At the suggestion of my astounded sister (also the most logical person on the planet), but against my better judgment, I watched a television program called “Radical Parenting.” If you’re unfamilar with the term, think of it this way: living in opposite world. There. That’s it.
You won’t be surprised to hear I live in the real world and raised my children to live there, too. Here are some examples of the unenlightened choices my husband and I made as traditional parents.
For one, we sent our children to school. Yes, we turned their brilliant little minds over to the corruption that lay in wait at their Catholic elementary school, then at the public middle and high schools in our community. At no point did we consider the concept of “home schooling.” Most home schooling environments follow disciplined lesson plans that largely cover subject matter according to the community’s standards, taught within the confines of home. Super, but it wasn’t for us.
Surprise! It’s not for radical parents, either. Way too prosaic for them and their little prodigies. They believe in “un-schooling.” If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute. Un-schooling can’t mean what I think it means,” you’re wrong. It does. No lessons. No classes. No formal teaching of any kind. Children learn from “the world.” From “life.” From video games, according to one little boy.
Favorite quote: “Unschooling has freed us to do and be whatever we choose. We can craft all day if we feel like it. There’s nothing we have to do; we are just free.” Even if I force myself to ignore the use of the word “craft” as a verb, I’m horrified.
But un-schooling is more than that, too. It’s egalitarian life. No one makes rules for anyone else. Bedtime? Nope. Good nutrition? Nah. Hygiene? Not really. Sleep where you want, when you want. Have popsicles for dinner. Take a bath if you feel like it. Good Lord.
You may feel uncertain at this point. Maybe un-schoolers are onto something and I’m just too conventional and close-minded to understand. Perhaps. Let’s move on, shall we?
We let our children crawl around and laid them in cribs to sleep. Oh, and we put diapers on them, too.
Turns out, we may have damaged their sense of security. Radical “attachment parents” carry, wear, or otherwise affix their baby to their body through a pouch, a sling, a backpack or some other device, everyday, all day for two to three years. They ‘co-sleep’ with them, too. In other words, they stay in direct contact with the child from birth until he or she begins walking and then as much as possible thereafter, including several years of breastfeeding.
The attachment parents further illustrated their parent—child connection by defrosting one child’s frozen placenta, covering it with soil and planting a tree over it. They mentioned something about how it would “nourish the tree like it nourished you” or how it would connect “mommy and you and the tree” or something. Whatever.
Favorite quote: Daddy: “This is how you lived for nine months inside mommy.” Daughter: “Gross.”
AP’s don’t use diapers. Parents who are in tune with their children and attached at the hip, almost literally, learn “elimination communication.” They simply read the facial expressions and interpret the noises babies and children make; looks and sounds that actually mean “I need the potty.”
Once again, we failed. We had strollers, walkers, bouncy seats, swings, cradles, bassinets, and cribs. We used cloth and disposable diapers. Our sons may not have enough hours left in their lives for the therapy they’ll need as a result.
We bought shirts with trucks and puppies and dinosaurs on them. Our boys played with cars, superheroes, building sets and power ranger swords.
Wrong. But it turns out the least startling parents in the show were simply determined to raise their sons in a gender-neutral environment. Believe me, after watching the un-schooling and attachment wackos in the first two segments, this couple felt about as radical as William F. Buckley.
Must we embrace the extremes of any idea (creative learning, close relationships, and equality between the sexes) to prove our validity as parents? My theory: radical parents are more about themselves than their children. It’s nothing more than a living experiment about how cool, how superior, how far beyond the rest of us they are. The problem is their kids—and everyone around them – will be stuck with the results.