Today I was reflecting on a post I wrote two years ago, "Kindergarten and 'Have to'". I know that it has the potential to raise defenses and turn people off. People don't want others telling them what they can or cannot do. But that has never been my intention, and never will be. I feel that if a child is thriving in school and is happy and it works for their family, then that is great for that family! And I also know that for some families, homeschooling really isn't an option for any number of reasons. I do not have any illusions about everyone being able or wanting to homeschool, so I have no desire to prescribe homeschooling as a Panacea for all the World's Problems. And I really don't want to hear about why a particular family has to send their children to school - that is really none of my business, and every family's situation is so unique that there is no one formula for how to make things work. I *do* know that for every article touting homeschooling as only for the privileged or rich, there is a family out there proving that statement wrong. (Darcel, who blogs at "The Mahogany Way" is one that jumps to mind immediately for me.)
No, my only desire is to open people's minds' to POSSIBILITY by sharing my experience. Not MY possibilities, but the Idea of Possibility. But if we are constantly saying, "this is how things HAVE TO be" or "my child needs to do x, y, or z" then we are not opening ourselves up to these possibilities.
Have you ever noticed how often we tell kids we can't do something they want to do because we "need to" or "have to" do something else? "I can't play a game right now honey, I HAVE TO make dinner," or "Mommy needs to do __________ right now." Even about things that clearly aren't have-tos or needs, e.g. "I need go to yoga now, or I'm going to be late!"
The ironic thing is that we love to point out that kids don't NEED many of the things that THEY want! You know, like new toys, to watch another show, or candy. But when it is something important to us, it is a "need".
I'm not suggesting that we always drop whatever we're doing so our kids get what they want. Not at all. But I am suggesting that we get radically honest with ourselves so we can be clearer with our kids in our communication.
For example: Yes, when I have a Hypnobabies class scheduled I am committing to those couples and therefore to teaching them at certain times. My kids have not always been thrilled with that, but I am always willing to reevaluate the costs and benefits to our whole family. It is definitely another reason to love what I do - I have a lot of freedom in determining how much I want to teach.
Or when I've played Mario brothers for a couple hours with Gerry on a particular day I can honestly say that I NEED a break or that I don't want to play anymore.
Usually if I'm being really honest with myself I know that it is most true to say, "I WANT (or don't want) to do __________" right now. And that is perfectly valid! The point is that just because we are adults, that doesn't mean suddenly our desires have reached some super status of "need". Sure, to us the things we want to do in any given moment may seem more important to us, but to our kids their desires are just as important. And the more we recognize this tendency in ourselves - to make our to-do list more important - the easier it is to prioritize in ways that are respectful of our whole family. Yes, the dishes do need to get washed and so does the laundry. And they will! But you get to choose when and with how much joy you complete both. Some days you do them together, some days while they play by themselves, some days after your partner gets home from work - the possibilities are literally endless!
Why is this idea so offensive? I think it is probably because our human tendency to want to be "right". When someone questions our "have tos" it's like being told that we are wrong.
For me though, it is freeing to realize when I'm not being truthful to myself and my kids. And it still happens all the time! The "have to" force is strong in our culture and in me. But the first step always has to be to recognize the truth. Once we have done that we are empowered to choose the next step.