Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions

May 8th, 2012 by Dionna | 12 Comments
Posted in Adults, Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Consensual Living, Consistent and Loving Care, Eclectic Learning, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting

  • Email This Post

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As Kieran’s Tía Tammy, there are countless roles that I have been lucky to assume.1 I’ve been his Spanish teacher and his sign language student. I’ve been sous chef to tasty vegetable soup (made of all natural wooden-block ingredients). I’ve been a tickle monster and a Where the Wild Things Are reader. But one role that has been a surprising source of satisfaction and gratification is that of supporter of Di’s and Tom’s parenting choices.

Before my sister got pregnant for the first time five-ish years ago (I try not to delve too deeply into the gritty details of Kieran’s conception), I honestly didn’t think much about how I would want to raise a child. To spank or not to spank, breastmilk or formula, cloth diapers or disposables: these decisions never really entered my mind. Then, once that baby started brewing, I found myself learning about all of these alternatives and more. I was suddenly conversing in acronyms and abbreviations that I hadn’t even known existed prior to Kieran’s gestation (Don’t know what BF, WAHM, CIRC, and AP mean? Too embarrassed to ask your local NP mama? Turn to me, the non-threatening aunt!). It was a learning frenzy, and I was there to hear about – and eventually support –the decisions that Tom and Di were making along their path to (and now through) parenthood.

One of the main facets behind my desire to learn about and defend their choices is due to my role as their children’s named guardian. The thought of having to implement their choices as anything other than Tía Tammy makes me sick to my stomach, but I am unwilling to take on that responsibility without being able to continue raising their children in the manner they have determined to be best.

As I became informed about these topics, I realized that debating parenting styles is often polemic. Hearing others’ opinions and considering new research can prove an indictment or a critique of decisions one has made in the past. People are also skeptical of change, and when an entire generation seemingly unanimously supports something – whether that be circumcision, vaccinations, breastfeeding etiquette, spanking, or any other parenting choice – it is a long and difficult road to put those norms into question. Dionna and Tom have faced many raised eyebrows, questioning comments, and downright rudeness for some of the decisions they have made. Being informed about and supportive of their carefully chosen lifestyle has allowed me a more seamless role in my niece’s and nephew’s2 lives and has also given me a sense of pride as I’ve discovered an ability to rethink some of those ingrained parenting styles that others often find hard to leave behind.

What interactions between your child and extended family have you been grateful for?

If you could expand that role, how would you ask your extended family to further their involvement in your child’s life?


Tammy Mitchell is a Spanish lecturer at Clemson University in South Carolina who will soon head to Bloomington, Indiana, for her PhD. She’s into natural parenting by-proxy, as she doesn’t have children of her own, but lends her long-distance support to her two sisters, her brother-in-law, and her nephews and niece.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: 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:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

  1. My interaction with Ailia as been limited, as I haven’t spent as much time with her. My first non-newborn interaction with her, though, was memorable, as she has managed to poop on me through a diaper, pee on me once said diaper was off, and spit up on my dress – all within about five minutes of my arrival. This was all cause for much giggling and my full induction into the role of Tía Tammy Part Deux (literally and figuratively).
  2. English really needs to get on an all-encompassing term (like sobrinos in Spanish) for niece and nephew. Footnote P.S. Why do we always say nieces and nephews instead of vice versa?

12 Responses to:
"Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions"

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    “Nieces and nephews.” Hmm. It must just sound better! That’s a good question, though. :)

    I’m so glad to hear your thoughts as a named guardian. It’s important to me to think that our guardian will prioritize continuing to raise our children the way we value, which is why we’re considering a switch to a local aunt who’s an AP nanny. Thanks for the further encouragement to go that route! You sound like a fantastic aunt.

  2. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    It’s such a rare treat to hear the perspective of a non-parent who is so invested in the life of AP kids. I can only hope that my own siblings view my family as lovingly as you view Dionna and Tom’s. Having wrestled over the guardian issue, I think it’s wonderful that you take that role so seriously. It sounds like you are all lucky to have one another!

  3. Luschka   luschkavo

    Inexplicably, this post made me cry. I think it’s beautiful that a sister would put herself aside and be so open to and respectful of a parents decisions for their children. I adore my sister, but whenever we’ve been with her, I need to ‘re-teach’ my daughter (i.e. she can’t feed herself when she’s been with my sister and I end up spoon feeding pasta!!), and get her ‘back on track’ and I find that so frustrating! This is a lovely post. What a beautiful relationship you have.

  4. Tammy

    A few years back we were all in Topeka visiting our parents when Kieran was around two, and I took him to ride a little indoor train while Dionna and our mom shopped alone for a bit. At the end of the ride the conductor handed out suckers to the kids, and I let Kieran have it without thinking twice. As we strolled up to Di, she took in the situation without saying a word and we continued on with our day. Only later did I find out that I had just given Kieran his first candy (well before Di had been ready to introduce him to high fructose corn syrup). She didn’t chastise or remonstrate, but rather just let me know that they didn’t want him eating things like that.

    I tell that anecdote to demonstrate that it really has less do to with me than with my sister and brother in law. Their willingness to be patient, explain their preferences, and forgive when I goof up has made being supportive quite easy. I want to respect their decisions because they are so respectful of me. I bet the siblings each of you have spoken of feel exactly the same way :)

  5. Momma Jorje   mommajorje

    Sigh, I have seen a few posts today that make me envious. I don’t even know to whom I could entrust my children as guardian.

  6. What a beautiful story showing a loving relationship between sisters and their children. I think it is so amazing that you were willing to not only learn about parenting ideas important to your sister, but to also be willing to put them into practice as needed. A sister like you is far and few between! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Meegs   TattooedMeegs

    Great post. Its awesome that you are there being such a support to your sister. My brother is younger then me and not at the kids stage yet, but I hope I can be a support to him when he gets there.

  8. teresa   momgrooves

    Your sister is lucky to have you! I’m sure the same is true for you with her.
    Your committment to being prepared in the very unlikely event that you are called upon to take over the care of the children, is amazing. I’ve never heard of anyone working so hard.

  9. Amy   Amy_willa

    What an amazing sister! Your dedication is wonderful, and Dionna and Tom are so lucky to have you!

  10. How lucky you all are to have each other! My mil has been very supportive of our parenting choices. I’ve been lucky that other family members have been at least accepting, if not supportive. And those who don’t agree or approve just kind of roll their eyes and stay away. I haven’t met with much familial opposition, thankfully.


  11. Ursula Ciller   ursula_ciller

    I am most grateful for my parents interactions with my little one. They explain so much to her and foster a desire to learn and try new things. For example, she loves drinking whey (which most people in western society would dislike)which is full of minerals and nutrients. I appreciate your accepting approach, it really makes a big difference to have sisters who support your parenting choices (as I also happily have).

  12. Justine @ The Lone Home Ranger   lonehomeranger

    I grew up without siblings until I was in high school, so my half-sisters are still in high school now. I am grateful to my husband’s sister for serving as guardian for our kids, and this post makes me realize I don’t think I’ve shown her how much we appreciate that she attempts to learn our parenting style as well. Thanks for the insight!

  • Grab my new badge!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Visit Natural Parents Network
  • Display & participate!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Carnival of Weaning

    Carnival of Weaning