Life has been busy lately and with the nice weather and travels my computer time seems more limited than before. I’ve just spent the morning with a cup of tea catching up on posts over at Wife Mom Maniac. Her words have motivated and inspired me, as she often does.
Parenting used to be the central focus on my mind and in my life. I have been an active participant in online discussions on Natural Family Living and real-life mothering groups (attachment parenting, La Leche League) since I was pregnant with my first child. I associate with mothers who hold similar values and aspirations for their children. At times I used to joke that I’d forget what the mainstream was like, only to be shocked out of my sheltered life by seeing mothers at a playground yanking their children by the arms and scolding them. For the longest time Gentle Discipline came easily to me, though when my daughter turned three I experienced my first serious challenges. Keeping my community of support around me greatly aided me in weathering those developmental storms.
My children are older now and needing much less micromanagement. There is more time for me to pursue other interests such as reading and knitting, and more time for Husband and I. And there is more time to devote towards personal growth. Lately I’ve spent a lot of mental energy learning about Simple Living and exploring sustainability, frugality, and honing my homemaking skills. I’ve been inspired and motivated to make positive changes to our lifestyle and learned a few skills along the way. Accordingly, I visit more Simple Living sites than parenting sites these days. After catching up with WMM I’m thinking it’s time to get back to more parenting stuff.
Being around like-minded mums has always been a source of inspiration for me. The more time I spend with gentle mothers, watching them guide their children through conflict rather than dragging them kicking and screaming, the more naturally and easily those techniques come to me. The more I read discussions about Gentle Discipline, or about Free Learning the more I find myself returning to a sense of inner peace, the feeling that I’ve come Home and that this is where I belong.
It comes at a good time for me to rediscover that feeling because I believe I have veered off that track over the last few months. Husband has become more involved in parenting due to a realization on my part that I had been really shutting him out alot over the years, and as part of some hard work he and I are doing on strengthening our marriage after years of having babies and toddlers who demanded so much of our time. His style of parenting is very similar to my own and I am blessed that he shares my opinion on many subjects, but he has more of an authoritarian note to the way he handles things sometimes and I find it rubbing off on me in ways that don’t feel genuine (for me; he has his own way).
Recently we spent a week with my in-laws (MIL, SIL and husband with their 3 kids) who are very conservative, very behaviouralist in their beliefs about parenting, and liberally use punishment (time-outs, withdrawing privileges that may or may not be at all related to “the crime”) with their teenagers. I was teased in a manner that claimed to be good-natured but wore on me after a while (I’m not strict, I don’t discipline, I’m too soft, etc). All these things together mean that lately I have found myself resorting to using a more controlling tone and actions in my efforts to deal with unwanted behaviours. The voice in my head that spouts mainstream, societal beliefs regarding how children should be treated has been given more attention that it deserves. I have found myself dealing with my daughter in ways that would cause resentment in me should my spouse or someone else treat me that way (this is my litmus test for whether I’m reacting appropriately to a situation). Simply put, I am not parenting the way I want to, I am not staying true to my ideals.
Reading WMM has brought me a taste of the way things were for the first several years of parenting in my household, and it has hit me today that the reason I’ve fallen off that path is because I have not been spending much time at all on it. Parenting the way I aspire to parent does not come naturally to me as it was not the way I was raised. I did find it fairly easy back when my daughter was very young and when I was immersed in communities (both online and IRL) that held the same values. Lately I haven’t been connecting with my mama friends much, and I’m not participating much in online discussions on the subject. I think this is a major reason why I have slipped away from the path I wish to follow. So I’m resolving today to apportion some of my time and energy in reconnecting with those values and the communities that hold those values, in an effort to be a better parent to my children.