Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What natural parenting looks like in our family

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


When our girls were babies attachment parenting not only came naturally to us, but it also came with a handy set of guidelines: breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc etc. Then the girls potty trained. And got too big to be worn in a sling. And weaned-- and, well, you get the idea. Suddenly none of the attachment parenting ideals applied to us.

So that left me thinking, what now?

As far as I could tell, there wasn't a clear set of "rules" any more. Not that we needed it-- we never needed it, but it made it somewhat easier to reasonably define what direction our parenting was heading.

Our girls are four and six now. Eloise is a preschooler and Iris is a first grader.

Here is a glimpse in to what attached, natural parenting looks like for our family:

Positive Discipline/Gentle Parenting: while I am still nowhere near where I want to be with this, it's the ideal I aspire to. I took a positive discipline class several months ago that had some really important and eye-opening ideas for me to apply to our family. I swear, most days the only thing I remember is not to totally freak out when I'm stressed over my girls' behavior, but hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?

Flexible Sleeping Arrangements: my children are always welcome in to my bed, for any reason. They have had their own beds, in their own rooms, and about 99% of the time, they start out their nights there. Also, about 99% of the time, one or both children are no longer in their beds by morning. I like not having kids in my bed all of the time anymore, but I also like their visits and snuggle time.

Parenting to Sleep: It's sort of the more grown version of nursing or rocking to sleep. We always lay with the girls until they are settled in or sleeping for the night. I used to hate this routine, and begged for ideas on how to change it-- until I was told this: when parenting to sleep, the last thing your children have at the end of the day, as they drift off to sleep, is loving contact with YOU. What a better way to say goodnight?

Choosing the Right Schooling: From the time our girls first entered school, Iris was one year old and we did a two hour a week (I think two hours) preschool co-op. The next year we did a two days per week co-op, one I worked at, one I didn't. The following year Iris was in a tiny, loving, amazing, wonderful (I could go on and on, I'm still sad that we are no longer there!) playschool two days per week, four hours per day with other fully attached parents, teacher and director. It wasn't a full-on co-op, but we did work in the classroom once or so a month and have monthly parenting meetings. Iris was there for two blissful years, her last day was the day she turned five. Eloise, at two years old, went to that same school one day per week for three hours.

We were tortured over what to do for Iris's kindergarten. Long story short, we ended up moving clear across town. That sent all of our plans right out the window, and we then decided to send both of our children to a small, private school in our new neighborhood. This is their second year there. Though we would love to keep them there, we simply can't afford it for one more year, so next year we plan on homeschooling. I am extremely excited about homeschooling and having the girls home more often.

The school choices we've made haven't been easy for us, not by a long shot. They have required tremendous time and/or financial investment, but they were absolutely the best choices for our children.

Being a Stay-at-home Mom: In all honesty, this is the biggest one for us. The greatest conscious choice we have made is to have me stay at home full-time with the girls. Besides the time they are in school, the girls are rarely out of our care. I bring them to school every day, pick them up every day and am home with them, sick or well, every single day.

Having one stay-at-home parent isn't without it's challenges. We could certainly use the extra income, I won't lie. I could make a laundry list of what we've gone without in order to afford to have me stay at home, but I don't need to get in to that here. But every single sacrifice we've made is the absolute right decision for us. Being home with the girls is more important than having a nicer car (or a second car!) a nicer (or even finished) house, nicer clothes, fancier food (or going out to eat), vacations, no debt . . . . oh wait, I wasn't going to get in to it. While we stress over what we lack, all it takes is one second of looking at what we would give up in order to bring in more income. Not worth it.

I'm interested in seeing how our family evolves as the girls get older and more independent.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):




    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)

    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.

    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.



    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)



    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)


Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)

  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.

  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)

  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)

  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism


  1. With only a 3 yo and 6 mo I have sometimes wondered what AP is going to look like as they get older. I appreciated your post because it gave me a peek into what it could look like for us and let's me know we're on track. Thanks!

  2. Your thoughts on parenting to sleep made me tear up - I am still nursing my little one to sleep, but wondered what it would look like in the future...I think I have a better idea now. It is interesting to hear about your family's struggle with finding the right schooling for your kiddos. I worry about this already, but find some solace in the fact that I'm not alone in that struggle. Finally, I had to laugh a bit at your "going into it" about the things that could be different if you were not a SAHM (nicer car, for example) - we are looking at soon cramming two kids, one great dane and two adults into our Honda Civic...so yeah, I can relate! :)

  3. Reading what parents do with older children is always so reassuring to me. It's good to read examples of how to continue this gentle parenting journey as they get bigger. Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse of how you still do NP!

  4. I like your perspective on parenting to sleep. It's something for me to keep in mind when I get frustrated at bedtime. Thank you.

  5. It does feel harder to me to do the AP thing with the older kids. I guess the whole point is that there isn't a "guidebook" or step by step because we, as the parents, are the experts on our kids. But sometimes I still look for other experts. Thanks for sharing the ways you have found for your family!

  6. It's great to see a list of what natural parenting looks like when the kids get older. I feel like I am coming to the end of our bed sharing and breastfeeding too but these are great concrete examples of values I also have and can point to when it appears nothing much is left of attachment parenting principles.

  7. @Acacia--Thank YOU! I am glad it helped to see what a piece of the future might hold for your family.

    @Andrea--Thank you for your sweet comments on parenting to sleep. The end of BFing to sleep certainly doesn't have to be the end of parenting to sleep. I hope your Honda Civic holds up! We have a station wagon, thank goodness for the trunk space!

    @Dionna--Thank you, too! I am glad that there is some reassurance in looking at our family's situation :)

    @navelgazingbajan--Thank you for your kind words. I know when this was first brought to my attention it was like a light went off. The idea that parenting to sleep can be a really important end to our day, and not a struggle to just shove the kids off to bed and shut the door behind us was quite powerful!

    @jane--I agree that it can be more difficult when there isn't a clear guide. We're definitely all doing some trial and error to see what's going to work.

    @Melodie--I know that the end of bed sharing and breastfeeding can be really difficult times when it feels like you are losing out on that part of attachment. Believe me, you will find different, just as meaningful, ways to continue that attachment with your children. It just takes a bit of figuring out what that looks like for your family!

  8. Thanks for this! I also struggle with what "AP" looks like as my girls get older -- its definitely harder, for me, to find ways to stay as close and connected with my oldest now that breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing are past us and she is in school more and more. I don't want to lose that connection (and want to make it closer, even now).

    P.S. I really miss our Positive Discipline class! Waaaah!

  9. It is so interesting to think of how to continue attachment parenting with older kids. I know the AP site has done a good job of expanding the "Baby Bs" to be more inclusive of older ages, but it's still not as concrete as with a baby. (Probably, of course, because the whole theory started with babies in mind.) I think the things you've listed are such good examples, though, of APing slightly older kids. I know I always like looking ahead, so I've also enjoyed the perspectives of people with pre-teens and teens or even grown children — to get some idea of how connection continues even as it changes. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    That paragraph about parenting to sleep meant a lot to me, too. I sometimes get frustrated or feel like I should be (you know, like, "Wait a second, other parents don't have to do this at this age!") — but you're so right that it's a beautiful gift to give our children. Thanks for that, too!

  10. @Kristin-- I miss the class too. Well, not the teacher, couldn't stand her one bit, but I really miss the group! I miss the weekly reminders. I think with the older kids, it's more of a conscious effor to not just let them drift away from us until we are struggling to remember the connection we once held.

    @Lauren-- I know for some parents who are connected all day long, bedtime isn't necessarily looked at as one last chance to to connect. BUT, I know for my girls, having them gone in school so much more, and them being away from their dad all day, it really is a chance to be with them. I am not at all saying it's all lovey dovey and roses every night, in fact, it can be a frustrating struggle to get them to quiet down a lot of times, but it's another ritual, for us, that fosters that connection. I wonder if, at some point, they're going to start kicking us out. Wanting to go to sleep on their own *sniff*

  11. Thanks for this. My twins are almost four and I've been wondering how to apply natural parenting now, which is why I chose to write about "Unconditional Parenting" for my Carnival post. I guess we just do it naturally, and our choices have been very similar to yours, except the school issue. Ours are at JK full time which I'm not 100% happy with but we really don't have another choice right now. I've been blogging about unschooling lately because it's the choice I would love to make for the girls.


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