At Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, we promote and support breastfeeding as the best source of all a baby’s nutritional needs for the first year and beyond. But we also recognize that there are cases in which a mother has a legitimate supply issue, a medical issue, has to be on medications that are contraindicated in breastfeeding, or is an adoptive mother, etc. In those cases, a mother may feel that formula is the only alternative. But commercial formulas, with all of their additives, possible contaminants, BPA-laden packaging, etc. may make mothers who are already disappointed because they can’t breastfeed feel even more upset and worried.
There are other alternatives, though. Donor breastmilk is one, but can be expensive and difficult to obtain, and there is some concern that the pasteurization process the donor milk is subjected to may reduce its nutritional value. Another little-known alternative is homemade infant formula.
While there is nothing that can match breastmilk in nutrients, immunity factors, and digestive ease, if you or someone you know is in need of an alternative, homemade formula may be an option. Below are several links to sites that offer variations on homemade infant formulas. (Please be sure to always consult with your baby’s healthcare provider when deciding what is best for your little one’s health and well-being!)
The first link is from one of my favorite sites, The Healthy Home Economist:
On her page you can find a complete ingredient list along with a ton of other useful nutritional information.
The second link is from Dr. Mercola, another of my favorite sources for natural health and nutritional information.
The third link is from Holistic Squid which has a baby formula recipe as well as an excellent rundown on the potential problems with commercial formula.
The fourth link is Easy Homemade Baby Formula from Hubpages. (This one should only be used with babies over a year who are also eating solid foods.)
For babies with milk allergies, the fifth link is a goat’s milk formula recipe from nutritionist, Joe Stout, President of Mt. Capra.
*Keep in mind that breastmilk is biologically designed not only for babies in general, but also, incredibly, a mother’s body will adjust her milk to meet her baby’s changing needs, as well, something no formula can ever match. Formula feeding, including with homemade formula, should be carefully considered, and the decision about how to feed your baby should be made with careful research and consultation with your baby’s healthcare provider.
Links to breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing resources:
What do you get when you cross a curious toddler and a Christmas tree covered with glittering, dangling ‘toys’ and enticing, shiny lights? At the very least, a season of toddler chasing and redirecting, and at the worst a season of shattered-glass hazards and tree-scaling, toppling nightmares. So what’s a parent to do? Must we scrap the tree so we can have a merry Christmas while we have little ones in the house? Not at all! Here is an Advent list with a twist…24 Christmas safety tips for parents with tiny people who love to explore:
1.) A Christmas tree plopped down right in the middle of a child’s playspace (i.e. family room, living room, den) is just too much temptation for any little person, so one solution is to place the tree in a lesser-used room such as a study or office or even a covered porch where the tree can be seen but is less accessible to little explorers.
2.) Another option is to place the Christmas tree in a play yard like the one pictured to keep the tree safe while still having it in a central location in the house for everyone to enjoy.
3.) A tabletop tree is also an option. Keep the tree away from the edges and watch out for dangling tree skirts and light cords so little hands can’t pull the tree down on top of little heads.
4.) For some families (like ours!) who have lots of little ones toddling around year after year, a child-proof tree may be the answer. We used fishline to anchor our tree to the ceiling after one tiny climber toppled the tree over on herself a few times, and non-breakable ornaments (homemade ornaments are great alternatives) tied to the tree with ribbons instead of metal hooks (choking hazard!) are the solution to our current little spelunker who loves to crawl under the Christmas tree and lay looking up at the sparkling lights from her little hidey-hole.
5.) Be sure to check that your artificial tree is fire-rated or your real tree is fresh (i.e. easily bendable branches, no dropping needles) and keep your real tree well-watered to reduce fire danger.
6.) Always check lights for broken, loose, or missing bulbs, and make sure wires aren’t frayed and sockets aren’t cracked. Turn lights off when leaving your home or going to bed.
7.) For outdoor lighting/decorating, be sure to use extension cords rated for outdoor use, and don’t overload the outlet by stringing together more lights than the instructions allow. Elevate cords to avoid them sitting in water or on dry leaves. Have lights on a timer or turn lights out when leaving your home or going to bed.
8.) When decorating, place figurines and keepsakes out of reach of little hands to avoid constantly chasing giggling toddlers who find your reaction to their snatch-and-run game a great source of holiday entertainment.
9.) Avoid decorating with real holly or mistletoe in areas accessible to small children, as both are toxic if eaten.
10.) Never decorate your tree with candles, and keep candles separated from pine branches on tabletops and mantles by placing them in deep glass votives. Never leave a small child alone in a room with a burning candle.
11.) Keep snow sprays out of reach as they can be toxic if inhaled and can cause injury if sprayed into eyes.
12.) When entertaining, keep hot plates away from the edges of tables and remind guests not to leave hot or alcoholic beverages within reach of small children.
13.) House guests may not be used to having small children around, so be extra vigilant about medicine bottles, unattended purses, open luggage, and other dangers that may visit along with your guests.
14.) When purchasing gifts, check labels for age recommendations. Keep in mind that even if you think a little one is advanced enough to enjoy a toy that is recommended for an older child, the toy may contain choking hazards or other dangers to a small child.
15.) Unless you like wrapping presents over and over and…well, you get the picture, avoid setting wrapped packages out under the tree if the tree is accessible to small children. Keeping your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage is a key element to avoiding conflict in your parent/child relationship and making your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable!
16.) In the flurry of gift opening on Christmas morning, small objects from ripped open packages (like the 423 little plastic tabs to hold a $5 rattle in a cardboard box!) can end up scattered amongst the toys and boxes and paper, creating a sea of choking hazards. Keep a big box handy to throw packaging and wrapping paper into, and choose one or two toys to remove from their packaging for immediate play while putting the other opened presents away in another box to be opened later.
17.) Never let children throw wrapping paper into the fireplace, as this can cause a dangerous flash fire.
18.) Keep a close watch on your little one’s diet throughout the holidays. In the busyness of the season, nutrition often takes a backseat to convenience, and an overload of junk foods and sweets can cause tummy aches and crankiness which won’t help them or you to have a jolly holiday.
19.) Another nutritional danger of the season is unintentional weaning. If you’re nursing a little one, the constant changes in schedule, the busyness, the stress, and the baby being passed from one relative to another can result in missed feedings and reduced milk supply. Making a conscious effort to take regular nursing breaks in a quiet room with your little nursling will give both of you a chance to reconnect and de-stress a bit and keep your nursing relationship intact.
20.) Also, be very aware of your little one’s sleep patterns during the holiday season. All of the disturbances mentioned in #19 can wreak havoc on a small child’s sleep schedule and, along with the almost inevitable over-stimulation of the music, lights, and visitors, that can make the holidays a miserable time for a little person.
21.) Fireplaces should be regularly inspected to prevent chimney fires, and protective fire-screens and/or baby gates should be used to keep little ones safe.
22.) Space heaters are a well-known fire hazard. Make sure you are using them according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that they are in good working order. Never leave a small child unattended in a room with a space heater.
23.) Keep in mind that, while you know and love those visiting relatives your little one has never met, expecting a small child to instantly let a person who is a total stranger to them hold and kiss and play with them is unrealistic. If we want our children to exercise restraint and caution with random strangers at the park/mall/etc., we need to allow them to set limits they are comfortable with when it comes to physical contact and interaction with the ‘strangers’ in our homes, as well.
24.) And, last but certainly not least, while pictures of their little ones with Santa may be every parent’s heart’s desire, small children often don’t share that desire. Instead of forcing your child to sit in a strange man’s lap (not exactly a precedent we want to set for our children!), if your child isn’t comfortable with the idea, get creative and try getting pictures of your toddler standing near Santa while he plays peek-a-boo with them or try kneeling on one knee next to Santa, yourself, with your little one on your other knee. You never know, those pictures may end up being your all-time favorites!
More ideas about how to make the holiday season fun-filled and meaningful, as well as keeping the joy and wonder of childhood alive for your little ones year round:
The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate
Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living
The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas
A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood
The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques…Practical Gentle Discipline
I’ve been ‘single-parenting’ it for almost two months now as my amazing husband has been gone day and night, working his day job and then heading nearly an hour away to help his family renovate an old home. It’s for a single mom who needs a place to move with her son because she’s losing her home to foreclosure, so there’s a time pressure involved. My husband is a skilled builder, so the renovation has fallen mainly to him, and with the narrow time frame he has to work with, the pressure has been pretty intense.
Nearly every day after work he heads straight to the reno house and works late into the night, often just staying there and sleeping so he can get up and go straight to work again. Between all of his extra driving and the times the children and I have driven over just so we can see him for a few minutes and get a tour of the work he’s doing, our gas budget has nearly doubled. That’s just not sustainable for a one-income family, so we’ve had to stop going to see him.
What that’s meant for me is a hubby who’s absent most of the time (read: no breaks for mama!) and who, when he does come home, is stressed and tired and tapped-out. Now, by ‘breaks for mama’ I don’t mean time away from my children. I don’t want or need to leave my little ones. But normally along with all of the sacrifices, compromises, and hard work that goes into keeping a long-term marriage healthy, there is companionship, caring, support, and a sharing of responsibilities.
In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally, etc.
But for the last two months all of the myriad details that go into running our home…homeschooling, juggling teenagers’ schedules, shepherding a high-spirited kindergartener, keeping up with a toddler, handling the bills, doing the banking and shopping and cleaning, coping with a broken dryer, and on and on and on…have all fallen entirely to me. Add to that some pretty hefty life-stressors we’re dealing with at the moment outside of our marriage and home…
And I’m tired.
And my hubby is tired.
And we’ve unconsciously fallen into the ‘my needs vs. your needs’ vicious cycle. You know the one:
First volley: “This is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)
“Well, this is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)
Second volley: “These are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)
“Well, these are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)
Third volley: “This is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)
“Well, this is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)
Fourth volley: “You didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)
“Well, you didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)
Unmet needs result in an ever-escalating cycle of attempts to get those needs met. And, as long as those two little letters ‘vs’ stand between ‘my needs’ being met and ‘your needs’ being met, the cycle will continue. Someone has to break the cycle, and the solution is always the same: Sacrifice.
Someone has to step up and stand down. Someone has to let go of their own needs and focus on meeting the other’s needs, not in an attempt to manipulate that person to meet their own needs, but with an honest generosity of spirit, a choosing to lay down self, a living expression of love.
And ‘someone’ will. Our marriage wouldn’t have lasted for twenty-five years and counting, otherwise! But I wanted to share some of the dynamics of breaking the ‘need standoff’ in a relationship while they’re fresh in my mind.
There are endless contributing factors to who stands down and when, from the differences in love languages, to past hurts and experiences, to upbringing, to the circumstances of the conflict itself. And standing down can take many different forms. It may mean moving on without receiving the apology you believe you deserve. It may mean letting go of the need to explain your position. It may take the form of an apology from you or a verbal indication that you are choosing to let go of the conflict. Or it may take the form of a favorite meal, flowers, a back rub, a gift, or some other loving act.
Sometimes the one who chooses (note: an active choice, not a reactive/self-protective response as in an abusive/controlling relationship) to stand down in a relationship is the same person most, if not all, of the time. This is often the result of a peacemaking personality. If you feel you are ‘always’ the one to stand down, consider these two things:
1.) Are you really the one to always stand down or is that just a perception you need to work through?
2.) Do you have a peacemaking personality? In other words, do you tend to be the calming factor in most of your relationships?
If you do, in fact, have a peacemaking personality, be aware that it is a rare gift that comes with great responsibility. Someone once asked me why they always had to be the one to “put out the fires” in their relationship. Knowing this person to be a peacemaker in all of their relationships, I said, “Because God gave you the hose.”
While it can certainly be frustrating to be in that position, instead of letting it cause resentment to take hold, imagine how difficult life can be for those who don’t have that inner calm, and try to focus on the strengths they do have rather than fixating on the gifts they don’t have. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on people’s strengths (as well as being aware of our own weaknesses!) helps us to give them grace for their weaknesses.
*Take note, when it comes to parent/child relationships, the parent must always take the role of peacemaker, regardless of personality or gifts. Children not only don’t have an adult’s capacity for self-control, but they also don’t bear the responsibility for maintaining the relationship.
And so, in our home, with both parents tapped-out, tired, and out-of-sorts, we’ve found ourselves in that place of competing to get our needs met. Our children have, of course, joined in the ‘needs games,’ little reflectors that they are. It’s made for a less-than-joyful interval in what we typically refer to as the joyful chaos of our lives.
Then, last night as my miserably teething little milk monkey woke me up for the zillionth time with her crying and whimpering and tossing and turning and climbing from one side of me to the other and nursing and nursing and nursing and nursing until I thought I might explode, she suddenly stopped mid-climb, mid-cry, and pressed her ear against my heart. And then, with her tiny body draped across my belly and her head cradled between my breasts, she sighed and relaxed, a little Mona Lisa smile curving her sweet mouth as she finally succumbed to a peaceful sleep.
And in that moment, that tiny, mysterious, contented smile called me to surrender. To surrender to heart-meltingly sweet moments. To embrace again the extraordinary loveliness of ordinary life. To marvel at the littleness of the issues that set us apart and the bigness of the love that holds us together.
Love is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings shift, flowing now hot, now cold. They lead nowhere, and instead are misleading with their mercurial, capricious nature.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13
I choose love.
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
I was one of those children who was incredibly picky when it came to food and, despite my mom’s gently enforced ‘one bite rule,’ I went on to become an incredibly picky eater as an adult, as well. I vividly remember as a young child gagging as I tried to force down a bite, my throat feeling like it was closing up, and like there was no way food was going to fit through there. As a very compliant child, it bothered me immensely to disappoint my mom, and, being the logical person that I was even at that younge age, I remember feeling that her expectations were very reasonable and being frustrated at my own inability to comply.
Fast forward a few years to when I began having children of my own and needed to make parenting decisions about everything from breastfeeding to cosleeping to discipline. On my journey to gentle parenting I revisited my childhood memories often, finding myself appreciating my mom’s gentleness and her way of using silliness to help me see the ‘silver lining’ in life when things were hard. In some things, I chose to follow the parenting path my mom took, and in others I took a different course and blazed my own trail.
When I was at university, I worked as a certified nutrition consultant with a focus on natural approaches to nutrition, health, and fitness. I took that knowledge, along with my studies in developmental psychology, human behavior, and communication, and incorporated all of it into my parenting decisions.
As I muddled through the toddler years with my firstborn, I decided to take an approach to nutrition that was unheard of, as far as I knew. I would offer to nurse, offer the food on my plate, and offer food I’d made specifically for him, and then let my little man decide. That was the beginning of our baby led weaning, though I didn’t know that term at the time.
What I discovered then and have seen proven time and again through the years with my own six very different children as well as with the families I’ve worked with, is that, given the freedom to choose, children will generally experiment with more textures and tastes than if they are forced to eat their parents’ choice of food for them. It’s simply human nature that, if a child (or an adult, for that matter!) knows that they don’t have to try a new food and that they can run to the trashbin and spit it out if they do try it and don’t like it, then they are far, far more likely to give it a chance. And if they don’t try it the first time it’s offered, or if they do try it and don’t like it, making it available again off and on in the future will give them more opportunities to try the food and perhaps end up liking it when their tastes mature a bit more.
In our home, my children know that if they don’t like what’s being served for a meal there is always an alternative in the form of a PB&J or a reheat later if they just aren’t hungry at mealtime, though if we’re sitting down together I do expect them to sit with the family and chat with us while we eat. Even if they like the food being served, they may not feel hungry for a heavy meal just then or perhaps the last time they ate that meal their tummy got upset or maybe there are other reasons they don’t want the meal that they simply can’t articulate. As the adult, I can choose to make an issue out of it and end up in an unnecessary power struggle, or I can choose to offer my children the same respect I offer myself, because you can bet your bottom dollar that if I don’t want to eat something, I’m not eating it!
Among the many benefits of this approach, beyond the greater propensity for a child to experiment with tastes and textures and beyond the elimination of mealtime battles, I also saved myself a ton of mommy guilt through the years. I had no way of knowing early on that my renaissance girl had Sensory Processing Disorder which was strongly affecting her ability to eat or that my little caboose was missing an enzyme and couldn’t eat meat. Had I spent their toddler years forcing foods on them and engaging in coercive or punative mealtime parenting, the damage to our relationship, not to mention their health, could have been disasterous. Additionally, children who feel powerless over their lives can begin trying to recapture a sense of power by exercizing excessive control over their eating with the danger of a resulting eating disorder when they get into their teen years.
So, on a practical level how do you get a toddler or preschooler to eat? Well, first and foremost, rigidly scheduling mealtimes creates a battleground in and of itself. Toddlers’ and preschoolers’ ever-shifting growth patterns cause them to go through slow-growth periods where they simply aren’t hungry and other periods where they’re hungry 24/7! Grazing, or eating multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day, not only fits these growth patterns better, but is actually a much healthier way for all of us to eat because it stabilizes blood sugar which, when low, leads to overeating as does simply eating because ‘it’s time.’ Teaching our little ones to listen to their bodies’ hunger cues is a hugely positive step toward avoiding obesity later in life, as well!
Secondly, a combination of keeping little ones active so they work up a good appetite (which also sets them on the path toward an active physical lifestyle!) and offering a variety of healthy foods throughout the day will typically be all it takes to meet their nutrition requirements. As a general guideline, toddlers and preschoolers need:
- Two to three servings of dairy (i.e. 1 oz. cheese, ½ cup milk, ½ cup yogurt);
- Four to six servings of grains (i.e. ½ slice bread, ½ cup non-sugared cereal, ¼ cup pasta, 2 crackers);
- Two servings of protein (i.e. two 1” squares of chicken, fish, or beef);
- Two to three servings of veggies (i.e. 2 tbs peas, corn, cauliflower, etc);
- And two to three servings of fruit (i.e. ½ banana, apple, orange, etc., ¼ cup raisins, blueberries, raspberries, 3-4 strawberries or grapes, etc)
Here are some fun ways to invite your little ones to make healthy eating choices:
- Need an easy and healthy breakfast for little ones? Try an ice cream cone filled with almonds & bite sized chunks of fruit & cheese!
- Start little people’s day healthy & happy. Make a smiley face clock on their plate with almonds, cheese & fruit with yogurt to dip them in!
- Try making ‘apple cookies’ (apples sliced into round discs) into faces with almonds, raisins & cheese!
- Sundae breakfast! Yogurt sprinkled with granola & raisins & nuts & drizzled with local honey (helps control seasonal allergies, too), yummy! *Note: Never feed honey to a baby under a year old.
- Here comes the sun! Make frozen pancakes more healthy by surrounding them with fruit & topping with berries & almonds & drizzling with local honey!
- Banana Boats~Slice of whole wheat bread spread with peanut butter & local honey & wrapped around a banana. Top with just a sprinkle of brown sugar for a treat!
- Double Trouble~Celery, carrot & pretzel sticks with a scoop of cottage cheese & a scoop of peanut butter for double dipping!
- Picasso PB&J’s~Round whole wheat flat bread with small dollops of peanut butter, fruit preserves & yogurt around the edge in a colorful palate with pretzel sticks for paint brushes!
- Boil some cauliflower, carrots, zucchini & yellow squash until a bit mushy & puree.
1) Mix with your favorite meatloaf recipe for a hidden veggie serving!
2) Mix with spaghetti sauce & freeze in single serving containers.
- Spaghetti Twisters~Make rotini noodles instead of spaghetti noodles for a cute ‘twist’ and add your special spaghetti sauce for a tornado of veggie goodness!
- Pizza Racers~Use rectangular flatbread & lightly coat with olive oil and broil for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, then add your souped-up spaghetti sauce & let your little ones top with mozzarella ‘racing stripes’ & pepperoni ‘racing tires’ for a super-charged dinner!
- Pureed cauliflower also works great mixed with mac & cheese, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for a hidden veggie to round out any meal!
You are peacefully breastfeeding your 15 month old baby, cuddled up together in bed like every other night, when a hard pounding on the door jolts your little one awake. As you try to soothe her tears, two police officers and a social worker come into the room. The police read a warrant while the social worker snatches your little one out of your arms and marches out of the room, and the sound of your precious baby’s traumatized screams fade into the night.
Your homeschool year has ended and your family is boarding a flight, happily anticipating an exciting move back to your family’s country of origin. Suddenly, a fully armed police unit storms the plane and snatches your son out of his seat. You rush after them, begging them to give your son back to you, only to watch helplessly as your son is taken away by social services, bewildered tears running down his face.
You arrive to pick up your preschooler from daycare and are suddenly surrounded, handcuffed, and taken into custody where you are strip-searched with no explanation. Meanwhile, a contingent of officers has stormed your house, and Social Services has seized your children and is interrogating your pregnant wife, again with no explanation
While these scenes may seem like they’re straight out of a made-for-tv movie script, they are actually based on real events. In 2011, fifteen-month-old baby Alma was taken from her young mother when Spanish officials decided that breastfeeding and cosleeping were not acceptable forms of parenting. In Sweden in 2009, seven-year-old Dominic was snatched off of a plane and taken into protective custody where he remains to this day. His parents were accused of homeschooling him. And in Canada in March of 2012, little four-year-old Nevaeh set off a firestorm in the life of her family when she drew a picture of her daddy fighting monsters with a gun.
Scenes like these and others are played out in nations around the world when parental choices come into conflict with governmental controls. In nations governed by dictatorships, military rule, and communist parties, the abuses of the power wielded by officials are unfortunate facts of life, and parental choice is a foreign concept. But in democratic nations, parents expect to be able to exercise their rights to make life decisions for their family, including their underage children, without undue interference from their government. Increasingly, however, these parents are discovering just how vulnerable they are to governmental incursion into the heart of their homes.
The desire to give every child a safe, healthy, and happy upbringing and stellar education is certainly a worthy cause. However, the belief that government, that faceless entity populated by an ever-shifting power base and mercurial agenda, should have the final say in what is ‘best for the child’ is an idealistic hope at best and a dangerous arsenal at worst. Enacting and enforcing laws to protect and provide for children is a wise course, but cultures vary world-wide in what is defined as child abuse, what is viewed as proper housing and provision, and what is considered effective education.
In Bali, a thatch, open-air bungalow would be considered perfectly acceptable accommodation, while in the United States a home with no windows or electricity would be grounds for removal of a child into protective services. In Finland, children aren’t expected to even begin formal education until a minimum of age seven, whereas in Japan such educational standards would be considered seriously deficient and even harmful. In the Middle East, young boys are often subject to physical punishment in their religious training, but such actions in Switzerland would result in prosecution.
Having a one-world standard is, then, clearly problematic. But even on a smaller scale, the idea that government is a better caretaker and decision-maker for a nation’s children than their parents is insidiously taking root. Children in the U.K. have been removed from their homes due to educational choices that were once considered the prerogative of parents. Parents have gone into hiding in Australia for making vaccination choices for their children that went against their government’s edicts. U.S. children not old enough to see a pediatrician for an ear infection without having a parent present have been given access to abortion and vaccination without parental consent or notification.
In an era where cultural diversity has become a cultural icon in and of itself, one would expect the idea of whitewashing childhood into an institutional lunch-line to be rejected out-of-hand. But the emotional tug of sensationalized stories of child abuse and neglect is powerful and a far too alluring force for power-mongers to ignore. Harnessing that emotional train to usurp parental choice and enforce government controls is a pattern used to great and terrible effect in the past in Nazi Germany and more recently in The People’s Republic of China, among others, with human rights always, always, suffering in the process. The idea of allowing the same ideology of governmental controls to be implemented to protect human rights, specifically children’s rights, is counter-intuitive and doomed to the same misuse of power history has revealed time and time again.
There is absolutely no doubt that laws and regulations need to be in place to protect children. The question is, should the power to define what constitutes the rights of a child be given to an unelected global council which does not and cannot share a common culture? Even on a national level, how much power and control should government have over the private lives of its citizens?
Clearly there must be some norm, some agreement on what constitutes a safe and healthy childhood. But how far should it be permitted to go? Should government be given the power to co-parent, as claimed by the Canadian officials in the case of little Nevaeh? Should they be allowed to determine whether the turkey sandwich you sent to school with your child fits their standards and replace your choices with chicken nuggets as occurred in a North Carolina elementary school or send your five-year-old home with welts on his bottom from being paddled with a 16″ board without your knowledge or permission as happened to a Florida preschooler? And who should decide? A faceless global council? A distant national committee? Local government officials? Parents?
There are no easy answers, and yet the stakes are huge. We must protect those who can’t protect themselves…these small humans who come into the world so perfect and so helpless, who contain the next generation of scientists and sculptors in their ranks, who will one day run our world.
The question is this: Who has ‘the best interests of the child’ in their hearts and minds for your child? Should you have the right and privilege of deciding if and for how long to breastfeed, whether or not to vaccinate, how and where your child should be educated? Or should the government have the right to dictate those choices and more for you and your child?
Abuses of rights will always exist as long as humans are human. But taking away those rights from the many because of the abuses of the few would be a crime in and of itself. We so often hear, “I’ll make my choices and you make yours and we’ll all get along.” But just as often we hear, “There ought to be a law…” And the truth is that there do need to be laws, laws to protect the helpless and laws to enforce those protections. But who do you want those laws to be written by? Someone you elect and can un-elect if they become power-hungry and corrupt? Or someone distant, unconnected, unaccountable who can and, historically speaking, will misuse their power because they, too, are human?
I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to have the conversations, explore the possibilities, and evaluate the options so I can do my part to contribute an educated and thoughtful voice to a global issue that is sure to be an ever-evolving and ever-controversial dialogue. And I’m willing to do the ‘boots on the ground’ work of educating parents about the needs of their children and about gentle, effective parenting choices. I’m willing to step up and step in if I see a child in need. I’m willing to spend my time and resources helping organizations such as Bead For Life empower women in third world countries to become strong, independent people so they can provide food, shelter, and an education to their children. And I’m willing to stand firmly and openly against so-called ‘parenting experts’ such as Gary Ezzo and Michael Pearl who promote rigid child-training and corporal punishment of small children.
If we as individuals, the grassroots ingredients of change, commit to support and educate families, protect and speak up for children, and provide a helping hand to those in need, we can shrink a global mountain into a local molehill. I’m in. Are you?
Ever heard the phrase sisyphean effort? It refers to any endless, frustrating, fruitless task, and it’s based on the mythological Greek king, Sisyphus. In short, King Sisyphus was a crafty, incestuous, murderous king who cheesed off the wrong mythical figure and was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a huge boulder up a hill almost to the top only to have it roll back to the bottom of the hill where he’d have to start all over again…whine, whine, whine.
Seriously? The best they could come up with was to sentence the black-hearted king to be a mom?
Mommy boulder #1 ~ Every mommy knows the moment the mountain of laundry is reduced to the last load, it’s a clear invitation to every stomach/intestinal bug in the vicinity to visit with their leaking, spewing, and reeking baggage of bodily fluids.
Mommy boulder #2 ~ Every mommy has experienced the sinking feeling of tackling the mountain of dishes, triumphantly putting away the last dish, and heading to the family room to sit down for the first time all day only to spy a pile of dirty cups and plates on the coffee table while simultaneously being bombarded with “I’m hungry!” and “What’s for dinner?”
Mommy boulder #3 ~ Every mommy’s shoulders have drooped when, upon vacuuming the family room and moving on to the bedrooms, she’s heard the unmistakable crunch of crackers and rushed back into the family room to find her toddler gleefully dancing to the magical music of goldfish being ground into carpet.
Mommy boulder #4 ~ Every mommy has cringed when, after organizing the playroom into neat bins of Legos, crayons, Hotwheels, Barbies, blocks, magnetic letters, puzzles, marbles, Squinkies, tea sets, play food, My Little Ponies, etc, she’s headed into the kitchen to start lunch only to run back at break-neck, but oddly slow-motion, and either way, insufficient, speed, at the shout “Where’s my blue truck?” followed by the crash of multiple bins being dumped into one. big. pile.
Mommy boulder #5 ~ Every mommy’s brain has mulled thoughts of possible tortures and other heinous acts of revenge after nursing her baby to sleep and then, bladder bursting, trying to slip out of the room only to hear the clomp of preschooler feet followed by the inevitable, “Mooooommmmyyyyy!” followed by the equally inevitable baby wail. (Note: real cause of incontinence?)
Any ‘Mommy boulders’ you’d like to add, my fellow mountain-climbing mamas?
The life of a small child is comprised of a daily onslaught of tempting surfaces begging for the artistry of a crayon, tall places crying out to be scaled, lovely little objects in need of a mouth or nose to visit, and dozens of other alluring glass and liquid and sharp things to be explored through the physics of gravity, the kinetics of concoctions, and the application of Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is only one force powerful enough to defeat this nearly irresistible call of adventure, imagination, and discovery…The No!
Every child knows the power of The No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!
Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!
Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!
That kind of power and control can go to a little person’s head, for sure! And the change in the big people when the word is used against them clearly demonstrates its incredible value. Their faces go from happy to serious or even angry, and sometimes a little person can even make a big person yell. What dizzying power!
And then little ones finally get a few more words to add…direct quotes from the most powerful beings they know, mommy and daddy…quotes like, “I said ‘No’!” and “Don’t you tell me ‘No’!” and “No means ‘No’!” The authority! The dominion! The clout! And using them against those powerful beings, watching them turn red in the face and yell and threaten…well, it’s scary and makes a small person feel really disconnected and upset…but the surge of intense pleasure at feeling powerful and in control almost makes them feel…like a big person for a moment!
And that’s what they most long to be, just like mommy and daddy…big…and strong…and smart…and powerful.
So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with The No from their little power-mongers? First, take a deep breath, and then engage those adult brains.
What inherent power is there, really, in a little two-letter word? Only the power we give it! What if, instead of that tiny word being able to push our buttons, we just disconnected the buttons entirely and didn’t react to The No at all? It would simply become a no. Just another word to celebrate our precious little people adding to their fledgling vocabularies.
And what if we backed up even further and disenfranchised The No from the beginning? When our newborn baby’s flailing hands caught a tiny fistful of hair or landed in some squishy stuff, what if we just smiled and gently removed it and kissed those itty bitty little fingers (after a wipey when squishy stuff was involved, of course!)?
What if when our little people headed for the walls to go all Michelangelo on them, we offered alternative canvases?
Or what if when they ascended the kitchen cabinets, we just scooped them up and headed outdoors for some climbing adventures?
The No is only The No when we, the adults, make it The No. And it can become simply a no when we get creative and interactive and stop using a tiny two-letter word like it has “Phenomenal Cosmic Power” in an “itty bitty living space!” (Disney’s Aladdin, 1992)