Monday, September 7, 2009

Thinking Mama Monday--Beth Allen

Friends, I have spent a lot of time talking about natural cleaning and home remedies. This really isn't the root of what I meant for this blog to be. I will be spending more time on natural parenting philosophies and practices.
One of my dear friends is a beautiful example of what Intuitive Parenting truly means to me. Mamas, meet Beth.
I was young when I first became a mother. 22 to be exact. And then 23 when my 2nd child was born. I am now 28 and expecting my fourth child. There must be something to this motherhood thing- because putting myself through morning sickness (aka 24 hour sickness) 4 times in 6 years is not exactly my idea of fun. It truly is an amazing thing, though, being a mother. Nothing else I have done has brought me more contentment or fulfillment, and I can't imagine that anything else ever could. Sometimes I look back and think I was dreadfully unprepared to be a parent. I sometimes wish I would have informed myself better on certain things. But being a mother, or a father, is as much of a learning and growing process as being a child. I am actually glad that I didn't read a plethora of parenting books, (I think I read one.) I honestly believe that a mother's intuition is the best manual that one could have. I would imagine you can go crazy trying to fit your child and parenting skills into the mold of some well-meaning doctor(s) or author(s). YOU are the one who best knows your child. And trusting our own instincts is something that we need to let happen more as parents.

Here are some goals that I have had since having my first child, although this is the first time I have officially written them down.

Raise children who are respectful of the earth they live in and generations that came before and will come after. I want to teach my children that everything they do has a consequence. From using cloth diapers to recycling and using water wisely, everything that we do effects the Earth that we live in. This can be applied to life in general, as well. My children know that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions. When they understand this, it makes it much easier for them to make good choices. I think that not accepting or being responsible for one's actions is one of the big problems in our society today. I also want to teach my children to respect and love their elders. There is much that can be learned from generations past, (no matter how different we may think their lives were) and I feel that it is irresponsible to think that their experiences and advice don't apply to us. Besides, it is just magic hearing the stories that my Grandpa tells about growing up or reading my grandmother’s journal. It makes me realize just how similar their daily struggles are to ours.

Teach children to find joy and love in relationships and simple pleasures rather than material things.We have a rule in our house that we don't buy our children new toys unless it is their birthday or Christmas. And even then we try not to go overboard. They love their toys, they can occupy themselves for hours with them. They don't have to have something new to be entertained. We also try to buy toys that require a little imagination on their part. Battery toys are not my favorite. Plastic toys I am very particular about- although I do love the Duplos blocks. (and so do my children.) If we want to reward them, we reward them with time- a special outing or a movie at the theatres or staying up late. One of my girls favorite things is "girls day out" where they get one on one time with me. We never do anything fancy- and we don't need to. It is just a time for us to bond and talk and be silly together. A time I hope will create an open and honest dialogue between us in preparation for the teenage years. I hope that they are learning that loving relationships are more rewarding than any material thing.

Make an environment that is peaceful and allows for imagination games and play. Allow for do-nothing time. (aka learn to be creative time)I like my home to be filled with my children's laughter and play. There is no happier sound to me. (well, it comes close between that and the quiet of when they are sleeping safe in their beds.) I (very) strongly feel that our world today is over-stimulated. Children must be playing video games or watching movies all day to be entertained and happy. To me this is very unhealthy. It is not only not "real" but it is just too much. It is a no-brainer to me why so many children have attention problems these days. They have never been allowed to just be. When children are let to be "bored" for a while they quickly learn that they can create their own magic. I love seeing what my children come up with on their own. Sometimes it is something as simple as coloring at their art table. Other times it is more elaborate, like building a "boat" and gathering up beloved stuffed animals to go to Disneyland or get on Noah's ark. One thing that I learned from my own sweet mother is that the messes that are the results of creativity are (for the most part) happy messes and well worth the effort. How much will it matter in a few years (or even a few days) that a mess was made? But the memory of playing with home-made play-dough or cutting up a bazillion little shapes out of paper (and pretending they are snow) will last forever.

Teach children to respect others and to be conscious and sensitive of varying opinions and beliefs while still standing up for their own."See it from their point of view" or "try walking in their shoes" are some of the most important things that we can do as human beings. I want my children to be able to hear a differing opinion or belief and, while they might not agree with it, show respect towards the person. Everyone has had different life experiences and situations that have shaped them into they are. It is not fair or right to judge, especially when considering that we may feel the same way as they if we were in their situation (or "shoes"). At the same time, I want my children to be able to stand up for what they believe in when called for. There is a difference between being tolerant and allowing yourself to be stepped on. This can and should be done in a respectful manner, however.

Never sacrifice organic, nourishing and whole foods, even if it they are more expensive. They are as close as you can get to perfect health insurance. I have my husband to thank for being so stalwart on this front. He has taught me that the cost is worth the quality, there are things that can be done without before we we sacrifice healthy, nourishing food. Processed foods are the main culprit of ill health and we try to avoid them whenever possible. We choose to follow a vegetarian diet, but I whole-heartedly believe that you can have a healthy, well-balanced diet eating meat as well. The most important thing is to be aware of where and how your food comes to you. There is such a disconnect from our meals, (and our snacks, and our drinks). It is easy to ignore the label and enjoy the convenience. We wouldn't let our children sit in a puddle of toxic waste, we shouldn't let them eat things that sound like they are made out of toxic waste ingredients, either. It doesn't have to be fancy. Just whole.

Play with my children everyday.This is something I take very seriously. Whether it is a game of hide-and-seek, musical chairs, or simply reading a big pile of books on the couch together, I always make time for play. It doesn't have to be hours long, I am always surprised at how well 20 minutes can satisfy my children's need for attention. I like to try and find ways to add a little fun to our mostly uneventful days. Most of the time it is as simple as making a "secret lunch" or having a marching band, but they just love it. I try to remember that this is the time they are here with me, that they want to be here with me. I need to take advantage of that as much as possible. Plus, how can I resist when my 22 month old grabs me by the hand and says, "c'mon, mama! play blocks!" There is just no arguing with that.

I really admire Emily and her devotion to natural parenting. I have a lot to learn from her. There is something to be said for using nature as a lead when raising your children. I remember always hearing how dangerous co-sleeping is, or how your children will never learn to sleep if you nurse them at night. But snuggling up with my warm, intoxicating little babes close to my chest is something that came so natural. Those are some of my sweetest memories, I would not trade them for the world. And I now have 3 very soundly sleeping little children that feel safe and content and watched over. To me, the core of natural parenting is listening to your instincts. Don't follow the parenting trends, they are too often found to be faulty. Follow what you know is best for your child, and the best is always first and foremost your time and your love. Hold your children as often as possible, read to them everyday, teach them to find joy in the simple things in life. Give yourself a little more credit, we are all learning this parenting thing for the first time.
Thank you Beth for sharing your insights with us.
(Find her personal blog, HERE.)


Reachel Bagley, Stylist said...

Here, here! I look forward to being an insightful parent someday too.

Elaine said...

This is an amazing post!!! It makes me more excited to become a mother. Not yet...but soon :).

And Emily...thank you for the comment on my blog!

Kiersten said...

This post was so well put! Inspirational. :~)