Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Posts tagged “Parenting

8 Months Post Harvey: Spring

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been trying to write something at least once a month, but that didn’t happen in February (or March…or most of April). February is almost a week shorter than the rest of the months, which was my excuse for not posting then. I got nuthin’ for March, and it’s still technically April, so….  I have also been lax about posting because I haven’t been as enthusiastic about writing. Things are pretty much the same as they’ve been for the past few months: working on the house; having school in a construction zone; getting out of the house to go to co-op, music lessons, field trips – whatever – as much as possible… the usual. We’re in a weird sort of limbo with our space being… I don’t even know the words to use. It’s not exactly ‘in transition’; that implies a cute little DIY project that we chose to embark on. This was a completely different sort of thing; one that was forced on us that we’ve been in ‘reaction’ mode to ever since. We’re coming up on eight months post-hurricane Harvey, and though we have definitely made some progress, we’re far from being done, and the daily wear-and-tear on the soul gets overwhelming.

Since I last updated, we actually have made quite a bit of progress on the house. We’re a little over 1/3 finished with repairs, which feels good to say. We have some trim to finish in the hallway, but both of the kids’ rooms are done, and the hall bath is finished except for decor. We briefly had two functioning bathrooms again, but the toilet in our master went wonky right after we finished that hallway bath, so we’re back down to one for our family (which isn’t dire, but is annoying). I have learned that I deeply enjoy not sharing with the kids and am eager to have my own bathroom back again soon (hopefully).

The kids both have desks in their room, which means computers and schoolwork now have a permanent place to live. They’ve also been able to pull most of their personal things from storage. There wasn’t a lot left that was salvageable, but they’re super glad to have back what they do. I can’t say enough about how much of a relief it is to finally have their spaces done, at least. We also had AC people come in and install central air conditioning and heating. That’s a super-nice thing that we have been planning to do for a while; with the forced remodel, since we’re taking out the ceilings in most of the house anyway, this was the ideal time to get that done. Since we have started on the center part of the house (including taking out a wall between the living room and kitchen), my desk and Loverly Husband’s have been relocated to our (already cramped) bedroom. It’s… cozy.  Not having a permanent work-space is really hard, y’all, but we’re getting there! The kids have been a big help, being super tall and all.

It helps that they’re both over 6′ tall.

Early in February, we didn’t do much other than the usual school/co-op/music routine, with a couple of teen socials and other usual shenanigans thrown in for good measure.

Music Class at co-op

Teen Social

Moms at the teen social

LBB and our puppers, Max & Honey

Our group held a Valentine’s Day party, which was fun. We had a really good day, only to have it ruined by news of the Florida school shooting. I can’t imagine how those parents must feel, or how the teachers and students will find a new ‘normal’ after something like that. Not for the first time, it made me incredibly grateful to have circumstances that allow us to homeschool. The party was fun, though only one of my hooligans decided to attend. The little kids made string art crafts; my surly teenager mostly got reprimanded for instigating semi-dangerous tricks (like jumping off picnic tables) for the littles to imitate. There was food and cake and a card-exchange – the usual.

The Houston Aquarium held their homeschool day sometime back in late February, I think. We’ve been before, but it’s been a while; I got lost driving around downtown Houston. You’d think that in an age where GPS is available literally everywhere, getting lost would be a thing of the past, but it was overcast that day and my GPS kept blanking out. We made it barely in time to get registered, but we made it. The kids had classes in the morning and afternoon, and while they were in class, the parents got to do all the rides and stuff!

In other news, we had dinner with my grandmother, who came down from Longview. We haven’t had a family picture in a while, so that was nice.

The children (minus one of ours, and plus a friend)

In March, a couple of the moms in our homeschool group and I took off for a weekend trip to New Orleans. I’d never been as an adult, so getting to do #allthegrownupthings was super fun!. We got there just in time for our walking ghost tour to begin, had a late dinner, then walked down Bourbon Street, stopped at a couple of pubs along the way, and went for coffee and beignets at 3Am at Cafe Du Monde. We spent the next day shopping and sight-seeing, then came home. It was a perfect getaway!

When we got back from NOLA, my dad went into the hospital to have another stent placed, so we spent some time with him there. The kids both also had checkups; we’ll need to do glasses soon as well.

 

 

One of the moms in our homeschool group organized a tour of the Houston Port, which was super cool. It took about 2 hours, and we got to go on a cruise boat all around the port. It was like driving through a maze to find; the GPS was spotty and confusing, but once we got there, the dock and visitor’s area was really neat. There was an entire section with tiled mural art, as well as bathrooms, picnic tables and a great view.

It was also Pi Day; March 14th. The Houston Children’s Museum hosts a special event, including a Pi-throwing contest with shaving cream pies, so after our boat tour, we made our way there in time to get suited up. our kids were on Team Kickin’ Kiwi, I think it was. They were in green, against the Rockin’ Raspberries in pink. Our team was, sadly, not victorious, but we all got actual pie (donated by a local bakery) anyway. Nothing is so bad that pie can’t help!

We took the kids to the South Texas State Fair, as usual for spring in our area. We went on a Monday evening to avoid the crowds; without little kids, our main goal is to sample as many foods ‘on a stick’ and/or deep-fried as possible. I think we made a pretty good effort this year. I snapped this because I kept getting caught behind the boys; it’s unreal that my ‘babies’ are the size of full-grown, adult men now. That’s Loverly Husband in the center; I wouldn’t normally say that he’s ‘short’, but they make him appear so.


At the end of March, our homeschool group hosted a make-your-own puppet/write your own play Puppet Show. We had a great turn out, and the kids really had some… interesting scripts. Puppets came to life in sock form, with paper bags, wooden/plastic spoons and all kinds of fabrics, plastic bits and bobs, glitter and other craft supplies. They each had to create a backdrop from a roll of craft paper, and come up with their own script. It was an ambitious undertaking, but the kids rose to the challenge and had a great time!

Line ’em up!

The Teen Troupe

the Puppet Theater

My birthday is at the beginning of April, and this year, after trying for the past 3 years, I was able to go to a women’s retreat in North/Central Texas. A couple of my beautiful friends also had birthdays the same week, so we celebrated in high style (and by that, I mean in complete, unwashed camping glory for the entire weekend). We had SUCH a great time! There were structured events, as well as time to just good off; we meant to take a little walk and ended up on a 3 hour hike much, much farther than we planned or realized. We ended up snagging a ride from a couple of girls in a pickup truck to get back where we were supposed to be. It was a really fun weekend.

That same weekend was the Homeschool Prom. LBB elected to spend the weekend at home with his dad while PG stayed with friends so he could go. They had a pre-prom party, and then took off for a night of dancing and fun at a local hotel in the grand ballroom. They looked great, and all the smiles say that they had fun. The theme was old Hollywood glam, and yes, that’s my kiddo with the pipe. There’s a walking stick somewhere as well. He found one of my dad’s canes that was damaged in Harvey and spent the week or so before the prom sanding, repairing, staining and finishing it for a dignified, refined, gentleman-about-town look.

The ‘official’ at-the-Prom photo

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for a guided tour of the Hall of Ancient Egypt. We haven’t been since they opened this permanent exhibition, so I was completely stoked to get to go through with a curator. We also got to tour the Weiss Energy Hall (which is mostly just a fancy way to repackage fracking as a fun, alternative way to drill for oil since it covers all the pros and absolutely none of the dangers or controversy), and the Message in a Bottle exhibit, which was super fascinating.

 

Our co-op is still doing drama; they’ve taken a break from the play they’re working on to do some improv exercises. Last week, it was live-action puppets; one student was the ‘voice’ and the other stood behind the voice to create movement. Some height incompatibilities made it a super fun (and funny) thing to watch them work through. We also switched (temporarily) from our essay class to philosophy 101, which was a nice change of pace.

Philosophy 101

Our homeschool group hosts a Mom’s Night Out once a month or so, and lately, we’ve been joining a local resource group called Welcome Earthside for their Hoops & Wine MNO events. I can’t hula hoop well, but it’s fun anyway! We’ve had a couple of them so far, and it seems to be gaining popularity. If you can find something like that in your area, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

March Hoops & Wine

April Hoops & Wine

April H&W – we ended up in the parking lot!

We’ve also continued playing D&D; sometimes the same game we started way back a couple of years ago, and just recently, a one-off game to introduce a few newbies to the game. I’ve also been playing D&D with my local NaNoWriMo group (when I can go), and have started playing Vampire with some friends. PG also has a new game with some of his friends… I have always been fascinated by the concept of D&D and have enjoyed learning to play very much!

That pretty much brings you up to speed! Hope your spring is…. spring-y! (Sorry; that was lame. It’s been a long day.)

 

Warmly,
~h


Post Harvey: End of the Year Update

Well, 2017 has pretty much been a trash fire. I am sincerely hoping that 2018 has better things in store! It’s been a while since I updated, but since this is primarily a homeschooling blog and we have been out of school over the past couple of months, there hasn’t really been much to report in that vein. That’s not to say we’ve been idle; in fact, I have been feeling rather ‘stuck’ on house progress lately, but looking back over my last post made me feel much better because I can see the progress we’ve managed to accomplish.

Rebuilding is slow going, but I suppose that’s to be expected when it’s all DIY. We’re fortunate, I realize, in that we actually are able to do most of the repair work ourselves. That cuts down on cost, but learning as you go isn’t exactly ideal. We’re going to contract out a couple of jobs, but most of it has been/is going to be a family effort, with the help of a couple of extended family members and friends here and there. So far, our biggest hold-ups have been waiting for supplies that we’ve ordered to come in or be delivered, and Loverly Husband’s work schedule. We waited for several weeks for the vanity and sink for the hallway bathroom to come in; apparently a plain, white, 2-drawer, open-top cabinet with 2 doors is a ‘specialty item’, as is the very plain white sink that goes into it. It did eventually (finally) arrive, and has now been installed. We were waiting on that so we could add the tile and finish the walls. We’ve added the main part of the tile; now we’re waiting on the deco tile to come in. Our flooring has been delivered though, so I feel like once the deco tile is in, we’ll make quite a bit of progress rather quickly. The kids have both painted their rooms; this week will be a second coat of paint, finishing the texture in the bathroom and doing the ceilings in the hall and bath, and painting the kids’ ceilings. Here are a few progress pics:

One downside to not updating weekly is that it’s hard to know what order to post things in to catch up. This week is Christmas, so that’s what’s mostly on my mind right now; documenting for the kids. Our homeschool group had its annual Christmas party earlier in December, and PeaGreen elected to wear footie pajamas instead of actual clothes, which was fun. We had a good time and met a few new people. Hopefully our group will continue to grow and prosper this year. Our teen group is still really strong, and there are a couple of kids who’ve aged up into the ‘tween’ group this past year as well, so we’ll have some fresh ideas and interests to fuel the group.

At home, we did minimal decorating this year since we’re in the middle of construction, but we did find a lovely little tinsel tree that is quite festive. We were fortunate that our Christmas decor boxes weren’t damaged in the flood, so next year we should be back to normal. I’m really glad we didn’t lose all of the kids’ hand-made ornaments from school and other crafting! I’ll miss seeing them this season, but next year, we’re planning on getting a real tree again and things will be back to normal.

We actually had a snow day this year! The last one was in 2008, I think. It didn’t last long; only a few hours, but PeaGreen and I got to catch snowflakes on our tongues, so it totally counts! Our family ornament this year is a quad of gold and glitter elves. I haven’t done personal ornaments yet, but that will likely happen this week. Every year I do a themed ‘family’ ornament, and a personal ornament for each of us. One day, the plan is to gift the kids their ornaments for their own trees, along with a ‘story of our ornaments’ booklet that I’ve been keeping for them.

Backing up a bit, we spent Thanksgiving with Loverly Husband’s family as well. The matriarch of the family died in May of 2016, so it’s been a strange thing to figure out where to host holiday family stuff, but I think they figured it out. Loverly Husband’s uncle has a great place, and all of the kids love going there.

Like most hardcore fans, we saw Star Wars with my dad. It was good! I liked it, but I won’t bore you with a review. There are some glaring issues that I feel like they exploit ‘because it’s Star Wars’, but overall, I was pleased.

In other news, we finally got our dryer in (so no more laundromat trips – yay!!), and took a ton of car selfies, as usual.

Star Wars selfie with Gramps!

We are slowly getting back into the groove, homeschool wise. It’s been nice talking to the other moms more; now that the kids are older they don’t need to be entertained/supervised quite as much, and I am really enjoying getting to know them better. We had a homeschool group teen social at the coffee shop, and one of our moms, Michelle’s, birthday dinner out was really fun.

Since we haven’t been having lessons, the kids have totally taken advantage of being free-range. PeaGreen and his friend Jack have been scavenging the neighborhood for lumber in the trash piles and found enough to build a decent-sized tree house at my dad’s. They’ve made quite a bit of progress since this picture; I think it has walls and a roof now. They’re pretty proud of it.

One thing I didn’t think about was that I normally create my new planner in November and have it printed in December so that I can spend our month off filling everything in and planning for the new year. Since the flood, I don’t have my computer (I’m using one a friend gave to us) so I don’t have access to some of the software and files I would normally use. So I decided to give a bullet journal/traveler’s notebook/midori style planner a try.  I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and I am still undecided as to how I feel about it. Pros and cons for sure, and it’s working for now. I have a space created in it to plan school, but we haven’t started back yet so I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I am going to stick with it for a while longer and see how it works for me.

My planner is definitely one of my self-care tools, so not having it (and having to make adjustments) is a challenge. Fortunately, I have others as well! My friend (and self-care guru) Leia issued a ‘legs up the wall’ challenge for the holidays. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) is a restorative yoga staple, and doing it every day (or nearly so) has been a great way to stop and breathe and relax for a moment. New hair and Black Friday makeup purchases help, too.

 

… and to wrap this post up, here’s our Christmas card, complete with pictures from today (Christmas day, 2017) this year.

Happy Holidays!

Warmly,
~h


Post Harvey: Back to School

Last time I posted, we were in the middle of our ‘soft start’ back to school. Since then, it’s been a struggle trying to figure out what our new ‘normal’ looks like. Before hurricane Harvey struck, we’d been experimenting with a block schedule, but without any impetus to really give it a good try, it’s just been a thing more in theory than in practice. But since we are still living with friends right now, and not in our own space where we can school as we normally do, we’ve revisited the idea of a block schedule in truth as a way to make the most of our time and energy (and limited space and resources).

Block scheduling, for those who aren’t familiar with the concept, is basically where you do only one or two subjects per day, but rather than spread the lessons out over the course of the week, you do several lessons in that subject all at once. Colleges usually have block scheduling. Here’s a sample of what our (ideal) block schedule looks like right now:

  • Mondays: science, SAT practice and music (orchestra class)
  • Tuesdays: history, civics, SAT practice & music
  • Wednesdays: math, SAT practice & music
  • Thursdays: co-op (including orchestra class)
  • Fridays: grammar, literature, SAT practice & music (orchestra practice at home and private lessons on their second instrument)

I say ‘ideal’ because we are still displaced from Harvey, and  keeping any kind of regular schedule is… difficult, at best. At this point, if we manage to get *any* schooling done, I am counting it as a success. We are eight weeks out, and I literally have no idea when our lives will return even to a glimpse of ‘normal’. But we’re working on establishing whatever good habits, school-wise, we can, and music practice is a big part of that.

LBB is still catching up to where the class is after switching to cello from violin over the summer, and PeaGreen (who is still playing violin for co-op) has experimented with several instruments including piano, guitar, ukulele, and coronet and has now decided that saxophone is the one for him. With a saxophone in hand now (thanks to a very generous friend), he’s confident that his future as a jazz musician is assured. We’ll see how that goes. LBB has tried guitar and piano, and is just focusing on cello for now.

so shiny!!

This is his ‘serious jazz musician’ face.

Practice in ‘not our house’ has been difficult. I don’t know if our music stands were tossed in the cleanup, or if they’re very well-packed, but I couldn’t find them so we’ve had to make-do. Fortunately, that’s been resolved since these pictures were taken (thanks Amazon Prime 2-day free shipping*!!). LBB’s been using my cello book in class, so I also got him a new book, strings and a bow for PeaGreen (the one PG is using is his teacher’s) so we’re finally set for orchestra to resume. Co-op as well; we started up a couple of weeks ago, but the first class back ended up being a social thing with no classes since the kids hadn’t seen each other in a month. Hurricanes are hard to deal with in so many ways; I’ve been through them before with younger kids (Rita when they were 2/3, and Ike when they were 5/6 or so), and this experience has been harder in some ways and easier in some. When they were younger, being out of our house was an adventure. As long as I was cool, they were cool. Now, they have enough knowledge and interest in the situation to be stressed in their own right, independent of my feelings about the situation. Just another stop on the magical mystery tour of parenting teenagers, I guess.

We did get ‘official’ school pictures done though. Behold:

It’s been hard to decide what the priority thing is lately. Everything is a priority right now, therefore nothing is. It’s a weird place to be in, and stressful because there’s so much to do in every direction. Not only are we cleaning up our own house, but also my dad’s. He lives 2 houses down from us, and was also flooded/rescued during Harvey. He’s also been displaced and is staying with friends. He’s in a wheelchair, so my sister was really the one who did the initial cleanup and set-up of the fans to dry everything out. Along the way, she found a Starbucks gift card in some of my mom’s things (we lost so much of her personal things that we hadn’t gotten to yet – it’s pretty traumatizing), and since she doesn’t drink coffee, passed it along to me. Being without her has been hard; it was nice to have ‘coffee on Mom’ one last time with LBB. I do want to point out that though I did get the picture I wanted (below), LBB thought it was ‘disrespectful’ to make a big deal about having coffee with/on Grammie, which initiated a conversation about grief and processing and the ways and hows that make things okay or distasteful for different people, and how to support different choices and paths of grieving. I forget sometimes that he lost both of his grandmothers within 18 months of each other. It was a good conversation, and a good reminder for me.

Aside from school and life-lessons, the process of cleanup, demolition, and rebuilding continues. We have an old house, so there have been some repairs that we needed to make anyway that the flooding just exacerbated. Workdays at the house are hard, but it’s nice to see progress.

In the chaos, I am trying to remember to be a good mom. PG and I went to see a showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas (which is a traditional Halloween and Christmas Day movie in our house, but that we won’t get to do this year – at least for Halloween. Maybe for Christmas!!) date night. Then the next day, I woke LBB up early to go have breakfast with me, and of course, selfies in the car have become our ‘thing’.

In other news, our library’s homeschool book clubs have started up again. The teen book club was originally scheduled for sometime in September, but got moved for obvious reasons. I was afraid we’d miss it this year; we missed all of last year due to various reasons – the primary one being my mom’s illness and death (and coming to terms with that after the fact). But with the hurricane, it got pushed back to October, so we didn’t miss it after all.

Another ‘after working on the house’ outing – to Orange Leaf for some much needed froyo with Dad.

practice, practice, practice

Somehow, I only have the one picture of PG playing his new pink violin. I’ll have to rectify that soon.

Though it’s very slow-going, we are definitely making some progress on the house. Now that all of the damaged sheet rock is out, we’re making plans for repairs. On my end, that means choosing new paint colors. I’ve decided to go with the same color for all of the rooms except the bedrooms, and gray is the direction I am leaning. I picked up a few paint swatches and put them on the walls to check the color in the house (because it never looks like it does in the store under the fluorescent lights). Most of them were too ‘blue’, and a few too dark or with a green cast to them. I was able to narrow it down a bit, and will get down to three or so and then move the samples to the other walls.

#allthegreys

#finalists

 

I know that I want my bedroom the same color it was before, but the paint cans are all gone now, so I was really glad I am my same obsessive self, because I was able to go back through blog posts to when we re-did our bedroom to find the paint color – Daring Indigo by Behr. I now have justification for almost a decade of blogging!

At this point, we are just trying to figure out funding. Between FEMA and SBA, hopefully we will be able to make the repairs we need to so that our home is livable again soon. Anyway. That’s pretty much all that’s happening in our world right now. Hope your world is functioning within normal parameters 😉

Bonus picture of these two weirdos ❤

 

Warmly,
~h

*disclaimer: this isn’t a sponsored post and I am not an Amazon affiliate. I just appreciate the hell out of a company that can get me things I want/need in 2 days for free. 😉


Attachment Parenting Tweens and Teens

ap tweens and teensPlease tell me that I am not the only one who has a child (two of them) who can go from perfectly happy and satisfied in every way, to profoundly miserable in 60 seconds flat! Since the boys have gotten older, we’ve been dealing a lot with the confusion of rapid mood swings while simultaneously trying to ‘use my tools’ to pinpoint the catalyst and resolve the issue – which is nearly impossible when you’re blindsided with it out of the blue.

When they were little, it was easier, I think.  I was used to thinking ahead – planning for meals, knowing that teething and asymptomatic/un-diagnosed illnesses might be suspect. As they get older, I think I’ve been taking it for granted that they can communicate well, and figuring that since they have a pretty wide range of vocabulary at their disposal, they will be able to articulate what they need.

Oh, silly Mommy.

I can’t verbalize my feelings half the time, and I have a hard time expressing what I need from someone. I guess I thought that this was a nature vs. nurture thing and was putting a lot of stock in ‘nurture’ and not enough understanding of ‘nature’. There are times when we’re in the middle of one of those ‘moments’ and I can’t help but laugh in sympathy – it’s like talking to myself. In any case, for a while there, we got into really good patterns of communication. Things were going to be smooth sailing from here on out, right?

But then come the hormones… and they throw everything out of whack. In a way, it’s like they’re pre-verbal again; they don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what they’re feeling, or the experience to recognize why they’re feeling like they are. And, of course, no one understands. I get frustrated with that claim, but honestly, even though I have been through it and have an inkling of the feelings of disconnection that those pre-teen years can bring, my own angsty teenage years are so long ago now that I don’t really remember how it felt to be right in the middle of it (except for the huge book of horrible, horrible poetry. I do have that embarrassing reminder).

So how to you cope with those moments where you’re running through your mental list of ‘fix-its’ and nothing is working?

Maybe it’s time to update your list. I’ve found that the best way to do that is to go back to basics. There are plenty of articles out there that cover the basics, both the tenets of attachment parenting, and reminders to do a mental run-down of what factors could be influencing a child’s behavior, such as hunger, over-tiredness, personal attention, physical activity, better nutrition – are they just plain bored? – that sort of thing. You’ve also got your unseen factors – pain, stress, on-coming illness – things that maybe even the child is unaware of.

But most AP articles have the same problem – they’re directed towards parents with babies and toddlers. As my kids have gotten older, it’s been increasingly hard to find AP style parenting advice for dealing with older kids. You might think that’s because by the time our kids get older, we’re got this whole parenting thing figured out – let me assure you that is absolutely not true… or maybe I just missed the handouts that day. In either case, here’s what I’ve learned, handing my own tweens & teens: all of those factors, from food to rest and possibility of illness and stress still matter. But it doesn’t end there, because tweens and teens are dealing with the hormones of puberty, and trying to figure out who they are, the world and how they fit into it.

So the question becomes, ‘how does AP translate to tweens and teens’? I found it helpful to re-frame the basic tenets of attachment parenting to fit our changing needs.

peaceful parenting

  1. Prepare: When my kids were little, I would see these moms at playdates with the kinds of relationships I wanted with my kids. I talked with them, got book recommendations and asked questions. It’s no different now that my kids are older. I have ‘mommy mentors’ that I can talk with and bounce ideas off of, and get recommendations from that make this whole thing seem less daunting.
  2. Feed with Love and Respect: this is a basic tenet of AP, but I feel like it’s an important one. In January, we seriously cut out/down on processed foods and cut out almost all sugar. It’s been a really good thing for my family, and I am slowly seeing results, healthwise, in all of us. It’s about helping them see and feel the connection between what they put into their bodies and how they feel. Feeding with love and respect extends also to teaching the children to plan meals, go shopping and cooking. It’s not just about health, but simply sitting at the dinner table every night to re-convene as a family is a ritual that’s important to us.
  3. Respond with Sensitivity/Communicate Love: this is another one that I feel like translated very well to the older child. Just as it was hard when they were pre-verbal, if they can’t articulate their feelings or needs now, it’s my job to help them find the words or other means of communication to get their point across.  We use ‘love notes’ journals – a notebook that’s passed back and forth between me and each kiddo that we’ve been using for a long time. It’s a memento, and also an excellent communication tool when talking is just too much. Communication also means talking with them… family is a two-way street, so getting their input is important. I don’t have it all figured out, and they’re intelligent! They’ve often come up with ideas or alternatives that end up working very well.
  4. Positive Discipline: One of my favorite recent articles is from MindBodyGreen, called ‘How I Raised Teenagers Who Tell Me Everything Even When it’s Hard‘. One of the points that she makes that really stood out to me is that discipline at this age isn’t about control or even re-direction – it’s about communication. At this point, I feel like we’ve laid a good foundation; now it’s mostly refining and helping to build critical thinking skills. It’s easy to get frustrated or angry when they make (seemingly stupid) mistakes, but I know first-hand the damage that anger can do to trust; I don’t want that with my kids. My goal is to keep the lines of communication open; that can’t happen if their first thought is how they’ll be punished. She sums it up with 5 steps:

    Allow your children to have separate thoughts and values.

    Be curious.

    Get a life of your own.

    Deal with your own history and trauma.

    Learn to listen actively.

  5. Ensure Safe Space/Consistent and Loving Care: this kind of goes along with the above point, but also stands on its own. I have always felt that ‘home’ should be the touchstone for exploration. No mater where they go in the world, ‘home’ will always be here, me and their dad o matter where we live, ready to welcome them. That extends to helping them gain their independence, and also as a matter of having their own space and privacy within our home. Our home is/We are a safe space where they’re trusted, they’re believed, they’re heard.
  6. Use Nurturing Touch: I am not a ‘touchy feely’ person; when my kids were little and especially when they were breastfeeding, being ‘touched out’ was a constant complaint of mine. And yet I have a child whose primary Love Language is touch. I also found it to be an odd thing when my children no longer ‘feel’ like kids to me – they’re bigger than Loverly Husband at this point – the size of grown men! So making sure that there are plenty of hugs and ‘nurturing touch’ is an important element to their development. Finding the right balance here has proven more difficult than I had anticipated, making communication a big thing in this aspect as well – making my needs known, and listening to theirs is key in finding the right way to meet those needs.
  7. Balance/Focus on Simple Pleasures: I thrive on being ‘busy’. I love the constant buzz of activity. But I also need plenty of down time. So do my kids – maybe even more-so, since they’re still finding their place in the world. Taking time to spend one-on-one time with each of my boys individually has become a high priority in the last few years. Soon enough, they’ll be off to college or perusing their own dreams and plans, and I’ll miss having them underfoot.

So there you have it…. my updated take on AP as your babies get older. It’s not perfect; it will be interesting to see what changes are necessary in the coming years. If there’s one thing parenting isn’t, it’s ‘stagnant’!
What would you add?

Warmly,
~h


Summer 2015 Recap

Goodbye-Summer

Looking back, it occurs to me that I haven’t been very good at updating this year. Summer has gone by in a whirlwind, and that doesn’t always leave time for blogging. So I thought I’d do a re-cap. I see abandoned blogs all the time, and though I understand how life gets in the way, it’s always sad to see a blog just kind of stop. Rest assured, that’s not what’s happening here – it may take a while, but I usually do come back and update! We’re still here; we’re still homeschooling.

The last real update was in March, with our homeschool group’s science fair. The kids worked hard on their projects, and it was a lot of fun to put together and participate in. That was our group’s biggest science fair to date, which was awesome. Our homeschool group usually meets every week, but this summer was so incredibly hot that a lot of our usual events (like the talent show) that normally take place outside got canceled with plans to reschedule when the weather was cooler. That left us with a lot of free time, which we put to good use!

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Our group chooses a charity organization to work with each year. It’s somewhat difficult to fin organizations that will work with kids; most places (for liability reasons) want volunteers to be 16 or 18 to work with them. We’ve been fortunate in that many of the organizations we’ve approached have worked with us to find ways that our kids can help without violating their guidelines. Habitat for Humanity is one that we very much enjoyed working with this year – not only because it exposed the kids to seeing how much progress a group could make in a short amount of time, but also for the fellowship and diversity of the volunteers. Our kids weren’t allowed to work on-site; in fact for safety, while we were there, no work could be done at all while our students were on the property. Our kids got to help serve lunch and visit with the volunteers while they took their lunch break.

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Here’s another, with actual blue sky peeking through.  friend of ours snagged this and applied some filters to it that made our beach look much prettier than it really is!

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This is from the Galveston Pleasure Pier’s Homeschool Day. We met some friends that we haven’t seen in a while and the kids had a blast!

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Here’s a shot of some of the teens from our homeschool group. We’ve had an influx of older kids this year, which is nice. Most homeschoolers ted to either phase out for high school, or stop coming because many groups tend to focus on the younger years. We plan to homeschool throughout high school, so having a group of older kids definitely helps with social time.

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Beach again!

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Being in Texas, summer isn’t complete without a crawfish boil! Our friends celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with lots of mudbugs and tasty beer. The kids ‘rescued’ some of the creepy-crawlers (at least until it came time to cook ’em!!) and went fishing.

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This is probably the most ‘formal’ picture we’ll ever have – Loverly Husband and I were in a wedding over the summer and so we all got dressed up.



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4th of July! The happily wedded couple from above is in the center. Our Independence Day celebration was more modest this year than in previous years, but many fireworks were set off and much fun was had!

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You know what makes a ‘slip-n-slide’ even better? BUBBLES! My brother-in-law rigged up a foam machine and we took it to the country for an evening out. By the time we were finished, the entire yard was a foot deep in foam!

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This was a good summer for the lake, too – we went to visit some friends and spent a day on the water in late July.

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The first Saturday in August is another ‘family tradition’ – our annual canoe trip.

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Our homeschool group has hosted a public speaking group class every month for the summer (with plans to continue this school year). A couple of kids are missing, but this is our most recent group picture!

We actually didn’t take a long summer break this year. We had a lot of wedding stuff mid-summer, so we did take a couple of weeks off around that time, but overall, we’ve been hitting the books pretty regularly all year. I did post a ‘back to school’ previously, so we’re already well into our first semester of the new school year, but it’s so hard to say exactly ‘when’ it started because there isn’t really a break that defines it. It’s taken me a long time to learn to be okay with that ambiguity.

Hope your summer was fantastic!
Warmly,
~h


Fight for Kids, Not Against Them

I came across this article the other day that was about fighting for your boys instead of against them. The post was Christian-based, but made some really valid ideas… up to a certain point.

Some of the first things on the page were amazing observations; that as our sons grow, feeling that we (parents and children) weren’t on the same team anymore; that it’s normal for our children to challenge parental authority as a natural part of breaking from the family unit to seek/establish their own identity; and that emotions can creep in and do their best to persuade Mom that the child is the problem, rather than the situation/behaviour.

I’m totally with her up to that point. I was expecting similarly ‘aware’ progression and advice/solutions to help a parent and a child work through this stage in a positive and productive manner, but what I got was an utter break in rational thought. To be fair, I didn’t realize that this was a Christian-based article; had I known that, I would have been prepared for the abrupt shift from ‘awareness and reason’ to the ‘slam-the-shutters-down’ glaze of reason in favor of the party-line of Christian-based ignorance.

Rather than offer practical solutions, the author completely ignores the *actual* issues like communication, understanding and the like, she introduces unnecessary confusion into the equation by excusing the child’s behaviour completely by blaming ‘Satan’ as the one who’s destroying your relationship with your child and “Jesus/God” and prayer being the solution. Rather than actually DOING anything, she advocates what boils down to making a series of wishes, crossing your fingers and hoping that things will get better while absolving yourself of any further responsibility. After all, it’s not our fault that these issues escalate; it’s ‘Satan’.

I’ve never understood this  mindset – that parents bear no responsibility. Putting the onus on parents to ‘pray harder’ or ‘do more’ (which usually means getting more involved at church, which ends up taking the parents even further away from their kids) makes parents feel even more helpless, and that things are even further removed from their hands to ‘fix’ things. Perpetuating the idea that parents can’t be wrong under the guise of being ‘godly’ only further alienates children from their parents, because the solutions aren’t family-based. All the kids end up seeing is a parent traveling a road that the child isn’t on, doesn’t understand, or isn’t interested in. More effective, I believe, if for parents to be open to the idea that they may have things ALL WRONG. Examine their methods and look for flaws. Admitting to their mistakes, acknowledging their humanity and propensity to make mistakes levels the playing field and puts you all firmly on the same side. How much easier is it for a child to admit to his mistakes when a parent first admits their own?

I believe in helping my children understand that they control their own actions, just as I do. We all make decisions each and every step of our lives, and they aren’t always the right ones. But even a misstep can be re-directed. It’s not some invisible evil that tempts and lures us; it’s decision-making on our part. Sure, we can be led astray, or get lost for a time, but having a family structure that allows for mistakes and is supportive about correcting them can help set things right again. Cultivating an environment within the family of being honest with ourselves about how we feel, what we need, asking for help when we need it, and a host of other issues that both begin and end with the parents. I don’t believe that there is an invisible force that will magically fix things, or in excusing my children’s undesirable behaviours (due to immaturity, lack of experience or hormonally-driven out of control emotions) because of ‘Satan’. Poking your head in the sand never solved anything. Perpetuating a culture of helplessness by shirking the monumental task of raising children to be responsible, self-aware adults who contribute positively to society is detrimental to our future on this planet. It’s even more difficult when the parents are re-working their own childhood trauma to make better decisions for their own families.

The practical solution to this issue begins when they are small. Children understand language long before they have the ability to speak. If even a 6 month old dog can understand basic commands, think how much more intelligent our children are. If we give our children the vocabulary to describe their feelings, help them focus on how they feel as a basis for asking for what they need, imagine how much more concise their communication will be when they’re older. Sometimes, for myself especially, this means learning to do that for yourself is the first step – and it’s a hard one. While this is my ideal, it’s certainly not always attainable; I’m human and fallible, not a robot that can be programmed without deviation to a previous operating system. I’ve also failed in numerous ways to override my first impulse and implement the new ways of communication that I’ve striven to learn. Thankfully, my kids are both understanding and forgiving, and we continue to learn together.

I’m not an expert of child-rearing, but I do know that ‘prayer’, at least when applied to this type of situation, isn’t a solution. It may be part of a solution, but it’s not going to work without the active involvement of the parents and cooperative action from the children. Kids need active parenting – proActive parenting, even. Especially as pre-teens and teens, when they’re going through the agonizing process of separating themselves from their identity as an almost-adult instead of ‘X’s child’. I would so much rather have my children know that they can come to me with mist-steps along the way and know that they will find a hearing (and understanding) ear rather than a disappointed tut-tut and reference to the Nation of Israel, or some other biblical anecdote that vaguely mirrors the situation they’ve come to me with (I always HATED that as a kid).

I don’t ‘like’ organized religion as a whole; that’s no secret. But if you’re religious, that’s fine – pray, pray for your kids, pray with them. But please don’t make the mistake of praying and thinking that you’re done. Offspring are long-term projects; ones that take YEARS to fully develop, and they need you every step of the way.

Warmly,
~h


I Allow My Kids to Play Violent Video Games

Hi there. I’m a parent, and I play violent video games. I have never killed anyone,  mugged anyone, maimed or raped anyone, robbed a bank or knocked over any convenience stores, or lived through the Zombie Apocalypse or fought in any Alien Wars. I also allow my kids to play violent video games. 

I consider myself an AP parent, with all of the lovey-dovey concepts that go along with it in full practice.  I also consider myself a  ‘crunchy’ mom (scoring 157 on the crunch scale), and I do not find these lifestyles incompatible with allowing my children to experience and participate in video game violence. I thought that I would start off with that clarification so as to give you, dear reader, an idea of where I stand on this issue. 

This topic comes up quite a bit in my group of homeschool friends. Most of us have gaming kids, and they often play together online. The confession of which games our kids play is almost always admitted with a shy smile, ducked head and almost shameful countenance, like we’re divulging some horrible secret. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny (of sarcastic, cross-dressing fame) and Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd/Yosemite Sam trick and try to kill each other with horrifying regularity. Then there was Wile E. Coyote, with his unlimited spending account at Acme. Co., try, and fail (often with self-destructive consequence) to off the Roadrunner. Other cartoons, Captain Caveman, Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, the terminal stupidity of Beavis and Butthead… all had their share of cartoon mayhem and violence. I grew up with video games, like Super Mario Brothers (where the Mario Brothers begin their reign of murder and 8-bit violence on the animal population of Mario World within the very first frame), Contra (where there is nuthin’ but killin’, especially with the ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start’ cheat code, which allowed a wholesale killing spree virtually without consequence). Though the graphics have improved, the violence in video games nowadays is more often in story format now (movie format, even) and in many, you can choose your path to be less or more violent.

Articulating why I allow my children to play such games is often elusive. Being able to pinpoint exactly why I don’t find them as threatening as Media portrays them is very difficult. But I came across this article on The Escapist by Shamus Young called ‘Violent Video Games are Awesome‘ that does a wonderful job explaining what I haven’t been able to. Katie Couric apparently brought this topic into the limelight yet again(with a beautiful critique by Chris Person on Kotaku), and tweeted for the public to respond with the positive side of video game violence, and Mr. Young’s reply was, in part, thus:

“This is a really pernicious way to continue the conversation. Imagine if I argued that nose piercings caused brain cancer. To support my argument, I talk about two people (there’s a robust data set for you) who had pierced noses and who also had cancer. And then I ask everyone if there’s anything positive about nose piercings. Instead of defending my ridiculous and shoddy argument, I’ve put the opposition in a spot where they somehow have to justify the existence of the thing I’m attacking.

It’s hard to give the positive side of lots of things: Celebrity gossip shows, greasy food, rock music about sex and drugs, trashy romance novels, and shallow Bejeweled knockoffs for Facebook. You can’t show the societal benefit of this stuff. That doesn’t matter. In any kind of civilized world, you shouldn’t need to prove that your entertainment benefits society. That’s not why we make or consume entertainment.

The argument is taking the angle of, “since these games [maybe] cause violence, and since they have no redeeming social value…” and then letting the audience take over from there. Couric doesn’t need to dirty her hands arguing that violent games should be banned. She can just construct a narrative where that’s the obvious conclusion and let nature take its course.”

I’ve only quoted a small section of his rebuttal, and I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. His assessment of Ms. Couric’s methods are spot-on, and his reasoning is quite sound. Many of the points that he makes, including that of the regulation and compliance of video game manufacturers to  appropriately label their products being far superior to other warning labels, are points that never seem to get brought up in the ‘great debate’.

Another issue lacking in the ‘great debate’ is parental supervision. Aside from the fact that these are MY KIDS and I am the one who gets to decide what they are able to handle and allowed to do, the push to ban video games wrests this decision from my hands and puts it into the hands of a one-size-fits-all government. It implies that I, as a parent, am incapable of making the decision as to what my child should and shouldn’t be allowed to do.

As their parents, Loverly Husband and I have what we consider reasonable rules about video game violence. For one, our kids are not allowed to play games in which you are killing people. So, no ‘Call of Duty’, no ‘Rainbow Six’ – most realistic ‘war games’ are out. However, killing fictional monsters? A-OK. ‘Halo’,’ Gears of War’, and cartoon video game violence (Mario, Sonic, Ratchet & Clank, and the like are all fine). When they are allowed to play games with a more mature ESRB rating, they do so with language and gore off, so no huge blood spatters and gratuitous swearing. This is far less ‘violent’ than movies like even Harry Potter, where people start getting killed by kids in the first movie, and get tortured by wicked adults more or less throughout the franchise, or Chronicles of Narnia, where a sibling group of children lead a war of men and fantasy creatures alike, or Avatar, where an entire civilization is razed in grand American fashion for land and money, then rises up to kill their oppressors (which is what the Native Americans are still being punished for… and the American government is totally fine with that, even to the point of celebrating and revering the perpetrator of this horrific injustice with a national holiday). I dare say that’s done more to desensitize people to real violence and atrocity than killing off fictional invading aliens in a video game.

Another rule for us is that Loverly Husband usually plays it first. There are definitely games that they are not allowed to play – my personal favorite ‘grown up game’ is the Dead Rising franchise; zombie killin’ sprees all around. Games like  Alan Wake and L.A. Noir are off the table for the kids. Resident Evil, BioShock, DeadSpace, Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row… all are off limits to our kids.

I realize that other parents have different rules for their kids, violent video games or not, and that’s fine. That’s as it should be. When my kids go to friends’ homes that have more restrictive rules, they abide by them. When they visit friends who have less restrictive rules, they are required to follow house rules where they’re at (which means that occasionally, they may play video games that we don’t allow, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay with us).

One aspect of this argument is woefully ill-addressed. The constant assumption in this debate is that given the opportunity, kids will always choose violent video games just because they’re available, over others. That’s certainly not true in our house. PeaGreen plays Minecraft on creative with no mobs (no killing at all) more than any other game, ever. LBB’s favorite franchise is Halo, but it’s not just limited to the games. He reads the novels, instruction guides, watches videos of game strategy – it’s more than ‘just a game’ for him. Do they get carried away with it sometimes? Absolutely. They’re both focused, intense kids. When the game gets too consuming, we will either cut back of go for a full media ban for a while (which we’re currently doing in prep for summertime). The same could be said of any recreational activity. Balance in all things, right?

The bottom line is that I don’t think that there is a correlation between kids playing video games and being violent. That logic is post hoc ergo propter hoc. Violence is far more likely in children with underlying issues: depression, behavioural problems, un-diagnosed food sensitivities, developmental disorders, family issues and the like. But these issues are almost never brought up as the reason a child exhibits violent behaviour; instead video games are used as a scapegoats because we want something/someone to blame, and a ‘quick fix’ solution, even if it’s entirely mis-directed. We conveniently tend to forget that:

“Violence is (and always has been) a part of the human condition. From war to child abuse, murder to school-yard bullying, violence takes its toll, often with children being the innocent victims (or occasionally the not-so-innocent perpetrators).”

http://www.public.asu.edu/~dbodman/

Loverly Husband and I use common sense and knowledge of our kids, and communication with them to determine when something is within their ability to handle, and to help them understand the difference between entertainment/fantasy and reality. They’re not stupid. They understand that what may be acceptable in a video game is not how one would act in real life. They’re old enough to get that what they do and experience in an entertainment format is vastly different than real life, and we have done our best to ensure that with communication and supervision.

Allowing them to play violent video games does not make me an uninvolved or unconcerned parent, nor do I believe that it increases my children’s tendency to act in a violent manner. On the contrary, we are extremely involved in our children’s lives, and have been told to have an enviable relationship with them. Judge me if you will, but make no mistake about our interest in their welfare.

But if you need more ammo in order to cast me in the role of ‘bad mother’, I also let them listen to heavy metal and rock music, never used a trampoline net, allow them to play near a snake-infested pond, shoot guns and own archery equipment, and occasionally buy them a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go teach my kids about evolution and sex.
Warmly,
~h


Attachment Parenting and Independence

So I found this chart on Pinterest, about ‘Training Children to be Independent’ from the book ‘Teaching Your Children to Fly’ by Merrilee Boyack, and reading through it, I had some thoughts. My first thought, of course, was, ‘Well, clearly, I am doing things wrong’. Then, I thought about all my children know how to do and cut myself some slack. Now, looking at it again, I am wondering if I have short-changed them, or if this chart is a little ambitious (at least for us).

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but we follow an ‘attachment parenting‘ style philosophy with our kids. The basic idea behind this style of parenting is that by meeting a child’s need for a close attachment to their parents (through parenting practices such as extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, no ‘cry-it-out’, limited mother/child separation, etc.), you’re allowing them a firm foundation of parental trust that allows them to venture further into the world as they’re ready rather than pushing them to be too independent, too fast. The ideal throughout childhood is interdependence, not co-dependence or independence. This, in my opinion, is a healthy balance between ‘free-range parenting‘ and ‘helicopter parenting‘.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in the AP approach, I do sometimes flirt with the idea of a more free-range style in the scheme of helping your child develop independence in a ‘real world’ way, especially as the kids get older. While I do firmly believe that children are capable of doing more than parents often give them credit for, pushing them to be independent for the sake of being independent isn’t good either, which is the crux of my issues with ‘free range’ parenting. It seems like too much, too soon, and unnecessary – independence for independence sake – in virtually all of the examples I have read about.

In looking at this list, I am also torn between my perceptions of being a ‘good mother’ as my grandmother would define it (think June Cleaver) and more feminist ideals. Not that there isn’t anything good to be taken from that video; good manners are, after all, good manners; though there are some things seriously wrong with the perceptions and ideas perpetuated in it (Mom and Daughter OWE it to the men to look nice?? Don’t make Mom and Dad uncomfortable by talking about your feelings – wouldn’t want honest communication or anything…). I want my kids to know how to function in the real world – cook, clean properly, do laundry, be able to repair things in their home or on their car, and other basic skills. But I also don’t want to be the kind of parent who sees their kids as mini-servants, there to fetch and carry, thinly veneered as ‘fostering independence’.

So how does one find balance?

I would imagine that has to do with knowledge vs. expectation. Yes, I expect my kids to clean up after themselves and contribute to the running of the household (especially when the majority of the ‘mess; is theirs to begin with). But I don’t expect them to do things just because there is an arbitrary age at which to begin them. I think that child-rearing and (I don’t know what the specific term might be… I’m going to say ‘adult training’ despite the potential negative connotations… just go with it until I think of something better) are not incompatible. Adult training is part of child rearing – an integral part. I’d say that the goal of child rearing is adult training, even – preparing your children to be productive members of their family and society as adults.

But some of these things on this list make me wonder who would really expect their X-year-old to do XYZ. Taken as a general guideline or goal, and recognizing that yes, a 5-year-old can be expected to empty the trash, and fostering such skills, but that knowing how to do something does not make it his responsibility to do so, then this list is fine. I certainly helped my children to use the toaster and microwave at young ages (though admittedly, this was more so I could sleep in on weekends than it was to make them prepared to be adults), and they do have regular chores to attend to on a daily basis. But they aren’t solely responsible for fulfilling these responsibilities in the same way that you might expect an adult to fill them (i.e.: completely independently). There are still age-appropriate reminders and a parent to go behind them to make sure that whatever task was carried out completely. This is part of adult training, in my opinion. I do send my kids into the grocery store with either cash or a debit card to pick up a small list, alone. As their mother, with an eye towards their future, I present them with opportunities to explore on their own (today, we went hiking in a familiar area – they have the skill and are responsible enough to run ahead, and I allowed them to do so) and make their own decisions. But they are also given guidance and structure, especially with money (savings/contributions to charity and the like) and what our expectations of them are as members of our family. I think these are age-appropriate independences, and having my supervision (not molly-coddling) is the ‘inter-dependent’ part. They know that I will be here for them if they need me.

I’m curious to see what others think about this list, and how you prepare your children for the ‘real world’.

Warmly,
~h


Note to Self: You’re Doing Just Fine

This is a reminder that I need every few weeks, it seems. We’ve now successfully completed almost half of our fourth year of homeschooling, and STILL, I go through phases where I have these doubts.

Most recently, it’s come to my attention that my father is under the impression that LBB (now 11.5 years old and in 5th grade) does not know his multiplication facts. Nevermind that he’s been working on division for the past few months, and doing beautifully at it (including fractions and decimals). My dad asked LBB what 5×5 was, and LBB said ‘I don’t know’. When my dad told him to figure it out, LBB made like he didn’t understand what he meant or how to go about doing that. So this, of course, prompted a call to me with concern about his math skills.

Le sigh.

This prompts several responses on my part. On the one hand, towards LBB: “WTF, man? Really? 5×5? You’re having trouble with FIVE TIMES FIVE? That’s arguably the easiest of times tables and you’re going to choke on that one?? Dude. C’mon – you know this. Just take a minute, think about it and answer the question. No big deal.”

Then again, I totally get the ‘on the spot’ freak out. If someone asked me, my initial response would be to freeze; like if I was still enough, they won’t remember what it was that they asked and I can get out of the situation without answering the math question.

Towards my dad, I get this mama-bear, ‘Hey man! Not cool! Don’t test my kids!’ sort of feeling. I understand that it was a reasonable question. I know that some of my homeschooling compatriots have unsupportive families, and a question like that would come from a negative place, but my family is very supportive and I don’t think there was anything untoward or sneaky meant by it, but still, I get a little twitchy when I feel judged. I feel like my kid’s lack of willingness to answer a question is a reflection on my teaching ability (because that is what got called into question – not his attitude or interest, but *my* part in it).

Honestly, could he be stronger in math? Yes. Am I drilling him on basic multiplication tables? Daily; and this in addition to our regular math lesson. Do we do ‘math bingo’, Timez Attack, flash cards, and other ‘fun’ math things to help cement those concepts? Yes. Are those things going to make him pop out with the answer to a random math question? Meh … maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, I can’t separate his interest or cooperation with others from their perception of my ability to teach. I understand that it’s not my job to correct this perception, but it still affects me when I see/hear/feel it in action and directed towards me.

My kids are not babies anymore. They’re young men, and though they do still have to do the work assigned to them, I can’t learn it for them. I have said this before and I still think it’s true: One of the hardest parts about homeschooling is that no matter what you do, the blame rests firmly on your shoulders. When your kids are in school, to a certain extent, if they don’t get good grades or learn what they need to, then you can cast off some of the blame onto the school system. The school, in turn, can shove off some of their responsibility onto the parents – they weren’t involved enough, or didn’t give the child support/encouragement/motivation – whatever. But as a homeschooling parent, ALL of the ‘blame’ rests squarely on your shoulders… which is wrong, I think, to a point. Some of the blame rests with the child, himself, and I think that it is this point that many people forget or don’t realize, especially in homeschooling.

We see this in reverse and don’t question it. When a homeschooled child excels, we say how smart s/he must be, and congratulate them for persevering and working so hard. We don’t pat the parent on the back and say, ‘Way to go, Mom! What a great teacher you must be!’ So why do we blame the parent when the child’s ability doesn’t match up to what our perception of where s/he ‘should be’?

Children are not ‘babies’ forever. At some point, they do grow up. In fact, we have years between baby and adult that we should use to teach them to be responsible for themselves. This is a gradual teaching and learning – not something that they master all in one day or by whatever grade. If we want them to grow up into productive members of society, then we as parents must allow them a certain amount of responsibility, gradually, and offer them the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merit.

Over the past few years, my kids have taken on more responsibility for contributing to the overall running of our household. Their chores are divided into either ‘dishes’ or ‘laundry’, and they switch every month.

Dishes includes (but is not limited to):

  • loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • hand-washing anything that can’t go into the dishwasher
  • sweeping the kitchen floor
  • clearing and wiping the table and counter tops
  • helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed

Laundry includes (but is not limited to):

  • loading washer and dryer
  • putting towels into the towel basket
  • putting kids’ laundry into their baskets and taking them to the correct room
  • taking out the trash (kitchen, bathroom and schoolroom)
  • taking the big trash can to the road if Dad forgets
  • Cleaning the hallway bathroom
  • picking up the living room & sweeping
  • helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed

It’s a little un-balanced, but they both agree that dishes is the most onerous of the two, and so gladly will take on more work in order to not do dishes. Loverly Husband and I also have chores; in addition to helping the kids, we both do our own laundry, clean the fridge, clean all the stainless, blah, blah, blah…  everyone has chores.

My point in laying all that out is to say that where we used to step in and pick up the slack if the kids forgot their chores, now, we don’t as much. If they slack, then dinner has to wait until they’re done, or they don’t have the right clothes, or, or, or. It’s not just mom or dad ‘nagging’ – it’s the whole family who is irritated at you for not pulling your weight. It’s been a slow process, but one that’s starting to pay off. They’re more likely to step up and say, “Oh, I forgot to do that. Give me just a minute and I will get it done.” It doesn’t always happen, but it is happening now whereas before it wasn’t. They see more now how each person plays a role, and if they don’t do their part then the whole family suffers.

I think learning and education are the same way. Though I play a role in their education (especially right now), as they get older, I will play more of a guide role and less of a participant role. It will be up to them to choose a career path and go after the skills and education necessary to meet those goals. It will be my job to encourage and support and help guide them to appropriate courses, but ultimately, especially though high school, their education becomes more and more a product of their own efforts.

LBB is starting middle school in the fall. Middle school! I don’t want him to reply on me so thoroughly to ensure that he’s applying himself that he can’t work independently. Of course, I will be watching and making sure he is doing the work, but my goal isn’t for him to ‘just do the work’. That’s not real education. Based on what I know of my kids, and of children in general, this type of responsibility is years in the making for some kids, and that’s okay. 

Contrary to what we tend to believe, there is no rule that says kids have to do or know XYZ by Xth grade or by age N. Children aren’t programmable robots. They learn at different rates. They have different interests and what motivates one child may do the opposite for another. Knowing this, and repeating this is what keeps me from throwing the towel in some days.

And then there are days like yesterday, where we got into a discussion about the origin of life, and the boys both had fun schooling Mom on which came first, the chicken or the egg. Apparently, they are much more well-versed in this conundrum than I am, and though we both used the same bit of research (located independently, I might add), it was applied in different ways. They were so excited to showcase their knowledge, and that’s something that can’t be taught.

So yeah. We’re doing just fine.

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 

 


Summertime: Week 8

Our summer is winding down… this was our last week of having ‘extras’ – Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie will be heading back to California next week. We’re thinking in terms of ‘back to school’ already; I ordered new books for the kids and have been cleaning on organizing the school room to get ready for when we start again.

This week has been a lot of fun though. My boys were both grounded last week, so they didn’t get to do much. By Friday, I needed some time out of the house, so PBJMom and I signed the four boys up for a class at the Big Thicket last Friday. It was a drop-off class; one of the few that we’ve attended. While the kids were in class, PBJMom and I went thrift-store shopping (ALONE… WITH NO KIDS… did I mention that part??) – it was fabulous! The class was only a few hours, so we were home in time for lunch.

The weekend went by quickly. We hosted a swim party for our dojo and had a bunch of kids in the pool – more, I think than that pool has seen in a decade or more!

My kids have been obsessed with Minecraft lately. This week, I finally gave it a shot… oh, hello new addiction. It’s seriously so much fun. It something we can all four play together, and on ‘peaceful’ mode, there are no creepers or zombies or other enemies, so it’s all about digging and building. We’ve sparked several conversations about building in real life vs. video games (support structures, etc…) – PeaGreen loves building things, so it’s fun to see what he comes up with to build.

On Tuesday, we had a Monster Sleepover at PBJMom’s house- six boys, three moms. We had such a great time! And the kids did, too. We did end up having a big sit-down pow-wow with them and talk about give and take, communication and conflict resolution. We did some role-playing and talked for quite a while with them. It was awesome having two other adults to help calm the crowd. I can’t even express how awesome it is to agree with your friends on disciplinary methods. We gave the kids four strategies to try – changing your tone, getting a friend to help mediate, walking away and telling an adult. We stressed the importance of friends taking up for friends and brothers, and  ‘friend on friend’ bullying (or rough housing that goes too far). I think they ‘got it’. I hope they did… in any case, we didn’t have a lot of arguing after that point, so something must have sunk in!

After lunch on Wednesday, we made Unicorn Poop cookies  – they’re so good! PeaGreen said that they taste like Froot Loops, and I think he’s right. We made ours with lemon flavoring instead of vanilla, and we didn’t use the stars or the round things – just the glitter glaze and rainbow sugar – they looked pretty good!

 

(I don’t know why these pictures won’t go to the middle… after an hour of jacking with the formatting, they are determined to align left and so they shall remain in defiance of HTML commands. Bastards.)

Wednesday night, Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie came over for their last sleepover at our house. It was kinda sad! But they all woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (having gone to bed relatively early after staying up until 2AM for the Monster Sleepover the night before) and played some Minecraft before we went to the library to turn in all their Summer Reading Club stuff – yay!! We’re finally done with that!

The kids all got certificates and some prizes – free bowling, free burgers and a couple of other things, and they get to go to the finale celebration at a local mini-golf and arcade place, which should be a lot of fun.

Friday was all about hanging out at home and resting up. More Minecrafting, if I remember correctly, lol. I did manage to start clearing out last school years’ paperwork though. That’s always a job!

Coming up soon – the ‘Not Back to School Blog Hop’ posts; we start school on August 6th!

Warmly,

~h


Summertime: Week 7

<—- Yes, THIS, exactly.

If you know anything about me at all, then you know that I don’t like to stay home. I will do just about anything to get out of the house, but most days, like ‘good moms’ the world over, I take into consideration the needs of my kids when I go out. In fact, I would say that I go above and beyond with finding fun things for the kids to do that isn’t stuck at home 90% of the time.

So when I start fielding ‘I’m bored’ – no, ‘I’m booooooooooored!!!!’, it makes me a little…. twitchy.

Add to that constant drone of whine the behaviour of my children during a class that I was taking on Sunday evening; I go once every 2 weeks; in this particular (rare) case, silence was of utmost importance and to help with that, they had 2 laptops playing different movies, PLUS a gameboy each, PLUS all the art supplies any kid could possibly want, PLUS books – manga – not even books with chapters or anything!! I totally set them up to succeed in that environment and they were horrendous – making messes, being loud, running in the building, being a nuisance in general – and this mommy has HAD. IT.

I don’t ask a lot from my children; I really don’t. They have schoolwork and chores and even that is kept to the minimum and tailored to their individual needs and abilities. We just had a week full of birthday fun, during which one child’s preferences were met for the most part (when feasible – we’re not that saintly… er … stupid?) and the other was given special treatment to compensate (because we wouldn’t want things to be unfair now, would we? {/sarcasm})… and so the only thing I asked was that they chill out and give me my class time to enjoy.

Aaaaaand, No.

So this week, instead of our schedule looking like this:

  • Monday: session II of Tennis Camp
  • Tuesday – hike w/ homeschool peeps, SRC Art to Go at AMSET, karate
  • Wednesday – BEACH
  • Thursday –  movie & karate
  • Friday – Big Thicket Summer Camp Class

it looks more like this:

  • Monday – playing outside
  • Tuesday – playing outside
  • Wednesday – playing outside
  • Thursday – playing outside
  • Friday – playing outside – and then writing a paper on ‘why we *all* prefer to have Mom in the Best Mood Possible so she doesn’t go all 1987 on our asses’. (We are a homeschooling family, after all.)

No TV, no computer, no movies, no gameboy, no field trips… just a whole lot of good, old-fashioned YARD to help them appreciate exactly how good they have it (and probably some sneaking off to Grammie’s next door to look pitiful and beg for snacks – she’s been warned though – no TV!!).

In addition to that, one of the things we will be undertaking in a serious way this year will be charity work. Our community has a soup kitchen that I only recently learned about, and I am thinking that we will be organizing and participating some food and toy drives around the holidays. I love them, I really, really do… but so help me, by all that is Holy, I will be extremely disappointed in them  END THEM if they don’t straighten out of this ‘entitlement’ crap and learn to show some appreciation!

Brats.

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 

 


Homeschooling is Hard

If you’d asked me when we started what the hardest part of homeschooling was, I’d have probably said something about the curriculum, or confidence. At the beginning of last year, it would have been ‘fitting everything in’ or making sure that they didn’t have too many gaps in their education’ – again confidence related with maybe a little scheduling thrown in.

Ask me now, going into our third year, what the biggest challenge of homeschooling is and I say it’s the time commitment; the never-ending constancy of being ‘on’. As either Mom or Teacher, I am on-stage from the moment they wake up in the morning to whenever they finally fall asleep in the evenings (despite the fact that bedtime is at 8PM and not including the occasional during-the-night call to action). I do normally get up around the same time Loverly Husband does in the morning since the kids have started sleeping a little later in the mornings – that gives me a little bit of coffee time alone – but not much.

When my kids were little, I was wholeheartedly committed to the principles of attachment parenting. I remember the kids pre-school years as fun and full of joy, and at that point, we were planning to homeschool so there was no change of scenery in sight. I was happy with that plan, but if I’m honest about it, I admit that there were lots of days that I was exhausted, overwhelmed and in desperate need of a nanny, a maid, and an all-expense-paid vacation to somewhere with sparkling sand and cabana boys.

As much as I enjoy my life, and I do recognize that compared to some situations out there my life has been nothing but roses, there have definitely been a couple of breaking points over the years that meant major changes for our family. These changes were needed, but probably should have been addressed sooner than they were. Once they were made though, the benefit to our family happiness was noticeable.

Never one for a pristine-clean house, when the kids were little it was pretty much always a disaster area. With little ones running around, it was really hard to keep them entertained and out of trouble long enough to get any real cleaning done, and whatever I cleaned, they’d messy again when I was in the hallway putting the cleaning supplies away. Since the kids were my priority, the house suffered. When PeaGreen was about 3 and a half or so, after a fight with my Loverly Husband, we finally got on a good housekeeping schedule (and the mighty Household Bossy Book was born). He and I both had roles to fill and after discussing what we had, and what we wanted to change, we were both more aware of the responsibilities that came with keeping up ‘our family’s’ home. It belongs to both/all of us, and though I don’t mind a larger portion of the housekeeping being heaped onto my plate since I am here, even LH and the kids have their ‘chores’.

Another breaking point came when the kids started school. I was working (unpaid), trying to get a doula business off the ground, and dealing with the constant in-and-out of school, homework, being an active PTO member and volunteer – it was a lot. Since I was gone so much, it was harder to keep up with all the housekeeping myself, and so the Bossy Book got re-vamped, with the kids taking on larger responsibilities as chores. Then, due to a variety of circumstances, including a tragic miscarriage, I decided to put my personal career goals on hold, and soon after that we started homeschooling.

One of the benefits to having the kids in school though – and one that I miss greatly at times – is the amount of time that I had to myself. From 8AM to almost 3PM, even though I was still ‘on call’ for the kids if needed, it’s not the same as having them underfoot all day, every day. The initial adjustments to homeschooling were all about the good – it was such a welcome change from what we had been dealing with that the day-to-day hadn’t set in yet. Even as much as a year or so later, I think we were still in the ‘honeymoon’ phase.

A couple of  months ago, I reached another breaking point. I was ready to quit; even went so far as to look up enrollment information for the kids to go back to school. Part of me was dead serious about it. Part of me was indulging in a fantasy. I was having a super bad day/week, and anything that wasn’t ‘here’ and ‘me’ was better than what we had going on – being stuck in a rut and not knowing how to get out of it. And of course, the reality that going back to school would not solve any problems; in fact, it would only add new and more awful ones to my already stressed-out plate. And so again, a necessary argument discussion with Loverly Husband about what we had and what was and what was not working was called for. He actually had a day off planned that week, and normally when he’s home, we’re off. But after discussing it, we decided to have school anyway, and let him see how things normally went.

Having a visitor for the day was a good thing*. Having Dad here to actually experience the way that we normally do school and the tactics that our (brilliant, clever and witty) kids have developed to circumvent my methods actually did help. I don’t typically harp on ‘discipline’ with my kids, but this is one area where lack of discipline (meaning ‘adherence to a structure’ and ‘self-discipline’ rather than ‘punishment’) was lacking. Instead of sticking to scheduled time frames, I was allowing pleading and negotiation when there really shouldn’t be any. School work is not negotiable (unless it is – in which case, it is presented as such) and is not up for discussion. That’s not to say that I don’t take their wants and needs into consideration; anyone who works with kids knows that in general, they are comfort-led. They’d rather take the easy route and that’s usually not the same as hitting the books (minor note here about child-led learning; I prefer a more parent directed approach until the basics are covered and their foundation is strong, after which their education will be more interest and strength fine-tuned. YMMV {wink}). Having Dad here to see how things work (and don’t) was a big help; his level of understanding what my day is/can be like, while still not the same as being the primary teacher, is better after having been involved all day. His suggestions and discussion with the kids, as well, helped bring us back to an even keel.

Another facet of this multi-layered issue is me. I have/suffer from/deal with clinical depression  issues, and though I wouldn’t normally describe myself as an anxious person, my current medication includes an anti-anxiety component that I am finding extremely helpful. I have been on and off of medication in the past and have known for some time that I needed to go back on them. I did last month and things have been improving. Adjusting to new medication is kind of like a box of chocolates; I’ve been fortunate that my side effects are few and manageable.

Just to clarify, this post isn’t just griping about homeschooling. My point in posting this is to dispel any notion of the ‘homeschoolers are perfect’ style stereotypes and to illustrate how we work through problems in our family. We’re launching into the beginning of our school year, so I wanted to present an open look at what homeschooling can be like on the inside.

Yesterday was our first day back, and we’ve made some adjustments for this year. We generally have an enjoyable routine, though there have been bumps (and will yet be more in the future), we are committed to homeschooling. Helping everyone in our family understand that, and what their roles are, is key to successfully navigating home life – and homeschooling.

Warmly,

~h

* for clarification purposes: calling Loverly Husband/Dad a ‘visitor’ is not meant to imply that he’s not an active part of our homeschooling. As a homeschooling mom, I require his support and participation – but his primary role in our family is provider; mine is child and household care – that’s just the division of labor. Though we both weigh in on the kids’ education, that also is primarily my responsibility to manage. Use of the term ‘visitor’ only implies that he is not normally physically present in day to day schooling with us.


Requesting that Which Enriches Life – NVC Week 6

Six chapters in – hooray!

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

We’ve been taking it slow; well technically, I’ve just been lax about posting out updates. We’re doing week 7 and have been for a couple of weeks – I’m just now getting around to posting about week 6. In any case, I haven’t forgotten about this project and am quite pleased with myself for following through with it (even if it is taking longer than originally planned).

In any case, week 6 is all about asking for what you need. In NVC, that means identifying what it is that you feel first and then being able to ask for it. As we’re going along, I am noticing a tendency among certain members fo our family to sound rather condescending when making requests. It’s very hard to have a sarcastic personality *and* sound sincere a lot of the time. This has always been a problem between Loverly Husband and myself; compliments that are utterly sincere sometimes have to have a ‘note of sincerity’ attached to them in order to be taken seriously. Adding NVC to this mix has been… interesting.

I’m also a pretty demanding person in general – as a friend, as a wife, as a mother – I expect certain things from my friends and family and I expect that those expectations will be met. I’m working on it and again, trying to work on not being a demanding shrew AND factoring in NVC without feeling like I am lowering my standards is difficult.

I will say that being in the same place with my kids as far as being new to and learning this method of communication; being able to say to them, “I am trying to use NVC and am having a hard time with expressing myself’ is a tremendous help. It’s almost like being able to call a time-out in the middle of a conversation. It helps them realize that I’m not perfect, that I am struggling just as much as they sometimes are. Saying something like that automatically puts us on the same, inexperienced  team and reminds us all, in that moment, that we’re working towards the same goal. If we take nothing else away from this experiment, that one thing is worth its weight in gold.

That said, this week’s lesson and focus on asking for what you need has been interesting and somewhat easier than the previous couple of weeks. Asking for something first requires that you know what it is that you need to begin with. These concepts are building on one another and being more familiar with one concept makes the next one easier. Being able to identify what you’re feeling (week 4) and then taking responsibility for them (week 5) and now asking for something to meet the need all works hand-in-hand.

If you’re following along, some of the discussion questions from Chapter 6 are:

What constitutes ‘request’ in NVC? How can we test whether it is a request or a demand?

How do expressing requests via vague/abstract language vs. expressing feelings gain different results?

Why do we sometimes hear a demand when someone makes a request?

What is reflecting? How does reflecting help?

Practice:
How can we strengthen our consciousness of what we want back when we talk to others?

If you’re reading along with us, I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great weekend!

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


Communication that Blocks Compassion – NVC Week 2

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

Chapter two deals with what’s termed ‘life-alienating’ communication’ – those types of communication which alienate us from our own feelings and needs, and from others. There are four types that are identified: diagnosis/judgement and comparisons, denial of responsibility, demands, and ‘deserve’-oriented language (entitlement).

One of the things I took from this chapter is the admonition to take responsibility for the things that I do. I don’t tend to think of myself as one who shirks responsibility; if pressed, I’d probably gripe about being ‘too responsible’.

I was raised with the idea that your responsibilities are of paramount importance, and if they’re only met halfway, then they may as well not be met at all. My father in particular is very demanding and has little tolerance for ‘half-assing’ anything. I can’t tell you how often I heard that as a young adult and it’s something I don’t tolerate well from my own kids, either.

I see the problem with that, of course – one of my main complaints as a child was that what I DID do was never seen or recognized or acknowledged, only what remained un-done. That’s not true in every instance, and that’s not to say that praise earned wasn’t given wholeheartedly, but we had a lot of responsibilities as children – much more than my own do now, and much less supervision since my mom worked – and it was overwhelming at times.

But this chapter isn’t really about taking responsibility in those terms. It’s more about taking responsibility for your own actions as a result of and connecting them to your own needs or denial of your feelings or needs. One of the examples mentioned is of a mom talking about cooking; how she hates it, but it must be done and it’s her job to do it and so she does;  not realizing the effect that fulfilling a job out of responsibility and with resentment is having a negative effect on her family. Better, perhaps, that she not do it at all if it’s going to be done ‘like that’. How directly in conflict with how I was raised!

I said that I was going to take this book a chapter a week, and I am going to continue trying to do that… but just from really putting into conscious practice the first two chapters, I can see that I am going to need to go through this book again to really flesh it out in my own life. Still, it’s got me thinking, so I’m counting that as progress.

If you’re working on your own, here are some of the questions from Chapter Two in the workbook:

Describe the meaning of ‘life alienating communication’.

Why is the word ‘tragic’ used to describe this way of expression?

What happens when people (children) do what we want them to do out of fear, guilt or shame and how does that affect them in the future?

What is the difference between VALUE judgements and MORALISTIC judgments?

Quote:

The horrors which we have seen, and the still greater horrors we shall presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate, untamable men are increasing in number throughout the world, but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of obedient, docile men.” ~ George Beranos

Agree or Disagree?

The workbook goes into the different areas of our lives, the social communities that we operate in, and asks us to identify life-alienating language in them, and how we can re-phase them with giraffe-speak. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. Extremely so – and it feels ‘wrong’ to me. Again, I recognize that this is a process and that my feelings are a product of how I was raised (which is precisely why I am going through this book with my kids), but that doesn’t change the feeling that, especially in parenting matters, by not demanding appropriate behavior or that a task be completed within this time-frame or in this manner – by giving the kids an option… basically to choose not to comply – I don’t see how that will work. And then again, there’s a little niggling voice that pipes up and reminds me how much better they behave when I set reminders instead of demands, and help with chores instead of harangue. I know it works in my heart. It’s getting my head on board that is the challenge.

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


The Mom I Am vs. The Mom I WannaBe

So I’ve been thinking about ‘celebrating the mom I am’ in response to an article over at Mothering Magazine. I love this article. I could have written it (in a ‘standpoint-wise’, not ‘talent-wise’ sort of way, I mean).

I try. All of us here in our house try. We wake up almost daily with yoga, meditation and reminders to be kind to each other. I need these things as much as the kids do!

Overall, I am pretty happy with the kind of mom I am. I know my strengths and am mostly fair about acknowledging my weaknesses, but there are always ‘those’ moms out there who make everything look so darn easy. I hate them as much as I envy them.. even while I know that the image they present is probably not the length and breadth of their mothering, it still stings a little when I see someone I perceive to be doing a better job than I am.

Along those lines is the ever-patient mom who never wants to be away from her kids. Her older kids, I should say. Lately, I’ve been contemplating the way I feel when I leave my children somewhere – at Gramps’ house or on rare opportunities to go out with the Girls and leave the kids home with Loverly Husband. As much as I needed to be with them when they were small and did not want or feel like I required time away from them as babies, I really need to be without them sometimes now. As a militant strong advocate of attachment parenting, this is an odd feeling to have.

I have joy when I get to go somewhere without them. The pure glee of being able to think only of and for myself is so nice… and I am at odds, emotionally with this feeling. Mentally, I see it as a developmentally appropriate step, and also a sanity-saving one. I love my Loverly Husband to bits and pieces, but put us in a small space for a prolonged period of time and he bugs the ever-loving snot out of me. My children, though part of me, are no less individuals – whole people – who, at times, are very, very annoying people. Like any other person, there does come a time when I wish to divest myself of their company for a while.

I’m a better mother – and homeschool teacher – when I have time away. I think that the time/togetherness factor is a big one for homeschooling parents. Other parents get 7+ hours, 5 days a week during the school year to re-group. I think that’s a little much for me; I’d be content with a few hours, consistently, once a week or so. When my kids were small, my sister and one of our friends had a babysitting co-op that we did every Monday. I am seriously considering looking for people to do this with again. Funny, I didn’t realize how seriously I was considering that until I typed it out – but I guess I am.

I think that part of celebrating the mom I am also entails looking for areas where I need to improve and taking steps to do so. I’ve mentioned before doing the Non-Violent Communication Workbook, and have been putting it off. In recent months, my grandmother’s health has been deteriorating, so my parents are moving in with her. This is an understandably difficult transition for all of them, but the dysfunctional communication that I’ve always known was there is rampant.

It’s ugly.

Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook: A Practical Guide for Individual, Group or Classroom Study (Nonviolent Communication Guides)

It’s harsh – and I realized that that’s how I sound when I talk to my kids sometimes. Talk about an eye-opener. Plus, as  cycles are wont to do, I’m starting to see those communicative malfunctions in my kids. So in a Herculean effort to break this destructive cycle, we started the NVC Workbook together last week, as part of our school work. We’re on week one/chapter one, and I have another post in the works that details some of the chapter and workbook. So far, so good; we made posters that detail the four main points of NVC: What do I see? Feel? Need? and How can you help (request for action)? We’ve been practicing, and it’s going to tale a while to change the pattern, but it’s worth the effort to do so.

I’ve also been upping my meditation time. I have a space in my new bedroom that is dedicated to such internal musings, and I am making daily use of it. I’ve also been working on the 60 Ways to Nurture Myself list, trying to implement at least one daily; more if possible.

What about you? What does ‘being comfortable with the mom you are’ mean to you?

Warmly,

~h


Highlights from our Camping Trip

We spent most of last week on a camping trip. This was our longest planned trip – 5 days/4 nights, and we ended up coming back home early because there was rain in the forecast (and we were just plain ready to be home again). Incredibly, by Monday afternoon, we were unpacked, cleaned up and mostly recovered. We even stopped by the car wash and vacuumed out the van [gold star for mom}. I really thought that it would be later in the week before everything was back to normal.

We’ve more or less been on a mini-break from school this week; mama needs a couple more days before she’s up to full-scale lessons. We’re covering a little Latin and some math drills, and some literature and history. Plus, with our aforementioned spring cleaning and outdoors-y activeness going on, there are plenty of unschoolish ways to accomplish our lessons right now. Next week should be back to our normal workload.

This is our second camping trip with friends PB&JMom and SFK and their kiddos. No daddies again; I’m feeling quite outdoorsy with all this camping experience under my belt now. I might have to look more into the Texas Outdoor Woman program if this is going to continue. We took our first back in October, in the same park, but a different unit. This time, we were a bit better prepared – I think that camping is going to be come a regular thing for us, so I’m all about containerization. My mother was the Queen of Camping – everything in bins ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’m following in those uber-capable footsteps and making up our own containers. So far, I have 2 Sterlite containers (just like this one, only WAY bigger and not clear) that house our camping gear, and the interactive list from Gander Mountain makes packing a cinch. I love those containers. I have them in all sizes to house my crafting supplies, the kids’ toys and all kinds of other stuff.

Contrary to my nature, I left most of the packing to the morning of, which put us several hours later than I’d originally planned on leaving. That worked out well in the end though as PB&JMom and I ended up catching up to one another on the way. We were there and set up by 1PM or so, which was nice. That left the entire afternoon for relaxing and playing. SFK and her girls joined us later in the afternoon.

When we got finished unloading and setting up the tents, the four boys asked to start a fire, and being the responsible mothers that we are, said ‘Sure’ and handed them lightsticks. That kept them occupied for the next four or so hours, and like the heathen children that they are, danced wildly around the fire ring as they finally got it to catch and stay lit.

Friday was off to an early start. My early risers are even more-so when we’re close to Mother Nature. With birdsong, beams of sunlight and the roar of glittering fishing boats on the water, there really was little chance of sleeping in to begin with, yet I always hope and am ever denied. The boys spent much of the morning off and away – biking, fire stoking and wood-gathering, hanging out at the pier and running off to the play area.  With their absence, you’d think that it would be very peaceful but you’d be wrong. The girls were much more interested in mommy-convos than in exploring the great outdoors and consequently had to be chased off (often with a huff and a stomp away) multiple times. We did take the kids hiking Friday afternoon, and got some good pictures of our little adventure.

Saturday morning called for a trip into Jasper for some extra supplies. My little air mattress had a couple of pin-holes in it that I repaired before we left, but apparently I missed one and was waking up ass-on-the-ground. That’s extremely unpleasant, so I bought a new mattress (a double height one – yay!) and a cushy mat for PeaGreen (since a mattress will not fit inside his little elephant tent. We have a bee tent like this one, too, for LBB. I found them at Target when the boys were itty bitty and we’ve used them more than I ever thought we would. (I don’t know that I’d pay $40 bucks for them now though…)

We were supposed to have a repeat performance of the SOAR program that we saw a couple of weeks ago, but apparently their plans changed and we got to see Ms. Catherine feeding her snakes instead. The kids all thought that was equally (if not more) fascinating. Look at their faces! When I was little, my dad kept a rainbow boa and a king snake – we fed them live mice. Ms. Catherine’s were frozen, then placed on a heating lamp to warm them up. The kids were both disgusted and enthralled by the whole process.

Our original plan had been to stay until Monday, but with the weather threatening to rain Sunday evening and just plain missing our daddy-shaped person, we decided to pack it up and after a brief stop to visit my much-missed brother, SIL and kidlets, we headed home.

If our camping trips will get easier as we get more used to them, and we can expect an even smoother set-up and take-down next time, then this will get progressively more enjoyable as we go along. This trip was much easier, I think. We planned a little better, and opted for less cooking (more finger foods and sandwiches) and less ambitious activities. The children were largely out of sight, which was both nice and worrisome. I stayed in my tent and read a great deal Sunday, and while I fretted occasionally about them, I made myself trust that they were capable and as they had demonstrated a propensity for following the rules we set, that they would continue to do so. I was in no way disappointed. They all returned safe and sound, and I think better off for being allowed the freedom to play without much adult interference. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Warmly,

~h


The CRC vs. Parental Rights

It seems that the Convention on the Rights of the Child(CRC) is back on the blog front again lately… With both Smrt Lernins posting about it and Homeschooling a Texas Tornado and a Pre-School Tag-A-Long, I thought I’d weigh in with my thoughts. This is not a new post; I’ve had it as a draft since July 2010 and just have never finished it. There are parts of the CRC that I agree with but I also think it is seriously flawed. Anything, once written in stone, can be manipulated and I see vast, gaping holes in the CRC, and definitely with various advocate’s interpretation of them. So here’s my previously unpublished post, updated in a few spots to allow for current insights:

While looking for picture for the ‘parents as experts‘ post, I came across this blog debating the CRC vs. Parental Rights. Now, keep in mind that the Parental Rights site/group seems to be made up primarily of right-wing Christian organizations and while I am decidedly not in agreement with everything that group espouses, I am interested in the debate.

My intent in writing the ‘parents as experts’ post was originally to promote parental confidence and empowerment in the face of friends/family/pediatricians/behavioral therapists who disagree or criticize your parenting style or methods (particularly if the naysayer is authoritarian or strong disciplinarian and you’ve chosen a route that is… not), but the issues raised by the CRC and the Opposition are interesting, and I believe that they deserve my attention (and resulting lengthy commentary).

Although there are many, many points that I’d like to address, the ones that stand out glaringly in such a way as to create the beginnings of a headache right behind my left eye are points number 1 &  3, which read:

1. A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreedFirstly, the frequently [sic] with which children seek government review of their parents’ decisions will likely be extremely rare. But that point aside, why is this wrong? If parents believe what they are doing is right, then why should they worry about it? Unless parents are being abusive, then this shouldn’t be a problem. And really, this boils down to parents rights vs. children’s rights.

My question is, how do you know that children calling for reviews of their parents’ decisions will be rare? I’m also curious if this blogger has any idea how introducing such a standard into practice could impact families. Even little decisions could be called into question – sure, that’s unlikely on a large-scale, but suppose someone makes a complaint about you to CPS. Upon investigation, it comes to light that your child ‘disagrees’ with many things that you, as a parent, have deemed to be right and good and in their best interests. That possibility is by no means uncommon, but with the weight of the CRC behind them, this could easily lead to long-term interference in your family’s dynamic.

‘Why is this wrong’, we’re asked? First of all, just because you, the parent, have research and professional opinions on your side does NOT mean that you’re going to be proven right or allowed to continue as you were when under investigation by ‘the authorities’. Remember that they always have their own professionals who have opinions which may very well conflict with yours. Child protective organizations nationwide have cases where normal parents – GOOD parents who simply do things differently than the mainstream – have had their decisions called into question, been put under investigation and had their children removed and traumatized because some overzealous social worker or opinionated old-school judge disagreed with the parent’s decisions.

As a parent, there are decisions to make every single day. Sometimes you’re going to do the best/right thing, sometimes you’re going to make a mistake – but few parents deliberately make bad decisions out of malice. On virtually every issue there are two sides to consider. Then you have to weigh the information against incoming advice from well-meaning friends and family, and take into consideration your own biases before coming to a decision. In many cases, even having clear-cut medical reasoning and sound scientific grounding on your side is not always enough to combat mainstream corporate America with its death grip on dictating what is normal and acceptable and therefore ‘best’. If you doubt that, start doing some research on any controversial parenting topic and you’ll see what I mean.

Giving a child the power to question a parent’s right to decide and make decisions for themselves is ludicrous. Children do not have the knowledge or life experience to make the kinds of decisions that parents have to make every day. Parents are responsible for shaping the whole person of their child – nurturing and molding an essentially self-centered being into a productive and functional member of society. Children do not possess the forethought to see how today’s actions impact tomorrow’s results and cannot possibly be expected to weigh the required information needed to make those kinds of decisions for themselves. That’s more than many parents are capable of, which is why policies like the CRC sound like a good idea to some  – to save children from incompetent or under-educated parents. Why not address the actual ‘problem’ rather than tear down the structure of the family in an attempt to fix it?

3. The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision. Um, yeah. You know why? As flawed as governments are, as stupid and biased as politicians can be, then tend to be somewhat influenced by experts in the area of child development when it comes to this stuff. Parents on the other hand can vary. A lot. There’s no requirements to be a parent other than being able to reproduce. Some parents don’t have a clue. You need a license to drive a car or to fish, but there’s no “skill testing question” you need to pass in order to parent. Some people with kids are dumbasses. Sometimes it should be up to social workers and child psychologists to interfere when the parents are doing things that will harm the child. This is one of the best points in the document.

Um, actually… NO. And here’s why:

While I agree that in some cases it might be appropriate for a government or other authority to interfere for the benefit of the child, giving any ole government worker the authority to intervene simply because they don’t agree with the parent’s decision is playing with FIRE. In fact, there are already safeguards in place within the existing agencies to protect the safety of the child – pediatricians, hospital employees, teachers, school nurses all are obligated to report suspicion of abuse or neglect to the authorities who then investigate – and even the limited powers that those agencies can be and have been exploited because of a mere difference of opinion. The system is by no means perfect, and children do fall through the cracks, but as tragic as that is, the answer to this problem is not punishing or discriminating against parents as a class of society.

You have heard the adage about opinions, right? Even the most pedestrian governmental worker can have an opinion. They may think that they know best when in reality they have little or no experience with children or child-rearing and they certainly cannot style themselves as authorities on your particular child. Giving them the power to usurp parental authority without clear, documented and proven danger or harm to the child’s physical, emotional or educational being is wrong, wrong, wrong.

For example, take the decision not to vaccinate. That’s a touchy and highly controversial topic that most educated parents labor over. Even the experts are divided on the topic. The bottom line is that as the parent, that is MY decision to make. If my decision conflicts with the opinions of others – of doctors and scientists even, is it the wrong decision? There is ample evidence on either side of that equation, so who gets the final say on whether or not I am neglecting or harming my children by not vaccinating? I feel that vaccinations are toxic and that the risks associated with getting them overshadow the as yet unproven potential benefits of getting them. I have one child whom I believe to be negatively affected by the few vaccinations he did have, and I will FIGHT to ensure that his body is not further used as a guinea pig by the entities in government who are supposed to put his needs and best interests first but don’t.

I take issue with the statement, “As flawed as governments are, as stupid and biased as politicians can be, then tend to be somewhat influenced by experts in the area of child development when it comes to this stuff.” In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with news coverage about how studies on this medical topic or that public health issue are funded by big pharma, or how policies are enacted to prevent lawsuits, or how mothers are arrested for refusing to submit to invasive medical procedures because a judge disagrees with her decision… I think it is patently obvious that governments and their agents are more influenced by money and kickbacks than they are by The Facts(tm).

My decision not to vaccinate was not one that was made lightly, or on a whim. It was a carefully and painstakingly researched decision made after long hours of contemplation, studiously examining the material available and consulting with professionals who are able to debate rationally on the subject. Because this is such a highly controversial subject, my decision is one that I have had to defend to ‘authorities’ who disagree with me. At the end of the day, my base argument is that THIS IS MY CHILD. I GET TO MAKE THE DECISIONS REGARDING HIS CARE. PERIOD. That’s my ace in the hole when dealing with people in authority positions who have a differing opinion from mine. My point in this illustration is that even when you have experts on your side, that may not be enough. I daresay that I know more about the dangers and risks associated with vaccination than your average WIC or Medicaid employee. Yet as governmental authorities, would they have the power to override my decisions, despite my superior knowledge on the subject in general and personal history of my child? The CRC certainly puts that out there as a possibility.

I think one of my main objections to the CRC is that it sets the stage, even invites the government into the family. I don’t think that’s a place the gov’t has any right to be. Personal freedom is something that American treasure – it’s a basic right that we all believe we possess and are conditioned to fight for. The CRC seems to give the child ‘rights’ above and beyond basic HUMAN rights. I think human rights cover them plenty. The US has the largest scale abuse of the legal system in the world – the CRC puts avenues in place for children to legally question every move that their parents make – which ties up already overworked caseworkers and brings them into a situation where they have no business being. Children could be removed from homes when there is nothing more than a disagreement and the CRC only gives more weight to those kids of cases. We’ll end up spending millions in taxpayer money to handle these cases (because no child I know can afford a lawyer – yet one must be provided to see to the child’s interests in the debate). There are also the costs of foster care and the wages of the additional employees to oversee each and every complaint.

I see the CRC as setting the stage for pitting parents against children. We’re supposed to be promoting family unity, not declaring all out war on parents. It seems to me that a better use for all that money would be in founding public education programs and parenting support groups, and ensuring that the places that parents already go to seek information and support (like their doctors) are giving evidence/research-based and non-biased information. Take steps to ensure access to information and protection from advertising, like starting with comprehensive sex-education in schools and banning the distribution of formula samples on maternity wards at hospitals and kickbacks to doctors for medication promotions that pharmaceutical companies are using to taint the information pool.

As for the religious components… it is a parent’s responsibility to share their beliefs with their child – to direct and guide. Yes, some take that to the extreme, but again – unless there is abuse and the child can be moved to a safe environment, then the child WILL eventually grow up and have the opportunity to make different choices. You can’t dictate every aspect of the population’s life and as a country that was essentially founded on Christian piers, most of our citizens are deeply rooted in their faith and want to share that with their kids. Some religions go so far as to teach that their way is the only way to salvation. Some faiths DO teach – as tenets of their faith – that people of other religions will not share the same glorious future; some teach that people who do not share their faith will be destroyed in a holy war. That’s not hate, exactly, but that type of mindset doesn’t breed tolerance, acceptance or help one set of people peaceably coexist with another – and that can be counted under the CRC’s anti-hate policy… which comes very close to if not treading all over freedom of religion… which is one of the cornerstones of the United States. While I personally disagree with that kind of mindset and dogmatic religious thinking,  I do respect the RIGHT of any American to believe as they choose. I don’t ally myself with any organized religion, but I do believe that parents should have the right to freedom of religion and belief, and to enforce that in their own households.

I will say that I vehemently disagree with the notion that opposing the CRC has anything to do with belief in ‘owning’ our children. I think that is a rather simplistic viewpoint that does not take into consideration the many, many ways in which the CRC’s points can be mishandled or used against parents. My opposition comes into play because of my deeply held sense of responsibility to do what is best for my children, especially when my decisions are questioned by authority figures. I think that the majority of parents feel duty and responsibility towards their children – obligation to them and in that, my fellow bloggers and I are in agreement – having children is a monumental responsibility that should not be undertaken lightly.

I don’t know any parents who had children to get something out of it.  There is also a sense of interdependency in virtually all of the families I know – I have yet to sense a need for liberation of the child from the tyranny of parental authority among most families. The CRC seems to me to set parents up for attack and to foster the idea that parents exist only by the grace of authority and a warning to overstep those bounds at your own risk.

I think that very few people see children as chattel – comparing the state of children to women or black people or Chinese people in the past is inaccurate because grown women and African-Americans and the Chinese are fully functioning beings. Children would not survive without caregivers – without parents to set limits that children do not have the mental skills or life experience to see the benefit of. Women, slaves and oppressed peoples have never been less intelligent or less capable than their ‘keepers’, and though children may be intelligent, few would argue that children have the same level of common sense, experience and forethought/benefit of hindsight that adults have. The same holds true for such things as medical treatment – not elective procedures that can be put off until the child is an adult, but for life-saving treatment – you betcha that is both my right and responsibility to determine the best course of action for my child’s treatment. Neither ‘right’ nor ‘responsibility’ of that statement can be over-emphasized – they are equally important and both should be minded with the utmost care.

Regarding DaMomma’s post, her ‘Parent’s Bill of No-Rights’ was posted in regard to a TN proposal that would give virtually all divorced parents 50/50 custody of (and therefore ‘rights’ to) their child. I think that using that list in defense of the CRC is misleading – when parents divorce, there are many, many issues at play and often the competency of one parent or both is called into question. In that situation, you’re already inviting gov’t into your family. The CRC intrudes where no invitation was issued and interference is unwelcome.

That said, and thought I agree with many, I also disagree with some of DaMomma’s points; I absolutely believe that I am entitled to respect – both as a parent and as a PERSON. I would be a poor parent indeed if I did not teach my children to respect others – starting with the members of their own family. It goes hand-in-hand with the idea that respect is earned, not freely given; I teach best by modeling. I respect myself, I respect my husband, and I respect my kids. In turn, I expect – and rightfully so – respect from all of those people in return. Additionally, I absolutely have the right to see my own children. Unless I have done something to them that is in such disregard for their well-being so as to require the removal of my parental rights – I absolutely have the right to see and care for my own child. Divorcing parents may need to defend that right in the light of unjust attacks on their character by a vindictive ex-spouse, but most parents aren’t, and should not be, subject to that process. Setting up government in place to superseded that right is madness.

Again, I go back to thinking that money would be well-spent in social educational and support programs that are designed to provide unbiased information – all of the information, from all sides to review and implement according to their own philosophy. Parents who perpetuate the mistakes that previous generations have made do so not because they don’t love their children, but because they HONESTLY BELIEVE that it is the best or only way to properly raise their children. I am here to tell you that I have personally seen the difference that education and support can make in a mother’s mindset and world-view. Seeing a mother who had an elective c-section, circ’d her baby boy in the hospital and formula fed make completely opposite choices after being regularly exposed to mothers with different ways of doing things reinforces my belief that access to information and support is the key – not mandating laws which seem good on the surface but open doors to the destruction of the family as we know it. I don’t think that opposition to the CRC has anything to do with ‘child ownership’. I think opposing the CRC has everything to do with the autonomy of the family and living up to the many, heavy responsibilities that come along with those rights.

Warmly,

~h

Additional Resources:

http://childrightscampaign.org/documents/OppositiontotheCRC.pdf

http://homeschooling.suite101.com/article.cfm/legitimate-homeschool-socialization-concerns


Jackals and Giraffes – Introduction to NVC

As a parent, one of my ideals dictates that I try to ‘do better when I know better’. One of the areas that I struggle so much with is communication. I am finding myself having less patience and less compassion for my kids when it comes to what I expect of them, particularly regarding finishing schoolwork. Some days I find myself drifting farther away from the kind of parent I strive to be, and so I am actively taking steps to move back in the direction that I want to flow.

I picked up Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and the companion workbook by Lucy Leu several years ago. I’ve read through them but not really worked the workbook in the way it recommends. This is my goal for the next few months. It’s a 13 week program, and while I may not complete it in 13 weeks, I am going to work through reading and completing the workbook exercises. I’ve asked a few friends to try it with me in a practice group, but no one’s taken me up on it yet. If you’re interested in working it too, then please join in – post your blog in the comments and what tag you’ll post your NVC group posts under and we’ll make a blog ring.

I am starting by registering with NVC Academy. It’s free and though there are classes that you can pay for, there are also several free downloadable audio courses and also some other free materials, including the Feelings and Needs Reference Guide (4 pages) and the NVC Circle of Life (the mandala at the top of the page is the CoL). I sometimes find myself disconnected from how I feel about something, and I would like to change that. I think having a list to help me identify what I feel will help. The Circle of Life wheel details the four principles of NVC and how they relate to either ‘giraffe’ language or ‘jackal’ language. The giraffe and jackal are symbols of NVC, and though I probably won’t be using them overmuch, the symbols are somewhat accurate, I think. Giraffes are gentle and jackals really aren’t and so ‘serve as a guide inviting a return’ to giraffe.

The workbook suggests clarifying what it is you hope to gain from a study of NVC. It’s a big time commitment and mental effort to go through the course, so being clear about how much of both you’re willing to invest is a good starting point.

What I hope to gain:

  • a better understanding of my own feelings and motivations
  • to communicate my feelings and needs more effectively
  • to listen and understand my family’s feelings and needs more effectively
  • to help my children communicate more effectively

I will try to keep my practice noted here and in my journal under the “NVC’ category.

So… this is going to be the beginning. I am going to read Chapter 1 and start on the Workbook’s Lesson 1 and will record thoughts and feeling throughout the week, then post a review of CH.1 next week.

Ruth Bebermeyer’s poem, Words are Windows (or They’re Walls), is in Chapter One, and a lovely way to begin:

I feel so sentenced by your words,
I feel so judged and sent away,
Before I go I’ve got to know
Is that what you mean to say?

Before I rise to my defense,
Before I speak in hurt or fear,
Before I build that wall of words,
Tell me, did I really hear?

Words are windows, or they’re walls,
They sentence us, or set us free.
When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.

There are things I need to say,
Things that mean so much to me,
If my words don’t make me clear,
Will you help me to be free?

If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words
To the feelings that we share.

Warmly,

~h


Thankfulness Tree

So everyone on my Facebook friends list in playing the ‘Thankful Every Day’ game. Every morning (and evening, because all my friends are not on the same schedule – who knew?), I wake up to a wall full of ‘Today I am thankful for…’ posts. It’s both lovely and frustrating at the same time.

It’s lovely – of course it’s lovely to be thankful for the many, many wonderful things and people in our lives, it really is. I love that there is a time of year that people can wax nostalgic and poetic and it’s not only tolerated but encouraged. It’s reassuring to me to see to see that people actually do take time out and recognize the special people and events and good fortune that have graced their lives, and whether or not they attribute that to a certain deity or not, it makes me feel good to live in a world where my friends are conscious of and readily acknowledge the good things in their lives.

As non-church-goers, some may question how we instill a spirit of thankfulness in our kids. I don’t buy into the ‘every good thing comes from God’ rhetoric, though I was raised with it. To this day, I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to why good things happen to bad people. I don’t want a theological debate here; Loverly Husband and I are quite happy where we are spiritually speaking; but it is enough for us to disdain the thought of bringing our children up into that lifestyle and mindset.

So how do we go about bringing up our kids to be thankful? Honestly, I don’t think that we have any more difficulty in this regard than your average church-going family. Demonstration goes a long way towards how your children are shaped as they grow up and my husband and I both try to model good behaviour and habits for our kids. We try to point out the wonder and mystery in everyday life and express appreciation that we’re here to see it, that we live in the here and now, and that we have them in our lives to share it with.

We’ve brought them up Southern Style, with ‘yes, ma’am’s and ‘no, sir’s and general good manners, which include an awareness of kindness shown to you by others. My kids are fairly polite (often without being prompted, even!) and are generous with their ‘Thank Yous’ both in everyday life and when we see or experience something unusual, extraordinary or amazing. But it’s one thing to be thankful and yet another to be consciously exercising thankfulness. To that end, I do think that my kids could expend a little more mental effort into consciously acknowledging the good things in their lives. I saw a thread on SecularHomeschool.com’s forums about a Thankfulness Tree, where the kids add ‘leaves’ everyday throughout the month. I thought it was a lovely idea, and we have made one of our own:

It is interesting to me to see the progression of what the kids are thankful for; how it starts out fairly superficial and is leaning more towards the conveniences that we take for granted. ‘Clean clothes’ made the list today, and ‘my home’, which is different from the house as a physical building, I’m told. I’m very curious as to what will make the list as the month continues. Judging by today’s additions though, I think we’re doing fine.

Warmly,

~h


Kids will be Kids…and that’s Okay

I have been thinking about homeschooling and ‘image’ again. The other day, we had a couple of moms over and about 11 children ranging in age from 13-ish to 3 running in and out, and apparently ‘something’ happened between some of the boys. My first reaction in that situation is a raised eyebrow. That’s about it. Whatever happened wasn’t enough for any child to come running in crying and/or bleeding, which usually indicates that it wasn’t a major ‘thing’. But both of the moms whose boys were involved left, inexplicably. There was no discussion, there was no intervention to find out what happened and attempt to resolve the issue… they just packed up and left.

At first, I had no clue that anything was amiss. There were 11 kids running around, and since some kids (and moms) are of the sensitive variety, I can see how that much action in our small house might throw some people’s inner workings off. I figured that was what happened. I only found out about the apparent ‘thing’ later on, with the thought being that there was embarrassment on the moms’ part because of how the kids were acting at a homeschool group function. To put some perspective on this, both of the moms in question are or were very active in a local faith-based co-op. Overall, my impression of such groups is that image is of prime concern; how the children act is a direct reflection on how the mothers are perceived by the group and I’m sure to some degree, cast doubt on how good of an influence these children are on the others. There are several aspects to this scenario that bother me.

1. Mom gets so wrapped up in ‘image’ that she willingly accepts this conditional acceptance by her peers.

Why, oh, why do moms do this? Please repeat after me: ‘If my friends don’t like or understand my kids, then they’re NOT MY FRIENDS.’ Your children, in some ways, are a reflection of you. They aren’t mirror images, and their own personalities and thoughts and experiences will shape them differently than you, but on some levels, your kids reflect what you think is important. Presumably, you’re doing the best you can, instilling into your children the values and virtues that you think are important. If your friends don’t like or understand or accept your kids, then guess what. They don’t really like or understand or accept YOU, either. That’s really all there is to this point.

If the people who you are currently hangin’ out with are passing judgement on you, your lifestyle or your ability as a mother, then they don’t like you. Stop hanging out with them. You’re not learning anything from them. They are not enriching your life in any way. You’re setting a bad example for your children by putting up with that kind of crap. They’re making your life worse. Find new friends. Even if you can’t find new friends, being by yourself is less harmful to you than hanging out with those h8rs. Ditch ’em.

2. The children learn NOTHING when ‘retreat and regroup’ is your primary coping mechanism.

Children argue. That’s a given. It’s normal. They’re emotionally and mentally immature people who lack essential communication tools to effectively handle a confrontation without loosing a grip on their emotions. That’s why they have parents – to help pack their tool box ‘on the fly’. As a parent, you hope that these teaching moments won’t come in public, but they so often do, and when the opportunity presents itself, you can either teach or run. I’m no paragon of perfection – I’ve lost my temper in public on more than one occasion with my kids (usually due to neglecting or not recognizing my own needs at the time), which generally necessitates running to the car or other neutral environment to assess the situation. But the kids don’t really learn anything about communication through ‘retreat and regroup’.

As homeschoolers, our kids aren’t subjected to playground wars or bullies – and thank goodness for that. Unfortunately, kids are kids pretty much everywhere, and conflict resolution is an essential tool that I don’t think is ever perfected. I think that letting our personal embarrassment get in the way of equipping our kids for healthy communication cripples them. And this ties back into the first point – why would you want to be a part of a group that does not respect the needs of the child, and that values the importance of a parent taking advantage of a teaching opportunity?

I have a great deal of respect for a mom who sees something that needs addressing – and not the ‘Hey stop that!’ kind of addressing – but really digs into it with her kid, looking behind the obvious and dealing with the issues behind an action that motivate the child. It takes effort and balls to stay calm in the face of a meltdown and communicate with your child when everyone around you is looking on with a keen and critical eye. It’s hard enough with strangers; I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be when you know that your ‘friends’ will be even more judgmental.

I’m not perfect, but for the most part, I’m content to give my boys enough space to work out their own troubles. I try to stay out of it, but with an open ear so that if I need to step in and help facilitate communication, I can. As difficult as this has been, now that they’re 8 and 7, I am starting to see real results from this method (yay!). That is to say, they can often work out issues with their friends with a few words, rather than it being a big blow-up thing. Factors like hormones, amount of rest, hunger, growing pains, ‘muchness’ – all of this plays a role in how our kids FEEL and ACT in any give day or situation. For that matter, all of those things also play a significant role in how WE feel and act – and respond to our kids. But as parents, we do our best to monitor and take into consideration what our kids NEED at the time and do our best to provide it so that they have a level playing field to work from.

That’s not always going to happen of course; my kids both require – REQUIRE – food every couple of hours. But I’m human and sometimes forget that – or get the notion that they ‘should’ be able to be okay without food for a little longer (which usually ends with a spectacular fail on my part), forgetting momentarily that children usually are doing the very best that they can right now… I believe that expecting more out of my kids than they’re able to provide is detrimental to the kids and to the structure of our family, so we try not to do that. Same goes for my friends and their kids. I expect them to do what they can. Sometimes leaving is the only option, but I sincerely hope that when you must have one of those ‘teaching moments’ with your kid, you can feel the vibes of support that I’m sending in your direction.

Warmly,

~h


Sunday Surf for 9-12

This week, I actually browsed the web ‘with intent’ – with an eye towards what I would recommend this week. I definitely like that better, and as such I’ve already begun my list for next Sunday’s surf post.

When I started participating in SS, I was trying to keep my recommendations more parenting centered, but that hasn’t been working for me. Since my kids are older, I think it would be odd for my SS post to extol the virtues of cloth diapers and debate the merits of sling vs. crotch-dangler carrier (even though I whole heartedly advocate cloth, at last part-time, and slings are clearly superior to front pack style carriers).

So, I am going to stop trying to fit into the mold that Authentic Parenting has kind of set by the posts that she recommends (not that she only wants XYZ style recommendations or anything – it was my own limits, I think, that were stifling me) and focus on articles that interest and apply to my life.

So, without further adieu, today’s recommended reading can be found at:

  • The Scientific Homeschool’s Using Questions to Create a Climate of Inquiry in the Homeschool Environment points out the benefits of using questions to help your homeschooler learn to think better.
  • Age of Autism’s article, CDC Admits No Rigorous Study Refuting Thimerosal-Autism Link Ever Conducted points out something that I have long felt might be true – that despite assurances that they have eliminated the link between autism and mercury, they really have not done rigorous research to back that claim.
  • SizzleBop’sMean Adults- Part One is the first of a three-part series dealing with adults who don;t like your high-needs kiddo. Excellent and HIGHLY recommended!
  • Enjoy Parenting’s Go With the Flow… Even If It’s ‘Wrong’ was an article that I really took to heart. I have such a linear thought plan as to how the day should progress or how things should be done that I often find myself irritated at deviations from it. This reminder that kids are creative and such thought patterns really are stifling, and can create unnecessary friction.
  • Lesson Pathways’ Blog Carnival of Homeschooling: The Road Less Traveled Edition. This is a collection of posts from various methods and styles of homeschooling that talk about the paths that are open, and how their journeys have begun and changed and where they are now. There is some very interesting reading, so I recommended the entire thread rather than pick out individual posts.

For more Sunday Surfing, visit Breastfeeding Moms UniteDomesticated WomanMaman A DroitHobo Mama and Baby Dust Diaries.

So… what have you been reading this week?

Warmly,

~h


Summer Reading Clubs are Bad? WHAT??

So… I found this article this  morning, Why My Children Do Not Participate in Summer Reading Competitions (It’s a free downloadable article, but I think it’s only available until today). Since we just wrapped up our highly enjoyable SRC, in which we participated fully and absolutely adored, you can see how this might have piqued my interest, yes?

I’m all for differing opinions, but the suggestion in this article is not merely that the mom in question doesn’t like them or chooses not to participate – she suggests that enrolling your child in reading clubs like the SRC’s could be damaging… Well, of course, anytime someone suggests that what I choose to do with my children might damage them, I’m interested in exploring their assertions more fully.

One of the things I came away with is that some of the opinions that the author expresses are apparently based on the assumption that the child is the only one involved in the SRC, and if that is the case, then I do kinda agree with her. If the SRC is the only avenue that the child experiences encouragement to read in, then the potential for the child to focus on the reward and not the book content is there. On the other hand, many SRCs are set up because of the fact that it truly may be the only exposure to encouragement in reading that some children have.

If the child is not being encouraged to read at home, then participation in the SRC may ultimately serve to help that child develop a love of reading. Even if they focus on the reward at first, the chance that at some point they’ll stumble on a book that really grabs them is high. For a lot of kids, myself included, regardless of the home environment and attitude towards reading, reading is a chore. It wasn’t until I was in 5th grade and came across the Nancy Drew series of books that I fell in love with reading as a hobby – and I was reading ‘well’ in the 1st grade. Until I found Nancy Drew, I LOATHED reading – and I come from an extremely pro-reading childhood home.

‘Holding a prize in front of a child or setting a deadline may distract the child from taking adequate time to comprehend the material, enjoy it, or improve reading skills.’

This statement seems to assume that the children are reading on their own, and that no parent is going back over what they’ve read with them. That simple step can avoid her whole point here. Right now, my kids don’t always enjoy reading. They enjoy the things that they choose to read, but we do have some stories or chapters that are assigned to them to read that works in conjunction with another assignment or project. If an incentive will help them get through the assignment, then I am all for it. As far as comprehension goes, my kids are not reading and then left to understand or not on their own. I’m right there with them, reading along with them or going back over the material with them. I don’t think that there’s a single book that my kids have read that me or my husband have not been interested in enough to discuss it with them.

As for enjoyment … well, I don’t think that all reading is supposed to be ‘enjoyable’. Sometimes, you read something because you need to know information that is contained in the text. Sometimes, you read in order to get where you’re going with a minimal amount of distraction. Sometimes you read so that you’re not agreeing to something you didn’t intend. Teaching kids that reading is always enjoyable, or only to be enjoyed is the wrong message. Now, granted, when you’re talking about new readers you do want them to have a certain enjoyment in it, but I can tell you from my experience, had I not been required to check out at least 2 books from the library I never would have found Nancy Drew. Had I not been required to write a book report, I never would have actually sat down and read the book. The only reason I ever even opened it was because of the deadline and threat of  a bad grade over my head. So again, what the author of the article says about reading for enjoyment, I disagree with.

On reading to improve reading skills… I tend to think that any reading is going to work to improve your child’s reading skills, but especially books that they choose. Reading clubs encourage your child to pick books – books of their own choosing – to read. Presumably, your child will pick books that appeal to him, but even if he’s being a turkey and just grabbing 2 off the shelf, he might find accidentally grab something that he’ll enjoy.

PeaGreen isn’t a terribly proficient reader, but he found lots of books that he wanted to rad for the SRC. LittleBoyBlue is a really good reader, but he’s the one who just grabs 2 to fulfill Mom’s requirement. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon the non-fiction books about wounds and first aid (with photographs of real injuries) that his interest was piqued. In both cases, the books that they read did serve to encourage them to read more, which by default will improve their reading skills.

‘Worst of all, if the child does not fulfill the full requirement to earn the prize, he or she may feel like a failure, associate it with reading, and avoid reading in the future.’

At the risk of being snarky, I think that’s a big stretch. I think that a child’s perception of success, especially a young child, has a LOT to do with the parent’s assessment and view of the situation. Any parent worth her salt can help a child re-think his view of a situation, even a ‘chronically inflexible’ child like mine. I have yet to see a SRC’s minimum for completion be something that is terribly challenging to achieve. If, as a parent, I know my child has this goal, wouldn’t I do everything I can to help him reach it? All the clubs I know of just had a number of books that a child must read in order to complete it. Our library’s number was 20. Over the course of 2 months. Hardly unattainable, right?

In light of that, if my child can’t reach that goal, then the first person I’m looking at to find out why is, frankly, Mom. What was I doing in all this time that prevented me from helping my kid reach this goal? And even if something happened this summer and we just really could not focus on something as frivolous as a reading club, then I would venture to say that as a parent, it’s my job to help my child understand that sometimes life simply gets in the way of the fun things we want to do. Explain that next summer will be here soon enough and we can try again, and try to come up with something that we can do to in the meantime to help him reach that goal (like a bedtime reading boot camp, or keep books in the car and read on the road…). We can’t always have what we want, and we have to learn to be adaptable.

Aside from that, we’re not always going to win. I think that avoiding competition in order to ‘protect’ my child from feeling like a failure is an erroneous strategy. A child doesn’t feel like a failure because he didn’t win or didn’t reach a goal. He feels like a failure because the people around him aren’t supportive. If my child didn’t succeed this time, then I think it’s my job as his parent to help him put that into perspective and help him set new goals. Whatever happened to ‘winning isn’t everything’? Participation and having fun are just as important, and if it truly is a competition, then learning how to lose gracefully is just as important a lesson to learn (perhaps more important, since there is usually only one winner – odds are that you’ll lose in life more than you’ll win).

The other point that the author brings up is the much debated issue of ‘payment for good grades’. When my kids were in school, we often combated the dreaded “I don’t wanna get dressed and go to school” complaint with, “Well Dad doesn’t want to go to work every day either, but he has to and so do you. School is your job, just like work is Daddy’s and keeping the house up is Mommy’s”. Well, leave it to my incredibly clever LittleBoyBlue to retort immediately with, “Well Daddy gets paid to do his job. We don’t get paid to go to school.” o_O

So yeah. We devised a plan reminiscent of real life whereby doing your job well nets you a reward (income). Doing it poorly results in consequence (loss of income). Then we decided that school was annoying and decided to homeschool, which pretty much makes the issue of ‘grades’ moot (though we do actually keep ‘grades’ – but it’s not quite the same as in school because we’re not on a schedule that pushes through to the next thing regardless of comprehension.)

I do agree with this wholeheartedly:

We learn best what interests us and what is enjoyable to learn…. Grades are punitive in and of themselves as they judge and rank our children.

… and with her other points on grading as a system of assessment in institutionalized educational settings. Homeschooling is an entirely different bag-of-yarn*. I agree that offering a reward or incentive of cash for A’s may not work for every kid, but it’s also not always the big, horrible, always-negative thing that the author seems to be making it out to be. Like so many things in parenting, I think it’s going to be an individual kid, individual family type thing. What works for me may not work for you – but that doesn’t make either one of us inherently wrong. It just makes us different.

Warmly,

~h

* for my loverly husband, who was trying to think of ‘ball of wax’ this morning and came out with ‘bag of yarn’ {wink}


Religion = good behavior?

(Notes on this post: I was gone all afternoon on Thursday, so this is my Secular Thursday post for this week, even though today is Saturday; and this post comes about in contemplation of this article, Study: Religion is Good for Kids.)

I consider myself a spiritual person in that I have a strong moral code and set of beliefs about deity that I adhere to in order to explain the unexplainable, and my beliefs may or may not agree with yours. I’m really fine with that. I even enjoy discussing religion as a topic, and as long as your plan is to merely share your beliefs and not to attempt to bash me over the head with your Jesus stick or shove your bible down my throat in a misguided attempt at ‘saving’ me, then even if we fundamentally disagree on every point, in my opinion, we can still be friends.

Now, before we go much further I will admit that, living in the Bible Belt, when I hear reference to ‘religion’ I automatically assume that you’re talking about Christianity. I realize that I may be showing my small town southern roots here, but since most of my comments about the theory of “religion=good kids” are in relation to how some Christian authors tell you how to raise kids and my own experiences with Christianity, and since the resulting clashes in child rearing philosophy between what they advocate and what I think is good and right have left a somewhat negative impression on me, that’s my bias.

If you’ve read here before, then you may have seen commentary about certain so-called ‘Christian’ authors who advocate practices that can only be described as child abuse. I have been fairly vocal about my opinions of such authors, but have not really delved into the ‘why’. Aside from the obvious, my personal child-rearing philosophy is quite different from theirs. Even if you take away the abusive aspects, I would still not recommend these authors’ ideas because of the way they perceive the nature of a child to be (i.e.: sinful and selfish, out to manipulate, etc.)

To be clear, I am in no way saying that all Christian parents are abusive, nor am I equating a religious upbringing (regardless of sect) with abusive households in every case. What I am exploring here is my own experience with a Christian upbringing and the tendency among Christian parents to use corporal punishment as a first line of defense for all transgressions, both small and great, to control and coerce children into what is viewed as acceptable (and therefore ‘godly’) behavior.

I really have a problem with them using religion as an indicator of behavior in small children. It sends the message that the end result justifies whatever means you use to achieve that. For lots of Christian families, the tools they use can border on abuse, both physical and emotional. I am not outright opposed to spanking as many are, but I do think that we parents are surely intelligent enough to reach our children without resorting to physical punishment from the get-go. From my own experience, we were spanked without consideration of the external factors that contributed to the situation and were usually expected to accept punishment with a minimum of fuss or else face additional punishment if we failed to get our emotions under control within the alloted time frame. We were expected to ‘straighten up and fly right with only a word, because we knew that the consequence for failing to mind was severe and painful.

In such an environment, of course the children will ‘behave’ – they’re terrified of getting into trouble! I was always looking for a way, any way, to avoid getting in trouble. Telling the truth netted a spanking most of the time, as would lying, but a lie would delay the spanking for however long. When you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, what would you do to save your butt? It’s hardly fair to compare the behavior of children from a home where the parents, because of their religious beliefs, require strict obedience and/or a joyful attitude even in the face of painful punishment to those who come from homes where the children are treated as whole human beings with the same rights owed to them as any adult. You wouldn’t punish your friend who was grouchy because she was hungry or tired, you’d make excuses for them, or offer them food or facilitate a nap if possible. Why are children, who are less capable of attributing grouchiness to another need than adults are, not worthy of being treated similarly?

If you take out the word “religion” and substitute “strong moral code”, then I pretty much agree with much of what the article says. I don’t think that any of the results that the researcher found would not be able to be duplicated in an environment where the parents had a strong network of support from similarly minded peers (for example, regular attendance at a playgroup, parenting support group or homeschooling group meeting). Frequency may play a role, and as few of those other type groups are so rigid or structured as religious services the results may not be exactly comparable, but I don’t think that the characteristics that they polled (behavior, self-control,  social skills and approaches to learning) are limited to ‘religious’ families – I think it has more to do with support in general.

One of the primary ‘lessons’ I came away with as an adult is to hide emotions. Even now, I am not all that great at reflecting how I am feeling and it took me a long time to stop ‘acting’ happy when I darn well wasn’t. That’s not what I want for my kids, and even though it is more challenging to watch them act how they feel, it is comforting to me to know that my children are in touch with their feelings, and we’re all learning to communicate and address needs better because of it.

The last paragraph of the article reads,

“There are certain expectations about children’s behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services,” he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship “a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved.”

I assert that ‘poorly behaved’ is a misleading phrase. If ‘poorly behaved’ means that my kids are more impulsive (because they didn’t get their hands slapped every time they reached for something) or less apt to sit still for long periods of time (because they weren’t threatened with a wooden spoon if they wiggled during church) or be quiet when they feel they’ve been wronged (because they weren’t conditioned to accept punishment because they’ve probably done something to be punished for that wasn’t witnessed), but you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I prefer it.

I saw a tee-shirt the other say that said, “Know Religion, No Peace. No Religion, Know Peace”. While I don’t think that’s necessarily true in all cases,  I find it to be a provocative statement that might be worth your consideration.

Warmly,

~h


Experts and Their Assorted Opinions

If there’s one thing I have learned since becoming a parent, it is that everyone, including those who have never met your kids and those who have zero experience with children, period, seems to think that they are child-rearing experts and that despite the fact that you never once asked for their opinions, feel the need to share it with you – and then have the nerve to be annoyed at you for disregarding their advice. It’s even worse when said would-be advisor actually does have a little bit of knowledge or experience – as if that somehow makes them the expert on this situation or on your child and requires you to be grateful to be on the receiving end of such gems of parental wisdom. Strangely enough, this isn’t a phenomenon limited to new parents. Take a hungry or over-tired 7-year-old child out in public and see how much ‘helpful’ advice you get, or tell someone about the experience and see how you ‘should have’ handled it.

Meet the REAL Experts: We call them “Parents”


If there is one thing that I want to say, one message that I want to get out into the world, it is this:

Parents, please remember that YOU are the expert on your child!

No one is more uniquely qualified to handle your child better than you are. In saying that, even the terminally argumentative can surely figure out that I am automatically disqualifying anyone who doesn’t like their kids or kids in general, is a selfish or immature parent (or is otherwise incapable of putting the needs of someone else, whom they’re entirely responsible for, ahead of their own), or who has been declared unfit or had their parental rights stripped, from inclusion that statement. If that’s not you, then you’re already aware that every decision regarding your child’s care and upbringing must be made with your child’s needs in mind – and no one knows more about your kiddo and how his or her needs might best be met than you do[1].

The problem in our society is that we forget that. Much like when we’re pregnant and at the OB’s office we mysteriously forget that the last 30 years living inside said body pretty much makes you the expert on anything that happens with or to that body the moment that the OB tells you whats best rather than offering an opinion on what might be a possible course of action or treatment and letting us decide (but that’s another issue).

When it comes to our kids though, as new parents we’re often looked upon with condescension – like somehow we’re not capable of deciding a course of action. We forget that by the end of the first day, a new mom has had more hands-on time with her babe than anyone else (excluding NICU families here – but you get the point). In most cases, that, added with the biological imperative that parents have to protect their young gives the new parent a distinct edge that cannot be duplicated.

I’m not saying that new parents shouldn’t ask for or listen to advice or support – far from it! Even the most experienced mama benefits from having a helping hand in the first few weeks. My point here is that we should take note of who we’re asking for advice and support, what their qualifications for giving advice are, and why they’re giving it; what their motivation in advocating that course of action is.

Just recently, I’ve spoken with 2 new moms, one who was using Babywise as a guide, and one with a ‘helpful’ MIL who probably meant to be but in reality was anything but. In both cases, the mom in question’s natural instincts were intruded upon to the point that she really couldn’t tell which way they were pointing her. I sincerely hope that both of those moms ended their conversations with me feeling more in control of their own mothering. One thing that my business partner and I tell our clients is that when seeking mothering advice, find someone who is the mom she wants to be, or one who has the kind relationship with her kids that she wants to have and ask that mom for advice. Or at the very least, ask that mom for book or website recommendations. Asking someone who is not doing what you want to do, or isn’t selling what you want to buy is just going to end in frustration and possibly hurt feelings.

It seems that asking friends or family would be a good idea, and it certainly can be – but not always. Your mother, sister, aunt and all love you and want only the best for you and your child, but often their advice comes from a desire to validate their own choices, regardless of whether they’re actually happy with the choices they made. That sounds harsh to say, but it’s true. Our choices are validated when others follow suit. When we make different choices than our mother or mother-in-law did, effectively, we’re saying that her was is/was wrong and that she wasn’t /isn’t a good mother. It’s not something many will verbalize, but unconsciously it’s there and often causes conflict. If that’s the case, reassurance and validation can go a long way towards mending that relationship without compromising on the things you believe are best for your child.

Something else to consider is the timeline. Information changes! What was commonly done 10, 15 and 20 years ago is contraindicated today. Sleep training with the ‘Ferber Method‘ is still touted as the way to go, but many don’t realize that Dr. Richard Ferber recanted his advice on sleep training and actually recommends the exact opposite of what he once promoted. Even this notorious ‘expert’ now bows to the superior wisdom of the parent on the subject of ‘what is best’ for their own families. Putting cereal in baby’s bottle at days or weeks old was commonplace is now widely regarded as dangerous, yet many grandmas (and pedi’s here in Southeast Texas!!)  still tell new moms to do just that ‘to help baby sleep’.

We tend to forget the value in ‘been there, done that’ advice. Take a moment to examine the issue you’re having and seek advice from those who have experienced what you’re dealing with and most importantly, have solved the issue in a way that is compatible with your personal philosophy or parenting goals. There are moms groups like La Leche Leagueand Attachment Parenting International support groups that specialize in supporting parents and making sure that the advice shared among the parents in their groups is factual, effective and research-based.

Take breastfeeding, for example. Many new moms seek breastfeeding management advice from their pediatrician. On the surface, that seems to be a good idea, but look closer and you’ll find that there are much better sources of information. Pediatricians are generally not specifically educated in the normal course of breastfeeding. They’re trained to look for pathology – medical problems that need medical solutions. If your baby is not gaining weight, then their first course of action is often to supplement with formula, whereas a lactation consultant –  someone who is specifically educated in breastfeeding management – knows that formula supplementation is a slippery slope that often has detrimental effects on breastfeeding. An LC knows that there are steps to be taken that are better at solving weight gain issues that will preserve the breastfeeding relationship and will support you as you take them. Bad information from ill-informed, uneducated or out-dated sources leads to adverse affects on your milk supply, which can (has and does!) lead to mom feeling like she failed at breastfeeding, which can lead to depression[2].

Another source of bad breastfeeding information is relatives and friends who either did not breastfeed or did not breastfeed successfully. Women who, in many cases, also got bad information from their pediatricians or friends and relatives. Having such ‘helpful’ expressions of doubts and constant second guessing only erodes mom’s confidence and ability to be effective at instinctively navigating her way through nurturing her babe. Worse, passing on bad information only perpetuates the cycle of failed breastfeeding attempts. In the age in information, it’s easy to find credible information online that addresses most topics, but we need confidence in ourselves to be able to overlook face to face instruction and go with something as impersonal as a website or article.

That’s just one example – where the baby is born, where the baby sleeps, how often baby is to be held, how the baby is diapered, whether the baby is vaccinated or not – it seems that each and every aspect of parenting is up for challenge by someone. As support people, we need to be aware of the things we say to new moms and dads. Sharing our negative or horrible experiences with pregnant and new parents is virtually always detrimental. What new parents need is encouragement to do research – read, ask questions, attend support groups – gather information! There’s an adage about ‘when you know better, you do better’. That’s the position that many of us ‘experienced’ moms find ourselves in – having a wealth of knowledge and experience and knowing how it feels to learn something years later that would have made a difference in the choices we made. It’s tough to see someone making the wrong choices, but who is to say what’s right or wrong?

We need to encourage the new parents in our lives to trust themselves – trust that they can make good decisions – and then we need to step back and trust in their ability to do right for their own families. After all, they’re the ones who have to live with the choices they make. If the baby sleeps in their bed, then trust that they have a good reason for doing so, and let them do it. If they nurse the baby every hour, trust that they’ve done the research on how breastfeeding works and that they know their baby best and can accurately determine when the best time to feed the baby is.

As mothers and fathers, we need to learn to be more proactive when learning about the options we have, and to be more assertive when it comes to advocating for what we feel is on our kids’ best interest. We also need to learn to listen to what the doctor/therapist/neighbor/mother in law says and take that into consideration, but ultimately one of the perks of being The Mama [3] is that you get to make the decision. Let’s make sure they’re good ones.

Warmly,

~h

[1] I have found that many disagreements regarding parenting issues come when one parent (the primary caregiver) wants to do one thing and the other parent (often the ‘breadwinner’) wants to do something else. Most often, that dynamic is mom-at-home, dad-at-word so for the purposes of this illustration, that’s the dynamic I’m using. If your sitch is different, then replace pronouns or monikers as needed so that the shoe fits.

If communication or disagreement with your bread-winning hubby or partner is an issue, then the analogy of ‘mothering is my JOB, just like XYZ is your job. I take it as seriously as you take your job, by reading, looking up information, consulting with professionals and peers in my profession (i.e.: other mothers) and continually endeavoring to do my job better – just like you do. As the primary caregiver, this is the course of action I feel is best based on my ‘training’.‘ may work – with tweaks and expansion as required by your family’s dynamic.

[2] I went looking for articles to back that statement up and found mostly articles that dealt with a mom suffering with PDD or clinical depression who is also breastfeeding and the guilt associated with stopping nursing. I probably could find other material, but I am satisfied just speaking from experience – I have personally worked with mothers who suffered an onset of depression (both diagnosed and treated and who went undiagnosed) after they ‘failed’ at breastfeeding. I use the term ‘failed’ very loosely here as in most of those cases, it was a lack of good information and mis-treatment of a breastfeeding management issue by what should have been a trusted professional (i.e.: pediatrician, OB, L&D nurse or nursery nurse) that was a direct result of the ‘failure’. They were cases of the medical system failing the mother by not providing adequate resources for the health and benefit of their clients, yet most mothers will not see it that way. They internalize it as a personal failure – which can and does lead to depression and long-term negative impact on the woman as a mother.

[3] or The Papa, or whatever your chosen role and honorific {wink}