Pure Parenting: For People, For Peace

I recently submitted this article for the summer newsletter of Inner Journey Canada. Inner Journey is a personal growth and self awareness group that we’ve been a part of since doing the Inner Journey Seminar in April of 2008.

Here it is:

I’ve been wondering, and pondering, and knocking my brain trying to figure out a way to begin this article. This is my fifth attempt at actually writing something down. I have written pages of truly touching stuff, but not what I want to express here. So I’ll write from my heart instead, and just start by quoting myself. I know! How queer a way to begin an article, but this is an IJ newsletter, and I’d say anything goes, expectations be gone! Whooo! Now that you’ve let go of your expectations, a quick and simple task right? I’ll share my story.

Regarding Inner Journey, “…we met many inspiring people, and are now inspired by most.” It’s about seeing something inspiring, something good and beautiful and true in everything and, as equally important or maybe even more so, seeing goodness and being inspired by the beauty and truth present in everyone.

My husband jubilant sage and I just had our two year wedding anniversary. On the day of our wedding everything was just right, to us at least, because nothing about that day could have felt wrong, in the strictest sense of the word. People around us were anxious, while we remained calm and aware. I recall at least three people saying they were nervous for us. We seemed to be the glue holding everything in place. That morning I left enough time to sleep in a little, and luxuriate a little with jubilant sage before getting beautified at the local organic salon. I made enough time to arrive at my parents’ place (where the girls were getting ready) to meditate. During this time I instinctively released my last minute energy and emotions that I had built up through a mix set of Tai Chi and Yoga. Now, had we not just finished the Inner Journey seminar a mere four months prior to the wedding, things would likely have gone differently. Of course we would have gone through with the wedding, but I think we would have shared the anxiety that others felt, and elopement might have become a real option. Neither of our family’s would have appreciated that, and we would have missed out on a that beautiful gathering that brought us all together.

To give you some perspective, I will be celebrating my 23rd birthday this October. Jubilant sage and I attended the same high school (which we graduated from 5 years ago now). We grew up in the same small country township our whole lives. We got together on March break of our last year in high school and have rarely separated since. Before IJ we had spent, maybe, two nights apart in the previous two years. We spent all of our time together, and mostly still do, but now we do it differently. We feel closer to our true selves than we have since childhood, before all the social, cultural and more specifically parental conditioning started to settle in. I am very grateful to have been introduced to IJ as early in life as I was, especially so because it was before our wedding, and I feel deep gratitude to both of my schoolmates for gently educating me (setting an example) on what the IJ could do for me.

Last September we welcomed our daughter illuminating sage to this earth. For many months prior to that day I rediscovered what I call that researchedly passionate part of myself. I spent the majority of my pregnant months researching pregnancy, birth, and parenting across cultures, reading books, surfing the internet, whatever I could find. I’m so grateful that I did.

Who knows where that came from and why. Perhaps I’m making up for all of those years of “essential” schooling where I was forced to learn things that I didn’t get to choose, through a method that didn’t suit my individual needs. Or perhaps it comes from my true personality, one that loves knowlege and thoughtfulness and philosophizing, that was brought out during the most natural process that a woman can experience. Or maybe it is just how I have responded to my conditioning, and I take comfort and gain love and acceptance by being learned. Of course it’s a mix of these things along with even more reasons.

Before becoming parents, through our work in the IJ community we came to see that jubilant sage has an overpowering pleaser, and me a maniacal moralist with a huge dash of critic. The most fascinating thing about these insights, and the insights we shared with other participants, was how many of them stemmed from our experiences in early childhood. In almost all cases our ‘hangups’ and judges were related to that child in us, or at least it’s memories.

With all the reading and learning I’ve been doing (alongside all of the parenting), I’ve seen a huge change in my view of the world. I understand a little more about humans and our connection to each other, and feel like I have glimpsed our so called “purpose” here on Earth. I have come to many of these conclusions, open as they may be, from not only philosophical and spiritual books and people, but anthropological interpretations and parenting theories that look at the whole picture, the grander scheme of life. I’ve connected personally to most of the content, and relate to a lot of the examples that authors have set out for us too. But I have not simply just agreed with these concepts after reading them. I questioned what I read, discussed issues with jubilant sage or my own mother for hours, or contemplated for days or months sometimes before having a theory really sink in. I’ve also not simply read and discussed the concepts at hand, but put them into practice. They often require much revisiting, and relating to my own childhood experiences is never far from my thoughts.

As children, we often thought our parents were cabable of things we weren’t. They were simply better, stronger, and all knowing. They were gods to us. They formed our world, and our view of how people are and how we should be. So it was confusing when they said one thing to us but did another, or treated us with less respect than others. I’ve spoken to many other people who had the same experience as me growing up, that when I was fussy or upset or angry even, my mother would say to me “You’re just tired”, or even worse “Is it time to go to bed?” in a demeaning voice. These simple words spoken to me penetrated my being. She wouldn’t have even dreamed of saying something like that to another adult. They would have demanded recognition of their feelings, they wouldn’t have accepted her suggestion that they needed sleep, especially not if they were taking out their anger. The words didn’t even convey properly to me that what she meant was that she guessed I was sleepy and therefore my emotions were easier to surface and get hold of me, and that if I tried to sleep I might calm down and feel refreshed. Understandably she didn’t say that to me because it would have meant nothing, I wouldn’t have comprehended. Not that it would have worked anywway, and why would I want it to? As a member of the IJ community I know darn well that sleeping away your emotions is not a productive way to approach them. The thing is, I was treated like I didn’t know myself, that I had to be told how to feel, and then how to cope (mostly by not coping).

When my mother told me that I was just sleepy, that I needed to go to bed, she undermined me and my authority of my own body. This can be very confusing when your guide in life is telling you what you are feeling and whether it is true or not. To add to the confusion, more often than not this wasn’t the only feeling I had. What I really I needed was to recognize, accept and learn how to deal with these emotions, and have her support to do so. What happened when I was told I was ‘just tired’ or that I ‘needed to go to bed’? I felt inadequate and confused and untrusting of myself. My body wanted to burn energy, perhaps cry or shout or converse with someone else, whatever it was at the time, but because I’d been told no, that I had to go to bed or do something other than those things, and because I didn’t know how to ask for any of these colourful options, and likely wouldn’t be granted the right to do them even if I had asked, because of all this I wasn’t able to learn how to deal with things, with real life situations and look at my emotions in a practical way. I never really learned how to soothe myself, trust myself, and recognize where those feelings came from let alone truly feel them. I did learn that those feelings were inadequate, not real enough to be dealt with, they were wrong and we had to disguise them as something else, something that my mom had experience in dealing with, like sleep deprivation. Being tired is easy, all you have to do is go to bed right? Well, I almost never went, and if I did it was very confusing and my emotions still weren’t dealt with.

The other issue that came from this is that I’d not been allowed to decide for myself when I was truly tired nor choose for myself when to go to sleep. I’d been told that I was tired when I wasn’t, so what did it mean to be tired? I wasn’t sure, because I also, like most kids, had a bedtime. A bedtime that was earlier than I was ready for. I hadn’t enough freedom to be myself during the day to go to sleep yet. Had I been involved in real life, full energy expelling mind-body-and-soul activities than I might have slept at what my parents considered a reasonable hour. But as it was it took many hours to fall asleep, and being woken up at a certain time, to go to school, was hard as well, maybe I needed to sleep? Maybe I just needed some choice in life.

When it comes to giving choices to children, setting guidelines for them, and not conveying the oh so popular double-standard confusion, there is a way for us as parents to live in harmony, to naturally approach parenting. The big difference is that there is a major shift in not only action but thought. Once your thought process is along the natural concept of child rearing, one that is not child-centered, but mindful and respecting of the growing and learning process that encompasses a child, only then will you see that they are socially capable, communicative and the best person to decide for themselves how-what-and-when to do everyday things.

As a new mother putting this into practice, I don’t pretend to have figured it all out, but I am learning to trust my instincts and I have connected to my daughter on a fundamental level. There is a connection and an understanding that comes with a parent-child duo, and especially at such a young age between mother and baby. If this connection is tapped into and allowed to exist, it can be bountiful in itself and can really guide your lives together if you embrace it.

Everyday with illuminating sage I find I’m re-creating my view of humanity, of our intrinsic needs and desires and how the two are interconnected to create our personalities. Everyday is different, sometimes I fall back into typical thought patterns, but it doesn’t last long, and generally I become more accepting of the natural approach because it feels right and good and I know in my heart and soul that this is what we both need, what we all need.

The main difference in our everyday life with illuminating sage compared to the typical Western approach to babies can be described as such: We fulfill her intrinsic needs, she’s passively a part of everyday goings on, and we don’t pay ‘extra’ attention to her by entertaining her with toys for hours at a time, offering her this and that, teaching her how to whatever, trying to preoccupy her while we go about our days.

We first and foremost attend to her fundamental needs. She gets 24 hour contact and access to mama whenever she wants. Breastfeeding on demand: knowing the signals and really listening, offering it even if unsure. We involve her in everyday activities: she is held or in a carrier of sorts while we eat (she eats our food too) mow the lawn, cook, clean, garden etc… she’s present when we have sex (so far only while she sleeps), she bathes with us, we hold her. More recently she has chosen to lay next to us, at times while she sleeps (I say she chose because she actually wriggles away). She sleeps with us in our bed, and up until very recently in my arms, and ocasionally still even on me (she’s making these changes on her own time). She passively and respectfully watches and listens while we converse with others, she’s watching and learning how to live! We spent our early months almost entirely nude, and still wear as little as the weather and our company (in my case at least) permits. This shows her that nakedness is normal and beautiful, permits her to discover and play freely with herself, allows her to feel everything she’s doing as our skin has millions of sense receptors, and gives her unlimited breast access, which she then understands she has even with clothes on.

We practice what’s appropriately termed elimination communication, where she goes virtually diaper free. She does have underwear for when she dresses, when we are out or when she might get chilled, and a little wool underwear that goes on top if we feel it’s neceassary to protect someone’s couch etc. There’s so much I could say about our experience doing this, but I’ll just say that it’s awesome. A really intense bond is present between us, and intuition (knowing that she has to go pee or poo) plays a big roll. We catch about 75% of her ‘goings’ these days, that was closer to 90% when she wasn’t moving about on her own, and the rest we brush off with a laugh. It’s not about potty training an infant in the classic sense of the term, though we have practiced this since her birth. It’s about communicating and giving her opportunities to go on a potty or hold her over a recepticle or just outside even, and doing so kindly and respectfully. It’s based on your intuition, timing, and cues mostly. We don’t force her to hold it in, because as a newborn she physically couldn’t even if that’s what we were after (which it wasn’t). There is no reprimanding or rewards used for what might otherwise be considered desirable/success’s or undesirable/failed attempts. We stay as neutral as can be, which was as hard as it sounds at first because you can blame yourself (as well as her) and feel guilt for not knowing or listening. But as time passed we stayed true to our reasons for doing this in the first place, and found support online, by re-reading books and mostly through each other. I can now confidently say that it is as natural a part of my day as any other practice and I never look back at the decision to communicate on this wondrous level that is my baby’s body.

Since illuminating sage has been able to roll, and more so since she’s mastered crawling, she wants to explore, burn her own energy, learn how things work, play and discover on her own. She does this happily and comes to us or let’s us know when she wants us to go to her, and sometimes when she needs to pee.

When I look back at how I was conditioned to think of my emotions, to ignore them and pass them off, it helps to see the truth of these natural processes that I’ve been learning about. So instead of doing to illuminating sage what may have been done to me respectively, I will try me best to listen to what she really needs. I’ll try to fulfill her basic desires by putting our relationship at the forefront and by looking at my long term goals for her as a pure being. Sometimes I have to ask myself (especially when it’s been a long day, or I’ve had a disturbed sleep) how can I do this all the time? Give so much of myself to someone else? Well it helps to have so much support from another set of hands like the one’s jubilant sage has for example. We would be even better off if we lived in a communal, or tribal, setting, sharing duties which would include child-rearing, and illuminating sage and the other children could play freely and openly together, learning the ways of life from the adults and older children at thier own pace. But that is not likely to happen anytime soon, if ever, so for now I’ll embrace that intuitive mother in me. I’ll not just be acting on whims, using a band-aid approach to relieve our stresses of the moment. I’ll educate and re-educate myself, and probably more importantly, though tryingly, I’ll un-educate myself. I feel a wholeness, an encompassing goodness that’s been a healing process for me just knowing that illuminating sage will feel the true connection between us, of love, and of peacefuly life learning.

Hmmm…..Life Learners, that’s a topic for another day, although everything I’ve just discussed falls under my personal, and many people who call themselves ‘Radical Unschoolers’ definition of life learning. When you hear those terms ‘life learning’ and ‘Unschooling’ know that they refer to a kind of homeschooling approach that encompasses whole life living and learning. The basics of these approaches is that rather than secluding children from real life and sending them to an isolated place, with only children and authoritative figures, to learn about things that may and more commonly are not useful or of interest to them, rather than all this we let them guide their education and life, and we as parents support them in a total way.

We all learn through different methods, at different paces and all of us learn best if by choice and uninhibited. The big concern with schools as they are isn’t even that they do not foster these types of environments, that they are not mind nourishing, let alone body or soul supportive, but that we, especially the very young we, are learning passively all the time. With the system set up the way it is, we’re often learning what’s unintended, such as how to treat people appropriately, behaviours that are accepted and not, being obedient and rebellious, manipulative and coercive, or competitive and not co-operative. The scariest part to me is that a lot of this is actually intentionally taught. You can find many famous examples of people who have something to say about the truth of our schools, one often referred to is Einstein who awesomely said that “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

Bringing this article to a close, I’m naturally reflecting on what I’ve written and what it has conveyed to you. Being the type of person I am, a big part of my editing and reflecting process has me thinking about what I left out. Unschooling is one of a few biggies. There was something that I would have wanted to share with you all first, but on thinking about it, what was written here was the necessary path to take. I was going to say that discussing natural, and intuitively guided pregnancy and birth before prenting, and sharing my experience of those would have been the natural way to write things down. But had I not gotten my thoughts on pure parenting written first, something I am so confident about, I might not have gotten around to writing about my pregnancy and birth experiences, which I’ve only just begun to delve into, because you see illuminating sage’s birth was traumatizing. We started out at home and things were moving very quickly. She was born at home into water, like we’d hoped, and I had a minute or so to bask in our newborn glory. I didn’t immediately bond with her though because she had complications breathing and so we transfered her to a hospital within her first half hour. We then spent four of what were supposed to be our initial bonding days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at CHEO. I’ve only just started to look back at those days, writing and thinking with intention and awareness, hoping some healing is soon to come. It turns out the thing I needed to start my healing was to share some of my story with you all, and I’m truly grateful for that.

These are the three books that have inspired me most on this path, there are many more, but these three are essentials: “The Continuum Concept” by Jean Liedloff, “Unconditional Parenting” by Aflie Kohn, and “Life Learning: Lessons From the Educational Frontier” edited by Wendy Priesnitz.

If you want to get in contact with me I’d love to talk more about any of this. You can comment here or read more of my writings and find more information on this site through the Loving Links page, or on the Beautiful Books: A Bilbliography to Believe In post.

sentient sage


Handmade Eco ECing Heaven

Not this mama, but this mama’s mamas have crocheted, upcycled and tailored some beautiful, practical and artistic articles of clothing for the littlest family member, the only grandchild so far.

What a great life learning opportunity for illuminating sage if she so chooses, not only are both Grandma’s living close by, half an hour give and take, but they are still learning new things, practical and fun things that she can learn from them, and more likely, with them.

A couple of months ago illuminating sage stopped wearing “diaper shirts”, or rather we stopped dressing her in them. We used them for light coverage as mock nighties in the early winter months last year, but they just don’t cut is it as actual wardrobe pieces anymore. They are usually a better price to buy new, (and organic-sustainable-fair-trade etc…) and there are a lot more options to choose from out there, compared to other shirt styles, so they make sense to buy in the first place. But ever since she does more than simply lay and roll, since she’s really been on the move, they just seem to get in the way. they take too long or it’s just an awkward position for us to snap back on again and again and again, plus if they get wet from a miss if you’re ECing, you have to change the whole shebang, or they just dangle there, aesthetically unpleasing, and perhaps a little bit annoying to her?…who knows for sure. So we kindly approached my busy bee of a mother who got around to it just now, but worth it none the less, to cutting off the snaps, hemming the shirts, and making some sweet new tops for the babe.

This can be done even if you do use the diaper shirts, and especially if you’re baby is long like ours and outrgrows the crotch area quickly. You simply wait until it is too tight in the groin and voila! Extended life of a perfectly good shirt. We’ve also cut up old clothes, and stained ones are my favourite to use (you really feel like you’re working for a good cause here when the item of clothing would otherwise be a rag) to make embelishments and personalize whatever clothes you want.

Another EC inspired idea was to turn over her pants at the top, suited to her measurements now and for the near future when they should reasonably still fit. Decide on how long they should fit based on the pant-short or capri leg length, and how much room you have to work with at the waist. The reason we went to the trouble of tailoring bottoms is because there is so much extra slack in them for diapers and they look uncomfortable a lot of the time, and/or because she wears them so low (1.5-2 inches below BB) and so the material will drag on the floor, and if you wait ’tillI they don’t then the waist band is too tight, and hemming the bottom means the garment won’t last as long as it reasonably could. Basically the sizes are incorrect, she’s always in between because she isn’t wearing a diaper (details of our ECing style to come in other posts). If you like the end result, keep it for your next or give it away, OR do what we did and make shorts when you need less pants, they can double as extra soakers/underwear covers too!

Taking it a step further, when appropriate, change the elastic waist band to a really strechy one-size kind, or a different size, or replace it with a draw string. The possibilities are awesome, just like the results.

Here’s a tailor made tunic dress she sewed down from a second hand adult sized shirt, and then created some fun felt flowers and a shrug to match.

The MamaRoo Split-Crotch Pants are already so adaptable that none of this has been necessary, but you can’t ALWAYS go crotchless.

My newest mom, jubilant sage’s mother, she spends hours on these, and about 36 passively on a roadtrip doing this pretty piece in particular:

She learned how to crochet so she could create these for her grandaughter, and learned it all on youtube no less. This dress was actually done without a pattern, how amazing is that?

Some of her earlier pieces are heartfelt works as well, and they are always complimented and adored, justifiably so. Also, all EC friendly and super durable. And Eco conscious too, made of mixes of materials like wool, bamboo and organic cotton, with veggie and soy dyes. Can’t wait for more! Some coming our way in adult sizes soon, Whoohoo!

Beautiful Books: A Bilbliography To Believe In

This is a list of books that have truly influenced our lives. There are links on the Loving Links page that have much to do with these books, and are sometimes based on them or are the author(s)’ site.
Descriptions, authors(s)’ names/book titles, and reviews will soon be posted.

Almost anything by: John Holt, Osho, Eckhart Tolle, Ina May Gaskin, Don Miguel Ruiz, Deepak Chopra

Books (also in no particular order):

The Continuum Concept


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No Contest
Unconditional Parenting
Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
The Plug-In Drug
Lotus Birth
Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene
Adventures in Tandem Nursing
Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves
The Self Respecting Child
Life Learning: Lessons From the Educational Frontier