"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And then there were 12


The non-human members of our family now outnumber the Homo sapiens two to one.  Joining the dog, spider, fish, snake, and rats are six healthy and happy little chicks.

Anyone who's paid attention to my pontificating for the past year or two will be well-aware of my Project Poultry Crusade (AKA convincing Mike why we really needed more pets, specifically egg-laying chickens)  I can't help it... having grown up around chickens and horses and cows and goats and dogs and cats and pigs - and a never-ending assortment of everything in between - animals are just in my blood.  And in turn, they're in the kids' blood too.   Mike grew up with no pets, so it's been a battle compromise from the beginning.   But there are five of us, and one of him, and well... he loves us a lot.  

So after much research, discussion, and a good amount of waiting, he agreed to the chickens.  And yesterday afternoon Foghorn, Sam, John, Angie, Dora, and Emerson joined our flock.

They're already being lovingly tended to by the kids, and vigilantly looked over by the dog.  We're hopeful that with some patient training and constant and CLOSE supervision, she'll learn to protect them and not eat them.







Thursday, October 14, 2010

Honesty

Facebook drives me completely crazy. Yes, it has been invaluable for staying in touch with certain friends and family, re-connecting with people from the past, and sharing information with like-minded peers (all of which are why I continue to go) But my list of reasons it bugs the ever-loving *^#@ out of me is lengthy.

One thing that frustrates me is that it's all too easy to become a facade of yourself. People can present whatever they want to present - whether it's true or not - and leave the rest at home. It's smoke and mirrors and posturing and showing off... not unlike a high school dance or a night out at the bar (or the club or wherever it is that people who go out go)

I have no interest in being anyone other than who I am, whether it's on Facebook or in "real life." Take me or leave me, I am authentically me. I don't know how to be anyone else, nor do I have the desire - or time or energy - to try. I'd like to think that what you see on Facebook is very much what you'd see in person, if real life was in fact doled out in little status-sized snippets. I found it really interesting then, when I came across something called the Truth Game. I don't play it, as those time-sucking little games are another of my Facebook pet peeves, but a quick perusal proved to be very enlightening. Basically, your friends can answer yes/no questions about what they perceive to be true about you... about everything from your dancing ability to your religious beliefs to everything in between. Every so often I get a notice that someone answered a question about me, and I can go see what the question was, and how they answered. Since I don't play I can't "unlock" my answers to see who said what, but I kind of like that it's anonymous. A lot of my friends' answers are in fact spot-on, but many are not.

In the interest of full disclosure, here are a few that people got right and a few they got wrong.

I was happy - and amused - to see that people correctly guessed that I brush my teeth regularly, have never used steroids, don't swear like a sailor (at least out loud), and don't need to "come out of the closet." It's also nice to know that no one thinks I'm materialistic, and that people find me to be a good friend.

No one who answered thought I'd ever failed a test - Wrong. I have failed a test. Several in fact. Usually in something related to math, but occasionally in science, and probably a time or two in history. I was on honor roll more often than not when I was in school, but if I was bored or distracted or tired or lovesick or apathetic... I didn't much care about passing tests. The report card comment that plagued me my entire school career was "Not working up to full potential", and I earned it. School bored me. I'm so thankful that I'm an adult now and can learn how and when and why I want. And no one ever tells me I don't work up to my full potential anymore.

Similarly to above, no one thought I'd ever failed a class. To be totally honest, this may be true, but I do remember one semester in my senior year when my apathy towards school was high, I'd already gotten into college, and I let my grades dip, dip, dip, with no sense of shame. It was a very a bad semester for French if I recall (which is ironic, since I love learning foreign languages now) but I don't remember if I actually failed. And in college, I came VERY close to failing Statistics, a class that filled me with such dread I could break into a cold sweat right now just thinking about it. I did okay in the beginning, and then suddenly it got hard. I got a 23, yes out of 100, on my second test. I didn't want it to bring down my GPA, as I was finally taking lots of writing and English classes which I loved - and did very well in - so I decided to take it pass/fail. I did end up passing the course, but b a r e l y. I still have nightmares about it.

Everyone also answered that they thought I was religious. To be fair, I have never liked the word "religious," even back when I was, by most people's definition, religious. It sounds too controlled to me. Too regimented. Too bound by the rules. It makes me think of conflicts and wars. It makes me think of someone who would preach, and someone who would judge others. Surely there are people out there who consider themselves religious who do not do those things, but for whatever reason, the word has always had a negative connotation in my mind. Yes, I have a strong belief and faith in God. But I'm far more inclined to consider myself "spiritual" rather than religious. Far more likely to focus on the relationship and not the rules. I value, and even embrace, different beliefs, and would never judge another's religion or lack thereof. I don't consider myself religious, but clearly I present myself as something that others see as religious. Is it just a matter of semantics? Perhaps, but I don't think so.

Finally, and by far the most puzzling to me, was the question "Do you think this person has ever done anything they're ashamed of?" EVERYONE answered no. Really? Of course I've done things I'm ashamed of! Is there anyone who hasn't? I'm ashamed that I stole a toy from preschool, even though I knew it was wrong, and I'm ashamed that I lied to my mother about it. I'm ashamed of the way I messed with the mind of the very sweet kid who had a crush on me in Jr High. I'm ashamed of the way I handled a situation with a not-very-nice person a couple of years ago, and I'm ashamed of the way I continue to handle it. I'm ashamed every time I have a less-than-stellar parenting moment. And I'm ashamed of a whole bunch of stuff in between.

We wouldn't be human if we didn't have some bad days, and we wouldn't be human if we didn't make some bad decisions. I'm not ashamed of who I am... I'm me, and I like me. But I'm human.

And I'm still thinking about that Statistics class.





Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hole in the Rock



This hill (Mountain? Pile of rocks?) is right next the Phoenix Zoo. Every time we've gone to the zoo for the past five years, I've looked up at that hole, seen people milling around up there, and wanted to join the fun. We finally made our way up there after a geocaching event in the area this weekend. Turns out it's just a quick little hike, a neat spot to drink some water and let the kids play, and a cool view of the city. One more thing to cross of my list.















Sunday, October 03, 2010

My Childhood, My Kids

I never want to be that parent who pushes her own childhood likes, hobbies, dreams, and pasttimes onto her children. I would never force any of them to play an instrument just because I enjoyed it. I would never make Tegan take gymnastics lessons against her will to make up for my own failure to realize my Olympic dreams. Some of the beauty of unschooling is recognizing that your children are their own people, with their own interests, their own passions, and their own dreams. I introduce them to as many opportunities as I can, but in the end it's their decision: whether they want to dabble, to try it once and never again, to explore it every day for the rest of their lives, or to never explore it at all. They may share some of my loves.... and they may share none of them. They may introduce me to things I never knew I'd love as well. Either way, I will be their facilitator, their cheerleader, and their biggest supporter.

One of the great things about being their parent though is that I do get to introduce them to things I once enjoyed myself. What they do with it is up to them, but if they enjoy it too.... well, any time you can share joy with your child is a good thing indeed. Yesterday I had an opportunity to share with them one of my greatest childhood joys:


Spencer loves horses and was happy to go, but didn't want to ride. Paxton decided to join us on the trail ride, and was really looking forward to it.


At six, Everett just made the age cut-off for the trail ride, but chose to start off with something a little less intimidating than an hour long trek through the desert.


And Tegan was thrilled with the chance to ride a horse, and didn't even have an objection to the required helmet (she'd really been hoping to wear a cowboy hat)


Horseback riding played such a huge role in my childhood, and re-living it caused such a heady rush of emotions that I could have wept right there in the middle of the desert. The smell of the leather, the creak of the saddle, the little grunty noises the horse made when it went up hills. The swish of the tail, the clop-clop-clop of the feet picking their way around the rocks. Bliss.

Paxton's horse was two ahead of mine, and I couldn't really tell by the back of his head if he was enjoying himself or not. So I was glad when my sister relayed his first comment to me: "The only way today could get any better was if we got to take the horse home with us at the end."

:)

All four truly enjoyed themselves, and it made my heart happy to see it. I'm glad I got to share such a wonderful memory with them, even if just for a day. Will any of them become future full-time equestrians because of it? Probably not. And that's ok.





Friday, October 01, 2010

Discipline


There was a "likey" going around Facebook not too long ago that said "I'd rather go to jail for spanking my kids, than have them end up in jail because I didn't." I very nearly blogged about it at the time, but ultimately decided that it wasn't worth my attention. Its logic (or non-logic as the case may be) was so flawed that if it weren't so sad it would be laughable.

There are many such things on Facebook that make me a little bit crazy, but I can usually just shake my head, chuckle, and move back to my happy place.  I'm having a harder time ignoring the newest one though, as it continues to show up in my news feed as friend after friend likes it.  It says, "Those who love their children care enough to discipline them." 

I admittedly don't like the word discipline, because too many people use it interchangeably with "punishment."  When they say discipline, they mean spanking (or time-outs or counting or reprimanding).  Whether or not that was its original intent, it is surely what it's become.  A quick Google of "discipline" brings up words like train, punish, correct, control, and chastise..... none of which align in my mind with mindful, gentle parenting.  But the word discipline doesn't bother me nearly as much as the first phrase, "Those who love their children."  Meaning... what, exactly?  That those who don't "discipline" don't love their children?  That punishment equals love?  I can't decide if they're trying to guilt others into following suit, or if they're the grownup equivalents of the childhood bullies;  the ones who put others down to raise themselves up. 

A lot of time, energy, thought and research has gone into the way that I parent.  Parenting is a huge responsibility, one that no one should take lightly.  I could sit here and site studies and research and anecdotal evidence about why authoritarian parenting is not the answer, but I'd just as soon let my four happy (and ::gasp!:: well-behaved) children be evidence enough.  And everything that I do, every decision that I make when it comes to their care and upbringing, is because I love them.

 I was not surprised to see that the site that published the "those who love their children" quote was a Christian site.   Traditionally, Christian parenting advice is filled with many of these admonitions.  You must train your children, you must teach them to submit, you must show them who's boss.   It frustrates me beyond description.   Not only have I never found anything, biblical or otherwise, that leads me to believe that this is in fact a requirement (for lack of a better word) for a believer, but I find it to be the opposite of what Jesus would espouse.   Jesus loved children.  He wanted us to become like children.  He didn't punish or coerce.  He didn't use force;  didn't shame or belittle.  He led children by example in kindness, compassion, and respect.  Wouldn't it follow that we should do the same?

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, when you love someone - truly love them - you care about how they're treated.  You want them treated with dignity and respect, with caring and kindness.  I think even the most well-meaning parents can get so caught up in their "discipline" that they lose sight of the person that's on the receiving end...  A small person with fragile feelings and a pure heart.  A person who can carry, for LIFE, the scars and humiliation that come from said discipline.

I was walking into an ice cream place last week, with all four of my kids, along with a friend and her two children.  A woman was leaving the store with her little girl, around 4 or 5 years old.  The mom was yelling, and the girl was wailing unhappily.  They were both yelling so much I couldn't make out what was going on.  From what I could tell, the girl didn't want to go until she told her mother whatever it was that was on her mind, and the more she resisted, the harder the mom yanked on her arm.  "But Mom!!"  "Let's GO!"  When they got out to the sidewalk, and the crying had really escalated, the mom knelt down.  I thought very briefly that she was taking a breather, giving herself a time-out, getting down at her daughter's level so she could talk with her.  But the new position, I soon found out, was so she'd have a better angle to rapidly spank her, three times in succession before resuming their march to the car.  The girl cried harder - understandably - and was still screaming when they left my line of sight. 

I have had bad days as a parent.  I have had frustrating days as a parent.  I don't know what kind of day that mom was having.  I don't know what caused the outburst, by either of them.  I don't know what the little girl did that made the mother so angry.  But I am very certain that it whatever it was, it did not deserve the pain and humiliation of a public spanking outside a restaurant.  I'm also certain that the discipline did NOT help the situation;  that neither the mom nor the daughter was better for it;  and that their relationship was harmed, and not strengthened.  My heart broke a little when I saw it, as it does every time I see a parent and child take another step further away from a loving, connected relationship. 

I love my children.  Because I love them, I try with all my heart to treat them in a way that's fitting for someone I love.  I wouldn't discipline my sister or my best friend or my husband for making a mistake, and I extend my kids the same courtesy. 

 I say we stop with all the spanking and discipline Facebook groups, and start a new one:

"Those who love their children care enough to treat them the way they themselves would want to be treated."





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