Controversial Parenting

Posted by Naomi de la Torre on Oct.05, 2009

© - joanek

© - joanek

I was the weird kid. You know what I’m talking about. I was the kid who wore homemade clothes and ate strange, unrecognizable foods that emerged out of dark containers, while the rest of the kids pulled up the collars on their Izod polos and ate fluffy white bread sandwiches. While the other girls in my class were at Brownie meetings, I was attending socialist freedom rallies or making up fable skits for the viewing pleasure of my sister because we weren’t allowed to watch television.

Don’t get me wrong. With all my heart, I wanted to be a Girl Scout. But when I tried to join the same Brownie troop that a bunch of kids from my class at school joined, I was told that the troop had reached capacity. I wonder why?

My parents were card-carrying granola crunching hippies. Around the time my sister and I were born, they swore off meat, processed foods and sugar. If you were looking for a treat in my house, you had a choice between a tasty dried prune or a slice of halvah. Before I could really talk, I was chanting slogans at political protests. My mom was an advocate of breastfeeding and natural childbirth way before these ideas became part of mainstream American thinking. She used cloth diapers and wore us in a baby sling when we were infants.

My parents were progressive. They made unusual lifestyle and parenting choices. It was a little awkward being the weird kid growing up, but now that I’m an adult, I really respect the choices they made. I have to thank them for opening my mind to the beauty of unconventional and unorthodox thinking.
But for some reason, now that I am a parent and making some controversial choices of my own, they think I am bizarre and find my decisions faulty and puzzling. They tolerate me because I am their child. But if it was up to them, we would not be practicing the family bed, or homeschooling, or breastfeeding children who can walk and talk, or using a homeopath as our primary family practitioner.

My parents were the ones who raised me to be free-thinking and strange. It’s all their fault, if they really want to know. I didn’t choose to be raised a vegetarian pseudo-socialist. It wasn’t me who took a three-year-old to protests and freedom rallies. Nor was it me serving carob tofu cakes at children’s birthday parties. I didn’t ask to wear cloth diapers or be worn around in a sling. And I certainly didn’t ask to be deprived of all forms of sugar or to be barred from the enjoyment of normal television viewing for the entirety of my childhood.

But the truth is there will always be some idea that is too radical for even the most progressive parent. For example, the other day I saw an interview with former child star, “Blossom” Mayim Bialik. She was discussing her “controversial parenting techniques.” A lot of the ideas she had were in line with my own. Family bed? Check. Breastfeeding on demand? Check. Extended breastfeeding? Check. Babywearing? Check. Homeschooling? Check. Cloth diapers? Sorry, I’m too lazy. Elimination communication? Huh?

Elimination communication. This one is a doozy even for me. But here’s the skinny: Elimination communication (EC) is a method of infant potty training which uses minimal or no diapers. Parents using this technique rely upon timing, intuition and cues to become in tune with their baby’s need to eliminate waste. By learning to recognize your own baby’s elimination signals (just as you would notice certain behaviors when you baby is tired or hungry) you can catch them before they poop or pee on themselves and train them to go only in a potty or another place of your choice.

The ideology behind EC is appealing to me. I believe in attachment parenting and I think that being in tune with your child can have a wonderful positive impact on your child’s emotional, physical, and mental development. EC is just another way of being in tune with your child that takes it up a notch. And this notch is just too messy for me. The idea of running around with an infant wearing no diaper is just beyond what I can envision for myself.
I can barely manage to keep my house clean enough not to need to use the Wet Vac on a daily basis. How would I keep track of my baby’s elimination signals when I can’t even keep track of my own purse? I think about me trying to do elimination communication and I think about being a prisoner in my home, trapped in a puddle of excrement and tears.

But, when I consider the family bed, babywearing, homeschooling, nursing on demand, and extended breastfeeding, I’m sure that a lot of other parents have the same reaction to these parenting techniques that I do to elimination communication. They are just too much work (and maybe a little bit too weird, as well). We all love our children and want to do what is best for them, but we have to know and respect our own limits.

My parents were unorthodox. They did their own thing. And I learned a lot from them. But surprisingly enough, nowadays, many of the things that my parents did are hip, even fashionable. Babywearing, natural childbirth, nursing, organic food, vegetarianism, social justice…. It’s all in the norm 30 years later. But co-sleeping, homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, homeopathy? These ideas may take another 30 years to become accepted by the mainstream, or they may go out of practice completely. Who knows? I’ll have to let my own kids inform me when they become parents. And I can shake my own head at their perplexing new parenting ideas, while they say, “Oh, Mom! You’re so conventional.”

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Posted under About Mom, Family.

Article By: Naomi de la Torre

Naomi de la Torre

Profile: Naomi de la Torre is a stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages two and five. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva and can make a killer octopus out of a single hot dog.


Latest posts by Naomi de la Torre

7 comments for this entry:
  1. Laurie

    Infant potty training isn’t all that controversial. We used it with our third child in 1979 and enjoyed it very much, were delighted to start and finish sooner than we had with traditional delayed toilet learning. And now the next generation in our family is using it too :-)

    It’s a fun thing. I consider it a part of Attachment Parenting since it is used in AP countries.

    It’s good for bonding, communication and the environment.

    It is not an all-or-nothing thing. Most Western families use it on a part-time basis, in the morning and later in the day or evening when they are home.

    Here are some links for more:

  2. Kyla

    Great article! Very Very Funny….went to your website LOVE IT!

  3. Naomi de la Torre
    Naomi de la Torre

    Good point, Laurie. I actually admire parents who use EC. I just found myself a little to overwhelmed to try it in my family. But I think it sounds like it would be a great way to enhance bonding, communication and create less trash, while saving your children from having to sit in their own urine and feces. Diapers are pretty gross if you really think about it. And I am all for any parenting technique that enhances bonding between kids and parents. I have heard of other families that use it on a part time basis, too. Thanks for your comment!!

  4. Naomi de la Torre
    Raphael Ross

    The article really gives you a new perspective on parenting I guess some people knew about the methods but young adults like my self wouldn’t really know about these STRANGE but USEFULL methods. I also like the fact that you give a lot of credit to your parentals, their methods of raising their children gave you a chance to learn, in sense of using them or not, or even modifying. Regardless of what methods are chose or used or frowned upon or praised, I’m happy to consider you apart of my family and your children are in a pair of GREAT HANDS!!!!!

  5. Patricia Robinson

    Hello my dear daughter in law;

    We have come a long way! Yes you are different than your parents, new modern times! But I think what you said “I was the wierd kid” was because of the way you were raised. Nothing wrong with the way your parents raised you - just different but it HAS now made you an outstanding mommy. I see how calm and patient you are with the boys with all their needs from; potty training, breastfeedings, and especially descipline. You are a “SUPER MOM” and we love you for raising the boys in your own special way.
    All My Love
    Your mother-in-law - Patty
    P.S. - No cloth diapers for me either :-)!

  6. Charndra from Part Time Diaper Free!

    Hi Naomi,
    I’ve enjoyed reading this post. It is funny, about how one person’s ‘controversial’ is another person’s normal! Like all those things that Mayim does that you also do automatically, normally.

    We practice EC like that - it is just normal when baby wakes up to offer him a potty break, or if he is fussing and wriggling.

    Of course, as Laurie said, we do it part-time in the west. My baby wears training pants when we go out and he signals ME when he needs to have a poop. It is AWESOME. Wees? Eh, diaper catches them a lot, and a lot go in the potty too.

    Ahh, I couldn’t use diapers full-time - that seems odd, LOL, when you can use them part time so easily!


  7. Blia

    I can relate with you in terms of thinking you had a “weird” upbringing. Being the first generation Hmong immigrants to the United States, my parents had some strong Hmong beliefs but were also very progressive in their thinking. Thus they raised us in a way that didn’t quite fit with mainstream Hmong methods of child-rearing and didn’t fit with mainstream American child-rearing either. I guess what’s important is that we still turned out fine in the end.

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