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What have I become?

November 7, 2010

When I was in my early 20’s, I remember the absolute certainty with which I held my ideals and beliefs. I was not above derisive feelings towards others who were doing things differently. Ironic, considering that when I was 16 I’d done an about-face in regards to my religious beliefs, and embraced a belief system that is frowned on by the predominant U.S. religion. I couldn’t understand why my aunt would want to homeschool her sons, why she’d nursed her youngest well past 6 months (past 2 years even – tho’ I’m not sure how far past), why people would be willing to pay the prices for organic, what the big deal was with vaccinations and not circumcising. Healthy food was all well and good, but did we really have to go to extremes with it?

Changing your ideals is very often a rocky path, but the view along the way is completely worth it!

I nursed Bro ’til he was about 8 months old, at which point, having already started drinking cow’s milk from a bottle more and more often (at the advice of his pediatrician), he self-weaned from the breast. At the time and I were living with my sister and her little girl, since my husband had just gone into boot camp for the Navy. I was going to stay with her til he was done with both boot camp, and the following 8-week school he’d be going to before his first station. One afternoon, my niece was crawling happily around on the floor, bottle within easy reach, so that whenever she wanted a drink she merely grabbed the bottle and drank from it. Bro, who was nursing but watching her very determinedly, decided that he wanted to be able to do the same thing, and that was that. He weaned that day, and never wanted to nurse again. Considering that most of the moms I knew at the time were nursing for 6 weeks or less, I thought I’d done pretty good getting to 8 months – but not carried it to excess like my aunt had done.

We moved when my husband got his first station, and then two years later we were getting ready to move again. I started looking into homeschooling at that point, as a way to make sure that Bro’s education didn’t have the same weirdness mine did (I was a Navy brat, and spent a lot of time moving) – leave a school just before they start covering a topic, get to the next one that has already covered the topic and now you have a strange gap… or get there only to find them just starting on something you’ve already learned at the last school, which feels like a waste of time. So homeschooling would give him a stability that was missing from my education. I justified it to myself, and the rest of my family, that my aunt had done it with all five of her kids, so I should be able to do it with one. I got all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t do this, but none were really compelling arguments – at least not to me. I did some reading about the state we were heading to, did some reading about homeschooling in general, got involved in online support groups, and then found that while the homeschooling idea itself was working, the practical side wasn’t working. We had battles about sitting down to fill out papers, battles about sitting down to work on things. When we sat down together and went over things verbally, he was spot on with his answers, but writing them down was an exercise in futility. I started doing more research, more reading, and came across the Unschooling movement. I read more, got involved in a couple of online unschooling groups, and the click of a perfect fit was almost audible when we put it into practice! I questioned it a couple of times over the next few years – usually do to pressure from family – but we’ve always returned to it, and after a little bit, I stopped questioning. Step 1 on the path of becoming that which I used to mock.

Along the course of Bro’s life, I started really paying attention to things that I’d taken for granted all during my life. Vaccinations, the additives in our foods (corn syrup included), green-living, locally produced foods, mass-grown livestock and agriculture vs organically and sustainably grown foods, carbon footprints – all of this came under fire as I learned more and more, and started questioning more and more. The FDA wasn’t the great protector I’d always grown up thinking it was. Vaccines were questioned and questionable – were they doing more harm than good, a question that can only have an individual answer. Could I live greener, and more lightly? Would I notice a difference in the taste of, and how I felt after eating, organic, sustainable foods? Was it really necessary to pump our cows full of hormones? All these questions, and the answers they begat, led to further questions regarding our use of plastics, our use of questionable chemicals in everything – from cosmetics and toiletries, to the stuff we use to clean our homes and cars, from the furniture in our houses, to the clothes we put on our backs. I was travelling further down the path – becoming even more tree-hugging, and earthy-crunchy than I had ever been as a younger person.

When my second husband and I started considering adding a second child to our family, and we really started to look into things that I’d not really considered before. Midwives, birthing centers, non-intervention, not circumcising, not vaccinating (or delaying them or being selective with them), baby-wearing, exclusive and extended breastfeeding, child-led weaning, gentle discipline, living as a family who loved and cared for each other and respected each other – something I never really felt when I was growing up. I’d had an intervention filled delivery with the Bro, and whereas I didn’t know exactly what I wanted with the second child, I knew what I didn’t want – IV’s, cesarean, all the machines that go “Ping”. Even though I did wind up having Little Frog, it was a completely different experience. Some of the things we’ve done with Little Frog are extended versions of what I did with Bro – I had a ring sling for Bro and wore him in it sometimes, and I did nurse Bro for 8 months – but many of them are things I would’ve never considered or things I didn’t find out about until after Bro was older.

 All the changes I’ve made, and the learning that has happened, I realized recently that I have truly become that which I used to mock – that and more actually. I’ve gone further down the path than any of my close friends, or any of the people in my family (at least to this point), which leaves me wondering where I go from here. Every now and then, when I start to feel like The Hubby and I are doing this alone, I remember the support systems that I do have – though at this point, they’re mostly online – the local ap forums that I’m part of, the moms whose blogs and twitters I follow, and mothering – both the magazine and the discussion boards. In a way, it’s appropriate that the majority of my support comes from online sources, since many of the topics that opened my eyes to a different way to parent came from discussions online. 

So to all of you who’ve come before me, who’ve been blogging about this longer than I have been, who’ve been forging the AP path consider this a big Thank You!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2010 9:50 pm

    Actually having children changes one’s view of parenting a lot. Which, really, is rather a good thing, if you think about it.

    But sometimes, I sort of miss the certainty of my pre-kid days. It was all so clear then. Sigh.

    • November 9, 2010 9:56 pm

      I agree, it was all so very clear then. Now, each day brings a new thought process to be examined, a new questioned to be asked or answered. Of course, it is totally worth it, knowing that as we ask those questions of ourselves, that we’re making the world better for the children who travel through it with us. 🙂

  2. November 15, 2010 5:03 am

    Great post! I am also changing my views with the little one, breastfeeding longer than expected (23 months), and changing my outlook on parenting as we go along.
    Thank goodness for posts like yours which make me aware that there are other ways of doing it!

    • November 16, 2010 3:17 pm

      Thanks 🙂 Also thank you for being another who’s changing viewpoints. I’m hoping as we change our views regarding raising children, that we’re also helping others change the ideas they had.

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