A Garden of Delights

Hello world!

Posted on: July 31, 2009

I feel like a beginning programmer, writing my first 3 lines of BASIC. And with that, I have just dated myself for all the world to smile at. Go ahead. I’m smiling too. It’s funny how the older I get, the more I realize how wonderful what I have in life is…and how silly it is to get uptight about any of it.

Today is the first day of my life. It’s the only day. The past doesn’t exist anymore. What we call the past is a collection of memories and impressions, none of which truly match what had happened. And the future is nebulous, prey to the whim of a butterfly sneeze….

If only…

Plotting a Blog, saving myself for the future reading pleasure of those across the ether–I don’t know where to start. The one thing I do know I want to use this for is to explore my writing in a more public forum. I write speculative fiction, a variety of swords and sorcery meet nanotechnology and isolation labs. The world grew out of a high school fanfic obsession with Star Trek, Dr. Who, Star Wars, and Jayce & the Wheeled Warriors scribbled in wire-bound notebooks that a friend and I traded during classes. It grew, it evolved, it climbed out of the primordial sludge and grew wings. Lately I’ve been trying to catch it before it tries to achieve super-atmospheric flight and leaves me stranded. I like my world–technically worlds: There are several, and not a one, not a person in them, is the same as we wrote about in those tortured notebooks.

I hope I will be able to share them with the world and bring pleasure to readers.

* Just got a very odd email from that friend in question. We’ve gone on different paths in our lives, though we both still love to write. And every time we seem to write to each other of late, we seem to write in tangents or parallel to each other. The only connection seems to be the actual contact of the letter or email. Clearly I’m not phrasing myself well. The reverse is also true. Why does the world seem to require so many absolutes? And why do we accept this limitation by doing the same to each other?

I’ve done it myself too many times. I have a wonderful son, but too often I fall into the “I’m the Mommy, and I say X needs to be done” trap that creates a small war in our house. I can say it’s for the good of our whole family all I want, but at three, Marcus just wants to enjoy his time playing, reading stories and being hugged. He doesn’t want to pick up the pile of blocks that are strewn across the floor where others are trying to walk. He doesn’t want to keep his books picked up. And he’s the first one to cry and run for comfort when he trips over said blocks or books.

But he won’t clean them up when he’s asked. Not without the prerequisite of several hours of whimpering, procrastinating and delaying tactics… he gets hungry a lot, and he always wants a hug. The human beast wants its cake and wants to eat it too, whether the beast is a 40yr old mommy who wants a smiling child and lots of private time or a 3yr old who wants the security of discipline and rules and the freedom to run free.

My friend is Unschooling her two children. She finds the lifestyle works wonderfully for her. I confess myself both amazed at the life she is living and wholeheartedly terrified of it. I do know that the person I am at this point in my life is not ready to take that Leap of Faith. I don’t know where that leaves our friendship, but the years and the questions, the discussions have not faired it well. It’s both sad and a relief, but it is what it is for the moment. Life seems to go in cycles, a continuum of possibilities balancing on the pinpoint of a needle. Things start going one way, then they drift back… We never seem to reach equilibrium.

With love to you all.

Be well


5 Responses to "Hello world!"

A 3 yo child is not a human beast who wants his cake and to eat it too. he’s truly too little to see the logical connection between strewn books and falling down.

But the Mommy can see it, and could make a safe path or just pick up the books (sweetly, without whimpering)…no little war, no boo boo. Peace and safety…and perhaps a little person who pipes in, “I’ll help, Mommy!”

Trying to force another person to behave as we want them to almost never works, longterm…it makes things adversarial. There are other paths….

My friendship is always there….but friendships aren’t static, and it gets harder and harder to witness or hear those “little wars” between two people I love fiercely (and when the cause of that war is generally of little true consequence. I both feel guilty for having been a role model for that type of parenting, and sad, because I can see the results of having done the same to my own beloved children. Some of it is permanent, and no amount of change can undo it….I’d spare you that, if I could….

Again, discussed this on Facebook, but I’ll try to make a better explanation here.

Writing these cathartic ramblings is just that….catharsis. They were written as my way of exploring the sudden influx of distressing feelings I was having because a day went unusually bad.

In the example of cleaning: Actually sometimes I cannot see the mess. Or as in the other day, Marcus strewed papers all over the floor, started dancing around and slid on one, landing face first into the coffee table in the matter of seconds before I could have cleaned the papers even. I also tend to have dizzy spells and often bump into furniture or step off to avoid falling over (let alone little dimly contrasted pieces of Lego that hide on the floor). Asking Marcus to clean because, as you may have noticed, one person cannot do it all by themselves, and something will give…. The house will become a bit messier or there will be yelling. In my case, there is often a lot of bruising… on me. The path isn’t so clear as to say “kids don’t see their mess as a mess and one should try to see it from their view”. I seldom actually see his scatterings of toys and books as a mess. I do often see them as a hazard. And all I was saying, or trying to say, is that I wish I could explain this to him without tears or crying (because he sees me hurt or upset or because he was doing something and got drawn away from it because he was ready, etc.)

As for a 3 year old animal… I’m a nearly 40 year old animal. I want my cake and I want to eat it too. The reference came from several days of reading articles, blogs and comments that kept referring to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the “Theory of Natural Man” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau#Theory_of_Natural_Man. The rational in my writing being that we are all animals, but as we grow older and are molded by the expectations of society (and we are, simply by the behaviors we model for our children to observe) we become a little less “beast-like” and more domesticated.

And that in itself becomes a whole other discussion….

I am posting a longer analysis of your reply on my blog (no names), because I wanted to use it to clarify my thoughts, and see how far we have come.

This has been a period of intense awakening for me, and I don’t want to usurp your space here with my ruminations, which are for me, not any attempt to sway you (which doesn’t seem likely to happen – you seem determined to defend the very parenting tactics that seem to bring you and Marcus distress, at least occasionally.

Personally, I am striving to eliminate all distress about family work, and willingly accept any help or no help from my children. And they help more now, and more joyfully and independently, than they ever did when I tried to force their participation .

My replies reflect my family’s truth, and don’t belong here. You can follow them, there, under the title,snipped for no names.

here, I wanted to share this post from Claire on the Always Learning list, in response to another poster’s requests for ideas to remain calm when feeling angry.
To me, it seemed to express eloquently what my own experience has been, and what we’re aspiring to create, here in our lives….

I hope you enjoy! =)

*Re: Finding Calm

I’d like to address a couple of points. First, I don’t think it takes a certain type of person to unschool. I do think that to unschool, a parent has to let go of automatic reactions and mainstream expectations around children’s obedience. And the key here is that this letting go is a process, one that takes a lot of time and effort, and doesn’t always go forward smoothly. I still react with anger sometimes, but I also know that those times are becoming much less frequent, and that I am more aware of my anger, and so more able to let it go before speaking or acting. I like the John Holt principle that you should not say anything to your child that you would not say to a treasured friend. This helps to curb the nastiness that springs out when I’m angry.

For unschooling to really work, the “‘why can’t I control my kids?’ mode of thinking” has to be thrown out. Partly because control is counter-productive to a loving, trusting relationship, but also because often this mode of thinking is based on the parent’s fear of others’ disapproval. What unschooling has given me is the clarity to see that people’s judgements based on mainstream expectations mean much less to me than quickly and calmly addressing my children’s needs. When I do this I find it very empowering.

The OP wrote: ” I expressed my utmost disappointment at Mia and her inability to sooth the situation by allowing Jude the lead. I let her know that I expected her to help me out; not make the situation harder for me.”

I too have felt the frustration of an older child refusing to acquiesce to the demands of a younger sibling. But I absolutely do not want my kids to become rivals, or for one to feel resentful, so I am really mindful of not asking too much or being unfair to my older child.

Lastly, the OP wrote: “Something inside is stubbornly refusing to
budge, and I can’t seem to completely immerse myself and see the whole.”

What if that something is an unhealed wound inside you, something from your childhood, or a perception of yourself that is still unexamined? I found that to really go deep into unschooling, I had to go deep inside myself, and look at what kind of parent, and ultimately what kind of person I want to be. Affirmations and so forth are useful, but the only place you will really find calm is inside yourself.


I think neither one of us is seeing what is really happening in our personal lives. Truth be told, I have forgotten (I suppose I couldlook one up, but why?) when the last time we had a battle in our home. And never fear, Marcus is more than willing to express his displeasure at some requests, but we take a few moments when this happens to sit quietly and discuss why the request was made. Sometimes his mind changes, sometimes mine does. Sometimes he realizes that the reason we asked for something was because it was a good idea; sometimes I realize I was only asking because I hadn’t considered an alternative myself.

These changes came as Marcus grew enough to start having these conversations and as I grew enough as a mother to see what I had to work with as a person, a parent, and a homemaker. Marcus needed to be able to share with me (including better ways to express himself than just frustration), and I needed to know the people involved (again, including myself). As you’ve said before, it is a continually evolving process. It’s life, and we are constantly adjusting ourselves to meet the changes life offers us.

I will check your blog and your ruminations. I do wonder if perhaps our mutual ruminations are causing some of this misunderstanding (if there really is one). The more one looks for problems, the more likely it is that a problem will be found. I realized that after the last visit I had to your home. I made the mistake of going there looking out for places that you might be having problems so that I might avoid them. STUPID of me. Instead of seeing your home as a observation lab, I should have just taken it as it is — your home, the place where you live your lives. Any other expectation placed my mind in a tense place, put me on edge (at alert) and effectively sabotaged what could have been a wonderful visit.

When we get together again, I will know better. I cannot base my life on yours. Too many variables are different. Nor should you try to live yours like mine. We should rejoice in the differences that make our homes and lives special and beautiful.

I was going to say that the real test of things is the growth and joy in our lives and the lives of those we are bringing up… But there is no test. The very idea is absurd. It is what it is. It’s not like we can go back and ask for a better grade, or that we pass or fail. For good or ill, it already is. Still, the happy home that I live in, like the happy home you live in, are testaments to the many ways the world works.

Aren’t they just grand?

I didn’t realize how much we all count on the peaceful energy here, until I started noticing who disrupts it when they visit, and how we all feel during and after those visits. Then I saw that part of my service to my family is to elimniate those disruptions.

Going to someone’s house with the view that it’s an”observation laboratory”, looking for problems, brings a very disruptive energy. The kids and I were very uncomfortable during that visit. You were not attentive to Marcus’s needs, nor tolerant of my children being themselves in their own home.

It’s not a new thing. You have always brought a combative energy to our relationship. Even in childhood, you seemed to need to dominate me. I think, even then, that I understood it was because your parents so dominated you, but it has never really been easy to be friend. There are plenty of pitfalls.

I used to think it was me. But, as we grew older and I saw more (and heard more) of your interactions with others, I began to see that you seem to need to express your opinion (often stridently) at all costs. You’ve had relationship-ending interactions with quite a few people. Others, including me, have sometimes needed to “take a break” from all interaction with you.

It’s the biggest reason Jim doesn’t like you. You’ve come into our home and told a chef how to cook (you’ve been wrong more than once, when you – politely, he didn’t tell you.), and a seasoned Grand Canyon backpacker (you could google Nankoweap Trail, Tanner Trail, and Grandview Trail to get an idea of what he’s done) how to hike….

I think the base misunderstanding you are having has more to do with interpersonal dynamics than anything else. You’ve always been the dominant one, between us – you are so adamant in your statements and opinions that I’ve never felt it worth it to correct misassumptions, or really even tell you outright when your words or behavior were offensive. I was raised, after all, in a home where violence was often the price for dissension. I learned young how to keep my mouth shut and play along.

Over the last few years, I’ve realized how all those things I wasn’t saying were keeping me trapped in dynamics I didn’t want to be in anymore, and maybe hadn’t ever. Beginning with my relationship with my mother, I have gradually begun to distance myself from those who seem to want me to fill some deep need within them, and who don’t seem to mind if I get hurt or trampled in the process.

So I’m not filling the role you imagine for me, and you are very confused, because now, instead of quietly nodding along at your mistaken idea of what our life is, and being open to being “examined” and dominated, I am stating my *own* beliefs and experiences, clearly and without acquiescing to you.

I wonder if this tendency to lecture people about areas where their experience far outmeasures yours is part and parcel of your perceived “hierarchy of experience”. I wonder, too, what drives that. No one is good at everything; we all have areas where wisdom would have us listen and learn rather than assert and argue.

I don’t think I’m misunderstanding you in the least. I have been with you and Marcus in a variety of situations. I’ve often seen distance, demanding, irritability, impatience, and a basic lack of understanding of what young children are capable of. Even in this post, you talk about “discussions”…a very vague concept. As a child who feared the violent reactions of her parents, I wonder if Marcus, too, might not be learning to “just go along” because, given your forceful and controlling personality, that is far easier. Perhaps school is, for him, a refuge where he can just be himself. It was for me (except for the fact that I was so emotionally wounded that I really didn’t know how to *be* me, and get my needs met, until years after I left. that had been squashed deep down inside me).

When Marcus has a tantrum, it may just be that he *can’t* go along, in that moment. In many ways, a 3yo is still a baby.

I’ve read things you’ve written here, on Facebook, and in notebooks. I’ve listened to you when you’ve detailed various “issues” you’ve had with him. If you read back, after learning more about early childhood, you might see, as I do, many times when you’ve expected from him far more than a child his age can deliver. That puts you both in a stressed state (and it isn’t fair to Marcus at all, because, until he grows, he can’t meet those expectations).

This Original Post is dated July 31. (about two months back). You response to me is dated September 20, and is filled with justifications for trying to enforce cleaning, and a negative vibe that is also evident in a lot of your Facebook posts). The same is true of responses and emails you’ve sent to me.

So there is a pattern of negativity that says something different than the picture you paint here. And it is the overarching, complaining, “it *has* to be this way because…”, and “it’s one sided to tend to a child’s needs before my own” attitude that I respond to.

My home was happy, and my family loving, when I was controlling and demanding of my children. But there were small wars (not every day or even every week, but far too often). I also know that, if you continue to demand cleaning and other behavior that is beyond his ability, the wars are likely to return. Certain ages are more willing to go along, and certain ages are rife with indepedance that can easily become rebellion, when there is something to push against.

What we have now is so different from our best days then…so different that the kids mention it often, as the time when I was a “mean Mommy”. I never intended to be mean; but I, like you, was locked in that “I’m the Mommy, that’s why” mentality. There’s no rebellion here, now. My kids know beyond doubt that we are their partners, that we have their backs, that we will help them navigate the tricky parts of life and to fulfill their dreams, that they can count on us to provide for their needs, and not to expect of them what they can’t yet manage, and to do for them cheerfully and generously, and appreciate all they do for us…

This will be my last post here. You say that you want to understand, but everything you post tends to be in defense of those old, unexamined beliefs. I believe you have a lot leftover from your own childhood that blocks you even beginning to see what I mean, no matter how plainly I say it or how many others who have gone this way before either of us do.

There are certainly others who truly do want to learn to do better, to live in a way that respects ans trusts children *right where they are*. I’ve learned enough over the last year or so to be able to help those just starting out along this nebulous path. Since you’ve chosen another path, continuing these discussions with you is a waste of energy I can be using, in a concrete way, to make this world a better place.

Peace –

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