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!
10/14/2013 07:34:16 pm
Marisol knows things that mom hasn't even considered!!
I thought it was harsh too. It seems that it is the norm these days though, so people don't THINK it's harsh anymore.
10/14/2013 09:40:31 pm
Yes, I met many kids at my kids' school who had parents like TMMITW. The kids modeled it perfectly! and why we are now learning at home.
Yeah, I think most parents think "modeling" is important. Not sure why the disconnect happens on certain issues - like respecting what your child wants to do! I love homeschooling for lots of reasons... and they keep accumulating the longer we do it.
10/14/2013 09:52:28 pm
What a girl. It is a joy to read her words. Such a wise, caring, wonderful girl.
10/15/2013 01:43:14 am
This mom has a lot to learn with Marisol about being mindful, karing ( sorry letter between AB_DF- not working), being in a team, learning. and treating all people like human beings ! Kudos for your beautiful daughter and her mom!
Thank you Alex! And thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I agree with you 100% - it seems that "modern" parents aren't always mindful of what their kids are learning from them :-( But I have great hope that we can keep changing that, little by little!
Wow, I try to avoid people with nasty attitudes like this. I can't imagine treating someone I love - someone who is learning the ways of the world- like a slave this way. How on earth will this prepare them for healthy relationships as an adult? This poor woman sounds absolutely miserable, using her children to sort out her own mental issues. How very sad.
10/15/2013 12:54:36 pm
This is fabulous. I love how you present the other side to her, in order to challenge her thinking a bit... her thoughts are brilliant and wise beyond her years. Thanks so much for sharing.
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.