21st Century Parenting

Before Bea was born, we wondered what kind of parents we’d be. Would we fall into the traditional ideas of scheduling, parent-led raising or would we end up with a family bed and attachment style ideals? We’re only two years in, but I’ve learned that it’s hard to fall neatly into one category. We co-slept with Bea until no one was sleeping and then we sleep trained. We wore her everywhere in the Ergo until she became mobile and squirmy and then we used the stroller (and now the wagon). It takes effort and resolve to embrace one methodology in its entirety.

Babywearing
Babywearing

There’s a lot of information right now about teaching kids 21st Century Skills – inquiry based, student led learning. These skills are meant to help our kids become excavators of knowledge, not just passive recipients of facts. In many ways, 21st century teaching is more intensive than the old, lecture-based format. A teacher has to know her students and know of a variety of resources to guide them to certain outcomes. There are new ways of teaching and of learning and completely different paths to discover ideas and facts. The push-back to all of this is that the old ways were just fine – that adults today have managed to succeed in various professions using the old methods. Some schools are even advertising a return to traditional, desk-based learning.

I’m not sure the old ways were the best ways. Maybe people were able to achieve success through them, but shouldn’t we always be learning, tweaking, and revising our methodology? Isn’t it a great thing that our kids will be educated in vastly different ways than we were? I’d be concerned if Bea’s teachers were using the same methods that mine were, thirty years ago.

I feel that parenting is much the same. There are different camps of advice and methods, from attachment to free-range to traditional and every conceivable combination in between. Both Frank and I value the ways in which we were raised. I feel like we turned out to be fairly successful, well-adjusted adults. That being said, we have chosen to explore different methodologies than our parents used as we raise Bea. I don’t view this as a condemnation on how I was raised – I feel that if we didn’t learn from and tweak what our parents did, we wouldn’t be learning about the art of parenting.

A Facebook acquaintance posted a parenting quandary the other day. Skimming through the comments, a range of advice was issued: Remember that they’re only little a short time; If they don’t obey, spank them until they listen; Process your desired outcome with your child; Toddlers have no reasoning skills…. Fortunately, most of the advice concluded with, You know your own child best.

Maybe we’ve been lucky so far with the “terrible twos,” but I have been able to talk with Bea about my expectations and desired outcomes. Sometimes, in the midst of a temper tantrum, it’s not the best time to negotiate. I usually tell her I’d love to chat and then walk into a different room, allowing her to decide when she’s ready. We’ve used time-outs a couple times, but it’s been more in the spirit of cooling off before we discuss. Often, I find distraction works best. How can I redirect Bea’s behaviors to a more positive action? Mostly, I’m learning to pick my battles. What is it that I really want to teach Bea about being human? Is my being right in this particular moment going to teach a particular skill or is it simply a power struggle? It’s hard, but I try to remember that I’m the adult and have nothing to prove by being right in the midst of a heated moment.

I wonder if it’s because I had training as a teacher, where corporal punishment is not an acceptable form of correction and even time-outs are tricky in the midst of corralling twenty-five learners. I used a Peace Corner in my classroom – an area where kids could go to try and work out conflict before I was involved. Of course, some behaviors meant missing recess or a visit to the office, must most often, kids could figure it out themselves or with guided conversation.

As Bea navigates what it’s like to live in community and Frank and I try to model the behaviors we most want to instill, inquiry-based discussion seems to be how we best get the outcomes of desired behaviors. And, as one solution works one week and mysteriously doesn’t another week, I need to remind myself that, as we learn new ideas and gain access to more resources, the ways in which we learn and grow change. As I guide and teach my toddler, I need to remember that my own resources as a parent are constantly changing to fit her needs and the new ways in which she is learning.

How do you parent? Do you strive to model your own style after your parents or have you developed your own way of parenting?

Camping with a Toddler

We finally went camping over Labor Day weekend. Even though we had thought out exactly how we were going to Introduce Bea to Camping, we threw our carefully scaffolded ideas out the window, tossed more gear than we needed into the car, and headed up to Wyoming for three days of rainy camping.

Even though it was chilly, rainy, and we only saw one bison in all of Yellowstone, Bea had an amazing time, so I count it as a success. She loved our campsite, she loved sleeping in the tent, and she loved the caldera of Yellowstone. (An obsession of the moment is volcanoes, so Bea was thrilled to spot the geothermal activity in bubbling mudpots and steaming geysers.)

Checking out Dragon's Mouth mudpot
Checking out Dragon’s Mouth mudpot

We stayed at Flagg Ranch, which is located between Yellowstone and the Tetons. It was the perfect spot to visit both parks easily. After a day in Yellowstone, we went down to Jenny Lake in the Tetons, took the ferry across the lake and did a half mile hike up to Hidden Falls. Bea was able to do most of the hike herself, and loved being on a boat for the first time.

Even though we are nowhere near experts in the field of camping with kids, here are a few things we learned:

1. Bring Squeezes
Before becoming a parent, I hated fruit and veggie squeezes. Now, I appreciate their ease on park trips and playdates. On a long road trip, they are a necessity! We often drove through lunch, eating peanut butter and jelly or even stopping at a fast food restaurant. Giving Bea a veggie squeeze, while not an ideal replacement for actual fruits and veggies, made me feel a bit better about our lax diet.

2. Audiobooks
We wanted to limit screentime anyway on this trip and poor reception in the Tetons and Yellowstone made this goal easy. We turned off our phones and relied on imaginations and spotting animals for entertainment. During the long stretches across the fields of Wyoming, a selection of audiobooks from the library came in handy. (Our favorite was Bad Kitty.) I know in the future, we may change our goals on road trip screentime, but for now, I’m glad we set the precedent of audiobooks and conversation.

Bad Kitty during a long drive
Bad Kitty during a long drive

3. Ice Cream Stops
Bea comes from a long line of ice cream connoisseurs. We try to limit our dessert intake at home, but finding a daily ice cream stop became a fun event and a special camping treat. National Parks are filled with lodges carrying special ice creams and having a huckleberry ice cream fix made hiking and constant activity more fun.

4. Pack n Play
For Christmas, we bought a gigantic tent that has a room divider and space to set up Bea’s pack n play. This helped immensely in keeping bedtime routines at the campsite! Though bedtime was pushed back to sunset, having a familiar space helped Bea go down and get a good rest. Even though she ended up with us every morning, she started out on her own and stayed in her bed for a good portion of the night. Bea won’t use her pack n play next summer, but I’m glad for a tent with two “rooms,” as it makes it easier for us to come in later without disturbing her.

5. Finding Adventures
As soon as camp was set up, we went in search of the amphitheater near our site. For some reason, we couldn’t follow directions and between a walk with me, with Frank, and with our friend who joined us for the weekend, we didn’t find the actual amphitheater until the last day. I think this turned out to be a good thing because it gave us an adventure and a goal each day during a key time – dinner prep, packing up, or other times when it was easier to have Bea away from camp.

Finding the amphitheater
Finding the amphitheater

We are definitely still novice campers! What advice or tricks make road trips and camping easier for your family?

Messenger

Frank was the one to announce Bea’s sex to the hospital room: “It’s a…girl?” The question mark surprised me, but reflecting later, it shouldn’t have. The last few weeks of pregnancy, friends and strangers were sure we were having a boy from a myriad of old-wives opinions. Even during our longer-than-expected labor, nurses would laughingly predict we were having a boy, based on “all the trouble he was giving me.” We had prepared ourselves in the end for a boy. Of course, the moment we met Bea, all thoughts of boys were replaced with our sweet daughter.

1 day old
1 day old

When people asked us what we “wanted,” the first answer was, of course, “a healthy baby.” But, Frank had images of a son in his mind. He and his dad have a close relationship and Frank wanted to pass on his love of camping, exploration, and boy-activities to his son.

It’s been amazing watching Frank soften into a dad of a daughter. He and Bea are constantly exploring, looking for bugs, and dreaming about backyard camping. When Bea has a question, Frank explains it in such detail, I find myself learning new things, too. Frank spoils and treats Bea as his princess, but he also gives her the courage and identity to play in the dirt, dig around, and ask questions – just like he would have with a son.

I’m glad Frank got to be the one to share Bea’s sex. In that split-second, he shifted and embraced all that being a dad to a daughter means. Almost two years later, I know our daughter has an exceptional foundation because you’re her dad. Happy Father’s Day!

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Fairy Tales

Growing up, one of my favorite movies was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. My grandparents had the VHS and I remember watching it many times in their small den. I always wondered if being human was worth turning into sea foam in the end. Years later, Disney released their version of the classic fairy tale with no sea foam ending.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark
The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark

It’s not news that recent animation has softened fairy tales into stories with happy endings. (Did you know that Frozen was based on Andersen’s The Snow Queen?) And, I’m not necessarily against new versions of classic tales. Many fairy tales have been rewritten with new and fun twists.

Frank and I have been talking about how we want to introduce Bea to fairy tales. Do we begin with the original version and then let her discover the recreations? If we start with the Disney version, will the original seem harsh and unnecessary?

When I taught third grade, part of the curriculum was reading The Little Match Girl, another Andersen tale with a sad ending. My students were enthralled and we had an amazing discussion about the story. I wonder if we underestimate the ability kids have to empathize and think critically about literature. Do we need to soften the edges or can they handle thought-provoking stories?

Our discussions of fairy tales and responsible parenting have led me to ponder how we protect our kids from life in general. It’s easy to explain things in simple terms or soften the edges of reality. How do we explain homelessness, poverty, war, and oppression in terms that Bea can understand but that doesn’t diminish the power of those words?

We have a few years before this truly becomes a choice we make, but the vocabulary we use now will lay the groundwork for how we teach Bea to empathize in the future. Maybe fairy tales are a good place to start.

Do you read the original versions of fairy tales? How do you explain big ideas to small people?