Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trust, Responsibility & the Hazards of Life & Nature

I think parenting should be easy. I guess it's really common for parents to worry about their children. People seem surprised by how much I trust Cedar when he's exploring new aspects of his physical world by testing his boundaries in new ways... "oh, be careful! He could fall! He could choke on that!" etc. How can a child learn anything about life if their parents are constantly projecting their fear of possible failure on them all the time? Of course they're going to make mistakes... that's completely essential to learning. Knowing something for oneself, through experience, is completely essential for wisdom and mastery of life. If you're taking someone else's word for everything, you aren't living at all... you don't even know for sure if what other people say is even true, unless you know it to be true through your experience or inner knowing (which is based on wisdom from past experiences).

Cedar is nearly one year. He recently started walking, and neither required nor asked for any assistance from me... so he progressed VERY quickly in his proficiency. He is exploring his physical world full-on. He climbs stairs, and does all sorts of stunts to test and improve his balance. He sometimes looks like he's going to fall. Sometimes he does have a minor fall, and he may cry for a minute, then is totally over it and ready for the next thing. I am with him nearly all of the time, so in general, I am aware of his current capabilities, and also of the things that might be just outside of his current capabilities. I am also aware of the relative danger of what he is doing in every moment, and how what "could" happen may affect him. For example, when he was at the top of the 6-step concrete staircase in my parents' pool room today, I was sitting next to him... feeling totally relaxed and trusting, yet simultaneously alert and ready to step in, just in case in the process of testing his boundaries, he oversteps them a little. I feel like he is the stuntman and I am his spotter!

So what it comes down to, I believe, is trust and responsibility. I can trust Cedar to be responsible for himself and his actions when he's doing something I know he can do, that I know he already understands and has the capability to take responsibility for. Some children never have the opportunity to learn how to handle having small objects in their mouths, because their parents are afraid that they'll choke, so they always take those things away (what a lot of work!). At what point can a child learn how to maneuver small objects in their mouths, if they're never given the opportunity? Nature is smart: gagging isn't choking. Gagging is a natural mechanism that helps a child move an object that's gone a little too far back, up into the front part of their mouth, and is essential for oral development. It isn't something to be alarmed about; just something to be aware of. For me, when Cedar started putting small things into his mouth, I watched him very, very closely, observing how he handled it. Yet, I felt relaxed. He developed proficiency... I can tell that he knows innately what things are small enough to swallow, and what things are too big. Because I trusted him enough to allow him to master this quite a while ago, now when he has a mouthful of pebbles or cucumber chunks, it is no longer even a blip on my radar screen. Some parents would be worried about this for years... what a lot of unnecessary stress!

I am aware of many things that Cedar isn't ready to take responsibility for. These are things that I am committed to being responsible for, until he is mature enough to be capable of it himself. For example, at this stage in his development, he would be unable to comprehend that poison ivy looks a specific way, and that it causes a horrible rash a day or two after you come into contact with it. He will be able to understand this at some point, and until then, it is my responsibility to keep him away from poison ivy, or even better and easier, eliminate all the poison ivy from his normal environment. When I sense he is at the stage where he's able to understand this concept, I will offer him this responsibility, and when I notice that he has fully accepted it, I will no longer have to pay any attention to any poison ivy that may show up in his environment. This will also apply to insects and animals that sting or bite (bees, spiders, snakes, etc), electrical plugs and outlets, and all the other "hazards" of everyday life.

My friend Quinn says it well: "to raise a strong and capable child, give him/her responsibility". We develop confidence in ourselves by understanding how to operate masterfully in our world. I believe this empowerment is the greatest gift we can give our children.

I love being a relaxed parent with a capable child. If at any point I notice I am tense or fearful of something Cedar is doing, I check in with myself: why am I feeling this way? And I adjust my actions accordingly: either Cedar isn't ready for this responsibility and it is up to me to alter our environment or activity; or I just require being a little bit closer so I can "spot" him while he's exploring something new; or I just require relaxing and trusting his inner guidance at that moment. I even realized that when I say "be careful" to him, which sounds so conscious, it was usually based in a feeling of fear! When I thought about it, I realized that of course he's being careful... he's fully alert and immersed in the thing he's exploring. "Be careful" just means that *I* was afraid for him, and it has nothing to do with him!

I am glad I'm realizing all this now... exploring, testing boundaries and mastering new realms is what childhood and teendom is all about, so I'm in this game for quite a while! I choose to have a fun, delightful experience with it :)

Cedar's FIRST Birthday!! Wow, really?!?

Hello... long time no post! Can you guess why? I've been caught up in the most fun, most immersive whirlwind I've ever experienced... being Cedar's mother. I've often had the thought of posting some kind of blog about some aspect of parenting, and then I think about all the other things I just HAVE to say, and it seems so overwhelming! He's napping right now. So I'm going to start this blog and see where it goes... short blogs are fine too, even if I really feel like writing a 200-page book about this past year... :)

Okay, I'll start with some updates. Cedar's FIRST BIRTHDAY is in 10 days! How did THAT happen?!? Staying home with him, committed to being present nearly all the time with his process of development and discovery, I often find myself in a place of timelessness, where hours and days go by as one moment. My biggest joy and delight is observing and relating with Cedar as his true nature shines through more and more every day, and how his unique nature of being interacts with an ever increasingly wide variety of the things and other beings existing in this world. He astonishes me. I completely adore him. He is strong, expressive, bold, totally gorgeous and sweet, very smart and focused, and highly capable of accomplishing anything he sets his mind to (very quickly).

He is walking/running all over the place now, climbing stairs (among many other things), and even proficiently navigating the uneven terrain of nature, barefoot! (he has never worn shoes, for optimal foot development) ... He has long, wavy blonde hair (the most hair I've ever seen on a baby his age!), and tan, healthy, sun-kissed skin. He has excellent posture and muscle tone, and the perfect amount of baby chub to fuel his intensely active lifestyle :) He has 4 huge, glistening white teeth that he loves to show off with big grins... and I think he's growing some more right now -- All signs point to YES on that one! He has a strong voice and very clearly communicates his specific desires, even with his very small repertoire of "english words" (just mama and dada/daddy so far, with hints of other words coming soon).

He is still mostly breastfed... maybe 90% of his nourishment comes from my milk, the rest of it from his "experiments" with food. The way I view his nourishment at this point is: breastmilk is for nutrients (and connection), and any other food is for practice (grasping and chewing) and experience (tastes and textures). At this point, there is no way any other food can come close to my breastmilk in terms of full nourishment for his specific stages of development. I eat nutrient-dense foods and drink nutrient-dense liquids every day, at every meal. Maybe if someone wasn't doing that, their baby would need other foods. I am doing it with great joy and purpose, for him and for myself. I drink a quart of nettle leaf infusion every day (I actually desire that much nearly every day!), and raw superfoods of various types are a big part of my food choices at this point. I'm also enjoying local organic in-season veggies (currently cucumbers and tomatoes, YUM!), pears from the pear tree in our yard, avocados, homemade sprouted rye bread (lightly baked, essene-style), homemade herbal lacto-fermented sodas (I make my own root beer, ginger ale, and a bunch more unique recipes), soft-boiled pastured/free-range eggs, local raw grass-fed butter, adaptogenic herbal teas, and sometimes sprouted, steamed quinoa. And superfood chia drinks. And especially my CHOCOLATE BALLS!! ..a cosmic concoction of raw cacao, a big variety of superfoods and adaptogenic herbs, with coconut oil and a small amount of raw honey.

I chose to list my current favorite foods to expand your idea about what's possible as nourishment during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Of course, the specifics will be different for everyone... and I encourage you to try any or all of the foods I mentioned above, and see what you really love and feel nourished from!

Another popular topic for many parents I talk with... Elimination Communication! When people find out that Cedar has never worn a diaper, and is usually naked (except when we go out, he wears pants or underwear), they wonder how it works! It's been a fulfilling journey of empowerment and communication. We still have plenty of "misses", and that means nothing to me when I feel the satisfaction of seeing him really GET something regarding his elimination... for example, if he pees on the floor, I immediately get a cloth and wipe it up. He sees me do this all the time, so now he usually does it before me! He pees, and if there's a cloth close by, he'll start to wipe it up on his own! We usually go outside on the front porch when I see his "poop signals"; he does it out there and I wash it away with the hose. Well, just today he started squatting/focusing/"pushing", and I asked him if he was pooping, and he immediately walked to the front door to go outside! He has yet to have interest in peeing/pooping in his little potty, but he's starting to make the connection, and I think one of these days I'll find him going in his potty all by himself! The great thing about EC is it encourages a baby to remain aware of their functions of elimination, which they are aware of from birth, but usually taught to ignore by sitting around in wet/poopy diapers for too long... then they have to re-learn later, during "potty training". No need to potty train! Just as babies innately know when they're hungry from the day they're born, they also are aware of their need to eliminate, just as much as adults are. Babies are amazing!

Another thing I desire to talk about, because it's something we did that was different than anyone else I've met so far: we actually didn't take him anywhere in a car until he was over 8 months! Early on, I felt so content staying home with him, and he seemed like in a way he was still "gestating" and was still so sensitive and open to subtle energies (some say there is an "external gestation" period of nine months after birth, and also that a baby's chakras take 3 months to actually seal up!), and I felt inspired to keep him in the "Space of Love" we created for him until I felt an intuitive signal that he was ready to venture beyond. It certainly made it easier that we live on 5 acres of land, so have plenty of SPACE to explore outside... and also that my parents eventually moved next door to us, on 10 acres of beautiful nature! Somewhere around 8 months, I started feeling the desire personally to participate in more away-from-home activities, and at that point Cedar seemed so physically and emotionally mature, and SECURE, and thirsty for as much adventure as possible! So we started taking him to our local farmers market every weekend. Just this past week, Cedar & Isaac & I spent 5 nights at a hotel for the amazingly awesome Rethinking Everything conference. This was a WAY new experience for Cedar, and he loved it! So, waiting to take him into a car didn't have any drawbacks, and only benefits, as I see it. That may be one reason he developed so quickly in his physical abilities... because he had endless opportunity to practice all day long, with no sitting and waiting in carseats.

Whether or not you resonate personally with the choices we made regarding our baby and cars, I desired to present it as an option, to empower new parents with additional possibilities for raising their babies. If my words speak to you in an inspiring way (about anything I did/am doing), that's wonderful, and if you resonate with something else, you will still know of these things as options, maybe to share with other people you know!

Wow, this blog has been satisfyingly long, and I've talked about most of the things I've thought so much about and feel so important to me. Cedar must be glad I'm doing this, since he's still napping! ;) I'm sure I will think of quite a few more things I just HAVE to say, and this is a nice healthy chunk of food for thought, for now!