And *this* is what I love about watching a child grow. This picture right here. She did this all on her own and walked up to me and said, "You can call me Blast Off" and then rattled off a list of her super powers and started zipping around the boat, climbing like a monkey, running back and forth and making what I can only call "Superhero noises". The only direction I gave her for this photo was to give me a thumbs up, as Superhero's are wont to do.
This photo. I love it so much.
What does that mean, exactly?
As far as "attachment parenting" goes - when our girls were younger we did a LOT of baby wearing. Isla was worn almost non-stop for the first four months of her life, and I loved "tandem wearing" the twins for at least as long. All our girls were/are breastfed exclusively, Isla until sixteen months (she self-weaned when I was pregnant with the twins) and Haven and Mira still nurse at almost eighteen months. In addition, fostering a close-knit family bond through intense bouts of family time and togetherness is paramount to us.
We fit into the "free range" style a bit as well. We let our girls explore freely and do our best not to scare them or hinder them from doing something adventurous unless it will result in being seriously hurt (note: falling off a couch does not count as "hurt" in our book). Yes, our girls have a lot of bumps and bruises as a result, but how else do kids learn their limits and the consequences of their actions? I am very honest with them and put a lot of trust in their natural instincts. When they are getting into a dangerous situation, I tell them about it and mince no words explaining the repercussions. Almost always they make the choice to back off and take a better route (believe me, just because they cannot speak does not mean they don't understand!) Our girls climb all over our boat and while we always keep a watchful eye, we do not hover. In turn, they gain confidence in their skills and physical abilities. I can only imagine the things people on boats next to us are thinking when they see our three year old climb the mast unassisted and slide up onto the boom to lay down!
In addition to our total encouragement of testing physical limits, we have a limited selection of toys, no television (though our three year old does play games on a iPad and will watch movies from time to time), and we read, a lot. There is no shortage of children's books on our boat and we read aloud to our girls as much as possible. As a result, they love "play time" with books surrounding them, even though none of them can read. Fostering a love of books and the ability to quietly self-entertain are huge priorities for us.
When it comes to "slow" parenting - we keep it simple. While I do not deny the benefit of extra-curricular activities for a growing child and mind, it is our belief that kids today are overbooked and it starts way too young. For us, not rushing to and fro makes for a less stressful environment (getting three kids from A to B is hard enough without having to adhere to a time!) When our girls are older I am sure they will be involved in extracurriculars, but at their current ages (three and eighteen months) - I find it more beneficial (and easier!!) to simply play with them and take them to places where their imaginations can run wild. Luckily, our lifestyle is such that we are at the beach every day - and I truly believe there are no better toys in the world than water and sand. We believe strongly in free play, being outside as much as possible and living life in the S.L.O.W lane.
The final piece of this puzzle is sleep. We are huge proponents of the importance of sleep and adhere to a pretty strict sleep and nap schedule for our children (we follow and highly recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) which does give our day some pretty rigid structure, flying in the face of many of the "philosophies" listed above. Sleep and routine are two things we feel are very important for growing children, so whatever "philosophy" that fits under, I guess we're a little bit of that as well. But I will say that life on a boat - which can be very unpredictable - is much, much easier (for us) when our children are on a schedule. And naps? Naps and early bedtimes are my sanity. I cannot even begin to tell you.
I understand that we are privileged to be able to raise our children this way. I recognize that not every parent can spend this kind of time with their kids. I also realize how lucky I am to have so many resources, from books to online parenting forums, to help guide me in my journey as a mother. I also know that not *every* parent wants to raise their kids in this way; bucking tradition and the way they were raised in search of something different. Some of my very best friends live "traditional" modern-day lives and are amazing mothers with amazing children.
Just as our "style" is a conglomeration of defined philosophies, so is that of every parent. We do our best with the time and resources available to us. I might not be the mom to host a Princess themed play-date for ten kids, cook the best organic and Pinterest worthy food (mac and cheese is a staple here -wince), or create the cutest DIY Halloween costumes for our girls...But I am the mom who initiates full-blown dance parties with her girls, reads stories in awesome voices (thank you theater degree!), belts out Taylor Swift with gusto and wholly lets her sixteen month old summit the ten foot rock wall at the park with nary a hand on her. And I think those things are pretty cool, too. Yin and yang.
So instead on focusing what our girls are not getting by living a less-traditional existence (dance lessons, soccer camp, regular play dates, etc.) I tend to look at the positives of our lifestyle; the connectedness with nature, a more simple existence, making do with less 'stuff', and (fingers crossed!) a tighter-knit sisterly and family bond...which to me makes this all worth it. As with everything in life, there is a trade off and there is no doubt our girls will miss out on some of the benefits a traditional life offers. But for us and our girls, bucking tradition and forging our own path - in life and parenting - is working just fine.