Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm not lazy, I'm radical

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?



  1. We were radical too...

    I carried my kids everywhere in a sling. I always used to get the "Wow you're a GREAT dad for doing that..." See I always thought I was a normal dad for doing that. I mean I take my kids everywhere without Mrs Ryan... "Wow you've really got your hands full!" Do you think they'd say that to Mrs Ryan if she was out with the kids?

  2. I'm just starting out as a parent and my parents weren't radical but they were different than their parents. Every time I bring up my parenting styles to them they got all offended becasue I'm not copying them, but then again it's depends on who i am, right?
    I think, I'll probably end up being a radical parent. I've been debating for a long time (and will probably continue to debate) whether I should homeschool my little one(s). I would love to, because frankly I don't think schools now-a-days are the best things for education anymore. The only problem I see with homeschooling is that it's considered weird (not that I see a problem with it) and what if my kids are anitsocial???
    thankfully, I don't have to deal with this problem for a while, becasue if I do decide to homeschool it won't be until I'm done having babies and they're ALL in elementary school.

  3. Spot, I think the very notion of being a parent is radical. Some are better at it than others, some spend too much time worrying about being 'good' at it. I think you hit the nail on the head, you do just what feels right.

  4. We're talking about the method to reach the desired goal. You are firmly fixed on what you want to achieve for your kids, and you dared to take the path that felt right.

    How can you go wrong with this?

  5. Well, isn't that always the way, though? With parenting, you never know if you've done a good job till they're grown...and sometimes not until after we've died.

    That's why I sometimes think I hear an "I told you so!!" from heaven.

    Great post, girlie!!

  6. Yay for radicals! I guess I'm one too. I remember someone being surprised I held my baby and fed her instead of propping up a bottle with a blanket and pillow. LOL!

    I do think I parent differently and it's working (knock on wood). I see Jason's kids being micromanaged by a controlling list maker and they go nuts over the smallest things they get freedom with plus at 3 and 5 they have NO independence.

    Syd was dressing herself by 3. These kids can't even put on their own shoes. Yikes!

    I am SO glad to be a radical. Let's make a bumper sticker!

  7. Hmmm ... lessee here ... I still lie down with my children to put them to bed at night ... they are 5 & 7. Shorty ends up in our bed 9 outta 10 nights ... uhhh let's make that 96 outta 100 nights, Stretch still wakes in the middle of the night and insists her father come in with her because she is scared, I carried my kids all over hell's half acre - to keep them happy - and give myself a modicum of sanity ... I let them potty train themselves (because they are both as strong willed as mules and I had no choice), they get more say in the meals we have than they should (though they now understand what components are required to eat in a healthy way).

    And you know what??? I get nothing but criticized ... regularly. I'm spoiling - sorry, have spoiled them.

    I am sitting in the middle of the beginning and I get negativity from all sides where my parenting is concerned ... but I didn't get a copy of "Parenting for Dummies" when Stretch was torn from my loins ... kicking and screaming.

    I play by heart ... that's all I can do. You were very successful ... we'll see if I am so inclined (I have my doubts at the moment)

  8. I think it's much more beneficial to follow your feeling than a book written by a phd who never raised a kid...and all kids are different. I never realized that I was as radical as I am! Maybe you could write a book on radical parenting! And one for awesome parenting, too cuz it seems you fit that as well! Yay for the awesome radicals!

  9. Free range parenting... I LOVE IT! I guess I was raised free range too!
    I pretty much have let my kids make a lot of their own decisions in stuff and as for the "family bed"... let's just say my 26 yr old married daughter was visiting this weekend and every morning ended up in "her spot" in the middle of our bed. She never was one to sleep alone growing up. She and her younger sister had separate rooms for a long time but they'd always end up in the same room so we finally just gave them the family room downstairs to share as a bedroom. Worked for them. I guess I'm radical too and just didn't know how cool I was!

  10. It appears that the very term "parenting" should be equated with "radical". Really, I'm not sure there's a "norm" anymore. But that's awesome. Because the only way to really parent is by gut instinct. It's the people who don't have those instincts, or don't want to that scare me...


    PS~ I think you're all cool!

  11. I love 'free range' parenting too! I think you and your family would make great TV Spot!

  12. I felt like I was reading about my daughter, she also does the homeschooling/unschooling and has done the EC on the lastest addition. She loves the EC and constanly asks herself why she didn't do it with the others kids. My grandson was potty trained before he could walk!