A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~The Journey to Gentle Parenting
Many, many years ago (more that I will admit to!) a small, scared, pregnant, teenaged girl walked down the aisle to her tall, scared, clueless, young man and they said their “I do’s.” But what were they going to do? No earthly idea! They didn’t have the internet to surf for blogs about parenting and marriage, couldn’t afford the few paltry magazines available on those subjects at the time, and weren’t convinced the way their parents had raised them was exactly what they wanted for their unexpected little blessing. So, they just joined hands and hearts and figured it out the old-fashioned way~through trial and error.
The young girl gave birth prematurely and, after a terrifying NICU stay, brought home her barely 5 lb baby boy. Since the young couple were living on one income and barely able to feed themselves, it made sense to them to breastfeed their little one. Neither one had ever even heard of a lactation consultant and no one at the hospital had mentioned breastfeeding at all, so the two young people just kept working through the cracked, bleeding nipples, engorgement, over-supply, and other issues until they got it figured out~and then they were breastfeeders!
The young girl discovered their first night home how much easier it was to simply take her baby boy into bed with her and breastfeed him when he was hungry~and then they were cosleepers!
Neither one of the young couple had ever read a parenting book and had never even heard the words ‘cry-it-out,’ so the two of them just did what came naturally and picked up their baby when he fussed or grunted or just looked cute and finally found it easier to just pop their little preemie into a baby carrier and tote him around with them wherever they went~and then they were babywearers!
As their precious little guy got bigger and began to explore his new world, the young couple delighted in everything he did and simply moved him and distracted him with songs and toys if he got into things. They couldn’t bear the thought of hurting their son, so just pulled him into their laps for a ‘time-in’ cuddle and chat if he got upset or needed to settle or be redirected~and then they were gentle discipliners!
As time went by and more children entered the family (six, to be exact!) other issues such as education and socialization had to be made, and, while at first the young couple followed the norm and the first two of their children started out in public school, it just didn’t sit well with the parenting style they’d developed. Neither one of them had ever known anyone who homeschooled, so that was a truly scary idea, but public education wasn’t for them and they were just too ‘economically challenged’ to afford any kind of private school. So, they did what they’d always done and withdrew their children from school and figured it out as they went along~and then they were homeschoolers!
Now, this journey might sound like an easy one when summed up this way, but I can assure you it wasn’t! The young couple, my amazing husband and I, encountered strong criticism of our parenting choices over and over through the years from many, and a refusal to accept or accommodate those choices from some. We were warned that our marriage would suffer at the very least, and our babies would suffocate at the worst, if we slept with them in our bed instead of putting them in isolation to sleep. We were informed that my breasts would look like deflated balloons and reach my knees by my thirties if I breastfed beyond a couple of months. We were admonished that our children would grow into spoiled brats if we responded to their needs instead of teaching them to ‘deal with it’ on their own, and would end up criminals if we encouraged and guided them instead of spanking them. We were advised that our children would be uneducated social outcasts (i.e. homeless or still living at home at forty!) if we homeschooled them instead of putting them into the institutional public education system. These challenges to our parenting style were difficult at the time, and they sometimes even resulted in people choosing to de-friend us (not facebook de-friending, silly, in real life!), but they had the powerful positive effect of making us really examine what our beliefs were and, as a result, strengthening and solidifying our beliefs and our family.
As for the dire warnings listed above: Our beautiful, strong, loving marriage is in it’s 25th year; our children all survived cosleeping (our littlest, 14 months, is still safely and contentedly sleeping in our bed); my breasts are, well, normal except for being a couple of cup sizes larger at the moment since I’m breastfeeding, lol; our children are, in order, a 24 yr old pastor (our firstborn son mentioned in the story above who is expecting his first son!), a 22 yr old family therapist, a 17 yr old entering his third year of pre-med, 12 and 5 yr old beautiful and well-behaved homeschooled girls with lots of friends (soooo not social outcasts!), and a sweet and happy 14 month old baby girl.
Our journey to gentle parenting has had another, somewhat unexpected, effect. While we may not agree with others’ parenting choices, we have been on the receiving end of criticism far too long to not have learned this lesson: Gentle parenting is for parents, too! We have learned to respond gently to our friends who don’t agree with us, even when they don’t respond gently to us. Responding with harshness and criticism doesn’t work with adults any better than it does with children! Responding gently to those who disagree with us may or may not affect their parenting choices, but what it does do is model respectful behavior and conflict resolution to our children and, most of the time, preserve dear friendships.
So there you have it~our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing,
gentle disciplining, homeschooling, happy family of eight! Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and grandson-on-the-way, I guess I should say family of 11 2/3! One boy, one girl, and one baby have come a long way, Baby!
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.