Rebel Without a Car

Enci Boxby Enci

It’s Challenging Being A “Natural” Mama

A few years ago my husband was telling me about a cousin of his in Australia, who moved out into the woods, far away from civilization, in order to raise her children from “modern” influence. Well-meaning relatives and friends had a difficult time adjusting to her desire to raise her kids without tv, without plastic toys, and without modern-day gadgets that are supposed to make parenting easier.

Sydney and his daddy ride a bike

Sydney and his daddy ride a bike

I thought back then that she was rad, cool, and super adventurous. Now, that I have a child, and a second one on the way, I no longer think of her as only cool and adventurous. I can now imagine what a desperate, difficult and challenging decision it must have been for her to leave everyone behind, to follow her instincts as a new mother, and to trust life that she and her husband are making the right decision.

The day-to-day challenges of being a “Natural” mom have been wearing on me lately and some days it feels very very lonely.

You probably ask what it means to be a “Natural” Mama. Well, there are probably as many versions and ideas as there are Natural Mamas out there but to me it means all of this:

  • Preparing for conception (if you are planning on having a child) by cleansing your body and mind of all toxins. We both did it about 9 months before I conceived.
  • Spending the pregnancy months watching one’s diet and outside influence, being mindful and aware of one’s surroundings, physical and mental well-being, and living in a way that helps the embryo, the fetus, and the baby physically and mentally develop in the most nurturing and supported way.
  • Choosing a natural birth and delivering naturally without any medications (sometimes a woman can’t have one because of medical reasons, so in my opinion this won’t exclude you from being a Natural Mama).
  • Breastfeeding for as long as possible (we are at 21 months and still going) or giving breast milk as long as possible.
  • Using Elimination Communication to prepare the baby and the family for the most natural way to excrete (since day one, Sydney has learned to go to the bathroom in the potty. Since 18 months Sydney remembers to use the potty on his own to eliminate. We hardly use any diapers anymore).
  • Co-sleeping (we still are)
  • Nurturing the baby and toddler (and beyond) with all the love you can give, physically and mentally.
  • Avoiding media as much as possible (we don‘t have a TV and Sydney doesn’t watch or play with any computers, iPads, or iPhones, in a restaurant we always try to find a spot that doesn’t face the tv, etc.)
  • Toys should be made from wood, leather, tin, cotton, paper, etc. (avoid plastics as much as possible and avoid electronic toys)
  • Playing together outside as much as possible, going on bike rides, hikes, and fun adventures.
  • No chemicals in the household (we only use natural cleaning products)
  • Sustainable diapering (either reusable diapers or using disposable chemical-free diapers like Seventh Generation or The Honest Company)
  • No chemicals on the baby, toddler, and beyond (We use natural soap and we haven’t put any lotions on Sydney since we are born with a perfect body and skin. We don’t need to “improve it” with scents and lotions).
  • Being a minimalist (children learn by seeing what the parents are doing and I don’t believe in consumerism) which will foster imagination.
  • Feeding your baby good food with lots of fruits and vegetables, organic when possible, and never any junk food. No juices, no sugar, no candy, etc.
  • Rejecting any food (even before pregnancy) that has food coloring, additives, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup. (Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy are great markets to find healthy food and of course don’t forget your local Farmers Market.)
  • Giving your child lots of sensory stimulation:
    • Letting him/her be barefoot whenever possible
    • Letting him/her touch, smell, taste everything that is safe and non-poisonous (yes, even soap, dirt, your shoe, etc. The first year your child doesn’t have much swallow reflexes, that’s why s/he drools everywhere. When s/he puts anything in his/her mouth, most of the solids get drooled out, so s/he is not ingesting anything harmful. Don’t let him/her eat anything that is wet or moist from the floor. Moisture has bacteria.)
    • Letting him/her hear the wind, the rain, the birds and the bugs, and everything around us. Don’t have music blasting all day.
    • Letting him/her see and touch bugs, plants, water, grass, art, animals, and everything that interests your child. Always watch him/her so s/he doesn’t get hurt or in danger.
    • Playing a guitar, a piano, a harmonica, a flute, a violin, and any instrument (and making instruments out of trash, toys, pots and pans, etc.)
  • Foster creativity by talking to your child about anything real and made up.
  • No drinking and smoking.
  • Teach your child to respect all living things and don’t kill bugs in his/her presence.
  • Laugh together a lot.
  • Smile at your child when you see him/her in the morning, after naps, when s/he comes up to you. Be pleasant to show him/her that s/he is worthy of this beautiful life.
  • Being active together.
  • etc.

and on top of all this, I also believe in the kind, peaceful and loving parenting philosophy. This means:

  • Listening and talking and understanding
  • Being understanding and sympathetic not just to the child but to everyone around you
  • Feeling feelings and letting your child feel feelings and understand them
  • Protecting the baby’s, toddler’s and child’s inner life with positivity and lots of love
  • Mutual respect (I don’t do unto you that I wouldn’t want to have done unto me)
  • No scolding
  • No humiliating
  • No spanking
  • No timeouts
  • No rewards (you don’t need one if you talk and have mutual respect. Rewards are bribes and I don’t believe in bribing my child just like I wouldn’t bribe anyone else)
  • Not saying the word “no” but redirecting behaviour
  • Encouraging his/her curiosity and supporting it
  • Exposing him/her to lots of art opportunities with painting, drawing, making music, moving his/her body, going to live theatre (watching content of course. We have yet to go to a children’s theatre. We have seen a lot Fringe shows that have physicality, interesting characters, great set design, etc.)
  • Parenting for Peace
  • Hand in Hand Parenting
  • Waldorf Education
  • etc.

There are so many more things that my head gets dizzy and I sometimes feel very overwhelmed.

Sydney drawing with chalk on our trash can in the back yard

Sydney drawing on our trash cans

Being a “Natural” parent to Sydney feels right, feels natural and I really don’t put much thought into it on a daily basis, except when I encounter any block in this parenting style, which usually happens when I’m out with Sydney at the park, or when we meet other parents that have different parenting philosophies than I do.

  • The other day we went to the park, and almost every kids parent had some junk food and juice in their hands for their kids.
  • Then we went to another park and two boys were playing “assault” with pretend guns. The older boy was teaching the younger what assault weapons mean and what they are used for. (I almost cried after this incident, thinking I will never find a playmate for Sydney)
  • We went for Sydney’s Dr.’s visit and in the waiting room some of the kids were so large, they could barely fit in their chairs. And every child had an iPad or an iPhone in front of them, including babies, who were barely old enough to sit upright. (this was depressing)
  • Friends were throwing a birthday party for their baby girl and the toddlers were all surrounded with plastic toys, utensils, cups, plastic bibs, etc. (I could smell the plastic fumes throughout the entire house) and sugar.
  • We went to visit my family in Europe and at every gathering there was booze around. On two occasions a toddler has gotten hold of a small schnapps glass and chugged it (one time it was Sydney).
  • Sometimes when we eat out, we end up in restaurants that have the TV on everywhere. This is the case nowadays almost everywhere we go. Gas station, doctor’s office, restaurants. It’s almost inescapable. And the TV has sports on with lots of booze advertisements, or the news with everything bad in this world, or some show that has some kind of violence, from verbal to humiliation, to guns or hitting and punching. We always try to find a spot that doesn’t face the tv or we leave.

When I meet these challenges, I really want to move into the woods, like Stephen’s cousin did so many years ago. It feels lonely and I have yet to meet one family, who has a similar philosophy as I do. I don’t know where to find them or how to find them. How do I bring up Sydney in this world without feeling like I’m alone? I tried to find groups, but there is nothing (or nothing I could find) in the San Gabriel Valley, where we moved to a few months back.

Sydney is drawing on the back of a book while in the Dr.'s office

Sydney drawing while in the Dr.’s office

I’m very very happy as a mother and I’m looking forward to raising Sydney and his brother or sister as happy, peaceful, kind, respectful, creative, mentally and physically healthy smart adults. I’m looking forward to our times together every day. There is nothing more satisfying in my life right now than watching Sydney discover something new, laugh out loud about something, have him wave at the ants that are crawling on our windowsill looking for water, tend with me to the fruit trees or throw a ball so enthusiastically that he loses balance and falls.

He loves life and he wakes up smiling every day. He loves to play with the ball and with water. He enjoys a long and hearty breakfast as much as I do. He loves to look at animals, plants, art, people, and places through our many books. He loves to make up a story with just sounds. And he loves to dance to music that either we listen to, play together, or that he plays with his harmonica. He is a fantastic toddler who deserves the best and the most as do all children. And as a responsible parent, I want to make sure that I give him the right tools, that I direct him on the right path, and that I support him in his desires, that are yet pure, fresh and untouched. And I want to keep it untouched as long as it’s healthy for his little soul. Life is too short and tough and there is no reason that I shouldn’t support him the first 18 years with with love, kindness, creativity, respect, and gentle parenting.

If anybody has any tips for me or ideas or suggestions, I’m open to hear them. Please leave your comments below or email me directly.


Enci is a Mother, Actress, Artist and Activist.

Contact Enci or find her on TwitterFacebook and other networking sites to connect. When contacting her, please introduce yourself and tell her you read her column in the Networker.

Comments

comments

27 Comments

  1. True inspiration and I love hearing stories like this. Keep on doing the right thing and you will be the light for the way things should be done. Sydney will hopefully soon find some friends to hang out with from a similar upbringing.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Billy and I truly hope you are right. I hope to find a similar minded group of parents soon otherwise I don’t know what to do.

      Reply
      • I try and live my life by letting change happen organically and I try not to resist it too much. I do not have kids but I have dealt with getting taken advantage of because I’m very nice and try to go with the flow. Through those times I have become wiser and have been blessed with some good people in my life. It’s through the hard times that we are tested and there is nothing like stepping back to simplicity in the family or home life that you have created that keeps you grounded. The older I get the more I appreciate the simplicities of life and how creating a clean organized home with peace and cleanliness is so important. Humans can be so self destructive and some can suck the life out of you if you let them. The more disorganized you become In life I believe the more vulnerable you are.
        That being said the way your raising your daughter and the courage it takes to do so will be inspiration to many. I write screenplays and short films, so anytime I see a good story like this it gives me inspiration. Have a good day and God Bless!

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        • Thank you very much for your reply Billy! Sydney is my son, but either way, I agree with you and I appreciate your inspiration. It’s so refreshing!

          Reply
  2. I raised my kids rurally, on an organic farm, and in the wilderness. it is tough to live that clean and pure in a city of this size (Los Angeles and environs). It sounds like you are doing a tremendous and thoughtful job of raising your child(ren). There are few people here that can take on the additional burden of trying to shelter their kids from what has become “normal” in this society. I applaud you!

    Reply
    • Thank you Marlee for your comment and congrats on raising your kids on a farm! It sounds so romantic! 🙂 I hope that I can give Sydney a lot of “that”. We live near the mountains and we also have some farms nearby, which I hope to visit soon with him.

      Reply
  3. So much info. I will slowly follow !

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    • Yes, it can be overwhelming when I think about it. There is a lot I didn’t even add because it was too much and usually I just follow these things without much thought. Thank you for reading, John!

      Reply
      • I will slowly add most of these details. I have some already but its good to see the others. Keep up the good work. Chesed (love and kindness)
        JJJ

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  4. Enci – this is fascinating and amazing, and I’m still just a dude that’s nowhere near having children (that I know of!). If you wrote a book based on this blog post, I’d be first in line to buy it!

    Reply
    • Haha! Thank you, Trevor. Really appreciate it. And I do appreciate guys reading my column! I hope that I can inspire but it is truly challenging and discouraging sometimes to make the right decision. I know I wouldn’t do it any different and I won’t make different choices to make it easier but it’s not easy, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  5. Find a Waldorf school and you’ll find like minded families. Many families move so their children can attend a Waldorf school.

    Reply
    • Maegan, thank you for the tip. I’ve been looking into that but you also have to have the $$ to take your kid to a private school. Are there other options? I wonder.

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  6. .. my mom gave me everything, now she’s gone and I have nothing .. nothing .. she should have thrown me out when I was a kid already .. she spoiled me so that when she died I died too .. having kids is a selfish endeavor ..

    Reply
    • Alex, sorry to hear that! “Spoiling” a child can’t be done when the child’s needs are met. And I’m talking about needs, not wants. There is a big difference. The basic needs are food, shelter, absolute love, which includes absolute safety, so the child can flourish and become what it was meant to become. A brain shouldn’t be distracted with “stuff” and with gadgets and what we in the adult world use to distract ourselves. I want to support what my son is meant to be with everything that a human brain needs to bring out his potential. So I want to give his brain the comfort so it can learn and develop and be happy. I don’t intend to “kill” him when I’m gone. I think my way of raising him is the least selfish because I don’t want to make him into me or interest him into what I’m interested in but rather I want him to explore all that mother earth has to offer us without the extra stuff that we invented to distract us from the real world.

      Reply
  7. Visit A Magic Forest play space in Culver City, it is Waldorf inspired and has all-natural hand-made wooden toys and equipment…you will surely be inspired and also find some like-minded momma’s 😉

    Reply
    • Laurie, I didn’t know about it. Thank you so much for the tip!

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  8. You want to avoid all media, yet your son has is own Facebook page! Bit hypocritical, eh?

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    • Jennie, I don’t think it’s hypocritical. My son doesn’t have a facebook page. I have a facebook page in his name, so his family all over the world can see him grow up. He doesn’t even know how to read, let alone type, so it would be strange for him to have his own facebook page at 21 months, don’t you think?

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      • But you put down all media in your blog post and condemn others who use it yet that’s how you have made your living … film, TV, modeling, developing websites, photography, etc. Just saying.

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        • You are absolutely right. I make my living in media. That’s why it’s even more challenging. I don’t condemn it. I love media of all sorts. I think media is great! It brings my family together across oceans. It creates unrest in the world and makes other us aware of other nations issues so we can help and make todays world a better place. It opens up communication and it makes it easier for actors to promote themselves and get noticed without having to hire a publicist. BUT I believe that my child not only doesn’t need it at his age, I know that it will hurt him since according to lots of statistics, tv and all media is bad for toddlers and for kids under 7 should be avoided as much as possible. There is lots of stats on how media creates aggression (you read my post in my fb group about what producers do to kid programs), how media creates consumerism, which creates unhappy adults. Media also feeds ADD, non-tolerance, bullying, etc. Lots of stats out there if you search the web. And the stats are based on actual studies of the brain, testosterone, etc.

          Reply
          • That’s the bit I find hypocritical… the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

          • If you smoke cigarettes, would you let your baby or your toddler smoke them as well because you believe in “do as I do” attitude? What about drinking coffee, going out partying late? Or lighting your fireplace, or cut the bread or carve the turkey? Brains grow differently at every stage of life. An adult brain needs different stimulation than the brain and senses of a 1 year old, a 5 year, and a 10 year old, etc. Just because I make my living in media (I still do, not “have made”) it doesn’t mean that it’s good for my child’s development. That is wrong with a lot of parenting today, that we discount the brain development of children and we want to turn them into adults too early. There is plenty of time for that! We become adults at age 18 and we’ll stay adults for more or less 60 years and we can’t go back to being children. I want to give my child a healthy childhood without media, without plastic, without synthetic food, but with everything that will foster his imagination, healthy emotions, healthy body and mind. Not with adult stuff, which he will eventually pick up and learn in no time, but with everything else that I described above. And I find it challenging in todays world.

  9. As a parent who did a lot of what Enci did, it is not really that hypocritical at all. It is protection, and giving your child an opportunity to develop skills as perhaps we, our parents, or grandparents did. No toddler needs media. Especially if you shun consumerism (yay! good for you–less landfill!) If you’re looking for like-minded people, I’d look into communities of people that appreciate the message of Weston A. Price and homeschoolers. We know loads of folks with similar view points but many live rurally, in Northern California. You will have to relax some of your dogma as your child(ren) grow, because being too rigid creates a rebel who could grow up to be someone that could embody the opposite of your hopes and dreams. good luck! and best wishes.

    Reply
    • Sabi, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the tip. I’ve looked into homeschooling a little bit and I will look at it some more. Thank you! And I agree, I will have to relax a bit as Sydney grows, but boy, it will be hard with some stuff. But you are right. I don’t want to raise a rebel agains me but rather a rebel against the unjust in this world and I want to raise a man, who will help those in need, help where help is needed and who will have emotional intelligence, be kind, and curious, and happy, and healthy. 🙂

      Reply
  10. I think this is great how you and your family are. I try as a parent to watch how much time my 5 year old sits with this iPad I am on, also what she has on it, we like education. And believe in family siting together for meals. With on phones ,TV, exc. had family come from out of state to visit. Grand- parents, a brother and wife. Could not believe, all four of them had a phone or iPad in their hand some times both, all the time. Even sat at my diner table with them, in front of my daughter. I got up and took a picture of them siting there like that. Just makes you think how bad things are. And made me want to watch even more, how much I use this iPad. You are right in what you are doing . Kids don’t want to go play, they are going to not know how to play. I am a older parent have two grown children, two grandchildren, and now two children at home.

    Reply
    • Karen, thank you for your comment. I read the same thing in an article about kids hanging out together but not paying attention to each other because each of them were on the phone texting and the only kid, who was raised in a media free family felt completely ignored and started shouting at the other kids “Hello, I’m here. Can you see me? Can you come and play with me?” Anyhow, I think it is bad when kids don’t know how to interact. I also read that these media gadgets are especially bad for boys, since boys are more introvert and they don’t make eye-contact in their teenage years and these gadgets support it, which is really bad for them because they grow up not learning how to interact, how to listen with their ears AND eyes, and they don’t learn how to connect to other humans. These gadgets foster a generation of boys who become emotionally detached. This is bad news for Generation Y. 🙁

      Reply

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