Friday, August 14, 2015

How Do We Parent? Our Attempts to Raise Bad-Ass Daughters (Finger's Crossed it Works!)

Meet Aqua Girl. Well, actually, she calls herself "Blast Off" but Scott and I have taken to calling her Aqua Girl for obvious reasons. She'll answer to either and, depending on her mood (note: she's three), she'll correct you as to what her preferred name is.

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.

***

If I have one goal in life, it is to raise strong, happy and confident daughters which is a pretty tall order in today's world. We have been very intentional about how we bring up our girls; and our style is a hodge-podge of parenting philosophies (though I cringe at that term). We were not "intentional" about selecting these philosophies, they were more instinctual for us and after reading and learning about these various "styles", I find we actually do fit into a few. We're a little bit attachment parent, a healthy dose free-range parent, and a nice serving of slow parent.

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.

8 comments:

Chris said...

I love it, Brittany. We're trying to be the same way with our 13 month old son, though he is in a lot of swim lessons :-)

The SLOW parenting part is pretty tough when we both work full time, though. It seems like life is such a flurry.

Chris Wick said...

Brittany, Scott
You both have my full respect for how you raise your children and the lifestyle you have chosen. And i feel privileged to hear how life in your world goes.
Thanks for the blogging and good luck in your adventures.

Basically im waiting for it to snow before I start toward the coastline myself.
Chris

Heather Tiszai said...

Your girls are so lucky to have you and Scott! We traded cruising for roots and I'm just about ready to trade again. We work hard to minimize our commitments and we are good about taking a lot of time to chill with our kids, but it still feels SO hectic. And while I'm thankful for the infinite opportunities, I often question the goal of our modern lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your alternative lifestyle with the world at large.

Anabella Lombardi said...

Hi Brittany, I´ve been following your blog before you got pregnant from your twins and before I got pregnant from my first daughter. At that time I always thought I would love to offer my child the same upbringing. We don´t sail from the moment but we do try to live an outdoor life and give our daughter Helena our time as much as we can, which for me, it is the most valuable thing parents can offer to their children. I love your articles and despite I don´t know you personally, I feel very close to you in terms of parenting. All the best! Ana.-

wayne said...

I really liked this blog. Shows strength in yalls parenting philosophy. And I love the picture of aqua girl. Y'all stay cool happy sailing

wayne said...

I really liked this blog. Shows strength in yalls parenting philosophy. And I love the picture of aqua girl. Y'all stay cool happy sailing

Byn Always said...

Wow, I rarely see any parent espouse the parenting "philosophies" that I agree with (and that word makes me cringe, too!)

I had to fight against a lot of opposition with my parenting choices when my kids were little, but now that they're mostly grown people ask "How did you raise such smart, confident and adventurous children???"

I just had to comment, because honestly, I could have written a lot of this post... 20 years ago! There are so many similarities, its kind of strange!

I found your blog because we're getting ready to set sail in a few months with our family and three of our kids. The difference being that our five kids are now ages 14-23 :) and we're only taking our three youngest on this trip (the 14, 17 & 19 yo). Your blog is so informative, and yet I feel like I'm not so much "reading" as I am sitting with you in the living room chatting about things. You are a fabulous writer!

Bill said...

Thanks for the good write up! As a father to be and cruiser I want to have my daughter experience the things you write about. Can't wait!

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