Ron and I were discussing this week about how others view our parenting. Strange topic, I know, but Ron and I are super passionate about marriage and family and helping others in these areas of their lives. I was concerned, albeit slightly, in how others viewed us in this area. Ron responded that he thought people see us as radical parents. I was kind of taken back. Radical? Really? Ron was quick to remind me of the time we made a huge splash because we refused to put J in nursery for a woman's ministry class I wanted to take. "She was only six months old," I responded. I shrug. It just doesn't seem radical to me. It seems logical. I suppose in our small conservative Christian bubble that has some seriously staunch views on how parenting is supposed to be done, I guess we are kind of radical.
I have grown so much as a parent in the last almost 7 years, and I know God will continue to grow me into the parent he wants me to be. When I had E I thought I totally knew what I was doing. I had been an aunt for years, nannied, babysat, worked in children's ministry . . . I was totally ready. ha! I was clueless. I thought my newborn would eat on a schedule, sleep on a schedule, and that we would all be following "God's plan" for raising a child. I mean, every good Christian young mom reads Babywise, right? Then I had an actual baby. Just letting E cry as an infant just didn't feel right. Making her wait to eat or sleep unsettled me, as did watching her in a seat or swing when I wanted to be holding her, but didn't want to "spoil" her. I am the first to step up and tell someone not to follow their feelings for "the heart is deceitful above all else" (Jer. 17:19). However, when you have a check in your spirit, go to the Lord. I did, and I relaxed on a lot of the things I thought I was "supposed" to do, but I still had so much to learn. Young parents, especially moms are under such pressure to do this parenting thing right. The thing is no matter what you do, someone will think you are doing it wrong. When all we want is raise our child in the love and admonition of the Lord, that is a lot of pressure.
Due to some bad advice and not enough information on my part, I gave up breastfeeding E at 3 months, and I put her on a schedule sleeping in her own bed. Since we were doing it "gently" and with very little crying, I thought I was doing all the right things. Then we moved to Ecuador when E was one and all the scheduling I did was worthless. Most days there was no quiet room or crib, just my lap and a crying tired baby. So much for that plan. How I wished I had rocked her to sleep more! I used a sling because it was convenient, but knew nothing about babywearing or attachment parenting.
Fast forward. I had C and a 22 month old toddler. C had reflux and everything I thought I knew about parenting (which was not much at this point!) went completely out the window. I breastfed on demand because he hardly ate and I was worried about weight gain. We coslept because that was the only way we could sleep (and when he mostly ate!). I researched babywearing because, goodness surely something out there would help this poor baby get some relief while I could still have 2 hands to play with my toddler and focus on surviving. Those crazy first 2 years of C's life taught me more than I ever could have imagined about being a parent. God was quick to teach me about being a Holy Spirit led parent. No book, author, educator, or professional knew MY child, but God did and I did. He taught me to be careful about being dogmatic on things He is not dogmatic about. I would have said my children would never sleep in my bed, or sleep in a swing to establish a nap schedule. Well, they did. I learned you truly cannot spoil an infant. They are created to eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired. A small child's body really does regulate eating and sleeping patterns on their own with very little gentle external encouragement, and holding them or wearing them constantly does not make them spoiled, it makes them secure and independent.
So then number 3 came along. A perfectly healthy baby with no reason that necessitated co-sleeping or babywearing. Yet I saw the amazing benefits it had on child #2, and I see the lack of attachment in child #1 that I am now having to go backwards to build. I choose babywearing and part time co-sleeping to help facilitate the attachment that I now so desperately value. Oh yeah, and I nursed until she self weaned with a little gentle prodding at 17 months, and yes, she is still rear facing at 27 months because safety not convenience is paramount.
Sometimes I feel like we don't fit in anywhere. We are not true "attachment" parents as we do believe our children are inherently sinful, and need truth and correction. We believe in structure and boundaries, and training our children in the truth about our sin nature and the cross that sets us free. We believe in positive discipline, but we also believe in consequences. Our Christian friends just think we are weird for the most part, and just too extreme for them. After all, the way they are doing it has worked in the church for years. But I ask, has it? 80% of youth leave the church at 18 and don't come back. Something is wrong. I cannot single handedly change the church's approach to children and youth ministry, but I can change my family's approach to my children.
I respect my children because they are made in the image of God. I love them and treasure them and desire to enjoy them. I mess up often, but my heart is to raise compassionate, empathetic, loving, and mighty servants and warriors for the Kindgom of God. It is true we rarely spank and believe that a myriad of other more positive discipline techniques and mostly reality discipline works best. We homeschool, practice family worship, family missions, and are consumed with passionately pursuing the Glory of God in our family. Is our parenting philosophy radical? Yeah, I guess. But since when is being radical a bad thing?
TIPS for developing a personal parenting philosophy:
1. Develop a biblical parenting philosophy as a family. Base it on Scripture, truth, love, and grace. (everyone needs a plan) Know your objective (to raise a godly child that loves God and follows Him with all their heart) and decide how you will accomplish that.
2. Have reasonable expectations. For both you and your child
3. Walk with grace. (this does not mean you ignore, it simply means we treat our children with as much respect and grace God gives us when we sin)
4. Be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Keep your mind and heart open to what He has to say and where He leads you and your family. Do the research, know your stuff, but then seek Him as your filter
5. Enjoy them. If we are faithfully training our children in the Lord We will never look back and say we wish we were harder on them. We will wish we sang more, played more games, and held them longer.