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Think About It

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. Its funny when the world comes together to teach us things. I find many things in my life are either a foreshadowing of sorts or setting me up for another event. Life can be like this sometimes and I like to embrace it. Parenting is a bit like this. Every event can be linked to another. Where does a behavior come from? Even desirable behaviors have a root. History begets more history and traditions grow, and culture is taught generation to generation. Mindfulness in parenting can lead to stunning results that many may not believe without proof. Lets use the example of polite culture. Parents everywhere want their children to be thought of as polite. Why is this? So we are not judged negatively by our peers. This is okay, but something we should recognize. When politeness is not needed it may not be taught, much like proper dinner table etiquette. So why do we want our children to say please and thank you, may I and after you? Because we want them to model respect for others. Respect another’s right to property, or space, respect another’s right to freedom and happiness. How do we teach them? We model desirable behavior in everyday interactions and we coach our children along the way. “Now say please, and thank you”, or “No thank you”. But many leave out giving respect to our children who are learning by what we do and not necessarily what we say. Ask them politely when to borrow or have things and they will believe that is how they are supposed to behave. Hitting is also like this. Hitting in any form teaches children its okay to hit. This influence may come from anywhere. Not necessarily the parents. My son was exposed to another family that used hitting as a form of punishment, but because he was too young to understand this is not okay he began hitting in his interactions. He observed the Mom hitting children, but also the children hitting each other. He witnessed the kids getting hit for hitting one another and was truly confused. I could tell because he began flinching when I would come up to him and ask him not to hit. As if he was trying to see if I would hit him. I try to limit the influences in his life that show hitting is okay, but I cannot be everywhere. Although some things I can control. Like the cartoons that he really likes that are more... continue reading

There are No Rules, Just Listen to Your Baby

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. I am quite involved in a couple of attachment (AP) and gentle parenting communities and I have met many people who live many different lifestyles in those communities. Depending on who you ask you may get as many different answers to the question of what AP/gentle parenting is as if you asked what their diet looks like. There are many correct answers to this question, too. There is a mindset among some mothers that goes like this: I’m right, you’re wrong and you should be doing what I’m doing. There are countless arguments about this on many forums if you care to dig for them. Breastfeeding vs. formula, hospital vs. home birth, vaccinations vs. unvaccinated children, disposables vs. cloth diapers, and the list goes on and on. You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right If everyone would understand this simple fact we could really all get along better. But, as I was once told, “everyone has their own way to parent wrong.” This is true isn’t it? If my way is right then yours must be wrong. Except that, no, that’s not what that means. When I had my first child I was not a gentle parent, and when I found out I was pregnant again 11 and 1/2 years later I was still not a gentle parent, but I was on my way there, I just didn’t know it yet. While I was pregnant I was insistent on a natural birth if it could be had because of all the interventions of my first birth, but I had planned on formula feeding my son from the start. Why? I under-produced breast milk for my first son and didn’t want to feel like a failure again. But then I learned that there was more to feeding babies than I thought and I went ahead and did as much research as I could on the subject. After learning all the things I feel I should have already known (thank you anti-breastfeeding culture) I decided I was going to do it anyway and do the best I could if I could at all. And I did, but not to full term. I felt elated that I could at all and proud instead of feeling like a failure like I had been made to feel the first time around. My body just can’t do it the way most other women can and that’s okay, I did my best and that’s what counts. Does This Mean I’m... continue reading

How Does That Work?

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. As a natural, gentle parent I get asked that a lot. A. Lot. Sometimes it will refer to breastfeeding, sometimes it will be co-sleeping, and sometimes it will be about something totally different altogether. But although the answers to these questions vary, the grace with which I try to answer them stays the same. Yes, you should be breastfeeding past one year; the benefits do not decrease, they increase. Yes, I co-sleep and still have sex; it just may not always be in a bed, and I do many other things traditional parents just cannot wrap their heads around. Sometimes the questions get under my skin; sometimes I delight in talking about things I am passionate about. It depends on the situation most times. Non-Aggression, What Now? The Non-aggression Principle (NAP). We get it. Most people don’t. When I tell traditional parents that my children are not harmed by me (any longer, I did traditionally parent my older son, and that’s how I know it doesn’t work for squat for me) as punishment, they cannot understand it. They do not think of it as disciplining instead of punishing; many tend to think no punishment means lassiez-faire or passive parenting. On the contrary, when I’m done telling them how much research I’ve done, how many people I’ve talked to and how many different methods of guidance I studied before my son got old enough to need guidance they are inevitably impressed. When I tell people that they can actually prevent meltdowns and that they are probably to blame for them (I don’t usually add that last bit unless I really know the person), their heads spin. Preventing meltdowns though is the best system of discipline for all children because it focuses on meeting needs and creating a baby-led schedule which cuts down tantrums dramatically. Time-Ins Because of the research I’ve done, I understand that children do not learn when their needs aren’t met, and that a meltdown is just a plea to meet a need. This need can be as basic as needing to calm down when excitement causes a child to forget him/herself. I have heard much negativity directed my way when instead of “giving that kid a whooping,” I give my son a hug and tell him I understand his frustration. Many (almost all) traditional parents think badly of me. I could not really care less, though. When my son is too worked up and is throwing a tantrum, its probably because I forgot to pack... continue reading

Santa Claus is not Coming to Town, Actually

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. I love Christmas. It has always been a family tradition for my Mom and now my Sister to pick out a new ornament every year and date it so we can spread a trail of ornaments out and decorate our trees with them. There are also a few others thrown in to fill it up. We are an “ornament on every branch” kind of family. Anyway, growing up it was my Mom, Sister, Brother and me getting ornaments. My older son was born in November of ’99 and my long term partner and Father of my little son has been with me since ’01 so we have quite a few of these ornaments every year. My excitement for the Christmas season ebbs and flows each year but this year my toddler is two so I am really feeling the Christmas spirit.But There is a Darker Side to Christmas Every one has heard the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” right? “You better not pout, you better not shout, you better not cry, I’m telling you why.” On top of that there is the old “Coal in the Stockings” bit. Children are given the magic of Christmas and presents as a carrot to act in a desirable manner, or rather “behave” all year long. A year is a long time. Thankfully in my house we only grabbed the nice family traditions from the Christmas myth and I haven’t ever been subject to that form of conditional approval. Because its really conditional approval that we are selling these kids. We want them to strive to be good so they can get presents. Doesn’t Really Work this Day in Age Very Well In the age of immediate gratification children are given presents and sweets as a reward for just about everything, which kind of ruins the magic of Christmas or Halloween for that matter. Instant gratification, though, is another discussion for a different day. Christmas many years ago was truly a once a year thing where a child might ask for a book or a toy and some candy, but fast forward that to Amazon wish lists and advertising galore and Christmas lists have to be longer than ever. But Large Piles of Presents Really is Something to See! So in my family where money is sometimes tight we give clothes and sensible gifts along with the non-sensible gifts and have a good time unwrapping tons of stuff. It is a lot of fun for all. And you know... continue reading

Equality in Illinois

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. It finally happened here. Equal rights for every couple in my state. I couldn’t be more proud. I am a mostly heterosexual female but I have great respect for all life and believe that every person should be able to be free to be with whomever they please. My thoughts on this matter are strong. There is no reason that if two people care for each other they should not be able to be with each other and enjoy all the benefits this country (USA) allows for heterosexual couples. Some of the advantages drawn from marriage are monetary and some are social. On the monetary side you have tax advantages. There are some disadvantages, but they are few. TurboTax has a succinct list that includes the ability to create a tax shelter if one spouse has a failing business which basically means the other spouse can use the loss as a write off. This is a pretty good benefit if the other brings in enough income to qualify for this shelter. Retirement planning for married couples is facilitated by certain laws that allow for a nonworking spouse to pay into an IRA if desired and couples can benefit shop using parts of each retirement plan they pay into and in the event of death marriage can protect their mutual estate. The estate is made up of any tangible assets and debt acquired by the couple and can be lost to the family without this protection. There are a few more benefits which range from charitable donations and time saving abilities, but these pale in comparison to the tax and retirement benefits that are allowed to married couples. Not all people have enough money for all that to matter but the social aspect may be more important anyway. People in the LGBT community can be persecuted their whole lives. From childhood an un-accepting parent can do a lifetime of damage, not even to mention what a gay child goes through in schools. It may not be as bad for a girl child, but even still they can be subject to ridicule, bullying, and much, much worse. I don’t need to go into it here because my blood will boil. Home life can be a nightmare, so can school. If a child grows up unsupported and unloved he may feel later in life unworthy of love. This can create destructive/dysfunctional relationships. Then many religions frown upon homosexuality which started this whole mess which leaves little opportunity for a community... continue reading

My Thirty Day Challenges

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. Thirty days. That’s all it takes. What am I talking about? Self improvement. Some say it takes two weeks to create a habit, but I say why chance it, make it a whole thirty days. I have been creating challenges for myself in varying degrees ever since I first came onto the notion of the thirty day challenge. I happened upon this idea while taking Bikram yoga. The hot kind with a lot of humidity, but I digress. Bikram’s thirty day challenge was too much for me to go to, one class a day for thirty days, because of scheduling conflict, but the seed was planted. The more I thought about it the more I began to think that it is a perfect amount of time for a challenge and there is no better time for a challenge than right now. The proverbial right now anyway. I believe it is the perfect amount of time because it can be broken up nicely into different time blocks; ten days, seven days, five days, even three days if the challenge is specific enough. Mine have not been so far. My First Real Challenge to Myself My first challenge to myself is a personal one, but for the purpose of this column I’ll share. I was going through a rough time and was taking my frustration out on my loved ones. Can you guess yet what it was? Yup – not yelling, and working on inner peace. It went well I think. The realization that I needed to do better was a big help. Learning my triggers and centering myself after a trigger is switched was a really big step for me. I did become more calm and I stopped yelling so much, which made life much happier. Much like a child if my basic needs are not met, I get cranky. Sleep is a big one if you can imagine. Challenge Number Two I didn’t really pick it back up right away. Life got better so I got lazy. I have a tendency to do that. Too bad I can’t challenge myself to not be lazy, but I know myself and I would totally fail. Its just too vague. So, one day I found myself on Cracked.com, reading a column about how men write into the site often asking what they don’t have that other men supposedly have. His answer? Drive and something to offer. If you don’t have any marketable skills you will not get a job, and... continue reading

It is Okay to Not Trust Your Doctor

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. Everyone knows that there are circumstances that necessitate seeing a doctor. So many that it would be silly to even begin to list them all. Throw in a child and there are many more reasons. Prenatal visits, post-birth visits, well-child check ups, exams, weight checks, and milestone checks. Even without a child that gets sick all the time a parent might see a doctor up to five times in the first year. This leaves many opportunities for that doctor to say something to her/him that may or may not seem “right” to the parent, but because this is person who has gone to school for many years and should be able to give sound advice, the parent trusts and follows given advice. This is compounded by ignorance. I do not mean of a bad kind. I just mean that if a person is less experienced he or she may tend to trust others, assuming they are correct in trusting. But much like a mechanic can try to take advantage of a customer that is not educated in auto repair, a doctor that believes his patient will believe him may not explain all possible options. As a parent we know the drill. Bring the kids (undoubtedly one of them just cannot leave without some toy or shoe they need, and you end up late) to the car, drive to doctor, wait in line only to wait some more. Finally once every wit has been brought to the end for the parent, her child’s name is called. Thank goodness. Only to wait some more in the exam room. Okay, not so bad. The nurses check vitals and ask if you have any questions or concerns and then leaves to get the doctor. This is maybe the most common thing a parent does out of the house with a new born for the first few months, but after that these visits can be the cause of much stress. As a parent spends more time with their baby they may have more questions. And like many others will trust that their pediatrician, (if you don’t use a family practice D.O. like I do) with the most important issues. How much should baby be sleeping, eating, crying, playing and many more quantitative questions arise and it is very tempting to trust one person, but the reality is your doctor is only one person. That’s it: Only One Helen Keller said, “I am only one person, but still I am one,” and she... continue reading

It’s Parenting, not Posturing

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. The last time I was in a store I was without my little guy. These instances are few and far between, but I’m okay with that. I understand that if I want a well regulated child in the store, I have to control as much as I can, so I don’t take him during meal hours, or before naps. I just don’t. I also make sure to have my sling handy in case I need to just pop that little guy in my sling which helps up both calm down most of the time. Stores are boring. I know that and I try to empathize. But you have to do what you have to do, so sometimes that little dude needs to sit in a sling if he is not going to sit in a cart so we can just get our shopping done and over with. It can definitely be unpleasant. Shopping for clothing is worse because its extra boring. Well, while I was at the store there was a woman who stepped into line behind me hauling a new toddler and telling her quite calmly that she cannot run around because it was time to stay in line. I have had the same conversation a hundred times. So I let this woman ahead of me. She smiled and went on ahead after thanking me. I told her about my tot and went about my business. Such a Pleasant Experience But most of the time something else happens all together. What happens? Well often a child that is acting on instincts and un-met needs, and is trying desperately in the only way she knows how to communicate, melts down. And what do we adults do around her? We scowl at her and judge the parent harshly. I’ve done it myself! How bad I feel about myself when I catch these thoughts varies each time, and I still have to moderate my attitude towards screaming children, but I’m trying. As the parent its embarrassing. We all know the shame felt when we cannot live up to unreachable societal standards. To counter this shame some parents act out to exert control over a situation that needs to be allowed to run its course. Often this turns into physical punishment and/or threats against the child. The parent feels threatened and embarrassed and because of this puts him or herself in a bad situation. Parents might threaten to leave or to not buy something the child wants, but this will... continue reading

My Sons: I Want To Be Your Friend And Your Parent

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. We have all heard it. Over and over again throughout our lives there is the idea that parents cannot be a parent first and foremost, and still be a friend. There is a mentality of one or the other. But after really thinking about this phrase that I’ve heard so many times, I decided that it’s a very out-dated concept. What if I told you that tough love is not necessary? What if I told you that not only is it not necessary, it actually harms the parent-child respect relationship?Parent-Child Mutual Respect Yes, we were all told that kids need to respect adults. Adults were misinformed as to how to get those results for many years. The assumption is that children are mini-adults and when given tough discipline they will conform and learn respect. But children are not mini-adults. They have undeveloped frontal lobes and not only do they not have any impulse control under a certain age, they also have no concept of right and wrong. They just don’t. Because of this they cannot reason. Children could very easily be molded into anything, and the way we mold them is to show them how we want them to act. Children will model our behavior, so if ours is bad, so too will our children’s be. Because of this, there needs to be forethought in how we treat our kids and other people in our lives. To give respect is the most effective way to create children and adults that show respect. Respect is a mind set. We need to remember that. If one were to do a Google search right now about how to teach a child respect, it will send you links telling you to model and give your children respect and you will see it in them as they grow. What I like about this is that it confirms what the child in me thought all along. Respect was always demanded from me, but I didn’t really understand what it meant. This really hurt me in school, because I was defiant and hostile most of the time; not trusting of adults or anyone in authority. Why was this? Because I was not listened to and was treated, in my mind, unfairly. I admit a child does not really have a concept of “fair” but the feeling is real. Becoming a Friend While Setting the Proper Boundaries If you can, start young. Begin really listening to your child. He will tell you all kinds of things... continue reading

The Anarchy of Attachment Parenting

Send her mail. “Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here. I have naturally been an attachment parent for the most part. These principles are simple: keep your baby close, breastfeed until baby wants to wean, and listen to your baby. Attuning to your baby’s communications and always, always go to them when they cry or need something. These aren’t difficult in the first couple of months. Bed-sharing, or co-sleeping, is great for the early breastfeeding relationship and it potentially reduces the amount of money spent on “baby things.” But it can go further than that. If one is a stay-at-home mom, elusive breastfeeding is an option that costs little to zero dollars (including things like nursing bras and reusable breast pads if used; sorry if that’s TMI for some of you). But all of this not spending money on stuff really adds up, and not just in the bank. At least not in your bank only. Which gets me to my original point, anarchy and attachment parenting. What is Anarchy? The Internet defines anarchy a few ways. “Without government or law” is the first, which doesn’t so much apply as it does prove my later point. Second, “disorder due to loss of government,” again doesn’t really apply, but here is where it does. The last definitions are “lack of obedience” and “insubordination” and the confusion that comes from it. These totally apply. For many years now so-called experts have been advising sleep training which leaves your baby to cry until it gives up on the hope of its parent returning, and telling us as parents that the more we touch and soothe our babies the more clingy and dependent they will become. This basic theory came form behaviorists and not from experts in the more relevant field of child psychology. The problem is that we trust our doctors too much. Maybe this is exclusive to the USA, but I’m guessing not. We have been told also by doctors that artificial formula is just as good as mother’s milk, so it’s okay to use it instead of breastfeeding. Who led this campaign? The formula companies. The same ones that profit from the lack of real facts about formula and breastfeeding. We are told we need cribs and playpens, swings and strollers, and so many more things to care for our babies, when really it could be virtually cost-free if you consider breastfeeding and attachment parenting. When we stop paying these associated costs, raising babies on a dime becomes achievable. It also does not contribute to a bloated system... continue reading