12 July 2011

Parenting Philosophy? Eh...

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Philosophy
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 shared their parenting practices and how they fit in with their parenting purpose. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

One might think that I, the philosopher, the dreamer, the planner, would have a steadfast, rigourously outlined, and adhered-to parenting philosophy. Here's the truth - I do not.

I did not plan on becoming a parent so early (but geez, I'm almost 27... when would have been a better time?) and so lonesomely. I did not have a plan in place for how to make this work, despite having read a zillion (that is an accurate and precise number, mind you) books and magazine articles about parenting do's and don't's. I still don't have a set path that I'm taking. We're winging it, full-on.

If I had to describe my parenting philosophy in one word, I would have to name "Flexibility" as that one word.

I'm not great with rigidity. I like having a schedule, but I prefer having a schedule that allows for some deviations. I like things to be organized, but I also like having some space for clutter and letting my space take on an air that says, "Someone inhabits this space!"

My mantra for quite a long time has been, "This too shall pass," with the more Vonnegutian (or Tramalfadorian), "So it goes," being a more familiar and more common variation. I'm not wishy-washy or flighty, but I don't mind rolling with punches, changing my plans when necessary, letting a wrench (or the whole tool chest) be thrown in. I don't break down and sob when things don't go as planned - I adapt. So what if I'm an hour late? I showed up, right? There's always tomorrow (unless my credit card payment is due...) and glitches provide a much needed amount of spice to life.

There are a lot of parenting philosophies that I like and borrow from, but none are held to be canonical in my household. I am obviously a follower of Natural & Attachment Parenting, but thankfully the worlds of Natural & Attachment Parenting allow for a lot of deviation and are considered to be more of general paths and tools to parent successfully. They are not rigid parenting instructions but rather gentle ideas and adoptions of habits to be made.

I'm a fan of Dr. Sears' Seven Proponents of Attachment Parenting. Dr. Sears provides a concise list that speaks volumes, and points out in his tenants that, "[Attachment Parenting] is an approach, rather than a strict set of rules... Parenting is too individual and baby too complex for there to only be one way," which is why, I think, that Natural & Attachment Parenting speak so well to me - there is an innate air of Flexibility. I do what feels right when it feels right, and so far, I'm having great results. I am hoping that all of my efforts will yield a respectful, mindful, intelligent, sweet, loving, and responsible child who will grow into an adult with the same qualities who will instill the same in his children.

I could write volumes about why I've made the decisions I have regarding my son's care, but here's a short list of some of the things we do while maintaining an air of flexibility...

Crunchmastering Life ... I know, I know... What does that even mean!? I'm trying to be crunchy and keep Niko crunchy, as well. I try to buy Natural Toys (untreated wood and the like...), to reduce waste, to buy local and/or organic, to avoid harsh chemicals (especially organic compounds) for everyday use, to live comfortably, naturally. We have a veggie garden that's looking promising, a budding compost heap, and more recyclables than trash (and less overall between recyclables and trash heading to the curb...). We spend a lot of time outside and are lowering our energy consumption. Thankfully, sustainable living improvements are thankfully often cost-saving improvements, which offers a great incentive! 
Flexible Schedule ... We have a basic schedule and a basic routine. I work; he stays home and eats, sleeps, and plays all day. I come home, we eat, play, and sometimes sleep, then go to bed. Times? Eh... It can vary. I don't fret when he isn't in bed by his preferred 21:00. I'm not too put off (and actually relish) when he sleeps in until (a whopping) 08:00. So it goes!
Maintaining Safety ... I mean safety in a broad sense. I have some moderate baby-proofing done - electrical outlet covers on every accessible outlet, a few door snaps on low cabinets, most chemicals placed well out of access, a safety gate that haphazardly and occasionally goes up. I keep him out of major harm's way, but I also let him crack his head on corners (not sharp ones...), fall down on his butt/face/head/side/whatever (not from high heights...), run into things, get kisses from the dog, play in the (recently cleaned) toilet, and eat dirt, among a never-ending list of other things I can't think of right now. I think that never having a bump, bruise, scratch, knot, etc, would be more detrimental than having had one (or two...), and I'm going to stick with that theory.
Making Learning Fun and Pervasive ... Pervasive sounds kind of... negative, but I just mean that I try to include some learning in everything. Ev. Er. Y. Thing. Do you walk your baby and rattle of the scientific names of indigenous plants? Do you have a favorite bacteria (not just a favorite bacteria, but a favorite Gram Negative, Gram Positive, Acid Fast, Yeast, AND Mold?)? This Mama does, and I talk about silly scientific stuff like that all of the time. He has no idea, but the words *HAVE* to sound fun! All of those syllables and diphthongs! Of course, Niko has a whole bunch of toys. Not the most I've ever seen, but definitely not a small collection. I've kept it variegated. Some have bells and whistles, lighting up and talking and making all sorts of noises. Some are plain, nothing special; stacking cups, a gradient ring puzzle, snapping rings. He loves them all, and I encourage him to choose what he wants to play with and play with it as he likes. All toys are developmentally important, and it's amazing to see him making connections and learning *to* play.
Nurturing Individual Terms ... I give my baby as much alone time as he wants. If he crawls out of the room we're in and into one where I know he's cool to go, I let him go and come back when he wants. He usually heads to his room to play, sometimes heading back in to get me to head over with him, but usually solitary, and that's how he likes it. We play a lot together, but his individual time is so important to his growth, as well. Wherever we are, I've learned to let him have a little free-run while providing moderate supervision.
Attentive Parenting minus Overbearing Tendencies ... I don't let Niko CIO, per se, but I do let him cry until I know he's awake and in distress. I'm a sleep walker & talker, and apparently I also have one on my hands. I've learned to recognize the varying cries and have learned when to let it go and when to rush in. Sometimes I let him get from falling to cracking head to pouting to crying before I step in. Most of the time, he doesn't even get to crying. I definitely keep a mindful eye on my son, but like I mentioned above, I let him explore, I let him bump, and I go from there. He has yet to have a serious injury (and hopefully none are coming!) but he's very "Rough-n-Tumble," and both of us are comfortable with that. His basic needs are met at all times, and I try not to hover... ever.
Multiple Care-Taker Exposure ... The greatest testament to Niko's flexibility that I've instilled in him is his extremely sociable personality, which I largely attribute to him having a variety of care-takers. My mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my brother's girlfriend... He loves people, going to strangers with no hesitation, and thankfully he let's me leave most mornings with little trouble. He's gotten moderately clingy as of late to my mother and to me, but he's still very friendly, which I couldn't be happier with.
Instilling Healthy (and Cost-Effective) Eating Habits ... Have you noticed a trend with me? Healthy and Cost-Effective? Yep, that's my game! We buy local when possible, organic when affordable, and fresh at the very least. I've learned what I can buy cheap and what I should spend a little more on. At this point, this little boy will eat anything, with berries coming in at #1 on his favorite foods list. Sometimes I see what other parents feed their children, and I wonder "How?" I make sure we eat a protein with every meal, watch the carbs, ensure a serving a veggies, and eat yoghurt or a probiotic snack with at least one meal. No worries about getting fruit in - more of a watch-how-much-we-eat on that front. Hopefully these trends will continue as his pickiness sets in, and I can maintain smart buying practices.

I mean, he'll probably turn out okay, right?
(He wasn't really drinking wine here... He wanted the glass... So my mom obliged... )

Here's the honest-to-God truth: I'm not sure what I'm doing all of the time, but I'm doing my best and hoping for even better. I try my hardest to do the very best I can, and I suppose that is the best I can do. I keep it flexible and learn from my mistakes (and believe me, I make them!) and take it day-to-day. So far, so good, and projections into the future continue to look bright!

What are/were your parenting philosophies? Share in the comments or on the FaceBook. Don't forget to read on and check out some of the other great posts for other Carnival Participants! Many great posts (as usual)!
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit 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:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Between Love and Fear: On Raising our Children Sensibly — Mamma Earthly at Give an Earthly discusses the fear factor in parenting and how she overcame it, despite societal pressures.
  • really, when do i get my cape? — Sarah at small bird on fire is a working city mama trying to learn how to set aside her expectations of perfection and embrace the reality of modern parenting.
  • Baby, Infant, and Toddler Wearing — Child wearing is part of Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured's parenting philosophy. In this post, Sarah describes benefits of child-wearing and gives tips for wearing babies, infants, and toddlers (even while pregnant).
  • First Year Reflections — As her daughter's first birthday approaches, Holly at First Year Reflections reflects on how she and her husband settled into attachment parenting after initially doing what they thought everyone else did.
  • Making an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a guest post from Sam about the unexpected lessons giving a four-year-old an allowance teaches the child — and the parent.
  • How to be a Lazy Parent and Still Raise Great Kids — Lisa at Granola Catholic talks about how being a Lazy Parent has helped her to raise Great Kids.
  • Philosophy in Practice — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how her heart shaped the parenting philosophy in her home.
  • What is Attachment Parenting Anyway? — Gaby at Tmuffin describes the challenges of putting a label on her parenting philosophy.
  • Of Parenting Styles — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom talks about how she and her husband tailored various parenting styles to fit their own preferred parenting philosophy.
  • Moment by Moment Parenting — Amy at Peace 4 Parents encourages those who care for children (including herself) to explore and appreciate parenting moment-by-moment with clarity, intention, trust, and action.
  • Maintaining Spirituality in the Midst of Everyday Parenting, Marriage, and Life — Sarah at Nourished and Nurtured shares her perspective on finding opportunities for spiritual growth in every day life.
  • Parenting Philosophy — Lily, aka Witch Mom's parenting philosophy is to raise child(ren) to be compassionate, loving, inquisitive, and questioning adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves in a way that avoids harming others.
  • Long Term — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis thinks about who she would like to see her daughter become — and what she can do now to lay a strong foundation for those hopes.
  • Connection, Communication, Compassion — She's come a long way, baby! After dropping her career in favour of motherhood, Patti at Jazzy Mama discovered that building solid relationships was going to be her only parenting priority.
  • My Parenting Inspirations - Part 4 — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at her biggest parenting inspiration and how that translates into her long-term parenting philosophy.
  • A Parenting Philosophy in One Word: Respect — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction summarizes her parenting and relationship philosophy in one word: respect.
  • Knowledge and Instinct — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that knowledge and instinct are super important … as are love, encouragement and respect. It's the ideal combo needed to raise happy and healthy children and in turn create meaningful relationships with them.
  • THRIVE!The Sparkle Mama wants to set a tone of confidence, abundance, and happiness in her home that will be the foundation for the rest of her daughter's life.
  • On Children — "Your children are not your children," say Kahlil Gibran and Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • This One Life Together — Ariadne aka Mudpiemama shares her philosophy of parenting: living fully in the here and now and building the foundation for a happy and healthy life.
  • Enjoying life and planning for a bright future — Olivia at Write About Birth shares her most important parenting dilemmas and pours out her heart about past trauma and how healing made her a better parent.
  • My Parenting Philosophy: Unconditional and Natural Love — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about her parenting philosophy from a year of following her instincts as a mama.
  • An open letter to my children — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine writes an open letter to her children.
  • My Starter Kit for Unconditional Parenting — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses her wish to raise a good person and summarizes some of the nontraditional practices she's using with her toddler son in order to fulfill that wish.
  • Responsiveness — Sheila at A Gift Universe has many philosophies and goals, but what it all boils down to is responsiveness: listening to what her son wants and providing what he needs.
  • Tools for Creating Your Parenting Philosophy — Have you ever really thought about your parenting purpose? Knowing your long-term goals can help you parent with more intent in your daily interactions. Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers exercises and ideas to help you create your own parenting philosophy.
  • Be a Daisy — Becky at Old New Legacy philosophizes about individuality and how she thinks it's important for her daughter's growth.
  • What's a Mama to Do? — Amyables at Toddler in Tow hopes that her dedication to compassionate parenting will keep her children from becoming too self-critical as adults.
  • grown-up anxieties. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life explains her lone worry concerning her babies growing up.
  • Why I Used Montessori Principles in My Parenting Philosophy — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why she chose Montessori principles to help her now-adult children develop qualities she wanted to see in them as children and adults.
  • Parenting Philosophies & Planning for the FutureMomma Jorje considers that the future is maybe just a fringe benefit of doing what feels right now.
  • Not Just Getting Through — Rachael at The Variegated Life asks what truths she hopes to express even in the most commonplace interactions with her son.
  • Parenting Philosophy? Eh... — Ana at Pandamoly shares the philosophy (or lack thereof) being employed to (hopefully) raise a respectful, loving, and responsible child.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Being Present — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses the changes her family has made to accommodate their parenting philosophy and to reflect their ideals as working parents.
  • Who They Will Be — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a short list of some qualities she hopes she is instilling in her children at this very moment.
  • Short Term vs. Long Term — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts how long term parenting goals often get lost in the details of everyday life with two kids.
  • Parenting Philosophy: Practicing and Nurturing Peace — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle sets personal goals for developing greater peace.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 1: The Yamas — In part 1 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie guest posts at Natural Parents Network about how the Yoga Sutras provide a framework for her parenting philosophy.
  • Yama Niyama & the Red Pajama Mama — Part 2: The Niyamas — In part 2 of a set of posts by Zoie at TouchstoneZ, Zoie explores how the Niyamas (one of the eight limbs in traditional Yoga) help her maintain her parenting and life focus.
  • Our Sample Parenting Plan — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shares hopes of who her children will become and parenting strategies she employs to get them there.
  • Philosophical Parenting: Letting Go — Jona at Life, Intertwined ponders the notion that there's no right answer when it comes to parenting.
  • Unphilosophizing? — jessica at instead of institutions wonders about the usefulness of navel gazing.
  • Parenting Sensitively — Amy at Anktangle uses her sensitivity to mother her child in ways that both nurture and affirm.
  • how to nurture your relationships — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog believes that sometimes all kids need is a jolly good listening to …
  • Philosophy Of An Unnatural Parent — Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum sees parenting as a process of guiding her children to develop the skills they'll need.
  • Life with a Challenging Kid: Hidden Blessings — Wendy at High Needs Attachment shares the challenges and joys of raising a high needs child.
  • Flying by the Seat of My Pants — Heather at Very Nearly Hippy has realized that she has no idea what she's doing.


  1. I think you're doing a wonderful job! I say that, of course, because it sounds much like what I'm doing.... :) Teehee.

    I also love attachment parenting because of its freedom to expand and place individual needs ahead of rules and guidelines. To go a step further, why even give it a name at all? If it's truly individualized, call it 'Niko parenting!' And essentially, that's what you're doing.

    Also, I'd like to know the scientific names of these things you speak of because I, too, am a nerd but I did not study biology beyond high school...yet I'm intrigued. :)

  2. This post is so good. It took me more than one child to even begin to grasp some of the good juicy parenting stuff you have already got going. I have to admit, I was a helicopter parent until my first child was a toddler. Now, I have learned by observation and faith in my kids, to step back and let them do their own exploring in the world. It's funny how my heart is still in my throat at times for fear of their "owies" but I agree with you that their need to experience far outweighs my worries.

    Beautiful post!

  3. So glad to hear from another non-rigid mama. :) Our routines vary a lot, too, making them not so routine. And we're big also on the philosophy of letting kids eat dirt and fall down a bit. Good thing, too, since it happens whether you want it to or not.

    I think it's really cool that your son needs alone time and that you grant it. (I'm mostly just feeling jealous, as Mikko never, ever, ever craves alone time…ah, well!)

    I love being around other caretakers as well, because I want our kids to feel part of a little tribe rather than just a solitary mini-family.

  4. "Crunchmastering Life" - what an awesome phrase! That just sounds like a cool thing to do! Flexibility is probably one of the best parenting philosophies you can have. That allows you to go with your son's needs and interests and change as necessary for each new developmental stage. Well done! :) Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  5. Thank you all for reading!

    @Amanda - One of my favorites (and his to hear) is Toxicodendron - the genus that radicans, pubescens, and vernix (my favorite) call home - Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac - NONE of which I was allergic to before being pregnant - Did you know that Toxicodendron dermatitis (that rash you get from any of the poison plants) is actually an allergy to urushiol? (This is the stuff we talk about...) And my favorite bacterium is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an oppurtunistic human pathogen and more common plant pathogen that is typically responsible for fluorescent biofilms in water treatment piping - It fluoresces because it produces a substance called Pyocyanin which also gives it a slight fruity, grape-y scent : )

    @Zoie - I knew from the start I would not be a hoverer. While my pregger friends were henning over "What if..." this and "OMG..." that, I was like, "Eh, it's cool." My BFF was giving me the rundown of every awful scenario she could think of - I was like "We'll deal with it..." Even first time Niko got sick, she was in a panic. He was obviously a-okay. : )

    @Lauren - I just wish he needed a little MORE alone time (like when I'm trying to shower... why can't he sit and play then... he's at the bathtub, throwing back the curtain panel, trying to climb in!) Whether you want it to happen or not, is right - it invariably will happen. I think I'd rather let him try it, figure out he doesn't like it, and then move on rather than make anything forbidden - it breeds privacy issues and deviance later, especially now that he's found his weinie.

    @Deb - Thank you : ) I figure at the very least, flexibility is the way to go... I won't get in a tizzy when it takes another direction, and really, when does life EVER go as planned? Seldom, in my experience! Hopefully he didn't get my (lack of) luck! : )

  6. Ah, so it goes - I haven't heard that line in awhile, it made me smile :) Parenthood has definitely made me *more* flexible. I'm one of those rigid, type A personalities, and I've been working continuously on letting go. It's a work in progress, but I have a great teacher (who happens to be about 3 feet tall)!

  7. I'm with you 100% on the adaptability front.
    Life happens, and it's too short to flip out over the everyday bumps and bruises. A generally positive outlook and go-with-the-flow mindset will take us all farther than the alternatives.

    (I love reading about your adventures in parenting, and so wish I were closer so we could share... and maybe you could rub off on me.)


  8. I, too, like to have a plan, but *love* flexibility. I just don't take it too well when someone *else* changes my plans.

    I have to put up an effort to not hover some when we're in other homes or out and about, but we have always loved for Sasha to have free run of as much of the house as possible. All of our lower cabinets are "Sasha friendly." Some people freak when they see her under the sink grabbing hoses and pipes, but come on... if they're THAT fragile then they need replacing!

    Sounds like you follow his lead a lot, which is what I like to do, too. :-)

  9. I loved reading this. Expect lots of phone calls from me when I start having kids! You are an amazing person/mom/microbiologist/friend.

  10. Oh, gosh, flexibility is so, so important. How can one truly respond to a child as the child is now, if one's idea of what *should* be happening takes precedence over what actually *is* happening?

    As for myself, I do like having a plan. But that's just because I find it's much, much easier to improvise if I'm working from a plan than if I'm totally making it up in the moment.

  11. Great philosophy! I spend every morning looking at my reflection and I repeat something along the lines of "You can only do your best and that is all anyone can ask of you." Then I start my day. It helps so much being on my own not to put undue expectations of ourselves as parents. We are only human and going with the flow leads to less wrinkles and fewer mistakes to dwell on. Great post.
    Loved reading the tangent comment for Amanda. I hate poison ivy, I had it actually on the inside of my eyelid in high school. Used to drive the kid sitting next to me in class crazy because I couldn't avoid itchy it.

  12. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Your heartfelt expression at the end about just doing the best you can... that's all any of us can do, isn't it. I love your positive attitude, how you're doing your best and hoping for even better.