Foreword: The issue which is about to be discussed may just start the next World War. My apologies in advance if this is the case. Let me just make it clear that these opinions are in no way directed at any other parent but Miss Whiskey. There is no “wrong” or “right” method of raising little mini- humans. This article is merely opening your minds to just one of these possible parenting styles, and in no way is it to say you should or shouldn’t suddenly attack your television with a sledgehammer and send your toddler off into the wilderness to make you a better parent. There are always pros and cons to everything, so just hold your fire, ladies.
I gave up on reading newspapers and watching the telly a few years ago now. The media, to me, is a major depressant and when possible I strive to avoid hearing about what’s wrong with the world at all costs. You’ll have your light-hearted story of the old lady who won lotto, or the latest baby giraffe born in the zoo, but not ’til after you’ve watched clip after clip of tragedy and suffering. And from where you’re sitting on your nice new leather couch, there’s not a thing you can do about the horrible events you’re witnessing from behind the safety of your TV screen. We’ve become numb to it. It’s gotten to the point where gunshots and crying are background noise in the lounge while the kids finish their homework. I don’t know about you, but to me that just isn’t right.
Not only is the reality of the downfall of society a tough pill to swallow, but there is only so much we are shown. We don’t chose what we hear about in the media. We follow like sheep and believe what we see like mindless robots without questioning the realness of the bigger picture and what is missing from the facts. And why on earth do we never hear about all these amazing things humanity are doing on the daily to contribute to a better planet? Because it wouldn’t keep us scared, that’s my guess.
Unexpectedly becoming a parent is like having a huge bomb dropped on you and being expected to catch and defuse the thing without a manual or any previous experience. Without warning you are suddenly solely responsible for the entire existence and wellbeing of another human life. Not only that, but that baby’s whole brain development, conception of reality and the world, common sense and disposition depend on your abilities as a creator, teacher and guardian. But if you ask most soon- to- be- parents, I’m sure what scares them even more than this precious new addition to their life is the corruption of the world they’re bringing their little one into.
So I’ve been looking into alternative parenting styles and devising a plan based on examples of raising children which I’ve witnessed or experienced myself, forums around the net, and my own ideology of what makes a “good parent.” These are life lessons I think are important for me to hand down to my little cherub.
The world aint that bad, kiddo. This is what I’ve had to keep reminding myself. It’s just like switching off the eight o’clock news. If I don’t like what I’m seeing in the world, turn away. Find something I do enjoy. Focus on that. Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.
Life isn’t a fairytale, either. Of course as your mother and best friend I want to show you all the best things in life. But it isn’t all sunshine and daisies, Bub. And I’ll never lie to you about that. You’re going to grow up aware of your dangerous surroundings, and the reality that there are some nasty things going on in the world. We have to remember to be safe to avoid them. Keep your innocence about you, but your wits, too.
This world is one gargantuan jungle gym. And it’s made for us to explore together. I’ll always be by your side to learn, play and grow with you, and to discover all we can. There is so much more to this world than you and me and what we see around us. It’s much greater than our little neighborhood society. I want to expose your gorgeous mind to so many different foods, sounds, cultures, colours, and ways of thinking and living and feeling. There are always bigger things to do, better places to be and beautiful people to meet. You are one of them! And the world can’t wait to know you.
“The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development. A newborn’s brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically”
Child psychiatrist, Dr Peter Wolf, along with Dutch Psychologist Heinz Prechtl advocated these six states of conciousness of newborns, which were listed in Deepak Chopra’s Magical Beginnings and Enchanted Lives:
- Quiet alertness
- Active alertness
- Quiet sleep
- Active sleep
Come on, with names like Wolf and Prechtl, they gotta know what they’re on about. And according to research in Dr Miriam Stoppard’s Bonding With Your Bump, a baby is fully aware of its existence as a human from the moment it is born.
The consciousness of our children, even as babies, is evident. We can only assume our brains develop further within the next few years of growth. These years should not be wasted.
This is what led me to stumble across “Forest Kindergarten.” It is a technique of raising children from about three years old through their preschool years in a classroom that is situated in the great outdoors. This idea has been quite popular throughout Europe since the 1950’s, so the origins of the Forest Kindergarten as we know it today are hard to pinpoint.
Rather than plonking my toddler on a playmat with a few basic toys and a bunch of other bubbas, I’d like to give my little person a head start in life and learning all about himself; his strengths and weaknesses, his purpose, what it means to be human, how he can contribute to a group and to the world, and how he can benefit from the help of others. Forest kindergarten aims to teach kids this self awareness. It’s something I wish I hadn’t had to wait eighteen years to discover myself. It’s qualities like this New Zealand schools’ curriculum should put more emphasis on, especially at a young age when children’s brains are at one of their fastest rates of growth and development.
Would I let my toddler build a fire with help from other toddlers? Yeah, why not? Would I let him use a knife to prepare a meal outdoors? Sure. Don’t freak out. These things are “dangerous” because that’s what we’re taught and that’s what we teach. But at some point these things go from being “dangerous” to “useful,” right? And I would much rather teach the importance of safety and the usefulness of tools when handled responsibly, than to teach, “No, because I said so,” simply due to his age. Age is a number, and in my opinion it is never too early to teach the importance of responsibility. Play with fire and you’re going to get burnt. But carefully construct and nurture a fire and it will cook you a mean lunch for you and your lil buddies.