Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The New Normal

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

It might be spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but here in Toronto, Canada SPRING seems to be arriving in slow motion. Last year we were in Ottawa for the Tulip Festival on the first weekend of May and the children were dressed for summer as we ran around Parliament Hill. This year we’re still in coats and hats—and some days, mittens! But April showers bring May flowers, right?

In spite of the continued cold, rainy weather this spring, we are getting ready for our first successful vegetable garden. Hopefully! In February I hired Steve Biggs, a Gardening Coach, to come over and teach me how to grow vegetables in my postage-stamp of a back yard. I had two major hurdles: mostly shade during the middle of the day AND lack of space.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to experiment with gardening and be surprised by what works and what doesn’t? I’m not. I needed to know that all my efforts were going to result in some serious harvest, or I wasn’t going to bother at all. Plus, I saw this as a learning opportunity for my unschooled children and I didn’t want to risk FAILURE because my negativity might rub off on them.

My seedlings are doing great and before long I’ll be transplanting them all outdoors. And maybe, in a few months, my kids will be picking zucchini and cucumbers and eggplants and we’ll be eating fresh pesto made from our own basil plants.

It’s actually a little funny how I’ve had to embrace how ‘important’ it is to feed my children food that we grow or make ourselves and to buy food that is grown locally. Living in Toronto among people who were born and raised here, I am the only person I know who grew up eating home-grown vegetables and homemade bread. Because I grew up on a farm with a mother who worked her fingers to the bone doing canning and blanching and freezing every summer, I am used to seeing where my food comes from and I know a lot about preserving the summer harvest to enjoy all winter. But now that I’ve lived my entire adult life in Canada’s biggest city, I’ve had to figure out how to embrace the ideals of local, homegrown and homemade foods while living in a location that is not easily adapted to those ideals.  And while living with kids who don't seem to embrace the same 'food ideals' as I do.  Yet.

The truth is, my kids are NOT INTO gardening. Not even flowers. I’ve tried. They don’t care.

And you know? It doesn’t matter that they aren’t into gardening NOW. For me, the point is that they will see that growing vegetables in the heart of the city is NORMAL. This is the NEW NORMAL.

And it will be normal for them the way breastfeeding is the new normal. The way home-birth is the new normal (when safe to do so). The way using cloth diapers is the new normal.  The way hanging out the laundry on the clothes line is the new normal.  The way vaccinating mindfully is the new normal.  The way not valuing boys more than girls is the new normal. The way baking our own bread is the new normal. The way not accepting the local public school as the ultimate authority on children aged 3-14 is the new normal.

We grow vegetables in Toronto. It’s the new normal.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.


  1. I really appreciate this article. Mikko vacillates between being really interested in gardening and very, very resistant. I like the idea that you're just presenting it as normal, and there's no pressure to participate — your kids (and mine) will just soak it in as what you do to make food.

  2. I 100% agree that is important for our kids to see things such as growing our own food as normal and common place! We are also urban and it is the best of both worlds, bringing nature to the city!

  3. Wowee, powerful post. I love how you are making this the new normal - go you! Simply by embracing gardening yourself and showing how rewarding it can be will provide meaningful lessons for your children; whether they take it up or not is up to them but they will benefit one way or another :)

  4. I love this sentiment - even if gardening is not their cup of tea now, you're normalizing it. And what great analogies. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Yes! Just exposing your kids to those things makes them a part of their "normal," for sure. I love that you know your limitations with gardening experimentation, and didn't let that stop you from making it work for you anyway!

  6. Exceedingly cool! That's why I love ideas like vertical gardens... It is indeed very possible to cultivate on small surfaces, and it must be a lovely sight!

  7. Love your new normal. And I bet the kids will soon appreciate it, especially when they see mama have so much passion about it :). Gotta love unschooling :).

  8. I want hanging clothes to be my new normal!

    My son is only 1, so I'm hoping gardening will just be his plain old regular normal. I love your perspective.

  9. The new normal...love it!!! Sometimes when you make a big deal about something kiddos seem to reject it more...whereas if you just start doing it on a regular basis it just gets assimilated without much fuss and before you know it everyone's enjoying it. I'm sure when harvest time comes they will be super excited!

  10. I love that - the new normal! So poignant. I have never heard of a gardening coach, but that sounds like an excellent idea. I may have to look into that a little further. :)

  11. Such an important distinction. You don't have to love everything you do in life, but if you've learned that something is just done a certain (healthy, natural way), what a gift you've been given!

    Your kids are so lucky! And so is everyone who will be touched by their knowledge and experience. That means the rest of us!