Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Joy of The Water Colour Ponies. Parenting Choices, Failures, Parallel Cultural Choices, Unschooling Choices Translated Into A Cheery Life

The night before an appointment, I casually yelled down the hallway to my boys, "Hey guys if you could make sure mommy is up by (insert time) that would be great!" My nine year old confidently yelled from his bedroom where he was playing, "Got it!" My husband started laughing and I was perplexed on what he was laughing at. He replied, "It's just so cute...that our nine year old is confidently taking responsibility for you being somewhere tomorrow." I started laughing too, "Oh I didn't think of that really- he's just the first one awake early every morning so in case I miss the alarm..." (My daughter was at a sleepover.)

The next morning a full hour before my appointment my twelve year old son comes into my room and says, "He says it's time to get you going mom. I actually think you have an hour but he sent me with some water and he's bringing you your breakfast. I'll open your blinds and you can slowly get ready now."  I love that he even mentioned the word "slowly." He knows me well. Then they both served me, hugged me and promptly left to watch shows and play. I was left with a bemused, barely awake smile on my lips. Perfection.

They usually get me breakfast and come greet me in the mornings anyway with a snuggle and kiss, but typically they wait till after a certain time or when they hear me stirring. They have this strange inner radar. But I thought it was extra adorable that they were making sure I had ample time to wake with a full glass of water and breakfast. Even the way they talked to me was like they were little men. What made it more poignant was the fact that after they went upstairs, they watched Tinker bell.

I don't think to write most of these little moments down. I have a horrid memory in general so I just recall imprints and feelings that my kids are amazing. But my mother and circle of friends who know them best will often remark, "They are sooooo sweet. You have done such a good job with those children." Or "You have always given your children your best and you are always learning new ideas for them. You are a beautiful, informed and sensitive mom, and your children feel that in their heart  and that is a great feeling to have!" *Yes I copied the phrase off text feeds.* or "Your children are so unique and polite. I can't get over it. Especially because they do not go to school or church." That last one makes me laugh a bit but surprisingly we have received it a lot.

You know what I honestly believe? It is not my parenting per se. Charlotte Mason (whom I actually do not read a lot of as I don't adhere to all of her points or beliefs, but I enjoy in small amounts) wrote that, "We attempt to define a person, the most commonplace person we know, but she will not submit to bounds; some unexpected beauty of nature breaks out; we find she is not what we thought, and begin to suspect that every person exceeds our power of measurement." I believe that, perhaps the main factor to such a response to my children, is our protection of their childhood. This site has many great articles that are close to my heart, with this one being of particular value:

I actually can't take a lot of credit for my children. I am constantly astounded by their beauty and unique being. Yes, they can also be rebellious and independent, but I am glad for these moments too, when they feel comfortable enough to flex their own perspectives. My duty is to provide them with alternative ways to destruction. If they are insistent on being disrespectful, I want them to re frame their minds, at the level their brain can handle, to make better choices. In short,  I think there are four major factors I feel we provide that allow them to be so polite, kind, compassionate, responsible yet magically little. These are: freedom, magical play, therapy and the understanding of their inner minds through outside support, and protection of their time by unschooling and many other boundary decisions. As children they truly do exceed the power of measurement.

I know a small handful of children in school who are also this magical and responsible. I don't feel that unschooling is the ONLY way to BE. But I do know that the children who are often the happiest adults, have been provided with some form of freedom, magical play and protection. They actively enjoy more downtime, and have learned it's not what you achieve or do that makes you happy, but your thoughts and perspectives while you do these things. Happiness can be found in any activity or relationship if one knows a combination of boundaries and love.

I also have a unique relationship with my children. They are my friends. Some parents believe this is not the way to conduct this relationship and maybe they are right? If they are happy with their children and their children are happy, who am I to judge what they do? Someone once asked me, "How do you get them to love you so? Why do they share everything with you and hide nothing? Why do they choose to listen generally, not simply out of obedience, but out of something else?" 

The first factor is that I am their main source of relationship during the day, evening and weekends and have been since they have been born, minus a couple wayward years in the school system. Another factor is that, since I am Autistic and an INFJ, I tend to lay it all out there with my tiny inner circle. My husband and children are my tiny inner circle. I tend to verbalize all my inner wonderings, perspectives and oddness. I am unconditionally and positively myself. I goof off, I let them be the boss if I see that they know what they are about, I change my mind a lot because they deserve my consideration...but the main point is that I am just ME. I don't believe that I have a lot of authority as another being over them. I do believe, because I am the adult, that I have responsibility to protect and guide, but I generally don't pull the authority card out of my pocket, because I respect their unique inner guides. Yes, I keep in mind brain growth, which is crucial to their development, but I don't lord my age over theirs. This is why they are so loyally mine. They will not disobey generally because of LOVE. 

My mother often will say, "Argh, they are so afraid to disobey you that they always ask 'Will mom be ok with that?' or 'I have to ask mom' or 'I can't eat that.'" But my kids and I will share a wink or smirk because we know it's more than that. It's not fear. They use me as their scapegoat. I tell them, "If you feel uncomfortable with a friend or anyone else to make a decision, blame me. Pretend your parents are major authority figures. When you are an older teen I will expect you to take more personal reasons but right now- it is your privilege to use me. " If they don't want to eat the sugar or watch the show, they use me. Sometimes they just don't want to go against the life I have set out for them because they know all the reasons why I have guidelines. They respect the guidelines because I have backed them up with reasons. They know why the sugar isn't the best choice for their overall life. They know that a bit of gluten will compromise their immunity. They know that watching a scary show or one they are uncomfortable with messes with both their mind and their sleep. Generally, on the subjects that are not too overloading for them, they are given feedback and reasoning.

Will my children rebel or have miserable lives? It is a possibility and entirely up to them. Do they have a magical and unique childhood infused with love, belonging, and cheer? Definitely. Another question I get is, "Doesn't that approach lack discipline?"

Discipline actually can be learned through play and love. They also get enough of an amount of practice in their daily chores. Chores are what make up most of an adult life- paying bills, making food, cleaning up, ect. I want them to incorporate these aspects into their daily life as something to be happy about. If they learn the skills now when they are little, it's just routine, and they can enjoy doing their chores with ease as an adult. Their happiness will not be compromised by the mundane.

I also don't like to call it discipline- I prefer the term boundaries. And yes, they are important. But making a child practice something for forty minutes a day usually does not inspire the love of that discipline. Sometimes, in certain personalities, it can. Each case is individual but I call that learning how to adhere to authority. I don't want my children to adhere to authority or be robots of society. If a child get's A's in the school system it doesn't mean they are creative or fluidly intelligent. It means they know how to take direction, memorize and adhere to the think tank. There are different types of intelligences, and working with the system is one of them, but not one that I wish my children to be highly successful on. They can respect rules and cultural expectations, but I want them to question, choose parallel cultural choices, and make the best decisions for them to live a life of love. This starts now. 

When my children quit piano years ago they were under seven. Many well intentioned adults told me it was my responsibility to make them stick with it. I was told they were too young to make that decision to quit and it was my job to force it and "they would learn many important values from practice and discipline." I talked to my children and told them, "If you love the piano you will learn the piano eventually. We will keep a piano in our house for fun and anytime you wish to improve I can help you or youtube can help you. Just say the word. You don't need to be a perfect pianist to enjoy the piano. You don't need to have renown in adult life to believe you are gifted. If you play the same song over and over, and you or someone you love, enjoys it, that is enough. If practicing is making you hate the piano then I would like you to forget about it." Also, they have enough time before twenty four, when their brain becomes more concrete and less inclined to new information, to develop a talent or interest if that is what they wish. Heck, it may take more brain power, but there are sixty and seventy year olds who have contributed to the world of art, sport and leisure and they didn't start until they were considered 'over the hill.' Anything is possible. If they died before twenty, before I did, I wouldn't want to look back at all those wasted moments when they could have been focusing on love and beauty. And if we knew they were to die before their adulthood- what would we change? How would our daily lives manifest?

The piano is a beautiful instrument and sometimes practicing is a way to get you ahead but deconstruct WHY you want your children to get ahead? Is it your own ego? Does it say something about a family ideal you always thought would be amazing? Is it because of a future job opportunity? If it is, think outside the box to how you could still make a living but enjoy piano playing. Is it because you want reclaim and renown? Why do you wish for that? What deeper issues are at play? Is there a way those deeper needs can be met without becoming popular? Can you find value elsewhere? Is it because you believe piano players have a certain quality you wish for yourself? How else can that quality be manifested? Does it have to come from playing the piano? Is it simply because you love playing and wish to share that love with the world? If so, fantastic, but then you should be happy, if you do all you can, and end up playing only for a few loved ones and yourself...that should still be enough. Always look deeper. Why are we making our children do something? What attribute do we believe we are growing? What end result? Why is it important? If there is research to back it up, have we read the opposing research? Have we thought enough outside the box of societal expectations? Have we watched the adults whom have chosen a similar choice and seen the results of genuine happiness inside of them? Do we know even what love and happiness mean? Is this stemming from a religious belief? How does that affect our mind? I could go on, but the deeper questions give a few more concrete directions.

I am anything but a perfect parent. But I have pretty amazing, well adjusted, happy kids. They struggle. They have therapy. They have different brains that come with different needs. However, for the most part, they are delighted in the world around them. They engage with compassion and thought. 

In the last few months I have realized that I need to re form some of my parenting choices. I ordered a few books that may help my journey; CLICK HERE For the Whole Brain Child.  Click HERE for The Danish Way of Parenting  CLICK HERE For Simplicity Parenting. (Disclaimer: I haven't read any of these yet, but they seemed along the lines of some new strategies I would like to implement.) I have realized that I could work on sharing less intellectual reasoning with my children. I read them the history of diseases and sexually transmitted diseases and then realized maybe it was a little much. Why was I feeling like I should prepare them? Am I primarily being driven out of fear? Is it a necessary future fear for this moment? If I don't share this with them will they possibly be damaged?

I have taught them about politics and religions...and while some of this is good, some of it probably has increased their world anxiety. Heck, I get stressed if I hear about daily news. It is not good for the human mind to deal with more stress then what is in the immediate environment. I looked at this as informed and well adjusted. But then I asked myself WHY do I view that as informed and well adjusted? Do my children need to know the craziness of the world and it's possibilities in order to contribute to the world?  To keep them safe? Do they?!? When reading the article from Raised Good, I had an 'aha' moment. I realized I need to back off for awhile. I need to protect their last few years of true childhood and save that information for a later date. I am going to try to discipline my loose tongue of information and advice giving and focus on their innocence for awhile. Educating and enhancing the love of learning and life is one thing, but giving information simply to prepare is quite another. I was unfortunately caught up in  the second. It's not that I can't be a flawed parent. My children are well aware that mommy makes mistakes. Which also makes them love me more as I regularly admit this and re adjust. It is simply that I have to consistently re shift my own perspectives and flaws to enhance the love flowing in my life. Life giving water is flowing, never stagnant, and thus perspective and love require the same for growth.

In the end, it's savouring the seconds of this one precious life. Time is ticking and that shouldn't stress me but instead give more meaning to the purpose of love and beauty. Currently, my one son is napping after a brief meltdown and my youngest is complaining in my ear about cleaning his room. With Dyspraxia cleaning is so much more than cleaning. I know this because I also have Dyspraxia, but I am trying to encourage him to listen to his music with headphones and as he is dusting each item to look at it and be thankful for it. If he doesn't feel thankful or cheered by said object, I tell him he should consider putting it in the passing on pile for another child who may find it cheery. In this way he will be present, and hopefully grateful, while doing this once a week task. He of course rolled his eyes at me a bit but then he smiled sheepishly and said, "I guess I can do that." His little eyes blinking behind his Potter glasses, make me want to go do it all for him, but I know that if I do this too often for him, he will never fully embrace the mundane. The mundane CAN sometimes just be mundane, but whenever it can be made into beauty or resilience- I wish for that moment for them and myself. Because half or more of life would be miserable if it was just "getting through the moment." I guess, in parenting and life in general, I wish to re adjust for the joy of them and for the love of all that is good and beautiful. Because the magic of childhood wonder, play and innocence is comparatively short to the numbered adult years ahead and I believe that the early years help form the later ones.

After reading this post to my children, as I often do, my eldest son piped up, "How come when everybody talks about their children, they are trying to prove their points about parenting? Even when they are saying they make mistakes they are still believing a lot in their choices?" I laughed. Parenting is personal. I would actually be appalled if all the world went to unschooling for a myriad of reasons, but I do like people to consider alternatives. I also consider the beauty in the systems to a degree, but because they are majority, I tend to be a voice for the minorities. I don't want this post to just be telling people what to do. I am sharing what works for me and what I have had to work on and what I enjoy celebrating. However, I am not trying to prove a point that this is the only way to be a parent. Anyone who knows me, will agree that I respect any life that is compassionately thought out and lived our of growth and love. I share because when we share our stories, we contribute to the collective. When we give perspective we grow our own inner being. I admit, my INFJ perspective giving can not help but consistently think, re adjust and give advice. It's the communication of my soul but I dole it out to myself too.:) I firmly believe take what feels right or consider what makes you angry, and then implement what matters and let go of the rest! We all fight for the future well being of our children and greater understanding of their Being and Love. That fact unites us, no matter how differently we may go about it. 

What choices have been re adjusted lately in your life or parenting? Does asking the deeper questions enable love infused answers? 

Disclaimer: I have a lot of disclaimers today! Lol...the song I chose DOES have religious origin from my childhood and I obviously ignore a few of the lines, but it is still a song I listen to a lot with teary eyes. It's still beautiful even if I do not adhere to every single line. *I translate some lines into my own language because love is universal. 
Watercolour Ponies by Wayne Watson.:
There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerator door
And the shape of something, I don't really recognize
Brushed with careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies
Seems an endless mound of laundry and a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence for the Lord (* I translate this to a love reverence of LIFE)
But baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you?
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watchin' the children growin' is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowin' the watercolour ponies will one day ride away
And the vision can get so narrow, as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause ( *I translate this to the cause of Love.)
But still I wonder baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you?
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watchin' the children growin' is mixed with a bitter cup

Of knowin' the watercolour ponies will one day ride away...
Wayne Watson"

Read more:  Wayne Watson - Watercolour Ponies Lyrics | MetroLyrics, How does a moment last forever- Celine Dion 


Anonymous said...

I grew up with my mama loving having us home over holidays and always heard her say how she just couldn't wrap her mind around understanding when her friends just couldn't wait for their kiddos to get back to school. She too understood that everyone was different, but it made my heart so happy to know she loved being around us,❤️ I get more and more perturbed by the notion that everyone feels like they need to conform to a set pattern in life and in parenting. Not to the extent that it consumes me. Haha. Just that I have a deep seeded desire to not buy into it.- R

Anonymous said...

Hi KMarie -

your approach reminds me so much of mine as a parent. And since my daughter is 29 I can happily reassure you that it works out great. Yes, we had a year of major rebellion when she was 17 but even that wasn't so bad - she knew where the limits were even in rebelling.

We've since talked a lot about how she was raised, how much responsibility my husband and I gave her to make her own choices and to fail or take responsibility for ones that didn't work out so well and she said it not only taught her how to eventually be an adult but also made her less likely to do the kind of "dumb stuff" her friends were doing because having to be responsible for your choices is way scarier than just getting grounded for something. :D

We always gave her the reasons for why we expected she would do this or that, but ultimately it was up to her to make those choices.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share a bit of perspective from a little farther on down the parenting road. Even though I can see you know in your heart the wisdom of your approach. :) -C

Kmarie A. said...

Dear R:
I have never understood- even when my kids were small and a lot of work, why parents couldn't wait for holidays away from their kids...or wanted to pass them off to the grandparents. It baffled me a lot. Yes sometimes I wished for some rest but never wanted to be apart from kids for long. I ADORE being around my kids even when it is tough.... the set pattern of parenting seems to be to push away to independence as much as possible and it is so frustrating...

Hey C:
It is SO refreshing to hear from someone whose child is almost my age and thriving based on a similar approach. I get so much flack for mine and so much resistance that sometimes I do wonder if I am doing a good thing...but then I remind myself I have to honour myself and my kids. But your experience helps so much. YAY. I always give reasons too and loads of freedom even though they are at home they are their own beings and they get to even chose most of their schedules or what they do with their days within certain parameters which helps too...Thank you!

S said...

Dear Kmarie,
This is one of your best post and best writing, Kmarie ! I am not a parent yet, but I am inspired by your outlook on parenting. You have described in details many points and topics on parenting which I found to be very informative and thought provoking. Although parenting styles and personality types differ from person to person, yet, if this post is read with utmost attention and on its own merit, it is an eye opener and other parents have something to learn from it !! Keep writing and inspiring us!

Kmarie A. said...

Awww thank you S. You are always so good to my soul. Thank you for finding them informative and provoking. Yay! I can't get over your deep words of affirmation- so lovely. Thank you for listening, being attentive and reading:) xoxo

Ashe said...

I think the reason why us parents try so hard to validate and justify our parenting choices is because of how very, very rude and dominating other people are. As humans, we like to write about things that we like, and as parents we like our kids, but kids are such a controversial subject it's hard to attract anything but unpleasant people at times! A lot of folks have some serious control issues, and if you're not living life the way they approve, then shame on you for choosing to be a rebellious social leper. Most of us get tired of that, so explaining ourselves is the only polite way to say "bugger off". Which is why my justification is usually "different things work for different people, so you have to find what works best for you and your family". As an INTJ who fancies herself something of a friend to you, my only interest is in efficiency and saving energy, 'cause your issues leave you more wore out than my issues leave me. =P

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe: Yes very true. Telling our stories is important but sometimes being defensive isn't... and different people will interpret that different ways. I completely agree with your statement....Lol:) thanks. And yes you are a friend...not sort of at all:)