Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 115: Parched

When I step back and take a look at my life, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by all I have that I've done nothing to deserve. In my real-life Prince Charming and two boys who could not be any more beautiful inside or out I find daily evidence of God's infinite grace and mercy, proof that on my own I could never be worthy of the blessings that flow freely from His hands.

And when those realizations come, they carry with them a reminder of how spiritually dry my life is right now.

Once upon a time we were part of a church community - one that was authentic, inspiring, and challenging. But the busier life got, the more commitment faded. Eventually Jackson became too talkative for the service and unable to be separated from me in the toddler room, and the final nail was in the coffin. It has now been about a year and a half since we've been back. And if feels like it.

Not that a weekly church service is a spiritual prerequisite, but without it, I've found it far too easy to let my other relationships and responsibilities crowd out my most important relationship - the one that, if at the center, elevates all the rest with it.

I feel more ready and open for connection with God than I've ever been thanks to all the other growth I've been undertaking. I think this is because spirituality permeates all aspects of life, and because the expansion of my worldview has stretched me in ways that allow me to see God in places I never knew He was before.

I'm sure some read posts on energy, unconditionality, the mind-body connection or intuition and think "New Age" (ahhhh, run for the hills, Christians!). But I see God's incredible physical and spiritual human design in these things. He made us energetically interactive beings, our intuition is a guiding gift from Him, it was He who interconnected our physical and emotional states, and the unconditionality of life only exists because of His sacrifice that allows us to experience freedom. What a shame to miss out on these dimensions of life that He intended for us to experience, utilize, and enjoy! If you gave someone a Swiss Army knife for Christmas, wouldn't you want them to use more than just the tiny, nearly-useless scissors?

So now that my eyes have been opened to the can opener, the screwdriver, the blades, and even the nail file, I find myself wandering alone in a spiritual desert. Those who share my foundational spiritual beliefs reject much of my philosophy and theology (which, by the way, are essential to my foundational spiritual beliefs!). And vice versa, those who share my philosophical beliefs often differ significantly in the spiritual realm. And in particular, a similar view of respectful, loving discipline is hard to find among Christian parents. (A post on that later!)
But I'm committed to finding my way back to center, back to the love that is the root and reason for it all. And to do that, I'll need to live in community with like-minded people. I'm a part of this amazing holistic parenting community that has been so instrumental in my mothering journey, and I need to dive back into a church community to foster the same growth in my spiritual life.

My hope is that the community we left behind is one that will embrace us again, new ideas and all. But whether we find our home in the familiar or new, I'm feeling ready and drawn to search. And this is reassurance that now is the right time. Not last year, not last month, but now. Acceptance and forward motion: two more blessings I couldn't live without!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 112: Isn't it Ironic

I'm not being authentic enough.

I've recently gotten a few very kind and much appreciated comments about my superior mothering skills (from someone other than my own mother believe it or not) so it must be time to air out some dirty laundry! I want to make sure I'm finding a balance between processing my parenting philosophy and my parenting reality - two very different things some days.

In a sadly comical turn of events, mere hours after I received one of these compliments I found myself yelling about potato soup train tracks and a spoon locomotive mess on the counter, complete with banging finger and disapproving eyebrows. Fortunately Jackson met my anger with quiet compassion: "Mommy, you should throw a ball instead of banging on the counter. Or you could hit something soft to get your angry feelings out. Those are things you could do because it's not okay to bang on hard things when you're angry."

Teaching him to advocate for himself, manage his own feelings, and even help me manage mine is my proudest accomplishment as his mother thus far. Not only for what it gives him, but for what it gives me. Along with a greater understanding of the grace that covers my shortcomings, this has released me from the anxiety I had been carrying.

My greatest parenting fear has always been the potential damage my mismanaged anger could cause. And when God found it fit to give me an intensely sensitive little boy, I practically started questioning His existence. Why would an all-knowing, loving God subject such a sweet soul to me?! Didn't He know I wasn't equipped for this?

Turns out He did know. He knew that the only thing that would draw me toward the kind of radical change I needed was the love I have for my precious son. He knew that the only thing that would get me to take an honest look at myself was seeing my reflection - sometimes in imitation, sometimes in effect - in the child I cherish.

Some days I still feel ill equipped, like I just don't and maybe never will have what it takes to be the kind of mother I want to be for Jackson and Max. Although fortunately not all catastrophic, the failures come daily.

But on the days I feel capable, when we all get to experience the intersection of philosophy and reality, I see the beauty of God's messy plan for our family.

He didn't give Jackson to me because I was the perfect mom, but so that He could perfect me through him. Every day I'm being refined by the love I have for Jackson and the God who blessed me with him, by the joy that comes with our peaceful and harmonious interactions, and by the grace that covers the chaotic discord that finds its way in more often than I'd like to admit.

So when you see me in a moment of loving patience or read about me celebrating a good day, know that those came out of the growing pains we've experienced along our way. And when you inevitably see or read the opposite, trust that grace, forgiveness and growth are not far behind.

Then extend the same kindness to your own parenting journey that you apply to mine, because you deserve it as much as I or anyone else.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 105: Model if you Do, Model if you Don't

I've been posting recently about a few of the causes I'm passionate about and why, and am now processing the reason these things are such a major part of my parenting journey.

Of course becoming a parent was my initiation into this world of birth, breastfeeding and all things baby/child, and the role of mother changed me in many ways. And what mom doesn't want the world to be a better place for her children? But ultimately, when the moment comes for me to decide if I'll remain politely silent or challenge the status quo, what I consider is always the message my children will receive.

Because my choice is not about whether or not I send a message, it's about which message I send. Whether I'm quiet or outspoken, active or inactive, toeing the line or stirring the pot, I'm sending a clear message about my beliefs, my values, and my worldview, and in turn shaping theirs.

I never want my boys to see me sit idly by in the face of injustice, untruth or abuse. I never want them to see me compromise myself for the sake of social grace or choose popularity over advocacy. I never want them to see me fear negative judgment more than I fear the wrong I can help right.

I want them to see me consistently and respectfully standing firm in what I know to be true, and standing up for those who can't do so for themselves. I want them to see that strength comes with the responsibility to support and advocate for those less fortunate, less capable. I want them to grow up knowing that they can change the world simply by being who they are and living out their values - that every opportunity they have to advocate is an opportunity to better themselves and everyone around them.

Babies are voiceless; they can't tell us how badly they want and need to breastfeed, how desperate they are to keep their bodies intact, how intensely they want to be loved and responded to whether it's day or night, whether they're smiling or crying, whether they're just born or months old.

Children are unable to advocate for themselves; they can't tell us how small they feel when they're shamed, how scared and confused they are when they're hit, how worthless they feel when they're punished, or how badly they still need our love and responsive attention, even if they're X years old.

So I'll gladly field negative judgment and sideways looks, and I'll wear the labels "fanatic" and "extremist" as badges of honor, not letters of shame. I'll allow people to place responsibility on me for their feelings of inadequacy, regret, guilt or anger and keep moving forward with a clear conscience.

Because it's only when I speak the truth in love that I'm able to sleep at night and face myself in the mirror every morning. And I'm confident that this is the message I want my children to internalize.

We cannot withhold facts for fear of offending
because the importance of the information
outweighs people's right to not be challenged in their beliefs. ~Maddy Reid

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~Elie Wiesel

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 102: Activism Is...

I'm sitting at my dining room table surrounded by enfamil swag, literally sick to my stomach. I've got a "hospital gift," a "first visit nutrition gift," a "2-month visit gift" and even a "third trimester gift," because it's never too early to undermine breastfeeding.

And if you're silly enough to try to breastfeed anyway, their "breastfeeding support kit" complete with vitamin D (you know your milk isn't good enough for your baby, right?), pump accessories (babies need to eat from bottles - you wouldn't want him getting nipple confusion and refusing the bottle, now would you?) and plenty of formula (you haven't heard that mothers aren't able to produce enough milk to feed their babies?) is sure to change your mind!

A quote from my lovely end-of-pregnancy present that includes a cloth clutch "purse" filled with, you guessed it, pre-mixed formula: "Why not pack this clutch with your hospital essentials now - so you can just grab it and go when the time comes...And don't forget to slip the enclosed hospital gift certificate inside - so you'll be sure to receive your Enfamil hospital gift, including Enfamil PREMIUM Newborn formula."

I could go on to quote every piece of tripe they included in each of these "gifts," because every word undermines a woman's confidence in her body's ability to feed her baby and gives "advice" that is meant to, and successfully does, sabotage a breastfeeding relationship before it even has a chance. I start to shake every time I think about it.

Where did I get this nice little package? At a local Baby Expo. The first thing you saw when you walked in was the Abbott Nutrition (Ha!) booth lined with beautiful green and brown totes chock full of freebies, with an attendant whose perfectly lined lips and drawn-on eyebrows said, "You're not going to have time to look like me if you breastfeed!"

I was there to represent Holistic Moms Network, so I did my best to bite my tongue and man my own booth. But with each pregnant woman and tiny baby that walked by with one of these totes, I got more upset, until my heart was racing and my hands were shaking.

I had to take a break from the expo to head home and nurse Max before finishing out the day, and half way there I started to cry. This may seem like a dramatic response to a little free formula, but those bags embodied so much more for me.

It was a representation of all the babies around the world and plenty right here under our noses who are literally dying because their mothers are being intentionally lied to and sabotaged. It was a tangible reminder of the mother crying over her child lying in a hospital bed struggling to breathe, the one facing cancer in her little one whose life has barely begun, and the mom who has to leave her babies all too soon because of her own battle with breast cancer.

In those bags I saw the corporate greed that values profit over human life, and I was disgusted, angry, and devastated all at once.

I was overwhelmed because deep down I wanted to grab each and every one of these parents and beg them to read and think before they made a decision about how to feed their babies - to not simply accept formula, and thus illness, as normal, but to demand better for their children. Because I can guarantee every one of them wants what's best for their child, they just don't know where to find the truth in all the lies.

This was obviously not an energy I wanted to bring into my home and to my children, so I quickly started to calm myself by speaking these words: I cannot save the world. I love and support the people who cross my path, I stand up for what I know is right, but it's not my job to save the world. I do what I can and I let go of the rest.

When I returned to the expo, I had come to this conclusion: I may not be able to save the world, but I can and should speak truth when the opportunity presents itself. So I walked over to the booth and struck up a conversation with the woman, which, while it may not have been productive (although you never know who's listening in) at least gave me the opportunity to practice kind and respectful activism, something I was not so good at in the recent past and which I'm continually working toward. It also gave me a little more insight into their business practices and how their reps are trained to answer questions.

What's the nutritional role of corn syrup solids in infant formula? ("It's a carbohydrate.") Do you think these are the best ingredients your company can find for feeding babies - is corn syrup really an acceptable carbohydrate source? ("You'd have to call our 800 number to talk with one of the nurses or medical experts on the scientific stuff.") Why is there formula in your breastfeeding support kit? ("Because if mom's milk supply is low, she has something to grab out of the cupboard because baby's going to need to eat.") How do you feel about the product you're representing and promoting - about feeding corn syrup and vegetable oil to babies? Not professionally, but personally, ethically? (*silence* "I'm proud of the company I work for.")

And it left me with this thought: Activism is not what most people think it is.

It's not about winning or proving a point. It's not about getting heard or getting attention. It's not about being superior or right. It's not about hoping someone else feels inferior or wrong. And it's not about forcing anyone to live or feel a certain way or to make a particular choice.

So here's the completed title: Activism is empathy in action.

It's genuinely wanting the very best for everyone around you. It's heartfelt compassion and love for the anonymous people whose homes you pass on your way to the store, the drivers who wait at red lights with you, and the kids in the shopping cart next to yours. It's seeing and feeling their pain, past, present, or future, and doing all you can to heal it, end it, or prevent it.

This is activism and this is why I post incessantly on facebook, talk to anyone who's open, support anyone who's wavering, and speak truth in the face of lies.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 100: Perspective

My second parenting experience has been very different than my first for many reasons, and up near the top of the list is perspective. I have the advantage of seeing bits and pieces of the future here in the present.

When Jackson went through particularly bad teething spells, I literally thought he and I might never sleep again. When his choices became particularly aggravating, I was convinced the stage was going to last forever - he was going to throw peas from his plate until he left for college, I just knew it! When I had had enough, I couldn't take one more day, one more episode, even one more moment of whatever was getting under my skin because there was no visible end to the madness.

But coming out on the other side with everyone relatively unscathed allows me to feel differently with Maxwell. I've seen the end, and I know, no matter how far off it is, it's coming.

Now as Max works through another set of teeth and I'm barely conscious as I type, I can shrug my shoulders and say, "Eh, they'll be through soon and all we'll catch up on rest until the next set." When he refuses to sit up, despite the fact that he's crawling, pulling up and even walking the couch, I just brush off the bumps to the head, knowing that he'll eventually concede and fall to his butt instead of his noggin.

And I also benefit from the change that has come to my perspective of childhood behavior and parenting through education and experience.

When the aforementioned peas were thrown from Jackson's chair with a smirk and a look directly into my eyes, I knew he was doing it to get a rise out of me. But when Max tests boundaries, I'm able to see it for what it is: an experiment or an unmet need being expressed.

I suffered through Jackson's sleepless nights in a chair or walking a dark nursery because once we had initiated bed time, we couldn't leaving the room. Consistency, you know; one night of deviation and he'd think every night was a party! Now, when Max struggles at bedtime, he just joins us on the couch for a family snuggle.

Perspective has allowed me to relax, leave rigidity behind, and go with the flow of our family. What a relief! Although it's still a work in progress, I'm able to forgo a lot of stress and take more joy in our relationships now.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 98: Always, Forever, Never, Ever

This post is a long time coming. You could say I've been sitting on this issue forever and I never thought I'd ever get to it because I'm always putting things off.

I was first struck by how often I was using these words when Jackson started repeating them in moments of frustration: "I can never ever do this!" Then Authentic Parenting posted this gem for me, and finally, to really drive the point home, The Daily Groove posted this.

I wish I could just call it a habit or say it's something that just slips out, but the truth is that it's a power move. And I know it's a power move. A really desperate one that makes me feel dirty every time.

The inclusion of one of these words can quickly turn a statement into a threat. And if we're going to keep being honest, I use them because they work. Jackson feels the power they carry and he's much more compliant when I whip one out. Of course this undermines the mutually respectful relationship I'm trying to engage in with him, so these short-term results come at a great cost in the end.

To be fair to myself (although not to let myself off the hook), I also use these words because, in my black and white world, everything truly does seem written in stone. But this kind of finality is troubling for Jackson. I can see the stress he feels when he sees the world through my eyes in this way, like all possibility has vanished and freedom is gone. Come to think of it, this has a lot to do with why I feel so much stress!

I know better, so I now I have to do better.

I hereby banish these words from my vocabulary forever! Aw, crap. There I go again. Maybe I can find a more achievable and sustainable goal, like using them as a trigger. I'll consider it a reminder to show up when they come out. Because I only use them when I'm not engaged, not focused on honoring him and giving him the respect he deserves. And I'll do my best to let them move me toward gray, toward the world of possibility, which includes being open to the idea that everything isn't as big a deal as it feels to me in that moment.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 96: Food For Thought

I'm a firm believer in the health-promoting and healing power of food. When we became a totally pharm-free family a few years ago, we first turned to herbs and homeopathy as alternative medicines, which then led me to discover the medicinal properties of foods - many we already had lying around our kitchen.

Nutrition became a passion of mine and a really important tool in approaching our family's health. And as I continue to explore, I'm thrown deeper and deeper into this belief that food is the gateway to maintaining good health and the guard which expels intruders when the gates are compromised.

That said, I'm also a foodie. My passion for nutrition is only trumped by my passion for eating. Thus wining and dining is the way to my heart - which, I suppose, explains my marriage to Mr. Sommelier extraordinaire.

And while the wining came later, the dining has been always been an important piece of life. Maybe because I grew up in a half-Italian family (Mangia, mangia!) or because my mother is such a spectacular cook and took the time to make our meals from scratch every single day.

Maybe it's the enchanting way that food attaches to memory. There are few experiences that simultaneously stimulate all the senses the way good food can, and because of this many of my memories, childhood and beyond, are tied to a meal.

To this day, I can close my eyes and smell the scent of a roast in the oven on Sunday afternoon; it would hit my nose the moment we walked in the door after church, and I'd start salivating in anticipation. I can hear the sizzle of a pan on the stove and see my mom's smile as I ran in from playing at the neighbor's house, where the menu was frozen pizza or mac n' cheese. And I can still taste her homemade chicken soup and feel the crunch of the toast she'd make when I had the flu.

It could also be that mysterious ability food has to connect people. Food touches the soul, opens and relaxes, excites and energizes us. And because of this, communing over a meal, however commonplace it is, is significant. It's no wonder dates usually happen over dinner!

I frequently find myself reminiscing about the many-hour, multi-course meals Nick and I indulged in during the short pre-child phase of our relationship. I remember the way foie gras melted in my mouth as we sipped Sauternes and bore our souls to one another and the flavor explosion of decadent chocolate cake that we tamed with Irish coffees as we planned our future. Feelings come rushing in because they're inexplicably tied to the sensory experience of the food, and I fall in love with him all over again. It's nothing less than magical.

But for each of these beautiful food memories there is an equally significant, yet much less enticing one. For instance, stopping at the doughnut shop to pick out a dozen circles of death on our way home from church and parking under the golden arches for a road-trip Crappy Meal. Then there were the summer "freezies" dripping on my bare toes, dairy queen birthday cakes, pancakes soaked with "syrup," and murky milk from hyper-colored cereal.

It's this death-defying list that defines American childhood food memories, even my own. And since my children won't experience them, I want to make sure I'm consciously providing others. My hope is that the marriage of my competing food passions - nutrition and indulgence - will redefine food memories for my kids in a way that is consistent with our nutritional values.

I want them to love and enjoy food as much as I do, for what it does and how it tastes. I want their experiences to be different, but equal.

I hope they'll attach memories to juicy mangoes popping out of the peel and dripping down their chins instead of chemically-dyed corn syrup leaving their tongues painted blue. Rather than ammonia-treated "beef" and fried, pesticide-coated potatoes in the car, I want them to remember traveling to a farm to meet the cows and farmers who provide their tasty, home-grilled burgers and to the farmer's market where they pick out their own potatoes.

I don't believe food memories have to come at the expense of health. The meals my children eat will be different than most, but I know the experiences will be just as powerful and special to them. When they're old enough to venture out into the world of food on their own, they'll have the opportunity to attach warm fuzzies to whatever evil-knievel combinations they decide to try. But for now, we'll focus on connecting over foods that nourish us, body and soul.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 95: Room to Breathe

Yesterday was the first truly beautiful Spring day we were able to get out and enjoy, and boy did we take advantage! The morning was spent at the "Sugar Shack" where we learned all about maple trees, sap, and syrup. We even got to roam the woods with buckets, collecting the dripping sap. The combination of sun, fresh, open air, leaves crunching under our feet and mud squishing up around our boots was magical after a long winter, especially for my earthy boy.

But the real treat came after the field trip was over. We sat in the grass and dirt - sans blanket or wet wipes (*gasp* I'm working on appreciating the value of unclean and messy!) - and ate a picnic lunch with good friends. When the kids (all 2-3 years old) had finished eating, they ran to the row of massive rock piles right next to us, where they spent nearly an hour climbing, jumping, and sliding around with each other while we mothers enjoyed nearly uninterrupted conversation.

The conversation itself was energizing and encouraging as it always is among this supportive group, and it stirred ideas that will be coming out in future posts. But I was affected on a deeper level simply by watching these wonderful women with their children.

I cringed as Jackson rolled around in the dirt and dust. I worried when he wandered out of sight on the other side of the mound. I held my breath as he stood at the top, working to keep his balance. I watched intently as he interacted with his peers to make sure I'd see if he needed my help.

Then I looked around and saw the freedom these other women felt and started tuning in to it.

One child was climbing the rocks barefooted, another without pants, and all were taking their turn on the other side of the mountain where they could be heard but not seen. There was no one yelling, "Careful!", no one standing up to check in. These women were trusting their children, giving them some much-needed freedom and space to play and explore. And they seemed to be doing it without a second thought.

I, on the other hand, was running an inner monologue to convince myself to honor these same needs that I know Jackson has: The car seat can be cleaned, his clothes can be washed, he can take a bath - let him get dirty. He is capable of asking for help if he needs it, he is capable of making safe choices without me hovering - let him play in earshot out of sight. He's thoughtful and cautious - let him decide when to be careful and what careful means. He's an excellent communicator, capable of navigating peer relationships without interference, and able to ask for help when he needs it - let him interact without guidance and decide how to handle conflict if it arises.

After a while, my nervous energy was overtaken by the calm coming from these other women, and the monologue was put to rest. Then both he and I were able to really bask in the gift of freedom we were being given in these moments.

Jackson is sensitive, but not weak. And he's growing stronger by the day. I'm doing my best to recognize and respect his emerging confidence and abilities and his diminishing need for guidance and assistance. But in all honesty, I'm probably doing a below-average job.

I hover. And when I do, I communicate distrust. When he senses that I don't think he's capable, that I think he'll need help, it eats away at the confidence he's trying to develop and stunts his growth. My only reward is a bump or bruise avoided, maybe an insignificant conflict diffused; very small prizes when they come at the expense of his autonomy.

The times I'm able to let go and give him room to breathe, I see him flourish. I watch him attempt big things, believing he can accomplish them, and he surprises me with capabilities I didn't know he had, because I never gave him an opportunity to showcase them. And the payoff I get when he beams with pride or learns to pick himself up and try again is enormous.

Being a part of this community is a humbling and inspiring experience, and one for which I will be eternally grateful. I'm continually challenged and validated in ways that wouldn't be possible on my own. So thank you, to those of you who blessed us with your presence yesterday and gave us the gift of freedom!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 93: Circling the Drain

I'm painfully aware of most of the things in my life that could stand a little improvement. If only knowing were enough. But then I wouldn't be here writing, and you wouldn't be here reading because we'd never struggle with ourselves or our kids.

So here I am reminding myself yet again that I set the tone of our home. Let's repeat it once more for the sake of emphasis: I set the tone.

The way I approach our communication, our relationship and our schedule determines the manner in which my children respond. Not in specific words or deeds, but in energy.

Some days I throw pleases and thank yous at Jackson in a disrespectful way, and other days I forgo "manners" and speak kindly even if the so-called polite words aren't used. I may choose to sacrifice an errand so that he can play, but do so with resentment or I can prioritize the to-do list with respect and cooperation.

The bottom line is this: Our day spirals down the drain when his needs - usually for respect, attention, love, or acceptance - go unmet and he's forced to take more drastic measures to make them known.

Labeling his behavior as "naughty" (if I hear one more parent call their kid this word when we're out I think I'm going to start publicly ranting) would nicely lift the burden of responsibility off my shoulders and rest it on his, but leave us continually spiraling downward.

When I see him as an adversary, as something standing in my way when I want to accomplish a task or get somewhere on time, it inevitably blows up in my face; he becomes more adversarial as he feeds off my energy and seeks my attention where he knows he'll find it that day. When I treat him like an inconvenience, he becomes more purposefully inconvenient to show me how much he needs me.

And thankfully it goes both ways. When I treat him as an active participant in our day, he rises to the occasion and finds ways for us to cooperatively get all our needs met. When I honor the equal importance of his tasks, he bends with me so that we can both feel satisfied with the outcome. 

So I'll choose to accept responsibility for our "bad" days - tough to swallow for a person who's nature is to place blame! And I'll do my best to refocus my energy in a positive way - no small task when my default is no, can't, and won't!

I don't know if I'll always struggle to live according to my conscious beliefs rather than these defaults, if I'll spend my life re-learning the same lessons - what I know about brain development and windows of opportunity tell me I will, but what I know of the transformative power of spirituality and love tell me otherwise. What I can say for sure is that there's no endpoint on a journey of personal growth. So whether I spend a year, a decade or a lifetime on these issues, what matters most is that I show up.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 91: Amendments

After a great conversation with my husband and a little "time off" to think, I've decided to reevaluate the role of the blog in my parenting journey and redefine what that should look like moving forward.

This is a space to keep me focused, a place where I can flesh out ideas, find ways to put them into practice, and further explore the who, what, when, where, why and how of myself, my roles as mother and wife, and my children so that I can be as centered, connected, and present as possible - because these things translate into the love, optimism, acceptance, and authenticity that I'm striving for.

While that started with a daily blog, I've convinced my black and white mind that it doesn't have to remain that way. I want the blog to be as fluid as my life and my relationships, and in keeping with that, I'm modifying the "rules." Rather than feeling obligated to post daily, I will post "as needed"...which will be almost daily.

So I'm anticipating that not a whole lot will change, but this leaves room for the days when family needs require more of my attention or for times when what will nourish me and spur the growth I'm craving isn't writing. This is an exercise in flexibility and remaining open - open to change, to inconsistency, and to the possibility that there is more than one way to reach a goal.

I've also been getting almost daily emails, messages and phone calls from moms, and I'm so passionate about providing all the support and information I can to anyone who approaches me - be it about parenting, alternative medicine, birth, breastfeeding or anything else - that I must keep myself open so that I have time to meet those needs as they arise. And if you're one of those moms (or considering being one), keep the questions coming. There's no way I'd rather spend my time!

Plus, I figure if those of you reading can't keep up daily, I should probably cut myself some slack for not finding the time to write every day ;-) I think the consistency with which I posted in the first few months was essential to getting myself on track, and I think posting frequently will continue the work I started, while leaving me more time for my husband and kids to put into practice all the things I've been mulling over here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 88: Positive and Productive Protests

I never wanted to change the world until I had kids. I don't know exactly what it is about becoming a parent that stirs up these desires, but it seems to be pretty common. Maybe it's that having a child is the only thing that can truly pull a person outside of themselves and their own interests so completely. Whatever the case, I suddenly cared deeply about things like nutrition, birth, breastfeeding, circumcision, feminism, human rights, medical ethics, freedom of choice, and all manners of equality. Things that weren't even a blip on the radar now consume my life.

If I could clone myself, I'd be at every capitol march and every public hearing, I'd be writing articles, letters, and emails and making phone calls daily. But of course I'm only one person, so I settle for doing all the things I can with the time and resources I have. And while posting a profile picture and passing on articles in support of World Breastfeeding Week or Genital Integrity Awareness Week is a small part of that, there's something else I see as much more valuable, much more productive: Community.

A few days ago, I happened to drive by our local Planned Parenthood to see a (very) small group of individuals pacing with "Respect Life" signs. I got unexpectedly angry. And if I hadn't had to get home, it would've been enough to motivate me to pull over and strike up a conversation.

How they think that providing a negative presence and directing that energy at people who are already in a negative place is supposed to produce a positive result is beyond me.

If they want to end abortion they should start by getting involved in the community instead of wasting their time circling on the sidewalk. If they truly cared about babies, they'd be actively supporting those babies' mothers, not silently carrying cardboard messages of disapproval. If they want to protect life, they should be actively loving women in our community so perfectly that those women embrace their innate value and strength to the point of feeling capable of motherhood.

I care about babies and life, I'd love to see the end of abortion, but self-righteous picketing and targeting legal rights don't make my list of ways to bring that to fruition. And that goes for all the other causes I'm passionate about. If we want to change the world, we have to start by promoting a positive change, not attacking what we see as negative.

So here are my positive and productive protests, and I hope you'll take a minute to think about yours (and share them!):

I protest the cultural and industry breastfeeding sabotage by offering support to every single mother who comes across my path and, through friends of friends, many I'll never meet, by actively participating in my local breastfeeding community and encouraging other women to do so, and by openly and confidently breastfeeding my children where ever I am, in whatever I'm wearing, no matter who's present, and no matter what age my child is.

I protest the unethical withholding of circumcision information by the medical community by being open about our choice to keep our sons intact and honest about its damaging and right-revoking nature when I'm met with an open and wondering ear, and by supporting mothers whose strength wavers in the face of cultural or family expectations.

I protest the dismal quality of our food system by making good nutritional choices for my family and not compromising that based on cultural expectations, by helping other mothers find their way to the best nutrition for their families, by supporting local food sources, and by spreading awareness about infringements upon our rights within the system.

I protest the stripping of a woman's birthing power by the routine labor and delivery system by openly sharing my birth experiences, by supporting every pregnant woman I have the privilege of meeting, and by cheering every woman on to empowerment, to seeing herself and her body as perfectly-designed, capable, and strong.

I protest the stripping of personal freedoms by standing up for the rights of those I don't agree with. By championing all causes that promote personal choice, regardless of how I feel about those choices.

I protest the mistreatment of children by supporting and validating mothers, by offering information to those who feel their options are limited, who want to find a peaceful way to coexist with their children but don't know how, by treating my own children with the respect and dignity they deserve, by offering a new way of looking at children and the parent-child relationship, and by encouraging mothers to follow their instincts.

I'm proud to say that my children will grow up in a community and witness my passionate involvement in that community; and they will be better for it. Caring for others will be second nature to them, and seeing through the issues to the people will come naturally. A genuine desire to promote positive change in their world will just be a part of who they are, and championing a cause will be so much more meaningful to them than waving a sign. Now if we could just get the rest of the world on board!