezzo.  We wanted to have obedient kids too, so we were curious about it. We had dinner with them a couple times to find out more, and we thought it sounded pretty good! We surely noted their compliant children!

Our counselor, when we had dinner with him and his wife, was hesitant to tell us his feelings about GKGW, and why he'd chosen AP over it. He just kindly shared his own experience and journey, and told us that when he Googled "Gary Ezzo", he learned enough about him that he knew he didn't want to follow his lead.  It sparked my curiosity, and I went home that night and Googled Gary Ezzo myself.  I stayed up way past midnight, reading stuff I couldn't believe I was reading.  I shared it with my husband the next day, and we decided that this whole AP thing just felt right to us, and we wanted to pursue it more.

We began reading books on Attachment Parenting and Biblical Discipline when I became pregnant.  The more we learned, the more we just felt such peace about raising our children this way.  And I have to say, it has been a wonderful, growing, challenging experience, this Parenthood.  Especially in an AP way. I definitely don't think we chose the easy route, but I do believe we chose what is best for our children. 

And that's it!  The story of how I became such a hippie.  

Added note: Although our friends who followed GKGW had very compliant children, I've since learned that this compliance was out of a motivation of fear.  Fear is not what I want to motivate my children. It's God's kindness that brings us to repentance, and I hope that my kindness brings my children to repentance, not a fear of me.  My discipline is a work in progress, and I still have so much to learn, but this is my goal: to teach my kids how to obey because they want to please me and God, not because they are afraid of me.  If fear of me is their motivator, in my absence, I fear what their freedom from fear will produce in their behavior.  I'll blog more about this another time, but I wanted to make a point that I no longer admire those perfectly compliant children, because I know how those kids got that way, and it's not something I want.  

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