Eclectic Reality Rotating Header Image

Mindful Parenting

How Not To Be a Father

Yup.  You’ve seen it.  Tiffani blogged about.  Jean blogged about it.  Brianna blogged about.  Jennifer blogged about it.  There’s plenty more out there for you to see.  In the off chance that you missed it, that you haven’t seen the video let me just give you a link to the douche-baggery that is making the rounds on the internet.  Sure I could post the video here, but my blog is pretty and that would just ugly it up.

This video hurt me so deeply that I cannot move forward until I write about it.  Until I say the things that I am feeling.  When I hear him read that letter my gut wrenches.  I spent the better part of last night being incredibly grouchy and had to go for that extra glass of wine.  How could someone treat a child this way?  Here is some of what this man is guilty of:

  • Publicly humiliating his daughter
  • Total disregard for a child’s feelings
  • Calling his own child names
  • Conditional Parenting and Love
  • Destruction of personal property
  • Possibly using his daughter to gain media attention
  • Emotional abuse

I hear many of the same complaints I had as a teenager.  I hear many of the same complaints many teenagers have.  Most of us know what it’s like to be a teenager and not feel heard or like we are not in control of our own lives.  I am sad for this child.  I am sad for the hell she has to live in. Being grounded for months at a time for publicly complaining about her parents?  What the fuck kind of dictatorship is Tommy Jordan running over there?

The gun.  He pulled a fucking gun on her laptop.  I’m extremely pro-gun!  I even own one myself.  However, using a gun out of anger to solve a problem is extremely scary and ridiculously violent.  This is not a stable man.  I fear what he would do if his daughter skipped classes or took drugs or worse…  had sex.

This folks, is emotional abuse.  This is a man beating his daughter so far down that I can only imagine what it’s going to take to bring her back up.  If in fact she realizes that she can, come back up.  I picture her crying in her room, feeling helpless, alone, and unloved.  I’d love to wrap my arms around her and tell her that not all parents treat their children this way.  That she doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.  That there are many of us who support her.  I wish I could tell Tommy Jordan, and have him listen, that there is a better way.  Somehow I doubt he’s interested in it.

He has punished her before, why didn’t he see it didn’t work?  It didn’t make her love him anymore.  It didn’t make her respect him anymore.  It only made things worse.  So for each thing she does wrong in his eyes he is only going to be meaner and more horrible toward his own daughter.  This is an incredibly sad state of affairs.  Really?  Can’t we do better than this?

“I blew half my day on your laptop”.  When I do things for my children it brings me great joy.  When I spend half the day fixing something of theirs it’s because I love them and they need me.  It’s not conditional; it’s me being a parent.  If they get mad at me the next day I won’t reverse what I did.

IMG_8842

Have you read the comments?  I’ve seen an INSANE amount of support for this guy!  They keep mentioning how disrespectful the girl was and how she was trashing her parents.  That’s not what I hear though.  I hear a teenager venting her anger over her many responsibilities and venting her frustrations with her words.  I don’t even want to believe it.  At what point in a child’s life do they become the enemy? At what point to we stop listening and understanding and start expecting?  The comments are disturbing and show a lot of animosity toward children and teenagers.  I imagine it’s because most of them, including Tommy Jordan, were not allowed to be children themselves.

Do you see and hear how hard he is breathing?  How angry he is over his daughter’s words?  The words upset him greatly.  He is angry because his daughter is angry at him.  There is something terribly wrong with that.  Yet, instead of taking the time to try and repair his relationship with his daughter he further solidified the dysfunctional connection they will most likely always have.

I posted this link on my facebook page with these words: “If you support treating children this way, we are NOT friends. Please unfriend me right away.”  I wasn’t kidding.  This guy is abusive and if I have people on my list that are pro-abuse than I cannot be friends with that person.  I do understand that my friends and I have a wide range of differences in our parenting opinions and styles.  I’m really OK with that.  However, I do not tolerate abuse, physical or emotional.

Somewhere in a comment or a follow up video Tommy Jordan has stated that his daughter is OK with this now.  Well, remember this article?  Congratulations Tommy Jordan, you just broke your child.

Halloween Candy Help

Some of your kids have already done the trick or treating thing.  Some will do it today.  Most will probably knock on doors tomorrow on Halloween, but almost all will have bags full candy for sorting, trading, playing with and ultimately EATING.  This last part puts fear into the hearts of parents everywhere.  ALL THAT CANDY.  Sugar, food dye, cavities, and meltdowns, oh my!

So how are YOU planning to handle it this year?  Oh wait, let me rephrase.  How are you going to handle YOURSELF this year.  Because ultimately, you have no business doing anything with the Halloween candy that your child doesn’t explicitly want you to do.  It’s not your candy.  Let me repeat myself.

Its. Not. Your. Candy.

So, now that we’ve established that, please step away from the loot.  Can you think of any other person you would treat that way?  Would you take control of someone else’s abundance and then tell them how much they can have, and when they can have it?  No.  You probably wouldn’t and you’re child’s Halloween candy is no different.

You have no excuse now.  Your kid won’t be poisoned and probably won’t be stuck in the lip by a needle.  We’ve been through that. So what now?  Why is it that parents are getting ready to divvy up the Halloween candy and how are they going to do it?  There’s probably a million different ways parent’s  try handle this situation, and I want to know one thing.  What on earth is this accomplishing? Sometimes it helps to think of it in terms of the message you are sending.

  1. Imposing your will over another person based on a feeling is OK.
  2. Imposing your will over someone else’s property because of your feelings is OK.

Um…  No.

If you take away, hide, or control the candy, you are creating the forbidden fruit effect.  Any object that someone wants can be turned into the forbidden fruit simply by that person feeling or knowing they can’t or shouldn’t have it.  If you take away the candy and preach how bad it is for them, they will want more.  And they will likely find a way to have more and sneak it in the future.  Forbidden fruit can also create sneaky children.

If you’re thinking that I’m suggesting you let your kids keep their candy wherever they want and eat it whenever and consume however much they want then, you’re RIGHT.  See here’s the thing, your kids don’t want to feel sick anymore than you do.  Your kids don’t want to have nightmares any more than you do.  Your kids don’t really want to displease you.  Yet, holiday after holiday parents still take away the candy in the name of belly aches, nightmares and bad behavior.  Kids should be trusted and encouraged to care for their own bodies, but how can they do that when they are never given the chance?  Your fears are just that; YOUR fears.  Here are a couple ideas how to handle those fears this Halloween.

  1. Create Space. Kids who have no restrictions placed on candy don’t have issues with binging.  If your child has never had candy freedom then prepare for a marathon candy tasting session.  Some kids are sensitive to food dyes and preservatives and it affects them emotionally.  Prepare by not making any plans for a few days after Halloween.  Long sugar binges can also lead to tired emotional kids.  Keep protein snacks around the house to help their bodies recover.  String cheese, peanut butter, and meat (if they will eat it) are good to keep on hand.
  2. Discuss, don’t lecture. There is a difference between giving your kids information and lecturing them until their ears hurt.  Kids who have information are able to make better decisions for themselves.  It’s great to talk about health and the effects that food has on our bodies, but if you’re talking moves toward coercion then you’re better off just not talking at all.  Wait until later, talk about food, not fear based arguments.  My favorite Halloween candy is candy corn.  I’d be really irritated if my husband sat there and lectured me on the evils of candy corn while I ate it (or at all)!  Yes sir, eating an entire bag of candy corn makes me feel like shit, but it’s sooooo worth it (drool).  Those are the choices that we are ALL allowed to make in our lives.

I hope you have a super fun, awesome, candy filled Halloween!


Halloween is Dangerous.

Here we are again!  It’s October!  Halloween is just 3 days away and I just know all you moms and/or dads are working frantically to get your kids costumes finished so you can start your own, right?  This year I’m going as myself.  But if you’re in the market for a quick costume try these on for size:

  • A Shot in the Dark – Dress in all black and hang a shot glass around your neck.  (submitted by my brother Shane)
  • The Neighborhood Ho – Dress in all brown, fashion a garden ho out of a box and wear it on your head.  Wallah!  (invented by my wonderfully creative mom)  Whoever said Ho’s were easy…  is right!
  • Helicopter Mom – My personal favorite.  Get one of those silly hats with the propeller on top and trick or treat with your kids.  Of course, some of us don’t really need a propeller at all, were already hovering.  And for those of us that aren’t, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to make sure that they take that place under the propeller on Halloween night.  Take into consideration this little graphic they released just for the holiday.

Really?  Since when did we need so many guidelines when playing dress-up?  I mean at first glance, it all seems to be fairly good advice right?  Well, no.  Think about the message this graphic sends.  Halloween is DANGEROUS.  Make sure you can see!  Don’t catch on fire!  Don’t trip! Make sure everyone can see YOU!  Inspect your candy…  you never know!

In the “safety alert” they also mention that you should “avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.”  Sorry Princess, you’re going to have to be an 80’s aerobics instructor this year.  I wouldn’t want your flimsy clothing and billowy skirt to go up in flames from knocking on people’s doors.

Here’s the best part of the “alert”.  Ready?

“Treats: Warn children not to eat any treats before an adult has carefully examined them for evidence of tampering.”

So we’ve probably been hearing this since WE were children…  right?  My mom used to cut my apples I got from trick or treating in case there were needles or razor blades inside.  But has anyone ever wondered what this was all about?  There must be a lot of reports of poisoned candy and injuries from projectiles in the fruit, right?  Wrong.

There have been about  80 tracked cases razor blades and needles in food since 1959.  Most of those were hoaxes and only about 10 ever led to injury.  That’s TEN injuries from tampering with Halloween food in the last 52 years and this independent government agency wants all parents sifting through their child’s Halloween candy in search of tampering!?  Puh-lease.

And BTW, as far as Snopes in concerned, there is no evidence of a “genuine Halloween poisoning”.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.

You could get hit by a car, you could catch on fire, you could be stuck in the lip by a needle, or you could be poisoned. For Christ’s sake… YOU COULD DIE!

Ssssss......

Happy Halloween!!!

Inspiration: Reason Magazine

Why You Are Your Own Best Teacher

I’m not raising my son Milo to be the best Surgeon in the world.  I’m not raising him to be a world renown Author.  I’m not raising my boys to be the next Jonas Brothers.  I’m raising my son Milo to be the most fulfilled Milo that there is in the whole wide world.  Milo knows best, at every waking moment of his life, what it is that will make his life joyful, and full.  Who am I to tell him otherwise?

All people have opinions and biases.  It makes us human.  Even if it’s your job to be unbiased, it’s still there.  That news reporter still votes.  That referee still has a favorite team.  There’s no avoiding it.

Growing up, there were a lot of things I inherited from the adults in my family.  We were poor, so there was always an emphasis put on making a lot of money when I was older.  My step-father, and my father, who both worked in construction, would often tell me “Don’t be an idiot like me, push a pencil when you get older, be a lawyer or an accountant or something.”  Having heard that statement so much growing up, doing physical work became something I saw as bad, and that you should avoid if possible.  I learned that the ultimate goal was to make lots of money, without a lot of physical work.  Money is nice, but there are certainly no shortage of unhappy wealthy people in the world.  If I was instead encouraged to formulate my own opinions, based on my own experiences, perhaps creating things and doing something that was physically challenging would have been very fulfilling for me.

Our parents shape our opinions in other ways too.  While there were certain opinions I had inherited, there were others that were simply there in defiance of my parents (a topic for a whole separate article).  My step-father, whom I lived with from about age 5 to 15, was a miserable bastard.  In 10 years I don’t think we had 2 conversations.  Many of my opinions growing up were just there so that I was the opposite of him.  He liked football, so I grew to dislike football.  He liked hunting, so I hated hunting.  He liked Led Zeppelin, so, sadly, I hated Led Zeppelin.  As it turns out, in my adult life, these are all things I do now enjoy to varying degrees.

What is the fundamental difference in our household then?

We are nurturing our children’s inner voice and making it strong, rather than replacing it with our own voice.

Sometimes it’s about listening, even when it’s a topic you haven’t been interested in.  And don’t fake it, your kids see right through that.  Be genuinely interested in The Power Rangers, or whatever they are building in Minecraft.  When they have an interest, even if that is very different than your own, feed it.

Their musical interests may not be your cup of tea, but don’t talk badly about it.  Recognize that there is something about it that connects with them.  Your music might be very different, but connects with you in a similar way.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  After all, my oldest son Skylar really doesn’t like the poor recording quality of a lot of my older DIY punk rock albums, and prefers a more polished product.    The sometimes difficult task we have is to find that line, and give information, not push your opinion.  It’s the difference between “That music is so commercial and without feeling” and “What I like about this album is the raw emotion and energy.”

I try hard to make sure my kids don’t just get my biases and opinions simply because I am their father.  If we feel the same way about something, that’s great, but I want it to be because they’ve given that particular thing some thought.  Be it religion, politics, or their taste in music, I want it to be their own.  We’re letting them develop their own opinions based on their life experiences, not my past life experiences, and that is one of the greatest gifts we can give them as their parents.

Intent Matters

Nothing makes a trip to the fabric store worth it for a bunch of boys like:

Go-Karts

Lazer-Tag

and Video Games

The fabric store is a long way from here.  It’s one of those trips not everyone wants to go on, yet we all did.  Some might say we bribed them.  But I say we made the trip worthwhile to all of us.  There’s a huge difference between bribery and meeting everyone’s needs.  It’s not just semantics.  Your intent matters.  It’s the difference between making your kids happy for your own benefit and making them happy for their benefit.

3 Simple Ways To Start Living For You

I need you to think of someone’s authority in your life as a pair of sunglasses.  As an adult, you can choose to put them on and submit to this authority or you can choose to take them off and live by your own.   Occasionally, you might think you’ve taken off the sunglasses but in fact you’ve only put them on your head, and they sit there weighing in on every decision you make.

Children do not have this choice.  When a child is home he wears his parent’s sunglasses.  When he is in school, he wears his teacher’s sunglasses.  Sports?  Coaches sunglasses.   And the list goes on.  A child being raised with a mainstream parenting philosophy, is expected to submit to the adults in his life and never really gets to view the world from his own perspective.  His life is always being shaded by someone else’s sunglasses.  It’s the way most of us were raised, so not really all that uncommon, but definitely something that needs rethinking.

I want my kids to have an unobstructed view of the world.  If I make the rules, tell them the good from the bad, and take full control over their life’s direction, that is a very big pair of sunglasses.  I have shaded and distorted their vision so they can no longer make decisions that honor their true being.  They will always be wondering, “What will my mom think?”, when what’s most important is what THEY think.

When I wore all those different sunglasses of all the authority figures in my life, I hated what I saw.  I was living my life against the things I hated, rather than living life for what I loved.  Nothing looked good to me and I often made decisions only to do the opposite of what I was seeing.  What I didn’t realize, was that I hated what I saw because I was seeing things through someone else’s eyes.

I was living my life against the things I hated, rather than living life for what I loved.

And I know a lot of people who do the very same thing.  I had no idea I was doing this until I moved.  When I moved, I moved away from everything I disliked, there was nothing left for me to gripe about and I actually found myself having trouble making decisions.  I didn’t dislike anything anymore, I feel like the cardboard box that went missing must have had all my sunglasses in it.  Unexpectedly, once we were settled in to our new home I had NO IDEA how to move forward.

I don’t want this for my children.  To turn 32 and realize that they don’t really know joy at all, and as much as I thought I did.  I didn’t.  The only way I can appreciate and support their personal analysis of the world is to have my own.  I need to live free, if I’m going to support my children’s freedom.

1. Baby, lose those shades!

Take them off, and fling them into the ocean!  Just as real sunglasses may trick your brain into not producing chemicals that block the sun, those figurative sunglasses aren’t doing your brain any good either.  For me, this means blocking negative thoughts.  Turning “I can’t.” into “Duh… of course I can!” and “What if” into “Let’s do it”.  I often ask myself “Why not?!” and remind myself “Who cares what everyone else thinks!  It’s my life!”  You can fight against the voices in your head.  I’ve always dreamt of living my life out loud…  and so I am, and I’m doing it with clear, unobstructed vision.

2. Find your passions.

Finding what you love isn’t going to come to  you on a silver platter.  You’ve got to give something a go.  I am so not a fan of Nike products, but didn’t they just have the best slogan in the world?  “Just do It!”.

Baking cupcakes look fun to you?  Just do it!  Who cares if you don’t think they will be pretty or yummy.  That standard you’re holding cupcakes to isn’t real.  It’s only in your head.  Always wanted to paint, but you’re afraid you won’t be good?  It’s not true!  Just do it!  Is there really any sort of definition of what art should look like?  Grab a canvas and throw some paint on it, right now.

3. Get out of your way.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I said, Get out of your way! So often we’re just standing in our own way.  You are the only one stopping you from what you want.  You’ve got to figure out how to get out of your way before you can move forward.  Sometimes that means really digging in to your past and why you are doing this to yourself, and sometimes that means you run forward, full force, knocking yourself over and flipping your former self the bird on the way by.  Personally, I prefer the latter!

It’s catchy.

Living passionately is catchy, the GOOD kind of catchy.  I love that I am able to live my life with such passion and joy and I’m seeing it trickle down to my children.  I don’t force them to wear my sunglasses when I think they need them, they are living their own bright truths.  However, they know they can borrow my sunglasses at ANY time, and keep them for as long as they want and need.

Failure Without Guilt

I’m sitting in the coffee shop where I used to do a lot of writing, in West Seattle.  I came here to kick off my weekly write night, as I’ve been absent from writing for quite some time.  Upon sitting down I went through my usual routine of checking my facebook and my email.  I usually need to get all of the distractions out of the way before I dig in.  Within minutes, TJ called.  He said, “I have bad news.  REALLY bad news.”  I knew by his tone that the kids were OK, but I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Heather, all 5 chickens are dead.”

“What!? I checked on them seconds before we left for the ferry.”

TJ dropped me off at the ferry to cross the water to meet up with my brother.  Then he drove home.  This takes 15 minutes.  TOPS.  When he got home, the chickens were dead.  And really, can we call them chickens yet?  They were still babies.  Just barely getting their big girl clucks.

Fuck.

I failed them, my chickens and my children.  I feel like a jerk.  I allowed my chickens to die, what was probably a horrible death.  I can’t even go into the preparation and the research we did.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  Whatever  killed them didn’t even want to EAT them.  It just picked them up, broke their necks and left them to die.  Each one of them.  Five. Chickens.  I’m not even home to console my children.  I’m what feels like a million miles away.  A ferry ride.  TJ says he’s fine and will let me know if should make my way home.   I trust him.

I’m sad, incredibly guilty, angry, befuddled and I feel genuinely defeated.

*sigh*

June Cleaver never had chickens.  June Cleaver isn’t a failure.  June Cleaver never did anything that allowed her to fail.  Then again, maybe her mom never told her that failure was an option.  It is, you know.

Failure is your friend.

By implementing grading systems, school culture has negated the option of failure.  It can happen, but if you ask, failure isn’t an option.  In school, failure is something you do not want to happen.  If you fail, you are punished.

Our culture, competitive to a fault, has created the “need to succeed” in the worst way.  Our society says you need bigger, better, faster and more.   You NEED to succeed.  I guess that many people forgot that some of the most mind-blowing things we learn are born of failure, like silly putty!  Some of the greatest inventions came from failures.  The Pacemaker was invented by making a mistake!  We need to fail to learn.  We need to try and tinker and test and fail.

Failure should have a cozy little spot in our lives.  Failure is incredibly important.  As a mom, I need my children to see me fail.  I need them to know that I am not infallible.  No person, anywhere is infallible.  It’s OK to make mistakes.  It’s OK to muck it all up.  It’s a process, and a really necessary and  important one.

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” -Tom Watson

Guilt is not your friend.

If we’re going to talk about friends, then we should also talk about one friend that really isn’t a friend at all.  Guilt is a nasty acquaintance that only hangs around when you are feeling bad and seems to love to watch you suffer.  Guilt keeps you hanging on to the past; the could haves, the would haves, and the should haves.  Guilt prevents  you from moving forward and therefore learning or trying again.  Guilt only ensures that you feel wrong in your mistakes.

I can’t choose your friends for you.  You may need to learn that one on your own.  I know I did.  I once let guilt hang around for a good year before I decided to let her go.  My life felt stagnant and it was as if she was holding me back by my suspenders.  I’m not saying you should never let guilt in, but after a cup of tea and a nice conversation make sure she doesn’t overstay her welcome.

Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.” – Coco Chanel

Safety in mistakes.

In my home, I feel safe to make mistakes.  The chickens were largely my responsibility.  TJ had done his job, he built them a safe and secure house that nothing could break into!  (Heck, I couldn’t undo the locks!)  The tractor was mine.  It was made from chicken wire, not raccoon proof chicken wire and it needed repair.  I’m almost always home, watching them closely.  Phoenix LOVES to spend time outside near his chickies.  I never thought anything was going to get in during the day.  In fact, they have been outside during the day in the tractor for weeks now with no issues.  We collected so much knowledge when we decided to take on these chicks, but it wasn’t enough.  I should have reinforced the tractor.

I made a mistake.  A big one.  We are terribly sad and mourning the loss of life that happened in our own backyard, but no one is angry with me.  My home is a safe place to make mistakes and to learn and move on; as every home should be.  Children (or adults) who make mistakes are simply human.  Punishment, whether by force or by treatment, is a useless tactic that does nothing for the punished, but brings sort of an instant gratification to the punisher.

We will bury our chickens today.  I have one especially sad child.  One who wants more.  And one who says the chickies went bye-bye.   No one has seen the chickens except TJ, and I’m really grateful that the children were somehow given the option to see them, rather than to stumble upon them in the backyard themselves.  Guilt will be here by my side but, I’ve already made her quite aware, once the last pile of dirt is thrown, she is to head north…  straight out of town.

3 Things That Are More Important Than Football. (…or baseball, or basketball, or hockey)

I played freshman football in High School.  Wait, let me correct myself.  I was on the freshman football team in High School.  Of the season, I was in for a total of 1 play, in 1 game, and there was a penalty on the play, on me.  This was fine by me, because I had no desire to play football.  Before the football season started, I also went to football camp.  Yup, didn’t want to be there either.

When I was younger, I collected football cards, and followed the game pretty closely.  I knew who most of the coaches and players were on most of the teams.  Why then, a few years later did I dread having to play?  I got to put on pads, and smash into other kids, and that’s always fun, right?

I played freshman football, and hated every minute of it, because my dad made me play.

Sometime during that summer my father had gotten word of the football camp that was being run, and told me that he was signing me up.  I had decided, around this time, that I really wanted to try saving for a season pass at the local mountain to snowboard during the coming winter.  This was when they first started letting snowboards on the lifts, and the pass was going to run me about $300.  I said “Hey Dad, how about instead of football camp, you put that money toward my season pass?”

Seems reasonable, right?

Nope, I was going to football camp, and that was that.  BLAMMO!  That flipped the switch, and broke off the handle.  Football was now something that was simply keeping me from something that I REALLY wanted to do.  I was pissed.  After the camp was over, the season started, and my father would drop me off at practice, and I would go through the motions with as little effort as was possible.

Learn plays!? Kiss my ass.

Years later, I’m sitting on a cold metal bench in a hockey rink, watching my 6 year old son at his hockey practice.  He was interested in ice skating, so I signed him up for hockey.  After they had gotten all the kids to learn how to skate around well enough, they moved on to actually playing the game of hockey.  My son would skate over to me occasionally and plead “Can we leave now?  I just wanted to skate a little.”  And I would say “No, there’s only 20 more minutes of practice dude, you can go back out there.”  This went on for most of the season, and each week he seemed less and less excited about going.

One night, we all went to the skating rink together, and brought some friends with us, and had more fun than I’ve ever had while bruising every part of my body (and believe me, I’ve had some serious fun injuring myself).  Afterward, my son said to me “I wish hockey was like that, and we just got to skate around!”  And that was when it struck me, like my head striking the glassy zambonied surface of the ice rink:

I had become my dad.

My son liked ice skating, but he didn’t want to play hockey anymore.  At the ripe old age of 6, he didn’t communicate that to me in the same way I did to my father when I was 12 (and he may not have had the dexterity yet to show me just that finger) but it was exactly what he had been telling me all along:

All I want to do is ice skate, Pops and this coach guy over here is chapping my ass.

Right now, I have 3 boys, and none of them play team sports.  They are all young, and may change their minds some day.  Or, maybe not.  What is far more important than that though?  Connection.  Lemme splain:

  1. Listen.  Be right at their eye level even, and give them your full attention.  My son really got into wrestling.  We moved far away, and he ended up on a different team.  He was clearly not enjoying himself, and he stopped winning matches.  I might have thought that he was just losing interest, or was missing his old teammates, but after sitting down with him and listening to what he had to say, he just didn’t like his new coaches.  They had a completely different coaching style that didn’t work with him.
  2. Do things with them.  Don’t work on getting them to go throw a ball around with you if they clearly don’t want to either.  Find the things you both enjoy, and make time to do them together.  Maybe just find something they enjoy that you’ve never considered doing with them.  Playing video games is every bit as valuable as throwing a ball in the yard.  You are connecting and enjoying something together.
  3. Show them what you are passionate about, without forcing it on them.  If you are really into fishing, don’t drag your son/daughter along if they don’t want to go, unless you want to instill such a hatred of fishing that they won’t even walk into a Red Lobster.  If they see how much you enjoy it, they may ask to join you at some point, and with a genuine curiosity.  Or they might not.  I play the guitar, and my boys have only ever shown a fleeting interest in it, but we sure do go for a lot of bike rides together.

Being tuned in, involved, and connected is what it’s all about.  My dad wasn’t a villain.  For all of the things he forced me to do that only drove us apart, there were also other things he did simply to help me follow my passions.  I still have no love for football though.  Who knows, maybe if it wasn’t forced on me, I may have loved playing football.  I might have been the next Joe Monta… er, Tom Brady.  At the very least, it could have been something my dad and I just enjoyed together.  Do you know what never even occurred to me about my sons new wrestling team?  There was one particular coach from his old team that wasn’t coaching his new team.  Me.

The Secret to My Patience

I feel like crap.  The last few days I’m convinced I’ve come down the plague.  I’m unsure which plague…  it’s just that the word “plague” just sounds so utterly horrible that it MUST be what I have, right?  My eye are burning, my nose is running, and I’ve officially kicked off the year end sneeze-a-thon.  Ugh.  Head colds suck, man.  It has left me incredibly irritable.

Last night the two oldest boys were getting a bit overtired and were having an argument a communication breakdown.  I honestly just didn’t want to hear it.  After I yelled my piece and stomped my feet like a child (no not literally, but I won’t say it didn’t cross my mind) I went downstairs and plopped in the rocking chair to finish up watching the UFC event that was on television.  I said out loud to my brother, something to the effect of, I hate being sick, I’m finding it hard to parent.  Immediately he commented, “I don’t know how you do it sometimes” and complimented my (usual) high degree of patience.

…Patience?

I thought for a moment.  Am I patient?  I don’t feel patient.  In fact, I am incredibly impatient.

  • I have been known to frost the cupcakes before they cool, leaving the frosting to melt and soak into the tiny steaming cake.  That’s not patience.
  • I would do Christmas a week in advance if I had my way, the anticipation kills me!  That’s not patience.
  • I can’t stand taking 20-30 minutes just to put shoes on to leave, so I’ve been known to rush my family.  That is definitely not patience, and sometimes I think they go slower just to have a laugh.

No… that’s not it at all.  I haven’t been blessed with some magical patience gene.  In actuality, I hate waiting and I like instant gratification.  Impatience, isn’t one of my better qualities, but as I get older and gain more experience, I learn to cope and try not to negatively affect others with my eager ways.

So what is it then?  Why do people compliment me on my patience?  Why do I hear “I don’t know how you do it” and  “you’re so patient” coming from people outside my household.

It’s not patience.  It’s perspective.

Patience:  1. capacity for waiting: the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties

Perspective:  1. particular evaluation of something: a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person’s point of view.

Someone I know keeps a list on her fridge.  It’s a list of negative words that are commonly used to describe fairly typical childhood behavior, and next to each word is a new word casting a new, more loving light on each behavior.  I’m going to use that idea here, and try and come from a place of compassion while describing the child.

Example Patience (waiting for it to end)
Perspective Shift
Child won’t eat anything except macaroni and cheese and claims to dislike most other foods. Picky eater This child is discerning and not quite ready to explore more tastes yet.  The child has a very sensitive palette and can easily pick out subtle flavors that many children can’t.  Many successful food critics also have this very delicate ability.
Kids are arguing and yelling obscenities at each other. Angry, mean, rude, undisciplined and must be forced to stop what they are doing. Passion comes in lots of different forms.  When someone feels strongly or passionate about something sometimes it can collide with anothers point of view.  Children have less experience in communicating under stress and navigating through tense situations.  How can I help them?
Child wants to do nothing but play video games. Not learning anything, no other  interests. Child is dedicated and has perseverance.  He accepts difficult tasks and continues to try to solve complex problems.  He is determined and putting strategical skills into practice.
Won’t clean their rooms. Lazy, defiant, messy. Brilliant young minds are busy at work and play and don’t have time to clean up the mess, much less notice it.  That mess is more than likely is proof of real learning going on.  Feel free to reset it, and let them start all over again.

Peaceful households aren’t born overnight.  Changing perspectives to come from a place of love and compassion, rather than a place of criticism and judgment changes the energy within your home.  It becomes a comfortable and safe place to be.  These simple examples are really good ways to change those old-fashioned perspectives on how children should behave or when advocating for other children who’s parents can’t seem to see the positive.

“Wow!  It looks like a lot of fun and learning has been going on here!”

When my kids are behaving in ways that are generally undesirable, (for instance yelling “assbutt” and “bitchhole”), I have no need to be patient because from my perspective they aren’t “misbehaving”.  I’m not waiting for them to stop their undesirable behavior.  The issues they are having are more important than the swears they saying.  They won’t be solved simply by ending and punishing the use of words like “bitchass” and “fartshit”.  Their issues can begin to be solved when they can effectively communicate their needs to each other (or to me).  I have more experience, I can help if they want it.  I can do the listening and the talking if and when they need me to.  When all is cool and calm, then and only then will I talk about the appropriate use (or place) for words, name calling, and more effective communication.  Not during the heated moment. (on a positive note: they are incredibly creative with their use of language!)

Shift This:

1. Realize that children are free human beings and any control you may think you have over them is merely an illusion.  Whatever you forbid now, they will seek out later and most likely behind your back.  Restrictions create forbidden fruit.

2. Everything is learning.  Everything.  When I’m having a particularly hard time with something one of my children is doing, I focus on all the things they are learning.  Chances are they are learning SOMETHING, whether academically, socially, or personally and all life learning is equally important.

While both perspective and patience are valuable and useful, I’d say that perspective wins for me, every time.  (and somehow causes me to appear to be incredibly patient)

Unschooling After Death on Enjoy Life

I think if there is one thing no one wants to imagine, it’s the death of a spouse, partner, or parent. It’s uncomfortable to consider what might happen to you, your children, and your quality of life.  Unschoolers are not immune to life or even death.  Sometimes, we know in advance that death is inevitable, sometimes it is sudden as it was for one unschooling family last week.

I’m writing over at Enjoy Life today about what can happen and how we can be prepared to make sure that our families are still able to live an Unschooling life even when our lives are affected by  the passing of a parent or guardian.

Click the image to read the article.