Independence vs. Freedom vs. Closeness

By Heather on September 27th 2011
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Two weeks ago, my adoptive country of Chile celebrated the anniversary of its hard-faught independence from Spain. Chilean flags have been flying everywhere, traditional Cueka music is all around us, and a very simply long lovely weekend was granted to all. I spent mine in a beautiful mountain home with my partner, the married couple whom own the house, and the couple's 18-month-old son - a ferocious walker, runner, and Cars fanatic.

It was a weekend of independence of a sort for me, too. No internet or cell reception, no bustling city noise or crowds, no timelines. Just spontaneous walks, backgammon games, good food and wine, and amazing amazing starry night skies... and the freedom to speak my mind about a few parenting ideas I have that came from the closeness I share with my handsome man... and a young family taking there own different approaches to parenthood to get me thinking a lot more about the topic at hand: independence.

The word, as I feel it is used a lot today, can have a bit of a conflicted connotation. For one, we can think of independence as aloneness, or simply not dependent on anyone. However, I don't think that any Chileans acted alone in their endeavors to be free of Spain's taxation and governance, and they banded together to earn their freedom. And I certainly couldn't be experiencing a sense of freedom and even independence in the Andes were it not for the togetherness within which it was offered by our hosts, available through my intimate relationship, and given by merit of all the support I've received in my journey to becoming an expat. And of course, with all the economical and ecological arguments flooding our media these days, we are all certainly well aware that nothing acts independent of everything else. So, maybe the better theme for this post is freedom.

I am struck by the sheer amount of preparation, attention, and constant logistical planning it takes to carry out modern-day techniques of meeting baby's basic needs (as highlighted by our Cars-loving toddler friend). Armies of bottles and sippy cups, untrackable pacifiers, monster strollers, and mountains of rules, warnings, restrictions and timelines seem to do all but free up a family. I can see from a wide range of wonderful mother friends that there are all sorts of tools that can make parenting a little easier, but sometimes a lot of so-called convenience items seem to add up to oppression.

As I contemplate being a mother, I feel deeply blessed to be with a partner who agrees, much against the popular norms here in Chile, with these natural parenting ideals closest to my heart :

Babywearing. Well, this is the Boba blog, so that's a no-brainer. Babywearing offers a relatively quick, ready-to-travel, not-much-cargo-needed solution to family mobility, and (especially when face-to-face) gives you instant insight into the needs of baby as they arise. I love watching my babywearing mom friends moving so freely with their little ones so instinctively.

Though there are a lot of seemingly helpful baby movers out there, and certainly a societal norm to use them, I don't think life simplification and free, ease of movement is on the list of their benefits. There's no shame in choosing a stroller, but my question is how can shopping for, buying and lugging around a mega-stroller equivalent to an Escalade (and needing something as big to get it around town) make life for mom and baby more free? How can pushing babies away and in front of us where they can't be seen nor there needs immediately known (enter the constant stop. bend over. check. adjust. walk. repeat. sequence) make life simpler or free us up to truly enjoy the life we're living in that moment?

Breastfeeding. Few things seem simpler than a baby reaching for mama to suckle for nourishment and connection. We see it in nature all the time as mother mammals everywhere feed their young from their own body. That milk (my young mother friends have attested) is magical, changes with the baby's needs, and the logistics are pretty darn easy, require no fossil fuels for shipping, and do not require refrigeration.

It seems to me that the time and organization it takes to acquire, prepare, carry and store bottles of formula and sippy cups of juice offers anything but liberation. Where's the freedom in reduced immunity and it's effects? When can the money spent on all this stuff not be used for other worthwhile things (and not given to mega-marketing-proccessed food companies pushing formula)? How could the adjust-to-your-baby's-needs breast milk, when available, not be the obvious choice over powdered something-or-others?

More reading I found helpful:

Spontaneous Learning. While babies may be far from the realm of classrooms and bookbags, freedom- and curiosity-centered approaches to a developing child, such as those set forth by unschooling (un)methods, offer an organic and nourishing environment for physical, emotional and mental growth. And observing children as they play freely has always offered up lots of info to me on who they are and what they love, insights I cut short when instructing/managing behavior. We were all brought up with lots of rules, and maybe learned others we want to instill, and some of those are non-negotiable even for the seemingly free-est of parents. But I've noticed the more we do to give them space, the more relaxed and confident they are.

So, maybe we don't have to hawk-eye and manage every waking minute of a child's day. I think it's time our society asks itself how restricting a crawler to a play pen, or instructing and reiterating where and where not a walker should walk will actually help them learn what they need, what to be careful of, how gravity actually works. Where in a child's digestive tract and mind are cells and functions supported by demanding they have five more bites? Where is the line between care and control?

And a little more extra reading:

 

In short, it just may be that the "stuff" that seems to make immediate life easier doesn't serve us in the bigger picture. I'd love to hear your point of view on it.