Thursday, April 14, 2011

Out on a Limb Here....

Can I just say that Tuesday's Carnival of Natural Parenting Blogs left me shocked?

The topic was Compassionate Advocacy and we were given the following criteria:

As parents who believe in many “natural parenting” practices, we sometimes find ourselves educating (and inspiring!) others about those practices. How do you advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately? Remember: you don’t have to be “outspoken” to be an advocate, you can be a natural parenting role model/advocate simply by living.  (from Code Name:  Mama who is one of the hostesses of the Carnival)

I have been part of the Carnival for the past 3 months and I have really enjoyed reading the many other articles from parents who believe in and practice natural, authentic parenting.  I have observed that natural parenting is a spectrum of styles and beliefs but I am delighted to have found an online community of cosleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, natural-birthing parents.

Many of the parents who write for the Carnival are confident and assertive about natural parenting practices and beliefs and they aren't afraid to tackle controversial subjects like circumcision, free-birthing or vaccination.  They are an opinionated bunch and I have felt lucky to fit in amongst them.

When I was considering how to write a post for the topic of compassionate advocacy I was actually embarrassed to choose to write about a time that I sent an email to someone asking him to consider an alternative to letting his baby cry-it-out.  I thought that the other participants in the Carnival would write about experiences that were much more concrete and assertive.  I imagined reading posts like:

I became a La Leche League Leader so that I could help other mothers learn gentle mothering methods
I helped my brother-in-law get custody of his children
I stopped a mother from spanking her son at the playground.

Imagine my surprise, then, when almost all of the 50+ posts submitted to the Carnival were along a single theme:  I live my life as an example to other parents and I don't tell other people what to do.  Even the comments on the posts were of a single nature:  Good for you for being an example of a good parent.

Oh, I was SO disappointed.  I had SO hoped to read inspiring stories of compassionate parents standing up for the needs of children who are not their own. 

If we want real change to occur in parenting practices across North America, we have to do more than just stand up for our own children.  We have to advocate for other people's children, too.

Would I try to help a woman who was being abused by her partner?  Absolutely.  Would I protect someone from racism?  Yes.  Would I take a stand against homophobia?  No question.  In my work as an elementary school teacher I was active in helping people in each of those situations.  Would I advocate for a baby or child who is being harmed by her own parents?  Damn right.

Only one comment on my post from Tuesday was supportive, and that comment was from my sister.  Some comments were so negative that I didn't even publish them.

What I've learned is that if I am truly parenting for a peaceful world then I will have to find more parents who, like me, stand up for what they believe in.  And not just for their own kids.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that you received negative comments. That is certainly the opposite of compassionate advocacy and I would seriously question the truthfulness of the posts if any of those unpublishable comments were from them. I'm still working my way through this month's carnatpar posts (sorry, I haven't gotten to yours yet :)

    For me there is more than one kind of advocacy. There is more than one thing to be inspired by. There is standing up for something to be inspired by at times. There is also compassion to be inspired by. The first step in deciding which approach is applicable is compassionate connection. If directly standing up for something will make a difference, then that is the way to go. The majority of the time, people will simply tune it out because there is, unfortunately, far too much aggression disguised as advocacy. One person will interpret direct overtures as intended and be receptive, another will see it as aggressive and shut down or attack in defense.

    There is a difference in the approach to this month's topic, which I think is part of what you are speaking toward. Some were "advocating to" and some were "advocating for."

  2. I did comment on your CarNatPar post; sorry if it didn't come across as supportively as it was meant. :-( I have advocated for other people's kids, especially in my former job in the social work field. However, those experiences didn't seem to fit with *compassionate* advocacy. I suppose they were, because I wasn't doing it to be judgmental, but it wouldn't necessarily have come across that way in a blog post. At any rate, I am sorry you're so frustrated and disappointed. I wonder what would be an effective way to advocate without alienating?

  3. I have to admit, I'm a little confused by your post. I just went back and read through the comments on your carnival post (that were published, obviously), the only one that basically said "I don't agree with your approach" was from a non-Carnival participant. Everyone else seemed very supportive of you, but maybe I'm just reading tone differently. For my own part, I definitely didn't intend for you to feel unsupported, nor do I think my comment comes across as such.
    Obviously Lauren and I don't control the content of what writers send in for their carnival posts, and I think the topic was broad enough that it could have been subject to a number of interpretations. Perhaps there was a vibe running across the blogosphere that many people picked up. Who knows.
    What I do believe is that I am a part of an incredibly compassionate natural parenting community, and I read posts all the time that are vocal and effective in advocating for the gentle and humane treatment of children. Just because not every Carnival writer chose to write about a specific instance does not mean that we have not all written letters, written posts, written FB statuses that advocate for children.
    I wouldn't write off the NP community so quickly - I think you will find that there is more to it than the vibe you picked up in this sampling of posts.

  4. Sorry you got negative comments! I think there is a difference between being an advocate and standing up on your soapbox. Yes, we need both in this world to make it a better place, but when it comes to issues like parenting, you can't just tell someone what is best...because it might not be best for them. I think that's why so many Carnival posts touched on the subject of "walking the walk" and inspiring others while doing so. People who see a confident mama dealing with an issue with her children in a gentle, respectful way, will become inspired and will aspire to be more respectful and gentle with their own kiddos...without necessarily needing to have a conversation with that mama. I know I've been there. I have seen mamas who inspire me and I strive to improve myself, but I know if someone I don't know pointed out to me I was doing something "wrong" I would most likely get defensive first and may not get the helpful message behind their advice. Anyways, I just wanted to hopefully make you feel better about sharing your CIO story and to say you shouldn't get discouraged if not everyone in the NP community is standing on their soapbox. "You must be the change you want to see in the world" is a beautiful way to sum up the essence of being a compassionate advocate :-)