the network for radical unschooling families
**My idea was exactly a way for Lenore to deal with that feeling. I'm sure there are others.**
I helps people who come along next month or 3 years from now, though, if advice given is seen in a more generalized light than in a "what worked for us" light.
If you're not here 3 years from now to explain the personalities involved, the advice will read as though you suggest parents should put their needs first and let their child figure out how to fit their needs in around it.
Most people coming into unschooling are coming from conventional parenting where the mindset is to conform kids to the parent's convenience. So what you've written will sound *from that point of view* like a reinforcement of what they already know.
To help people let go of that conventional thinking, they need to do some mental house cleaning before they can build relationships. Part of that mental housecleaning is finding ways to joyfully take care of our kids needs rather than seeing the tasks as "have tos".
That's not the whole of it! We shouldn't just be doing, doing, doing and stuffing down resentment. That's no better! But since the pendulum for most people is swung towards the parents first side, it helps to find healthy ways to put our families first so we can better see what our real needs are and what are just resentments over family sucking up our time.
I suspect you're already beyond that. You were helping you wife see that she was falling into the "I have to" trap and you pointed out that she didn't "have to". But to move your advice beyond a report of something that worked for your unique family in your unique situation towards something that will help others in very different situations, it helps to understand how the ideas you post will read to someone who may be in a very different mind set. To someone who is still caught on the idea that kids need to make life less inconvenient for their parents, then what they'll read is that they can stop doing their kids' laundry so the kids will have to do it themselves.
I know that's not what you meant, but it's how it will get read by many.
** It's okay, Sandra, for there to be many ways and many voices on this forum, right? **
It's easy to write what we each do. It's not so easy to write about it while you've got an ear tuned to how it will read to someone coming from mainstream parenting.
For instance, Kathryn took college math classes when she was 14. It's something that worked for her. But I need to be conscious of what context I drop that into. I don't want unschoolers to feel anxious that their 14 yos are glued to the Spongebob marathon and not doing college course work ;-) Does that make sense?
** Oh yes. Lot's of things would change my assessment. I take lots of things into account. I like to be reasonable. **
But your judgement of when he's able to care for himself is about you with your unique background and family. How does the idea read and how does it help another family? It's too vague to be a useful philosophy. It's like saying we should all be good parents.
Any parent feeling -- not even saying out loud -- toward their child, "You're 7 now (or 9 or 13) and are old enough to be able to do this," won't help build relationships. To build relationships it helps to see the world through their eyes, to hear our words through their ears, to feel our actions through their understanding of the world.
No matter how true it is, no matter his good intent, if my husband decided I was old enough at 53 to be able to walk into a car dealership and buy a car by myself, it would feel like an abandonment if he did that.
If a parent 2 years from now reads that your wife stopped doing what she resented doing and your son happily came to fix the situation, they're going to be very confused when their child is angry and resentful -- or maybe even doesn't notice!
What builds relationships is inviting kids along, asking for help, appreciating help given. (But that's to vague to be helpful ;-)
** We are parents, but we are also undeniably people who have our own things we want to do. Our lives do not center on our children. Instead, we interact with each other as people and the family has a common center. If you think that's adversarial, then, I guess I don't see your point at all. I'm talking about ordinary cooperative living between people. It's not about winning or losing. **
And if you can express what you do to someone coming from a conventional parenting mindset so that it doesn't sound like more of what they already understand, then that would be great.
It takes a lot of practice and feed back and objectivity to write so that people from multiple mindsets can get a handle on what's different about what you're saying from what they already understand.
To help them understand, it helps to build a bridge. But to build a bridge, it helps to understand where they're coming from and how and why they see the world as they do. What you're doing is describing the island you're living on and the words you're using are making your island sound a lot like conventional parenting islands. Every conventional parent would agree that adults are people with their own wants.
But how can a parent meet their own wants *and* build good relationships? Most of us grew up in conventional homes where parents had sort of a mental tally of all the things they did for others (including the non-requests like making dinner, doing laundry and so on) and all the things they did for themselves. At some point the tally would reach the breaking point and they would cut off the child for asking for too much. There was sort of a unspoken promise that when we kids got to be adults it would be our turn, but since our parents were adults, it was their turn. Turns out that our parents lied! ;-) When we get to be adults, we find life full of obligations. And unintentionally we fall into a resentment trap of all this stuff that sucks up our time. And we wonder when it will be our turn. And we can end up taking our turn by stealing it from our kids -- as our parents did to us -- by saying "No, I'm tired of doing that for you. Now it's my turn to do something for me."
It doesn't sound like you're there. It sounds like you have a decent handle on the relationship dynamics. Maybe your parents were never like that which is cool! *But* -- BUT -- you're writing to people who are there, or are partially away from there, or who could easily fall back into being there. And what you're writing sounds from that point of view a lot like what they already know: "Go with your feelings. If you feel resentful about doing for the kids, then don't do it."
Does that help make Sandra's response any clearer? Does it make more sense why what's straight forward sharing to you might be read very differently -- in fact practically the opposite -- of what actually happens in your home and why Sandra's saying "Wait, look at it in this light."?
When we talk about "making choices" maybe some people see it as justification for choosing to limit. Or see it about choosing for someone else (a.k.a. "control").
You could agree, along the same vein as others have suggested, that if the choice is between making choices for kids or abandoning kids to go it alone, then yes, definitely, making choices for them will make them feel more safe and secure.
But you're not talking about only those two choices. You're talking about something else entirely: being on their team to support their explorations. Rather than leading them to the right choice (or handing it to them), we can support them in their decision making and support them in thinking about and fixing things that didn't turn out as expected. The benefit is they learn how to make choices rather than memorize someone else's right choices.
It seems to make sense to wait until the kids are older and have more life experience before we let them make decisions, but by that time they're faced with more dangerous decisions and we wouldn't want them testing out fledgling decision making skills on whether to ride home with someone who has been drinking or whether to let biology overwhelm half-thought-through ideas on why that might not be a good idea.
It's better to start early when their most "dangerous" choices involve staying up all night or eating as many Oreos as they want. While it's extreme, what can put the problem in perspective is asking yourself, "Who's going to die?"
A child staying up all night looks like a recipe for a disastrous next day, but in the bigger picture, they'll learn a ton by experiencing it for themselves rather than being told why that experience will be bad. (Because there will, in fact, be good parts about it!) They'll learn more about themselves and their body's limits. They may even need to explore staying up several times for the cons to outweigh the pros. They may need some help thinking through the consequences (like getting up and out to a morning play date) or dealing with the aftermath (being snippy with people the next day).
If it's a bigger choice, like whether to go to a particular summer camp, we can help them with decision making strategies like writing out the pros and cons and ranking them. Every time they think something through, ever time they experience the good and bad parts of their choices (with us there to support them) they learn more about how to make better choices. And that will serve them far better in the future than memorizing someone else's right choices.