Parenting Advice for the Girl From Outer Space
Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
It’s not often I feel like an expert. In fact, despite the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree from a relatively prestigious university, I’ve read Sartre in his native language, and I can juggle bowling pins – most of the time I feel like a moron.
If not a moron, at least someone who only does things correctly after bumbling my way through the first nineteen attempts — while most people figure it out instantly.
I try. I talk to the experts. I consult books and use Google – I have been known to watch a YouTube video on the proper way to crack an egg. During college, I learned to chug beer after reading an article in Mens Health magazine on how to practice using full glasses of water. It was a very helpful skill for attending fraternity parties.
So, when I sat down for dinner with my step-sister’s half sister (got that?) also known as “The Girl From Outer Space,” by The Informant (because she works for NASA), and she looked to me for parenting advice, I nearly fell off my chair. I would have fallen off my chair, except that I had My Masterpiece in the ergo and I was too bottom-heavy to move.
The Girl From Outer Space is pregnant with her first child. She is considering homebirth, and plans to follow attachment parenting. She’d heard from her half-sister that I was “crunchy” – I cloth-diaper, I’ve homebirthed, I unschool my mostly-unvaccinated children, I can quote “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen,” and I’m a birth doula and student midwife – and wanted some advice.
Advice! From me! Someone wanted advice from me! The eighth wonder of the world had appeared – at a soul food restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, no less.
I prefaced my parenting advice with the usual: “I’m not an expert.” I said this just in case she missed the fact that Animal and Mineral were running circles around the inner perimeter of the restaurant, The Informant had just used permanent marker to tag her menu, and I was leaning over the table, half standing up, because My Masterpiece shrieked every time I sat down with her in the Ergo. The mom of those children you hate sitting near in a restaurant wanted to make sure you know she’s not a parenting expert.
However, once you’ve got four kids, you’ve seen almost everything. The gross, the grosser, the grossest: I’ve been there, done that, and paid the bill to have it removed and/or cleaned.
I once purchased a car because while test-driving it, I experienced a bout of morning sickness and threw up all over the car’s interior. And the salesman.
More importantly, I’ve parented badly before I parented better. I’ve done things in the name of parenting that didn’t traumatize my kids – but in retrospect, traumatized me.
So, I wanted to help The Girl From Outer Space avoid my mistakes and get a good start to this whole “parenting” thing, a job that goes 24/7 for at least 18 years. (And honestly, my oldest kids are only seven, but I can’t see that it just ends at 18.)
I can sum it up with one word, I told her: kindness. Parent with kindness and you’ll never go wrong.
Kindness is different in every situation, so I can say more easily what it isn’t: Kindness is not blind permissiveness. Kindness is not letting the inmates run the asylum.
Kindness is giving them the benefit of the doubt, believing in them, and supporting them.
In a newborn, I think its kind to respond to baby’s needs. Even if it’s 3am and I’m exhausted and my nipples are sore and why doesn’t my baby sleep through the night yet when every other baby on planet earth sleeps through the night already what am I doing wrong here? – the kind thing to do is comfort my baby. Probably by breastfeeding. For the hundredth time that day. While internally assuming that I’m going to be breastfeeding on demand for the next nineteen thousand years and I’ll never catch up on sleep.
Kindness is giving my five year old the tools to make good decisions. This means that I don’t solve every problem for her. Sometimes I let her struggle for a while, because I believe she can do it. And even if she can’t, I still don’t want to fix it for her; I want to help her figure out how she can fix it.
It sounds clear as mud, right? Actually, it probably sounds really rosy and picture-perfect, like I’m depositing flowers and pearls and puppies alongside my well-behaved children who accept these gifts with grace. It’s not usually like that. (Reality: it’s nothing like that.)
The reality is, it’s more like fertilizing your backyard in the hopes that it will grow into beautiful grass – the kind on which you want to walk barefoot (avoiding deposits of dog poop) and have a picnic using a red checkered tablecloth and a charming little wooden basket.
Sometimes the grass doesn’t react well to the fertilizer. Especially if all you’ve been doing for years is simply watering and hoping for the best; the grass seems to sneer, “Yeah, right. I’m not changing,” while you cross your fingers and hope for the best. The grass may even get yellow and stringy and start to look pissed off. You keep fertilizing. Well-meaning friends and family shake their heads; they don’t fertilize their grass and it’s just fine thank you very much. But you believe in the fertilizer and hope that in the end, you’ll have a really nice backyard.
That’s parenting with kindness.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Woman Seeking Inspiration — Seeking Mother’s struggles and joys to find her own path in motherhood have inspired others — to her surprise! (@seekingmother )
- Paving the Way — Jessica at This is Worthwhile makes a conscious effort every day to be a role model. (@tisworthwhile )
- No Rules Without Reason — The Recovering Procrastinator wants to inspire her husband to discipline their children gently. (@jenwestpfahl)
- Creating a Culture of Positive Parenting Role Models — Michelle at The Parent Vortex shows parents at the playground how to do a front wrap cross carry and tells nurses about her successful home births, as a way of modeling natural parenting in public. (@TheParentVortex)
- Making A Difference for Mamas — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest took an embarrassing pumping incident at work and turned it into an opportunity for all the employees who breastfeed.
- Inspiring Snowflakes — Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch Momma is a role model for the most important people: her children. (@kitchenwitch)
- Paying it Forward — Amber at Strocel.com inspires new (and often scared) mamas with these simple words: “It will be OK.” (@AmberStrocel)
- A SAHD’s View on Parenting Role Models — Chris at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing doesn’t have many role models as a SAHD — but hopes to be one to his daughter. (@tessasdad)
- Am I a Role Model? A Review — Deb at Science@home brings attachment parenting out of the baby age and shows how it applies (with science fun!) to parenting through all of childhood. (@ScienceMum)
- Say Something Good — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick reminds women that it is within our right to be proud of ourselves without apology. (@RaisingBoychick)
- Try, Try Again — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis wants to inspire like the Little Engine that Could.
- I’m a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew? — Sarah at OneStarryNight has received several beautiful comments about just what an inspiration she has been, if not in real life then definitely online. (@starrymom)
- That Little Thing — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing demonstrates the ripple effect, one status update at a time. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
- How Has Your Day Been? — mrs green @ littlegreenblog inspired her friend to be an active listener for her children. (@myzerowaste)
- No, Thank You! — If you are reading Maman A Droit’s post, you’ve probably inspired her. (@MamanADroit)
- My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now describes how her family’s natural and Montessori principles inspired others. (@DebChitwood)
- My Hope for a Better Life — Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children hopes her choices inspire her children toward a better life.
- Natural Parenting Felt Natural — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes didn’t plan on natural parenting — but her son led her there. (@sheryljesin)
- Rest. Is it even possible? — Janet at where birth and feminism intersect has found that even role models need rest — and that there are ways to fit it into everyday parenting life. (@feministbirther)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model — Lauren at Hobo Mama was the fortunate recipient of a seed of inspiration, and has been privileged to plant some of those seeds herself, though she didn’t know it at the time. (@Hobo_Mama)
- crunchspiration — the grumbles at grumbles and grunts wants to inspire others to parent from their heart. (@thegrumbles)
- No Extra Inspiration Required — Zoey at Good Goog doesn’t think she inspires anyone and wasn’t inspired by anyone in return — except by her daughter. (@zoeyspeak)
- Upstream Parenting — Luschka at Diary of a First Child blogs for that one mother in one hundred who will find her words helpful. (@diaryfirstchild)
- Parenting Advice for the Girl from Outer Space — If Mommy Soup at Cream of Mommy Soup could give one piece of inspirational advice to new parents, it would be to parent with kindness. (@MommySoup)
- Natural Parenting Carnival — Role Model — Sarah at Consider Eden feels the pressure at trying — and failing — to live up to her role models. (@ConsiderEden)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role Model — Dionna at Code Name: Mama encourages natural parenting mamas to take joy in the fact that they are touching lives and making a difference to children every day. (@CodeNameMama)
- Inspiration Goes Both Ways — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is flustered that people consider her a breastfeeding role model — but the lovely comments she’s received prove it’s so. (@bfmom)
- My Seven — Danielle at born.in.japan has identified seven role models in her life who brought her to natural parenting. Who are your seven? (@borninjp)
- A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — and has come to see almost all those friends follow in her natural birthing footsteps, whether intentionally or not.
- Gentle Discipline Warrior — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries has inspired a gentle discipline movement — join her! (@babydust)
- Change The World… One Parent At A Time — Mamapoekie is more comfortable inspiring parents online than she is in real life. (@mamapoekie)
- Inspirational Parenting — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start has intentionally tried to be a role model but was unprepared for how soon someone would take notice. (@pchanner)
- My Inspiration — Erin at A Beatnik’s Beat on Life has written thank-you letters to everyone who’s inspired her to become the lactivist and natural parenting advocate she is today. (@babybeatnik)