The CTFO Manual to Life

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When my daughter was born, I bought parenting books.  Lots of parenting books.  I read about sleep training, about co-sleeping, about attachment parenting, about breastfeeding, about nutrition, and about every other magic bullet that would guarantee that my daughter would come into this world with every advantage possible.

The pictures are from Beanie's and my recent outing to the Children's Museum!

The pictures are from Beanie’s and my recent outing to the Children’s Museum!

And then I realized that I was human.

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I introduced the pacifier sooner than I was supposed to.  I set her in her bouncy seat when I did housework.  Occasionally, I even showed her *gasp* cartoons.

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And you know what?  In the end, I didn’t even feel guilty about doing these things.  Even without being the perfect non-consumer earth mommy, I have developed a great relationship with my daughter.

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And my husband told me that I should write a parenting book of my own.  And call it “CTFO Parenting.”  Chill.  The.  Frick.  Out.

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But, I’ve come to learn that CTFO does not just apply to parenting.  Because we’re looking for magic bullets for every aspect of our lives.

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For me, it was a slippery slope.  My reading about attachment parenting gave way to crunchy parenting.  If I could live a sustainable lifestyle, with no television, minimal technology, and nothing made by a corporation, then my daughter would be smart and well-adjusted and I would find inner peace.  Crunchy parenting led to minimalism.  I purged and purged, hoping to reach that point of arrival, where I could comfortably call myself a “minimalist.”  I wanted to belong to a group, wanted to find something that would make everything come together to a point where I would find peace and happiness.

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As I tried all these magic bullets, I found myself becoming critical of those who chose otherwise.  They were “mainstream,” and we were “counter cultural.”  I rolled my eyes at people who fed their babies formula, used disposable diapers, and ate fast food.  I felt very smug about the fact that my daughter had never seen a Disney movie.  I felt superior to the parents at the playground, who were glued to their Smartphones.

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The problem with judging, is that we are really only judging ourselves.  I was critical of everyone else, because I wanted some sort of validation that I was doing it right.  That the magic bullet I had chosen would work.  That the lifestyle I had chosen was the “answer,” that it was the “right” way to do things.

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It was this blog post, written by one of my friends (who definitely could be considered an “extreme minimalist”) that first led me to question my obsession with having a “separate” lifestyle.  And, more recently, all of the discussion about this article criticizing a mother using her cell phone at the park.  Some people agreed with the author, while others wrote retorts like this one.

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My thoughts?  They’re both right and they’re both misunderstanding.  Because only that mother knows what works for her.  Perhaps she needs to unwind a bit, perhaps she has a friend who is going through a difficult time and needs some attention.  Perhaps she works from home.  Or perhaps she would be happier if she put the phone away.  The only thing anyone knows is that they don’t know.  And it really isn’t their business.  Our job is to support each other, and to stop judging ourselves too much.

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Because that’s the real issue, isn’t it?  And the only solution is to CTFO.  Don’t judge, don’t worry about what you “should” do.  Because life really isn’t a test, that we can either pass or fail.  It’s more of a class, a hands-on tutorial.  There really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to do it.  If you’re happier going technology-free during family outings, then leave the phone at home.  If you need some time to unwind, while your kids play, then go ahead and check in with your friends online.  If you feel calmer and happier with fewer possessions, keep purging away.  But don’t panic is you realize that you would like to watch a movie once in awhile or want to buy a video game console.  Just observe, and make adjustments that work for you and your family.

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Stay true to yourself, and you’ll find that you have plenty of space to allow others to do the same.

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