Earlier this week I upset someone very dear to me with an offhand remark, written hastily and ill-thought through on that grand altar of offhand, ill thought out, hastily written remarks, Facebook. After my policing incident recently, I have reworked all my settings, and to the best of my understanding, my private page is now just that - friends' eyes only. My public page also 'does what it says on the tin' and remains public. But Facebook remains a sod!
Steve and I have been thinking a lot recently about how to advance our views and practices as Lara grows and changes from a toddler into a proper little girl. Specifically, we need to find more likeminded families for her to find friends, and to embark on some home education socialisations so that we are ready for when the time comes that her unschooling begins in earnest.
It is well-researched and discussed that children don't actually make, and keep, friends of their own until around the age of 7/8. They will socialise with other children and, of course, bandy about the term friend, but it doesn't really have much meaning until that later stage of childhood. You could transplant a 5 year old from one social group to another on a daily basis and they wouldn't necessarily miss, or even recall, the people they met the day, week or month before.
In some ways this is great, our children will make friends and encounter new people to be friendly with at parks, soft play, nursery, school, parties, essentially wherever small children congregate. But it is largely down to the parents to keep those friendships going, usually by reuniting the children regularly, either via nursery/school, or play dates, groups etc.
Despite the common perception, home educated children are likely to socialise as much as, if not more, than children who go to school. And they will socialise with children of a wide range of ages, as well as many adults on a daily basis, a far cry from the 29 children the same age and one or two adults a schoolchild comes into contact with. But it is, of course, up to the home educating parents to ensure that this happens.
Being 'outsiders' to our now home town, neither Steve or I have an established friendship network of some years standing, and the local people who are our friends were met through work, so are at different life stages to us, e.g. have teenage children. So we followed the path recommended to all new parents, whatever their philosophies, and joined various groups when Lara was a baby and then a toddler, in the hope that we, and therefore she, would make some new friends.
Unfortunately, where we live is not the most dynamic of areas, and the looks and comments one gets when wearing a baby in a sling (especially a man doing so!); or breastfeeding at all, let alone beyond 6 months; or not using a dummy; or not sending baby off to nursery at a couple of months old, are interesting to say the least!!
We tried various different groups and made the least hostile ones regular events in our week; we sought out like-minded parents, but found them meeting only a long way away at the time; and so we carried on ploughing our own furrow, and hoping that things would turn out OK.
In the meantime, we are lucky to have two wonderful friends who have children the same age as Lara, but unfortunately they each live a couple of hours' drive away, so we don't see them as often as we would like. They are both people I have known for a long, long time, one since birth, the other about 20 years, and are the closest I have to sisters. It was one of these lovely ladies I upset with my inept comment.
Since Lara was born, they have both been a tower of strength, and have stuck up for us and supported us in the face of some, at times, harsh hostility from family and friends. Both parent their children lovingly and responsively, have breastfed with differing success and through adversity, and have made a variety of positive life choices with their own children and, although they do not agree with all of our choices, have never criticised or challenged our beliefs. Steve and I have found much strength and courage in their support. I just wish they were more local!
With our recent deliberations, I have now successfully sought out some people who live near us who I hope will become friends, and found some regular meetings to go to which are not in Guildford or Brighton. Big bonus on the petrol front!! It is a great joy to find out that there are now some more locally-based attachment parenting people, all of whom will match our own beliefs and decisions to a greater or lesser extent.
Just this week, I have met someone whose 3 year old attends pre-school, someone who will home educate hers; someone who does not intend to innoculate her child, another who has had some of the jabs but not all; someone who wears a sling virtually 24/7 and another who uses a pushchair most of the time. All come under the attachment/gentle/positive parenting banner.
I may not agree with all of their choices, but I accept them as choices, decisions that have been thoughtfully made about themselves and their individual child, as I do with my friends. Any differences between us are minimal as the overall philosophy is one of attached care and raising children lovingly and positively.
However, there are some extreme choices that some parents make that I cannot make my peace with.
On the evening I posted my comment, I had had a good clear out of all the pages I followed on Facebook, the blogs I followed in my reader, and the sites and people I was following by e-mail. This was because amongst the gems in my various news feeds I had found someone defending putting a baby a few weeks old into nusery (before they had even gone back to work!!); someone saying how sick they were of all the pro-breastfeeding statements around; someone detailing their cry it out attempts with a 5 month old; and someone else who described breastfeeding as 'disgusting'.
I cannot afford to have that kind of negativity in my life.
To clarify, I'm afraid there are varous criteria which will cause me to distance myself from someone, especially someone I only know online, and they include being anti-breastfeeding. They also include guns, hunting, racism, being pro-death penalty, animal cruelty, child cruelty, abuse, finding childbirth and pregnancy revolting, and misogynistic words/behaviours. I would also be very concerned about anyone I thought I knew who vehemently believed in cry it out methods for sleep training, leaving tiny babies with strangers, or even those who tried to tell me what a marvellous job Cameron is making of running the country! If I am so strongly opposed to those practices and ideas myself, it is unlikely we would be friends, online or off.
To be brutally truthful, once I had purged my online world of those negativities, I felt a whole lot better and lighter. But I was in tears the next morning at the idea of upsetting someone I cared so much about, and I am truly sorry for that.
We are doing our best now to 'grow our tribe', to find more people who parent gently, positively - and most importantly at the moment, locally! Yet that doesn't mean our other friends will drop by the wayside, they too parent that way, although they may not believe it (D!), and that is why they are vital to our and our daughters' lives and well-being.
In the meantime, to the general community we will remain outsiders. If breastfeeding a 9 month old in public got some interesting comments, doing the same with a 3 year old totally freaks 'em out! And we had to walk out of a ballet class we had signed Lara up to try this week because the teacher tried to insist that parents wait outside!! Ah well, you get used to banging your head against a brick wall in the end!
To all the AP-ers who follow me, stick with it, we're doing a brilliant job!! To my true friends, thank you. To my new friends, thank you too. And to those I have unfollowed, sorry but we're just not compatible! Maybe I should use the classic dating break-up line "It's not you, it's me", and I'm quite happy for it to be so.
With love and peace to you all this weekend, Leta x