Thursday, 19 June 2014

Make memories not regrets

I wish I could be one of those gentle parent bloggers who says something inspirational once or twice a week, even better if I had a Pinterest friendly quote. But I'm not. I'm much worse at blogging than I am at being a gentle parent (and I'm not always great at that).

Being a gentle parent is hard; the truth is being a parent is hard and parenting the way we choose to isn't any harder or easier.

The real difference is priorities, we choose to embrace some backrods and ignore others. All parents have to make tough decisions based on what they know and what they feel is best for their family. Some decisions can always become a rod for their back, it's not just the hippies who have to deal with the consequences of their parenting choices.

We're currently navigating the terrific twos, with all it's ups and downs and that brings me to this nugget. We don't always get it right but I want to remember this when I'm making my choices how to act and react with my son: I want to make memories not regrets.

Being a parent of small children is such a small part of our lives, all things considered, that we want to make it count. We want to make these 18 years (give or take) where we'll be central to his life count. Heck, we'll get less and less central every year.

I don't want to look back and regret treating him like this or regret not doing that. I want to look back and have so many happy memories that I can't pick one out. And I want him to be able to do the same. It's not like he'll really remember this age, but there'll be so many pictures and videos he'll be able to look back and say "I had a cool childhood" - plus if we want it to be right when he can remember, we need to start now and make sure this stuff is routine.

And so there it is, I have another mantra to put with my others:
This too shall pass (a quick phrase to help you through the tough times and help you cherish the good times) and People are more important than things.

Oh, and here's a Pinterest friendly quote/image, don't say I never give you anything...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The saga of the carseat

These days we’re all about informed choice; it started before Isaac was even conceived, as we started to explore making better choices about the way we lived, and trying to balance our knowledge and our choices with our available income - always a tricky one that, but I digress. So when it came to buying Isaac’s first car seat we spent a lot of time researching, looking up crash-test scores and all those sorts of details as well as customer feedback ratings.
Our first car seat was not cheap; including the ISOFIX base it came to around £300, so we made it last as well as we could. Isaac made it to about 21 months before it became absolutely necessary we upgraded; whilst he is still well within the weight limits of his first car seat, he’s just too long and his head was just about to leave the safe limits of the car seat. Of course we didn't leave it this long until we started researching, we started that in earnest around his first birthday.
The very first thing we found in our research was that we wanted Isaac to continue rear-facing as long as possible. At first it was hard to find the correct information, but thanks to we were able to find out that it could be up to five times safer for children 4 and under. As they put it themselves:
Did you know that it's five times safer for a child to be rear facing? Scandinavian children are rear facing until they are 4–5 years old (25kg or 55lbs), which has resulted in a much lower number of children injured or dead in car accidents compared with other countries, as for instance the UK. So why is rear facing safer? On this site you will get the facts and figures to show you why rear facing is safer. Then it is up to you to decide what is best for your child.
It’s strange, because this just doesn't seem to be widely publicised in this country. The current UK guidelines suggest that from 9kg (19lb 13.5oz) your child can forward face in a car seat - according to the WHO growth charts for boys this could be anything from as early as 3 months!
Although there are obviously different crash scenarios that can happen, the most risky to life is front-on collisions; these also happen to be the situations where rear facing car seats can out-perform forward facing seats. I’ll let this video do the talking for me:

The most amazing thing we found out is that the same companies making forward facing seats in this country are also making the rear-facing seats for Scandinavian countries, but don’t generally sell them here! Crazy! And whilst they state the advanced safety of their rear-facing models over there, over here they simply don’t mention it.
The only reason seems to be that they don’t believe there is much of a market here. Personally I think that if one of the manufacturers stepped forward saying that despite the regulations in this country they believe rear-facing to be safer and they will be selling rear-facing models through major retailers, they would've got my vote. I'm surprised they don’t try it, do a combined advertising push with a selected retailer, they’d make a killing!
We found a few online sellers over here, but we wanted to make sure the one we spent such a large amount of money on was well suited to Isaac, us and our car - by the way, expect to pay around £300, regardless of model, not that there are a huge amount to choose from. We were fortunate to find a real life stockist close to Lucy’s parents, so we took a visit one weekend we were up there.
That’s where our story should end, but the adventure just carried on… when we got there we found out that cars like ours with under floor storage for the back seats, an increasingly common feature these days, are problematic for rear facing car seats. Rear facing seats typically feature a supporting leg to help prevent too much motion during a crash, but the plastic lids on the storage compartments are not strong enough to withstand the force. So no car seat, unless we can find one with a leg that stretches to the true floor or find something to fill in the compartment. Although, we are told, that they’re not sure how safe filling it in actually is.
That prompted a quick internet search whilst we commiserated ourselves in Ikea restaurant. Via the rear-facing site I mentioned before we found another company not too far away from Bristol and after a quick call it became clear that they had fitted the seat we had been looking at in other cars like ours. They weren't able to see us that weekend, so we planned to go the following weekend we were up in Bristol.
And so it was that a couple of weeks ago we went to see Kirsty from Securatot. The folks at securatot have been doing this a while and started when they chose rear-facing for their own children, they’re passionate and well-informed. What’s more, they also have it in writing from Be-Safe, the manufacturer of our chosen car seat, that filling the storage compartment with polystyrene blocks/sheets is sufficient to allow the lid to withstand an impact from the leg.
So the car seat was tried in the car; it was a good fit and Isaac loved it. None in stock, though, so it was put on order and we waited and got prepared with some polystyrene (some free scraps from Jewsons, thanks!). Although we didn't have to wait long, it was delivered pretty quickly (free delivery too)!
Isaac loves his new car seat (we went for a BeSafe iZi Combi, by the way) it’s slightly higher than his old one so he gets a much better view out the back window! What’s more we heard from Kirsty that her 4 year old fits fine in the car seat, so we’re looking forward to another 2 years or so before we need to replace it again!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Adventures in walking

So I posted yesterday on my main blog that I'd like to make more use of all of my blogs and that this one in particular should become more of journal of our adventures as a family of backrodders... so here's one of our adventures.

Today, on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, we went to see St. Nectan's Glen, between Tintagel and Boscastle. It's a place we've wanted to visit for a while and despite it being about an hour and half away it was so worth it!

It's about a mile walk from the carpark to the shop/cafe and as usual I had Isaac in the sling. We were taking plenty of pictures on the way, and Isaac even took a few, including this lovely one of his mama with a bit of his finger included.

We had a quick lunch, in the company of a surprisingly bold robin who even attempted to snack on another diners sandwich straight from her plate and then descended the steps into the valley below.

Wow! I did not expect to see what we saw!

Slightly naff panorama of the glen
But one of the highlights, at least for me, was that Isaac had a go at walking through the water with his wellies on. Isaac takes after his mama; Lucy didn't start walking until 22 months and Isaac's looking set to be walking around the same time. Right now he's just about managing to walk holding our hands, something he's only been able to do with something resembling stability for the past week or so.

This is the face of our son shortly after we placed him in the water
To be honest he was getting a bit fed up; something along the lines of, "Yeah it's pretty, but I'm bored of being stuck in this sling and not moving. Let's go Dada! Stop taking so many pictures." Even so, he was really enjoying it when I splashed in the stream.

Lucy and I were feeling bad because there were other children enjoying the stream, either wearing wellies or just barefeet. I was worried that Isaac would want to sit down in the stream like he does in the sea, which probably would've been ok except we only had an emergency nappy with us and no wrap to put around it. But we had his wellies and in the end Lucy convinced me to give it a try.

Lesson for the day, sometimes it's good to try and say yes, even if you're not sure it will work. He loved it, so much so that he didn't want to leave.

It must've been such a challenge for him, but he tackled it with the same determination and persistence we see so much from him.

This evening Isaac's photo taking continued; I now have a lot of great photos of Isaac's toys on my phone, and they're all better than the photo's I take...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bedsharing, safe or not?

This is just a quick post, I'm afraid.

You may have seen/heard in the news that Bed-sharing 'raises cot death risk fivefold', well it turns out that this may not be true (surprise surprise).

Someone else has expanded on the research and shown how the conclusions are flawed, so I'll leave it to them!

Put it this way, whilst we like to research our choices thoroughly and minimize risk, we'll still be co-sleeping with our son and with any future children.

Have a great day!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Gentle Parenting isn’t religious

We’re Christians. I won’t hide it or apologise for it. Our faith means a lot to us, it directs us in so many ways. The way we parent is an overflow of our faith and our understanding of respect and love. But at the same time, our parenting style separates us from many other Christians of our persuasion who choose to take literally the scripture “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24) as an instruction to use violence to “train” their child (we’ll get to this in a minute).

However, Christianity isn’t the only faith that teaches respect, and neither Christianity nor any faith are essential to the fundamentals of BackRods Parenting. If you search around the internet you will find that there are many BackRods Parents who are pagan/new-age believers.

I think the crux of the matter is that same old recurring theme here, respect. When you believe something that teaches respect, whatever that may be, and you start applying that to your children, the natural conclusion is a respectful parenting style. The best bit is that in our modern, connected age you can find other people that think similarly to you and that leads you onto other related thinking and methodologies.

That’s how we started, I can’t remember the exact starting point, but we’re down the rabbit hole now and it just keeps on going now. We just keep on learning and growing. We find something new and we think it over, we research it as fully as we can, we make an informed choice: “Does this work for us or not? Does this fit with what we’ve seen before? Does this fit with our worldview?”

It doesn’t take faith to make those decisions, but for us our faith definitely influences those decisions. Our faith is our starting point and is a major part of our worldview. We’re all about informed choice.

So you don’t have to be religious to make yourself some BackRods, but what if you are Christian? How are you supposed to parent in a Bible-honouring way and in a gentle and respectful way, when the bible contains statements like the one above? Here’s how we see it: the book of proverbs is very symbolic in the way it tells its wisdom, like those sorts of sayings often are (after all, we don’t all carry around a bird in the hand as much as we might agree that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”).

Have you ever seen a middle-eastern shepherd? They don’t push their flock onwards, they stand at the front and lead their flock. They call the sheep to follow them, this works pretty well because of the natural herding mentality of sheep but occasionally they’re going to need to deal with an individual. This is where the shepherds crook comes in, you can hold it at arm’s length to help direct sheep, you can use it to save wanderers, you can even use it to get sheep unstuck out of difficult situations. And I think this is the rod that Solomon is referring to, not a rod of whipping but a rod of guidance.

That to me fits in much better with my overall picture of respecting life and loving my children. But it is most certainly influenced by my overall worldview.

BTW. This subject leads in nicely to discipline, but that’s a whole other blog post... Watch this space!

The Bible is full of wisdom on how to treat each other, Jesus particularly raises the bar in how we respect each other and how we live in a generous way. If we are to love our enemies, our household needs to be totally immersed in that same love and respect. Of particular interest to me is this verse from Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Col 3:21)

Our purpose as parents is to protect our children and teach them to become “good” adults, but there is a temptation to focus our efforts on side issues. We personally believe that we should be teaching our children to make the same informed choices that we try to make (not necessarily the same outcomes, but the same stringent decision making process), this means that if it isn’t a “health & safety” issue then they can make their own decisions. We wouldn’t let them play on a motorway, because that would be dangerous; but if, for instance, they want a tattoo or they want to drink alcohol (which we aren’t for) we will educate, inform, give our opinions and enable them to make an informed choice, cos that’s how we roll.

And one last thing. If, going back to the previous illustration, they get a tattoo and regret it in 3 months time, we won’t be saying “I told you so”. We’ll be sympathetic and supportive, but we might leave them to deal with their own consequences.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The future of BackRods Parenting

When I started BackRods it was, in all honesty, a business venture. It was an attempt to see if I could tap this demographic for a little bit of cash. We are, however, honestly trying to follow gentle parenting techniques, we are honestly parenting in a way that makes people talk about making rods for our back.

As a business venture it didn't work. I went all out to try and use social media as an advertising tool, Facebook, Twitter and this blog. However the products I was trying to sell just weren't really appropriate to the market nor did my target audience have much money to spend.

In the meantime, I've come to see that it's quite important that people share about this kind of parenting. We need to support each other and we need to promote these choices as valid and indeed fulfilling choices.


So when the domain came up for renewal I let it slide. I wasn't so bothered about branding now, just about keeping the blog etc. going. The main website is now at and it'll probably stay there for the foreseeable future, this blog is now at and again, it will probably be staying put.

In terms of branding, I've changed everything from "" to "BackRods Parenting". This is a way of life for us, this is our parenting technique, we're doing BackRods Parenting.... :-) Intentionally making rods for our back in the interests of our children!


The existing shop at SpreadShirt will be closing down. The designs aren't that great, the products aren't all eco-friendly, the printing process almost certainly isn't.

In future I will be finding other ways to monetise the site, but I'll be linking to existing great products and businesses that are absolutely inline with BackRods Parenting. If no one ever buys anything it won't be the end of the world because...

We'll be becoming more personal

I've tried to keep this site free from my personal life and kept it generic. I've left out my wife and babies name. But this is a very personal journey, not everyone's BackRods Parenting would look the same as ours. We'll be talking more about our choices, our struggles and our experiences. I'll also try and get Lucy more involved in this blog.

Be prepared to see more pictures and hear more about us. I hope it will bring the site to life and add flesh to the bones of our parenting ethos.

And what does our BackRods Parenting look like?
  • We baby-wear (use slings, never a push-chair or pram)
  • We breastfeed (or at least Isaac and Lucy do, I don't get involved in that bit...)
  • We do Baby Led Weaning (to us it seems the most gentle and natural way to introduce food)
  • We don't use (and won't be using) the words "good" or "bad" or "naughty" to describe Isaac or his behaviour
  • We won't be punishing, either using physical violence or timeouts
  • We will be respecting our children's rights to have their own opinions and feelings
  • We will be unschooling, probably radically
There's probably more, but that's a good start!


I'll be continuing the series on what Gentle Parenting is (probably looking at some of the above points as part of that), and how it affects us and I'll also be updating the main website in the next few weeks.

If you're still reading, thanks!


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gentle Parenting starts before birth

This is (hopefully) the first in a series of "Gentle Parenting is..." posts. Quick disclaimer, this is what Gentle Parenting is to us, it's not necessarily a be-all-end-all definition. The crux of Gentle Parenting centres on the concepts of respect and informed choice not any particular technique, and those themes will come up again and again!

Baby BackRods is now over 3 months old, but we became Gentle Parents way before that.

For us, the two things we find most important in our parenting choices (especially when deciding what we will do) is to respect our child as a human with rights and feelings and then to do some research and make an informed choice. So how does that apply before birth?

Birth is already pretty traumatic for mother and baby (they don’t call it labour for nothing) and we felt it didn’t show respect for the process if we allowed any intervention, where medical professionals feel they have to get involved and hurry the process along. The baby will come out. They have to.

Informed choice does come in here, though, because the odds of something going wrong do increase with time - when you think about it, that's quite an obvious statement. At the same time, the dating process that doctors use is a little odd. It assumes a 28 day cycle and a gestation of exactly 40 weeks starting from the end of the last period. Neither of those are rock-solid assumptions. We chose to let nature take it's course unless something was obviously wrong.

We felt it would be disrespectful to our child to force them out with sweeps, inducement and instruments. It was either natural and normal and we could take our time over it or it was an emergency and it had to be quick. In all our research we could find no benefit (to us) to the heavily medicalised compromise between the two. Not everybody feels that way, of course, but it's why our son was born at exactly 42 weeks gestation without any undue intervention.

Unfortunately things exactly didn't go our way and eventually Baby BackRods was born by emergency c-section. But we had prepared for that, we had counted that as one of the options, we were open minded that it might happen, so we didn’t feel like failures. We didn’t need to, our son was born!

What I'm trying to say is, it doesn't matter how much we wanted a water-birth, how much I wanted to cut the cord, how much we wanted the placenta to be completely drained before the cord was cut, what matters is that we made our choices and we made our plan before the event. We had our birth plan to cover home or hospital birth, even our requests for the possibility of c-section. We were informed.

But it’s not just the birth itself, but then you also need to consider feeding, sleeping arrangements, transportation (i.e. pram or sling), and start to think how you will parent the child as they grow up. You can't just wait until you have a baby to think about these things, you need to start Gentle Parenting as soon as you become a parent (or even before) and not wait until you have a babe in arms.

I’ll probably come back to some of the other points in the future, but just for a quick rundown...

On feeding, we believe that formula is the 4th option for infant feeding:
  1. Breastfeeding
  2. Breastmilk in a cup, syringe or bottle
  3. Donor milk
  4. Formula
I won’t get into the Formula arguments, at least not now, but I want to make it clear that formula is an option, but not one we wanted to consider from the outset. It made more sense to Baby and Mrs BackRods to go for Breastfeeding and to do it on demand rather than to a schedule.

On sleeping, we co-sleep as this makes life generally easier, especially when breastfeeding.

On “transportation”, we babywear. Sometimes even when we’re in the house!

On parenting, we’ll be gentle and respectful...

As a couple we discussed many of these things whilst we were trying to conceive, we had discovered all these wonderful “alternative” parenting choices and ended up seeing how far the rabbit hole would go, and we’re still going! But that won’t be the case for everyone. Gentle Parenting can start any time, it can start before your first child or you can make the decision to change your parenting whenever. All I’m saying is that it can start before birth, not that it has to. :-)