So it turns out I'm a radical parent. Who knew? I thought I was just weird. But then I saw an advertisement for this show "Radical Parenting" on one of my favorite channels, Discovery Health. And yes, the fact that it's one of my favorite channels probably qualifies me as weird. The fact that Sean is addicted to it as well, and we've managed to suck Lu in a few times, probably doubles the qualification. Well I managed to DVR it and Sean and I watched it on Friday afternoon.
The program showed three different families with "radical" parenting styles. The first family were unschoolers. Unschoolers are homeschoolers who don't follow any kind of set curriculum. The let the kids learn through experience and set the tone for what they want to learn. I'd done some research on unschooling when we first decided to homeschool. I even knew a family in the area who "unschooled" their children. They came into the bookstore where I worked frequently and all three of their children were bright and inquisitive. A little lacking maybe in the social skills department, but um, the parents were a bit off kilter there as well. What we ended up doing was a mix of homeschooling and unschooling approaches. I didn't buy any set curriculum's, although there are a plethora of them to choose from. It just always seemed to me to defeat the purpose of why we were homeschooling to follow a set curriculum. I would still be trying to make my kids fit their thinking into a box. So I made up my own curriculum and we adjusted our schedule to fit the mood of the day. I won't call that unschooling because while the kids had a definite say, I still made the bulk of decisions and we still used some workbooks and had assignments. When we homeschooled for high school though, it was a large step closer to unschooling. Mostly because they'd already proved they were a step ahead of the norm and they were (are) inquisitive and motivated learners. If I had lazy students it would have been a different story. But it worked for us. I never thought of it as radical.
The people on the show let their kids make decisions about everything. When they went to bed, what and when they ate, what they wear. And I guess in some ways, we've run our house like that too. My kids have pretty much always dictated their bed times. Sean is an early to bed, early riser. And Lu has always been a night owl who thinks getting up before noon is "early". I stepped in and enforced an earlier bedtime only when they had to get up the next day. I think everyone's body rhythms are different so not everyone can keep the same schedule. Luckily, homeschooling allowed me to be accommodating. I have often let them pick their own meals, though not the time. We all eat together. That's just our family time. Sean and I now joke about who's turn it is to make breakfast and if I don't make it he'll say I'm "lazy". So when we watched the show and saw the kids getting their own breakfast I told him "Look! I'm not lazy. I'm radical. Which is way cooler. You're so lucky to have me."
Another family was "attachment parenting". This meant that they carried their baby in a sling or backpack everywhere. And let the kids sleep with them. Again, I didn't even know I was being radical. I never used a sling or a backpack, but I sure as heck lugged them babies everywhere. Especially Lu. That kid used to scream bloody murder when you set her down. I just carried her so she'd shut the heck up. I didn't know I was "attachment" parenting. But it may explain why, even now, when she's sick, she thinks I should be with her 24/7. Is there such a thing as too attached? And yes, our kids slept with us forever. It started because CJ hates to sleep alone. And of course, if one is there, you can't tell the others no. So no matter where they started out, their own beds, a pallet on the floor of our room, by 2 am we'd been invaded. And they slept mostly on top of me. I remember one night, when we had no air conditioning and all three toddlers were sprawled on top of me, looking over at hubby sleeping peacefully without even a chubby baby leg on him and thought "wow. I'm just going to melt into a puddle of sweat and no one will ever know what became of me. how is this fair??". Again, no idea I was radical. I just wanted to sleep through the night.
These parents also practiced "elimination communication". Say that three times fast! I dare you! Which essentially means no diapers. (eeewwww...) They pay attention to their babies cues that they need to potty. I'm drawing the line here. Especially if I'm lugging that kid around. I can only take being peed on so many times in one day, you know? But more power to you if you can do it.
The third parenting style was "gender neutral" parenting. This is where the parents let their kids play with anything. They let their boys wear mommies heels and have dollhouses. Is this radical, really? Sean and CJ both wore my heels from time to time. They both wore Lu's dress ups too. Sean and Lu played barbies together. Although, Sean's guy was always a GI Joe badass. Lu ran around with the neighborhood boys and played baseball and war. She went hunting with her dad and brothers. I never restricted the kids toys to gender appropriateness. Was I really being radical? Damn, I'm quite the rebel!
I can't wait to see what other radical parenting techniques I used! I'm pretty sure letting my kids run wild through the timber, play in creeks, climb trees and come back by dark is going to qualify me for "free-range" parenting. And the fact that I let my teenagers make a lot of their own decisions (and thus their own mistakes) is going to get me the "unparenting" badge. And maybe I can slide in on the "unconditional" parenting award since my kids didn't get bribes or routine punishments. And they know that I love them even when they screw up.
It's funny, because I thought I was just doing what felt right. And now I find out I was using all these radical techniques. Wow. I'm a pioneer in the field of parenting. Thank goodness my kids seem to be turning out well!! Can you imagine the criticism these movements would be getting if I'd raised a serial killer?? Or a teen mom? Everyone would be gunning for me..."gee thanks Spot. Way to ruin a whole movement." I guess the proof will be in their adulthood though. Check with me in ten years. Make sure the kids have made good lives for themselves. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed...
Are you a radical parent too?