Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Instill Independence Fearlessness Good Decisions and Safety

He ran like a freight train out of the living room, stomping his feet with each step, and I heard a door slam in the distance.

Exhale.  I took a minute.  This all happened because I told him not to play any video games tonight.  It's eight pm already, the summer sun remains bright in the sky.  But, I've asked him to start to wind down and get ready for bed.  The kids have been sleeping well past 10pm every night and I know that sleep is important for brain development.

It's been a tough balance for me: between my desire to provide an environment for the kids where they have as much creative and personal freedom as possible, while also ensuring their safety and healthy development.  I end up saying things like, "TV is not good for your brain, you need to see in three dimensions."  While in the back of my head knowing that most well paying jobs require you to sit in front of a screen for more than 8 hours.

So I took a minute to plan out how to explain better.  I've found that when I give all the information I have, Kaio then chooses something on his own accord rather than feeling forced.  But, really he's so quick to anger and I wish I saw signs of that abating, but not yet.

I go to look for him and he has locked himself in the classroom.  Locking doors is another new development he's exploring right now.  I knock on the door and have a parental de-ja-vu moment; from memory, I echo the words of my own parents.

I know I've been on the other side, I remember how refreshing the power to man that lock felt.  Now on the outside, I feel how troubling it is to know that your child needs to put up a barrier.  How unjust it feels to not have access to your baby.

This month Kaio's been infuriated by things that do not seem like a big deal to me.  He's told me he hates me and wants to leave, at least twice.  One night, the first time this happened, it was because we asked him to to stop a noise he was making with a toy.  He actually ran outside in the dark, yelling that he was leaving.   I plopped down on the stoop in shock, watching the little kid decide how far he would run.    He came back and cried about how mean we were being to him.

It seems that he interprets any disapproval I have as mean.  I can say the exact same thing to Nala and Kaio, "It makes me really mad that you guys made such a huge mess tossing packing peanuts all over the floor and aren't helping me clean it up."  Nala will just ignore and continue what she's doing unphased, Kaio will enrage and provoke like an itchy poison ivy he needs to scratch.  Neither will help clean up.

"Look under the door."  Kaio said.

I saw a sheet of white legal paper loosely folded and stapled.  oh, a note.  I opened it up to see it was blank.   

"No, it's a telescope, to use to look for me."  He said from the other side of the locked door.

Then he slipped another message under the door.

"It's a map to find me."

And came another de-ja-vu parenting moment.  I remember sitting in the storm drain across the street from my house, with a pink suitcase packed with clothes.  I told my parents I was running away, then I made a map with directions for how to find me, left the map at the front door, rang the door bell and ran back to my new home in the storm drain.

Last Christmas my dad made a comment around how he and my mom always wondered if I would understand what they went through once I had kids.  I replied that if he had given me more freedom, then I wouldn't have fought so much.  And he said, "But every time we gave you freedom, you'd do something to get in trouble."

And it's true.  Like driving drunk and crashing my car into a steam roller with my younger brother in the passenger seat.  Like getting brought home in handcuffs at midnight as my dad answered the door in his underwear.  Like saying I was spending the night at a friends house, but instead going camping in mountains with two older boys and the driver almost drove us off a cliff: three wheels were off the ground and we needed to crawl out of the driver side window to escape.  Like spontaneously driving across the country in December, having no idea the kind of snow and weather that exists on the rocky mountains and almost crashing on black ice.  So many other times that I put my body in danger.

And so I see how Kaio chooses to ride his bike down our huge steep driveway with no helmet even though he's hit the pavement with his head twice already, and I find myself fighting for this moment and for all the future moments.  Today I may be insisting that he wears a helmet, and asking him to unlock the door.  One day I'll be on the other end of the phone, asking him to come home when he's half way across the country in the winter without snow tires.

So the flip side to all my dangerous behavior is that I have always been a strong and independent person.  Although I made some stupid decisions, I've also experienced so many wonderful, beautiful and profoundly special and inspiring things that wouldn't have happened if I was so worried whatever it is that people worry about.

I remember a mountain top hike with my dad, and I was maybe 9 years old.  The hike summit ended at a jump off point for handgliders.  I wanted to peak over the edge, and my dad insisted on holding my hand as I peeked.  Or how he'd drive for an hour to pick me up from a friend's house in the morning so we could go to the movies together or the gym, never complaining about how far out of the way it was.

I haven't figured out the secret to parenting that instills independence and fearlessness, while cultivating good decisions and safety.  And I haven't definitively decided yet whether there is anything wrong with the decisions I made and the path they took me on.  I mean, good decisions can end tragically, so who's to judge a well-intentioned bad decision as 'wrong'?

But I know that through all the turmoil, I always knew my parents loved me and wanted to protect me, even if I didn't agree that I needed protection.  And that confidence and support is what has made the most lasting positive impression on my life.  So I think I can at least give my kids that and hope that things work out as they did with me.

Yesterday I left my flipflops at the pool and had to turn around to recover them.  From the other side of the fence, I saw my kids attempting to get into the locked car by walking onto the road, very carefully, keeping close to the car and trying to open the door.  I had one of those mom freak out moments, afraid that some crazy distracted driver would veer into my car and hit them.  So I hollered over to them to wait for me on the sidewalk.  Walking back out of the pool game me time to calm past my initial fear kids aren't supposed to do that reaction and realize that it was a good thing they were so brave.  I exited the pool and found them sitting on a picnic bench enjoying the ants on a log snack we had packed. Such sweet independent kids.

Serious Jedi Face

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reality Bites, I'm Making My Own Government

Kaio's been asking for a new video game for our wii console.  Well, a couple days ago he asked for a blank CD, and took a sharpee out to write on it.  After finishing writing, he walked over to the wii and popped the baby in.  If life were a cartoon, this would have totally worked.
But it didn't work, and my poor kid's disappointment was unbearable to watch.  I had no satisfying explanation for why it wouldn't work.  And part of that is my approach to life and parenting in general.  I'm reluctant to explain life, because I truly believe that our concept of reality gets in the way of our potential.  It's like the miraculous placebo effect.  The power of believe goes a long way in making something possible.
So my boy sat there pouting, trying to troubleshoot the problem, "Do I need to draw the characters on the disk?"

I went on amazon and bought him the game.  It was only $6.

He's also been asking for a Lego Republic Gunship set.  It costs $500.  I told him we could try selling some of his toys, or he could make something to sell to cover the cost.  His response, "No, I don't want to sell things, I'm making my own money, I'm making my own government."  Then he made his own money, with Barack Obama and the American Flag:    

Similar thing happened when we saw a deer in our yard and he wanted to go hunt it.  I told him that he would need a hunting license first.  His response, "Here's my hunting license."

I don't know where this subversive behavior is going, but I bet he'll be in the pack of people shopping with bitcoins and raising quails without permission from the county ;)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What the heck do we do?

What the heck do we do?

Burrito shop

I was sick of spending $20 to feed us at chipotle.  So I proved to Nala that burritos can be made at home too.  Big Success.

Hunting for Herbs

Nala's my partner in harvesting for medicinal tinctures.  These are acacia flowers, which are great for prenatal water retention  aka swollen feet.  The trees grow wildly around the DC area, towering right off the beltway.  It's amazing how many flowering white acacia trees you see once you start looking for them.  Nala's already observant to the nature around us and she gets so excited about picking the flowers.  I'm sure she's going carry on as an herbalist.


Or whatever you call this.  The line between genius and dumbass is a thin one.

I'm pretty sure I'm on the genius side.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Beginning of Nature School

It seems like the less traditional academic we get, the more right life feels.

I guess it just fits our family.

People kept telling me that if I stopped trying so hard to teach things, then I'd be amazed how much self induced, passionate learning emerges.  And for me, the interesting aspect of this hiatus from teaching has been in my own shift in understanding of learning.  I've even stopped believing that there is a word "learning."  Because when we live in this manor, learning is exactly as equal an experience as living, there's no parsing it out.  Learning and living are so intertwined, they are the same thing.
This shift in thinking happened without me planning of realizing it.  Just one day, when my mom was trying to quiz Kaio on reading, and I noticed that I didn't care.

I didn't care if he answered her questions or sounded out the letters because I knew that he's focusing on other things in life right now and he'll get to reading when he wants.  He spent all day in and out of the swimming pool improving his stroke.

And when Nala demonstrated she could divide in halves and thirds, I didn't care either.

In fact, I was more impressed by her clay shark.

And the colorful clay islands that weren't copied from any example.  Weren't ordered by me.  Were just a pure expression of creativity at the moment.

And then Kaio made me a pair of earrings.

I guess he could have gotten art credit for that.


Nala has started to say we have a "Nature School."

"Here mom, we can use these in our Nature School."

I have no idea what she's talking about.  But when she hands me somethings natural, I find myself staring, inspecting, tearing them apart by fiber, feeling the difference in texture with a trippy kind of wonder.  Industrialized manufacturing can create some amazing substances, but I see we have so much more to learn from the diversity of nature's creations.

So maybe she's right, maybe nature should be our school.

And for recess, we'll hang out dancing in the rain.


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