unschool monday – adventures in autonomy

Sometimes I find it quite hard to parent the sproggets respectfully & gently. I’m trying to parent in a way that is quite radically different to the way I was parented. My beliefs about children, since becoming a parent, are also radically different to the beliefs I held about children before I was a parent & they are radically different to the beliefs commonly held by adults in our society. The beliefs I hold are constantly evolving, our choice to unschool is a perfect example of that evolution. We began our parenting journey a little left of centre with my choice to homebirth our first child. I then discovered some reading on why it’s a great idea NOT to praise children. From there, the snowball effect has lead us on a journey through attachment/natural/instinctive parenting philosophies, then natural learning/unschooling philosophies to where we are now. As we journey further along this path I know our belief system will evolve further & I don’t know where that will lead us. Something I do know now though, is that I struggle almost every day to reconcile the difference between my ideal parent-child relationship & my actual parent-child relationships.

When the sproggets are behaving in ways that challenge me I battle with the voice in my head that tells me to yell, to intimidate them, to make them do what I want them to do. That voice is the voice of authority. The voice of the inner authoritarian parent who wants to govern, & to govern with fear. The inner authoritarian parent who wants unearned authority over another person. If I’m honest, there’s probably also the voice of a petulant inner child egging on that voice of authority. The petulant inner child who thinks the sproggets should have to put up with another person having unearned authority over them, just because I did…

The thing about this voice of authority is that it demands respect for behaving disrespectfully. Oh the irony! Only, it’s not respect that is granted in return, it’s fear.

I see it, those times I’m feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, unsupported, those times I do give in to the demands of the inner authoritarian parent.

My children don’t respect me for yelling, for demanding through gritted teeth that they go. to. sleep. right. NOW(!), for creating artificial consequences (if you do that one more time I won’t read you a story)… it’s not respect that inspires them to comply with my requests, it’s fear. Fear of witnessing (or bearing the brunt of) an unhealthy expression of anger & frustration, fear of artificial consequences, fear of punishment.

A parent-child relationship is a complex relationship. A relationship with many expectations attached to it, a relationship more people feel entitled to comment on than any other interpersonal relationships. I find my parent-child relationships harder than others to put on display, especially when on display 24/7.

We’re staying with Bean’s parents at the moment. We’ve been here one week already & we’ll be here until the shed is finished, in a couple of weeks. When the shed is done, we’ll still be on their property, but we’ll be in our own space. It’s hard, for all of us, sharing their space. They want to live their way, we want to live ours. There’s a lot of compromise.

Since being here, a place that just isn’t our own, we’ve compromised a lot on our values with regard to parenting.

Unfortunately, staying with Bean’s parents has amplified that voice of authority so it is louder than the voice of the reasonable parent, the respectful parent, the unconditional parent.

I have found myself behaving in ways that make me cringe, as I’m doing it!

The expectation that I will control my children is a hard one to ignore. The overwhelming majority of adults in our society view children as people who are ignorant, incompetent & simple. People who need to be controlled because they are incapable of independent thought, responsibility, maturity, selflessness or autonomy at any level. That behaviour just comes magically when you become an adult, apparently.

Our society tells us not to reason with children, because children are unreasonable. Don’t give children the choice to eat something, or not to eat it, because children don’t know what’s good for them. Make your children share their most precious possessions because children are selfish, they’ll never be motivated to share without having it forced upon them. Ridicule children for expressing emotion, or at least ignore them, otherwise they’ll be too soft.

It’s hard to go against these attitudes, held by the majority of people in Western society.

The part of me that so desperately wants approval, the part of me that wants to please others at whatever cost, the part of me that was told I was a “good girl” for behaving conveniently as a child… that part of me is scared. Scared of offending or upsetting someone else by simply living differently in their space.

It’s fear that drives me to parent from a place of authority. Fear that motivates me to scare my own children!

Living in this space, that is not mine, I find myself feeling stressed, flustered, by the sproggets “mess”, their toys strewn around the place during the day. The toys that always get put back into their baskets at the end of each day so there is no evidence of the play & the learning that took place earlier. I feel so worried that we’re being too much of a burden that I work myself into a heightened state of stress, following the sproggets around, picking up after them before they’re ready to pack away, before their game is over, before they’d probably pick the stuff up themselves anyway.

I ask The Bubble to pick up her clothes & she doesn’t do it, so I stress. What will these people, who can’t relate to our way of parenting, think of me? Do they disapprove because I’m not making her do what I ask?

Of course, I’m usually asking at the wrong time.

“Hey Bubble, stop playing that game you’re perfectly happy playing right now so you can pick up your clothes that wouldn’t hurt anyone to be left where they are for another 15 minutes, or even for the rest of the day! Pick up those clothes that I know you’ll pick up later, do it right now because that’s going to make us all look perfect, that’s going to prove we’re doing it right.”

Oh yeah! Really inspiring…

In our own space, these things wouldn’t bother me. In our own space, the sproggets can play freely. Our space is safer, more free of hazards, less littered with breakable, “precious” things in places the sproggets can easily reach. In our space I don’t feel the need to follow the sproggets around picking up after them, telling them “no”. In our space, I don’t feel the need to make excuses for their sleep patterns that don’t look like those described in text books. In our space I don’t feel awkward for “letting” the sproggets leave food on their plate at the end of a meal, or “letting” them put that food in the fridge to eat later. In another person’s space, I find myself making excuses for their existence & making excuses for my values.

So that there, that was my confession, my acknowledgement of the suboptimal way I’ve been relating with my children for this last week or so. Here then, is my pledge:

I’m going to do my very best to just not care!

It’s still important to me that we compromise, while we’re in someone else’s space. It’s important to me that we make this experience as positive as possible for these generous people who are helping us out in the best way they can.

It’s also important to me that we stay focussed on our values with regard to unschooling & parenting with respect. Our relationships with our immediate family, Bean, myself & the sproggets, they’re the most important relationships. This is not the last time we’ll feel pressure to conform to majority held views so we’d best get used to staying solid, standing firm in our beliefs. We can’t be swayed because we’re afraid of ruffling feathers simply because we’re living according to our values. If we’re not hurting anyone, & in fact we’re doing quite the opposite, then why should we care if others view our choices in a less than favourable light because they’re not in line with the way “everyone else” does it?

It’s time to begin ignoring the (internal AND external) pressure, no matter how great.

Last night, or rather, this morning at 2.15am The Bubble sat up in bed & reached for her big book Thousands of Things to Spot. I asked her what she was doing & she replied, as if it was the most normal thing for an almost-4 year old to be doing at 2.15am,

“Reading my book.”

That voice of authority shouted in my mind,

Make her go back to sleep!”

So I said, “Ok.” and rolled over, falling asleep again within seconds. No argument, no stress.

I don’t know how long she was awake for, I know she was asleep again when I woke at 2.45am to breastfeed Babyman.

This morning she mentioned to me that she really enjoyed her midnight reading adventures. We talked about it in the kitchen, there were raised eyebrows, and you know? I don’t care. The Bubble was happy, I was happy, no one was hurt. Looks like a perfect adventue in autonomy to me!

 

Unschool Monday, with Owlet.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (3)