Coffee and Conversation: “I Am Me!”

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again Tuesday already!time not too late! for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Last Saturday, Annalise came to me with a small notebook, and showed me what she’d written in it.

ME!

Me

I am me and only me

And you are you

So love yourself!

You are who you are.

-Annalise S. Burton, age 9

I thought she had intended to write a poem, but she held it up in front of herself, instead.

 “Here’s my sign!” she said, with a big grin. “Will you take my picture now?”

We’ve talked a few times, in the last months, about the current trend of public child-shaming, especially on social media sites. We’ve chuckled at Elf-on-the-Shelf shaming (she finds the elf creepy at best, and the idea of parents using it to coerce their children offensive). We’ve laughed outright at the hilarious “animal-shaming” parodies.

And then, a week or so ago, I was invited to a Facebook Group which invites kids and their parents to turn the entire concept on it’s ear, and, rather than shaming a child, to celebrate what makes a person one-of-a-kind.

This, then, is what Annalise feels, at nine-and-a-half, and what she wants to say to the world.

“Here’s my sign!”

Compared to my nine-year-old self, Annalise has a tremendous amount of autonomy. Her wishes are taken as seriously as every other family member’s. She eats what she’s hungry for, when she’s hungry for it, she chooses how to spend her time, what to wear, when to sleep, what to read. She has the freedom to follow her passions, to indulge her imagination, to speak her mind, and to challenge herself in the ways she chooses.

I was no less an individual than she; I had big ideas, things to say, hungers and aversions, just as she does. I wanted to stay up late, to free my imagination, to dive into all the things that fired my spirit and set my mind racing.

Sometimes, I could do what I wanted. When I could, there was often sneakiness involved. I learned to be covert, to keep many things hidden within my mind, guarded against discovery.

It wasn’t a great situation for trusting myself, or feeling that I was all right just the way I was. Honestly, what I often felt was a vague shame that I couldn’t, by my very nature, live up to the expectations my parents imposed upon me, with the good intention of making me into a “decent adult”.

I grew up still carrying that shame, still trying to appease my parents, still feeling like I had to sneak and hide aspects of my life and my self that they would not approve of. Still, not loving myself, but asking myself what was wrong with me.

Learning how to help Annalise and her brother gain the skills and knowledge they need to meet their own needs; to honor, trust, and love themselves, is a journey I’m still taking. My own childhood doesn’t offer examples, and neither does most mainstream parenting advice, which seems to see raising a child very much in the same way as tending a garden; prune away the undesirables, enrich the soil with schooling, maybe also sports or extra lessons, demand they meet expectations.

Our children are more like wild meadows than well-tended gardens. They live according to their own natures, enriched by love and honest interaction, and expected to be – well, who they are. When there’s conflict, we do our best to work it out in a way that allows for everyone to get what they need, a “Win-win”. When feelings burst forth, we accept that, pay attention to what lies beneath, and then find our way back to peace.

“I am Me!”

Given the choice between what happens when a child feels shame, and when they feel at peace with themselves, I choose peace.

And maybe that’s why I have a nine-year-old who chose to write this message, and share it with anyone who reads it. Maybe it’s behind her wide, confident grin, in her easy assumption that we’re all who we are, and we should just love ourselves.

Maybe, if all children could feel this way, there wouldn’t be parents who feel that publicly shaming a child – or anyone else – is a good way to attain a goal. Maybe there’d be a lot more of love, and peace, and self-acceptance.

Now, please go out and love yourselves! =)

How have you loved yourself lately? Treated yourself to something you wanted? Really looked at yourself in the mirror? Indulged yourself with a gift of time? I’ll replenish your cuppa and listen, and the hugs are free; let’s converse! =)

 

7 comments

  1. It gives me hope when I hear that there are parents in the world who care about their children actually becoming strong, confident individuals rather than forcing them to conform. School is fine for providing bits of learning, but is only one very small piece of a very large puzzle.

    I can definitely see the merits of home-schooling when the results speak for themselves. It seems so few kids in ‘normal’ school environments feel able to challenge the status quo. It’s not unheard of though, as I know the child affectionately referred to as ‘Kid President’ is a fabulous example. Takes a lot of confidence and self-belief though.

    Have you seen the TedTeen talk on ‘Hackschooling’? That’s a great one! Really opens your eyes as to how to enrich a child’s life with experiences and ideas that’ll help them explore the world in their own way.

    • Callie,

      I had no idea how many of us there are, until I started researching unschooling. Seeing respected and autodidactic kids en masse is an awe-inspiring experience. These kids meet your eyes, talk with you – I have had the most incredible conversations with very young people, people who looked at me as older, but equal.

      I don’t object to school as a philosophy, even though, today, kids can have free access to more information than they could ever be taught. I do, though, object strongly to its being compulsory. An adult in this country would not tolerate being assigned to do something six (or more!) hours a day, 5 days a week, nine months a year, simply on the basis of their age, and it’s not a very nice thing to do to a child.

      I also wonder if there are ways that school can cause problems a child wouldn’t have had, otherwise. For example, Annalise, despite wanting to rather desperately, despite living in a home bursting with books, readers, and even a writer mama, didn’t learn to read independently until she was 8 years old. Certainly, school would have wanted to put her into a remedial program.

      We had read of many other late untaught readers, so we read to her, and helped her trust that when she was ready, she would be able to read, but that it couldn’t be forced to happen.

      At 9.5, she can read pretty much anything – even over my shoulder. All she needed was time, and I wonder how many other children in schools would have been reading on their own, if their schools had just waited for the connections to form. And how many now think reading is drudgery, or torment….?

      I haven’t seen the Hackschooling talk yet, but I’ve been meaning to. Then again, every day of my life is filled with the proof that kids are perfectly capable of learning without adults getting in the way. I am basically their facilitator – supplying money, materials, advice when needed, transportation, information, and experience.

      Oh, and I say yes and give school hours hugs and have deep metaphysical conversations with my offspring all night long, so that we’re going to bed as that big yellow kid-swallower grumbles past our house.

      It’s a good life! =)

      • It certainly sounds like they (and you) live a very full and rich life. I enjoyed many things about school – the learning, the reading, the access to information I wouldn’t have gotten at home, even the being away from home (it wasn’t a happy environment) but I can certainly appreciate why a parent would choose other options when presented with them.

        I have a friend who was only telling me last week how he read at a much higher level than his class mates but, because he’d get bored waiting for them to catch up, he’d lose his place and seem like he wasn’t capable. I know remedial class was something they wanted to put him in too but never did.

        I was also watching a Ted talk from an entrepreneur who spoke of how she was spent to “special” school because she couldn’t talk and struggled to learn. Turns out she was partially deaf but it took for her parents to keep fighting for her that things turned around. I can’t remember her name now though, but it was one of those talks designed to encourage women in business.

        • Callie,

          I liked school, too – my home life was volatile and abusive,and school was marginally safer. It was a place that had books, and, in a class, there was a lot of anonymity. I could draw or write or read other things. I could adapt assignments to make them more fun and challenging.

          But, looking back, school limited me. It had me doing a lot of things that aren’t valuable in my life today, and thwarted my doing other things that would have benefited me greatly.

          And, of course, since I graduated in 1987, my own children are growing up in a very different informational culture. They have access to more learning, just from their Kindles, than my entire school contained. And they’ve got access to all the places we went to on field trips,where, rather than being herded from one exhibit adults find important to another, they can wander freely where they are drawn, and explore the world through their own lenses.

          It’s a messier way to learn; I can’t promise they know everything they would learn in school. I can promise for sure that they know things they couldn’t learn in school.

          It may not be for everyone; but it does work beautifully for us. =)

          Thanks for chatting with me! =)

          • I totally agree there! There are so many things I wish they covered (or explored more thoroughly) in school, but didn’t. I suppose that’s the problem with this “one size fits all” approach. School’s getting progressively more individual in that they are beginning to accept different styles of learning and, over here at least, they’ve introduced practical qualifications rather than academic ones for those who prefer that route.

            I expect your children are learning more because they enjoy it. You always remember more when it’s an experience you love and value.

            Thank you for talking to me also! 😀

    • Gretchen,

      Me too! It’s so cool seeing the way they learn and grow, as Spock would say, “each in accordance with their nature.” I don’t want to go all mushy biased Mom, but they really are very cool people! And I get to live with them, which makes me cooler, too. =)

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