I was the weird kid. You know what I’m talking about. I was the kid who wore homemade clothes and ate strange, unrecognizable foods that emerged out of dark containers, while the rest of the kids pulled up the collars on their Izod polos and ate fluffy white bread sandwiches. While the other girls in my class were at Brownie meetings, I was attending socialist freedom rallies or making up fable skits for the viewing pleasure of my sister because we weren’t allowed to watch television.
Don’t get me wrong. With all my heart, I wanted to be a Girl Scout. But when I tried to join the same Brownie troop that a bunch of kids from my class at school joined, I was told that the troop had reached capacity. I wonder why?
My parents were card-carrying granola crunching hippies. Around the time my sister and I were born, they swore off meat, processed foods and all forms of sugar. If you were looking for a treat in my house, you had a choice between a tasty dried prune or a slice of halvah. Before I could really talk, I was chanting slogans at political protests. My mom was an advocate of breastfeeding and natural childbirth way before these ideas became part of mainstream American thinking. She used cloth diapers and wore us in a baby sling when we were infants.
My parents were progressive. They made unusual lifestyle and parenting choices. It was a little awkward being the weird kid growing up, but now that I’m an adult, I really respect the choices they made. I have to thank them for opening my mind to the beauty of unconventional and unorthodox thinking.
But for some reason, now that I am a parent and making some controversial choices of my own, they think I am bizarre and find my decisions faulty and puzzling. They tolerate me because I am their child. But if it was up to them, we would not be practicing the family bed, or homeschooling, or breastfeeding children who can walk and talk, or using a homeopath as our primary family practitioner.
My parents were the ones who raised me to be free-thinking and strange. It’s all their fault, if they really want to know. I didn’t choose to be raised a vegetarian pseudo-socialist. It wasn’t me who took a three-year-old to protests and freedom rallies. Nor was it me serving carob tofu cakes at children’s birthday parties. I didn’t ask to wear cloth diapers or be worn around in a sling. And I certainly didn’t ask to be deprived of all forms of sugar or to be barred from the enjoyment of normal television viewing for the entirety of my childhood.
But the truth is there will always be some idea that is too radical for even the most progressive parent. For example, the other day I was surfing the net and I saw an interview with former child star, “Blossom” Mayim Bialik. She was discussing her “controversial parenting techniques.” A lot of the ideas she had were in line with my own. Family bed? Check. Breastfeeding on demand? Check. Extended breastfeeding? Check. Babywearing? Check. Homeschooling? Check. Cloth diapers? Sorry, I’m too lazy. Elimination communication? Huh?
Elimination communication. This one is a doozy even for me. But here’s the skinny: Elimination communication (EC) is a method of infant potty training which uses minimal or no diapers. Parents using this technique rely upon timing, intuition and cues to become in tune with their baby’s need to eliminate waste. By learning to recognize your own baby’s elimination signals (just as you would notice certain behaviors when you baby is tired or hungry) you can catch them before they poop or pee on themselves and train them to go only in a potty or another place of your choice.
The ideology behind EC is appealing to me. I believe in attachment parenting and I think that being in tune with your child can have a wonderful positive impact on your child’s emotional, physical, and mental development. EC is just another way of being in tune with your child that takes it up a notch. And this notch is just too messy for me. The idea of running around with an infant wearing no diaper is just beyond what I can envision for myself.
I can barely manage to keep my house clean enough not to need to use the Wet Vac on a daily basis. How would I keep track of my baby’s elimination signals when I can’t even keep track of my own purse? I think about me trying to do elimination communication and I think about being a prisoner in my home, trapped in a puddle of excrement and tears.
But, when I consider the family bed, babywearing, homeschooling, nursing on demand, and extended breastfeeding, I’m sure that a lot of other parents have the same reaction to these parenting techniques that I do to elimination communication. They are just too much work (and maybe a little bit too weird, as well). We all love our children and want to do what is best for them, but we have to know and respect our own limits.
My parents were unorthodox. They did their own thing. And I learned a lot from them. But surprisingly enough, nowadays, many of the things that my parents did are hip, even fashionable. Babywearing, natural childbirth, nursing, organic food, vegetarianism, social justice…. It’s all in the norm 30 years later. But co-sleeping, homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, homeopathy? These ideas may take another 30 years to become accepted by the mainstream, or they may go out of practice completely. Who knows? I’ll have to let my own kids inform me when they become parents. And I can shake my own head at their perplexing new parenting ideas, while they say, “Oh, Mom! You’re so conventional.”