Saturday, December 09, 2006

Stretching ourselves

Saturday Cuppa: Orange and Fennel Tea

Paul asked me the other day how my first attitudes to parenting came into being ~ were they latent or learnt.

My answer was both.

I think for many people the seeds of how they will parent are planted from their own childhood, for better or worse. And then we get thrown in at the deep end and very quickly learn to sink or swim, or hang for dear life onto some sort of life-raft and float like flotsam on the sea of life never really making conscious decisions and choices.

My mobile hairdresser was here last night. She also sells Aloe Vera products. A few times she has suggested I might be interested in them because Aloe Vera is so wonderful. I agreed that it is, but expressed my concern about whatever else might be in the container and that I couldn’t commit to anything until I’d read the ingredients list. Sure enough, they’re full of words you can’t pronounce and the predictable nasties like SLS.

I love her to bits, but I don’t think she’s ever heard of SLS. I explained gently and then with compassion said I’d shut up, but if she wanted to learn more I’d happily get her some information. She looked horrified at the thought that she might be selling products in good faith, thinking they were helping people but might actually be setting off reactions of various sorts.

And so it is with parenting. More often that not, we simply take a lot of things for granted and don’t question the norm. As I pointed out to my hairdresser, ignorance is truly bliss. Once you start becoming aware of things you question even more. It can drive you to distraction; lead to sleepless nights and sometimes end friendships or marriages when your choices become extreme from the mainstream.

As a child raised by a stay-at-home mum I knew I wanted to give my children a stay-at-home parent too. It made sense for it to be me as I was breastfeeding. Now the girls are weaned there is no real reason for Paul to be the one who goes out to work, and in actual fact, given he’s worked his entire adult life to raise two families it seems fair he gets to do the ‘fun’ job of staying at home. However, selfish as it sounds (and I KNOW it is selfish), I’m unlikely to work outside of the home unless it was something I felt would really make a difference and change the lives of a handful of people… Paul, being a saint, is aware that (and I know this in theory!) every job makes a difference and touches the lives of people. Whatever we do is our Ministry.

When I became pregnant with Bethany, certain things were already clear in my head. Nutritious, plant-based diet; NO vaccinations, waterbirth, home education. At birth I knew that the cord would be cut after it had stopped pulsating. Now, almost 11 years later, I’d have a lotus birth (where the cord is not cut but left to fall off a few days later).

Eleven years after becoming a parent, there’d be no nappies. We’d do elimination communication. It makes just as much sense as a lotus birth.

We all grow and stretch whether we like it or not. Sometimes we can see the stretch marks (not those ones!!) and feel pride and oftentimes we’ll wonder how we made the leap. I could well have placed my babies in jail (cots) in another room (Shock! Horror!) had I not read an article in a glossy women’s magazine a decade earlier where a famous Australian actress said her baby slept with her. A seed was planted which would germinate many years later when I read The Continuum Concept. “Of course! How obvious! Where else would a baby sleep?”

As Barry from the Art of Change says, (paraphrasing here) the greatest changes start with the smallest steps. And he’s right. It’s too easy, for example, if you’re new to holistic parenting to pick up a copy of The Mother for the first time and feel overwhelmed. Quite clearly it is a publication about holistic parenting without compromise. But that’s the magazine! It’s not about each individual parent. How could it possibly be a blueprint for each person? We’re on our own journey and we all have such different lessons to learn, experiences to meet, challenges to overcome. For my part I’m blessed with a husband who walks side by side with me in our parenting choices. How different it could have been had we battled about all the issues fundamental to our life view. I’m very aware that for many families it is a constant battle.

I’m about half way through my parenting (in terms of the girls living under our roof!) and know that although for the most part the hardest part is over, I know too that these next few years are going to throw me into situations which will challenge me and my beliefs beyond belief. Some of that is starting to happen with Bethany. Daily I am reminded that she is her own person on her own journey; I’m merely a guardian for this first part of her life. I’m also realising that I may not always know what is best and that in itself is hugely stretching!!

The stretching which is occurring for me now is very much along the lines of ‘letting go’…which frankly, is in stark contrast to the early, intense years of attachment parenting where you hold your baby close and intuit their every need.

Intuiting the needs of older children requires a completely different response. I feel like parenting is starting all over again.

Out of all the experiences, however, comes the certain knowledge that if we can continue to nurture and nourish our home and family (in whatever form they might take) the ripple effects into society will live on long after we have.


Thank you for the lovely emails about Vanessa’s Real Lives in which I appeared this week talking about breastfeeding full-term. As someone described rather accurately, it was like I was in a lion’s den. Er, yeah!

I’ve done a lot of stretching this year in terms of putting myself into the public sector to educate others about the necessity of letting children self wean (as far as a mother is able). I go into those situations knowing that most people not only don’t understand, they don’t want to understand. They’d prefer to sit on their judgements and not stretch their mind at all.

How tragic when the best a so-called journalist like Vanessa can do is to make out I breastfed purely so I could wear the title of Britain’s best breastfeeding mother. What rubbish!

There was nothing heroic about what I did nourishing my girls as nature intended. Heroic breastfeeding is when a mother manages to breastfeed a child who finds breastfeeding difficult, such as Down’s Syndrome or Cleft Palate, or an adopted child or breastfeeding triplets. Or breastfeeding after a breast reduction. And when a woman struggles to establish a milk supply after a medicalised birth. That’s heroic! That has my jaw dropping in absolute admiration.

My breast milk flowed, my babies drank. What’s so admirable about that? A miraculous design of nature, yes, but admirable on my part, no.

About the only intelligent question Vanessa asked was why people have so much difficulty with the idea of someone breastfeeding for so long. Unfortunately when I said it was because we don’t see it in our culture she STUPIDLY said she disagreed, and that everyone has seen it because they watch Little Britain (for those ignorant people like myself it is a comedy in which a grown man breastfeeds and calls it ‘bitty’).

I’m sure it is all very funny and people do feel repulsed however as a journalist she failed the professional miserably (and the culture in general) by using that line of reasoning. Note to self: NOT reasoning, pure self-gratification.

Personally, I don’t know how people like Vanessa Feltz and Trisha Goddard can sleep at night. I’ve no problem with people earning big money from their tv jobs (gotta be some compensation for lack of privacy) however the old karmic thread of

‘what ye shall sow, shall ye reap’ applies to every last mortal walking this planet.

The karmic build up of those women is far greater than their bank balance. Tragic, really. Still, that clearly is where they’ll have to do some stretching.

Just a few weeks till 2007. This year hasn’t been bad or unkind by any means, ~ more a kind of a spiritual balm after 2005 ~ however, I’ve felt like a bit of flotsam!!! I chose at the beginning of the year to Let go and let God…not always an easy thing for a girl who likes to control her life. Still, with the planet Jupiter (planet of expansion) transiting my 12th house (the unseen/spirituality) it was probably a wise decision to not force anything. I have come away with a deeper sense of gratitude for everything, even the issues which had truly challenged me over the past couple of years.

I know January 1st 2007 is ‘just a date’, however I always feel there is something significant about a new year beginning. It might, of course, be because I’ve an end of year birthday and it feels like the start of something new when January rolls around. Regardless, I’m looking forward, as Jupiter moves into my 1st house (planet of self/ how we show ourselves to the world) in early January, to a wonderfully dynamic year full of fun and adventure! Hee heeee

Ciao, have a fabbo week. Love, ~ Veronika ~


mcewen said...

Two of mine have birthdays in December [children that is to say] and I don't know how they feel about 'the New Year,' but I also feel that it's a chance to start afresh, like a second chance. Fortunately, we get that feeling of a 'second chance' every year.
Best wishes to you and yours

Dora Lynn said...

New Year's is my favorite holiday. Our family celebrates it as our major holiday---we exchange gifts on New Year's morning and have a lovely family party. Then we go skating or tobogganing with my fab sister and her family. It is such a spiritual time of reflecting on the past year and anticipating the wonders awaiting us in the new.
Veronika, I love awakening on Saturday mornings, knowing that there is an interesting "read" awaiting me. Thank you!

M. Marks said...

Veronika, the more I read from you the more I feel a kindred connection! We all definitely need to stretch and grow, especially for our kids sake. Realise our true potential. I'm so looking forward to the newsapaper article in January! Peace & blessings.