Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hiding in my grace cave

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

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 focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

Some of my new dear friends, Amy and Arpita, relaxing in my home.

For much of my parenting journey, I have felt alone. We didn't know a lot of parents when we had Mikko four and a half years ago, and the parents that we did meet felt so different from us in terms of values and goals. Our own families and former communities are far away, and frankly, it can be easier that way, since various relatives and old friends have disagreed with us on aspects large and small of our parenting choices, from home birth to elimination communication to homeschooling to treating children with respect.

It's been easier not to fight, but it's been lonely as well.

Blogging and being online among like-minded parents has been salvific. Knowing that there was a large and vocal minority out there who believed in attachment parenting and the gentle raising of children has often given me the strength and courage to continue on my own path with confidence.

But there's something to be said for people who are involved in your life on a day-to-day, intimate, able-to-touch basis, not just through a computer screen and comments on your post, however much that may be treasured.

Lately I've been blessed to become surrounded by people I can connect with. Some have still been online, but in more of a routine sort of fellowship, where the minutiae of life are shared. These are, among a few others, my Natural Parents Network volunteer team, and I'm thrilled to be part of this group of thoughtful parents. I've also met some of them in real life, and extended letters and packages back and forth with those who are geographically distant. I feel like the world is a smaller and cozier place now for knowing them.

Through them, I've also branched out locally into a few parenting groups, where I've discovered neighborhood folk who are just as interested as I am in the subculture of natural parenting. What a relief to find you're not alone after all — that there were people waiting right here all along for you to meet them.

When this topic of Respectful Interactions for the Carnival of Natural Parenting came up, I felt sheepish and tongue-tied even to write about it. I try not to interact with people who disagree with me. Whether it's online or in person, it leaves me feeling stressed, defensive, and argumentative. I usually don't say anything, but then what I wanted to say bubbles inside me until I feel like I'm going to pop.

Hanging with my NPN buddies, enjoying the positive feedback on my blog and my Hobo Mama Facebook page, pulling myself into the sphere of other attachment parents … it all struck me suddenly as a little insular.

But the thing is, I really couldn't ask for a better group of people to call my peers. There's this tendency in some circles to pooh-pooh tolerance, as if that's a weakness. But these ladies (all the vocal ones in the group right now are women) are tolerant with a deep sense of grace. If you bring a problem to them, they will think about it, and they will respond with wisdom and kindness. Even if they disagree with you, they will tell you why, respectfully, and suggest another vision. In a world where acrimonious Facebook debates are a given, I stand amazed at a diverse group of people (in terms of geography, values, background, religion, and more) who were able to conduct a reasoned, compassionate discussion on the subject of abortion. Yup, that's right. No mud slung, no hearts broken, just conversation, where we likely all learned a thing or two.

So, anyway, I was feeling sheepish about this topic, worried that I don't do enough to challenge myself to interact respectfully, when I realized: Being with this group of wise, open-hearted parents has changed me. I thought about parents I'd spoken with recently who mentioned doing something I wouldn't have chosen, and how I didn't for once shut down defensively but listened with an open mind. I realized how I'm less likely to interpret outward signs (using a stroller instead of a sling, carrying a car seat bucket, feeding purees with a spoon) as barriers to parent-to-parent friendship — partly because I've had my own share of instances where I've been the one looking outwardly like a mainstream parent, and partly because I've gotten to know enough parents to realize these things that have loomed so large to me are often minor differences. I considered how Sam and I have reached out to people we've met through church, Mikko's former preschool, and our community, not knowing whether we'd be compatible or not but willing to put ourselves out there, and we've allowed others to reach out to us. (Neither of those might seem like much, but trust me when I say we have a long history of shyness and avoiding social interaction and interdependency.) I considered how I'm feeling less threatened by our extended family's opinions about things, recognizing their concerns as an expression of love and wanting to pass on their own experiences.

I even thought more carefully about the parents I've met in these attachment-friendly zones. They still don't always agree with me. On the natural spectrum, they're likely more food-oriented than I am, but I'm grateful when they give my snacks and me a pass. On the political or religious side, we often don't see eye to eye, but the more I learn about other parents, the more I acknowledge the incredible range of experiences and beliefs, and I feel more and more comfortable with not having all of us be exactly the same.

So, in some ways, I feel sheltered now, in my little den with my crunchy friends. In other ways, I can see how having that shelter has emboldened me to feel confident in my choices without attacking other parents for theirs. It's helped me befriend people with other points of view without feeling threatened by them. It's inspired me to extend the same grace I've been given.

If knowing there were others out there like me, over the internet, was what allowed me to continue on my unique parenting path, it's been knowing people more closely that's made me willing to allow other parents to choose their own unique paths as well.

It's basically the whole theory of attachment parenting in a nutshell, only I'm the one who's now been securely attached.

What gives you confidence to interact with people who parent differently from you or disagree with your parenting choices?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


The ArtsyMama said...

I'm with you on NPN changing me without me noticing as well. I've found that my interactions with all of you have made me want more interaction with real-life people as well. I actually made an effort to talk with my coworker who is pregnant when before I probably would have continued to live in my little cocoon because she might not want to talk about the things I do. I really do cherish my interactions with NPN volunteers as well but I was so excited that I actually got to spend time with them. Parenting alone sucks. It is hard enough as it is and then to be isolated from conversation makes for a very bored mama. I like hearing others views and occasionally I come out of my shell and let my crazy (I feel really cool saying this) subculture views come out.

I'm a full-time mummy said...

What gives me confidence? Reading up as much as I can and interacting with like-minded parents who has parenting styles like ours.

I'm touched with your sentence on "It's been easier not to fight, but it's been lonely as well." Unfortunately, I'm the type that fights on if I know I'm doing the right thing! :P

Terri said...

Well thanks to this post I've learned a really cool word - 'Salvific' hmmm lovely! :-)

I love this entire post as I'm one too who can tend to gather only with like-minded people and avoid confrontation at all costs even when that keeps me isolated. Thank-you for the amazing community you have created for us parents who are geographically far apart but able to support each other in the online world. I look forward to meeting many of you for real one day!

Sheila said...

I'm like you that way. My closest mom friends all agree with me about at least 90% of everything. I don't think I could face playgroups full of people who disagree with me unless I'd already been supported and encouraged by my two best friends and my mom. (My mom especially is the BEST like this. I tell her about all my worst days and my parenting struggles, and she always says, "Oh, you handled that so much better than I would have! You are such a patient, loving, kind mother!" Even though she doesn't agree with me on everything, she's always so encouraging that it really gives me strength to be confident about my choices.)

Arpita And Jonathan said...

It really is a rare and beautiful community that NPN has become! I have to admit, with all the different backgrounds and beliefs at first I kept thinking "This cozy little bubble is definitely going to pop. It always does!" But somehow, everyone seems to only become more open, understanding and willing to learn from one another. It's incredible to me, and gives me hope that it can also be achieved in other areas. I agree with you as amazing as the online community is, it certainly begs the question "Can this happen in 'real life'?" I'm glad to hear that you've found it can! :)

Unknown said...

'Salvific' ~ love it. I'll be aiming to use that word very very soon :-).

I too had a few doubts about writing on this topic ~ it felt a little fraudulant to write about 'respectful interactions' when generally I opt not to interact when I think there's going to be a difference of opinion. Shouldn't I be pushing my agenda, educating other people about co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and so forth. When friends post on their facebook status that they're doing controlled crying, should I wade in with a load of links and evidence about why they really might want to reconsider?
But I don't, I take the path of least resistance, I don't speak up. So yes, I too steer clear of interactions that might leave me feeling stressed, defensive, and argumentative. But I do that for the sake of my children ~ spending the rest of the day stewing over someone else's comments is the antithesis of mindful parenting.

Kerry McDonald, M.Ed. said...

Always love reading your posts! Such a nice topic for this month's carnival-- thanks for hosting!

I think a community of like-minded mamas is so important and I'm glad there are a lot of "us" where I live, and also through the online community. But you're right: as we gain more confidence and support from our natural parenting community, it helps us to be more respectful and tolerant of other parents who make approach parenting differently. Great insights as usual!

FabulousMamaChronicles said...

I have the opposite problem: I blather my thoughts like verbal diarrhea with anyone whose got ears. As awful as that sounds, by making it public what my values are I naturally repel the people I would not want in my realm anyways and attract the wierdos to me like moths to the flame. I am very outspoken normally so pretending to agree with people whom I don't agree with is very difficult for me. Which is my challenge on this subject. So now I interact 'in real life' with the groups of like-minded people I have gathered as my community and just avoid confrontations with other parents. I will have to do so until I can behave appropriately with parents of other parenting styles...like the ones where children have no human rights and are burdens to their parents. Right now I can't stand those people.

Momma Jorje said...

I don't know if you caught my Anti Faith article on the Natural Parents Network, but your carnival piece made me think of it. There was a time when I avoided and even protected my family from "those people." But then I learned that those people have more to offer than just their religious beliefs. I learned to be more tolerant. I handle religiously-charged moments with much more grace.

I've noted that a lot of the ways we all approach this topic on how to deal with parents with different views can be carried over to any hot button. Whether it is parenting choices, politics, or religious beliefs - you can use the same approaches. We can go through the same epiphanies.

Above all, we have an appreciation for supportive community!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Hear, hear!! I've never processed it, but I'm right there with you - knowing so many wonderful women who have compassionate relationships despite our differences is a new experience for me. I am definitely more open as a result.

Love this thought: "It's basically the whole theory of attachment parenting in a nutshell, only I'm the one who's now been securely attached."

I think it's similar to the point that we are more likely to get defensive when we're not confident in our choices. Once we feel safe and confident, apparently it's also easier to wander outside of our comfort zones :)

mudpiemama said...

love how you say you are securely attached to your NPN group - ok and I confess totally jealous too :) It really is great that you have found more peace and confidence over the years!

Unknown said...

I, too, have noticed a rush of confidence since finding the NPN team. Especially here in South Africa, where most of my parenting practices are just so far-out there and I am often viewed as a freak ;)

Don't feel bad for avoiding conflict like the plague, I do it too... all part of living peacefully, at least that's what I like to tell myself ;)

Sylvia said...

This is such an incredibly beautiful post and I relate to so much of what you're saying I don't even know where to begin! One difference is that I'm not a "shy" person and I love being out there, but I've grown quite isolated. Part of it is that I'm relatively new to my city, but most is because of my parenting choices being so different than what I see in my community. Like you, I'm gaining strength from the online community and it's making it so much easier for me to chill out when I'm in the real world. I no longer cringe at strollers. OK, maybe just a little but now I'm open-minded when talking to the parent :)

So anyway, you, Dionna and the whole NPN team deserve a great big huge THANK YOU. Because what you've said is true for so many of us. We are all gaining strength, wisdom, confidence, and true compassion for humanity.

Sarah @ Parenting God's Children said...

A few various comments:
1. I definitely agree, being able to reach out to the NPN team without the risk of being judged is amazing and wonderful!
2. Sometimes I wish parts of our disapproving family lived farther away, too! (shh!) But great reminder that they are generally coming from love
3. I am lucky enough to have a few IRL crunchy friends, so grateful! And they respect my decisions, even if they're not right in line! (and me, them!
Thanks for sharing, fearless leader!

Luschka said...

Lovely post Lauren, and I so agree with you about our community. I don't know what I'd do without it.

I must confess, in my 'day job', I sometimes find myself surprised when I come across someone who has never heard the term Baby Led Weaning, or doesn't know that a Baby Bjorn isn't good for baby or *insert whatever here*. I find myself so surrounded by breastfeeders and cosleepers in my personal life and online life that when I meet 'others' in my professional life, it actually surprises me! Funny how something I didn't know existed three years ago, is my lifeline now?

Deb Chitwood said...

What a lovely post, Lauren! I'm a person who likes to avoid conflict, too. I love that you've found people locally as well as online who you can connect with. I've also found the natural parenting community to be an amazing group ... both supportive and thought-provoking.

I didn't have a community like that when my kids were little, but I was lucky to have friends and relatives who were supportive despite any differences we had. When we're all accepting of one another, it's amazing how much community there is just among parents who love their kids. :) Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

Unknown said...

This really spoke to me. I also feel as though my loving internet community has allowed me the supportive environment to be more understanding of others, when before I might've been reactive. I hope that I continue to grow and change in this way, as it sounds like you have so beautifully.

Unknown said...

This really spoke to me. I also feel as though my loving internet community has allowed me the supportive environment to be more understanding of others, when before I might've been reactive. I hope that I continue to grow and change in this way, as it sounds like you have so beautifully.

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