This post is for everyone who tried to tell me how life "Had To Be". I'm here to tell you - YOU'RE WRONG (That's right - I used the correct "You're", as in: YOU. ARE. WRONG. I did have to stop and think about it though. Those homophones and contractions can trip all of us up, no matter our "intelligence" level.)
Truth be told, I feel pretty bad for parents, families, and kids who believe all of the above is True. Recently, an acquaintance posted on a local group that she and her kids were going to miss the weekly park get together (something that is probably a really fun, regular part of this family's life) because there were lots of tears that morning over the math lesson. I feel sad that this is accepted as normal. I feel sad because 1) Many believe that math has to be taught/forced on children (my multiplying, adding, and counting children beg to differ!) and 2) This belief causes distress in children and families that is entirely avoidable and unnecessary! I wish people could open their minds to these ideas so they and their children could suffer less and enjoy life more.
But as we all know - you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. The information is available; people are sharing and the alternatives are out there. But I have to remember that people can choose to keep believing in whatever they want to. So yes, I feel sad and bad for people but I also want to shake people a little bit. Even if it means making them uncomfortable or losing a few "friends" along the way. Because these are CHILDREN we are talking about and the future of our whole world.
I know that no matter how I say this people will say I am being judgmental. They're probably right. But please know that I always try to see all people with love in my heart. I UNDERSTAND why people think and do and believe what they do. I get it. For most of those things I wrote above, I used to believe exactly the same things! But I have realized that the only thing I can do is to keep nicely saying, "You're wrong - your life, your children's life, THE WORLD, doesn't HAVE TO BE the way you keep saying it does. It's not true. You can keep believing and acting any way you want, and it will not change this Truth."
I also want to be very clear that I am not arrogant to believe that I can predict the future. I do not know what challenges the future may hold for my children or family. I do not believe that "my way" will make us immune from pain or difficulties. I have no idea what paths my children are going to choose in the future or what mistakes they or I or my husband will make in the future. In fact, I don't believe there are ANY guarantees in life and I know there are no "re-dos". And that is EXACTLY why I choose every day to buck the norms even though it may seem crazy to some (most?) Because we only have today and the relationships that we have built up to this moment and carefully continue to work on. I actually know someone who got hit by a bus and died last year. Let me repeat that - HIT BY A BUS, and DIED. That's it - her life is over. Her daughter is only a couple years older than Marisol. I used to remember that expression to remind myself to live in the moment, "You never know! You could get hit by a bus tomorrow!" and now I can't really use it anymore, because it hits way too close to home. But it's true. This is why we MUST change if we are to feel any happiness and peace in our lives.
I know I'm rambling. I'm pretty good at that. Maybe I've annoyed some people. Maybe some want to argue with me about why I'M WRONG. That's ok. But maybe I've helped someone see a new perspective. Maybe someone is curious about how this way of living can possibly work - because they haven't seen anyone do things this way. And if that happens - then it's worth it.
Please consider your choices very carefully. You will not get a chance to go back and parent your children a different way. You only get this one time.
The other day Marisol wanted to go on the trampoline. Normally as soon as she's ready, Gerry jumps at the chance (literally and figuratively! ha.) But in this instance he didn't want to right at that moment. He was busy playing with the awesome Eagle Talon Castle that his new friend let him borrow. The thing is - both kids want someone with them. They don't want to be alone. So if the other doesn't want to play with them, then they BOTH want ME. Since I haven't yet figured out how to be in two places at once, we were at an impasse. We discussed different options but neither wanted to wait on *their* particular plan/desire. Usually what I do in this cases is admit, "I don't know what to do!" I restate what they both want. I ask for their ideas too. That day, in a moment of inspiration I suggested that we bring the castle outside. Gerry agreed. Marisol happily bounced on the trampoline. Yoshi joyfully ran to find her ball. I was happy to be outside and finding a way to help everyone get what they want.
This is what consensual living looks like in our house.
The idea of consensual living is unfamiliar to most people in our culture. We are used to the ideas of voting and "majority rule". We see this kind of system as normal and "fair." Well, actually what we say to make people feel better when they don't get their way (you know, the minority) is that "Life isn't fair."
But as the following passage from Mandela's Democracy indicates, the kind of mentality and "democracy" we're accustomed to can leave a very unhappy and disgruntled minority. He describes a different way (all bold emphases are mine):
"It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard: chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and labourer. People spoke without interruption, and the meetings lasted for many hours. The foundation of self-government was that all men were free to voice their opinions and were equal in their value as citizens. (Women, I am afraid, were deemed second-class citizens.)… At first, I was astonished at the vehemence—and candour—with which people criticized the regent. He was not above criticism—in fact, he was often the principal target of it. But no matter how serious the charge, the regent simply listened, not defending himself, showing no emotion at all. The meetings would continue until some kind of consensus was reached. They ended in unanimity or not at all. Unanimity, however, might be an agreement to disagree, to wait for a more propitious time to propose a solution. Democracy meant all men were to be heard, and a decision was taken together as a people. Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be crushed by a majority. Only at the end of the meeting, as the sun was setting, would the regent speak. His purpose was to sum up what had been said and form some consensus among the diverse opinions. But no conclusion was forced on people who disagreed. If no agreement could be reached, another meeting would be held… As a leader, I have always followed the principles I first saw demonstrated by the regent at the Great Place. I have always endeavoured to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the regent’s maxim: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go on ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."
Consensual living is a philosophy derived from the principles of consensus decision-making which advocates a consent-based approach to conflict resolution. The process of finding solutions in this model usually includes the communication of individual needs and the brainstorming of possible solution which will successfully address the needs of all parties, based on finding a common preference. CL adopts the democratic principle of equality by which the wants and needs of everyone involved are considered equally in the process of problem solving, regardless of an individual’s age or position. Because of this stance, CL is sometimes regarded as a parenting philosophy, where children are considered to have an equal say in family decision making.
I have another story of a time when my family worked really well together to find a solution that worked.
We were on vacation last September in Lake Norman, NC. It was the four of us, Yoshi, and my parents. Mike and I made plans to go into Charlotte to go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. My parents would puppy sit Yoshi since we didn't want to leave her for too long in the crate. Well, we had told our kids about the Hall of Fame, but it hadn't been clear that Grandma and Grandpa weren't coming.
Marisol was not happy with this plan. She really wanted to be with her Grandparents. But she did not want to stay home with them either. We were at an impasse. It would have been easy to get frustrated at this point and exasperated. We could have tried to force our way. But instead we listened and we talked. It took a bit of brainstorming and a few conversations between me and Mike, Marisol, and my parents, but we did come up with a solution that everyone was happy with! Mike, the kids, and I would leave first and go to the Hall of Fame while my parents stayed behind for a couple of hours with Yoshi. Then they would drive to Charlotte to meet us for dinner (at Dale Jr.'s restaurant, of course!)
Ok, well I take it back. Yoshi probably wasn't THRILLED with this plan, but her needs were met adequately.
I remember feeling so good that day because we were able to communicate and make a plan that everyone felt good about. How awesome is that? I remember that I had just read about Tribal cultures where they discuss until everyone agrees. The process can take a long time - and by that I mean days. I mentioned this to my parents and I'm pretty sure my Dad rolled his eyes a little bit and called me a hippy (or said I should live in Africa or some-such!) but I also know that they were happy too. It was a great moment and one I want to remember and replicate again in the future.
This is what happens when we view our children as people worthy of our respect. When we are their partners we overcome obstacles together. It doesn't mean we don't have disagreements sometimes or that things are perfect, it just means that we don't pit ourselves against each other. And although it's not magic, it sometimes feels magical.
In a little over a month I've started 14 blog-posts that are sitting in my drafts folder. Some are just titles, but others actually have a significant amount of writing developed. And yet, my motivation and inspiration for finishing most of them flickers and wanes.
As I evolve so does this blog and its companion page on Facebook. I suppose that is normal and natural - but I'm also a little unsure of what direction I'm going in right now. Is this just a slow spot or a sign to take another break? Or is it something more significant than that (like an end or new beginning?)
I posted Anne Lamott's piece about Mother's Day on Facebook yesterday. Then I was honestly surprised by how controversial it was. I always laugh at myself when that happens. I forget how "out there" I am sometimes. But I actually enjoyed the discussion that took place and I realized a few more things about myself, my writing style, and my "world view."
I re-read her essay and the word "opposed" jumped out at me. She actually said that she "opposes" Mother's Day (oh and I guess she says she "Hates" it too, right in the title! I personally try to avoid using that word, but I guess she feels strongly about it!) Since she took such a strong stance AGAINST Mother's Day, naturally people who enjoy it, like it, maybe even LOVE it, naturally felt a bit defensive. But it didn't bother me even though we've always had Mother's Day celebrations when I was growing up and now as a mother myself.
I think there are a few reasons I wasn't offended. First of all, I looked past the strong feelings she expressed to the REASONS she had for opposing it, and I felt that they had merit. Many people ARE sad on Mother's Day for many good reasons. And I do believe that mothers (parents) are more highly valued in our culture than non-parents AND I don't think that's right.
Second, I've gotten use to people "opposing" many of the things *I* do as a parent. According to some: long-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, parenting WITHOUT punishment, and homeschooling are all things that could a) kill my kids, b) turn them into serial killers, c) make the world a decidedly WORSE place, and d) lead to the destruction of society as we know it. So I'm no stranger to people being critical of things I do and believe. The thing is, I've gotten to such a good place in *my* life and parenting journey that it doesn't matter if people say all of those incredible things about me and my kids. I know they're not true.
Third, I think Anne was simply expressing her opinion and it is different than the regular "mainstream" opinion. I've gotten so used to "thinking outside the box" that when I hear something different my first response is curiosity, not fear, and usually not defensiveness. Just because she expressed an opinion that I felt had valid points, doesn't mean I need to tell my kids to stop giving my gifts on Mother's day! I can like Mother's Day for the joy in my life AND appreciate what I learned from Anne and use what I learned to have DISCUSSIONS with my kids on those important points later.
But why am I even picking this apart? Well, I also realized that my writing style is such that I always try to be Kind. Because I do this, my "controversial" factor is almost assuredly lowered by a large degree. I'm not trying to offend people, I'm trying to make them think. Also, I don't think I'm really a "debater" - yes I LOVE to think, and I like to discuss things, and I also really like to read other people discussing and debating, but I don't think I'm actually cut out for real nitty, gritty debates. They wear me out. Especially when they get ugly. Because if you haven't noticed yet, my "things" are kinda Peace, Love, and Kindness. Debates are often the opposite of these ideals (although in an ideal world a great debate will remain respectful!)
So where do I go from here? What do I write about (if I continue to write at all)? So many of the issues I felt so passionate about when my kids were babies aren't super-relevant to my life anymore. I still think they are extremely important, but I no longer spend lots of time thinking about: breastfeeding, cosleeping, how to parent toddlers, or even what my guiding principles are for parenting.
I thought it might be useful to break down some of my dearly held beliefs, for myself and inspiration, and also to get input from YOU!
I believe in:
A human/baby/child's right to genital integrity (First: Do No Harm).
Supporting moms and babies to breastfeed as long as mutually desirable.
Finding ways to support families to safely, respectfully, and lovingly (to all family members) get enough sleep and rest.
Listening to children.
Our innate desire to feel good and BE good.
Promoting healthy, respectful relationships through communication and self-knowledge. (Hint: Punishment is not necessary nor desirable.)
WAITING when I don't know what to do.
Saying "I don't know" when... I don't know.
Apologizing when I screw up.
Always striving to be better.
Our children's desire to fit into our family and the world while maintaining their unique identity.
Our ability as humans to learn from the world.
The power of time and experience and perspective.
But above all - even though I believe in all of the above things - I believe in the power of Love and Kindness. I believe I can Love someone who doesn't agree with me on all of the above things. In fact, I DO love people who disagree with me about many of those things.
It only took me almost 9 years to get where I am on my parenting journey. 9 years of reading and thinking and agonizing and over-analyzing every little choice, every meltdown, every mistake and misstep. 9 years of reading books and unschooling list-serves and rehashing my day and choices while hand-washing dishes. 9 years of long phone conversations with my mom and back and forth emails with my husband while we stretched our comfort zones to the limit.
It makes me laugh that after all that time and thinking it comes down to Kindness. All that and the answer is almost always, "What is the Kindest thing I can do right now?" So simple! Good thing I like to laugh at myself (sometimes because I am silly, and sometimes because I think I am a little funny!) But I don't regret one minute of having a whirling cyclone in my head, because I wouldn't be where I am today without all that struggle. And right here and now is pretty darn good. Turns out Kindess is a really good guide for leading you to Peace. And Peaceful is where I spend a large portion of my time these days. I'm probably the happiest I've ever been in my life (and the tears flow more freely than ever too!) and I wouldn't change one step of the path.
But where is this blog headed now? I'm feeling so Peaceful that it is challenging to finish a post! And while the world continues to rage and burn with fiery passion and debates, my home life is flowing like a gentle stream, sunlight sparkling through the green leaves of a forest and warming my skin while my kids laugh and play.
So I'm turning things over to you - if you are still with me here. Is there anything you want to know more about? Are any of my beliefs very strange to you and make you curious to know more? Maybe you want to know more about this "parenting without punishment" thing, or this "unschooling" business? Or maybe you're wondering how your baby will every fall asleep without the boob or sleep through the night? Perhaps you even wonder if they'll ever stop doing _______!
In any case, I have a feeling I'd be much more inspired if I knew I was answering even just one person's question. So if you are curious - please ask away! I'll be waiting to hear from you.
Good night and Thank you for reading as always. <3
Time sure is Tricky. One minute your making a resolution to NOT get depressed this winter, and the next minute it's May! How does that happen??
Well, I did manage to keep that resolution pretty well. I already don't remember much about January (even though it just happened, like, YESTERDAY!) - I vaguely recall that it was mostly reading Harry Potter for hours on end, playing video games, wearing multiple layers, and counting down the days till we were leaving for our Florida vacation at my parents' house.
The start of February brought Yoshi's birthday. Then in mid-February we packed our car up to the gills to drive to Florida. We spent 2 full weeks (well the kids and I - Mike got one full week!) at my parents enjoying their company and the sun. It was a great way to pass some of the coldest days of the winter. Pool, Universal Studios, a day at the beach, and lots of time relaxing with Grandma and Grandpa made for an awesome visit.
March brought a new Hypnobabies series and lots of visitors. We had 3 weekends in a row with visitors and it was so much fun! We also got a trampoline, and have been jumping with our friends ever since.
The beginning of April had me stressing that I was going to forget something. Zoo class, soccer, appointments, playdates, First Communion, and more visits with grandparents and Aunts made for a busy month. I printed out a calendar so I could actually write everything down, and my worries subsided. We sailed through the month quite happily (because although it was "busy" for us by our standards, we still had plenty of down time and play time!)
And so here we are. It is May. MAY. The fifth month of 2015 already. How UNBELIEVABLE is that? I mean really - how is it even possible?? Time just keeps on marching - ever more quickly - every day, hour, minute, second. It REFUSES to slow down, no matter how much we may want it to freeze - even for a moment - so we can soak up and capture whatever is happening in our lives. So we are forced to do our best to live each moment to the fullest. Thanks a lot Time. Ok, so that was a little sarcastic, but actually I really mean it too. Thank you Life for helping me realize I MUST squeeze every little bit out of you, because you are so fleeting.
I love this time of year. I've decided that Spring is officially my favorite time of year - it took me almost 37 years to come to this conclusion, but I've done it. Spring how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love your blooms and blue skies, I love your sun on my skin and your breeze in my hair. I love the energy and life that you seem to breath into everything. Ah Spring. You are making me into a poet.
So after all this year's busy-ness I've decided to dedicate May specifically to me. I am going to focus on making sure I do a few things for myself. As Gerry knows and tells me, "A few means 3, right?" Yes. I am going to focus on 3 things for myself, and they are: Moving, Music, and Marking. (I like alliteration, remember? I'll explain them all.)
Moving: I want to get in shape. I'm in decent shape and I've been moving more and more consistently the past year. I'd say this is the best routine I've been in since Marisol was born, but I want to kick it up another notch. My Moving will come in the following forms: Yoga (a weekly class. Also, I want to start doing it at home more regularly), walking Yoshi, the stationary bike in our basement, kicking the ball with Yoshi. and trampoline jumping with Gerry.
Music: I will continue to practice my guitar and sing along. I've been practicing most evenings and am really enjoying it. I also have Pandora playing most days to get some singing in during the days too.
Marking: Ok, so this means I want to write more again. And there are no good words that start with "M" for writing or blogging. But I liked "Marking" - making my mark. That is what this blog really is. I thought about saying that I'd post something every day this month, but here it is already May 4th and I haven't posted one darn thing yet! Oops. Well, I think every day was a bit ambitious anyway since I've been in kind of a lull with writing. I do have enough drafts started that I could pick something and write every day for sure - but I'm not sure how inspired the results would be and the quality might be spotty. So I'm going to keep things vague and say that I'm going to post "more" this month. How do you like them apples?!? Also, I'm going to include posting here on the blog AND posting any pictures/thoughts on my Gratitudes tab as "marking".
So there you have it! My intentions for May are set. Now I must print off another calendar and get going!
I'd love to hear from you - how is your year going? Are there any new intentions you want to set now that Spring is finally arriving or in full swing? (Or if I have any readers in the Southern Hemisphere - now that the cooler air of Fall has arrived!)
ps I love that our last name is "May" too. How fitting!
pps May is also for Mike and the family too. Mike has a few work and social engagements that are pretty special this month. And the kids are always good at prioritizing things that make them happy!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.