Parenting in today’s world is arguably both easier and harder than it has ever been before at the same time. While our mothers and grandmothers never had a lot of the technology that we have today (hello, baby swing and white noise machine), they also didn’t face nearly as much scrutiny as today’s mothers. Social media has made it easier than ever to share those darling pictures of your little one with your dear Aunt Petunia, but it has also made it easier to judge and be judged by other mothers. I have caught myself on plenty of occasions looking at friend’s pictures of their kids doing various things (riding a bike without a helmet, chowing down on some candy, riding in a front facing car seat, you get the idea) and caught myself saying “what is she thinking?!” without taking a moment to reflect that there are probably Mamas out there thinking the same thing about me. Parenting these days seems to go one of two ways. You’re either a “crunchy granola” Mama or a modern technology, mainstream Mama. If you find yourself put off by the extreme nature of either of these options, I hear you. Enter: Crispy Parenting. Not quite crunchy, not totally mainstream. I’m not a child-raising expert and I don’t claim that any of this is the only way to do things. I also recognize that some of these philosophies may change as my child and I grow together. So what are the basic philosophies that make me “Crispy”?
I Absolutely Vaccinate.
This will never be up for debate in my parenting book. Though it has been proven time and time again that vaccines DO NOT cause Autism, people still harbor some fear. Reflect for a moment on the Mamas to children with Autism. Consider this. By not vaccinating your child, you are telling these Mamas that you would rather your child be dead than be like their child. This is harsh. This makes people uncomfortable. But this is true. I understand the natural instinct to prevent injury to your child whenever possible, but putting your child (and other children) at risk for deadly disease is never okay. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like for children who have an allergy to vaccine ingredients. These children are another major reason to vaccinate if you can. By immunizing the majority of the population, we are making the world a much safer place for them. Some crunchy parents reason that the body can fight off any illness on it’s own without the aid of vaccinations. My question to these parents is, if your child can fight off full blown Polio, why can’t they fight off the (minimal, if any) side effects of the Polio vaccine? See the logic? Once again, vaccination is never ever up for debate, at all, for me. This is the one thing that I fully allow myself to judge other mothers on and I will never apologize for that. Vaccinate your children.
Ahh, babywearing! One of the easiest ways to keep Mama and baby happy and close. I seriously use my Moby Wrap every single day for the majority of the day. My little guy loves to be snuggled and held. Some Mamas think that holding baby too much may spoil them. I politely disagree. You cannot spoil a child with too much love. People in other countries babywear all day every day, and studies have shown that these babies cry significantly less (seriously, like, almost never). Babies are meant to be close to their Mamas and slings and wraps help to mimic the womb, keeping babies comfy and happy.
I Avoid Screen Time, But Sometimes…
It has been proven that screen time before the age of three can be damaging to child development and behavior. Even after three, too much screen time is never a good thing. We live in a technology dependent world where children are constantly complaining of boredom. Children have become so used to being constantly entertained and stimulated that they no longer know how to use their imagination. “Go play outside,” you say. “How?” they ask. TV and smartphone apps have become an epidemic. This being said, every Mama needs a moment of peace, and if placing my child in front of the TV for a couple minutes while I make his bottle gives that to me, I do it. In my Crispy opinion, as long as you’re not using technology as a babysitter and as long as it isn’t preventing you from interacting with your child, turn on Finding Dory and take a moment to catch your breath (and maybe pour yourself a glass of wine while you’re at it).
I Do Not Believe In “Cry It Out”
Think back to the last time that you were really, really upset. Calming yourself down was kind of tough, right? Now imagine that you have absolutely zero life experience to draw from to help you deal with these upsetting emotions. Calming yourself would be nearly impossible. This is what your baby experiences. When you leave your baby alone in their crib to cry, they literally think that you have abandoned them and that you are never coming back. This is true until babies develop object permanence. When baby stops crying, they haven’t “self-soothed”, they have mentally shut down. We have all heard of fight or flight. What a lot of people don’t know is that it is actually fight, flight, or freeze. After enough panic, the body literally shuts down so you will not die. This is what is happening to your child. Some Mamas resort to Cry It Out out of desperation and I do not fault them, at all. Parenting is hard and ultimately every mother is just trying to do what is best for her child. Night waking is normal for children. Think about an average night of sleep for yourself. You wake several times but are able to put yourself back to sleep. Babies do not have the skills to put themselves back to sleep, and will not have these skills until they are developmentally ready. For me, if my son needs me, even in the middle of the night, I go to him. He is small and he has needs that must be met, and it is my job to meet them. I look at rocking my sweet boy to sleep as a privilege, not a burden. By meeting his needs consistently from the very beginning, we are forming a secure attachment and I am instilling confidence in him. Because of this, as he becomes older and more mentally developed, he will be less and less “needy”. I have already seen this happening, even as early as four months. In the first couple months of his life, when Liam would wake at night, I would have to hold and rock him to calm him back to sleep. Now all it takes is a simple pat with my hand and a little “it’s okay, Mama’s still here,” and he’s right back to sleep. He knows without a doubt that if he needs me, I will be there.
I Formula Feed.
My entire pregnancy, I planned to breastfeed. I was so excited about the wonderful bond that it would create between us. I did all of the research I could. Right after birth, Liam latched on and we were off to a great start. Then time went on and things got worse and worse. I was in so much pain, almost as much pain as actual labor itself. I cried every time I fed him. I was so devastated, almost mourning the loss of this “wonderful bond” that I had been fantasizing about. Finally, I took a moment to come back to reality and realized that I was hurting us both. I was in physical and mental pain, he was always hungry because I would have to unlatch him before he was really full. I made my first formula bottle and cried. I made my second formula bottle and cried. This went on for about a week. Then I moved on and we have never looked back. He is a much happier baby, I am a much happier Mama, he is meeting his milestones, and growing like a weed. I still think that breastfeeding is a beautiful and wonderful thing and I still mourn the loss of that experience. But, I refuse to judge myself for making the right decision for myself and my child.
Co-sleeping can mean a few different things. I can be bed sharing, room sharing, or somewhere in between. Liam sleeps in our room, and will continue to do so until at least six months, but most likely one year. This is what is recommended to reduce the risk of SIDS. It also makes life a whole lot easier for me. When he wakes at night, a quick pat and some reassurance and we’re all back to sleep without anyone having to get out of bed. Major win. We also bed share sometimes. If he wakes early and I’m not ready to get up yet, if he wakes up scared at night, if he is in the middle of a growth spurt or a mental leap, or if he isn’t feeling well, I scoop him up and snuggle him up against me and we both go back to sleep. Again, major win and major cuddles.
I Make My Own Baby Food.
We skipped the traditional rice cereal as a first food in favor of organic vegetables and fruits. We plan to keep him on a mostly plant based, organic diet. We chose to go with vegetables first to get him used to the flavor. I didn’t want him to get accustomed to the super “carby” taste of rice cereal or oats first, or the super sweet flavor of fruits out of fear that he would later turn his nose up at “green stuff”. Once his menu expands, we will add brown rice cereal, oats, quinoa, and other grains into the mix. We will introduce him to a wide variety of flavors and textures to encourage adventurous eating and discourage picky eating. Until one year, all food is supplementary to breaskmilk or formula, so it’s mostly for fun. We plan to make him try all foods twice. If he doesn’t like something after two tries, I will never force him to eat it. I want to create a healthy relationship with food and eating. For that reason, we will also never use food as a reward. Food is necessary and should be enjoyed, but will not be used as a bribe, reward, or punishment. I looked into Baby Led Weaning and decided that it wasn’t for us. I am a big worrier and the risk of choking is too high for me to be comfortable. So for now, we are sticking to purees until he is a little more developmentally ready. All of this being said, we will absolutely indulge in occasional treats. On birthdays, we will have cake. On nights that Mama doesn’t want to cook, we will have pizza. If they are out or organic bananas at the grocery store, regular old bananas will do just fine.
I Will Not Spank My Children.
Spanking, popping, swatting, whatever you want to call it. It is violence and it is not something that I will encourage in our household. We are all trying to teach our children to be good people and setting an example with violence is absolutely not the way to do this. Children watch every single thing that we do and learn from it. As much as we say “do as I say, not as I do,” that’s simply not how it works. I want my children to respect me. I do not want my children to fear me.
“Time With” Instead Of “Time Out”
A lot of parents see “time outs” as a good alternative to spanking. While I do agree that it is better than hitting, consider “time with” (meaning sitting with Mama or Daddy for a while until kiddos are able to calm down) instead. By putting children in time out, we show them that when they are having a hard time handling their big emotions, that they will be isolated. Then we wonder why, as teenagers, they lock themselves away in their rooms rather than coming to us with their problems. Kids are small people with big emotions and it is my duty as a parent to help them learn how to deal with those emotions. For us, this can be better accomplished by having “time with” and talking about why a behavior is unacceptable, why we feel the way that we do, and better ways to handle our emotions in the future.
I Offer Praise And Rewards
Some “crunchy” parents are against excessive praise or rewards for good behavior. I say, if you like a behavior, let them know and encourage them to repeat it. Offering a “great job!” or a sticker for being brave at the doctor, or helping Mama do the dishes makes kids feel good, and I am all about making my child happy.
I Encourage Individuality
Children are held up to “average standards” for meeting milestones, behaviors, interests, etc. While meeting milestones is important and some behaviors are acceptable and some are not, every child is their own person. Because of this, we need to leave a little room for error. While one individual child may not sleep through the night at the “appropriate age”, they may sit up or roll over early. If my son shows an interest in playing with baby dolls or kitchen sets, we will get him a baby doll or a kitchen set. If, in the future, my daughter shows interest in playing with race cars, thats okay too. If my son decides that he only wants to wear purple shirts, he can wear purple shirts for as long as that continues to make him happy. I will not try to force my children into a mold of what I think that they “should” be. They are their own people, not little extensions of myself.
I Work Full Time
While I would love to be a stay at home Mama to my little one, it just isn’t an option for us. To continue living the lifestyle that we do and to stay in our home, we need two sources of income. I also need my job for the benefits (my health insurance is the bomb). I am lucky enough to have parents that are able to watch my son during the day and to have a job that only requires me to work four days per week, and I am so so thankful for this. I know that my child is in good hands, but I still feel sadness every time that I leave him. I just make sure to get extra snuggles in on my days off.
I Show As Much Love As Possible
Children cannot be spoiled with too much holding, to many snuggles, too many kind words, or too much love. I try my best to remain present while I am with my child and offer as much encouragement and interaction as possible. No one has ever said “I wish I spent less time playing with my children.”
My Child Controls Their Own Body
If my son doesn’t want a haircut, he will not be forced. If my future daughter does not want her ears pierced, she will not be forced. If my children do not want to “give hugs and kisses” that is okay. Their body is their own and they will be allowed to make (healthy) decisions for themselves. So many things are out of a child’s control. Something as simple as a haircut should not be a cause of distress. By allowing the child to make these decisions themselves, I am setting them up for future healthy self-image and body autonomy.
I Enforce Appropriate Punishments
Essentially, make the time appropriate for the crime. I wouldn’t take away all of my child’s toys just because he spoke to me disrespectfully. I also wouldn’t only scold him if he takes my car for a joyride. These are obviously extreme examples, but the concept makes sense. Punishments that are either too harsh or not harsh enough are not effective. To be effective, punishments must be consistent and appropriate.
I Use Positive Language
This basically means that instead of telling a child “don’t run,” you would tell them “please, walk.” By telling them what to do instead, rather than just telling them what not to do, you are setting them up for more success. Children can’t follow instructions that are never given. Rather than “no hitting”, try “be gentle”. Instead of “stop yelling”, try “use your inside voice”. If we want our children to act a certain way, we need to tell them how to do it. However, if my child is in immediate danger, I will not feel bad for a simple “stop” or “no” or “oh my gosh, do not jump off of that!”
No parenting method is foolproof, and no parent can stick to their beliefs 100% of the time. We will make mistakes, just as our children will. These are simply my philosophies and guidelines that will help me be the best Mama that I can be, and my son be the best kiddo possible. Do you agree with Crispy parenting? Disagree? What would you do differently? Share in the comments, y’all! #KeepItCrispy
The Crispy Mama