Reflecting on 18 years of Crunchy Parenting – Now What?

18 years of crunchy parenting

 

I have made mistakes as a parent. I will continue to make them my whole life I think. One thing I will do though is never give up. As a Crunchy parent, or rather a “Little Crunchy” parent I know this definition means different things to different parents. I know too that this kind of parenting lifestyle has changed for me personally over the years. I am a strong believer that not only do we teach our children many things but they teach us too. My children have taught me a great deal, specially my oldest, Hope, who just turned 18 last month.

Many people wonder what kind of human being is produced from 18 years of Crunchy Parenting and I can’t speak to any other kids but my own, and of course they speak best for themselves, but that is not the path of this blog post, though I bet if I ask nicely my oldest will write about her experiences and observations.

In the early years I had no idea what Crunchy Parenting was. If you want an idea of what things fall under Crunchy Parenting check out the post “What is Crunchy Parenting” and remember that most people are a little crunchy and we don’t near follow half those things as a family. Some we did before, some we don’t know, and some we never even tried. Your mileage may vary and truly the term is used to help find support, not judgement. However Crunchy or not you are, is just fine! Supposing though you are a little crunchy like us, perhaps this reflecting post will give you some things to ponder, and maybe some confidence as well.

So what of our oldest daughter? Was she ever spanked? Yes, shamefully so 3 times in her life around age 3 (almost 4). To be fair, I didn’t know back then there was another way. Like most people I was leaned towards parenting the way I was parented, but parts of that didn’t feel right. I felt there had to be a different way, but I found myself robotically subconsciously parenting in some ways just as I was parented. (only my parents used wooden spoons and belts, just as they where parented!) I knew something wasn’t right. While my husband was in Iraq and I was solo parenting our oldest daughter while being pregnant with my second surrogate baby, I found myself at wits end. The last straw was a hot summers day in the deep south with the air as thick as soup and miserable. We had gone shopping and I was dreading trying to lug my toddler and all the groceries up the stairs to our on post military apartment. I had made clear the plan to little Hope, who had been rather wild in the store. I had hoped she was ready for a nap, I sure was. When I opened the side door though to the van, she darted out past me.

“Don’t you Dare cross that road!” I yelled to her.

Of course she did.

There was not a soul around watching. Thankfully not a moving car.

I left the groceries in the hot van under the unforgiving sun and lumbered after my little ball of wild child. She darted here and there all over the old playground, heeding not a word I said. I was aggravated and near tears. Finally, she stopped. Alas, it was at the top of a very tall metal slide. You see the ladder to the slide was in the shade and not so hot, but when she got to the top, she remembered that part of the slide was directly in the sun and would burn her legs. I waited. There was no way I was going up that ladder, not a change in hades I would fit. Of course I also did not want her to go down the slide either and get hurt. So I waited. I leaned on the ladder and turned away from her, trying to breath, trying to not scream, or cry out of shear exhaustion. Trying to think of what to do to keep my little one from getting hurt. Before I could come up with a plan, she slide half way down the slide…. and then leaped off the side trying to avoid the hot spot. She landed hard though and it was the time I needed to grab her little arm so she couldn’t dart away. She thought this was a great fun game. She was though an angry munchkin when I caught her as it meant park time was over. I managed to get her and I up the stairs and into her room, where I promptly bent her over my knee and spanked her three times. She cried. Then I cried. We cried.

As ice cream melted in my van and milk went bad, I sat in my daughters room on the floor with her and wept. How her delight over the park, a place we went everyday, turned into this? I felt out of control. Nothing about the situation was ok. I just wanted to keep her safe, keep her from getting hurt, and yet I was the one hurting her. I promised I wouldn’t ever do it again.

That was the true start of my Crunchy Parenting journey if there is a date to put on it. So perhaps this post should be about 14 years of Crunchy Parenting. Though we did do other Crunchy things before she was 4. That fateful hot day was a hard one I will not forget. Do you have a day like that?

 Spanking isn’t supported by Science and it always felt wrong!

The days that followed where hard in other ways. I joined groups for parents who don’t spank and goodness after reading up a bit, it seemed nuts. How was I going to do this when she did what she had done and not listened to a word I said? I read about other struggling parents with kids doing things that made me think “Um… ya… that kid needs a spanking!” and yet that wasn’t the right answer. The peaceful parenting advice given seemed idealistic and not realistic. I found myself fighting the advice and totally baffled by how things could work. One thing I knew, I was in over my head. I got help with grocery shopping, and had a friend come stay for bit to help too. I visited another friend often as she had kids and cooked way better than I did. Her oldest child also babysat so we could get some Mom time out. Doing it on my own had led to that horrible day. Of course getting help was the idea of those patient and sometimes  not so patient peaceful parenting parents on the no-spanking groups.

Have you noticed how there are some people on peaceful parenting, crunchy parenting, attachment parenting, who are rather aggressive and down right unkind with their advice to newbies? I admit, I have had my moments too where I stop and realize that I put way more effort into being kind to my children than I sometimes do with what feels like “stupid” people online. My tolerance for “stupid” is short. But I know that is a judgement and something I need to work on. My point being, it can be hard to get help when changing your parenting style because sometimes the experts don’t practice what they preach when it comes to kindness to strangers. If we want to help other parents peacefully, positively parent, we need to be more peaceful and positive in our communities with other adults too. Alas, that is a post for another day.

So what happened after she was 4 years old? I worked on getting myself taken care of. Seeing out needs, anticipating problems and finding solutions before hand. Over the years I learned that some of my kids can’t go grocery shopping while they are going through certain behavioral adjustments. So we got sitters or one parent would stay home and the other shopped.

 

 Crunchy Parenting Meant I Needed To Learn

a Whole New Set of Parenting Tools

 

I learned that how I set up a situation can determine the outcome, as can my expectations and my attitude.

I also learned that every new behavior issue needed more advice as I simply didn’t have the life experience to be peaceful about all things. It took a lot of work and I read a lot of books. I needed to build a whole new parenting tool box. Just when my husband and I thought we had it figured out, something would change! This of course was the case when we had another child, and then another, and now we have 5 and all of them are different with their strengths and struggles!

Crunchy Parenting Looks Like

We practice attachment parenting and I think that gets us in the right mind set and helps our little ones bond and trust us. Life is going to hurt them, we don’t need to! We try to go with natural consequences but that doesn’t mean we don’t discipline our children. We have tried time outs and time ins and a whole range of other things both punishments such as losing electronics and rewards such as a rewards store. As mentioned, we are a little crunchy. The words “punishment” and “rewards” might send better moms than I over the edge. We have tried so many things and will keep trying things.

 One thing I know for sure, what works is letting my kids

know we are on their side and our family is a team.

It is not us vs them and we find ways to say YES as often as we can and encourage them to help their friends and family meet their needs and wants too.

So how have the kids turned out? For the oldest, she is the most amazing teen I know. She is helpful and funny and creative. She has a dark side in her geekyness that I think isn’t unhealthy. She deals with conflicts peacefully. She is respectful. She is finding her way. In the last few years we have only had 2 real fights and both could have been avoided had both of us been in different mindsets and not so stressed. Being a military family certainly adds to the stress. She and my husband have a great relationship. He is great at just listening and explaining things where I still try to “fix” things and sometimes that isn’t so helpful as one might think. As she is older now I am reminded more and more that my place isn’t to fix things for her.

Because one of the parenting choices I made was doing Waldorf inspired homeschooling for a few years, it placed her a grade behind her age peers. This puts her in her senior year of online private high school as an 18 year old. I wish I hadn’t done that. Already she has had people trying to put other things above her school work. She hasn’t wavered though in her determination to graduate and go on to college or possibly follow her fathers foot steps. She knows the second choice isn’t my idea of a great plan but that as always, we have her back and if that is her choice we will at least get her the best deal possible going in! School is the priority. She is trying to get a volunteer position currently. After the next move she wants to look for a job close to where ever we live as well. She is head over heals in love right now and moving away is making her heart sick. She knows that making a long distance relationship work is hard, but at her age her own parents managed it and still manage it from time to time. She wants to keep very busy while they are apart and hopefully the time will fly, and they will both be graduated, and then they can be together. -sigh- I am happy for them. I though can’t much think about her being away yet. Another parenting skill I need to work on still….. letting go.

Homeschool Prom

She isn’t a spoiled brat, she isn’t fruit after all. She isn’t entitled. She has lots of life skills and is working on adulting skills. She cooks and cleans and has patience with little ones and is not a violent person. Her weaknesses as of late are time management and handwriting and she is really working on that! They could be far worse issues to have right? It would be great if she had solid footing about a career path but that will come.

She doesn’t even go over her cell phone data! She is very considerate of who has to pay that bill still and is eager to get to be able to pay her own bills, but as we have told her, school first. We are in no rush to push her out of the nest and we can’t picture a day without seeing her smiling face.

 

The Current Results of Raising Kids – Attachment Parenting

As for the other kids, our 11 year old son is working on time management issues of his own. I think I dropped the ball on this come to think of it or maybe I am passing on my own issues! He is also working through social shyness. He is sweet and smart as can be but also critical of the world. He has a strong sense of justice. He runs his own minecraft server and his rules of nicety have to be followed or he removes other kids. He is specially protective of his sisters online too.

 

This image makes me think of our beautiful little forest creature, your 9 year old daughter.

Our 9 year old is going through a sudden hard time. She wants to be doing anything but “school work” even if it is a subject or assignment she normally loves. I am struggling with how to handle it too. If I lose her, it seems a few other kids get attitudes as well and then it is an uphill battle the whole day. She is the key to smooth days for Mommy. She will though give you the coat off her back. She is amazing with animals and has a real sense for caring about creatures. She had sensory issues she grew out of. She has a love of art and being creative. She would spend all her time outside with animals if that were an option I think. She misses country life and having chickens and bunnies and ducks. Her love language is gifts and she loves to give people things!

 

lucky in natural parenting

Our 7 year old is just so lucky in her natural ability to learn on her own best! Just have to stay out of her way!

Our 7 year old when not sidelined by her 9 year old sister will delightfully get up and get lessons done most days. This is a change. She is rather gifted and we have unschooled her the last few years as she would do the same work next to her older sister but not directed if that made sense. With her brilliance came tantrums. She taught herself to read at 3 years old. With her, it has always been best to just get out of her way and she would learn. Just make sure to have double resources for her sister as she would ask to do the lessons too, if it was her idea and no pressure. That changed this year! Now she will take direction and I can plan around her! It was hard to be patient, to not push, but my husband reminded me often to give things time, to try other peaceful parenting things, and I did. It worked and he was right. Now our struggle with her is to get her to be helpful and at least pick up after herself. Oh the tantrums that are still had over that!

Our 2 year old is rather special too. As I type this she is sleeping behind me between her father and I in our bed. She doesn’t like to sleep alone! Sometimes she sleeps a sibling, sometimes us. She has a cute toddler bed but that gets mostly ignored by her. It isn’t a battle we want to pick. She needs us. She is a mammal after all and mammals like our kind tend to be social sleepers. When she was about 18 months old things in her world drastically changed when husband went away for training and we traveled to see family for 2 months. She has always been a child of processes and rhythm and wanting things to be just as she expects them to be. It all got turned on it’s head for her. She went from having at least 10 words, to having just a few… she doesn’t much talk now. She is a happy delightful baby again though since we got home. As soon as we move she will be evaluated and get the therapies to hopefully get her talking. She communicates and is attentive, she just doesn’t talk. She does though help pick up! She puts diapers in the trash, puts books and toys away, closes doors that should not be left open, and has a sense of how things “should” be in her mind.

Of course then we have our surrogate daughters who visit and whom we adore. They are so smart and such wonderful young women. Their Dads raised them well and they know they are loved and supported. I don’t take credit for them though as a parent. While I am biologically their mother and they call me Mom, I didn’t raise them. That is all their Dads who deserve all their praise for raising talented and smart girls. They have had some mind blowing and award winning test scores! We love spending time with them and feel so lucky to have our surrogate family as part of our family. They are like brothers to me (one no longer alive but never far from thought and always alive in his love for his family) They have been through so much and are so strong. They teach us so much too!

 Some days my home feels like pure bliss…. playing with 7 kids! 

So we are not perfect! I still have a lot to learn. We are though happy and thriving and changing and trying to improve and deal with what issues come up in our own little crunchy way. So no, we don’t spank and try not yell (though with all these kids a raised voice to be heard happens sometimes!) and we try to parent as peacefully as we can. Our kids haven’t broken any laws, they haven’t turned into monsters who hurt other kids, they are rather peaceful little crumb monsters. Specking of crumbs…. I STILL don’t know how to get them to not make such messes. Still working on it. The teen is the best of all but even her room makes my eye twitch at a times! I know that someday I have will have a house that stays fairly clean. I know too that by the time that happens the rooms will be still and quiet…. and I will be missing days like these, messy and full and busy and beautiful with happy kids playing. 18 years of parenting and they go by too fast.

 

 

 Written in 2017 – Reflecting on Amazing Kids

 

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