Leaning into Trust

So I have not been doing so well with my unschooling practice.  Sure, we’re on the beach now and I promised not to push schoolwork (Khan Academy and worksheet doing), but my need to control has been back for sure.

Expectedly because I am with an overbearing presence from my childhood. Strangely, or maybe I should have expected it, from reading a compendium of natural healing.

The good from my reading is an understanding of temper tantrums I’ve never had before. The concept is that we heal from the inside out. It helped me understand the eruption of pure, seemingly negative emotions that children have as a type of soul-cleansing experience.  Really helped me to accept and be at peace with it, feeling like it is not wrong.

Anyway,

Did some inner work last night and it helped me wake up with a new outlook. What kind of work, you ask? Well, for inspo I turned first to an understanding of my children and myself, I looked up traits for our sun signs and cusps and just soaked in our strengths, what I could work on personally (balance and social skills, it said.). Then, I was ready to hear some more from Sandra Dodd.

I have been controlling food pretty strong. Yesterday, I felt very righteous about limiting TV to one show a day. There may have been an improvement in their attitudes. I don’t know. I still think that there is wisdom in the premise that children will rebel if you don’t let them try things. Try to self-regulate under your watchful guidance.

Preparing the environment, giving advice, loving guidance. It’s the extent of my parental role. Giving unconditional love and acceptance. Being their person they can always turn to. I can’t skip past the painful experiences they may have to learn as much as I want to by dogged, severe teaching. If they don’t understand truly why to do this or that, it is empty. It isn’t learning, it is blind obedience which will end when my back is turned. I am coming to believe it is more loving to allow them to learn while I’m there .

Today so far:

We cooked fried bologna and made chocolate milk. Freddie then wrote down the recipe. (ELA, Science, Home Ec)

We have watched SpongeBob and Scooby Doo and Looney Toons.

He learned how to keep the handle turned away from anyone who should come to the stove, how to regulate heat so it doesn’t burn, how to turn food over to ensure even browning, how to mix substances to make a mixture (with milk and chocolate syrup). LIFE SKILLS.

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Science Center

Today we went to the city with my mom and grandma. We started out early; I drug everyone out of bed. We met at a gas station and mom bought chips for the kids. We traveled down the road a bit and ate at Cracker Barrel. Mom bought toys for the kids: walkie talkies for the boys, a doll hairdressing set, and a stuffed puppy for the baby. At the Science Center, the first thing we did was a gravity exhibit where the kids had to turn a human hamster wheel to send a ball up a huge marble run.

Next we arrived for a “Dino Chat” and talked with a dinosaur expert about fossils, prehistoric eras, evolution, relation of birds to dinosaurs, DNA, genetic code, cloning, archaeology, skeletal structure common to all Animalia, prehistoric animals commonly mistaken for dinosaurs, ie. pteranodon. They had a space where we dug for fossils.

We went to a tornado exhibit and an earthquake one, saw beautiful geodes and fossils preserved in amber.

Then we went to the math exhibit, the main reason for our trip. There were too many interactive games to count, one with a simulated arm to practice working in space, an elaborate music machine that let you hear the difference in quarter beats, sixteenth notes, etc on trumpets, snares, cymbals, synthesizers, all playing together. Video games, snowboarding, a rock wall, too much to even take in at once. Mom bought us a family pass so we are definitely going back.

THEN we went to see the documentary “Mysteries of China” at the OMNIMAX.

 

I am improving at failure.

I had an epiphany last night, thanks to my 19 month old toddlers insistence that we have a nursing sesh at some point during my sweetest sleeping hours. Twice, I attempted to turn my back to him, hoping that he would get the message that I was not currently available, and resign himself to sleeping, too. When it became apparent that I would have no satisfaction, I felt the vague persistence of compassion in my mind’s eye, prodding me to consider that perhaps he was extremely thirsty or maybe he was fighting off a virus. Just maybe there was a very valid reason for this, not just “he is a spoiled product of attachment parenting,” a thought that used to terrorize my mind as I tried to soften the toughened scars from traditional parenting and pushing towards something sweeter, try to “fake it til I make it.”

I tried to swallow with my own parched mouth and realized any nursing would be fruitless without hydration. I picked him up and we went to the kitchen to make juice. I fixed him a bottle of it, and drank a glass myself. As I began to perk, I realized how far I had come. I marveled at the healing I have experienced at the hand of unschooling and practicing trust, relinquishing the need for control.  Trusting my children that they are not monsters I must tame, but people I must love. What a wonderful thought, because that’s why I wanted children. I wanted to love them. Then they get here and there are problems, they have needs when we need them to not have needs and things get hairy and people tell us we must dominate, teach them to be quiet, to respect us, to fear us, to stop doing whatever it is that annoys us or inconveniences us, to not make messes they can’t pick up and

we forget to love them

and we forget that love is patient and kind.

But I realized that I am going to keep failing. Where I come from, there was SO much anger. My mother still seethes with rage on a daily basis. But not incredibly more than many people I have met. The scary part was realizing the enormous amount of rage that I had held in my being for so many years. It would come out when I had been affronted, when I was tired, when I just need things to stop!

The difference is that whilst I am failing, compassion and understanding are my companions. Love is still the priority. Resentment is feeling more foreign.

I feel like when it comes to failure, I’m winning.

A Lesson I am Learning

My second born is the most stubborn person I have ever met. Perhaps I should say strong-willed. It has been a challenge to me. It is still a challenge. It purifies me daily. He is teaching me to let go of my unnecessary stubbornness. It’s magical and miraculous.

Cooking. I love to cook. I love the experience, the art of it. I grew up in a very rural setting but spent every weekend in the urban sprawl with my father. We ate Indian food and went to international food festivals where I tried hummus and falafel and I’m sure all other sorts of ethnic foods. When I went to college, there was a Lebanese restaurant that was amazing and then a Russian restaurant where I fell in love with borscht. When I was a baby and was beginning to talk, I was asked what I wanted for my birthday meal. I famously responded, “Shimp or hog jog (hog jowl, which we would eat every New Year for good luck, thus my exposure.)”

Then I met my husband. He talked me into trying a bite of Dorito, a bite of Snickers, and a swig of Mountain Dew. That was his version of fine cuisine. He loved sloppy joes because his grandmother had made them for him. So I found a recipe from Rachel Ray and made gourmet sloppy joes. I probably spent over $50 just buying all the ingredients. I was so excited to show him my labor of love, and he was obviously confused and dismayed. This is not what he was thinking. (I later discovered the secret recipe to perfect-to-him sloppy joes: ground beef, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, cheap buns-lol!)

The point. As a young woman, I envisioned my future as a domestic goddess, making scrumptious creations from foods in their more elemental states, but instead, I have learned to accept and understand other people. A much more important purpose, I believe. 🙂

I resisted very hotly my second son’s love for soda, Doritos, candy, etc. He had cavities that required surgery and I was absolutely paranoid of people slipping him candy or him sneaking it. He seemed to have an insatiable desire for sugar. I began to think of him in this way.

Unschooling proponents such as Sandra Dodd have helped me to overcome this. Also the idea that “Love is patient. Love is kind.” One thing I know for sure is I looooove my kids. And I want them to know that and feel that.

Simple Serenity: Don’t meal plan; buy what they ask for. Yesterday, my kids asked for apples, strawberries, popsicles and juice. So that is what I bought.

 

Friday

This morning I struggled with the desire to whip my kids into shape. Make them eat what I want them to eat, so I can be organized and manage my day. Study what I need them to study so that I can feel like we are going in the right direction.

My six-year-old son, Walker, asked for string cheese. I actually told him no, that he could choose a fruit, because of my need to adhere to our pre-planned menu. I then struggled with my own desire that, instead of oatmeal, I really wanted a banana with peanut butter, but how could I allow myself to eat what I want when I’m dictating to my son what he can and cannot eat. So after some time dedicated to thinking this through, I gave him the string cheese.

I really wanted my kids to do their list of tasks, such as math lessons, etc. Walker wanted to watch Wild Kratts. He learned about China, panda anatomy, geography, climates, biomes. Then Arthur, where he learned about citizenship.

I know how very controlling my own parents were and how insidiously hurtful and damaging it is and was to me. I struggle to learn a new and better way. My mother still hurts me with her need to constantly control and put boundaries between us. It feels as though one is being treated as a commodity, to be enjoyed for a short period and then whimsically disposed of. There must be a better way. I don’t want my children to feel that. I don’t want to feel that way about them. There is so much self-work that goes into parenting it is amazing.

From a book I am slowly reading: Real Boys Voices by William S. Pollack, Ph.D., Introduction, “We still live in a society in which our boys and young men are simply not receiving the consistent attention, empathy, and support they truly need and desire.”

 

Pushing with Timidity

I can’t tell you the exact time I first read about John Holt, Sandra Dodd, democratic schooling, etc., but I can tell you I didn’t learn it along with the other pedagogies presented to me in my university education classes. Maria Montessori was as far out as it went in my southeastern Missouri education, and I thought that I was on to something. I dreamed of wearing colorful skirts and chunky, handmade jewelry that testified to my love of happiness and joyful learning. I listened to my teacher, a graduate student who, petite, blonde, and quivering with a passion to parent and teach in a respectful, mindful way. She brought us a woman who was willing to breast-feed her child in front of the class (There was one male student; he didn’t protest.). She spoke of child-led weaning and the La Leche League. She looked as if she was about to crack under the pressure of pushing in what was then, in our area anyway, a new, unconventional direction. What I was sensing in her demeanor then was the weight I have now experienced after eight years a parent with unconventional dreams of my own. Well, perhaps the substance of the dreams is not that different from anyone else’s. I want my children (and myself and husband) to be happy. To live every day of our lives. To be humans and not machines, or drones, or droids, or robots, or depressed, broken, fearful exoskeletons afraid to think, “What if?” My teacher trembled beneath the crushing weight of her mother-in-law’s unabashed, outspoken criticism, her husband’s fear of her new ideas, society’s side-eye as she nursed on a park bench.

I now push in a new direction. Every morning, I ponder what to do with my stay-at-home mothering, homeschooling luxury. I reject the idea that a passel of educators cares more and knows better what my children need to succeed than I do. I doubt they research, observe, and consider them any harder than I do.