Saturday 29 September 2007

Look Ma, No Leaks!

Well, we've finally made the switch.

Our little boy is in cloth diapers.

I'm loving them! And, I'm sure, so is he. It just looks so comfortable to have that soft fabric up against his skin instead of our previous disposable diapers.

For the first four months of his life, I felt guilty every single time I changed his diaper. I felt guilty for all the garbage I was creating, I felt guilty for all the chemicals and crap (heh, no pun intended) I was putting right there next to my son's most sensitive parts, and I felt guilty for all the money we were throwing on when we could wash and reuse cloth diapers instead. Finally I told my husband, I'm sorry, I just have to try cloth. If I hate it, I hate it, but I have to at least be able to say I tried.

A month later, a local baby store finally had my trial basket of cloth diapers ready for me to use for a week. I'm very glad I tried the loan program first, because I would never had made the same decisions regarding what kind of cloth diapers to get if I hadn't tried it first.

It was a very nice cloth-filled week. For the first time in weeks, we didn't have the usual mid-sermon poop explosion at church that invariably necessitates a complete outfit change. I heard the rumble, I held my breath, I waited for the stream of poop to squirt halfway up his back...and it didn't. Phew. In fact, we didn't have a single leak the whole time. That right there was reason enough to switch!

After the week was up, we ended up buying a dozen prefold diapers, three contour Kissaluv diapers, six Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers with liners, four Bummis Whisper Wrap covers, one wool cover, and three doublers. It's a decent start, at the very least. I never would have thought I'd like the prefolds, but they are so much easier than I expected. Plus, getting a dozen prefolds for barely more than one Fuzzi Bunz? Economically, you just can't go wrong with that. I did want the Fuzzi Bunz for going out with and the Kissaluvs for easy diaper changes for my husband (who finds prefolds far too intimidating at the moment), but for general day-to-day use, prefolds are perfect.

Next up, as soon as I pick up some lavender essential oil, I'll mix up a simple cloth wipes solution to use with our myriad of baby washcloths instead of using disposable diaper wipes.

I'm very happy with our switch. Now I just have to keep control of the desire to buy all the cute diaper covers and woolies out there!

Tuesday 18 September 2007

And yet I wonder...

What sort of mother will I be? What sort of mother am I really?

What sort of mother will I be during the difficult times?

And what if I've just got it all wrong??

I asked my husband recently whether he thought people were a product of their raising or their birth (nurture or nature). He said nurture.

Scares me shitless!

That's some ginormous responsibility there.

My poor son - what if I royally mess him up??

Especially since my parenting philosophies seem to be so different from the norm.

It seems like all the moms are into training their babies. Train them to sleep through the night. Train them to entertain themselves. Train them to be quiet in public. Train them to roll first, to sit first, to crawl first, to talk first, to walk first, to potty train first, to be independent first.

I swear, some of them must have them enrolling in Harvard already.



When my son wakes up at night, I tend to him. When he wants to hang out with me, I wrap him on my front or my back and go about our day. I'm in no rush to make him achieve things he's not ready for yet. And I'm certainly not about to flick my baby's mouth to teach him not to make baby babbles in church.

Babble away, kid.

And it's not that I am/intend to be permissive either! I think that's awful - it's cruel to the child, to the parents, and to anyone who has to deal with that child.

But I'm all for recognizing age-appropriate behaviours.

Including night wakings for five month olds! I am a parent even when it's "inconvenient", when I'm tired, when the house needs to be cleaned, whenever, always.

But be wholly responsible for how that little boy will turn out...

That's some scary stuff.

What do I think about the whole nurture vs. nature?

I think I'm with my husband. Nurture plays a much bigger role than nature does.

The way I see it, everyone is born with a particular temperment. Which means that two children can be raised in the exact same way and turn out entirely different. Sounds like I'm saying it's nature, doesn't it? But I disagree. These children would have reacted by nature to the way they were nurtured. So although their nature determines their reactions, it is their nurture that steers the path they will take. You can have nature 1 and nature 2, raise them with nurture a, and have them be completely different adults. Or you can have nature 1 with nurture a, and nature 2 with nurture b, and have them turn out to be fairly similar. Which is not to say that a "good" nurture will produce a good adult, or a "bad" nurture will produce a bad one. Just that whatever the nurture is, it will react with their nature in a particular way and eventually produce a character.

Basically, the way I see it, nature is a constant. It can't be helped. It can't be changed. Nurture is the variable. And it's the variable that determines the outcome. The constant just determines one's reactions. To affect the outcome, you have to adjust the variable.

I hope I don't mess it all up with my children. I have a general idea of how I want to raise them, but the specifics will depend on their individual selves - their nature. I hope I can adjust their nurture appropriately.

But to think, the way I raise them will determine what sort of person they become...yikes.

Monday 10 September 2007

Right or Wrong?

It's such an unpopular opinion now, the idea of certain things being "right" and others being "wrong". We're supposed to live in a free-for-all grab bag of "choice", doing as we please on our own schedule. Even the suggestion that there might be a better way seems to offend.

And where moreso than parenting?

Oh, there are areas where each individual family must figure out what works best for them. But I disagree that there aren't even more areas that really do have a general right and wrong to them.

I guess I'm just tired of hearing lazy parenting excuses. I seem to be disappointed at every turn. It seems I expect too much.

Often, too, the people who are most defensive of their choices are the ones who say they will do what's best for their child in one breath, and in the next say that they are fine with [enter issue here] even though it has been proven to have adverse effects on children. You'll do what's best, even if it means not doing what's really best? Or the equally common "I do what keeps me sane - after all, a happy mommy is a happy baby." There is truth in that, but there is a limit to it. Beyond that, there is the need, as a parent, to sacrifice for your child, not simply choose the easier option.

Like feeding formula to infants. No woman will I admire more than the woman who, after finding she can squeeze no more milk out of her breasts, will give her hungry baby a bottle of formula while continuing to work on increasing her own supply. But the woman who decides to feed formula simply because she doesn't "feel like" breastfeeding? Please don't try to tell me that you're doing what's best for your child. Because you're not.

Or sitting babies and toddlers down in front of a TV for hours on end, even after studies have shown that TV before age 3 can only be detrimental. If you know that is true, how can you say it's still "best" for your family? What you really mean, is it's easiest for you.

Even before birth, there is this best versus easiest. It is easy to accept all the drugs they offer. But if you've done any research at all (and you can't say you're doing what's best if you haven't), you'll know the effects drugs have on both the labour and the infant.

Example after example. Excuse after excuse.

But I remind myself often of a woman I knew online. During her pregnancy, she blasted every woman who'd ever had a c-section. Granted, I agreed with her - c-sections are grossly overused by both doctors and patients. Scheduling c-sections for convenience, emergency c-sections because the labour is taking "too long" - it's all foolishness. But the conceit in her voice as she talked about the homebirth she was going to have, and the superior attitude in her every word, was just too much.

Well. Guess how she gave birth?

That's right. C-section.

And I - forgive me! - felt a small amount of vindication in that outcome.

(Now she goes on about being one of only 3% of women who truly "needed" a c-section.)

I try to keep her in mind because I don't want to end up with the same attitude, the same tone. But where's the line? I do believe there is right and wrong, but how to say so without crossing that line into smug superiority?

How much easier it would be if all parents would just take the time to find out what's really best, instead of saying that their choice is best for their family.

I don't know what's best or what's right in every situation. There are days when I'm sure I must be doing it all wrong. But at least I can honestly say that I am trying to do what is really best, and not what's simply easiest.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Why Homeschool?

I was asked why my husband and I had decided to homeschool our child(ren), so I thought I'd add my response here.

I've wanted to homeschool for a long time (I'll get into why later). I had been trying to figure out how to bring it up to my husband, or whether I even should, since he tends to be one of those "we'll worry about it when the time comes" people. Then one evening we were doing our own separate things and he just randomly looked up from his computer and asked if I'd consider homeschooling our son.

Me inside: "Yahoo, yay, yipee! Yes yes yes!"

Me outside: "Um, yeah, I...I think I'd like to do that."


His reasons are different than mine though. For him, he found school to be a waste of his time. He was (is) very intelligent, the type who often corrected our chemistry teacher and never had to study for a test or exam a day in his life. I did very well in school, but not because I was smart like him, but rather because I worked hard - the idea of just not doing my homework was quite honestly completely foreign to me. I just went home and did it. I studied for tests starting a week in advance (two for sciences) and exams three weeks in advance (sometimes four). He was smart, I worked hard. I graduated top of our class, and he had to have been such a close second. (I still feel guilty for "beating" him. I wasn't the smart one, he was. He knows much more than I do.)

Anyway. All that is to say, my husband expects that if our son takes after us, he too will find school to be very boring, not challenging enough, and really rather a waste of time. So my husband wants to homeschool our son in order to get through things at a quicker pace and an appropriately challenging level rather than being held back by 30+ other kids.

My husband and his two sisters were homeschooled for at least a year, and he enjoyed it. He learned a lot of practical things that way, like cooking and housework (and yes, he's still a better cook than I am). They did a lot of things in the community and only did an hour or two of actual "schoolwork" each day.

Personally, I do agree with his reasoning. I remember spending the entire first grade bored out of my young mind because no one else in my class could read, while I was sitting there going through novel after novel. A lot of elementary school was the same - I was bored. I was put into enrichment programs, but even those were just more "make work" classes rather than anything challenging. I didn't have any homework until the sixth grade, and even then only rarely. In grade 7 I took a high school science class and in grade 8 I did high school History. As a result, I was a grade ahead in those classes for much of high school too. I did have a lot of homework, but I rarely had a class that I found "hard".

So if we can homeschool our son, challenge him appropriately, have him work at his level, I think it would keep him much more interested in learning. I've always found that homeschooled kids are far more advanced than kids their age in public school. They learn more, graduate sooner, and tend to be very well-spoken and well-written. In short, academics is probably the main reason we would homeschool, particularly for my husband.

For me, I'm more concerned about less academic reasons. Ultimately, I want to be the main influence in my children's lives - not their peers and not their teachers. I had a teacher throughout high school who bragged about the fact that she lived with her boyfriend. She would just randomly bring it up in class and go on about how whatever other people said, she was proud of her decision and had no problem with it. She would regularly spout feminist nonsense that had nothing to do with the class (she was my geography teacher one of those years). She had opinions on everything and no qualms with sharing them with her students. The things that go on between peers in school are even worse. I can't believe some of the things my little sisters tell me now, and that's in our fairly innocent small town. Basically, I don't want my son's morals dictated to him by teachers or peers, and there are so many things that I don't want him exposed to before he is mature enough to handle them appropriately.

Second, I like spending time with my son. I don't expect that to change anytime soon. So many mothers seem to think I should be leaving my son with other people so that I can go out and "have fun". Guess what? I have fun with my son. I really do. I enjoy my time with him and I know it will pass far too quickly. Getting to see my son only on evenings and weekends (and even hardly then, with all the homework kids are getting nowadays) isn't something I particularly want. My mom and I had our first "mom-to-mom" conversation the other day over this very subject - people keep telling her to travel without the kids, but she enjoys travelling with her girls and doesn't want to travel without them. I feel the same way - I enjoy being a mother and I'm in no rush to hurry my children out the door. What's more, I want to truly know my children, and have them know me. Spending more time together will allow for that.

Third, I like the flexibility. Schoolwork can be individually adjusted for each particular child depending on strengths and weaknesses - a school teacher with 30+ kids simply cannot do that, no matter how good and how well-meaning that teacher is. On top of that, the type of school work can be varied. We can do a lot of hands-on projects. We can go on field trips. We can connect with other homeschooled children in our area. What's more? We can travel during the off season! We aren't tied to a school calendar for our children's entire education. We can learn flexibly, we can schedule flexibly, and we can spend more time as a family.

Fourth, homeschooled children tend to be better adjusted, better able to socialize with people of all ages rather than only their immediate peers, more mature, and very well-mannered.

Fifth, safety. It's the same reason we don't hand off our son to the nursery teacher at church or leave him with babysitters. Our child is an amazing gift that has been given to us, and we will do our best to protect him - physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I don't want to leave our children with strangers, with people whose morals differ vastly from ours, or with people who would take it upon themselves to physically punish our children. We are his parents, thankyouverymuch.

Finally, I like that we can incorporate our faith into our day-to-day lives more fully. No, our math classes won't involved dividing loaves and fish, but we can include studies of biblical history, we can read books with faith-related themes, and if we want to pray in the middle of a class, we can. We don't have to watch our every word to make sure we're not "offending" someone.

So there you have it. I think that covers my (many) reasons for homeschooling our children.

Monday 3 September 2007

I've Been Spoiled

I've had the pleasure of being a part of a wonderful Gentle Christian Mothers forum since before my son was even born. Admittingly, I'm mostly a lurking presence on the board - even online, I'm shy as ever. But this forum has spoiled me.

I honestly came to believe that such beliefs were the norm for Christians.

I thought that Christians, being Christians, would automatically react with love and grace towards their children. That, knowing grace from our Heavenly Father, we would model it to our children. I thought Christians would guide their children gently but firmly, being positive and playful. I thought Christians would avoid heavy punitive parenting. I thought we would avoid resorting to physical force in order to bring children in line, but instead would find other more gentle yet firm ways to guide and correct them. I thought we would cuddle our babies and hug our toddlers and play with our preschoolers and enjoy our 'tweens and teens. I thought we would view our relationship with our children as one to be treasured rather than one of enmity and control. I thought we were willing to sacrifice (time, comfort, sleep, energy, etc) for our children.

I was wrong.

This has been coming to my attention gradually. First, a post on a different bulletin board from a non-Christian crunchy mom who disliked Christian homeschooling groups in her area because they were all pro-spanking and pro-CIO. Then, many similar experiences from other non-Christian moms who practice attachment parenting. Most recently, a post from a good (online) friend of mine, early 20's, single, no children. She was babysitting a two year old whose parents are overly permissive with him and who, as a result, has regular full out tantrums. So how did she handle it? She spanked him. Every time he had a tantrum.

I mean, it's one thing to spank your own child. I disagree with it for a number of reasons, but it's a parent's choice.

But to spank someone else's child??

And what's more, everyone agreed with her. No one expressed any surprise or disagreement with her spanking someone else's two year old. "Spanking's necessary," they all said. In every single one of their comments, the response sounded so cold and hard to me. They were talking about children, but it didn't sound like it at all.

I felt sick about it all evening. This girl is one of the kindest I know. One of those Christians that I look up to. Very close to God, very honest, very open, very sweet. And she spanks other people's toddlers?

So I asked my (currently) pro-spanking husband what he would think if a babysitter spanked his two year old.

He looked at me as though I was completely insane, and told me that babysitter would never be babysitting for him again.


I've recently read about churches who include sermons on spanking, even "how to" sermons. I can't believe this. Is this the sort of thing Christianity embraces? Is this how our husbands should gain submission over us wives? Hit us? Can you even imagine Jesus spanking a child? I can't.

Believe me, I think that permissive parenting is at least as bad, if not worse. But punitive parenting is not the only solution. Harsh punishments don't teach kids to make wise decisions, they teach them to lie and avoid getting caught next time. Or they teach them fear. Or they teach them that it's okay to hit. Or...or...or. None of them results that I want. I want my child to trust me, to know that I love him, to know that I'm always here for him (I am not only a parent during the daytime, or when it's convenient for me), to develop a maturity that leads him to make wise decisions of his own accord and not simply for fear of being punished (because what would happen then when the threat of punishment is removed?).

And so I find myself more and more at odds with popular Christian parenting advice. Like I said, Gentle Christian Mothers has spoiled me. I had no idea that other Christian mothers didn't want to keep their children physically close (babywearing, co-sleeping), that they believed that children as young as infants were capable of manipulation (and so refused to nurse their infants on demand or even at all during the night), or that they felt okay "training" their child using a harsh cry-it-out method (and were applauded for their "strength" in going through with it).

This Christian hippy housewife has different plans.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Baby Steps

The other day I picked up a spray bottle from the Dollar Store, mixed together 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar, and cleaned my bathroom.

It's not much, but it's a start. When I was done, I was able to go pick up my son without worrying about my hands being covered in chemicals. The house didn't smell like harsh cleaners. I wasn't worried about what my family was inhaling.

Baby steps.

I've also been faithfully going to the organic farmers market every Saturday to pick up meat and produce for the week.

This week marked a milestone - it was the first week that I didn't need to make a second trip to the grocery store to pick up additional groceries that I couldn't get at the farmers market.

When I first started buying more organic and less processed foods, it seemed horribly expensive at first. But now that we've been doing it for about a month, I find that I'm actually spending less on groceries. I think mainly this is due to less trips to the grocery store, where all sorts of extra foods always mysteriously make their way into the shopping cart. Now, if I have to go, I go only to pick up a few very specific things. Our meals seem more well-rounded and definitely healthier now.

My fridge and freezer are satisfyingly full. We have fish, chicken, and beef. We have potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers. We have strawberries, blackberries, blueberries. We have eggs, cheese, and orange juice. (We also have milk, but it is admittingly not organic. I just can't bring myself to pay the same amount for 1L of organic milk as I would normally pay for 4L or non-organic milk. I just can't.)

What more could we need?

Tonight I'm making a salmon and fruit salad. Grilled salmon served on top of lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, mandarine orange slices and a sprinkle of blueberries. Perfect for a gloriously warm Labour Day weekend.

Last night I made banana bread. Yum.

The night before, we had soft tacos for dinner. We made our own soft taco shells. They tasted so good, much better than store bought ones.

So that's our progress so far. They may just be baby steps, but they're still steps forward.