“Nonviolent parenting? I feel like I need a Quaker workshop on that,” Brianne Boylan laughs.
As an adoptive mother, Brianne has been on a remarkable journey, one deeply informed by her participation in the Quaker community. “One of the reasons why I feel like I want to be surrounded by Quakers,” she admits, “is so that I can learn from them… because my own childhood was—I felt like violence and domination were part of the ways that children were raised, and that’s not what I want for my child or the world.”
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One day he was saying, “It’s a bad laundry day!” when it was raining and I was just like, “This–” and he has a speech difficulty and everything, but like, what six year-old with a speech difficulty is gonna look out the window and say, “It’s a bad laundry day?” Like, that’s my child.
In Pursuit of Nonviolent Parenthood
My Name is Brianne Boylan. I live in Greenbelt, Maryland, and I attend Adelphi Friends Meeting.
My journey to parenthood is a little bit different than some peoples. My partner and I decided that adoption was the right choice for us somewhat based– well, for him entirely based on stewardship reasons; he had already had a vasectomy because he didn’t feel right bringing another American into the world with the resource consumption that we have, which is a pretty strong stance and yet I married him, and I felt moved by his conviction.
We were in the adoption process when a friend of mine had heard that a friend of his had actually thought about adopting her child and they were also — they’re environmental activists and she already had four children and she said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be a surrogate mother, and I really have my hands full, and I want to do more environmental activism work right now,” so it was just a really amazing fit.
I remember shortly before he was born talking about, well what are we going to do if this baby has some health conditions or is born with something that we know is going to affect them for the rest of their life, and feeling worried about that but also feeling a conviction that I think maybe comes from my Quaker faith that there’s light of God in everyone and that we would manage that however we would manage that — with a community as well. I felt– I remember saying, “I think this will draw us closer to you two if the child has something unexpected.”
Dmitri was born and he did have something unexpected. He has Trisomy 9p Syndrome which is a rare chromosomal abnormality, and we didn’t know that right at his birth. And so like, we were told he might never walk, might never talk, here are the health problems that he might have, and that was really overwhelming at the time, and I spent quite a bit of his infancy certainly grieving the future that I thought my child would have. But by the age of two it was clear he was doing pretty well and I realized what a joy I had in this child and what light he brings to my life.
Seeking Out Quaker Testimonies
I was very interested in Quakerism because of their history and testimony of peace, and that came from a place of having childhood violence in my life and I was kind of looking for answers to how do I move from that and seek nonviolence both within and without in my world.
Yeah, that was– Nonviolent parenting? I feel like I need a Quaker workshop on that. But it’s my goal; it’s, again, one of the reasons why I feel like I want to be surrounded by Quakers is so that I can learn from them and absorb some of those lessons because my own childhood was– I felt was like violence and domination were part of the ways that children were raised, and that’s not what I want for my child or the world and so, that was part of what drew me to Quakerism.
- How can Quaker testimonies and beliefs factor into parenting? Is it something you must consciously think about, or is it something that comes naturally?
- How do Quakers and non-Quakers effectively advocate for and model nonviolent parenthood when “violence and domination [are a] part of the ways” that some children are raised?”
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.