blah blah blah, but there are two kissing bunnies at the end, promise

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 OttobreLost 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.

dominator lite – it’s TEH LOGIKAL

Today I get this automated newsletter in my inbox:

Dear Kelly,

I can still remember how I felt as a child upon seeing the very first “back-to-school” advertisement on TV. While a bit sad over the fact that summer vacation was almost over, I always felt a strange sort of relief knowing that before long I’d be doing something more exciting.

Summer was fun at first, then it got really boring. Only as an adult have I learned that my parents actually planned it that way. Their idea was to create a two-part summer: Part one was filled with fun: fun that helped us recharge our batteries after a long, hard school year. Part two was filled with a good amount of boredom and plenty of chores: dull duties that helped us really look forward to being able to escape to school in the fall.

On the first day of school will your kids go into shock when they are expected to sit at their desks, listen to their teachers, and complete assignments? Or, will they experience a sense of relief, thinking, “Wow! This sure is easier and more fun than being at home!”

As the school year looms large, might it be wise to begin making your home more boring and more chore-laden? Wise teachers know that kids who are used to doing plenty of chores at home are far more likely to excel at doing plenty of work at school.

In his CD, Didn’t I Tell You To Take Out the Trash?!, my father, Jim Fay, teaches simple techniques for getting kids to do their chores without reminders and without pay. If you want a happier home, and happier, more responsible kids, this CD is a must.

Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend or visit www.loveandlogic.com/join to sign up.

Dr. Charles Fay

If you’ve read here long enough you might be able to predict a bit about how our autodidactic principles inform my response to such an email. My first thought was Wow, that’s a lot of work. “Let” your kids have a bunch of fun at the beginning of summer, but make sure toward the end to set the thumbscrews with “boredom” and “plenty of work” as to make enforced schooling look better. This is all so the kid will go to school with a willing heart and mind, not because they wholly look forward to school and want it with every fiber of their integrity, body and soul, but because you’ve made the environment in their own home an unappealing one. Bonus, you got them to do a bunch of the dreaded WORK around the house while you did it! Yessiree, it’s a lot to be the Grand Poobah Manipulator but as you can see, it pays off, especially how it can create a teetering facade of having “good” kids who are Hard Workers, a family that’s “in it together”, etc. etc.

My second series of thoughts and feelings involved my gratitude for the life my family leads; my kids get to daily “recharge their batteries” in the methods they chose which they themselves are most primed to intuit as necessary. Their education is self-obtained with my assistance and loving help (when it is needed). Summer is just as much fun as fall and learning happens willingly and all the time. These days work (not “chores”) are done with a deep sense of personal commitment and gladness and no small amount of humor at the everlasting natures of our Work*.

I’m glad I still get these email updates. The institution that sends them out and writes the books and sells the CDs and gives the talks and events and all that is very popular in my peer group. Not that long ago my husband and I sat in a class facilitated by this Parenting Expert school of thought and a lot of it made sense to us. There seemed so much right with what we were hearing at the time: kids shouldn’t be coddled; there are too many kids who don’t “grow up right” because their parents “do too much for them”. Children shouldn’t be allowed to be sneaky or rude or shirk on chores without consequence. You should be the boss (a loving boss, but still the boss), and maybe most selling to my vulnerable heart, making your kids do work in the home is the only way to prepare them for the Real World.

I am hardly the first person to expose in any way some of the underpinnings of yet another school of parenting strategies to provide simple, clear techniques for getting compliance from our children – while relying on dominating techniques to do so. Many leaders, child workers, psychologists, and qualified smarter-than-I individuals far more experienced than I have weighed in on the phenomenon. Writer Alfie Kohn calls such schools of thought with regards to education “Assertive Discipline, […] essentially a collection of bribes and threats whose purpose is to enforce rules that the teacher alone devises and imposes.”

When it comes to similar parenting techniques, here’s what Kohn has to say in Chapter Four of his book Unconditional Parenting:

A number of consultants, meanwhile, have responded to the understandable reluctance of many parents to use punitive tactics by repackaging them as “consequences.” In some cases, the change is purely semantic, the implication being that a friendlier name will make the same practices less offensive. But sometimes we’re told that if the punishments are less severe, or “logically” related to the misbehavior, or clearly spelled out in advance, then they’re okay to use-and, indeed, shouldn’t be considered punishments at all.

Kohn talks further about such techniques – which can have slippery names and terminology – and their listed principles and consequences in Chapter 4 of his book Beyond Discipline, a chapter called “Punishment Lite: ‘Consequences’ and Pseudochoice.”

Most parents I personally know employ various forms of Assertive Discipline.

I wish I could render artfully, dear reader, how carefully almost everyone I’ve talked to dances around the subjects of the domination and subjugation of children. It’s something I’ve only recently begun to notice. Since many American adults in my peer groups are squeamish about hitting children they have a separate category called “spanking”; it is elementally different, see, and apparently the ONLY way to make sure a toddler won’t run in front of an oncoming truck (much like the “ZOMG noisy children in restaurantz!!11!” example, this is often trotted out with no imagination or variance and often entirely hypothetical – very Weak Sauce, people). Parents who don’t spank and literally never hit or grab or forcibly pick up their children with semi- and unapologetic regularity employ more fascinating methods of manipulation and coercion. Immediately recognizable versions are “time outs” and “natural consequences” and stickers and rewards and charts* and “I’d love to help you but, sad, bummer – I can’t because blah-blah-blah” (my husband and I still employ this bit of douchery now and then – it’s hard to shake).

In writing here I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for how shitty they’re parenting.*** I am so NOT wanting to do that I’m going to leave these two sentences all by themselves.

I write because I’m sorting through this stuff – me. It’s my journey. I am not putting down parents. I am a parent! I am doing this work! I am failing, daily, in eschewing limited and harmful practices! I have at times resorted to every type of strategy I just wrote about – and a garden variety of other shittery I often detail here in this journal!

But I am in the position to improve and to do better; to resist the passed-down traditional tropes most people I know adhere to. I know some parents who are part-dead inside; that is, parenting is for them exhausting and kind of humorless and at times scary and “thankless”. But all parents I know, as far as I can tell, love their children deeply.  They are doing the best they know how, and they make mistakes, then they get back on the horse. Mistakes don’t concern me; we all make them. It’s the traditional parenting schemas that I question and anaylze – the secondary reason I write is to provide exposure to better ideas than the ones I (we) had the day before (the primary reason I write is to keep a personal journal).

And these traditional parenting/teaching strategies, most parents and carers literally think there is no better way, that any other approach is Impossible or Impractical or will result in the Village of the Damned Children. Sure, maybe some of the manipulations and hand-holding and Requisite Omnipresence and punitive measures don’t sit right or don’t feel quite right, and certainly with some parent-child combos the problems get worse and the punishments (whatever you choose to call them) become increasingly convoluted or tricky to employ or downright scarily-received, and sure your “well-behaved” child exhibits deep rages or sorrows and you wonder Where did this come from? But… these other ways this Kelly Hogaboom or whomever talks about, these are Silly or Hippie or Trashy or Elitist or Too Complex or Too Simplified or Too Lazy or Too Work-Intensive.

But: really? These ideas I’ve been studying and employing? They really have made things better in our family – in so many ways. And I write because I know I help make other people’s lives better.

And by the way? I always have to epilogue this: my kids are great. Not stellar human beings that make people fall to their knees weeping: just garden-variety Great Kids. They are not lazy. They are full of life, not cynicism and subtle cruelties. They so rarely say they are bored (I don’t know if Nels has ever said it). They are not unprepared. They handle the Real World better than many (adults and children) I meet. They are not more rude or Lord of the Flies or more “disrespectful” or “selfish” than other kids (in fact I frequently get compliments on their behavior).

Finally: get this. The book I cited, Beyond Discipline, was written in 1996. Six years before I squatted out my first child. And Kohn is talking to teachers – you know, people who have to round up a classroom full of all sorts of kids from all sorts of backgrounds, professionals who have many obstacles stacked against them to do their job (I think the teaching environment is harder than ever). Kohn is tackling ALL that, tackled it years ago – and here I am struggling with my little family, just getting up on the learning curve.

I feel humbled. And assy. Here I am just getting started on doing things a better way. For my own two kids.

What am I doing typing away here? Time to head to the library.

H/T to Scott Noelle for his phrase, “Dominator Lite”.

* I am still struggling with the nature of “chores” and will soon write about it.

** Note: having stickers in your home does not make you a jerk.

*** Hello! Yesterday I leaned down and whispered very mean words to my son – well I said I was very angry and he was being totally rude – at which point he curled up inside himself and stifled tears and started “behaving” better, and I immediately felt bad, but fortunately we both knew this, and he put his arms up and I held him and I said I’m sorry. I let myself and my kids down often, and I always apologize and, sadly, that’s my “good enough” some days, so don’t be coming to me claiming I think I’m some Awesome parent who’s “evolved” past whatever). Parents already feel shitty enough and beleaguered enough and I’m not setting myself up as Best Mom Ever, and never have.

Pools of sorrow waves of joy / Are drifting thorough my open mind / Possessing and caressing me

I’m re-reading a favorite book of mine: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (thank you Abi for giving it to me years ago!). A more perfect book for Kelly God-damned Hogaboom can simply not be found. I liked it so much I immediately went out to find her previous work, The Secret History, which was also excellent, but since two awesome things have to have a favored choice (kind of like would I rather make out with Mads Mikkelsen in his viking-beard-and-skirt or as the tortured expatriate relief worker with a tragic secret?), I’ve gotta say The Little Friend wins out.

I’m sorry, I have to take a minute to recover from those Mikkelsen image searches.

So anyhow, I love finding a book I can read over and over and over because it’s kind of rare. I felt this way about A Prayer For Owen Meany before Irving’s sexism became simultaneously too annoying and snore-inducing to weather.  I can still read the Lord of the Rings books over and over, yes with the snooty British professorial bit and the weird imperialism and omission of lady-agency and, well, dorkiness I suppose. We only own a handful of books on a tiny corner shelf my father built for me the year before he died. Books are one of the many, many things I don’t own in a long line of things I refuse to own because “stuff” terrifies me and besides, we’ve moved three times in a year and don’t own our home and I’m still (mentally and emotionally) semi-nomadic AND please, we have so many mouths to feed and maybe keeping a home-order is one way I cope with this. My children have more books than I do; mostly we rely on librarying up like no one’s business.

Today I took the kids to see Circus Gatti – the first time we’ve been to a circus in a handful of years. Held at our huge wooden stadium here in HQX it was one of those dissociative moments of thinking how fucked-up our world is but also being stunned at the beauty of it, twisted and all. The finale act two elephants performed and stood on their hind feet to booming Latin/urban hip hop and I felt conflicting and equally strong emotions: sick with myself I was supporting likely unethical animal-husbandry, impressed with the athleticism of the hardworking circus employees, unaccountably embarrassed by the socioeconomic markers of working class we continue to evidence (by being at the circus in the first place and being unable to afford all the trappings my kids wanted), blessed and amazed by my stunned and vivid children who shouted and ran about and bought what confectionary they could afford ($4 bought cotton candy) and performing somersaults on the bright green. Pheonix also knew way more about elephants and the training therein than I’d realized.  I sat comfortably on the wooden bleacher and held my son in my arms and felt dizzy from both the height and expanse of the stadium (I am slightly agoraphobic) and the mixture of my emotions and let’s face it, only a small handful of snap peas and a slice of cheese for breakfast.

Afterwards the circus emptied out more quickly than one could have predicted; the children took me to the nearby school playground and frolicked some more. I went back for the car (I only had use of it one half day this week) and when I got back sat patiently as the kids made their way to me (not at all promptly after I called). As a finale the Boy first did an impressive monkey-bar feat and then hopped down; when I clapped he beamed at me and pulled his shoes off the hood then opened the car door and buckled in. The children asked, “Where are we going now?” To the grocery store (where I let them pick out fruit, whatever they wanted). Then home, in the sunshine, together.

OMG Kids running in parking lots!

A reader writes me an email, May 2010.

Kelly,

Somehow I got off on a tangent when replying to your post and typed out what you see below. I felt like I was hijacking your post, so I pulled it and decided to email it to you instead:

This is merely an observation about kids and parenting in general, so please don’t take it the wrong way (I know you won’t). I’m trying to point out the thought process that many parents must go through when they witness things outside of their comfort zone.

When I see these pictures[1. These.], I put [my child] K. in Nels’ place. I see my daughter sitting precariously on the edge of a table with some large scissors that are most likely hella sharp. Because I know K., my fear is that she may leap (or fall) from the table with these sharp blades or might cut herself while using them. This is because she is almost always in motion and isn’t very good with scissors yet.

Now, some parents take the next step and assume (subconsciously or not) that Nels may meet similar consequences by projecting their own child’s abilities onto him. In my case, I am aware that Nels is most likely around hella sharp scissors all the time and probably uses them relatively skillfully as well, so I can let go of my anxiety. If I had witnessed this in person and didn’t know anything about Kelly and Nels I might ask a question that would direct Kelly’s attention to Nels. If Kelly shows no indication of danger, I would assume that Nels is capable of handling the scissors safely, again letting go of my anxiety.

Time and again I see this from the other side when we visit “the Walmart”. We typically walk down the sidewalk between parked cars toward the store. As we approach the crosswalk that crosses the main drag of the parking lot in front of the store, K. breaks into a sprint. Here’s the problem, I know that she will stop before reaching the crosswalk because we have gone over it many times and she always stops, but the people driving by don’t know this. Often, they freak out and slam on their brakes, then direct their anger toward K. and me. At no time was she in danger, but because they assumed she would run into the street, they respond with their own anxiety about the situation. In fact, I think they are actually angrier because she stopped. They feel stupid for overreacting, but somehow it’s still my fault.

Here is how I handle this differently. If I am driving and I see a kid running toward the street (even if it’s at the last moment and I slam on my brakes), I don’t get angry or think the kid is dumb or the parent is neglectful. I just stop and wait for the road to be clear. I don’t see the point in getting all worked up over something that ended well. How is me honking or yelling going to make the situation better? I’m not saying that I’m always Mr. Cool. If I’m having a bad day I may overreact, but that’s my own deal, not theirs.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I wish people could calm down and consider situations before reacting. Whether it’s in traffic, or while witnessing a child being disciplined in public, or whatever, consider the fact that you don’t know the whole story and leave room for the possibility that although it may not be “ideal” behavior, there may be a reason for it that you don’t understand.

I can’t remember what book it’s from (probably a Malcolm Gladwell book), but I can try to paraphrase the story.

The writer described a scene on a subway train where a father was letting his kids run wild. They were climbing on the seats, bumping into people, making a lot of noise…being kids. The writer could see the other passengers getting more and more irritated, so he decided to say something to the father. I can’t remember what he said, but the father responded with, “Yes, you’re right. I suppose I should be doing something. They lost their mother this morning and we’re still in shock about the whole thing.” The writer of course felt like crap and offered to help if he could.

Obviously, this extreme example isn’t always the case. But whether the person is dealing with a crisis or is simply being a jerk, how does getting angry about it help anyone?

Ok…that was kinda convoluted and irrelevant. Sorry about that. I’ve just been getting fed up with people passing judgement and getting angry for no reason lately.

Hello R.,

I’m sorry it took a while for me to email back. I have been swamped with correspondance and writing and emails!

I think your assessment is spot-on. Some people live with these assumptions (usually to the lowest common denominator of “You can’t/shouldn’t trust kids to do anything, because they can’t/shouldn’t”) and this becomes a toxic element. Instead of opening their minds or asking questions or taking a lighter touch in these situations, they assume the worst (about kids and parents) and operate from there.

Your experience with K. in parking lots is a precise experience I’ve had myself with my children. I recently had another parent write who’d had an identical issue in a parking lot in DC. Here’s the funny thing. Parking lots are a place where cars, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and scooters, those with carts, and bicycles all negotiate space. In these stories with children, space was successfully negotiated. Why then the hate?[2. Because in America, cars are blameless, holy creatures and the rest shall scurry and scatter like chaff from golden wheat.]

I read the most wonderful articles referring to “adult privilege” today. I share them here and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

“Mothers to BHG Author – Thou Shalt Not Tell Us You Hate Our Kids” at lactivistleanings.com

“My Child Takes Up Space at womanist-musings.com

Thank you again for writing, as always!

someone’s bringing it lately

Lenore Skenazy from Free Range Kids has lightening-fast tweeted and posted a few wonderful articles in the last twenty four hours.  Even though I rarely do a linkdump here on my personal blog, these have been edifying and encouraging reads.

I’ve thought about the support I receive from most vocal quarters regarding the trust and freedom we Hogabooms give our children. Sadly, on any subject we tend to encamp with those who share our same views, fears, trepidation, and judgments. But I wish every middle-class parent/caregiver who kept their child under wraps – in what I would consider the typical style of many Americans – would read this piece: “What The Authorities Can Do If We ‘Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There'” a guest post by Trip Gless at Free Range Kids. Gless gives a parent’s perspective on children’s freedom (to walk about town, to go to the park, etc) which includes some “child neglect” statistics, the intent of neglect laws and their confluence with the ogre of molestation and Stranger Danger, and CPS investigation and response to child neglect calls. Rather timely for us I need hardly say, as the article was posted yesterday, the same day of our little CPS visit for Nels’ jaunt to the bus station.

A brief review of the film Babies (2010) at babble provoked so many feelings inside me. First, I am excited to see this film and I have a feeling I will love it. Second, I feel such sadness that when my children were babies I did not have the wisdom then that I do now. Yes, yes, I know, the hindsight so many parents voice, yadda yadda. But for me the pain, although not overwhelming, is acute. I could have enjoyed things much more, I could have been an activist much earlier, and my children could have had a heck of a lot better baby- and toddlerhood. Looking around me I see Americans doing silly, unnecessary, and arduous things around the care of our children due to misguided, harmful, and socially-enforced agendas (please note, I don’t necessarily find these Americans themselves silly, most of them care very much about their children); when I had my own babies I fell prey to many of these things as well (perhaps fodder for a future post). My thoughts and aim these days are to help any individual family so that they can have an improved, empowering, and more dignified family life – whatever their circumstances (in fact just this morning I have two messages in my email queue seeking assistance on these subjects). Yet despite daily positive experiences, sometimes brand-new or not-yet parents ask me for advice or perspective and I feel lost; anything I have to give will likely be lost in the sea of cultural messages they have been getting since far before they ever thought consciously about the responsibilities, work, and joy of caring for another human being.

Sierra at Strollerderby’s babble blog featured a wee piece entitled “Will you be arrested for leaving your kid alone the park?”, which outlines briefly what legally constitutes “neglect” in our United States (so many people I know believe there’s a legal prescribed age a child can be left alone; I think parents sometimes find comfort in this imaginary “rule” as it alleviates them from making their own choices). More importantly, in this brief little blurb Sierra tells us why she’s willing to take the (small) risk of “getting in trouble” for allowing her children a park playdate. And I applaud her for this.

And now to my emails and – joy! – our first day back to Homeschool Sports, which I have been looking forward to probably even more than my children.

Kids’ safety: “one conversation at a time”

Originally posted as a comment on FreeRangeKids’ post, “One (Frustrating, Makes Me Want to Yank My Hair Out) Conversation At A Time”:

Just an hour ago I was with my youngest shopping for thread at the quilt store.  The proprietress – whom I *adore*, she and I have a great friendship – asked about my eldest child (we homeschool so I often have the kids with me out and about).  I said she was out and about riding a bus to the bakery and back home.

So then the proprietress does the – “[gasp!] You let her out ALONE?” and I’m feeling pretty confident – because I really do feel good about our lifestyle – so I say, “Yeah, we ride the bus together all the time. She knows what’s she’s doing.” and the woman responds, “Well, I’m sure she does.  But I’d be nervous about *predators*!”

I’ve had the most success in conversations like this saying, “Yeah, many people really *do* worry about that,” and not saying anything more and listening to the response.  Because usually people just seem to want to vent their fears.  They aren’t ALWAYS (or even that often) responding to me and my choices, they’re venting a bit of that “world is a scary place” stuff they live with.  (I’m not excusing those who perpetrate fear from their role in the larger picture of a fear-based culture, fear-based news, etc…  I’m just saying that I have compassion for people needing to vent).  So anyway, usually I just kind of bounce back with, “I hear this is a concern of yours,” type of response, and that seems to keep the friendship and conversation intact without going into a content debate – FACTS about dangers to children, etc.  Which a surprising number of people seem not that interested in discussing (as I’ve also seen here on this site with some of the comments).

Back to my conversation with the proprietress.  This time I went a bit further and I responded by saying:  “Well, I don’t really worry about that.” The problem is I feel like I came off worse for saying that.  She gave me a goggle-eyed stare and I swear I looked like a mom who is Woefully Naive or maybe, Doesn’t Care About Her Children.  I mean for all I know my worldview IS rubbing off on this woman – who knows.  But at the time I felt pretty judged and Othered.

What I’ve noticed though is that if I quote safety statistics (thank you, Lenore and many others!) in a conversation like this, THAT doesn’t seem to impress or convince anyone…  so honestly sometimes I don’t know what response I *should* have.

(I have also tried the, “Wow, it sounds like you think you care more about the safety of my child than *I* do,” which also works very well – I say it nicely, not like a jerk, promise).

Would love any feedback from the smart readers and commentators here.