Ten Fundamentals

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I have a friend who asks me hard questions. It’s part of what ties our friendship together across the years and the miles: we go on long drives and she asks me hard questions. What is fundamental? How do you know what is true? What do you know? It’s great to have a friend like that, because it keeps me honest.

Being childfree herself, she is fiercely committed to my children, who are part of her hope for the future. So, partly in the vein of Extreme Philosophy, partly to feed the Meta Monster, and partly for CL, here is my list of ten things I want my children to believe about the world that are the foundation of why I parent live this way.

Ten Things I Want My Children to Believe

  1. That the world is basically safe
    I know that this is not true for all places and all times. But where we live, you can drink the tap water, you can play in the yard, you can go for a walk. There are germs, but they are not lurking under every passing bush or on every surface of every public space. There are coyotes and foxes in the forest, and there is a river at the end of the driveway. There are cars to be avoided. But these are not reasons to stay inside, and they are not things to fear. They are risks to be mitigated.
  2. That people can be trusted
    “People” starts with their parents. This means that I need to become a trustworthy person, and keep working on my own stuff. It also means that I surround them with trustworthy and healthy people who will reinforce their strengths. This has partly meant seeking out the natural parenting community here, but it has also meant maintaining strong friendships with chosen family, those people who care for my children as if they were blood. Once again, I’m not naive. I know that not all people are worthy of trust, and I am teaching my children about boundaries and autonomy. I’m just avoiding that “dog eat dog” worldview that holds us back from cooperating enough to accomplish necessary change.
  3. That they are capable
    Human beings learn stuff. That’s what they do. Kids will become fully functional adults, with talents, and skills, and knowledge, and the ability to get through the world, as long as we don’t get in their way. My job is to make sure that they have access to the opportunities and resources that they need. Sometimes that involves classes, sometimes it involves reminders to practice things that they care about, and sometimes it involves giving them enough help that they can dig themselves out of a hole. But I can’t rescue them; they need to learn to rescue themselves, because I won’t always be there. And I can’t push them to reach their greatest potential, because I’m outside them, and I don’t actually know what that is. But they do, somewhere deep inside, and I want them to learn to trust that.
  4. The world is sacred and life is precious
    Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by this one, because it seems to be at odds with everything our culture holds to be true. I can’t make sense of most of the choices our systems lead to, but if we don’t reintegrate this, we will never make changes.
  5. That other people are as important as they are
    When I was calling this list out to my husband, our son came past and said, “You mean each person, right. Not all 7 billion other people are as important as me. Because that would be pretty silly, dividing my worth among 7 billion other people.” So I’ll let him have the word on this one.
  6. That they are as important as other people
    It would be very easy to let the needs of 7 billion other people overwhelm you. But you aren’t really dealing with 7 billion other people. You are always dealing with one other person. And so I try to help them deal with the world one human interaction at a time.
  7. Feminism is still necessary
    OK. My daughter wants to be a Mom when she grows up. And my youngest son trashes things just by picking them up too forcefully. And maybe I abandoned my career just when it was starting to look promising. Twice. I’m still not going to entertain any worldview that assumes that I am lesser because I happened to be born with a uterus. Nor am I willing to accept that mothering is less important work just because it is ubiquitous.
  8. It’s OK to ask for what you want
    Not only that, it is encouraged. Articulate. Be clear. Please, please, don’t ask me to guess why you are standing in front of me twisting your hands and murmuring “um…” Tell me what it is that you are after, because everything flows better when the communication is clear. Also, if you don’t ask for what you want, you are not as likely to get it.
  9. Nobody owes you a yes
    Oh, this was hard. Early on, we were working on not screaming, calming down, and asking politely. Then one night, my (then) 18-month old child, who was precociously verbal, said, “I calmed down. I calmed down.” And I almost cried, because I had to say to him, “Oh, sweetie. You worked so hard at calming down. But I still can’t give you what you asked for. Sometimes the answer is just No.” I felt awful. I don’t remember what it was, and I don’t remember the reason (I think we were in the car and he wanted something that was at home) but I remember the feeling that I had betrayed him. It wasn’t because the answer was no. It was because I hadn’t thought about that possibility. In retrospect, I can say that I was being unfair to myself, since he was about a year ahead of schedule and I hadn’t prepared myself for that possibility, either.
  10. Life is better when it is generously peppered with laughter
    Reading this list, it would be easy to imagine that our house was earnest beyond all belief. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We find ourselves laughing until the tears stream down our faces, gasping for breath. We get great pleasure from the world around us, the music we make with friends, and the food we grow and share. But it is the laughter that carries us through when I don’t believe.

Most of the things on this list are things that I only “think.” I haven’t integrated them into my core, and I still have to check my responses. I still have fears of things that I know rationally are not all that dangerous. I still want the people I love to conform to my expectations so that I don’t have to deal with disappointment. I still hiss at my children when I am frustrated, and scream when I get angry, and cry over the state of the world. But what I do believe is that the world will only get better if the next generation expects it to. So I am doing what I can to contribute to that.

And this is why.

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21 Responses

  1. There is so much in your list that I share, and yes, it’s hard to live it all the time. I think I’ll try to make a 10 Fundamentals list too.

  2. #5 & 6 are my favorites. It seems like all self-esteem problems can be tied to either thinking you are more important than anyone else (and thus being inconsiderate and a jerk) or thinking everyone else is more important than you (and thus being down on yourself and not speaking up for your needs).

  3. Beautiful and oh so true list of hopes that I share.

  4. What a fascinating list! Thank you for being honest about the dissonance that can come between being the parent you want to be and the human mother you still are. I hope to teach my son these life lessons, too.

  5. I love that list, and I appreciate the honesty that these are goals of yours, not necessarily where you’re at every moment. Because I’m the same way. I like the attitude of trust underlying this: trust in places, trust in other people, trust in your children. And your explanation (or your son’s explanation) that we give worth to one person at a time is so much more manageable than loving 7 billion at once.

    • It’s hard to love 7 billion people at once. It’s even harder to keep your head/heart around the fact that they don’t exist 7 billion at once; only one by one.

      Thanks for highlighting the “Trust” part in my original list; you gave me an insight into my own thinking there.

  6. feminism is still necessary, amen to that. I read on twitter today (on feminism) that ‘we should really get feminism across to developing countries, because we are preaching to the choir here’… paraphrasing… I’m really not convinced of where we’ve come with feminism, I believe that each step we’ve gained has been overwritten and misused by kyriarchy for it’s own purposes… and that’s actually made it way worse for women in the western world

    • I will have to ponder this one. I find myself sliding from liberal to Marxist to poststructural feminism, but it all keeps coming back to kyriarchy. Looks like post fodder to me.

  7. There is so much wisdom in this post. And beauty. And trust. It’s all about trust. Lauren hit the nail on the head. From the few anecdotes you have given just in this post about your kids (because I am a new reader and haven’t read anything else yet!), they sound utterly fantastic and like brilliant little human beings already.

  8. I love your list! Wanting to give your children a foundation of feeling safe and capable is awesome!

  9. Your list articulates the reason why raising kids feels like changing the world to me. The only way we can change society is one person at a time, by passing on worthwhile and admirable human qualities to each other. These fundamentals are the big picture in parenting, and it’s wonderful to have a reminder when all the little details threaten to avalanche. Thanks!

    • I really think that raising children differently is the most radical thing that we can do. We start by telling a different story, and (hopefully) leave our children less susceptible to the dominant stories of our age.

  10. Amen! Thank you for putting this so succintly and beautifully, this I need to print out and keep before me :)

    Lori
    http://www.beneaththerowantree.com
    come and join the playdate!

  11. Oh Seonaid – #9 just about broke my heart, and I wasn’t there! Kieran does that sometimes too, and it is hard. Thank you for such a thoughtful list!

  12. Wow. This is just SO GOOD. SO GOOD.
    Just when I think that I know what I think, everything that I THINK is blown out of the water and I am completely humbled by a mother who is so AWARE and INSIGHTFUL!

    Just incredible.

    • Well, thank you. That’s just about the most glowing comment I’ve ever received. You nearly made me cry. But so did your last post.

      I think I’m a radical, maybe?

  13. My teacher (directly or indirectly, who knows) has gotten me looking at what I want my life to be about. I have no idea. Or, I have too many ideas. Though I think what I’m looking for probably isn’t even an idea. But THESE. These are indeed truths to live for.

    I especially like #5 and #6. What with all of the upheaval in the world the past several weeks (or, since the beginning of time, really), #5 has been especially painful recently. And #6, my teachers frequently remind us that we ourselves are one of the numberless sentient beings we are vowing to save….

    Thank you.

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