Thursday, November 3, 2011

Conscious Parenting

“You’re so calm,” she accused.

“Sometimes,” I answered.

“But you have three teenagers,” she studied my face.

“Yes,” I smiled, “they’re really fun to be around. I like them.”

“How did you do that?” she exclaimed.

“It’s a long story.” I said.

When we decided to have children, I made a statement that seemed innocent enough at the time but it was a pivotal moment in my life: “I want to raise them.” I hadn’t realized, we were stepping onto the path of conscious parenting. The philosophy demands a good deal of soul searching and choosing to expand the parent’s (my & my partner's) consciousness for the benefit of the children.

Contrary to the standard, we made parenting decisions based on desired outcome. Our goal was to form a family with intelligent, healthy, compassionate children. All decisions included the consideration ‘what’s best for the individual as they are a member of this family.’ Once you think about it, it really is a simple way of going about life, especially if you’re a parent.

Babies cry. They cry for a reason. It’s the parent’s job to find the reason and fix it. The check list is short: Is baby hungry? Is baby messy? Is baby hurt? Is baby lonely? Is baby tired? Contrary to expert advice, ignoring a crying baby is not okay. Besides, a crying baby is irritating, I prefer the cooing, cuddly kind. I discovered that when a child’s needs are met, they rarely cry.

I was known as an over-packer, even for short trips. A fully stocked diaper-bag, snacks, Sippy cups, a small cooler, extra change of clothes, blankets, toys, books and a first-aid kit. Why? Because when you have kids, things happen. My kids were happy campers because mom was mostly prepared.

The toddler years: I love the toddler years. It’s a really fun time because the entire world is WOW! Everything is new for the young ones. The parent’s job is simple. Toddlers want to explore. Parents need to ensure a safe environment. We decided to forgo the coffee table because rolling, crawling, walking, summersaults, building, and dancing, are just too important to be impaired by living room furniture.

One day, another toddler mom commented on my lack of trips to the emergency room. I never liked going to the emergency room. The anxiety and related indigestion that comes with hospital visits never really appealed to me. So I avoided the whole issue with a liberal use of “NO.” I observed that most “accidents” happened when parents were inattentive. So I watched them and stop them from doing things that would inevitably cause injury. Kids don't need to get injured to learn a lesson.

Elementary years: Many people were watching how this conscious parenting thing was going to go once the kids were in school. We reviewed our own school experiences; we reviewed current data about schools today. The evidence was overwhelming, arbitrary institutional rules prevented children from a variety of behaviours we felt stronly about encouraging in our children. The list included: No being allowed to attend to bodily functions in a timely manner, not being allowed to eat when hungry, segregation encouraged ageism, and there were limits placed on compassionate interactions. All these issues were counterproductive to our goal. There is no useful purpose to being publicly humiliated or slammed into a row of lockers. Large or small, every former school student has unnecessary scars. So we opted otherwise.

Teen years: Clearly, I wasn’t thinking when they were babies because when they were 1, 3 & 5, it didn’t occur to me that someday it would be 16,18 & 20. Of course, I could go on & on about all the things I love about them, the fun things they do; the interesting things they learn and share with me and each other. They make me laugh every day. That’s our experience with teen years.

But the question: “How did you do that?” is best answered by saying that raising kids, like living my life is one small decision after another.

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