Raising Hippy Babies
Last week I learnt how to tie dye, and as a matter of fact I learnt how to tie dye while I had a 13 month old on my back in a woven wrap, so I was fully embracing the hippy-vibe. I’m so excited now that I’ve done I once I’m going to tie dye everything in my house – look out bed sheets, you’re going to be rainbows!
It got me thinking, I spent most of my life not believing I was very hippyish, I had a very clear idea in my head about what a hippy looks like and does, I imagine dreaded hair, unshaven legs and probably uses soft drugs. These days my hair is often unbrushed and half way to dreads, my legs are rarely shaved and I’m pretty into caffeine (that’s a drug, right?)
Though the idea of peace and love is something that I’ve embraced with my parenting, when we first had Jasper all the things I believed about how I would parent (routine, controlled crying, firm discipline) flew right out the window. He was supposed to be in his cot in his room from birth and I remember our first night home from hospital I had tears pouring down my face (which is pretty normal a few days after a baby is born, hormonal surges and all the rest) because my arms felt so empty, my heart ached for him, I didn’t feel like a mother unless he was in my arms. So at the first little noise I got up and brought him into our bed, and there he slept until he was 3 – and now he’s 4 our bed is still always open to both our children.
Fully embracing my inner hippy was a process, or more the process of accepting that that was who I truly am. That gentle parenting, or Attachment Parenting was inevitably how I would parent, I just had to block out the overwhelming about of counter-intuitive parenting being pushed on me. I attempted to leave my baby to cry, to wait, I feared if I picked him up when he cried he’d be ‘spoilt’, a well-meaning family member unwittingly helped me along the journey by saying “if you always pick him up when he cries he’ll learn if he cries you’ll go to him” and I had a big AH-HA moment because that’s exactly what I’d want my baby to learn, I’ll always be here for him, if he cries I’ll go to him.
Once he’d grown a bit older and I felt like I didn’t know how to navigate further along the “Attachment Parenting” path, a wonderful book called “Children are People too” was recommended to me. And even just the title itself opened up a world of new thought to me. We do still use time outs as a very rare form of discipline and I’ve raised my voice a few times – I’m only human – but we’ve managed to continue gentle, nurturing, respectful parenting passed babyhood.
From talking to relatives (particularly a little bit older relatives) there’s this strange idea that children are inherently bad, they’re naturally naughty, manipulative from birth, they are deceitful and conniving and a parents job is to discipline that out of them. Where I feel babies and children are naturally good, sometimes despite their actions their intentions are always good, I accept that they often lack the ability to think of others, think ahead and anticipate the consequences to their actions. I love the saying “you must love them the most then they are the least lovable” the moments where my eldest has been so out of control I’d find myself dropping to my knees beside him, holding him to me, my precious little dude, his heart would be breaking over something so tiny or trivial in my mind, but his pain would be so real to him, and I’d give anything to heal that hurt – even if I cant give him what he wants in that moment. I just can’t see how a person would ever choose to be that distressed unless their upset was genuine. While a meltdown wouldn’t always result in the outcome he might have wanted, but I want him to know, no matter what he does, if he cries I’ll go to him.
There is an inner calmness I’ve noticed in other parents who parent with the attitude that their child is not bad. Sometimes using terms like “intense” or “spirited”, rather than “naughty”. Theran te might be a less desirable behaviour come up, and the parent steps in, but it’s not with the attitude of the child is being bad, but with the intent to teach the child. Gentle parenting does not automatically mean not disciplining children, but more looking at the word discipline to mean “to teach” rather than to mean “to punish”.
Yet I’ve heard people accuse parents who don’t smack, shout and shame their children, of not disciplining. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard or read a rant about “kids these days” and how all the problems of the world’s youth rest squarely on the shoulders of parents who don’t use physical forms of punishments. While I’m quite certain every generation when comparing the younger generations to their own have said that “kids these days” are getting less respectful, more selfish, lazy, and so on. That or each generation truly is getting worse than the generation before them – which is as good a reason as any to revert back to a more natural, traditional style of parenting, wouldn’t you think?
I know it doesn’t always appear to be “working” and it IS exhausting, and there are days where I hear of babies sleeping through at 6 months and wonder what would it truly have cost to have to “train” my children who are 1 and 4 to sleep, but I look at the wonderful people they are and I don’t even feel like I can take full credit for them, I’m not that clever, I don’t always feel like I’m that good at this parenting thing, and yet they just ARE that amazing and wonderful – I fee very much like my one and only job as a parent is to just try very hard not to mess therm up.