A lot of my friends these days are focused on “old ways” of doing things, “primitive” skills like hunting and skinning their own meat, making fires without matches or lighters, wild food and medicine, living in wigwams… I’ve found myself attracted to a lot of this, especially collecting wild edible and medicinal plants.  I love being sustained by the earth, instead of by an exploitative system (exploitative of people and the planet).  “Primitive skills” also came into my world of childraising, through the book “The Continuum Concept”, a popular book about one woman’s observations of childraising practices of a South American indigenous tribe.  I read it while I was pregnant, on my self-imposed retreat in the Smoky Mountains last January.  Curled up in a cozy cabin outside of Gatlinburg with an ever-expanding belly, I earnestly read about the ways the Yequana Indians nurtured their children, who never yelled, cried, or peed on the floor.

The book is a convincing argument, and I’ve spent these first seven months of Rora’s life looking to the “old ways” for guidance in parenting my daughter.  I joined the “CC” email group, but the daily digests quickly piled up, as I’m spending less time in front of the computer than I have since the internet became widely available (my junior year of high school, for the record).  I’ve found alot of insight and useful perspective from asking myself, “what would the Yequana do?”, and a lot of frustration as well.  I don’t live in a tribe — nothing close to it.  We are at home, Rora and I, quite often by ourselves.  Our home is modern, with tables and electrical outlets and flush toilets.  I’ve found myself sometimes caught up in an anxious critique of my life, thinking “this isn’t how it’s SUPPOSED to be!” and “if we lived in a tribe, <current challenge> wouldn’t even be an issue!”

Jeffrey and I had a conversation today that went something like this:

me: I’ve been noticing that Rora likes it better when I’m doing things on her level, like when I fold clothes on the floor, better than when I do things up on counters and tables, like chop veggies in the kitchen.  If I were working around a fire pit, I’d always be on her level and she wouldn’t get frustrated!

him: A lot of tribes had fire pits built on mounds so they could work standing up.

me: No, they didn’t.

him: Yes, they did.

me: unh uh!

him: unh huh!

So the conversation about how we should design our lives hinges on an argument of what other people did in the past.  I woke up tonight with a shift in perspective — not sure where it came from, but it hit me hard, right in the center of my chest.  Now as I sit in front of the screen it seems simple, but here it is: instead of looking to the “old ways”, or to the newest child development literature, I want to look to my deepest self for the answers to the questions of how to raise my daughter.  I want to ask myself “what do I want to do?” instead of “what should I do?”.  My perspective is informed by that “old way” wisdom, and also by the things I learn about “cutting-edge” parenting techniques (which don’t actually seem so different)… but I look for answers within instead of from the outside. This will keep me working with what is, the raw material of our lives, instead of longing for what isn’t, some ideal I’m trying to hold myself to.  I want to be constantly asking myself “what resonates with my spirit?”, having faith in the answers that come, and in my ability to live by them.

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