Why I Think Judging Parenting Practices is Necessary.

OK, so I am probably going to get a lot of flack for writing this, but it’s coming through so strongly and doesn’t want to be bottled up anymore. I am not writing this for anyone other than myself, but if someone gets something out of it I will be happy. When I let out the perpetual thoughts in my head then they quiet down and I am a little more free. Even if everyone hates me after I say it. Here it goes.

I am a mom. Many of you know this (duh, The Feminalist MOM). Naturally, as a mom I somehow end up in a lot of mommy groups online. Truth be told, it is usually SO HARD for me to read so many of the posts in these groups. You see, an online mommy group is basically where a bunch of moms go to ask a million questions (“is this dot on my daughter’s toe normal?”), trade baby goods and complain about their husbands.

There is something that I often see in said groups that I have to speak up about, and this doesn’t happen only in these groups but in life as well, and I just can’t take it any longer.

It sounds something like,

“Don’t be so judgmental,” or “let people parent how they want to parent.”

Let me be clear. Yes, on some level too much judgment or concern about how someone else is doing something is only going to drive you crazy, and yes I drive myself crazy at times. There are absolutely certain things that parents should have the right to choose how and when and where they do XY and Z with their child. Absolutely. Then there are some things that are straight up not OK, and telling people not to judge you is a way that you don’t have to inquire about the harm you are doing. Instead, we have gotten to a place where we can pull out the, “mommy wars” card at anyone who is telling us that what we are doing to our children is not in the child’s best interest. Another very popular response is,

“What works for some people/families/babies doesn’t work for everyone’s.”

Again, yes, at times this is true. Some babies like being swaddled, some do not. Some families have both parents’ working full-time, some don’t (another blog post on that coming soon). So, naturally, things would need to operate differently in that household.

Then, there are some things where biologically speaking, as humans, we are not that different. In the cases of how our brains are effected by trauma and abuse, we are not that different. In terms of our biological requirements as human beings, we are not that different.

So where is the line?

What if I decided to give my daughter labiaplasty? Hey, I like the way it looks, and I read an article somewhere that it’ll help keep her vagina cleaner. Don’t judge me.

Oh and when I don’t like how my partner is acting I just get out the belt and whop him on the ass. Throw him in a corner to cry. Hey, he deserved it. He’s MY partner and i’ll deal with him however I want.

You get the point.

Some of the things we do to our children-our BABIES- we would never dream of doing to others. Do you judge child abusers? Rapists? Sexual predators? I hope you do. Judging these types of people is what gives us the discernment to say, “Hey, this is NOT right.”

What if I told you-and this is where I am going to catch some flack- that some of our parental “choices” and “rights” are merely socially acceptable forms of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault.

There. I said it.

Judging other parents for their decisions to modify their child’s body, leave their baby alone to cry in a dark room until they are purple and vomiting and using physical force as a form of punishment is not me being sanctimonious or perpetuating “mommy wars” anymore than judging and calling out a rapist is being a cock block.

I really done it now, huh?

We judge these behaviors so that we can make better decisions so that we can have a better life for ourselves and our children and ultimately, humanity.

Judging human behavior is natural and a way that our internal alarm system goes off when universal law is being abandoned.

“Asking someone not to judge is one of the most unnatural things you could ask. What you’re essentially asking the person to do is to act brain-dead and abandon their natural human faculties, which is itself unnatural as long as the person is alive.”

As parents it is our job to question common practices and evaluate if we are carrying them out because it’s a pattern and it is what was done to us or if it’s because it works and actually feels good to do it. The problem with so many of these issues I am talking about is that it is rare that people are consciously choosing them. They were mostly chosen for them by society and are passed down quackery.

” If you don’t know your options then you don’t have any,” and therefore you are not acting from a place of choice, you are acting on autopilot and acting from that place does not give you freedom to choose. You are not choosing. You are a prisoner in a sense.

To not question these harmful and trauma inducing parenting practices that have caught wind in our culture is to perpetuate intellectual dronery (if that wasn’t a word before, it is now).

We have to stop assuming that common practices are okay simply because they are common. Many of them are only common in our country, on our side of the imaginary lines. Do you realize that things we think are acceptable and normal here are BANNED in other countries? I mean, really, this is the only variable some people are using to measure if the practice or behavior is acceptable or not (is that most people are doing it). In reality there is no difference in mutilating a boy’s genitals than there is a girl’s. There is no difference in piercing a baby’s nose than her ears. There is no difference in hitting your spouse than there is in hitting your child. There is no difference in threatening and isolating an upset child than there is in isolating and threatening an upset girlfriend, except maybe your girlfriend has the brain capacity to self soothe and regulate herself, unlike a small child. Something we can only learn as adults if we were made to feel secure and attached as infants.

So go ahead. Call me judgmental and sanctimonious. Claim that I “must be so perfect compared to all the horrible moms out there.” I am not perfect. I mess up. I get frustrated and I have felt overwhelmed. I love gluten free waffles, okay?  Nobody ever said it was easy, but thinking it has to look a certain way makes it harder. Thinking and using methods and formulas (not the food kind) on our children only detaches us from feeling them in every situation. The only “war” on moms are the ones created by “experts” and other people who tell mothers to go against their natural instincts and cause harm to their babies. We are so concerned about the feelings and “rights” of the mother that we keep our mouths shut and “support” her no matter what. I will tell you, I don’t always support a decision just because it was made by a fellow mother. What about a child’s right to health, optimal development and bodily autonomy? What about how a baby feels when he is left alone in a room for 12 hours? We would be appalled if someone left a baby alone in a dark closet alone from 6am to 6pm. But a dark room alone from 6pm to 6am? Totally fine, but why? Their needs don’t go away at night.

I digress.

I am not anti-mom. I am a huge proponent in needing more support for mothers. The lack of it is devastating and in large part to blame for the bad decision making I am talking about. It is not totally our fault.

I am pro-child. Children deserve to be treated and cared for the way I believe nature and the universe intended. This doesn’t mean making sure they don’t ever cry or protecting them from all pain and failure. It means not inflicting it upon them intentionally and unnecessarily. It means being willing to look at all of our actions to see if that is what we are doing. Children are not sub-human.

“Children are not property, they are people; precious individuals worthy of love, respect and protection. Listen when they speak. Comfort them when they cry. Treat them kindly. Teach them devotedly. Correct them compassionately. Love them unconditionally. 

If we want the world to be a better place, we should start by being better to children.”

-Peacefulparenting.org

 

3 Simple 3-Ingredient Smoothie Recipes

 

I know, I know. Another cliche smoothie blog. What can I say? I LOVE smoothies. My son loves smoothies and my partner basically lives off of them. While something in me longs for the mornings when I was young and would wake up smelling eggs, bacon and waffles cooking downstairs, I know those days are long gone. While it smelled good, it didn’t exactly make me feel good. You know what does? Smoothies. They’re quick and easy to make and you can pack them with energy and nutrient dense foods. Plus, they’re delicious, which goes without saying (except, I just did).

And hey, don’t be afraid of smoothies. I know they usually have…DUN DUN DUUUUN….sugar in them, but the cool thing is that it’s sugar from whole, ripe, fresh fruit. This blog isn’t about fruit phobia, though. That’s for another time.

Ok, you get it. Here are 3 of my favorite 3-ingredient smoothie recipes. You know, because…minimalism.

*You can obviously adjust the portion amounts to how much you want. These recipes are smaller portions, but some people like to make half gallon smoothies, just sayin’. *

1). Basic-Bitch-Goes-Granola SmoothieScreenshot_20160212-094337

  • 20 to 25 oz. of water (water doesn’t count as an ingredient, btw)
  • 1/4 cup of hemp seeds
  • 1 cup of frozen organic strawberries (or more. it’s up to you)
  • 3-4 dates that have been soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes

With this smoothie it’s important that you blend the hemp seeds with the water by itself first to make a frothy hemp milk. Once you have made the milk you can add the other two ingredients for a creamy berry dream.

2) I Mint to Do That Smoothie

  • 3-5 cups of sweet, organic green grapes
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • small handful of fresh mint leaves

This one is pretty easy. Throw all the ingredients in the blender together. You may need a liiittle water to get them going and make sure you rub the mint leaves together in your hand before putting them in. It releases the flavor and aroma.

3) A Smoothie for Lovers ❤ (Which is everyone)

Ok, so this one has the possibility of being a 4 or even 5 ingredient recipe, but if you only do the main three it’s still really good.

  • 1.5-2 Bananas
  • 1 cup of frozen sweet dark cherries
  • 1/2-1 tbs of raw cacao powder
  • 2 cups of water

In this recipe you can put coconut water and even add some coconut meat. I HIGHLY recommend that 😉

Cheers!

IMG_20160208_093442

 

 

 

 

5 Benefits of Breastfeeding From a Minimalist’s Perspective

**Disclaimer: This article is simply about the benefits of breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective. I am aware that, “not all women can breastfeed.” I have seen a couple of mother’s who wanted nothing more than to breastfeed their child and have a really hard time. It is heartbreaking. Instead of sweeping the issue of breastfeeding vs. formula/bottle feeding under the rug as an attempt to not offend some, I prefer respectful sharing of proper breastfeeding education and encouraging more breastfeeding support for new moms. With more proper education and support for women we can have better breastfeeding outcomes for mothers and their babies. The truth is that nursing our babies is important. No woman should EVER be shamed for how she is feeding her baby, AND it’s still important that we keep the discussion going. Babies lives quite literally depend on it. If you’d like to learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding for a year and beyond, you can read about them here, here and here.**

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. The body naturally makes this perfect food for your young with health and healing properties that are nothing short of magic. There is now a lot of science backing the importance of breast milk, and more and more women are educating themselves on the benefits of nursing for a year and beyond.

I like to think of myself as a minimalist, and I have been described as such. I am not a big consumer. I don’t own much stuff, and I am in the process of downsizing even more. I buy second hand or friends give me things for free. I have dumpster dived. I own a single pair of jeans and one (maybe two?) pair of shoes. I don’t own cable TV (or even a TV for that matter). I didn’t have that urge to make a nursery for my son before he was born, so I didn’t. My food is for the most part, clean and simple (because who doesn’t like a vegan doughnut from time to time, eh?). I have been a member of the no ‘poo club for coming up on four years, and don’t remember the last time I have taken so much as an Advil. I rely on herbal tea, healthy food and a lot of rest to get me through my aches and ails. I don’t go to the doctor and I get a little hard on myself when I forget my reusable bags when I go grocery shopping. I forget that people still buy things like paper towels and trash bags. For me, I have learned that in many ways less is better. By doing and having less in so many areas of my life I have gained more in the areas that are valuable to me. I now have more happiness, more time, more freedom and more healthy days.

That’s great and all, but what does this have to do with breastfeeding, you ask? Well, although I knew I would breastfeed my son for all the health benefits, I would sort of be lying if I said it wasn’t because it serves the minimalist in me, too. Maybe you already know the health benefits of nursing, but you wonder, is it easier? Is it efficient? The short answer is yes. If you’re on the path to becoming minimalist then breastfeeding is still the perfect option for you. Here are 5 benefits of breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective:

  1. It’s free.

We minimalists love free shit. Anytime you don’t have to spend money feels like hitting the jackpot for a minimalist. Some people call it being cheap, I call it being resourceful. The world already has so much stuff and everything we need. We don’t need to keep buying things brand new. It’s wasteful and unsustainable. They say the best things in life are free and breast milk is no exception.

2. Less STUFF.

I heard someone say one time that the majority of life is just moving around piles of stuff. Minimalists hate clutter and owning a bunch of stuff. More stuff equals less freedom for a minimalist like myself. Not just at home, but even when I am out and about or traveling I can’t stand lugging around a bunch of stuff. One light, medium-sized bag is all I need and that didn’t change when I had a child. A couple of diapers, a change of clothes, a snack and I’m out the door. My home is no different. I feel best with less occupying my drawers, shelves, cabinets and counter tops. If you so choose to feed your child from the breast then you get to avoid bottles, pumps, drying racks, brushes, storage bags, bottle warmers, etc. People will always try to give you more stuff when you have a baby. It’s good though because it all makes for nice re-gifting items. AKA more free shit.

*I know certain circumstances require a mother to pump. I think it’s important to give your baby breast milk the best way you can, even if that means through a bottle. Remember, I am simply writing about breastfeeding from a minimalist’s perspective and to be a minimalist or an aspiring one doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at minimizing every aspect of your life.* 

3. More time for other things.

OK-Does pumping bottles, prepping bottles, warming bottles and cleaning bottles take up THAT much time? Maybe not, but it can add up. Minimalists like me like to maximize their time in order to have freedom to do things they enjoy doing. One way we do this is by not doing things we find unnecessary or tedious. Having a baby is already a lot of work in itself. The less I have to manage, clean and take care of, the better, because babies can be a handful, especially if you have more than one to look after.

4. It’s better for the environment.

A significant part of being a minimalist is minimizing your carbon footprint. The manufacturing and packaging of bottle feeding products such as paper, plastic and tin contributes to A LOT of waste and toxins. Not to mention the effects the dairy industry-who makes the formula- has on the environment. The dairy industry is known for contributing to air pollution from methane gas and water pollution because of sewage from dairy cows and water runoff of soil, pesticides and manure. You also have to take into consideration the toll transporting all these products has on the environment. For a very detailed and thought provoking outline of the many ways not breastfeeding effects the environment, read this article, BREASTFEEDING AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Some pretty interesting stuff that we often never even consider.

5. Less sick days, doctor’s visits and medication.

One result of minimizing your life is that you get healthier. I think it’s a combination of less stuff = less stress, eating healthier whole foods as a result of not buying a bunch of packaged processed food and making your own meals at home from scratch vs eating out. Ever since I began my journey as a minimalist I haven’t taken any medication, been to the doctor and I am rarely sick. When I do get sick I get over it very quickly, as in like less than a day in many cases. I have also drastically changed my diet but that’s another blog post! Studies show babies who are exclusively breastfed are sick less often than formula fed babies and experience less gastrointestinal issues and ear infections. They also are less likely to develop diabetes and certain cancers. Breastfeeding also lowers their risk of obesity. Don’t even get me started on all the health benefits it has for us mothers, too! If you want to know about all the things that breastfeeding helps prevent then see the links I provided in the disclaimer at the top.

My 15 month old has only been sick once during a difficult bout of teething, he’s never been to the doctor or been on any type of medicine. I attribute this largely to him being breastfed. You know what you also get when you’re not spending so much time in the doctor’s office? See number 3 🙂

That’s my complete list of breastfeeding benefits from a minimalist’s perspective? Are you a minimalist? Or do you want to be one? 

 

 

Crunchy Mama’s Play Day Bars (V + GF Recipe).

Many people might not know that I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. It’s basically where you can bet to find me if I’m not outside or sleeping. Preparing food is like a meditation for me that puts me right in my element. It is a place I feel confident and nourished. Not only  by the food itself, but in the preparation of it. I have always loved food, but the way I love it has changed over the last 6-7 years as my diet has evolved. I grew up ailed with many issues ranging from extreme allergies to anxiety and depression. With a lot of research I cured myself without the help of western medicine. My passion for food turned into using it as something that nourishes, heals, and prevents sickness and disease.

My family and I follow a plant-based diet. I love juicing, cooking, preparing, baking, and whipping up smoothies. I get so much satisfaction out of attempting to recreate plant-based versions of my favorite foods. Not to toot my own horn, but I am pretty good at it. I think that is why I enjoy it so much. As a minimalist and someone who finds eating healthy really important, I like my recipes to be clean and simple. Not to mention quick and efficient. I do have a 14 month old at my feet, after all.

These food bars are a perfect mom and toddler food for a couple of reasons:

One, they are a dense energy food. Good for on the go moms, breastfeeding moms, and moms who wanna be healthy but crave sweet treats. I could eat a whole batch and not feel guilty. They are good for toddlers because they are easy to chew, hearty and healthy for a growing child.

The other reason these are so great is that you can make them in 20 minutes and they last for days. With kids it’s not always easy to prepare healthy food. Well, I could argue that, but that’s the idea, right? As far as food, nothing sounds better to a mom than quick, easy AND healthy.

Lastly, these food bars are versatile. You can make them many different ways and customize them to fit your taste preferences. More on that in a bit.

But who am I kidding? These are good for anyone, kids or no kids.

So let’s get started!

What you will need:

  • A food processor or Vitamix (or any good quality high speed blender)
  • A mixing bowl
  • oven or dehydrator
  • 9″ pan or oven safe dish (if you use the oven option)
  • Spatula or smooth wooden spoon

 

Photo_2016-01-17_03-25-19_PMIngredients:

In this recipe there are only 3 main ingredients. Everything else is optional. The three must have *ingredients are:

  • 2 medium-sized ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4-2 cups gluten free quick rolled oats
  • 1 cup soaked dates or soaked dried figs

*organic if possible

Optional ad-ins include things like:

  • nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, etc.)
  • dried fruit such as apricots, blueberries, raisins, etc.
  • shredded coconut
  • chocolate chips
  • sprouted buckwheat

The possibilities are pretty endless. It’s whatever your heart desires, or simply what you have on hand. For this recipe I sprinkled in pecans, organic shredded coconut, and organic raisins.

-The first things you’ll want to do is soak the dates or figs in warm water, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You will want the dates (or figs) to soak for at least 20 minutes.

-Next, blend the two bananas in the blender until creamy smooth. You might need just a tiny bit of water to get the blades going.

-Then pour the oats and the blended bananas into the mixing bowl. Sprinkle in your favorite ad-ins, like the nuts and dried fruit, and stir it all together.

-Now clean out the empty banana blender and throw in the dates (or figs). Again, add just enough water to get the blender going. You want it to turn out like a paste, not watery. Also, I added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg to my dates (yummy). Turn the blender or food processor on high until it becomes a thick, pasty consistency. Keep it in the blender.

-Take your pan and give it a little coat of oil so your bars won’t stick to the pan. I use coconut oil. Take your oat/banana mixture and half it. I just put half on one side of the bowl and the other half on the other side.

-Take the first half and smooth it out into the pan with your hands until it covers the bottom surface.Photo_2016-01-17_03-22-41_PM

-Then take a spatula or smooth wooden spoon and add a generous layer of date (fig) paste to the top of the oats until it covers the surface of them. Photo_2016-01-17_03-23-48_PM

-Finally, add the second half of oat/banana mixture to the top of the date (fig) layer, and smooth it out just like you did with the first half until it covers the top surface. So now it’s like a sandwich with oats on bottom, dates in the middle, and oats on top. Capeesh?

Now throw that bad boy in the oven for 12-14 minutes.

*If you’re doing the dehydrating option I am not sure how long they need to be in there, but until they are a more solid, chewy consistency. 

When you take them out, give them a minute to cool and then you can cut them into squares. Here’s the chewy gooey goodness:

IMG_20160117_095555

There ya go! Enjoy ’em, peeps!

 

 

*If you make them, let me know how they turned out in the comments below!*

 

 

 

6 Things to Do Instead of Helicopter Parenting Your Young Children

IMG_20160114_151411-2

 

*Note: the information I am writing about here mostly applies to children 3 years of age and younger since that’s the age I am around and witness the most. I do talk briefly about older children, too.*

The other day I was at the playground with my partner and our 14 month old son. I kept hearing a man’s voice shout over and over, “Emily! Emily!” At first it was simply background noise, but after a while of hearing him I started to wonder what it was about. Eventually I focused my attention on the man and who I am only assuming was his daughter (Emily). Once I got more present with their situation he sounded more like this:

“Emily! Over here, over here! This way! Emily, look look! Turn it this way, Emily. Now the other way. Look over here! Come here! Sit down. Slide down now. Yea, good girl!”

It was yet another situation of Helicopter Parenting, and in this particular instance the parent was heavily invested in leading and being in charge of the child’s play. Unfortunately though, with this much direction from her dad, it turns out to not be much for play at all.

Urban Dictionary accurately describes a Helicopter Parent as: “A parent who hovers over their child, regardless of their child’s needs and desires. An overprotective parent who does not want their child to face any difficulty without their parent’s help.”

I could literally write a short book detailing all of the instances of helicopter parenting I have witnessed and that my son has been effected by. Some borderline on neurotic at best, insanity at worst. On several occasions I have posted on social media about a few times helicopter parenting has come into my reality and pissed me off. Now I am writing a blog about it, so some people may be wondering why I care so much or why this is important to me. The reason is this:

The urge and insistence to have so much control over our children comes from a deep cultural (often unconscious) belief that children are dumb (or not as smart as us) and that they don’t require or deserve the same respect we pay our adult peers. Therefore, children often grow up on some level to be psychologically, emotionally, and even physically stunted. Because this behavior towards infants and kids is so common place in our culture, what is accepted as “normal” adult human behavior and abilities is often below the reality of true human potential. I often hear the argument, “My parents did XYandZ and I turned out fine.”

Yes, we are fine in a culture with depressingly low standards of “fine.”

I don’t mean to sound dramatic or harsh on anyone. I am not perfect. I was not raised perfect. No one is. What I do know is that we can do better, and part of doing better is cultivating a deep sense of trust and respect for our children. They desperately want it from us. Sometimes their way of asking for it can come out in ways that we interpret as “bad” behavior. Then our image of them is that they are “bad,” so we tighten the rope a little more and the cycle continues. Let’s break the cycle.

Maybe after reading this far you have identified yourself as a helicopter parent. If you find yourself saying, “Yes, this sounds like me, but how do I begin to stop and give my child more freedom,” then keep reading. It might feel difficult at first, unnatural even, but over time I truly believe that you and your child(ren) will be much happier because of it. Shifting the fundamental way we see and engage with our children will inevitably grow you as a person, as well. I came up with 6 ways you can actively start giving your child the respect and freedom he deserves. The first one is:

1.) Let the child lead their own play. 

At the beginning of this article I gave the example of the dad who was directing his daughter on the playground. Literally, the only thing you need to do is follow your child, or know where they are at depending on their age.  Play comes naturally for them, especially at such a young age where everything is new. They don’t need us to tell them how to play. Many times, following my son means we end up in the bathroom or some other place that is no longer the designated play area. We live next to a grocery store that has a children’s playscape outside that we frequent. Our son often wanders from the play area and leads us onto the deck, into the store, he climbs up the stairs and plays with things on the shelf. When he does stay on the playground nothing is off limits because of his age. We let him try to climb the highest surfaces, go up the many steps to the slide and wait for him on the other side of long tunnels. Which leads me to number two..

2.) Spot your child, but don’t hold them.

image

Baby is clearly unhappy on the right.

This is so important because often times we think little kids are naturally wobbly and uncoordinated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They are this way when we constantly hold them as they are trying to walk or climb and pick them up and put them on their feet when they fall. They can never get a feel for their balance or master the repertoire of motions needed to be strong, steady, and coordinated with their movements. I can give you a couple of examples.

One time I saw a little girl about two or three years old walking through the woods on a trail with her mom. The mom stood behind her, holding the little girl’s hands up above her head, thinking this was giving her balance and ease as they went over rocky terrain. If she ever did let go of her hands, the little girls legs were wobbly and she would fall very easily. When she would fall her mother would pick her up, put her on her feet and proceed to hold her arms up again. This little girl didn’t have a chance to fully sense and get a feel for her environment with her own body.

Another thing I see often is with little babies under a year of age and a little older who have yet mastered many skills. On the playground, since they can’t climb or sometimes even walk yet, I see their caregiver pick them up as they are attempting to climb the steps and put them on the platform where the slide is, or even sit them on the top of the slide. The unconscious idea is that the baby has a goal (get to the top or go down the slide) and that they can’t so we have to put them there. The thing is, at that age they are learning and exploring their range of movement and learning new skills. All they see is THIS step and they want to learn to master THIS step. Again, by directing their play and assuming the goal or the point of play for the child, we’re keeping them of learning important skills for optimal physical development. I am not exaggerating when I say that I get comments on Rahzi’s physical ability daily. He’s so “fast,” “sturdy,” “coordinated,” and “good on his feet,” they say. I don’t say this to brag (well, maybe a little), but to display what a 14 month old is capable of. He already climbs up the steps and goes down the tall slide all by himself. He runs fast and goes up and down stairs without holding the side rail for support, and he loves climbing up and down rocks. Our son has also never worn shoes, which helps immensely with stability and posture, but that’s another blog post. An alternative to holding your child’s hands and body and picking them up to do everything is to be close by and spot them. That way if they fall you can quickly catch them. Also, be the judge on what’s a good fall and what’s a bad fall. It’s okay if they fall a few inches on packed dirt. They learn to fall gracefully.

3.) Learn to be okay with breaking some rules and getting some stares because of it.

Let’s face it, many of us don’t live in a world that values radical freedom for children. When you start to let your child lead more they might start to do some unruly things, let me tell you. They might crawl up from the bottom of the slide rather than slide down from the top. I am serious. I have been very surprised with how many parents take serious issue with the way their child is using the slide. What do we come to the playground for if we can’t loosen up? Making sure a toy or object is used exactly how it is intended to is very important in helicopter land, but you gotta LET IT GO. LET IT GO-OOOO!

All Frozen references aside, if your child wants to crawl up the slide or use a drum as a launching pad then we will all be better off if you could bend the rules a bit. I am not suggesting no boundaries or condoning the destruction of property. You know the difference.

The other day we were at a children’s museum and a little girl younger than two kept throwing a fake, plastic egg on the floor. Her mother repeated over and over to her, “Don’t throw it. No throwing. We don’t throw toys.” Really, though, what is throwing it harming? It’s can’t break and she wasn’t throwing it at or near anyone. I think often times the behavior of our children has less to do with them and more to do with what we think other people will think of us. Plastic egg throwing?! Savage, they say! Again, let it go. People’s opinions will be there no matter what. Kids have a lot of energy and sometimes throwing things and banging sticks is a way to release that energy. Our job isn’t to stuff it down and stop them, but rather, our job is to provide a safe environment that is conducive for that behavior.

“Yes, you can bang the stick, but make sure you hit the ground or a tree, not people.”

“Yes, scream, let it out. If you want to scream go outside, or here, scream into this pillow.”

I actually take joy in watching a parent tell their kid to not do something and then not stopping or managing my son when he attempts the same thing. In many instances it gives the other parent permission to relax and give in to their child’s innocent desires. My son likes to throw things. One thing he likes to throw are my glass bottles of essential oils when we are in the bath. I usually redirect him and show him he can throw them in the water where they are safe. Of course, there are going to be times when your child wants to throw or play with something that is actually off limits, like Aunt Debbie’s china plate. At these times it is appropriate to set gentle boundaries.

4.) Give children the opportunity to solve problems on their own (yes, even little babies).

The most common form of helicopter parenting you will probably see is parental intervention in times of conflict. This displays our lack of trust in children as capable problem solvers. It often looks like telling and forcing children to share. I can’t tell you how many times my 14 month old has walked right up to a kid, snatched a toy from their hand, and when the child rightfully attempts to take it back, a parent immediately jumps in saying, “You need to share. Share with the baby.” No, your child doesn’t need to give up the toy he was playing with just because someone decided they wanted it. The same way we don’t need to give up our cell phones to anyone who comes up and takes them from us. Plus, I wouldn’t want my child to think that people have to give up their belongings simply because he takes it from them.

I think we project our deeply held beliefs about ourselves onto our children. The quick insistence to make our children sacrifice their things and always accommodate to others (often shows up as “get out of the way for these people/kids”) is a reflection of many people’s ideas about themselves being in the way or not worthy of having exactly what they want, etc. 

I have been blessed with a few occasions where for whatever reason the parents didn’t intervene during a conflict. What happens is truly remarkable and proof of how amazing children are. Yes, even babies. What happens is they either decide on their own who gets the toy and the one who doesn’t want it bad enough happily walks away, or better, they make a game out of it and the conflict turns into play. Sometimes they will be in a deadlock and emotions will run high. I watched my son get incredibly frustrated with a child who was NOT willing to give up his toy. My boy had met his match, and it made him very upset. It’s okay then to step in as a helper and guide, but still important that you aren’t making decisions for them. I think in this particular instance the struggle was about over by the time I stepped in, and I reflected back what was happening. “You both wanted that toy really bad. You are very frustrated now.”

Hitting and biting.

Another frequent occurrence, especially for toddlers, is hitting and biting. Know that this behavior is normal for not yet verbal children or children who are not taught to properly communicate their wants and needs. While normal, it still doesn’t feel good, so if our child smacks another on the face it can feel like a knee jerk reaction to aggressively reprimand her. It’s important that you don’t because it is easy to rob your child of the opportunity to feel empathy for the person they hurt, and feeling another’s pain is what will make us not want to hurt them again. If when they hit someone and you immediately start shaming, punishing and forcing apologies, then their attention goes to the feelings of shame and embarrassment, or confusion if they are really young. They don’t feel the other person, they just feel like a bad person. We never want our child’s motivation to be from a place of shame and fear. If we can pause and let them see and feel the other child as they cry then they can learn empathy. You can tell them how it feels when they hit, and show the other child your own empathy for them. If you’re close enough to your child and you know they are about to take a swing before they do, then blocking hands and redirecting is helpful, too. This is really hard for many because we can look really apathetic to other parents if we don’t show much action after our child hits someone. We think they are expecting us to punish our kids, and they probably are. Maybe they don’t understand, but only we know what is best for our child. Leading by example and showing other people a radical new way of handling things can be a gift. Also, note that aggressive behavior is sometimes a sign of an unmet need that only you the parent can investigate to see what that is.

5.) Give choices, not demands.

This one is pretty straight forward. It displays respect when we give our children options instead of orders. Let your child be in charge of their life as much as they can be. Just because they are little doesn’t make them less human. Living isn’t something to be earned with adulthood, it is a birth right that starts the moment you are born. As parents we have the job of providing our children with all the information and resources to make the best decisions. If this isn’t something you are used to you can start by asking them what they want for lunch and letting them choose what they wear. Yes, even if the outfit is totally bizarre by your standards. To take it a step further, ask how they want to spend their time. I am pretty radical, so when my son is old enough I will leave it up to him if he even wants to go to school or not. To some people this might be extreme, but this is his life. A person spends a lot of time in a classroom when they choose a traditional schooling route. Why would I force him to spend a lot of his life doing something he didn’t enjoy? Life is happening NOW. Not after high school, or college, or after you get married, or get the career you want. It’s now.

For really little ones giving options can be as simple as asking questions.

“Do you want to put your shoes on yourself or do you want me to help you?”

For us it’s more like, “Do you want to wear shoes or not?”

“Do you want to walk or would you like to be carried?”

You get the idea..

And last but not least,

6.) Start seeing your child as if they already know everything they need to know up to this moment.

This is where we fundamentally shift the way we see our kids. I think the common way we view babies especially, is that they are born with nothing, void of knowledge and wisdom, and it is our job to fill them up with the proper information and teach them the ways. On some level this is true, we do offer the role as their guide. The way I see it is that children are born with everything they need to know and our job is to simply provide the environment to let their innate self, knowledge and wisdom to unfold. They don’t need to be taught how to be. They need space and love to feel safe, respect to foster their confidence, and freedom to be the mystery of who they already are. Meet your child with a curiosity and desire to know who they are rather than assuming who they are and will be and trying to fit them into that box. Curiosity makes parenting way more fun and less stressful. Not to mention, trying to control a free being is exhausting.

Before I end I want to note that this isn’t neglectful parenting. It’s about being there when it’s necessary and not when it’s not. Along with what I talked about here I am also a passionate advocate for attachment parenting, which is the opposite of neglectful parenting. This also isn’t passive parenting. You can still implement loving, healthy boundaries the same way you might with a friend. It’s okay to say no, just look closely at what you are saying no to. Aim to be a yes as much as possible, even if that means you have to negotiate with your child. John Holt says,

“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

 

The Top 4 Reasons We Don’t *Do* Santa

santa

Santa Claus: (Getty Images/Stockphoto)

I hesitated to write this post, because it has been written over a dozen times, at least. I was also afraid of the common things said in response to articles like this one by the pro-Santa crowd.

“Oh come on, it’s just a white lie. It’s fun!” or “I love the magic of Santa,” or “Geez you’re such a scrooge. What’s wrong with Santa Claus? Your poor kids are so left out,” etc, etc, etc….

So before I begin with why we decided (actually it was never even a thing we had to sit down to discuss and decide on. It’s more like the natural result of our personalities and personal values) to not tell our son that Santa is a real person who comes down the chimney at night to brings him gifts if he’s been a “good boy,” I want to emphasize this:

THIS IS NOT ME TELLING YOU THAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO SANTA AND BE THE SAME AS ME. Do I like to make people think and show them alternatives to the status quo? Yes. Do I hope that people find what I have to say useful? Sure. Do I need you to change your relationship to Santa Claus in order for me to be happy or even for me to like you? No. Ok, cool. Now that that is out of the way, here are the top 4 best reasons I could think of for why we don’t tell our son the tale of Santa Claus in a way that would lead him to believe it’s real:

  1. It’s a lie, and I don’t feel good telling a lie.

    This seems to be the most popular reason for parents choosing to opt out of telling their kids that Santa is real. And while yes, I think it’s a great reason and I don’t condone lying to our kids, it goes a little beyond this for me. While I don’t want to lie to my son, I also can’t lie to my son. In the same way I can’t lie to my partner and tell him something is real only to know that one day he is going to find out it’s not. I can’t do that. Not only am I not a good liar, I feel fake and slightly mean doing it. As some may know, I have done a lot of personal work and programs that focus on honing in on the sensations in the body, authentic communication, and vulnerability. Telling someone I feel a deep limbic connection with (my child) a lie goes against everything my body is wanting me to do. In my own opinion, one of the biggest reasons so many people are able to tell their children about Santa and feel okay with it, is because we’re disconnected from our bodies in terms of how it feels when we treat our children as less than human beings because they’re children. It’s why we have a hard time meeting so many of their wants and needs.  We have been successfully able to not feel and listen to them when they are crying alone to sleep, telling us they aren’t happy at school, and screaming at us that they don’t want to wear their shoes. We can’t feel them so we force them and we’ve sold ourselves the story that it’s our job to coerce little people because we are the big people. I don’t believe in, “because I’m the parent and I said so.” This doesn’t mean I don’t enforce boundaries, it just means I don’t say no for the sake of saying no. Like I mentioned above, I feel really connected to my son and building trust with him is very important to me. Telling him the lie of Santa Claus seems to run the chances of potentially breaking that trust. Some kids take it really hard when they find out Santa is not real and I don’t want to chance my son being one of them. I also don’t think telling kids that Santa Claus is real is a “white lie” as so many people claim in defense. It’s actually a very big lie. If SC is a white lie, then what’s a big lie? Making our children believe that there is a man that lives in the North Pole with elves who make toys for all the children and one night out of the year he gets on his sleigh with 8 reindeer and goes to every house and down every chimney and leaves you presents is a huge, well thought-out lie if I have ever heard one.

2.) Santa Claus doesn’t want kids to cry.

Sing it with me: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town….”

Yea, I don’t like Santa Claus for this reason. Why does he not want kids to cry? What’s wrong with crying? This song implies that crying is wrong or that if you cry you’ve been “naughty” and you better watch it because Santa Claus is coming and you won’t get any gifts if you’ve been “naughty,” AKA crying. No thanks Santa Claus, your services won’t be needed in our house. Our son cries and we don’t take issue with that, rather we try to embrace his big emotions. Over here we think crying is healthy and the way young children express their needs and tough feelings. Stopping, controlling, and punishing children for crying leads to adults who suppress their feelings and who can’t trust their own emotional state. Trust me on this one. This song and the idea of Santa Claus watching over kids to see if they’ve been “naughty” (refer to the rest of the song) perpetuates another tragic idea in our culture that crying is something that needs to be controlled and that a “good” baby/child doesn’t cry. It’s not true and it’s a shame that so many people believe this. It also goes back to my first point about our lack of being in touch with our own bodies. We mistake the discomfort in our bodies when our child cries to mean that there is something wrong when they cry. Our reaction to their cries isn’t because it’s “bad,” it’s because we can’t handle the big sensations we’re experiencing and getting upset at them rather than being vulnerable is the only way we know how to dissipate those feelings. So let me say it one more time: There is nothing wrong when kids cry and everything wrong with how we treat them when they are crying. Again, it’s our unconscious idea that because they’re little they deserve less respect. The next time you’re having a reaction about your child crying (no matter the reason) ask yourself if you would say or do this to your best friend, sister, or spouse if they were crying.

3.) I want to model living in the present moment (no pun intended).

I see way too many people living for weekends and holidays. People are chomping at the bit to put up their Christmas tree at Halloween. I’m not saying that these things aren’t fun and special, but it’s when they’re the only special thing you have to the point that you’re only looking forward to that one thing, then it becomes borderline worrisome. I often hear people comment that Santa is magical and they want their kids to have that magical feeling of Christmas. I even had one person tell me, “Our world is shitty and the least I can do for them is give them this one magical time of the year.” It’s sad really, because the most magical moments for me is when I am so seeped in and consumed by the present moment. In nature, looking in my sons eyes, climbing a rock, in deep conversation with a friend, traveling and meeting new people, looking up at the sky, these are magical moments that are accessible everyday of the year. Not only on weekends and holidays. I want to grant my child the ability to find joy and magic wherever he finds himself and not limit it to one time of year with one jolly man. Which is where I still see many adults, waiting for that next holiday.

4.) We are pretty minimalistic.

Many people would describe me as simple or a minimalist. While I don’t live in a tiny home, I also don’t have much stuff, I don’t go to shopping malls, and I don’t really fall into the stereotypical idea of someone in consumer culture. Santa Claus is that person. Santa Claus represents chain store America and consumerism. He is all about things things and more things. He is highly profitable for companies like Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and Coco-Cola. I don’t shop at these places or buy these products and while sure, I can make my own gifts or shop locally, it’s the story of Santa Claus that keeps big greedy America, well…big and greedy. The Santa Claus tale emphasizes more gifts, presents, things, and piles of stuff and less about connection and experiences together, which I value. I am not saying that people who *do* Santa don’t have connection and good experiences, but just that Santa is another distraction from all that in an already highly distracted world. Maybe some people are skilled enough to have the attention for both, but for me, as someone who has a hard enough time being present and pushing my edges around connecting with people, the Santa Claus story is the last thing I need to worry about upholding during the holiday season.

So there you have it. Why do you or don’t you tell your kids that Santa Claus is real? Tell me below, and happy holidays 🙂

Redefining Beauty.

 

“There are no cures- nature returns to normal when enervating habits are given up.”

wp-1450738989223.jpg

We tend to look at our health and beauty as something that is going to be given to us in the form of a magic pill or product in a bottle. Oh, if only we have the best shampoo, the latest skin technology cream, the right make-up, the best weight loss system, the right medication for X issue then we can have our health and/or be beautiful. We approach our health and beauty completely backwards. The way I see it is that we were given beautiful hair, soft, flawless skin, sweet body odor, and a healthy, thriving body by nature–so long as we live in accordance to its laws. The problem is that we typically don’t, so what all these “beauty” and “health” products are actually doing is masking flaws and ailments that are created because of an imbalance in the body and our insistence to dominate nature rather than live in accordance to her laws (because we are nature). Health cannot be treated topically or from the outside in. For example, If you have cystic acne no amount of face wash is going to cure it, because the cause is coming from inside of you. Remove the cause, and your acne will be cured. I can remember trying hundreds of dollars worth of cleansers, toners, and moisturizers during a time in my life when I had acne on my forehead and often around my jaw line. In the last 4-5 years the only thing that touches my face is water, and my skin has NEVER looked so good. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember the last time I had even one pimple. Natural Hygiene is a philosophy that basically states that when the human body is left alone, and only consumes that which it requires, without excess and toxins (some examples of excess would be like deodorants, hair products, vaccines, alcohol, animal dairy, pharmaceutical drugs, synthetic drugs, processed foods, shampoo, creams, etc) then the organism functions optimally, as it was intended to, and imbalances and disease does not, or rarely occurs. When we stop putting toxicity and non optimal foods in our bodies, and when we stop suffocating our largest organ (our skin) with synthetic chemicals we don’t come across issues like greasy hair, smelly odor, skin issues (all across the board), fowl breath, pain, sickness, chronic disease, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, digestion issues, ear wax, congestion, thyroid problems, asthma, I could literally go on and on and on and on. Think of it this way: Put chemicals and non optimal foods/substances in and on our bodies= get health out?? This makes no sense. You can’t put in unhealthy, non optimal substances and expect to get a healthy, properly functioning human body out of it. Or does this make more sense?: Put health and that which is made for humans in, stay out of the body’s way, so it can work as it was intended to= get a healthy, properly functioning body. That makes the most sense to me. Simply put, non health and toxic chemicals does not give you health and beauty. Nature gave you health and beauty. Your body was made healthy. Leave it alone. (Note* Unfortunately, as children, we don’t have a say as to what our caregivers are feeding us, putting on us, and injecting us with. But when we know better, we can start to do better for ourselves, and then for our own children. That is how the cycle changes).

I also want to mention that when I am talking about health and specifically beauty, I am not talking about any societal definition of it. Not only does it physically come from the inside, but it does emotionally, too. Meaning, if you feel like you feel good and you think that you look good, then you do.

“We expect to see the sun rise and set, a seed to sprout and grow, water to run downhill, chemical reactions to take place, all in accord with exact law. We do not expect to gather grapes from rose bushes nor figs from thistles. Is there less reason to expect that man should obey the laws of his being? Shall we not expect him to have health in precise ratio to his obedience?”

I have often heard the saying that is some version of, “Beauty is Pain(ful).” I want to put an end to this mindset. If anything that you do for the idea of beauty or health causes you physical pain or something you just plain don’t enjoy then please do yourself a favor and stop. If high heels hurt your feet, don’t wear them. If waxing burns your skin, don’t do it, if applying a bunch of make-up day after day feels like a chore then rethink your strategy.

Just to be clear I am not suggesting that everyone go all natural and stop shaving, and wearing make-up and deodorant. Hey, I love a little mascara! That’s just what ended up happening to me when I got out of my body’s way, but I did it because it felt good. Not because of an idea or persona I was trying to fit into. While I love the natural way, I also love art and for some people, wearing make-up and the like is fun and a way they express their artistic side. What I am suggesting is that Feel > Formula. If we can get out of our own way enough to actually feel what feels good and not run off of the ideas around beauty and health that are sold to us through our culture, media, and advertising then we can have a version of health and beauty that feels good to us because we say it does, not because someone else promised it would.

When I significantly changed my diet and lifestyle to see what actually worked and felt good for my body I found that I looked better and felt better without many of the common products you might think of when you imagine a woman’s bathroom and/or kitchen. Here is a list of things I no longer use and as a result feel healthier and happier without it on (in) my body or consuming chunks of my time:

-Shampoo
-Conditioner
-Deodorant
-Q tips
-soap
-body lotion
-face cleanser
-face toner
-face moisturizer
-blow dryers
-hair straighteners
-make-up (with the exception of a single tube of mascara that sits at the bottom of my bag)
-razors
-shaving cream
-sunscreen
-meat
-dairy
-eggs
-tanning memberships
-perfume
-toxic household cleaners
-pain killers/over the counter meds (Advil, Tylenol, Midol)
-tampons
-vitamins/supplements
-trash bags
-ointments/creams
-Doctors visits/exams
-prescription drugs

Another advantage to all of this is the money I imagine I save now from not buying this stuff anymore. As a teenager and into my early 20’s my morning routine went something like this: Get in the shower, shampoo, condition, lather up with a special soap for the body and then a special soap for my vagina, shaving cream on my legs and shave, get out, brush my teeth, lather my body with lotion, put on cream base, then powder, blush, eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, blow dry the hair, straighten the hair, and throw on some lip gloss. Whew. Personally, I loathed this everyday. But I thought I needed it. My personal care and health stash looks more like this now:

  • Coconut oil (for cuts, nics, burns, rash, dryness, etc.)
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils
  • An occasional bottle of Dr. Bronner’s (sometimes for the body, sometimes for the hands, sometimes for the laundry).
  • Natural, fluoride free toothpaste and a toothbrush
  • Tea Tree dental floss
  • Cloth menstrual pads (there is also the Cup, I just have a personal preference for pads).
  • Plant based foods

“Health makes a lot of sense, but it doesn’t make a lot of dollars.”

Don’t be sold healthy and beauty. Embody it from the inside out. Try it out and see what happens when you change your mindset around health and beauty. How will you change when you uncomplicate it and toss your formulas and concoctions out the window? Tell me your thoughts below!