I remember when my boys were babies and toddlers learning a new skill, they needed me more at night time. I noticed this mostly in terms of requiring extra nursing throughout the night. I could not always tie it to specific skills being obtained it just seemed to make sense. Though it was hard to be woken in the night it was easy to support these wee precious babes by providing access to reassurance whenever they needed it.
Recently my eight year old has been unable to sleep without knowing an adult will be in the bed next to him for the entire night. Prior to this he would fall asleep with daddy at his side and then daddy would leave and head in to his own bed. My son knew dad would leave and this was fine with him. And then one day it stopped being okay. Every time daddy moved to get up he would spring awake. He wasn’t doing this on purpose to make anyone’s life uncomfortable he was genuinely anxious about being alone in the night time.
We are a few weeks in now and he stills tells us ” I need a grown up close to me at night.” Though this can be frustrating, as we shuffle beds back and forth each night, once again it is worth it. It is worth it to be able to say to him we are here for you anytime of the day or night.
And because of the person I am it has got me to thinking about what could have shifted in his world. Just like a toddler striking out in the world to notice themselves separate from their parents, children growing in their understanding of the world beyond themselves need just as trusting arms to fall back in to. My son has been exposed to a host of new ideas and information lately. Some of it through the video games he plays and some of it through the events that have shown up in his life. He is making sense of ideas that are not just about him. He is growing a sense of compassion and empathy for others. This work is as big and overwhelming as learning to walk and talk.
As my son sees the world through other’s eyes he bumps in to scary things, like abduction, war and poverty. It is more then just knowing they exist in the world it is knowing these things happen to human beings. As he grows in his ability to see himself in relationship to others, he also grows in his ability to put himself in another person’s shoes. This is huge. When the lights are on and everyone is up and moving and learning the ideas show up as conversations. In the night when the mind is tired and the world is dark the feelings of the conversations can sometimes grow. So it makes 100 percent sense that he would want a grown up near by to remind him that no matter what he is safe.
Being there to recognize his increasing maturity and to see it play out as he exhibits compassion for others is a gift for which I am immensely grateful. Providing a warm body next to him in the night so he can sleep without hesitation, truly is the least we can do.
Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that to succeed as an unschooling parent I needed to be a super interesting human being. I can not even trace back the origin of this idea however it is there late at night when sleep eludes to taunt me. From there I often appease myself by creating a super long list of goals or things that I am going to take up to make myself more interesting. One might at this point wisely note that none of this is coming from a place of interests or passions and that a whole lot of it is wrapped up in fear of failure (as defined by someone outside of myself). And then one day it hit me and I changed the words the slightest bit to uncover just what I was already up to. I did not need to be an interesting person, which is really up to personal discretion, I simply needed to continue to be interested.
Be interested in the things that capture the attention of my children. This runs deeper then simply sitting beside them to hum ha and question what they are up to. It means truly be interested in the subject matter. the story lines and the characters. To engage in the materials right there alongside my children in order to uncover just what pulls them in. So very often it is easy to walk away and say things such as “I don’t like video games” or “that show is for kids.” It takes a lot more effort to really see what is being presented and uncover the points of interest. Not only does that open me up to new thought patterns and information it translates to my children that their passion are valued. They are worthy. And they are fascinating. All of this from a place of true authenticity that can only come when I am truly (not faking it) interested in what they are up to.
And this idea to be interested extends to how I exist in the world. By this I mean taking a genuine interest in the world around me. Whether that be engaging in a conversation with a person in the parking lot who has an unusual vehicle or noticing the bug moving across my path way. It shows up as an awareness of ones surroundings and a willingness to engage in those tiny moments that spark new ideas. I think it also translates in to the power of learning in whole life fully engaged kind of way. We bumped in to a lady in the parking lot once driving a 1968 mustang. After commenting on the car she shared with us some special functions of the engine. Now we know about mustangs and their engines. The info stuck cause we heard it from someone real who genuinely was passionate about mustangs.
I am even bold enough to strike out a step further to showcase how this applies to relationships. In order to remain connected to my children I need to be interested in our relationship. This means paying it the same attention I pay the world around me. In showing up with interest to attend to our relationship, I say it’s important to me. And I also watch it with interest and notice when it needs tending to. More then just noticing our relationship needs tending, I receive clues on just how to do this in a most effective way.
I also think it is worth mentioning that as a parent it is true and of value that I be interested in those things that spark my interest. Be it romance novels or physics, when I am free to be interested in my own passions I model just how that creates a pathway to happiness and joy (the kind the spreads from one family member to another).
Lately so much that I learn about the world around me is prompted by the way my children see their world. Whether it be their questions or their comments I often find myself seeing something a little bit differently. So I am going try and make this a weekly installment !
This weeks lessons come from Mitchel, who is eight.
1) I do have a choice in near everything in my life. This week I was having one of those meltdown moments when I was sure that my entire family was depending on me to be in charge of all the cleaning. And that if a didn’t take on this super important responsibility we would all perish from the toxic build up. Mid rant Mitchel looked at me and said, “you don’t have to do any of it mom, you have a choice you know.” I not ready to shift my outlook tried to convince him otherwise and he boldly replied, “mom no one is gonna die if you don’t clean up.” Hmpf out smarted by an eight year. I was able at this point to stop and seriously consider what he was offering up. It was true I was choosing to clean up (and to be all self righteous about it) and that no ones life was in any immediate danger. He could see right through me. Really, I was mad that no one else’s need for cleanliness was on the same level as mine. And I was being stubborn in not asking for help. I appreciate that my eight year old already knows he has choice in each of his actions and is willing to remind me when I forget.
2) People should only do a job they really love. This lesson is pretty new and I am still fully cycling it in to my understanding. “Mom, no one should work just for money. People should work cause they wanna do what they are doing. Or else there just going to hate it and be grumpy.” This enlightenment came from the back seat on a trip home from the game stop. The folks there for all intents and purposes appear to enjoy what they are doing. They are super generous about sharing knowledge with us and generally include Mitchel in the conversation. I smiled and agreed that this very principle is what has landed us living here in California (so daddy can work his dream job). It was his conclusion that leaves me delving even deeper in to my own work, “no one should every do anything just for money.” Hmm.. Sure daddy is living this truth but am I really? And if not what am I going to do about it? We strive to create a way for our boys to be in the world that values their interests and passions no matter what they are. But we all know actions speak louder then words and one person in our home has been working just for the money. Again, seeing the value of living a passionate life my eight year old jolts me to re-examine just what I am up to.
3) And lastly, not cause its the last lesson I have been exposed to this week but because it is all I am capable of processing at this particular stage. Happiness matters in an all consuming kind of way. I was discussing someone else’s (family member) actions at one point this week (to my husband) and Mitchel over heard and every so innocently interjected with, “I bet there happy though and that’s really what matters.” In that single interaction he had hurled me back in to the very reality that my reaction to someone’s behavior always takes second place to their true happiness. Humbling yes. Eye opening yes.
So as humbled and reflective as I often end up by being fully present in the lives of my children, at the end of each day I am always drenched in gratitude for this journey and the endless opportunities it provides me.
There is so much to see when we are fully present in the lives of our children. On the heals of my recent post about those violent video games I think I have been paying attention to how the games are used in my home a little differently. This weeks game of choice has been Fable 3 which is a quest type game set in a medieval time with a goal of becoming a King or Queen. There are a ton of moral dilemmas along the way where your personal choice impacts how the game progresses. My oldest son has been playing this game on line with his peers spanning both in ages and regions. And I dare say the creators of the game never envisioned how these unschoolers would come to use the game.
The group is using a whole lot of creative problem solving and often times are left a little lost if the others are not on line to toss ideas about with. Each has their own game running on their own console, however, they spend a lot of time joining each others games. They pool their knowledge to support each other in completing the individual quests. And this is the one that made me grin from ear to ear the other day, they discuss their choices before making them. They weigh the pros and cons of a moral decision such as “betraying your brother”. What these young people are bringing to the game is their personal knowledge and experience. This is an active task, much like imaginative play.
There is more dialogue I think than anything else. As each player brings to the table their thoughts and ideas. They are negotiating meaning together, questioning each others choices, offering advice and sticking to personal convictions. They are discussing topics like war, marriage, military, wealth and inequality all in the course of questing. In doing this the varying ages are bringing varying knowledge to the table and together they are informing one another. Not only in how they understand these big topics but also in how they know each other. The friendship bonds tighten as they respectfully accept each others opinions. Sometimes they all agree, other times they agree to disagree.
I so appreciate as well, how they cooperate in navigating through each others games. Choosing to put aside their own quest to support a friend in their quest. And showing compassion for a friend who’s choice as left them broke or in a mountain of debt.
And what I share here is only the tip of the iceberg. Cause when the games goes off and we snuggle up together the questions unfold for me, providing endless opportunities to fill in the blanks and expand the topics to an even deeper place.
So from last weeks frustrations with others views on the world of video games to this week feelings of immense gratitude for the opportunities they are presenting for my son to expand his world view and build truly meaningful connections.