Last night the Discovery Health Channel aired a special on “Radical Parenting,” as part of Baby Week. The schedule says,
This one hour special explores several different families extreme forms of parenting. From attachment parenting to raising a child gender neutral to raising child without consequences. In the diverse world we live in there are some pretty extreme ways. (Who writes these things? -ed)
The program featured three “radical” families that don’t operate in a traditional manner: Unschoolers, parents who practice attachment parenting, and parents raising their sons without gender stereotypes. The families themselves occupied the vast majority of screen time, but they were interrupted by short clips of psychiatrists commenting on the families’ philosophies and strategies.
The first family was the Parent family; they have a boy and a girl. As unschoolers, the children do not go to school. Instead, their educations are “experiential-based.” The kids learn through the experiences they have in everyday life. They are allowed to make all their own decisions, such as where to sleep at night and what they eat for breakfast every day. I’m not keen on America’s education system, so the Parents’ set-up appeals to me for that reason. But their days are completely unstructured; I think I’d try to incorporate some lessons into the routine if it were my family. The Parents all seem to be happy and respectful of one another.
The Parise family practices attachment parenting methods, including extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and training the kids to use the toilet from a very young age. There are five children in the family. They planted one child’s placenta under a tree in the yard. I’m down with a lot of hippie dippy stuff so some things about this lifestyle appealed to me as well. However, I could not handle strict attachment parenting. What struck me is that the parents are constantly attending to the children. A woman who breastfeeds each of her five children for four years each must be breastfeeding all the time.
The show didn’t explain how the parents earn a living. I was sort of distracted by that question during the first two stories because these lifestyles are extremely demanding on the parents’ time. All the families appeared to be comfortably middle class.
The Crosley-Corcorans are raising their two sons without gender stereotypes. Their segment was the last out of the three. The show kept cutting to commercial by previewing allegedly extreme quips from the parents, including one wherein mom Crosley-Corcoran said “Jonas asked for a dollhouse for his birthday and we were fully supportive.” I’m sad – but I guess I should not be surprised – that doing such a thing is shocking.
The mom and dad explained their philosophy, and how they practice it, very clearly. The dad was raised in a strict, traditional household wherein his mother waited on his father. He didn’t want his own home to be that way. The mom was raised with feminist ideals (She has a blog named The Feminist Breeder, which is awesome). They make an effort to socialize their kids with girls and boys equally, so they are comfortable hanging out with both sexes. The boys like to walk around in their mom’s high heels, and why wouldn’t they? Little girls do. They place a lot of importance on making their kids well-rounded, which I think is extremely important. The dad said he thinks their parenting will make the boys better partners in the future. I love this family.
Since I’d been watching the experts describe the pros and cons of unschooling and attachment parenting I grew nervous wondering what they’d say about the feminist minded family (the mother’s words). What cons could there be, besides social ostracism?! One of the therapists reassured the audience that letting a boy play with pink toys will not change his sexual orientation (!). Unfortunately a lot of people actually a.) believe that’s true, and b.) want to avoid making the baby gay.
The only con the psychiatrist mentioned is the fact that the world is not gender-neutral; boys raised to appreciate and participate in “girl stuff” will face ridicule out there. So really, it’s not even a criticism of the family, but the wider world (in my opinion). I’m happy with the way the Crosley-Corcorans were depicted. It was refreshing to hear the word “feminist” spoken on television in a neutral/positive context. I especially enjoyed seeing a man espousing feminist beliefs without being portrayed as “emasculated.” It was radical (in the 90′s slang sort of way).