Our babies are born with the same desires as a baby born in Stone Age times. It is our environment and culture which has so radically changed, affecting how we parent our children today. Living in a fast-paced, materially and technologically driven age we need more than ever to listen to our inner voice, for the sake of our children’s and our own wellbeing.
I am bringing up my son, Ewan, in the 2010’s in modern day Britain. However, in as many ways as possible I parent him as our Stone Age ancestors once did. This includes baby-wearing, sustained breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, bed-sharing, using natural toiletries and medicines and attempting elimination communication (also called potty or natural toilet training). Continue reading Reflections on the Continuum Concept→
Frist published in ‘Mothering’ magazine, April 4th 2012
An evening Ceilidh
It is the evening of our friend’s wedding. We dance enthusiastically at the ceilidh, a hundred bodies dressed in their finest, moving in tune to the music. Instinctively I swoop to avoid a flying arm, my free hand reassuringly touching the blonde mop nestled at my chest. As I move to the rhythms of the music my son unlatches himself from my breast, drifting contentedly into sleep. He nestles comfortably into my body, his eyes heavy, his breathing steady, as all around him people twirl to the rhythm of the music. Tummy full of milk, he is comforted by the familiar sounds of my heartbeat and voice, my smell and the touch of my hair on his face, sleeping soundly on my front for the rest of the evening. Conscious of his every movement, I am free to join in the evening’s celebrations, safe in the knowledge he is with me. Continue reading Toddler wearing→
I’ve been approached so many times about toddler slings that I’ve decided it’s time to write a post about them. This way many of the questions can be answered in one go, and this post referred to in the future by friends and acquaintances who want advice about the right kind of sling to buy.
Baby-wearing as a way of life
We have always used slings as the preferred mode of travelling with Ewan. I never understood or used a pushchair, feeling this separated me from my child. The merits of baby-wearing are a blog post, even a book, in itself, so I won’t discuss them in detail here. Safe to say, baby-wearing simply made sense for us, fitting perfectly into our parenting philosophy and our lifestyle.
We are walking on the Isles of Lobos, a small, uninhabited island close to the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles. Following the islands way-marked paths, my twenty-one month old son, Ewan, is growing heavy in my arms. My brother and Dad have already carried him on their shoulders for some time, now it is my turn. Regrettably, my Boba sling lies in our chalet, forgotten as we packed in haste for our day-trip. As a baby-wearing advocate, slings are an essential piece of equipment for us which I have used almost every day since I discovered them when Ewan was small. This is why I am missing the sling so much today, wondering how we can improvise in order to still explore this island thoroughly, with a sleeping toddler in tow.
Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I could write a book or two about travelling; however, aware of my audience, I shall attempt to be brief!
The travelling bug
I have been described as a ‘roamer’ and a gypsy because of how much travelling I do. Indeed, I cannot sit still for long and love to explore. Perhaps this is why my son is so active, and why I married a fell runner and climber! I caught the travelling bug after completing a gap year at the age of 18, where I lived in Nepal, teaching Tibetan refugee children. This was a life-changing experience, which has greatly influenced my life choices. When I met Rich, my future husband, we pursued our shared love of mountaineering and travelling by escaping to the mountains of Wales, Scotland and France as often as possible. On graduating, disenchanted by a stressful job in London, I moved to Vietnam to teach English in Hanoi. Living in Vietnam gave me the opportunity to travel a lot in South East Asia. Richard joined me as part of his sabbatical from IBM, where we travelled together round Vietnam, China, Nepal and Tibet, before returning to the UK, where we shortly after got married, spending our honeymoon in Kenya and Zanzibar.
My son is my greatest teacher. In our first meeting our eyes locked as he looked, all knowing and serene, into my eyes shining with wonder. He communicated, with a depth amazing for a newborn, that it was all OK, that he would show me the way. Each and every day he keeps this first unspoken promise, teaching me to listen to him and to my mothering instincts, to really trust nature.
There are moments when I am swayed by mainstream society, becoming a sheep plodding along the well trodden, comfortable path, craving approval, normality and recognition. At such times all I must do is stop, question, and look to my son to steer me back to the right path. Yet this path is little travelled in this modern age, weeds tangle and knot as tree trunks lie haphazardly blocking the way, ancient wisdom and primordial practices, half lost, so difficult to find amongst the debris.
Walking this lonely path I eagerly look for other like-minded souls. I find a few and stumble upon others who are supportive and appreciative of this alternative style, even if they choose not to practice it themselves. I also begin to search the virtual world, one of the many wonders of our modern age, sharing my parenting style through writing. I find a growing online community who listen, applaud and reflect on my words, as I in turn listen and learn from theirs.
Support groups are also a lifeline to me, one an informal weekly meeting between local mum friends, the other a local La Leche League group. I also find wisdom in natural parenting literature, including research about the benefits of attachment parenting, which helps affirm my belief what I am doing is right. My cousin recently pointed out that my parenting is an example of research-based practice, which to a certain extent is true, although my son is by far greatest teacher, research often backs-up my practice.
Ewan is sitting comfortably in his baby jogger, his father pushing him as they speed along a canal path, sights and sounds whizzing by as they overtake other joggers, families and walkers. Ewan checks his Mummy is still running beside him, then squeals with delight as Daddy suddenly runs at top speed, the scenery falling away before him, fresh air hitting his face as he laughs hysterically. He loves being in the baby jogger. Just another typical afternoon out with his parents!
Running; a shared passion
My husband and I have always been very active, outdoor people, meeting on a university mountaineering trip over a decade ago, and since then walking and running up countless mountains and hills together. Richard has been a keen fell runner since his teens, having raced in dozens of mountain marathons in the UK over recent years. Fell running is a specialist kind of running, where sportspeople run or race off road in the hills and mountains. This shared passion did not stop when I found out I was pregnant; I simply listened to my body, going at a slower pace until the point it was too difficult for us to continue running together as my bump was proving too heavy for high impact sports! The third trimester of pregnancy involved long walks, swims and yoga, ensuring I retained a good level of fitness in preparation for the birth.
The new arrival
Ewan James was born in June 2010. We both fell instantly in love with our beautiful son. The early months of parenthood involved a period of adjustment, as we learnt to live with a child entirely dependent on us for survival. However, having a child has never stopped us pursuing our own passions. Our son has fit into our lifestyle as much as we have adjusted ours to meet his needs. Ewan is taken almost everywhere we go; he is very ‘elastic’ in that he accepts wherever he is, whatever we are doing, as long as he is comfortable and secure. To achieve this we practice attachment parenting, sustained breastfeeding, baby-wearing and bed-sharing, all practices which lend themselves to being in close proximity and responsive to our child.
We usually transport Ewan in a sling, rarely using a conventional pushchair as we find them impractical for the terrain we walk on and the activities we do. Because we live in a hilly area of Derbyshire, baby-wearing is also by far the easiest way of getting about. However, we use a specialist running pushchair whenever we go running with Ewan, as it is not advisable to run with a baby in a sling. Although I have jogged for short periods with Ewan on my back, slings are not designed for running, and are bodies would suffer with the extra weight and impact of a baby on our backs.
Buying a baby jogger
We therefore decided to buy a running buggy, so that we could still pursue our love of running, taking Ewan with us on family runs. Richard’s parents offered to buy us a pram as a newborn present, so after much research we decided to buy the Performance Baby Jogger, which fitted our needs of a lightweight pushchair specifically designed for running, with the added bonus of easily being put into and out of the car. This is great when most of the family runs we do are not from our doorstep but are further afield, due to the local terrain being unsuitable for travelling far with a pushchair.
Ewan’s first ride
A few months later, when Ewan was strong enough to sit upright in the baby jogger, we took him for his first ride, to a disused railway track a few miles from home. Fortunately he is used to being in a pushchair when Grandma takes him for walks. However, he did look surprised as we set off at a slow running pace, but soon got used to this quicker speed, settling into his new chair and surroundings, looking around him at the passing countryside.
Using the baby jogger in daily life
Since then we have taken Ewan in his baby jogger as often as possible. Sometimes we run from our doorstep around the village; we much prefer being able to pursue our hobbies locally and simply, whilst also reducing our fuel output. We have also found local canal paths and disused railway lines in the area, which are suitable for pushchairs and bikes, because they are flat and don’t have any styles, which would limit the accessibility of the footpath. We go out in all weathers, except when there’s a lot of snow on the ground, using the rain cover and thick ‘cosy toes’ cover to ensure Ewan is kept warm and dry. This was particularly useful when we were running in minus temperatures during the cold spell last winter, and in the recent April showers!
Meeting our family’s needs
Ewan is fully integrated into our lives, sharing our love of exercise and being outdoors. We both much prefer to adapt our activities and lifestyles so that our son can be with us as much as possible. Richard trains for and attends a number of mountain marathons each year, events which certainly aren’t child-friendly, using the baby jogger means he can do a little of this training with his family.
The baby jogger certainly meets our needs as a family who love running; it means we can share this sport together instead of practising it separately. We are fortunate to live in a society that designs speciality baby equipment to meet the needs of a wide variety of families. Baby joggers are one of these niche pieces of equipment, which happen to match our lifestyle and parenting philosophy. Toddler slings are another example, fitting a small but growing area of the children’s market.
Realistically, Ewan cannot yet accompany us on long fell runs in the hills and mountains, but by being with us in a baby jogger he is learning and accepting his parent’s love of running as part of his life. We anticipate that as Ewan gets older he shall be keen to join us in our activities, whether that is fell running, mountain walking or simply visiting a local nature reserve. Who knows, perhaps one day he shall even follow in his Daddy’s footsteps by doing mountain marathons. However, this shall be entirely his choice; even if he never runs as an adult, those years when he accompanied us in the baby jogger will contribute to his appreciation of exercise for health and happiness, as well as a wonderful way to experience the great outdoors and nature.
We look forward to many more years using our baby jogger with our growing family; hopefully one day a new baby will sit in the baby jogger as Ewan runs alongside it! The fact we can pursue our love of running alongside our son enhances the experience of running because we are sharing it with the person we love most in the world, our son.