Daily I pore through several feed reader subscriptions, online community discussions, and email newsletters that come my way. Ralph joked the other day sometimes my posted links seem like a lot of work. I have to laugh because of course I never expect any particular reader to read through everything I post (although I am always, always gratified to hear someone tell me my output has supported, engaged, and/or challenged them). But I should mention the links and works I post here or write about in my impeccably-annotated Underbellie articles are a mere fraction of what I often digest – including those things I consume with regularity and hardly ever write about here – like the Mr. X Stitch blog, married to the sea comic, and my Yahoo groups including Ottobre, Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, about four or five various unschooling lists, and a few more.
I am ambivalent about the amount of material I ingest. One one hand this is my brain food which I then process and mess about with through reflection, conversation, and writing (in about that order). On the other hand I wonder if I am synthesizing or consuming this sheer number of things in the most effective way and if this is a smart way to live my life. I guess it’s time for me to dust off that Magic 8 Ball and ask.
Still, this all seems my speed (for now). I don’t much worry about the time these materials take from my daily work. As anyone who reads here knows I do indeed have “a life” outside the internetz* which involves a lot of social time and cooking and family time and friends and neighbor kids and running and other fun fuckeries (the bodywork of running is very helpful for the active brain). And no matter how much I output, it’s very much at speed there too: my buzzing little brain and my 90 wpm typinz (& talking) skills keep me in a state of Flow.
So out of all I read and shared today, for some reason this tag-end of a parenting mini-digest struck a chord with me:
“Paradoxically, when you don’t ‘need’ your child to be happy to prove you’re succeeding, your child will eventually be much happier!”
This might sound paradoxial, or alternatively to some people Boring, but it has absolutely borne itself out in our life with our children and I take a moment to express my gratitude for this.
I used to manage my kids’ feelings quite a bit. I’ve always known this wasn’t probably the right thing to do; breaking the habit is hard. I used to get irritated with their “whining” or their lack of enthusiasm for Household Chores or what I perceived as a lack of “team” effort (such “team efforts” were usually things Ralph and I had decided and apparently expected them to get right on board with, Borg-like rather than being their own people). I admit I still get triggered by my son’s now-relatively rare verbal and loud protestations. I believe I am triggered not because he is especially loud or “unreasonable” (as people like to call children) but because I am still coming off a worldview I used to live by – that my children’s behavior was a direct reflection of my competence as a mother (not just a parent, a mother) or my worth as a person (not just a person, a woman). So Nels complaining or yelling wasn’t just a bit rattling or inconvenient, it was a referendum on my Worth that induced deep-level panic and anxiety (no matter how well or poorly I might have seemed to perform in the moment). I’m sure many parents reading here get what I mean.
Still, I have improved. I can’t speak enough to the freedom and livelihood and ease of living we four have been experiencing together increasingly over the last – I don’t know, six months or a bit more. As might surprise exactly no one, my kids’ “whining” has gone down about tenfold since we started practicing a different lifestyle and their expressed contentment and happiness (and therefore “helpfulness”) has increased proportionately.
Today I got in a brief discussion with a Smarty McPhd-pants regarding parenting. He told me there were all these studies about “strict” vs. “permissive” parenting and my kids might benefit from “permissive” parenting but other kids needed “strict” parenting (so HANDS OFF discussing the subject, as the “well there are all sorts of ways to parent” phraseology is often used). For the record, I believe the “strict” vs. “permissive” parenting is false rhetoric predicated on the concepts there is no third way, that parents are the Authority and any strategy resulting should come from the Top-down and be managed or enacted in a sort of God-like fashion.
I am so, so glad for our sake we started finding that third way (or whatever you’d call it). It’s for that reason I love writing about it so much (sorry if it’s boring!); nothing thrills me more than to think other families might begin to experience what we have.
Before I get too New Agey or touchy-feely on this subject I will just say our household experiences more peace, joy, and liveliness than it did even a year before (and we have always rather enjoyed one another). So today when I read this parenting digest quote I see the truth. That in freeing up narratives and expectations about providing my kids with everything, including Moral Conduct Prescriptives and management for their daily lives/schedules – and in having the resources to feed and house our foursome, a position I strenuously note not every family, sadly, finds themselves – we have indeed released ourselves of quite a bit of stress and our children seem much happier.
As with most large-scale positive improvements there have been adjustments I could not have foreseen and some have not been easy. I need to write about them soon because I have not, not yet. But at this point today I’m feeling very grateful for happier children; a gift I did not anticipate entirely nor could have predicted how exactly I would have manifested. I could write many examples in how this has been lived and experienced, and maybe I will soon.
In other, even more boring Kelly Hogaboom ramblings, I am currently working on a sewing project with a very challenging fabric. It is eating away at my patience and, it must be said, my self esteem. It reminds me a bit – just a bit – of the tough work of baby-birthin’. If you get too worried about the pain of having your body contort through birth you could get scared and unable to manage the Now (I said this project reminded me of birth a little bit, remember?). I am trying to stay focused and move carefully and steadily through the challenges even though I am not happy with them. Soon I will be working on another project, with another fabric – and I’ll feel less crabby.
I’m also going to make a request of any who might comment here. It is not easy for me to say but I am going to anyway. I feel a sense of overwhelm at the moment very much related to A. my difficulty in adjusting to less sunshine (I have learned over the years this really does affect me) and B. issues going on with loved ones in my life. While I am happy to keep comments on my blog open, I’m hoping for gentleness and support in any who choose to comment over the next day or so. Not-commenting is fine too – or even just sharing rather trite, winning stuff – like kittens etc. Because you know what? Kittens Etc. are important. Maybe even essential for some of us. Maybe this is why I have four goddamned cats. Who are seriously a source of joy and silliness and simple, uncomplicated rituals of mutual contentedness.
* Although it always vaguely irritates me when people pick on those whose social lives are very internet-based, as if certain kinds of friendships and social interactions are inescapably less “real” than others – bullshit.