When I was pregnant with Zeb I had several Wise Women approach me…you know the kind that just seem to have a spark of knowing something? Women from my mom’s church, my mom’s best friend on her death bed, strangers in the grocery store…they would tell me I was having a boy, they would say there was something this child was in this world to do, they would tell me that he was here to make a difference. And each time they would talk I’d have this image of a man, a leader, but without details of what that would mean or what he might be doing. Continue reading “4 Weeks In: The Public School Update”
This is a really overdue blog post. The whole transition of unschooler-to-public-schooler actually started almost 2 years ago. So excuse me while I quite possibly make this the longest blog post I’ve ever written (or in case it takes you two years to read it). Because I’m sure many of you can understand, there’s a lot that goes into a story like this. Continue reading “8 Years Unschooling to the First Day of Public High School”
Zeb left yesterday afternoon, heading to Vegas again for an extended visit with family and friends. We’ll meet him there before Thanksgiving, and for my little sister’s wedding, which means we have three weeks to share together – just Justin and me.
It’s still weird, having a teenager who has a life beyond yours.
Does that part of parenting ever get less weird? I’m told it doesn’t.
I suddenly understand this quote so much better now:
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. (Elizabeth Stone)
He suddenly has memories that I don’t share, details that I’ll never know, conversations with strangers on a plane that I’ll only wonder at, trivial moments of his life that are only his, not worth sharing or even knowing but still taken for granted as a mama that you’ll be a part of.
At the same time, it’s really cool.
It’s amazing to see photos of him towering over to his grandma, to call him at night and chat casually about his flight and his plans, to see how much he swells with a subtle sort of confidence and pride, responsibility and excitement.
Justin and I were talking about what it will be like when he’s flown the coop.
What will we do with ourselves? Will we be bored? Will Justin drive me crazy without Zeb to play with or pick on? Will our lives change radically, and if so, in what direction?
It feels as though trips like Zeb’s are good for us, Justin and me.
It’s like practice for having our heart walking around without us, a piece of our trio and also a piece of our hearts off doing his thing for the long-term someday. We’ve never been just the two of us, without Zeb (Justin was a late arrival into our family).
It’s an interesting role to play, this couple (instead of trio) thing.
So we’re playing it up. We’re doing all the things couples usually do before they grow their family. Or at least the things we imagine they do.
It’s weird, like I said, to have this big empty space where his energy used to be. But it’s life too, to eventually have my heart off living his life. And it’s incredible for him, just like I was saying before. So we may as well get with the program, reign in our desire to hound him, and make the most of it for us too.
I am officially the mother of a teenager. Today is Zeb’s 13 birthday and he’s sleeping in, as is custom for his current body needs of non-stop eating and sleeping. 😉
12 was a tough year. Justin and I found new parenting triggers we got to DIG IN to, and Zeb transitioned through many tough phases. But once we found our emotional footing and our patience and compassion for his experience, we were able to help him over the hump and meet his deeper needs.
And it’s been amazing since then.
He cracks everyone up, makes interesting conversations, has firm opinions, and opens car doors for me. *heartmelt*
He’s kind, considerate and patient in ways you begin to wonder will ever happen when they are 4 or 7 or 11 and you’re dealing with your own fears of raising them “right”.
And that thought got me thinking yesterday.
I got back from a walk in the harbor and had sticky mud up to my ankles (it felt amazing by the way). I couldn’t go inside, so I interrupted Zeb’s project for help.
He said “sure!” and jumped up to get a bowl of water, asked me how my coaching call had gone and made friendly conversation as I washed my feet and legs. We talked about lunch and when I offered to make sandwiches he sweetly replied with a “yes, please” and then “thank you mom”.
He was friendly, and helpful.
He used his manners.
He was mature.
All the things we hope to see in our kids.
But a curious thought crossed my mind…(I like curious thoughts. I like to challenge myself and ask hard questions and look at things objectively.)
“This is what I’ve been hoping for. But have I parented for what I really want?”
Friendly, helpful, kind and mature are wonderful things, don’t get me wrong.
But my thought was on the deeper aspects.
Have I at all parented in a way that has taught him to please me? Or have I parented in a way that has allowed him to make genuine choices based on something more than what others think of him or how they’ll respond to him?
I do think I’ve worked hard at parenting in a way that does not make it his responsibility to meet my needs or please me or others.
But I haven’t been perfect by any means.
And that was the curious thought.
We all hope our children will behave…but do we really want children who do what they’re told without questioning and examining for themselves if it feels right to them?
We all hope our children will be kind….but do we want to raise people-pleaser who are fake in order to be accepted or generous in order to manipulate?
We all hope our children will make good choices…but do we want them being told what those choices are when that is the exact opposite of making a good choice for oneself?
Is what I’m creating what I REALLY hope to see?
(I remember having a conversation with a dad once when he told his 12 year old daughter to not resist his wishes. It brought up some discomfort within me and I asked if he really wanted her to learn never to resist what a man tells her to do, and how she can learn to set those boundaries without being allowed to resist the most trustworthy man of her life. It was an interesting convo that left us all thinking. The best kind.)
I’ll admit, as much as I’ve tried to quell my own parenting expectations and base my relationship with my child on honor and respect for his innate spirit and autonomy, I still get trapped in the ideas of “molding” a child.
Heck, even “modeling” for a child could be seen as manipulative if we’re doing something not because it is based on our values and who WE want to be, but based on who we want our children to become.
That’s not how I want to parent.
I choose to consciously parent based on relationship.
In a relationship, I don’t act phony to get the other person to do something. In a relationship, I don’t correct their behaviors. In a healthy relationship, I don’t make it someone else’s job to meet my needs.
In a relationship, I connect with the person, strive to understand their needs, share my own needs and come together to make us both happy and safe.
I have at times been a terrible partner in this relationship.
I have made it his responsibility to make me happy.
Or his responsibility to worry what others might think (of me!).
After I was examining all these thoughts yesterday, I was editing Naomi Aldort’s interview for the Organic Parenting e-course (coming next month!) and loved how serendipitously she talks about the guilt we can experience as parents.
It was a sweet little reminder to myself that it’s okay to not be a perfect human being, but to just continue doing my work as a person right along side this incredible person I have had the honor of sharing the last 13 years with.
Yes, I’m the mom of a teenager.
And it’s bittersweet, challenging, FUN (oh my goodness, he’s so much fun!), and curious all at once.
He shows me what I get to examine and I show him how to be a full human being and love and forgive yourself anyway.
My child IS amazing. He’s kind and considerate and helpful. And thankfully, I don’t think I had much to do with that. 😉
Psst! This is just a friendly reminder….
The registration for the Organic Parenting e-course will open on September 3.
Zeb is 12. Twelve (and its surrounding years) tend to be what a lot of people like to call “The Dark Ages”. I tend to think of them as the “Caveman Days”.
“The Dark Ages” or “Caveman Days” refer to that transition in most tweens and teens from childhood to adolescence. They tend to like to spend a lot of time on their own, often in their room (their cave). They don’t like to go many places or do many things. Society likes to label it as “withdrawn” or “sullen” or begins to think they’ve fallen in a rut (and in a way they kind of have), which I think is what starts the self-fulfilling prophecy of parent-teen strife.
But I think of this phase as a time to deconstruct and reconstruct their beliefs about themselves, others and the world and reflect on everything they’re processing in a new way (instead of just through play).
Zeb’s Caveman Days are not always met with our understanding though.
We are human after all. And lots of new parental triggers come up around this time.
One of our triggers has been when he declines actually leaving the RV.
“Seriously? We travel full time and you don’t want to actually see anything?”
We have had plenty opportunities to reflect on our own triggers there, our fear that we aren’t providing enough, or maybe too much. That he’s not happy. And then those beliefs about what he “should” do based on what we’re doing for him (i.e. “he should be more grateful”, “he should enjoy this opportunity”) and how he could be missing things and never get this chance again.
Yeah, a lot of scarcity-based parenting.
“Not enough.” “Won’t last.” “Get it before it’s gone.” “And be grateful dammit.”
But Zeb is grateful and happy with his choices in this moment.
And we want him to learn that he can make another choice based on his needs at any other moment, as well. Which means we need to support his ability to make choices now.
So Justin and I often remind ourselves that it’s okay if he doesn’t want to see the Golden Gate Bridge. There is no reason why he can’t travel there again. It’s okay if he’s not into the beach like we are; it’ll be there later if he grows interest. Heck, the kid wasn’t even into Universal Studios.
And that’s okay.
This is not his only chance. He’s 12 and a desire to stay home is 1) not the end of the world and 2) not a life sentence.
So, what does it actually look like to travel with a tween going through an introverted stage?
It looks like a lot of dates with my hubby as we explore new places, text Zeb the photos, and share with him when we get back.
It looks like a lot of movie dates out as a family (one place he almost always wants to go), or movie or game nights IN so that we still have plenty of fun together.
And every so often it looks like us convincing him to go with us. 😉
Washington D.C. and Philadelphia where two of those places where we convinced him.
We met with old friends in D.C. and explored together. He wasn’t overly thrilled with monuments and museums, but he enjoyed riding the Metro and we all had a blast together.
Yesterday was Philadelphia and we almost couldn’t convince him to go with us.
But he came and we had So! Much! Fun!
Traveling with a Caveman Tween isn’t always easy. He’s moody and not a morning person, and living in a RV together means lots of deep breaths and going for a walk when I need some quiet space.
But at 12 he’s also even more hilarious, asks interesting questions, comes up with fun ideas to do together (like search for gargoyles or juggle in funny places) and is just so wonderful to hang out with.
All day in Philly we walked and talked and explored and cracked jokes. We Googled for facts as we went and took detours on a whim. We honored his interests and never made him stay anywhere too long or see everything in the museum (something we used to do). Instead we just hung out, casually and without the pressure to see or do it all while it lasted, just as friends.
And we all walked back to the truck at the end of the day feeling great.
It took his Caveman tendencies to show me how to really travel, how to really parent actually – slow, laid-back, and remembering that having fun and enjoying one another instead of trying to squeeze every last drop of potential out of the moment (and miss the most important potential of all).
Because nothing is more awesome than hearing from your 12 year old, “I really had a lot of fun with you guys today.”
Photos from Philly and the Area
Hanging in Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
I pretty much fell in love with Philly.
The ceiling of Philly’s Magic Gardens
Floating down the river with friends
I asked him to show me awesome. This is what I got.
Zeb made his own chocolate bar at the Hershey’s Factory.
I escaped the madness at Hershey’s with some time under a tree.
Zeb has always been an independent person. From the time he could scoot and crawl he preferred lots of time out of my arms. As a toddler he loved his day trips out with grandparents or aunts. And for many years he’s chosen to stay home alone whenever possible.
That’s the easy “free range” stuff for me.
Watching him board a plane for his first solo flight – that makes my heart clench a little. 🙂
Lemme go back…
A few months ago Zeb was feeling a lot of homesickness. We talked and he processed and at the time we didn’t see what else to do other than empathize.
Then that night I had one of those “Duh” moments when you suddenly ask yourself why not and realize you don’t have any reason other than “I just hadn’t thought about it.”
So I asked him, “Would you like to fly back to Vegas to visit family and friends?”
There was really no reason why it wouldn’t work…we could afford a single ticket, he’s 12 for goodness sake (I was flying alone since I was 8…and that was before security was such a PITA) and he wanted it – and that’s enough to make anything a possibility.
We talked about the reasons we couldn’t all go (cost + RV storage + dog + work), what it’s like to fly alone, how the trip might be organized to see everyone and how long he’d like to stay.
3 weeks he decided would be long enough to see everyone and do everything and not be too homesick for us.
So we made it happen.
And yesterday he took off.
Okay, so I’ll admit I was excited for him just about the entire time.
But towards the end was when my heart was a little clenched and there was one point where I thought I might vomit.
I didn’t (and don’t) want to taint his trip with my own emotions about missing him. And I’m not at all worried about him or his ability to fly alone, navigate friends and family and have fun.
But there was a really weird moment when his plane was taxiing the runway and I knew his phone was shut off that the Mama Bear in me said, “WTF?! I’m going to be out of contact with him for nearly 6 hours?!”
Like I said, being away from him was something I had to get used to from the day he started moving. And we’ve spent days away from each other when he was having a sleepover-a-thon or Justin and I had our honeymoon.
But the longest distance away has only been a couple hours drive and we’ve NEVER not been able to pick up the phone and reach him in an instant.
And THAT was…well, I don’t have words for how that felt, except to say that it felt oddly like I was looking into the future.
My son is growing. He’ll be 13 this year and he’s as tall as me (and taller than his Grandma – haha!). His voice is changing and he can lift me up when we hug. And he has a girlfriend – did I mention that?
And it won’t stop there.
Soon the ratios of together and not-together will be flipped and he may be off doing his thing with his people more than he may be doing his thing with us.
And that’s EXCITING! It’s exciting to watch him make steps out into the world in a way that makes sense and feels right to him.
But it’s WEIRD too. Not weird of him, not weird of what he’ll do…but weird of how it feels to parent with such attachment and then suddenly realize that all that attachment parenting that you did (or caught up on) was really laying a foundation for him to eventually form attachments elsewhere.
It’s weird to have known but actually *realize* that it’s not about me, it’s not about my ideas or hopes, it’s not about my preconceived notions of what and when and how and why.
It’s about him.
It’s about the things that light HIM up, the things that make HIM excited, the things that HE wants.
Those really have very little to do with me.
He didn’t come into this world to be parented by me, to grow some powerful attachment to his parents and live happily ever after with us.
It was merely our job to give him those things now so that he could do what he came into this world to do. And now it’s our job – not his – to process the emotions that come with that so that he doesn’t feel responsible for the way we feel about his exploring his own life.
I guess this will be good practice for us so that I don’t act like a total spazztastic Mama Bear when the big stuff starts shifting. 🙂
P.S. Everyone (including us) is asking what we’re going to do for 3 weeks without him. We did some chatting on the way home from the airport and decided it’s going to look a little like this:
Enjoying the big smiley pictures he’s been texting us
Finishing up some work projects
Eating sushi – his least favorite meal
Spending a romantic weekend in the Florida Keys
Sex on the couch
And other places
In the middle of the day
And I think Justin is trying to figure out the whole Nekked Room thing as I type.
I’m going to try REALLY hard not to over-text Zeb, over-check his Facebook page or call him constantly. But it’s proving to be very hard so far. 🙂
True understanding is found through compassion. – my Yogi teabag
For some godawful reason, Northern Michigan has confused August with a season to get cold.
Coming from Nevada, it makes no sense to my body to wake up shivering, but I do love any excuse to make hot tea in the morning.
There’s just something about it, the routine maybe…filling the teapot, lighting the stove, warming my hands by the flame and then with my hot mug. Sipping until it’s cool enough to drink. Slowing down. Not jumping into my day.
I also love my Yogi tea nuggets of wisdom, just a tiny phrase to meditate on while I roll my hot mug between my cold hands. This morning’s wisdom was the one above.
It’s been a word on my tongue a lot lately.
And how often it’s lacking in our words, our thoughts (judgments), our reactions (especially the knee-jerk kind).
When I am connected to compassion I see deeper, feel deeper, connect to others and to Truth deeper.
When my focus is not on compassion I’m absorbed in my own thoughts (judgments), my own reactions, my own sense of victimhood, my own ego.
But compassion takes me out of those things.
Camera + Compassion + My Son
In case you didn’t notice I’m taking a lot of shoddy photos with my phone lately.
I haven’t mentioned it to anyone but my other camera isn’t in the best shape right now.
A couple weeks ago, I took it to the pool and in an effort to keep it dry wrapped it in a towel. Not knowing this and while I was back at the RV, Zeb picked up said towel and my camera fell several feet to the cement.
Thank goodness for an already residing sense of compassion.
I didn’t see the look on his face when it happened but I saw the look when he came up to tell me. It was a mixture of remorse and uncertainty. He knew how much I loved my camera, love to take photos, loved to capture expressions and moments from funny angles. And in my less-than-compassionate moments, he knew that my initial reaction could be the knee-jerk variety.
“Mom, I’m really sorry. I didn’t know your camera was there and I picked up the towel to dry off and…well, it fell and Dad has been trying but it’s not taking pictures now.”
But in that moment, I was fully connected to my own Truth, my own wisdom, my own Bigger Picture.
I was centered and felt content. And so my reaction was one of compassion.
“Really? You’re not upset? Because Spirit in the Sky was playing on the radio when it happened and I thought for sure it was an omen that you were gonna kill me,” he said with a grin. My son, he’s a funny one. 🙂
Don’t get me wrong…I felt my own disappointment and sadness over losing something I love.
But I felt a stronger sense of compassion for my son’s disappointment and concern for me.
But Compassion Isn’t Really The Answer
Okay, I really don’t believe compassion is the answer, even if the word is on my tongue a lot lately.
I didn’t take it in stride because I wanted to be compassionate. I didn’t keep my perspective because I focused on what would be the most compassionate.
I was compassionate because I already felt that deep sense of Connection within myself.
And by already being connected to my own Organic Wisdom, I could see with compassion. I could see that he cared deeply for me. I could see his worry. I could see that it was only a cheap lens that broke. And that it was just a camera anyway, a thing. I could see that I hadn’t even been taking many pictures lately. And I could even see my own accountability: I had wrapped it up in a towel and not told anyone after all.
Compassion didn’t allow me to see or understand those things. Being able to see those things without the fogginess of my emotions or knee-jerk reactions allowed me to respond with compassion.
And because hindsight is all a beautiful thing, I can see just how nice it is to only have my cell phone to take pictures – convenient, lightweight and good enough to capture the moment, save time in editing and get back to what really matters. 🙂
August is a busy, busy month in our little family with two birthdays and an anniversary.
Justin was up first turning 30 a few weeks ago!
We’re big on celebrating milestones and on celebrating life, so 30 seemed like a pretty significant number to do something big with.
What did he choose? Skydiving!
Zeb and I watched from the ground, jumping up and down as we saw the plane, saw him jump out of the plane and at one point even heard his Woohoo reach us on the ground. And the look on his face and his serene demeanor after was priceless.
Zeb’s birthday was up next, and like a classic 12 year old, he requested no photos. [Insert sad mama face here.]
I do however have a photo of the two of them juggling together! ♥
I guess you’ll just have to take my word that we watched hours of his favorite movies, went bowling with my sister and her family, then out for pizza.
Then came our anniversary – today actually.
My sweet hubby and I have been together for 11 years, married for nine.
We spent the day together, shopping the farmer’s market, then out to lunch, a movie, a walk on the Michigan beach with ice cream and lots and lots of reminiscing about how we met (he saw me at a warehouse and was almost too shy to introduce himself – someone else did it for him), what made us fall in love (oh so many little things) and what made it last (that’s a whole post right there).
I’m so incredibly in love with these two guys of mine and am so happy they were born into my life. ♥