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Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I have been thinking about this month's Carnival theme all through March.
And one encapsulating phrase kept coming to mind as I thought about how I compassionately advocate for natural or gentle parenting in my community.
Honour the Child.

Let me put it this way.
Frankie has a hard time at school~ he is just so... compulsive. But then, he is 5.  Frankie is in my daughter's Senior Kindergarten class, where I volunteer once a week for a morning.  One morning I arrived to find a supply teacher, and within the first 10 minutes, Frankie had made the rounds of the room leaving behind a wake of destruction and I was asked to take him to the Office.

So off we went, Frank punching the wall all the way down the hall. Shoulders turned in, head hanging low.  He grumbled at me that he 'knew the way' and didn't need my help to get there. True enough.  But I told him that I was going with him to make sure he got there safely, because we wanted him back in the class as soon as possible~ that he was an important part of the class, and that we would miss him.

{I'll interject here to say that I meant what I said, but didn't say it lightly or even easily.  Frankie and I have had our small battles, our latest one had included him swinging around a beanbag I asked him to give to me, and ended with him triumphantly shoving it between his legs and sitting on it, while shooting me an "I dare you to get it now" look! At which point I cried 'uncle' and let the teacher take it from there...!}

Frankie's scrawny shoulders stiffened and he looked up at me from under his glowering brow.
"I'm NOT important," he gritted out.
"But you are, we miss you when you are not there."

That is what I mean by honouring the child.
Daydream Believers Design 2011.

In a school system in which far too many children are lost and losing, it is amazing what an extra pair of eyes can do. Mothering eyes.  When I am in the classroom, although I have 25 years of experience working directly with children in a leadership and educational capacity, I am there as a mom.

I wipe sand out of teary eyes after a playground scuffle.
I cheer over lost teeth.
I open lunch packaging.
I tell sad and angry 5 year olds that I think they are important.

I am the pair of eyes that sits behind the group at story time and sees the small dramas of kindergarten life unfold.  Charlie hit Suzie because Suzie's elbow hit him in the eye and he reacted (whereas the teacher has only seen Charlie strike out). Jason stole Tina's doll and was teasing her and the teacher took the doll away, punishing Tina, who burst into tears ~I can pull both children aside and sort it out because I have the time to do so.

It is challenging.
It is frustrating.
It is rewarding.

While each of us are attuned to our own children, it is sort of a boot camp for gentle parenting~ to move among 20 children belonging to other families, finding ways to build them up, encourage them and equip them with skills to navigate the difficult world in which they find themselves.  I have to work hard. I have to watch and listen and maintain both humility and humour in the presence of these amazing little people.
People often tell me that I don't 'have' to volunteer at the school. That I am a busy community professional with plenty of other pressing things to do.  And I know that my church (I am a United Church of Canada minister) sometimes feels a little jealous of my involvement at the school (most of their children being grown and gone away). But for me, it is a natural outpouring of my faith and ministry, of our chosen way of parenting and being family.
And the way I see it, not every one of these children knows that they are precious. And I think as much as anything, probably MORE than anything else they learn at school, knowing that they are valued and loved and loveable is going to go a long way towards their healthy and happy development. 

One little fellow has things rough.
I often wear a long scarf, often brightly coloured, usually interesting texturally.
He has taken to coming and standing beside me in a free moment, and like a curious little chipmunk, he cautiously reaches out for my scarf and touches it. And smiles.
When I smile back, he will usually take it in both hands and feel the fibers.
"oooh! soft!"
One day he asked if he could wear it.
Of course he could.
And did.

It isn't much.
A couple hours a week.
And believe me, they give me much more than I give them (not to mention the benefit of sharing this time with my daughter in her world!)  But like that old tale about the man tossing starfish back into the ocean from the beach... it matters to these ones.

Advocating compassionately for gentle parenting means... being a compassionate and gentle parent.
Honouring every child.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:
  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

What a sweet story :) I love your description of it as a boot camp for gentle parenting - I think we could all use one of those! Thank you for sharing with us.

Megan said...

What you did for Frankie was really powerful. I have worked with that age group and I know that it can be so hard to keep up as a teacher or an assistant. I hope that you'll keep sharing yourself for those couple hours a week!

Kelly said...

This is so beautiful - and so true...I imagine it can be pretty easy to advocate for natural parenting through the influence of your own child and the affects it has had on him or her, but it probably gets a lot harder to be that gentle, natural parent to another child, who may be more difficult. This is a pretty huge responsibility we are being called to!

Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama said...

My goodness...I needed this post today! A certain "Franky" in my son's preschool class actually stomped on his face yesterday, black eye and all my son came home to tell the tale...of course I know that Franky is only 3.5...but I harbored resentment towards him and now I'm freeing myself from it thanks to you.


Lauren Wayne said...

Beautiful post! I love the attention you give to honoring each child. I imagine it's hard to be so present, but what a blessing for those children to have you there.

The scarf thing reminded me of the obsession my son has with my scarves! I indulge him as well — it's a little thing, but it means something special to him.

Seonaid said...

That's so lovely. I am happy to hear that you are able to do this for all these kids. Wow!

Amanda said...

A beautiful post! This reminded me that as we honor the child, we must also remember to honor the child in each one of us with the same care and respect with which we treat children. Thank you. :)

Patti @ Jazzy Mama said...

I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years before becoming a mother. Each year I would secretly pick one student who I knew was having a rough life in general and I would try to do whatever I could to make a difference for that one kid all year long.

I know that as THE TEACHER I was supposed to advocate for all the children, but it is hard to really tune in to 25+ kids ALL THE TIME. Knowing that I was making a difference for ONE was as much as I could handle and still do all the requirements of the job!

And guess what? A few of those kids that I secretly gave a little boost to have contacted me on Facebook to say that I really made a difference in their lives. Incredible what a help it can be to just CONNECT with a child when he or she really needs an adult to be an advocate.

Good for you for taking that attitude with you when you volunteer. You are really making a difference.

CatholicMommy said...

Bless you for making life a better place for those little ones. If every child could have an adult like you in his life, someone to listen and care, how much better our world would be!

Lisa said...

Oh how lovely. You remind me that when it comes time for our kiddos to be in grade school to volunteer. Wow, what lovely eyes you have...and hands and heart. I'm sure your presence nurtures so many and assures the teacher as well. I'm sure he/she appreciates your gentle and mindful presence. Lisa

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your very kind words :)It is a gift to be welcomed into the world of these little ones~ to earn their trust and share affection with them. And I have to hope that it also sets a strong example for my daughter in her relationships with her peers!

Kristen @ My Semi-Crunchy Life said...

I think it's so great you take time to be involved in the school and honor each child. I only hope I can do something like that when my kids are older and in school, and that there are other parents who care as much as well.

Witch Mom said...

Well done, mama. I love what you did for Frankie. He may well take that with him the rest of his days.

Suzie said...

I wish more schools had a parent volunteer program, or allowed parents to take a more active role in the classroom. You have shared so many wonderful stories and resources here. I'll be bookmarking this and reading for weeks to come!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

What a great CarNatPar post. This is a beautiful example of compassionate advocacy. Sometimes it's the big and sometimes it's the small things that make a difference in someone's life. You never know which, so why not do it all whenever you can, right? Who knows what situation a child may have outside of school at least for a little time, they can feel accepted either by receiving compassion directly or by observing an act of compassion.

MamieCole said...

Beautiful! As a former kindergarten teacher, I've had a lot of little kids like Frankie in my class over the years. All they need is love and acceptance. But it is hard for even the most well-intention teacher to give everything to every child, every day. (Which is why I am choosing to homeschool my own children.)

Thanks for volunteering in your daughter's classroom. You are making a huge difference!

Rosemary said...

I love this! This is so precious. I taught preschool and was a nanny for 7 years, and I have seen over and over the gentle encouragement for a struggling child go a long way. Beautifully told. Thank you for sharing. :)

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