Monday, March 30, 2009

Sharing our wisdom and knowledge

At one time in human history, wisdom was passed from elders who taught their childen everything they knew in very hands-on ways. We've lost a lot of that. We've gained in different ways, through universal primary and secondary education and the opportunities many have to further their education beyond that. And of course, libraries and the Internet are fantastic tools for self-education.

But we really are missing something by not passing on knowledge in the old-fashioned ways as well. I've been reading the books I have about gardening, and I'm learning about such things as plant diseases, seed-saving, improving your plants' hardiness, etc. My father was a gardener and trained horticulturalist, and he never taught me these things. He was a great father in many, many ways, but he never passed on to his children his wisdom in the area of his greatest expertise. We helped in the garden with weeding and picking ripe veggies, but he never had us help him plant anything, never taught us about how to ensure a successful harvest, never taught us about fertilization--you get the idea. I want my daughter to help me at every stage along the way in my own attempt to become a gardener. Maybe she'll never use that knowledge as an adult, but at least she'll have it.

Parenting is another area in which shared wisdom is often not passed down. (And some that is passed down can be downright harmful--my boss was talking recently about the old wives' tale of giving babies Scotch to keep them quiet!). I have read that about 94% of women have the ability to breastfeed successfully, but breastfeeding rates in the US are much lower than that. That's partly due to work and cultural pressures that make breastfeeding a challenge, but also due to the difficulties some women have in successfully establishing breastfeeding. I was lucky--my daugther latched on well the first time we tried and off we went, never having any problems with nursing. A lot of women aren't so lucky, and don't have the support they need to overcome any breastfeeding problems they encounter.

I really wanted to cloth-diaper, in large part because of my concerns about the environment. I didn't, for many reasons: I had to return to work full-time after 8 weeks of maternity leave, we didn't have our own washer and dryer, and there was no diaper-cleaning service in my area. Several women I talked to said that given that, it would be nearly impossible for me to keep up with the laundry.

In addition to the laundry logistics challenge, I also felt that I lacked knowledge. I looked online at cloth-diaper sites, and there were so many varieties--which would be best? The easiest to use were also the most expensive, and most out of my price range. The ones I could afford, I wasn't confident I could figure out how to use. The info many sites provided about how to clean and care for cloth diapers often conflicted. So even without the laundry issue, my knowledge gap made cloth diapering seem daunting.

Here's a shout-out, then to a store that is trying to share their wisdom and knowledge about parenting: Best Loved Baby, a natural children's boutique here in Tacoma. I met some of the co-owners last summer at a community festival, and they told me that they offer free classes and lots of advice on how to cloth diaper, how to pick the best cloth diapers for your child and lifestyle, how to launder them, etc. They started the store, and the classes, in large part because they felt that when they began having children, no one was around to teach them. Therefore, they want to help teach other families. Here is their story. (Sad to say, by the time I met them, my daughter was already potty-trained).

I have also made some recent connections, locally and nationally, with groups that are helping others with gardening and eco-living. I'll write more about them as I learn more.


  1. Check out You Grow Girl website for some great gardening tips. Also, my sister gave me an herbs guide book two years ago and I am just astounded at how practical herbs and decorative plants and flowers actually are. I have a new found respect for God's amazing green medicines! I am putting it in my "emergency survival" bag.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for the suggestions! I'll visit that site soon.