Today I didn’t eat until almost five o’clock. Ooops! I did drink a bunch of milk. I’m still doing that whole allergy food plan thing and testing individual foods to discover if they are causing me discomfort (it’s borrrring). So far so good on the milk front although we’ll see how tomorrow goes (my prediction: “tummy troubles”, by or to put it more delicately and specifically, cramps and diarrhea and sweating over both).
I got a little grumpy mid-day after reading a supposed fair and balanced blog article regarding homeschooling which was, let’s face it, a handful of garden variety concern-troll points. Instead of merely reading and digesting I chose to reply civilly and directly – as it was meant to be a discussion after all (I was pleased to notice later many other commenters quite effectively shut down some of the homeschool fallacies). After posting I could tell by the irritation in my body that I’d put off eating long enough. The kids and I got our asses out of Dodge to get some food, in this case at the winsome little bakery in Aberdeen. I was so late I had to call ahead so they could fix me something to pick up before closing time – which they did, the dears. Sitting in the sun-dappled car at the park and having a bite with the kids? I felt a bit better in general.
Because let’s face it, I am not made of stone and things get me down. No matter how well I have it in my life I can get overwhelmed and despairing; in this case over the same sort of silly myths one hears over and over about supposed homeschooler issues – that children won’t be effectively socialized, that their parents are Caspar Milquetoasts who can’t handle the Real World and they’re raising little Milquetoasts to dither about in the same manner, that there are secret homeschooler “religious” factions preaching non-stop Right-Wing hate in the ears of their little ones. I can know for a fact these issues are not concerns unique to home education and I can be one hundred percent thrilled with how things are going in my family but – Really? Must we? Over and over again?
In the car at the park we finished our lunch – the kids devouring ham sandwiches in no time flat. They discussed the new water park installation at this specific locale (which I call “Tobaccy Park” as it is located right next to a cigarette shop) and speculated on when the waterworks would commence; not thirty seconds after this the jets blasted into full force. Of course (as it turned out upon reading the info board) the park will be running daily for the duration of the summer – but to Sophie and Nels’ eyes it just blossomed the moment they wished it to. The looks on their faces; I’m glad I was there to see it.
The kids were out of the car and under the water jets in no time flat, Nels cutting an especially striking figure in his Max suit which, as it is made almost exclusively of terry cloth, was heavy and soaking in only a few minutes. After a bit both kids were in their underwear and playing joyfully (mind you, it wasn’t especially warm today).
Sophie hesitated at first before stripping down. “I don’t want to embarrass you, Mom,” she said, her hazel eyes full of depths I’ve seemingly known my whole life. My heart melted and I felt so sad that she had sensed my very slight trepidation at the thought of her bare body – who the hell begrudges a small girlchild the freedom a boychild has, to run and splash and feel cool water and hot sun on the skin? I said, “Sophie, it won’t embarrass me. You can do what you wish.” She let me pull her sweater and jeans off and she and her brother giggled and splashed and played with pressure differential in the many recessed spigots – putting their foot on one to make the others fountain all the higher. They let me know when to warm up the car so I could tuck them into the gloaming and the leather seats and they’d be warm until we got home.
My kids are a reminder that there are people on this planet who have (mostly) only good impulses; who live truly freely, enjoying the gift of Life and enjoying those they love, people who have a light touch and can demonstrate Live & Let Live. Our (Ralph and my) children are unfettered with troubles most of their day, and when they have them they confront them directly and with passion and clarity. They are critical thinkers who are rarely prone to Cynicism (a disease of humanity that causes me much grief). Today in the park I felt a gladness they were in my life, because at times my mind is eaten through with darkness. I truly wish I was smoking whatever they have; I’d be the better off for it.
Do you and your family have any planned daily schedule at all?
I know my question sounds somewhat demanding or accusatory (curse of the Internets), but it’s meant as, “I’m in shock and awe about how you get so much done with no plan”, if in fact you don’t have a plan.
Kylie and I spend most of our day rushing from one place to the next, with me explaining repeatedly that we “don’t have time” or “we’re out of time”. It’s getting very old and I figure it’s my own damn fault. But for things that we pay for (swimming, dance and gym) and even some homeschool group stuff, we need to be places at a certain time. It’s not that Kylie doesn’t want to go, it’s just that she hasn’t quite grasped that the meter’s running.
Just wondering if you have a method of wrangling the Hogaboom clan to meet obligations…even the fun ones.
Ryan, you never sound accusatory to me, just genuinely open and curious.
I do schedule events and get to them – usually on time! Now that my kids are 6 and 8 and I continue to respect their rights and autonomy more and more, pretty much anything any one of us wants to do can be discussed as a family. I also don’t take responsibility to schedule my kids and what they want; I let them lead the way.
This is just as much negotiation as these things can be with adults. Case in point, Nels began to get bored of Homeschool Swim and its relatively regulated scene of wait-your-turn-then-do-this-technique-I-want-you-to-do-just-like-I-tell-you-to-do-it. Today was the last day and I wanted him to partake; he didn’t. I told him it was the last day so he woulnd’t have to be bored through it all anymore after this; I also told him if he didn’t go swimming, he’d have to sit with me in the bleachers as the Y is all persnickety and occasionally craps its pants if a smallish kid isn’t right next to their parents. Nels weighed this over and then told me he would swim, but requested I assist him in dressing down (maybe this was more of the reason he didn’t want to go? I don’t know). I agreed and he went and we all three had a good time.
Letting my kids pick their events and participation isn’t always my dream experience. For instance Sophie quit swim team and I was super-sad to see this happen as she is an excellent swimmer. However I have to trust that she knows best on that one; she gave swim team several seasons and did very well.
She’d been talking about dropping out of soccer (after two seasons as well) but it came up yesterday that she didn’t want to drop soccer, she wanted to pursue gymnastics. I asked her if we could afford both, would she still be interested in soccer? She gave a resounding yes.
Getting kids to events they WANT to go to (or events that I want to go to, and that they can empathize with why I want to go – knowing I won’t force them) is actually pretty easy. I have days, many days, where I’m able to get a tremendous amount of work done and I honestly think this is a result of mutual respect and me not taking the “easy route” of forcing them.
The “we’re out of time” thing happens sometimes but because I work with them they often consent to timelines. I do find myself waiting for my kids to get ready to go. They don’t come at the snap of my fingers every time. If that’s what you want you have to do it differently than we do (or better than we do), because I don’t have that magic ability.
I think I’m on the right track then. It just hasn’t resolved itself yet. We discuss and discuss. I think it sinks in a little more each day. I never force her to do anything, but she reluctantly gives in once I re-explain why we need to get moving or why we can’t do something. She’s probably just testing the fences to see if the “rules” have changed since the day before.
I can’t really compare her with her older sister since I had a completely different outlook on parenting (and life) with her. We still negotiated, but when things got irrational I just “laid down the law” (verbally 99% of the time).
Kylie had her first swim meet and it was rather traumatic for all of us. We weren’t prepared at all. After a year of lessons swimming across the pool with an instructor in the water (including her limited “swim practice”), they put her into a gargantuan pool, swimming length-wise (25m I think) and moving from inside to outside made it a bit chilly by AZ standards. Poor thing tried to stay tough and she DID complete the backstroke and freestyle portions (meanwhile I took my phone out of my pocket just in case). At this point she has made it clear that she is done with swim team. I’ve reassured her that she can quit if she wants to, but I want her to think it over.
Ah well, maybe she’ll try again next year. We’ll leave it up to her.
Ryan, you inadvertently bring up an excellent point there. When our kids run across grownups who do them wrong – by throwing too much at them, or having too high standards or too LOW standards – our attitudes as parents can REALLY help them know if they want to continue with the event/sport/class/etc – to “get back on the horse” after failure – or to leave it aside. I notice the parents who do more “coaching” and feel a stronger need for their kids’ abilities to validate their own egos often serve to create kids who are more fearful, resentful, mistrusting, non-compliant, or – and this is the most heartbreaking – so concerned at seeking approval they have a difficult time developing their own sense of Self.
I’ve found that the more autonomy and support I give my kids – without judgment – the more they try to “get back on the horse” and go for it. It’s like a koan because of course, if I *required* them to get back on the horse for my OWN sense of well-being I would be at cross-purposes to my goal to be their support.
Case in point on Nels’ first bike-riding day (he never used training wheels) he fell over repeatedly and (because he had not taken my suggestion to wear full-length pants) scraped his legs a lot. He’d cry angrily or in pain and I’d hug him and stand with him. With tears still in his voice he’d say, “I have to ride some more!” and get back on; in seconds he’d be happy again. I was not angry with him for refusing to wear pants (nor did I say “I told you so” – and next time he did wear pants – but no shoes, ha ha!); I was totally prepared to love and cuddle him and walk his bike home if he “gave up”; I was prepared to help him in any way he needed. I can’t help but think this general kind of treatment (because of course I am human and fall short often) is one reason my kids are good at taking risks and trying new things. And one reason they are 100% scars and bruises below the knee.
I’m sometimes sad when my kids “quit” something, and I sometimes feel a tension in that I want them to continue. I repeat as my mantra to trust the kids and if I’m really trying to raise kids that “perform” well in some regard well… to put it delicately, I’m kind of being an asshole.
Oh, and if course it sometimes irritates me when they quit something I paid for (like Nels after about three days of Spy Camp) or don’t eat food I bought and made or whatever. I try to remind myself this is my anxiety (over money). When I’ve taken a moment to manage my feelings I sometimes talk with them about the wastefulness of paying for something or cooking something and not using it (ironically, if one is ANGRY while making this point the “lesson” doesn’t take hold – the child is instead hurt or fearful or defensive). I take a light touch with this, of course. The truth is our tuition to Spy Camp helped support the HOCM, a worthy enterprise; in the case of food most leftovers are either consumed by Ralph or our chickens. In other words, I try to educate my kids about the ramifications of changing one’s mind but I also endeavor to have some perpective when I do.
A month after the Spy Camp thing, I was helping Nels with his jacket-buttoning and he looked at me and said, “I’m sorry I quit Spy Camp.” This was a real gift to me. His “sorry” had no guilt. He’d reflected that he’d made a commitment and backed out and it affected other people, is all. I accepted his apology and hugged him and we moved on.