Abundance

You know how we get a person that does not hoard what they have, one that shares openly with others, one that cares about how others near him feel?

Abundance. A person raised without the fear of having what he has taken away (not forcing a child to share) does not hoard what he has. A person that is raised around openly sharing parents (when they ask you give) shares openly with others. A person that is raised being respected, one that isn’t told they’ll get something to cry about, one that isn’t shamed for being scared and forced to face it, one that is touched, held, caressed, and loved even when they are angry, sad, or frustrated, ends up caring how others feel.

The opposite holds true as well. Force a child to share his toy and he will hold tighter and hide what he has. Tell a child “No you can’t have a bite of my ice cream or a sip of my coffee.” “You sleep over there in your bed.” “This is my living room, go play in your playroom.”, will grow up to be a person that does the same to the people around him. Bully a child into submission to your will, to do what you want him to do, through violence or the threat of violence, and he will become a bully to those smaller than him too.

Ask and accept a no.

Give what you can.

Be kind and accepting.

Fill their cup and they’ll have plenty for others when they are ready.

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Kids These Days

Why is it that every single generation descends into the following phrases?

“Kids these days!”

“No respect!”

“Things were better when I was a kid!”

“The world is just going to hell in handbasket!”

“These new (insert thing here) are just the lowest of the low. It will destroy us as a people!”

And each generation raises its children the same way. They openly say that they (as a generation) didn’t teach kids (as the next generation) to be better people than they were. People rarely stop and think, maybe if I did something different. All they can think to do is more of the same and expect better results.

I recently told someone that I treat my kids as special guests in my home. I mean, they didn’t ask to be there. I asked them to come to me. In fact, I begged God for a family of my own and He obliged. If I asked friends to come over for dinner and then got huffy because they didn’t bring a pot luck dish and weren’t pulling their weight around here, I doubt they’d ever come back. Why do we do it to children?

They looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

Why do we have children and then treat them as if they are uninvited, hungry creeps that plan on sucking us dry and treating us horribly if we don’t knock them into line before they are able to fight back?

Think about it for a minute. What’s the best way to teach another person kindness? Isn’t it by being kind to them and others around you? Isn’t asking for help and accepting the answer of yes or no, showing respect for their answers?

Mile Markers

The past few days have been weird for me. I feel a little lost, a little worried about the future. Talking to my son this morning, who’s having the same feelings thousands of miles away, I told him it’s just a transition time. He has a set date for something to happen and beyond that is the unknown, like graduation. Strangely enough, it seems to be that time of year as well. The summer is slowly shifting into fall. That’s when I realized that my son and I are sitting in the same boat with lines on the other side.

Transitions come often in life and only end when we’re dead. I believe that’s the ultimate transition! We’re all gradually changing in small ways every day. Our lives transform from child to teen to young adult, suddenly we’re married, a parent, and then a grandparent. It’ll happen that fast if you don’t take the time and space to be aware of it.

It’s one thing to sit with your current life and think, yes, this is nice, or no, things need to change. But there are times in our lives when we’re hyper-award of the coming changes and that’s where we get stuck in anxiety and fear of the future. The first time I remember that happening to me was around my high school graduation. Up until that point, every day was planned for me. I had little choice but to go to school each day but soon that would all change. I’d be in control of my own life from then on. I’d have to choose whether to find work and an apartment of my own or remain with my parents, to choose college classes or work more hours at my job. It all was set to begin on that last day of high school.

That day loomed ahead of me like a mile marker in time. It seemed to cause my life to slow down to a crawl. That day would never come! I was bored and exhausted with my current high school life. I wanted to start my something new now, to jump headlong into my future! And then suddenly that mile marker would rush forward and be just within reach. I would panic, and a flood of worries would wash over me. Would I make the right choices? Would I find work? Would I screw it all up irreversibly and ruin my life? Isn’t there some way to extend childhood, to have the security of parents and still have the freedom of being an adult? I’d spend every moment that I wasn’t at work or school in my bed, sleeping the stress off.

The transition came in time. I don’t know how it happened. It just did. Time has a funny way of marching on, nothing seems to be able to stop it. Some days I was on top of the world and some I felt like the world was rolling over me.

I tried college and work. I tried new relationships, friends and lovers. I got fired. I found a new job. I left college. I moved in with my grandparents. I found my own place. I considered big moves and changed my mind. I tried new careers. I got hungry. I got my heart broken. I broke people’s hearts.

And then…a new transition. I met my husband. And the whole thing started over again. Twenty years later, I’m looking at the mile marker ahead again. It’s like looking out the window of your car and seeing a billboard up ahead. It’s too far away to read it, the print is too small. You wait and watch for it to get closer and then just as the words come into focus it zooms past and it behind you. Damn. What’s that one up ahead?

Homeschooled!

We homeschooled all the way through high school! Yep. We did it.

I’m not surprised that we continued to homeschool through high school. It was the plan from the start really. I was open to changes along the way and we did make some adjustments over the years, but whether the road was rough or smooth, whenever we looked at another road, the road that formal school was on, just didn’t seem to fit. What has really struck me is how early and quickly my sons have moved toward independence.

Let me start by saying we have used an eclectic style that started with “attachment parenting” and moved into a leadership education model. The leadership education model was really for me. It’s what I’ve been doing for myself the last twelve years and my children benefitted from my personal education journey by getting to hear my stories, hear me read books aloud, and knowing first hand what a love of learning looked like. I didn’t “teach” them when they were younger. We decided to delay any academics and allow them to be children. We helped them with the projects they took on, took them places that looked interesting, spent lots of days exploring the world. It was a magical time and I only wish I was aware of how short that time would be while I was in it.

As they grew, we took more of a “radical unschooling” approach. Our home had no hard and fast rules. We used no formal curriculum. We spent our days much like we would if the kids were on vacation. We went places like zoos, museums, and camping trips. We read books, watched tv, went to the movies, and played video games. We met with other homeschool friends and had parties.

The traditional “school subjects” were “offered” as required by our state, but we offered them in very different ways and they weren’t required to study them. Language Arts was offered through books and games. Science through museums, experiments, and videos. History through movies, tv, and historical sites. Math through cooking, games, and other adventures that needed basic math skills. It was often hard to tell the difference between on subject and another.  Many project encompassed all the school subjects at the same time. Once my sons hit their teens they took on a new sport, motocross. They bought old bikes, fixed them up, found out about race tracks, and we’ve been supporting them through that for the last four years. Most of their “education” has been centered on that sport since then.

All of this has been pretty expected and a slow and steady progression for all of us. And then they turned sixteen!

At fifteen and half they were chomping at the bit to get a driver’s license. They took the online class and the behind the wheel through a private company in town, made an appointment one day after their sixteenth birthday and came home with a license. That was the first test they ever took.

At sixteen they began looking for work. The oldest lucked out when a restaurant opened in town and they had a mass hire. He worked there for about six months and saved most of the money. He had a plan to visit Europe when he turned seventeen and nothing was going to stop him. Both the boys learned German and French through free online apps. The week before his seventeenth birthday he took off for a two-week trip on his own. I’ve never been so terrified. The boy had never spent the night away from home! But he had the whole thing planned out, the ticket, a place to stay, a cell phone that would work. Long story short, he ended up volunteering on a farm, deciding to stay a year, and going through immigration for a work permit. I made him a diploma from our own high school and emailed a “permission slip” for his immigration papers. At the time I write this, he’s not yet eighteen. He’ll be back in a few months with his new girlfriend and they’ll be finding ways to start their lives together here.

The youngest has a different path so far. He’s still looking for work. It’s no small task in a small town. He’s been doing odd jobs for a neighbor for cash. He’s taken up reading, guitar, and 3D modeling. He enrolled in the community college and will start classes in a couple weeks. When he took the assessment tests for the college, he tested into college English and almost into college Algebra. Not bad at all. He’s still considered a high school student for this semester because I was under the impression that high school “dual enrollment” students could take some classes for free, but it turns out that’s only at the big city schools. That’s ok though. He enrolled as a private high school student with no trouble. I made him traditional transcripts and he’s taken on the responsibility just fine.

So here I am. One kid graduated and out in the world. One almost so with one foot in college. They seem happy and well adjusted, almost normal. I say almost because they are very different from kids their age and they are very much “nerds” by any standard. Homeschooling works. You don’t need a curriculum. You don’t need oversight. You don’t need to fight and argue with your kids. You can just live with them, support their dreams, treat them like roommates, and they will eventually just take off.

Journal Entry – June 2 & 3

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

June 2 – Wednesday

An uneventful day, as Wednesday’s usually are. Mom took N to school this morning and her mother will pick her up. D’s working. And me? I’m anxious to get together things for my defense, but that involves concentration and the boys refuse to let me have any of that. I just don’t have the energy to take two little boys out right now. They know I’m distracted and they want my attention, but I’m at a loss as to how I can give it to them at the moment. The stress I’m under is making me so sleepy, I just don’t want to play right now. I know it is bad. I promised them we’d will do something fun tomorrow.

In case you are wondering why every entry involves my sons going to sleep behavior, it’s because I write here in my journal after story time. Our bedtime routine starts with baths, pajamas, and teeth brushing. Then stories, one for T, one for J, and one I want to share with them. Right now, we’re reading Pinocchio, the original version. It’s fun explaining old words and hearing their reaction to this bad little wooden boy’s actions. They are usually very upset with him.

Tonight, we tried going to bed one at a time again. It didn’t work. J came up after the story and climbed in bed. He doesn’t want to leave his brother’s side. T is so over tired by the evening, but he won’t take a nap with his brother. He rolls and wiggles around in bed so much he won’t go to sleep.

Recently, T has found the wonderful phrases, “I am!” and “OK!” Four is a glorious age. And J copies him in his two-year-old voice. It’d be funny and cute if I weren’t in such a mood.

J just talked himself to sleep. One minute he was babbling away and the next he was sound asleep! I’ll lay down with Tom until he falls asleep and then get in my bed. I’m just too tired to sit here and wait.

June 3 – Thursday

A miracle happened today! This morning I woke up tense, already anxious about what I was going to do to keep us busy all day. I called Grandma and Grandpa, but they didn’t call me back. We went to Target and the boys were awful. Maybe “awful” is too harsh a word. They were being little boys that wanted to play. A bag of popcorn and an ICEE were not going to suffice. The urge to run wild and have Mom chase them was too strong for shopping.

When we go home, a friend called and asked if she and her daughter could come over and use my computer because hers was broken. That would liven things up! A few minutes later, another friend and her kids showed up and then a couple more! We got pizza and we hung out and talked while the kids played in the yard. Then we all watched a movie while they took a nap all over the living room. The grown-ups took a bit of a nap too! They all left around 4:30, just in time for me to start thinking about dinner.

What a great day this turned out to be. I am lucky to have such great friends. The Lord works in some amazing ways. After dinner, my aunt called and said she couldn’t watch the boys tomorrow. She was going to take them swimming all day so I could get caught up on some housework and have a day to myself. After talking with her, I thought, if the girls hadn’t been here all day today and then I got that call I would have cried. Thanks God! I may not get caught up on housework as much as I had hoped, but at least the boys had an active day and would probably be more cooperative about letting me get some things done while they play tomorrow.

Read the next chapter HERE.

Good Apple vs Bad Apple

Five years ago, I planted a small apple tree in our yard. I wasn’t sure it was an “apple” tree because when I bought it from Home Depot it had a tag on it that said “fruit.” I assumed it was an apple tree! The next summer, sure enough, there were apple blossoms on it and a couple small apples began to grow. The birds got them first that year!

The next year, no apples. The following year, one small apple. The next year, nothing. I began to give up on the apple growing thing. But then my oldest son said we should put some work into that tree. We decided to move it further away from the house and amend the soil around it.

While my son dug the new hole, I dug out the tree. It had been in the ground for over five years and I assumed it would be hard to get out of the ground by now. It had done a lot of growing. But when I started to dig, I noticed there weren’t a lot of roots further than about a foot away from the trunk. I dug deeper and pushed on the tree wondering how hard it was going to be get up and it toppled over. It had a root ball of about a foot in diameter. This tree had grown from a twig to five feet tall and had grown no more roots than the container I had brought it home in. No wonder we weren’t getting any fruit. This tree looked nice and healthy, but it wasn’t getting enough nutrients to produce any good fruit! We were right to give it some love and change its location.

Days later, the hole was dug, the tree was moved, new soil, mulch, and water were applied. This tree has to thrive now! I began to water daily, since it was getting into spring and within a few weeks the buds came.

Fast forward a bit. This morning I was looking at that tree. It looked nice. It had gotten loads of blossoms and now it is full of leaves, but as I inspected the tree it didn’t look like we’d have any apples this year either. I became irritated. All that effort and no results.

But then it hit me. Why would I expect instant results? A fruit tree is not lettuce or spinach. You can’t just plant some seeds, water it a few weeks, and pick the leaves. Fruit trees take time and effort. I’d put the effort in and now it needs time. Next season, I’ll have to put more effort in. And, in more time, I know that tree will produce good fruit. I need to be patient. I need to keep working on it and let the tree do its thing.

One of the definitions of “cultivate” is to foster the growth of or to improve by labor, care, or study. Fruit trees are cultivated, and they take time, lots of it and so do people. Thinking about the tree, I was reminded of kids being “good apples” or “bad apples.” The good ones are the fruit of a lot of work, love, care, and nurturing. The bad ones? They are just like that apple on my tree, the fruit of a tree that isn’t getting enough of something, even if you can’t see it. And when we give that child more of what it needs, i.e. time, attention, love, support, the fruit won’t come immediately. That child may continue to act like a bad apple, until the day that he/she begins to feel they have what they need to grow and be “good apples.” We can’t just be nice to a bad apple and expect them to respond immediately in good apple ways.

Keep cultivating love, kindness, attention, and peace. The fruit will come. It just takes time.

Parenting Angst

The teenagers think they have the market cornered on angst, that “Holy cow…I have no idea what I’m doing and every decision I make could change my life (and someone else’s life) forever. I think I’ll just sit here and do nothing instead.” feeling. They are so wrong.

Raising children has turned out to be infinitely more difficult than I ever thought it would be…still. You’d think that if you did it “right,” no one would ever cry or be upset, nothing would be difficult to do with the right motivation, skills, and a big pile of patience. It’s just not the case. Sometimes, many times, the right thing to do hurts. And the wrong thing hurts too. It’s just different, and after all these years of living you’d think I would be well aware of the difference. You’d think that I’d feel like a grown up and know what I’m doing.

It turns out that this place we call reality is deeply flawed. Bad things happen, we have adverse reactions, we are unhappy, even if we do everything we believe is right. Good things happen, too, even when we do what is wrong from time to time! I find that over time it all evens out to a general happy satisfaction, even if one moment you feel completely lost and terrified.

Right now, I’m down in one of the low, uncertain parts of life. What will happen? Where are we going? Have I done all I can? Can I fix something now, this late in the game? Is this my fault? What will we do next? I’ve felt it before. My Spock mind reminds me that we’ve gone through this and that if I just chill, be kind, and love, it will turn out how it’s supposed to, good or bad, and we can react when it comes to fruition. But the Barclay in me is having a screaming “What if?!” tantrum at the same time.