The vaccine debate is one that I'm still not comfortable jumping into. Oh I've talked about it. I've hashed it over in my mind again and again. I've read articles and books, and lets not forget the comments (oooooh, the comments!)
I've been revisiting it again the past couple of days because of an article I stumbled upon. (Ok, maybe I didn't exactly "stumble" upon it, since this topic is bound to come up in the circles I run in - aka PARENTING, more specifically "Natural" Parenting.)
Anyways, last night while I was trying to slow my mind down from it's spin cycle enough to fall asleep I thought about the "Dead Baby Card".
Let's be real here. There are people on BOTH SIDES of this debate who have terrible, horrible, scary stories to share. Parents, Doctors, and all other sorts of people who have seen innocent, defenseless babies go on to whatever is "Next", long before we feel is their time. Babies dying from disease AND babies dying from vaccines purported to prevent them.
Both sides claim the other is "fear-mongering". You know what? Both possibilities are scary. Because ultimately being alive is RISKY - we all have to face death, of ourselves and loved ones.
Each side feels the other is blowing the opposing risk out of proportion (ie Vaccine proponents feel there is a very small risk of an adverse reaction to vaccines, while people opposed to vaccines feel they are safer taking their chances with natural immunity and disease).
I've had the Dead Baby card pulled on me. We have one child who was vaccinated per CDC schedule and one who has been (very) selectively vaccinated. When I was reading and trying to make a truly informed decision the second time around our doctor tried to persuade me by scaring me that my baby could die from a "vaccine preventable" disease. And it's true, that could happen. But in the end it wasn't enough to make me do what the doctor wanted me to do.
It *was* enough to make me realize that we needed to change care providers. It's so important to trust and be able to talk openly with our doctors or alternative care giver.
And honestly, I don't think it is a good idea to make anyone feel stupid on either side - because no one KNOWS the answers to all the hard questions surrounding this debate. That is one thing I'm sure of.
This is the manifesto for children that you can download and print on the International Child Art Foundation's website.
This is my favorite part: "If you make a mistake, you don't need to erase. You can try to incorporate it into your piece to make something beautiful."
Of course I really love it all! But this line reminded me of something that happened when I was painting one of my favorites from this year:
Originally I only had the heart with the words around it. But then while I was painting I accidentally got some paint on the white paper surrounding it. So, I decided to splash lots of color all around it! And I LOVE how it turned out! Without that "mistake" the painting would be much different!
It was an obvious choice to place this painting on February in my calendar (cause HEARTs and Valentine's day!) But the most meaningful part for me is how well it lines up with the ICAF's mission for kids. You can click here to see all the paintings that are going into this project, or head here to see if the ICAF is something you'd like to contribute to.
Or you can click on the buy now button below and get your fabulous TW 2014 calendar now, because you know that you are getting something inspiring to hang on your wall AND helping a great organization! Win/win! I love those :-)
**Edit November 5th - I realized that I never posted how much the calendars cost! They are $15 even. No tax, no shipping on top of that. The $15 covers the calendar, taxes, shipping and then whatever remains will be donated to the ICAF.
Last night I overheard a conversation that got my blood boiling. Two mothers were discussing parent/teacher conferences with their daughters' teacher. Apparently the teacher is young because one said that she could be the teacher's mother.
Anyway, one of the mothers was not happy about her meeting because the teacher said that her daughter is doing "fine" in all areas. The mother took this to mean that her daughter would be getting no attention or be challenged at all. She felt the teacher was saying that she had other students she needed to worry about more.
What?!? Oh my gosh, I was biting my tongue HARD as I listened to these moms talk. Ok, first my disclaimer - since we have chosen to homeschool I have not been on the "parent" end of the stick - only the teacher side. So naturally I identified with this new (well I assume new), young teacher. And I know that as parents we want the best for our kids. And I *do* believe that parents should be their children's advocate.
But it's time for a wake up call parents. Schools are NOT ideal and they probably never will be. So if you want the perfect conditions for learning, your child to be safe, just the right amount challenged, and supported to boot - you're probably not going to get it in a school. Because guess what? It's not just the kids who are in survival mode - the teachers are too. Throwing 30 kids in one room with an adult (2 if your lucky) is not the best way for your child to learn. You want the teacher to "challenge" your child when your child seems to be doing swimmingly? How do you expect this to happen? After this woman grades all her papers and makes up her lesson plans for the week, should she tweak that plan for each child individually (that's called differentiation, you know!) Maybe it's time for a little switcheroo - parents get to teach their kids' classes for a week and see how they do. What? You aren't qualified? You don't have the degree or the credentials? Don't worry, you can learn as you go - that's what I did!
Sure, I taught in an urban setting and I'm sure that it's somewhat "better" in suburban schools. The kids are a little better behaved. But I guarantee that teacher's job is still harder than anything you've ever done.
Seems to me this is another case of "Teachers Can't Win" because you just got a GOOD report at your kid's conference and you still aren't happy. My advice? You want to challenge your kid? You can take them out of school and do it yourself. Or you can Calm the Fuck Down - here's a step by step guide on how to implement this newest parenting method. Actually I take that back - only take your kid out of school if you can also CTFD, because I think you may drive your kid and yourself crazy otherwise.
So about 6 months ago I had this idea hit me as I was falling asleep. Inspiration struck: what if I made a calendar out of my paintings? And not only that, I could sell them and donate any "profit" to a great charity or cause! This idea made me really excited.
So the time has come for me to "launch" this little idea. Honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing, and I'm a little nervous about it too. It's always difficult to put yourself out there, even when it's for a good reason. I mean really, who would want a calendar with my paintings?? Seems a little arrogant to even think it's possible! But you know what? Even if I only sell and handful and the donation is on the small side, that's ok - because we will have done something good, Together.
So even though it's not even Halloween yet, I've been sitting on this idea for a while, and I realize it's now or never - I'm running out of time to do this! I found the PERFECT organization to donate to a couple of weeks ago. It's called the International Child Art Foundation. Oh my goodness, my excitement went through the roof when I found these people! You know how you just "know" when something is right? Well when I found them, that is exactly how I felt. These people speak my language. Here's a line from their "about" description on their Facebook page: "We want to bring about a creativity revolution that builds creative communities and an empathetic world." It is the perfect cause for this little project, combining arts, children, and bringing peace to the world. And they're based in DC! There is no question: this is a match made in heaven. I plan to fill you in more about what they do throughout the next 4 weeks.
Here are the paintings I'm going to use for each month. (You can click on each one individually to enlarge.) Scroll to the bottom for the details on the sale!
So here is my simple idea. I'm going to have people order and prepay through Paypal. Right now I'm thinking the sale will go for 4 weeks - from today through Monday November 18th. (This may change, but I will let you know if it does!) This gives me plenty of time to put the final order in for the calendars (to maximize our donation I really can't order them until I know how many calendars are sold. This way we will HAVE a donation - as opposed to me having a "loss" and lots of calendars to give as Christmas gifts- ha!) Once I receive the calendars I can mail them out to people to have in time for Christmas (if they are purchased for gifts - what a great idea! ;-) or the New Year.
Just click the buy now button below! You can start your Christmas shopping, get your 2014 calendar, and feel good about contributing to a really cause!
And if you can't buy immediately, I hope that 4 weeks gives you enough time to make it happen. I'd love to hear your thoughts too or if you plan to buy one! Please feel free to share this post and spread the word too!
Thanks for all of your love and support.
**Edit November 5th - I realized that I never posted how much the calendars cost! They are $15 even. No tax, no shipping on top of that. The $15 covers the calendar, taxes, shipping and then whatever remains will be donated to the ICAF.
I had a really interesting exchange on Friday with a gentleman as the kids and I got onto the elevator with him going down to the metro. Gerry was playing games on one of our iPhones and the volume was a bit loud. I asked him outside to turn it down and he didn't do it right then.
So once we were all on the elevator (including the aforementioned gentleman), I gently, calmly (and quite quietly) asked Gerry to turn it down again. He said no. So I gently touched his head and leaned down close and told him it was too loud for when we were on the metro so we needed to turn it down or we couldn't have the iPhone out. He then turned it down and I said Thank you.
The gentleman then said to me, "Don't expect that kind of cooperation for the next 10-12 years!"
I smiled. Then I noted that "He does pretty good, doesn't he?" in reference to Gerry. As we got off the elevator I joked that he should give me his number so I could call him in 10 years.
But this short interaction made me think about what people see in public versus the "behind the scenes" action. I thought of all the times we've asked Gerry to turn his shows or games down and he hasn't right away. I thought of the times that we've plugged in headphones. I thought of the many times where he says, "no!" and I sigh and resign myself to general noisiness, only to have him turn it down a few seconds later. I thought of the many times when I pushed the button myself to turn down the volume, then Gerry pushed the opposite right back up to where it was. I think now, as I type, that there were probably a few times when I may have even taken the phone away (but none immediately jump to mind). So "cooperation" on this one small action is something that has grown over time. We've been flexible, we've never punished him, and we've tried to be respectful of others (whether that means his sister or a complete stranger). And so, Friday on the elevator I wasn't even worried about it. It was natural and loving and easy. Could it have gone another way? Sure. And then I would have done my best to navigate whatever feelings Gerry was having with what was appropriate in our environment (which is always the hardest thing to figure out - what *is* appropriate?? I mean was it really too loud, or was I being too sensitive? And is a screaming child any better? Lucky for me, I didn't have to go through that assessment this time!)
Will cooperation always be that easy? Well, I don't know. If the gentleman knew all of those things, would he still have thought it was "easy?" I do know that I do not expect blind obedience from my children. I try to treat them respectfully and to guide them as they learn to offer the same to others. Is it always easy? I guess not. But no one ever told me parenting would be.
Edit (morning of October 16th): I'm so hyped up this morning! I love Blog Action Day. But it occurs to me how vague this post will be to most people. I mean what does all of this really mean? Listening to the children, living in partnership with them - what does that LOOK like? Even if many people long for these ideas to be true, or to live them out, they may be skeptical. So I hope if this is the case for you, that you will click on the link in the sidebar to subscribe to my blog by email OR head over to Facebook and follow me there. My intention is to give more concrete examples from my family's daily life to answer these questions. Of course, this will take time. I hope you'll join me!
Last year my post for blog action day got a little unruly. I mean, I loved it and all, but I know that I have a tendency to get just a smidge wordy. So for contrast and clarity's sake, I'm going to try and keep this simple and to the point this year. (How many words did I just use telling you that this is going to be short? Is anyone else laughing yet??)
When I saw that this year's topic is "Human Rights" I knew immediately that I would talk about Children's Rights. It's a no-brainer for me, right? But I wasn't exactly sure what to say or where to begin.
After all there are children who are starving the world over - for food, for clean water, for love, for new experiences, and for adequate health care. We all dream of a world where children are all well fed and taken care of.
But for now, for today, I have to accept that I don't have the answer to those big problems. And so I am inspired by this Eleanor Roosevelt quote:
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,
close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
This would be my jumping off point - in my own home, closest to my heart, with my children. For families like ours, where healthy food is plentiful, entertainment, rest, and relaxation are daily occurrences, and we have far more blessings that worries, the issue of children's rights actually becomes a little more difficult to pin down. I mean, what could they possibly have to complain about, right? But in fact, human rights do not end with our basic bodily needs.
Right out of the gate, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
Let's repeat that first part: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
But are children truly free? Do we treat them as if they are "endowed with reason", or in a "spirit of brother(or sister!)hood"? Generally speaking, when I think of our cultural expectations, norms, and practices as a whole, no, I don't think so. But what about the children?
And then it hit me last week when I interviewed my daughter - of course, talk to the children about their rights! I can sum up what Marisol repeated in that interview over and over:
Children should not be FORCED to do things.
She had very sensible exceptions to this rule: only in instances where safety and health are involved should parents impose their will over their child.
If I had to pick one word to encompass what she said over and again it would be: AUTONOMY. Synonyms that pop up when you look up Autonomy are freedom, free-will, choice, and self-determination.
This is not surprising to me. Most people long to control things when really there is very little in the world we can. But children? They are the most controlled of all human beings. Most have very little say in what their daily lives look like.
Now, before we have a whole bunch of people clamoring to exclaim why children should not (or could not!) have this kind of power in their own lives I will take the liberty to discuss two arguments I know are begging to be made right now:
Argument 1: "Children don't know what's best for them."
This is a popular argument. It's not one that I'm going to be able to dismantle in this very short, to the point post. Let's just pretend for the moment that maybe kids have more sense than we give them credit for. (Because that is probably what irks me most about this argument; it shows how little we really think of our children.) Maybe you can trust me for a moment on this one, because I do know this to be true, deep in my bones - kids are way more able AND reasonable than most adults know. I've seen it time and again in my children and in others. They can navigate the world much better than we think - usually because we jump in and either do things for them or dictate what they should be doing before we give them a chance. There are ways of being present and supportive (because yes, they do need guidance) to unlock their highest potential at any given stage. And yes, they can also be unreasonable. Kind of like adults, because you know - children still are human.
The second point I'd like to make about this argument is that of course children won't always make the "right" choices. But neither do adults. It's how we learn. And paradoxically, when children are given more choices and autonomy in their lives, they will actually accept guidance from loved ones more easily - because they aren't so busy trying to assert themselves all the time.
Argument 2: "Well, if we give THEM autonomy and free will, then it will just be the children getting "their way" all of the time."
This might seem to be the case, but it isn't so. You know why? Because although children want autonomy, respect, and control over their choices as much as adults do, they also want to belong, connect, and live together with their family and extended community too.
Because you know what? In between the two extremes of "Parents Rule" and "Children Dictate" there is a wide, magical, rich, ever-changing world of partnership, communication, compromise, problem solving, apologizing, and growing together. When children are tiny and new out of the womb, and their needs and desires are virtually one, yes - it will often look like the child is getting "their" way the majority of the time (which basically means eating, pooping, sleeping, and being held). But when these needs are reliably met, their ability to wait, to consider other people's perspectives, and to try new things also will grow with them. (I'm talking over YEARS here - and of course each child is different. We must have some common sense when talking about rights, must we not?) This is where adults comes in - as a reliable support system. For all you teachers out there - we are the scaffolding for our children, supporting them in areas they are not completely independent in until they are at last ready to venture out on their own.
I feel this calling deep inside of me - to keep letting this same message out, as many times as I need to, in as many different ways. I will keep exclaiming, shouting, murmuring, whispering, singing, and sighing - through stories and philosophical natterings, by sharing my family's daily life, our ups and downs, our mistakes, and our love that gets us through it all:
Our lives with our children can be so different than we have been led to believe.
It is up to each one of us to open our eyes. There are SO many people out there with this same message. And yet it is still not the overwhelming song that people hear - in the news, in conversations with loved ones, on Facebook - somehow the message still is getting lost. Get on Google (or Bing, or whatever your preferred search engine is!): try searching unschooling, or peaceful parenting, or parenting without punishments. Start reading. Start trying. Trust, even just a little bit, one day, one hour, one moment at a time that you and your child can navigate together better than anyone else could ever tell you how.
This is the way we will respect children's rights in our privileged world. This is the way we will raise children who will work to solve the bigger problems our world faces every day.
Go ahead, I dare you! Ask your kids what they think about their rights. Then write down what they say. Share it here if you'd like. (You know I want to hear about it!)
In the mean time here are a couple of resources for you:
Children Have Rights Too by Jennifer Andersen at Our Muddy Boots
And Sandra Dodd's page for years of reading or daily bits of inspiration about small ways you can implement peaceful parenting every day.
The other day I was talking on the phone to Mike about a blogpost that I tried to comment on. It appears that my comments aren't being approved - I assume because I didn't nod my head in agreement and approval of the post like all the other commenters appear to be doing. Marisol wanted to know what I was talking about, so I offered to read the post to her. What followed turned out to be a powerful, impromptu "interview" with her. I'm so glad that I had already been writing down our conversation earlier and had my notebook and pen handy.
A few thoughts of my own before I dive into the "interview". First of all, my daughter is 7 years old. She does not have a complete grasp on the legalities surrounding a parent/child relationship. Her dialog reflect her perspective at this point in time. I did very little editing, because I want to leave her words as they are. Besides, although her statements may seem very simple to some adults, I found them very profound. In fact, I believe she represents many principles of unschooling very well with her words.
Marisol noted partway through our talk that the post we were reading was mostly about TV and food, which was confusing to her. As I mentioned last week, we do not have "limits" or rules about screen time; and, as I will be writing about in the future, there are also very few "regulations" surrounding food in our house. So I think she didn't really understand why there was so much focus on these two topics - to her they aren't really a BIG DEAL.
Here's a little background on Marisol if you don't know her in person: Marisol is very active - she loves to play outside with friends for hours, go to dance class and gymnastics, and she is also a HUGE animal lover. Right now her favorite shows are Wild Kratts (because, ANIMALS!) and Electric Company. She eats pretty much everything we put in front of her including lots of fruits and vegetables and doesn't have much of a sweet tooth (unlike her little brother!)
I was struck by a few things as I talked to her and reflected later. First, I was so grateful to have this conversation with her. I actually think this is a great barometer for us as parents - if you aren't comfortable reading something to your kids and discussing it, maybe that's a sign. I'll let you figure out what it might mean to you. Second, I was struck by her empathy and deep emotion. She was literally in tears thinking about people not caring about others' feelings. Third, I was moved by her courage, because when I saw how deeply she was impacted I asked her if she wanted to stop, and she insisted on continuing. Fourth, I was impressed with her clarity of thought. She was consistent but also able to say, "I don't know" and also even agreed with the author on a point. But probably the most impressive was her conviction. She knew in her core what she thought was right and what was not. It's difficult to put into words how I feel about being this girl's mother. Let's just leave it at this: I am amazingly blessed to have her in my life.
After we were done talking I asked her if she minded if I wrote it up and put it on my blog. She said, "No. No, I actually want you to because I think what I said is right." Amen. A girl after her mama's heart.
I chose this picture for 2 reasons: 1) I love it 2) Marisol is looking intently at my iPhone. She has not been "programmed" to believe anything about the iPhone. She likes it because it's fun and she can watch shows she likes on it. And then she can put it down and go run at the park with her best friend. It's neither the best thing ever that she can't live without nor an evil device trying to rot her body and brain.
You can find the blog post called The Meanest Mother in the World linked here. (from here on out it will be referred to as TMMITW. I will quote most of the article here in chunks to make sense of Marisol's responses. Click on the link to read it in full.)
Background: The author was talking about a conversation she was having with a friend on the phone. The main gist is she doesn't care about her kids' feelings. Well, actually she does care about their feelings but considering them isn't her first priority when making decisions that affect them. (You get it now right?? Actually a lot of you probably do. Marisol is here to offer up a new perspecitve.) She feels as an experienced mom she has a different perspective than her friend (whose children are small).
TMMITW: We were talking about a kid we know, and how they really didn't want to do something that the mum really wanted her to do... and how the mum was all upset about the kid being upset and was going to have to tell her "no" even though it was going to hurt the kid's feelings. "It's hard..." my friend said. "That's a hard place for a mother"...
At this point Marisol interjected, her voice incredulous, "Hard for the mother?? It's probably harder for the kid!" Mmm-hmm, I can see how a kid might have that perspective. We read on.
TMMITW: "How hard is it?" I finally asked. "You just say No" and when I heard that she was a little taken aback, I said "Don't listen to me. I've been a mother a long time. I don't really care about children's feelings anymore."
Again Marisol couldn't stay silent, "That is ridiculous! You have to care about people's feelings!" <-- see what my brilliant 7 year old did there? She pointed out that children are PEOPLE, lest we forget.
At this point Marisol had tears in her eyes. I asked her if she wanted to stop?
"No, no. Keep going!"
TMMITW goes on to try and clarify what she means. She knows it sounds bad, so she's going to explain how you can both care about your kids feelings at the same time as not caring.
TMMITW: I care what a kid feels, but when push comes to shove, my job is to do what I think is best for them, not what they feel is best for them.
I asked Marisol what she thought about this and she thought for a second. "If a kid doesn't *have* to do something they shouldn't have to. It's their life. They shouldn't be forced." I know that this might not be completely clear at this point, but will become clearer as the "interview" progresses. Keep in mind that Marisol is a child who has had a lot of choices in her short life. She has had more freedom than a lot of kids her age.
TMMITW: I've had at least one teenager who had some pretty strong "feelings" about their privacy and how I shouldn't be all up in their business, and you know what? I didn't care.
Me: "What do you think about that?"
Marisol, "Kids should have privacy, but they shouldn't sneak away."
This spurred a really good conversation - she feels kids should have privacy but they also shouldn't do certain things. So I asked her, "Why do kids want to sneak away?" And she said, "To have fun. Usually on my shows it's because they want to have fun." (She's really into Disney shows these days - like "Good Luck Charlie - one of my faves - and "Austin and Ally".)
Me: "So what could parents do then? So kids don't want to sneak away?"
Marisol: They could talk to them. They could let them go (to whatever fun thing it is - she had a caveat for this one - if the kid is old enough.) The parents could go with them.
I again asked what parents could do to make kids not want to sneak away. She thought some more and came up with the idea that parents could do fun stuff with their kids so that they kids won't want to sneak away. What impressed me most was her ability to come up with multiple alternatives of what parents could do in place of flat out "forbidding".
TMMITW: I've had these conversations so many times, and every time I end up sure I'm the meanest mother in the world. (This is an idea I may have gotten from a
Marisol: Kids don't have to do chores.
Me: Why do parents want their kids to have chores?
Marisol: Because they want a clean house. They (parents) don't need a clean house. If they want kids to do it, ask them. If they (kids) say no - do it yourself and if they say yes, help them.
Me: What if kids made the messes though?
Marisol: Kids should help. If it's a little mess, they can do it themselves. If parents are forcing them, they (the parents) should help.
Kids shouldn't be forced to do things.
Me: What about things like car seats?
Marisol: Well, except for things like safety and health.
TMMITW: Someone will ask how I got the kids to eat brown bread and
I asked Marisol what she thought about this idea - that the mom shops and cooks, so really the kids have no choice. The first thing she said is that moms (parents) should make what they (kids) like.
Marisol: First of all, kids are in charge of what they do. They should eat what they like AND if you make them do chores they should have money. (This was in regards to the idea that mom was in control of buying everything. Marisol felt that if kids do chores they should also have money.)
Me: Should they spend their money on food?
Marisol: Probably not.
Back to reading:
TMMITW: Or people ask how I limited TV as much as I did, and I can't figure out how they think it would be that I would make a rule (no TV if it's daylight, for
Marisol: Can I say something? With TV you can learn. One of my questions is - why do some parents think that TV isn't good for learning? Do you have any ideas?
Me: Well parents also want kids to exercise and do other things so their kids stay healthy and aren't only watching TV.
Marisol: Or learning in a way that's not on TV. (she meant that parents want kids to learn other ways).
TMMITW: We're all about responding to a kids actual needs, but you're going to have a hard time convincing me that one of my kids needed me to make them a separate dinner because what I'd made them wasn't what they wanted. (To quote my own mother, this is a family, not a restaurant.)
Marisol: First of all, if you make something a kid doesn't like, they don't need to eat it. Your house should be like a restaurant because kids shouldn't be forced to eat what they don't like.
TMMITW: I can't tell you the number of times one of the kids tried to turn on the tv, and I went and turned it off again. A few times the tv got taken away entirely, put in a closet and locked up because they broke the rules, and I'm not fighting with you if you do something untrustworthy, and really, I am a mean and horrible mother who doesn't care at all if that makes you cry. AT. ALL. Television is a privilege, not a right, and you want to scream about it, that's cool man. Let those feelings out, but they won't change my mind. Age, maturity, independence, your skills, your actual needs, that stuff changes my mind. Your feelings? No ma'am.
Marisol interjected somewhere in that paragraph to ask what "privilege" is. I explained rather clumsily that privilege is something that you don't need, it's "extra". (Why are things so difficult to explain sometimes??) After I explained she said, "You don't need TV, but it does help kids learn. They should be able to turn on the TV and watch what they want. (She added softly: "Not anything" and I knew she was thinking of shows meant for adults.)
Me: What about houses that have a rule, "No TV." What do you think about that?
Marisol: I think that if you have a TV, that's not a very good rule. You shouldn't have a TV if you don't want kids to watch it (she named a friend with this situation.) If you have one and get rid of it, they'll want it back, so do it at an early age. (This made me laugh!)
Me: But what about when you're at a friend's house?
Marisol: Then it's up to their house rules.
Me: But then what about once kids know about TV? (I was going with the premise that parents either chose not to have one or got rid of it "at a young age as she suggested.)
Marisol: If they were little they might forget. (thinking...) Otherwise I don't know.
Me: What's fair to parents and kids, if the kids want it?
Marisol: They should get a TV and if you don't want them to watch, distract them, don't just say no. If you can't distract them, let them watch. (Later I talked to her more about the word "distract and she clarified that "distract means play".)
TMMITW: I can hear somewhere, someone's heart breaking for all of this. They're thinking that I am actually a mean mum, and that it's wrong not to consider the feelings of children and thinking how hard it must have been to be raised by someone who does what she thinks is best and steamrolls all over the tender little hearts of her babies. They're wiping a tear away from their eye right now, and they're the kind of mum who's going to turn to me later and say "But how did you turn the TV off? My kids would be so upset if I did that. They would freak out. I could never, ever take away the TV" and I'm going to explain that the difference between me and them is that they think they need their kid's buy in or permission, and I think it's my TV and I can do whatever I want with it, because I care more about limiting TV than I do about crying children and that makes it easier. Louder, but easier.
Marisol: I think she actually is being a little mean. She should probably consider rules that are fair to everyone.
I think the kids are kind of right. It is hard for them. She should be nicer. If you don't care that's wrong. You should always be fair - not always get what you want, but what both people want.
It's not just your TV. The other mom is partly right and you're not.
Me: How do you know this? That it's not just her TV?
Marisol: It's not just your TV - everyone gets to use it.
TMMITW: I get that parents perspective. I really do, and let me tell you, I care a
Marisol: You're not the boss of them - it's their life. (I think this was in response to the "captain" idea.)
Me: Except in the case of...
Marisol: Health and safety.
Marisol: TV is good because they learn and you want them to learn right? That's why a lot of kids are forced to go to school, right?
(Note: I neither talk negatively about school nor do I say kids are forced to go. These are her own conclusions based on her experience and conversations - mostly with children who go to school.)
Marisol cont.: I agree with her about voting - only when you're 18. (She learned the legal voting age from "Good Luck Charlie".) Voting is fair, but on other stuff that's not very important with their life, they should get to decide.
And Marisol's final words: I don't think she is making grownups - she's making kids who might not have a good life... (thinking) They probably will. (Meaning later in life they will have a good life.)
It (meaning this scenario described by TMMITW) barely ever happens. I think a lot of kids have a good life.
That's it! My first ever published interview with the lovely Marisol. I have a lot more thoughts, but it is late and I must sleep. I'm going to let this sit and simmer for a couple of days - because Wednesday is Blog Action Day and the topic is "Human Rights". People from all over the world will be writing about different aspects and ideas concerning Human Rights. I bet you might have a guess or two about what I'll be writing about! Maybe you'll join in too? Leave a comment with your blog address and let us know if you are!
Sometimes after hitting "publish" my mind spins through it all again...and again, over and over. (Ok who am I kidding, nearly EVERY time I write something and make it public this happens.) I think of all the possible things people could say, what they could pick apart, what they may disagree with, what I would say back. For instance, after I wrote about Bullying this week I was sure that people would call me out:
"You claim that you don't have the answer but OBVIOUSLY you DO think you have the answer. You think people should do things YOUR way and if everyone parented the way YOU say then all of the world's problems, including bullying, would be solved."
And then I think, what would I say to that? I think I would probably agree with that person and say, "Yes, you are right. I do think I'm lucky enough to see a new, better way. BUT that doesn't mean I always know what to do in the moment. Because I'm still figuring this Peaceful Parenting gig out. And I'm also really, REALLY lucky that there are people out there who already have grown children who are great examples AND are really helpful."
But you know what happens 99.9% of the time? No one says a peep or the few that do every once in a while says, "Awesome, thought provoking post! Love it!" (Ok I do like those comments though.)
Meanwhile, I'm ready for anything!
I made this picture yesterday. I pretty much love it. If you look really closely you can see Marisol's profile. (We did it the old fashioned way - dark room, flashlight, paper on the wall.) It was inspired by Sara Bareilles' song, "Brave" - you can see some of the lyrics on the right side, inside of Marisol's head. And outside words falling out... "Love... me." or the "me" can go here, "See me". And of course there is NO perfection NO masks in this sacred, brave place where we let our words fall out.
So I made a Pandora channel for the song "Brave", and the first song that that played was John Mayer's "Say What You Need To Say", and I thought, how appropriate!
I participated in a blog carnival this week. It was really fun. I was not surprised when my post stuck out from most of them - it's not the standard parenting position to have No Limits on Technology. Part of the deal when you participate in a carnival is that you comment on the other blogs. It was kind of hard for me. The standard line most people seemed to be giving out was, "you've done a great job working out what's best for your family!" - including on my post. But it didn't feel right to me to just leave a "nice" response like that. I mean clearly I have an opinion on the matter, right? So for every post I really tried to say something thoughtful. Either about my experience, or something that stood out to me in their post, or I asked them questions for clarification (for myself or them). And I offended one writer. I knew I was taking a risk with my comment and it happened. But you know what? I know what I said came from a place of love so I'm ok with that.
Then tonight on Facebook it happened again - I offended a friend. This time someone I know in real life.
So here are some thoughts I have on all this.
1) I keep thinking of these ideas I'm trying to spread as little grains of sand. I know that they are irritating some people AND they are sticking in their brains and rubbing them the wrong way. But maybe someday that annoying little grain will turn into a pearl. (I must have a whole necklace in my possession by now!)
2) As I thought of my friend tonight, I thought of her at her house annoyed at me. And I thought, wow here I am obsessing over this little interaction too! And it hit me - we really are ONE. Forever connected. More the same than different.
3) I must be turning some kind of corner here (Hopefully a good one! The kind that opens up to completely new places), having offended two people in two days. (And this is with me stating things in the kindest way I know how - filling my heart up with love before every putting my thoughts "out there.")
4) It's really ok for us to disagree. It's how we disagree that matters. This is how we learn and grow after all. I'd be lying if I said I never feel defensive. Of course I do! I feel it every time I write - that's why I obsess over every possible "come back". But I recognize it and I really try hard to open my heart to whatever lessons there are waiting for me. I guess I may be more prepared than some people are because I know I'm not stating popular opinions.
We can disagree and be loving. Heck, just today one of my most favorite-ist people commented on my post dissing Balance and now I'm thinking I owe Balance an apology! It's ok to change your minds people - I mean really I do it every day, if not multiple times! And my son shows me every day that it's ok by changing his within a split second by answering every question with a quick "No," before giving his final verdict (and it's often in direct opposition to the emphatic no, an easy going "Ok, sho"). Wrap it up in love and deliver it folks, I guarantee we'll all be pleasantly surprised in the end. We may even change the world.
GO ON I DARE YOU: Say what you need to say. I want to hear it.
And if that didn't convince you I'll beg (It worked once before!). Puuuhhhh-lease!!! Leave a comment here or on any post that made you think! Share a post! Comment over on Facebook! Let's chat and get to know each other ;-)
Pardon my french :-) (A whole 'nother post - or at least a Facebook post - is waiting to be written about my exploration into my use of profanity.)
Anyway. As I was saying. Balance... I'm done with you. I'm done obsessing with you, striving for you, feeling like I'm no good when I can't achieve you. Maybe some people can seek you and feel good about it, but for me (a recovering perfectionist) it just feels like I never can get you right.
You know what? I used to be good at finding you (or so it seemed). But that was when all I had to worry about was myself. You know, in high-school and college (and maybe a bit as a teacher... but even then it was a little difficult to keep you in my sights). As a student I was great at you-ing - keeping my grades up, playing sports, involved in music. I worked for the family business in the summer. I had plenty of friends. I had it all covered - mind, body, spirit, social life, academics, physical activity, creativity - you name it. When I graduated I picked my favorite professor to present my diploma to me and he called me a Renaissance Woman - YES! Doesn't that phrase just scream, "BALANCED!"??
But then again... maybe I never really touched you. Is seeking to be the "best" or being a perfectionist truly balanced? Is staying up to midnight to finish homework after basketball practice or waking in the middle of the night freaked out that you're not going to finish your work in time (so you start doing it right then in there, in the dead of the night on your bedroom floor) balanced? Is running till your knees ache and you can barely stand up in church for the hymns balanced? Hmmm...
And now as a mother I find my world always just a bit askew. My kids are a teensy bit older now so things are way better (and by better I mean easier) than they were four years ago or even two. Now I have time to write, I go on walks alone (every once in a while anyway), I regularly teach Hypnobabies, and I actually COOK meals (sometimes) And yet... I still find myself trying to catch even a glimpse of you in my days. But you remain ever elusive. My plan changes daily. I will get up early and walk. No, I will get up early and do yoga. No, I'll stay up late and write. Every day the book I'm (not) writing is in the back of my mind. Every day I think, I need to exercise more! Every day I feel like I need to give more to my kids only to realize I'm wanting to give more to myself.
I wrote a shit-ton about you (yes that is the precise, technical amount) last year. And now I'm declaring this the last time (for a while)! It seemed as if I had given up on you last year when I wrote about moving away from balance and towards flow, but you are a persistent will bugger. You didn't want to be evicted from my mind. Danielle LaPorte first gave me the idea that maybe you were a myth. And then my friend Jolette Jai (check out her Jai Institute for Parenting!) posted this on Facebook:
Don't strive for balance. Strive for excellence. Strive for that which moves you from inside. Rocks your world. Pulls at your heart and doesn't let go. Not even for a moment.
Yes! Thank you. So last night I'm lying in bed, but my brain was in spin mode (I guess when it's like that I'm wringing out ideas, because they were swarming my brain like mosquitoes on a hot, muggy summer's night) and the words "FUCK BALANCE" just came into my head. And it felt great! Of course, I felt a little fired up too, which didn't help with falling asleep, but still I felt relief.
Because you know what? It all goes back to this simple truth: no one can be all things, do all things, have all things. I guess some would argue that balance isn't about that. But that is what it feels like to me sometimes. I'm a mom who's homeschooling her kids. I don't have time to train for a marathon (but my friend Rebecca does - yay Rebecca!!) And other women don't have time to blog about the incessant stream of thoughts that runs through their mind. The truth is we have to make choices. Many of us modern mamas still have the message "you can have it all" burned into our psyches and it's simply not true. I slowed down on the blogging for a couple of months and it was perfect for the summer - we traveled, spent time with family and friends, and were outside a lot. And now here it is October and my writing juices are flowing. So that is what I'm doing. Someday my kids will be older, more independent, and even (gasp!) move out... and then I'll have time to write AND exercise consistently. But for now my method for shutting up the gremlins in my head will be a big "F-you" to balance. My measure for a good day will be how my family feels and whether we did things together and independently that bring us happiness. And once I calm down a bit, my gentler mantra will be, "Life is Lumpy, Let it Be."
So Au Revoir Balance - for now. Maybe I'll take a gander at finding you again when I'm a Grandma.
ps If you have creative ideas or tips for meeting everyone's needs and staying connected while doing so, I'm all ears. Just don't use the terms "Me-time" or Balance. ;-) Sound like semantics to some of you? Maybe. But I'm sold on the power of our minds and the words we use. You can thank Hypnobabies for that.
I like to joke with my students that birth was my "gateway" to all things natural and crunchy. (You know like the evil gateway drugs they taught us about in school - for example marijuana. Only this is a good gateway - well in my opinion anyway!)
Motherhood introduced me into a new world. After natural childbirth, it was a logical progression to learn about breastfeeding, cosleeping, cloth diapers, and then Elimination communication. More recently our diet includes a greater variety of organic foods. It's something that is important to my husband and I. We know it's rubbing off on our kids because our daughter will now ask "is this organic?" about new foods.
So how do all of these practices and beliefs mesh with having no limits on our kids' screen time? The two don't seem to jive together at all! Believe me, there are plenty of times when I feel like we don't really "fit-in" anywhere, so I understand why there may be confusion!
To be honest, when my daughter was little I was on the "limit screen time" bandwagon. Then I found unschooling and it rocked my world - literally turning a lot of things I thought I "knew" upside down. Since my daughter was about 2 years old we have pretty much let her decide what she wants to watch/play and when. I know it may sound kooky to some people, but it has actually worked out really well for us and I see so many benefits every day. I'm going to quickly address a couple of misconceptions people have about "no-limits" and then let you know what the major benefits of having no limits have been in our family.
1) "No limits" means kids watch things that are not appropriate for them. This is not true. Kids generally don't want to watch things that are not meant for them. Marisol will close her eyes and cover her ears if an advertisement comes on for a scary (usually adult content) show. "Finding Nemo" was her first favorite movie and for a while we fast forwarded the part with sharks every time. Kids know what they can handle and are ready for. (What may be needed is the consistent presence of an adult to guide them as they navigate. But given support, they will find their way.)
2) "No limits" means they will watch 24/7. This is also not true. Now, I will admit that there are times that my kids get lots of "screen time" - and their average is probably more than most kids'. But every time I find I'm not comfortable with how much they are watching I first examine my own feelings and actions. Perhaps I am being lazy and not offering enticing alternatives. (An important caveat to this statement - I don't offer things to lure them away, because I truly believe TV, computers, and other technology are beneficial in their own right. I just want to feel secure that they are CHOOSING these things and not turning to them out of boredom or because they can't think of other things to do. That is my role. If I offer a few things and TV/computer is what they really want at that time, then I let go - I don't continue to push them to try and get them to stop watching.) Maybe we all NEEDED a day of rest around the house and enjoying favorite TV shows and catching up on Facebook. Now that my kids are even just a little bit older, this is becoming much less of an issue for me. We are so active and busy that I just don't worry about it any more.
1) My kids learn SO MUCH from technology (shows, games, computer, apps - you name it!) Often times Marisol uses a word or expression and I'll ask her, "How do you know that??" and she can almost always name the show (she likes to say she learns most everything she knows from shows. It kind of tickles both of us when she says that!) The other morning she said to Gerry, "Your skin is so soft - do you use moisturizer?" and after I was done laughing (one, because I've never said that word - I say "lotion" - and two, because neither of my kids are fond of any skin products!) I found out she knows the word "moisturizer" from the Disney show "Shake it Up".
On the last night of our vacation in September, Gerry used sidewalk chalk to write out and name the numbers 1, 10, 100, and 1000 by adding a zero to each preceding number. Mike was impressed. That gem of knowledge came from Curious George.
I could go on and on and I know that some people may be shaking their heads thinking, "Come on, this sounds like a flimsy argument defending unlimited media use. How much can they really learn??" I think it's one of those things - you have to see it to believe it.
2) Our relationships benefit. This is a multifaceted statement. Our relationships are made stronger by watching and playing together. And they are strengthened because our individual wishes are respected. We don't have any fights or battles over any of these things (except over who gets to use the Big TV!) I believe that statement alone is worth it's weight in gold. How many parents and children would love to never fight over "one more show" or more computer or game time? It's really this simple - you can stop, you don't have to fight over it.
3) My kids don't value TV over other things. What I mean by this is: because I'm not the one deciding when and how much they can watch, the value of it isn't made greater to them. (Think about anything that is limited in your life - if it's something you really like, you want it more when it's limited. Read this great article for further clarification.) How I know that this is true is that my 7 year old now prefers for the TV to be OFF when friends come over - especially if they are friends that don't get to watch TV a lot. Why? Because she wants to play with them, and when the TV is on they don't want to play. I also can see it in our everyday lives all the time because we choose to do lots of other things - including getting outside to play most days.
I wrote a while ago about how getting outside and using technology are not mutually exclusive. And it does seem counter-intuitive that someone who is all about "natural" ways of living would allow full access to TVs, computers, and smartphones to her kids. But you know what is natural about this decision? Honoring my kids and their innate drive to explore and utilize everything in their environment to learn and make sense of the world. And in doing that I also honor our relationships and we continue to grow together. And that feels 100% natural and right.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be updated throughout the day on October 8):
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.