Once you know you need to make a change….
Last week, for Mindful Monday, I wrote about the genesis of my personal parenting shift – how I began to see that I was damaging my children, my marriage, and myself by carrying forth the parenting patterns I was raised with, mainstream parenting advice, and my own abstract ideas of what a Good Mother ™ was supposed to look like and be.
I ended with meeting Lily, a four year old girl raised by radically unschooling parents, who first showed me to know that this is what I wanted for my own children, and my famly…
But how was I going to overcome a lifetime of living in a very different way – first as a child; then as the grown offspring of parents who still exerted a huge degree of influence and control over my life; and then as a parent?
At that time, I was thirty-nine years old, with nearly four decades of living, experiencing, and conditioning already behind me, influencing everything I said or did, didn’t say or do, in ways too numerous to ever untangle.
So how was I supposed to shift that paradigm, stand up in a culture that values a very different approach to children than the one Lily was the happy result of, and learn to become not a Good Mother ™, but instead the mother my own children needed me to be?
Well, all my life, I’ve been a reader. So maybe it’s not so surprising that I decided to read.
I went back to Joyce Fetterol’s site, and read everything on it. Some of it more than once. That referred me to Sandra Dodd’s website – I didn’t read all of that, because, well, there’s a huge volume of information there, and it keeps swelling as new items and insights are added.
I gorged on reading – despite Sandra’s core advice:
I read far more than a little. I read for days. Then weeks.
I filled myself full of new thoughts, Big Ideas –
And I decided that things were going to change.
In my home, my life, my family, my self.
The pendulum of our lives had been held very far to one side, with me straining to keep it there. Now, I let go – and, probably predictably, the swing was wild and uncontrolled.
I made pretty much every mistake I could, during that time. I sat the kids down, and made a big deal telling them that we were changing, that we weren’t going to have rules and punishments, that we were radical unschoolers now. No bedtimes, no chores, no limits on what they could eat, or how much television they could watch.
Remember how, in last week’s post, I talked about what I thought would happen in a house devoid of that structure?
Well, my imaginings were perhaps too tame for what happened in mine. Think about being given a fantasy vacation somewhere where anything you wanted could be yours – and no one at home would ever have any idea of what you were doing –
It was something like that…except that I hadn’t gotten a handle on my own rages, so the kids, who were 7 and 4 years old then, ran rampant as people too strongly controlled will do, then not controlled, are wont to do at any age – and then I would rage…
At one point, I got so angry with them that I gave away twelve garbage bags full of their belongings, because they’d been left laying around the house. I put them into the donation bins while the kids cried in the car, and I made it a point to rub it in, and let them know that if they’d cleaned them up, this wouldn’t have happened..
It’s been a lot of years, but the kids still remember it – and so do I. I’d take it back if I could, and I have managed to find versions of a few of the things that I stole from them – but damage was done, in that act…damage to trust, and to our connection. It was, plain and simply a ‘might makes right’ abuse of parental power.
Eventually, I started to figure out where I’d gone wrong. Too much freedom; too big a deal made of it….
Slowly, I learned how to get back to a better place – and to take that advice. I talked a lot with the kids about things like ‘equitable arrangements’ that let us all win…
I went back to ‘read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch…’ I practiced ‘saying yes more’. We talked a lot about how to live together. I also started to get a handle on some of my own things – my relationship with my family of birth; my rages; my coping skills, my tendency to try to bite off far, far, more than I can chew, then choke on it…
Next week, in the final installment, we’ll take a look at what our life as a family, and mine as a mother, and a person, are today, with one teen, and another about to turn eleven…,my ongoing journey to parenting, and living, with intention.