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.