Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quiet! Stop it! and other reflections on parenting...

Badummmm!! was the sound I heard behind me in the living room.  "What are you doing?" I said to Zachary as I watched him rubbing his arm. "Hurting myself" he commented.  What was I to say to that? Stop hurting yourself?  I tend to make those kinds of futile suggestions in an attempt to minimize my own discomfort.  Why would I be uncomfortable? This penchant for self hurting usually results in emotional noise.  Early in parenthood, I developed a goal of quiet!.

Zach was very amused by his wit and he shared his comment with his sister.  Interestingly enough, she tripped a few minutes later and the conversation continued along the lines of self-hurting.  Simonne's comment was "But you want to hurt yourself.  I don't want to do that."  She commented that someone needed to move the car-seat that she tripped over out of the way.  I wondered who that someone was, and offered a suggestion, which was ignored... I resisted my thought to remove the object of possible self-hurt.

Zach came back to me, again doing the same thing as before.  This time, he didn't wait for the question.  He announced his intention to hurt himself, but was not going to give himself cuts and did not want to need the hospital.

Muse: So many of us hurt ourselves and don't own up to what we are doing.  So many correctly identify the contributing factors to the hurt, but don't exercise our power to reduce those contributors when possible.

I'm listening to conversations in the kitchen this time, two little voices "It's not fair if you get 2 and I get one".  Normally, my goal of quiet! at all costs would have rushed me into the kitchen to put a quick end to the discussion.  Thankfully, I read Teach Your Children a few minutes ago and have been thinking about the trade-off between instruction and experiences. I decided to proceed slowly, and resist helping.

The problem was particularly challenging to the 8 and 5 year old because they were doing complex division, trying to determine exactly half of the remains of a smoothie, when a few ounces of the portion had already been consumed by the 5 year old.  The only real help I gave was to point out the size of the glass he used, versus that of the 8 year old's.  He was very willing to estimate the height of the fluid he had consumed, showing us with his hands. His sister poured her portion into his glass, noted with surprise that it was more than he had had (her glass was wider), poured her entire portion back into the original canister, poured it out into his glass to the appropriate height, then poured that back into her glass.  (Too many steps! I thought...but I remembered my intention).  The 5 year old continued the figuring, pouring the entire contents of the rest into his glass, noting the height, pouring it all back, then estimating half and pouring that into his glass.
FairPortionForZach2 = 1/2 (Total - 2* ZachPortion1) 
That's algebra!  I must note it on my next homeschool report.....

Muse: Allowing the children to figure it out takes time, and I have to be willing to not 'fix' the things that appear 'inefficient' to me.  My going slow isn't really the slow way, since the fast way isn't facilitating much learning!  Allowing people space and time to figure their stuff out may result in more of the actual change and growth that we wanted to see when we are busy telling them what to do!

Sometimes we don't give the time to have the experiences needed because we believe we don't have the time, or that taking the time will inconvenience someone else.  Today I was in BJ's watching a mom allow her son to empty the shopping cart at the self check isle.  It took considerably longer, and BJ's on a sunday is incredibly crowded.  She allowed him to make the mistakes, came to help him resolve them when necessary, then continued with her tasks.  I was directly behind her, in a hurry to be home, feeling a little impatient, yet filled with admiration for the process she was allowing her son to have, with the line stretching behind her.

So why do I stop myself from facilitating more experiential learning for the children?  Usually I'm trying to avoid some discomfort.  Let's take my goal of quiet!.  Like my son with autism, I do discomfort in the presence of emotionally charged noise.  Now, I am an advocate of being an empowered person and making environmental changes where necessary (see first muse).  I'm realizing thought, that I will opt to do that before a complete exploration of why I'm uncomfortable.  The challenge there is when the stimulus comes from other people.  Much of my care taking is really care taking of myself.  I don't want the noise.

Muse: Be curious about the cause of the discomfort to determine if I change the stimulus or myself (or both!)  Does changing the stimulus sabotage any of my other intentions?

I'm going to pretend that I have autism and am significantly challenged by emotional noise.  I'm going to set up a home program for me.  Let's go into my special room, where I play on my own agenda with my special friend.  Today, that friend is also me.  How do I be helpful to the other me?
  • Love and accept me with the discomfort. Turn towards it, not away from it
  • Note that it's really about me.  I'm ok with the children resolving their stuff.  My discomfort isn't about them and their well-being in the negotiation.  On my comfortable days, I lovingly facilitate or just plain leave them to handle it.
  • I can then allow myself to pause when I feel the rush to jump in. I can pause, go slowly and remind myself of my personal and parental intentions.  I can also pause to be curious and reflect on what's really going on for me.
  • I can be comfortable with my own discomfort, and celebrate that comfort with discomfort when I notice it!  Perhaps the more comfortable I am with my own discomfort, the more I can be comfortable with the discomfort represented in the emotional noise (or in any other stimulus for that matter!)
  • Wrestling with, accepting, allowing, changing my discomfort is my own experience!  I'm getting myself in there and figuring it out!  And isn't that what I want my children to get?  What better way than to model it?
So here's to a slow, thoughtful, experiential learning week in the Clarke Homeschool Academy (open 24 hours)!

1 comment:

  1. Faith, welcome back!

    How cool that, when Simonne begins formally studying Algebra, she'll be constantly saying, "Oh, that's what you call that!"

    As you described your experience with Zach and Simonne, I realized that giving people (regardless of their age) time and space to figure it out (whatever it is) is probably more productive than any method or technique.

    Really wonderful.

    Thank you!


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