Category Archives: fears

6 Things My Kids Have Gained From The Internet And Social Media

I remember when the internet was born.  I was in my 20’s, newly married, and thought it was the Coolest. Thing. Ever.  The ability to browse for information, talk to new people, and communicate through email… all from the safety of my home, in my pajamas?? An introvert’s dream.

And as the internet grew, I grew with it.

I remember when everyone had dire warnings about meeting up with people you connected with online.  Stranger danger!  Now, all of my closet friends are people I met online.

I remember when everyone was afraid to shop online, for fear that it wasn’t secure and that their credit card numbers/identity/life would be stolen.  Now I shop for everything online… from prescriptions, to Amazon, to Etsy.  We even order our groceries online.

My kids never knew a world without the internet.  How lucky they are!  Like it or not, we live in a digital age now, one in which everything you can imagine can be learned, bought, consumed, transmitted, created, and communicated online.  It doesn’t replace 3D life of course (and the intricacies and experiences and connection that go with it) but good grief does it enhance it.  I feel so fortunate, and so glad for my kids, that there are such endless opportunities to explore, to learn, and to connect, right there at their little fingertips.  For years the big joke has been the math teachers from years ago saying, “You need to learn to do this manually!  You won’t be carrying around a calculator in your pocket.”  Now, not only do we carry calculators in our pockets, we carry powerful computers.  Portals, if you will, into an entire other world, a world that is seamlessly integrated into our physical lives.  Pretty cool, right?

This is 2017.

Which is why I’m surprised and well… saddened… at the number of people who still want to so tightly control and limit when it comes to the internet and social media.  At the number of negative, fear-mongering articles that still come across my Facebook news feed.  At the amount of disdain aimed at apps, programs, and websites that allow kids (and adults) to express themselves in creative ways.

There is still so much FEAR.

But it can’t be overstated… this is the world we live in.  The internet is only going to continue to grow, so it only stands to reason that we should equip our kids to grow with it.  Case in point: A friend of mine has a son who was rejected for a program he really wanted to take.  Why?  Because he didn’t have a big enough digital footprint.

Now, is there yucky and dark and stuff to potentially stumble onto on the internet?  Sure.  Does  learning to navigate social media in a healthy way require an involved and connected parent, someone who’ll stay close and present as they figure things out? Of course.  But keeping them away is not the answer.  Especially in a time when there is so very much for them to gain – important things for them to gain! – by letting them explore and learn from the digital world and everything it has to offer.

Here are 5 things my kids have gained or are gaining from the internet and social media (and this is by no means a comprehensive list!)  In no particular order:

1) Knowledge  This is an obvious and broad one, but it couldn’t be left off the list.  Remember growing up with those sets of Britannica Encyclopedias?  Well, the internet is just like a million different sets of those encyclopedias.  On steroids.  In Disneyland.  On the fourth of July.  It is a constantly updated, ever expanding, veritable treasure trove of information.  Want to know how far a person sprays when their sneeze goes uncovered?  Google. (200 feet, in case you’re curious).  Want to see a detailed map of the world, of your country, of your town?  Google. Can’t remember the name of the guy in that movie with the song you like? Google. Want to learn a new language?  Google. Want to learn how to knit, how to build a shed, how to bake a souffle, how to apply a perfect cat eye with eyeliner?  YouTube.  I’ve finally learned to stop asking my kids, “Wait.  Where’d you learn that?”, as the answer is always and inevitably somewhere in their travels on the interwebs.  There are websites for everything.  There are more formal classes if that’s what they like (lots of which are free!).  There are tutorials and history lessons and peer-reviewed articles. As long as you can figure out the right search terms, you can learn about anything your heart desires.  Which brings me to,

2) Critical thinking skills Learning to navigate the internet means learning the nuances of searching and browsing in general. And you may not have looked at it this way, but these are critical thinking skills that are easily transferred to other areas in life.  These are the skills that help us to be clear in our thoughts and in our questions.  These are the skills that help us to be discerning.  To learn how to scan, discard, and sort information. To think about what it is we’re learning, and how it does or does not apply to our lives. To make decisions about what we do or do not want to be filling our heads, and where we do or do not want to spend our time.  It teaches us to ponder, to question, to go deeper.  To jump down that rabbit hole of vast, intense learning, and smoothly and expertly ride down all the never-ending little trails and offshoots it has to offer, stopping only when we’ve had our fill, and picking it all up again (or not) when we are ready.

3) Enhanced relationships. My daughter is the biggest example of this, but no one in this family is excluded.  The only extrovert in a house full of introverts, she lives for and thrives on her play dates, and theater practice, and sleepovers.  But when she can’t be with her friends in person?  Skype to the rescue!  She learned to navigate Skype at an extremely young age, and my house is always filled with the sounds of her and various friends chatting, playing games, and singing together.  And if a friend does not have Skype?   No problem.  They just email.  Dozens of emails shot back and forth, in real time. (This is a great starter email for kids, if you’re looking for one. It’s parent-moderated and extremely user friendly) And my boys?  My oldest has been in two long-distance relationships online.  He regularly chats with, and games with, friends from all around the country.  He watches movies, virtually, with friends who are thousands of miles away.  My younger two boys recently made friends with two sisters at our unschooling conference.  They spent hours and hours and hours together at the conference, playing board games, and strategy games, and bluffing games  (This feels important to mention, as some detractors of giving kids freer reign on the internet think that it causes them to be unwilling/unable to play and interact in person, without a screen in front of them.  Not so much.)  They live just down in Tucson, so meeting up in person is not at all beyond the realm of possibility, but in the meantime the internet – and Discord in particular – have allowed them to continue to grow their friendship online.  They have spent pretty much every evening together, chatting, laughing, and playing cooperative games together.  And for me personally?  I have one invaluable group of women that laugh with me, cry with me, and give me honest advice … all mostly within the confines of a private Facebook group.  And last month, one of the hardest months I’ve had in a long time, I had one friend who just refused to leave me alone (in a good way).  She doesn’t live particularly nearby, so she texted and messaged me daily.  To check in.  To encourage me.  To push me.  To remind me to get dressed and take care of myself.  None of that would have been possible if we didn’t live in a digital world.

4) Conflict resolution. Lest I give the impression that digital interactions are always smooth sailing, this is the real world.  Stuff happens.  I’ve helped my kids navigate disagreements, deal with unkind behavior, and understand the nuances of playing and interacting with large groups of strangers.  I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer that they go out into the world already having this foundation of knowledge to stand on, and letting them interact digitally allows them to do just that.  They’re able to figure it all out at home, with me by their side… whether it means involving me or my husband to help sort the problem, or talking things through, or standing up for themselves, or – in some cases – utilizing that “block” button.  My kids are far more adept at skillfully and confidently handling any interpersonal problems that crop up than I ever was (heck, than I am at the present time as well), largely because of their ability to practice online.

5) Entertainment. People are really weird about this one, as if there is no inherent value in being entertained for entertainment’s sake.  But as a lover of all sorts of creative arts, AND as someone who’s worked really hard to learn how to protect my mental health, I can tell you that it’s not only okay to let yourself be entertained, but vital to a balanced and healthy life.  And the internet makes it so easy!  From streaming movies, to satire websites, to the ubiquitous funny cat videos, they is no shortage of ways to relax, reset, and enjoy the hard work and creative output of others.  My 13 year old loves to cook, and he’s been watching a YouTube channel that is part comedy, part recipe tutorials.  I love walking in to the room to find him laughing over its latest funny antics.  (Side note here:  As parents, we’re not always going to understand or appreciate the same sorts of things as our kids.  That’s okay!  We can still enjoy it through them, and appreciate their appreciation, and share in their excitement.)  It always breaks my heart to hear a parent talk about their child’s interest as “stupid” or “a waste of time.”  If they find it valuable, it’s valuable.

And finally,

6) A creative outlet to express themselves. You know those apps like Facebook, and Instagram, and Snapchat, and Musical.ly that so many people love to hate, and choose to fear?  They can be amazing tools for expressing yourself, for interacting and sharing with your peers, and for staying connected with others in a fun, real-time, meaningful way.  If I wasn’t able to follow my kids on social media, to see what they have to share, and how they choose to express themselves, I would be greatly missing out!  It has allowed me to see and appreciate a whole new facet of their personalities that I might not have otherwise gotten to enjoy.  It gives them an easy way to create.  To communicate.  To stretch their social muscles.  The argument, of course, is that those apps are dangerous.  And I mean, can they be used in harmful ways?  Can they give them possible access to people with less than positive motives?  Well sure.  But that’s not unique to digital interaction!  When I was in junior high, I was horribly bullied.  I once had a group of girls chase me into the bathroom, where I hid in a stall, and they proceeded to lean over the walls and spit on me.  I had no “block” button.  And I wouldn’t have had the confidence and emotional fortitude to use it even if I did.  My kids though?  They have confidence and emotional fortitude in spades.  And they possess this confidence in part because of apps like this, not in spite of them. The answer isn’t to live in fear and forbid these apps (because, let’s be real for a minute, if they want to use them they’re going to find a way.)  And would you rather that decision be an acrimonious one, filled with resentment and secrecy?  Or a transparent one, happy and respectful?  The answer is open communication. If you’re worried about a particular app, ask your kids about it!  Do they use it?  Do they want to? How does it work? What do they hope to get out of it?  My kids are always more than happy to talk to me about what they’re using.  And because I know that 1) they have a healthy amount of self-respect and personal boundaries, 2) they’re skilled at navigating interactions in a healthy, constructive way (see point #4), and 3) that they would be comfortable coming to me if they ever did encounter a problem, I truly don’t worry.  Instead I’m genuinely happy and grateful that they have so many fun ways to communicate and express themselves, and that they are so savvy in a world that didn’t even exist when I was their age.

____________________________________________________

The internet isn’t going anywhere.  It’s something to embrace, to enjoy, and to learn to use responsibly.  It’s not the boogeyman. It’s a valid and useful (and important!) tool, for both the present and the future.  In the very wise words of my friend:

 


signature

1 Comment

Filed under fears, technology, unschooling

The Hard Things

 scrabble

I’m really bad at Scrabble. So bad that on the rare occasion that I dare play with my husband, he doesn’t just beat me. He demolishes me, with double or triple my score. And no matter how many times he tells me it’s a puzzle game, NOT a word game, it still bothers me that I – someone who lives and breathes for words – can be so dreadfully awful at a game that revolves around… well, making words!

I’m bad at chess too, and all my kids who play can beat me easily. I don’t have the attention span required to think two, three moves ahead (to be honest, paying attention long enough to think through one move is pushing it), and I can never remember the rules.

I’m good at baking, but I can’t fry a decent egg to safe my life.

I like sports, but I’m incredibly clumsy. I ran track one year in high school, and the coach was so frustrated at my repeatedly bungled attempts at the high jump, that he finally said, “You know what, this event isn’t for everyone. Maybe you need to think about trying something else.” I did eventually get the hang of the long jump and triple jump, although doing so gave me life-long shin splints, so I’m not sure it was a fair trade-off.

I struggle with math. Once I go beyond the basics, something inside me cries, “Too hard, too hard!!” and a little switch in my brain shuts off. Refuses to even try.

I have a terrible sense of direction. I’ve lived here in Phoenix for over 8 years now, and while I never truly worry that I’ll get lost-lost (mainly because the layout of the city is very gridded, and I know I’ll eventually get to an area/street/highway that I recognize) my track-record outside of my own normal stops is… spotty. The thought of going anywhere I’m not very familiar with, especially without my little sticky note of directions (I tend not to trust the GPS) makes my palms sweaty.

So why am I sharing this list of shortcomings? Because, about a month ago, I started taking a karate class as part of my 40 for 40 list of goals for the year. I always thought it’d be fun, and it is fun. But it’s also really freaking hard, at least for me. It doesn’t come naturally. I keep getting my left and right confused, I’ll start a middle block and some how end up with a high block, and when my hands are finally doing the right thing, my feet forget what they’re doing. I get flustered and embarrassed and I have to work really hard to mentally get past my mistakes.

But I keep showing up, and I keep working at it.

Twenty years ago – probably 10 or even 5 years ago, if I’m being honest – I would have quit. Gone home after that very first class, made some sort of declaration about karate being “not for me”, and never gone back.

I stand before you a recovering perfectionist. For most of my life, if something didn’t come easily to me, if I couldn’t do it well right from the get-go, I simply didn’t do it. I avoided anything that was hard at all costs, anything that would make me feel stupid, or incompetent, or… human. And you know what? It’s really no way to live. I mean, sure, I did some worthwhile things. I wrote! I made art! I played music! But the things I missed out on… the things I really wanted to try, but avoided because deep down I was afraid of failing? That list is longer than I care to admit.

Some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done as an adult have been things that were terrifying. Things that took me way outside of my comfort zone.  Things that were – or continue to be – really, really hard. Over time I’m learning to embrace the challenge, stare the fear in its face and say, “You’re not going to stop me this time.”

My kids? They don’t need to learn how to do this. They’ve already got it. When I interviewed them for my blog last year, and asked the question: “Some people think that unschoolers will only learn things that are easy for them, and will not ever challenge themselves. So do you learn things that are difficult, or do you just go for easy things that you know you’ll do well?” Spencer was quick to answer, “I like a challenge!” Right now he’s currently challenging himself with a two-year long small engine repair course that’s going to mean assignments, studying, and formal tests.  And just last week, when Everett and Paxton started a fencing class, their first comments after the class was done were, “That was SO HARD!  And so fun!  I can’t wait to go back.”

They’re not afraid of doing the hard things, and I’m finally, after 40 years on this planet, understanding why.

Because that feeling you get when you finally get that triple word score, or solve that polynomial equation, or smoothly execute the low block – middle punch – upper cut without getting tangled up in your own arms…

That feeling is pretty damn awesome.


signature

2 Comments

Filed under about me, fears, learning, life, perspective, trust

Books and Covers

 

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

Such an old, tired cliche, and one that has very nearly lost all meaning.  Sure, we pull it out from time to time, and make ourselves feel like it is a new revelation… but does anyone actually live by it?  From what I can see – both online and in the world around me – judging books by covers is not just still present, but very much alive and well.

A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on a blog from someone who said that in his mind, tattoos automatically mar a person’s inner beauty.  Now, I’m well aware that people feel that way, but having two tattoos myself (and I’m just getting started :)) the words still stung.  It’s one thing to have an opinion…. to not personally care for tattoos or dreadlocks or piercings or whatever… but to actually just look at a person, to see only their outer shell, and then make a decision about who they must be inside?  That’s a problem.

Last weekend, we did one of my very favorite things and went downtown to catch a Diamondbacks game.  They would lose, 5-0, but we didn’t know that yet.  We parked at our favorite $5 lot a few blocks from the stadium, and had walked most of the way there when we passed a homeless man sitting against a lamppost.  He looked to be in his 60’s, his skin dark and weathered from the Phoenix sun, and had nothing with him save for a hand-written sign that said simply, “Food.”

Living in a city this size, we see homeless people often.  I would never say I’ve gotten used to it – because I think we’re in trouble if we ever get used to such a thing – but it’s far from an unusual sight, especially in that part of town.  But here’s what I noticed on Friday night:

As we walked, we were sharing the sidewalk with two kids in their 20’s.  They looked… well, they looked like you’d expect two young people who’d just come out of a pub on a Friday night in downtown Phoenix to look.  They were tattooed.  They looked somehow totally chilled out and restless all at the same time.   Their pants were so low that I could very nearly see the bottom seam on their plaid boxers, and they were doing that weird waddle-walk that I’m assuming is necessary to keep them up.

“Are you hungry?”  They’d stopped in front of the homeless man just as we all passed.  “Here, take this.”  One of the young men handed him his plastic take-out container from the pub.  “We’ll bring you back some hotdogs, in case you’re still hungry later.  Bless you, brother,” he said as they walked away, and I lost sight of them as we all merged with the sea of people getting ready to enter the stadium.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Was there anything different about what they’d done than if they’d been well-dressed businessman in their 40’s?  Well, no.  A kindness is a kindness.  But the thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about – the thing that made me sad – was that just because they do happen to look a certain way,  they likely have to work even harder to disprove people’s preconceptions.  That they have to know that, just like that blog comment all those weeks ago, that there are going to be people who take one look at them and decide that they’re not as beautiful on the inside.  That they’re somehow less than.  Somehow less likely to be kind.  Somehow less likely to be giving.  Somehow less likely to be good.

And I think that if we’re being honest, we’ve all had or have something in this area that we can work on… some preconceived notion of how a person should be or think or act just because of the way they look.  And while I’ll never know who those kids were from the game, I’d like to thank them for reminding me once again that we need to knock it off.  Like, yesterday.

My kids are so naturally great at this.  So loving.  So accepting of differences.  I don’t want them to grow up in a world where it’s okay to think that anybody is “less than” just because of the way he looks.  That it’s okay to make a decision about somebody based on the way they dress, or the color of their hair, or the fact that they express themselves through piercings or tattoos.   I want them to know that a person isn’t more or less likely to be a good and kind soul just because of their outer packaging.

Unfortunately, yes, it’s a truth that sometimes people do bad things.  Oh but so very, very many people are good.

And until they’ve shown us otherwise through their actions, shouldn’t we be giving everyone the benefit of the doubt?


signature

2 Comments

Filed under acceptance, fears, kindness, labels, life

Television Without Fear

Thanks to Alice for another spot-on guest post!

I was raised without cable TV.  Actually, there were long stretches of my upbringing where we didn’t even own a TV, until my aunt and uncle would come to visit and bring one of their (many) old black and white TVs that wasn’t being used in their house.  Then we would be able to tune in the local channels, wiggling the rabbit ear antennas around until the fuzzy lines actually resembled peoples’ faces.  Sort of.  To give you a little perspective, I’m 36 years old at the time of this writing.  My peers grew up watching Fame, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, The Wonder Years, and Beverly Hills 90210.  And probably a lot more stuff I can’t think of because, you know, we didn’t have a TV. 

Our TV situation was complicated even more by my parents’ prejudice against it; we could have afforded a TV, but it was beneath them.  TV?  No no, we’re readers.  Even when we owned those secondhand black and white sets, we weren’t actually allowed to watch anything.  The standing rule in the house was No TV On School Nights.  If it wasn’t a school night, I could maybe watch something but there was a whole lot I wasn’t allowed to watch.  On that list were innocuous things like Golden Girls (because Blanche Devereaux had indiscriminate sex).  Over and over again, I heard how TV was going to turn my brain to mush, or rot my brain, or was a waste of time, or was junk.  Why didn’t I read a book or go outside?  As a matter of fact, turn off that TV and do something else.  Sometimes I was allowed to finish whatever I was watching, and sometimes I wasn’t.  (And just for the record, my parents were and are excellent parents.  This post is not meant to malign or judge them.)  Their rationale – that TV was junk – was the same thing I hear all the time from parents today, and at its core is fear.  Fear that kids will somehow be damaged from TV; grow up too fast, become violent, materialistic, zombified, lazy, not smart.  And when you view TV as the harbinger of all of that, of course you want your kids to spend little to no time watching it. 

When a kid values something – anything at all, whether it be TV, sports, books, or Barbies – and their parents repeatedly tell them the thing they value is junk, it creates feelings of guilt and shame.  I’m not speaking in hypotheticals here, or repeating something I read in a study. 

I’m telling you that I found value in watching TV for many reasons, and was told my entire childhood that TV viewing was not worthwhile, and that created feelings of guilt and shame that lasted into adulthood.

It took until my oldest was 5 for me to find and fully embrace radical unschooling.  There are no restrictions on TV viewing (or screen time of any kind) in our house.  My kids are free to watch as much or as little TV as they want, and can watch any shows they are interested in.  The only limits have to do with the fact that we are a large family with two TVs – it’s a rare occurrence for that to be a problem, and it is generally easily resolved.  But what does it really mean to have no rules about TV viewing?  What does the reality of that look like on a daily basis in my house?  What if my kids want to watch TV all day?  And what do I do if the kids want to watch something I think is inappropriate?  And what about the materialism promoted in commercials?

When I say there are no limits to TV viewing in our house, I really mean just that.  And it applies to computers and video games as well.  My kids (8, 6, and 3 year old boys, and 1 year old twin girls) can choose to use or not use electronics in the same way they can choose to read, ride bikes, dig in dirt, build with legos, or anything else they think of.  There is a stigma attached to using electronic devices that doesn’t seem to be applied to anything else, and it’s that stigma, and the associated fear that accompanies it, that motivates parents to place arbitrary limits on their use.  When you view the world through that veil of fear, there’s so much to be afraid of.  I don’t discourage my kids from talking to people they don’t know; the majority of strangers are nice people, and I’m right there with my kids should things seem to be heading in a strange direction.  We talk to them about internet safety, but not to the point that they’re paralyzed with the fear of online predators.  We talk to them about the kinds of images that you wish you could unsee, but can’t, and why that could be harmful; but not because we want them to be scared of the world around them.  I don’t fear that my kids will become lazy, or unhealthy, or less intelligent because I’m right here with them, seeing for myself that they have a variety of interests that extend beyond screen time.  Fear does not enter into our decision-making process for our family, and when you remove the element of fear, the need for arbitrary limits disappears.   

I can already hear it coming: “If I let my kids have unlimited screen time, they wouldn’t do anything else all day.”  Well, yeah.  If you limit your kids’ screen time, and then all of a sudden one day you don’t, then of course they’re going to get as much screen time in as they possibly can.  History has shown them that limits will most likely be in place again soon, and they’re going to take advantage of the reprieve.  I know I would.  When we stopped limiting our kids’ screen time, it did take a while for them to believe the limits weren’t coming back.  And now?  Some days, they’re on the TV and/or computer all day long.  Some days, they don’t go anywhere near either screen.  And that’s really what it looks like in a house with no limits.  Screen time becomes just one more option in a whole world full of options.  It’s not better or worse than anything else.

My kids can choose to watch anything they can find.  That statement tends to shock people.  But here’s what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that I leave them in a room alone with a stack of R rated movies riddled with violence and sex and encourage my kids to watch them.  I know what my kids like to watch, and I know what would scare them, or bore them, or bother them for some reason they maybe can’t articulate.  I’ve explained what the different ratings on movies and TV shows mean, and they frequently check them on new shows – not because they might get in trouble for watching them, but because it might be something they wouldn’t like.  And if they’re not sure, they ask.  The most important thing I can do is be there.  I’m there to explain what a show might contain, or to read a description of it, or to suggest something they might like better.  If they want to watch a show, but I think it might be scary or confusing, I make sure I watch it with them so we can turn it off if they want, or so we can pause it for me to explain something they have a question about.  They have no interest whatsoever in shows with adult themes of love and sex, and I can’t imagine them tolerating even a few minutes of it.  But at some point they probably will, and rather than forbid them to watch it I intend to watch it with them so we can talk about it together.  (And I’m not talking about porn here, people.  Work with me.)  Let’s say, for instance, we happen to be watching Golden Girls and good old Blanche gets friendly with a gentleman caller.  Perfect opportunity to discuss a whole variety of things with my kids!  Just be there, and be willing to talk.

As for violence, I would argue that movies marketed to kids are way, way more disturbing than a lot of PG-13 movies.  In one 5 minute stretch of The Lion King (which we watch a lot of around here), Simba’s uncle commits treason, then murder, then usurps the throne, and tries to have Simba killed.  Right up until that point, everything had been love and roses.  Pretty much every kids’ movie follows a similar formula.  Everyone’s happy until some horrible tragedy, which the main character must then overcome.  Whereas in a movie like Spiderman, everything is laid out a little more clearly.  There are good guys, and bad guys; there’s a battle, then the good guys win.  The end.  Seeing violence in a movie does not encourage my kids to be violent.   My kids are kind, sweet, gentle and friendly.  They are peaceful because we as their parents are peaceful.  My husband and I were watching The Hunger Games recently, and my 6 year old came into the room and asked what it was about.  We paused the movie and explained the concept, and he said he wanted to watch a little.  He watched a few minutes of it and was interested in the bow and arrows carried by the main character, and then he got bored and wandered out again.  If he had decided to stay and watch, I would have spent more time watching him than the movie, to see how he was handling it and if we needed to stop watching.  It’s really just that simple.  We were there, and we were willing to talk.

Commercials and marketing and materialism aren’t an issue for us, mostly because – in an ironic twist – we don’t have cable.  What we do have is an xbox, internet, a Netflix subscription and a Hulu subscription.  We stream everything we watch through the xbox to our TV.  Netflix has no commercials and Hulu (which the kids rarely watch) has about two 30 second commercials in a 25 minute show.  But when we go on trips and stay in hotels, the kids see commercials.  I’m not concerned that they’re being brainwashed into wanting things.  If anything, my kids are totally annoyed by the commercials and talk wistfully about getting back home to “good TV.”  I get really excited when I talk about how little we pay to watch TV (in fact I once received a call from a cable company who wanted me to pay for cable, and I’m pretty sure I convinced the salesperson to get rid of hers), but my point here is that while marketers do want to convince people to buy things, I just don’t feel it’s a major concern for us.  We rarely see commercials, but the bottom line is that we are more influential in our kids’ lives than marketers.  We are not materialistic, we don’t constantly shop for the latest and greatest things, and we talk to our kids about money and budgeting and consumerism.  We talk to our kids.

Not too long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say this without feeling guilty, but I love television.  I love it.  It brings the whole world into our home.  I love watching shows that make me laugh, or cry, or think.  I love watching shows with my kids, and seeing the things that bring them joy, or peak their interest.  I love learning new things with them.  I love the conversations we have that start from something we saw in a show.  I love being able to show them countries that we will most likely never visit, or give them a televised preview of countries we hopefully will get to someday.  I love that when they feel like lying on the couch all day and watching TV, they have the freedom to do that with no strings attached.  I love that TV is just one more choice available for them in a whole world full of choices.

At this phase in my life with so many small children, I rarely have time to watch TV on my own.  But someday, in what will feel like the blink of an eye although it will really have been years, my small children will be bigger.  I’ll find myself with some free time, and maybe I’ll choose to read a book, or go outside.  Or maybe I’ll choose to sit down on the couch and watch TV all day, without guilt or shame.

Alice Davis is an Army wife, mother of five, and probably the last person on earth who doesn’t have a blog.  She loves to talk about unschooling, attachment parenting, and mothering multiples.  In her copious amounts of free time, she sells custom baby hats, tutus, and embroidery in her etsy shop www.AlicesHandmadeCrafts.etsy.com

(photo by videocrab)


signature

9 Comments

Filed under fears, guest posts, misconceptions, television, trust, unschooling

Rainbows & Breakthroughs

Behind my sister’s house

Several months ago, the kids and I got caught in a horrific hail storm.  We were at the playground, and even though it was starting to look like rain, we weren’t in too much of a hurry.   People were rushing around, gathering up their things, but we kept playing.  I tend to be of the nonchalant, “so if it rains, we’ll just get a little wet,” ilk, and the kids love playing in the rain anyway.

Suddenly, it was like someone flipped a switch:  the sky turned from grey to black,  and the wind…. I can’t even begin to describe the wind, except to say that if I hadn’t picked up both Everett and Tegan (6 and 2.5 respectively) I don’t think they would have been physically able to even stand in it.  We quickly ran around retrieving shoes and water bottles from where they’d been left under slides and swing sets, and headed – running – to the car.  That’s when the hail started hitting us.   Huge, hard, and painful, they beat on our bodies as we flew across the grass.

And that wind!!  I’d never been in wind that bad in my life.

Everett and Tegan were both crying, and Spencer was starting to do a gasping, hyperventilating thing that was frightening me even more than the weather.   I tried to reassure them – and myself – as we ran, but it was so loud I doubt anyone even heard my words.  We finally made it to the car and just sat inside it for awhile…. drenched, cold and breathing heavily… but otherwise no worse for the wear.

By the time we got home, ten minutes later, it was over.  We were greeted with these all over our front yard:

The biggest hail I’ve ever seen

Ever since that day, Everett has been extremely fearful and anxious about wind.  (Can you blame him?)   He hasn’t wanted to go to playgrounds, hasn’t wanted to go outside, has declined play dates, and has cried at even the smallest amount of breeze when do have to be out.  On his worst days, he wouldn’t even have to be outside to be afraid.  He would hysterically cry at just the sound, just the thought, of the wind outside.  He’s been genuinely, and inconsolably, terrified about the possibility of getting caught in another storm.

As a parent, it is both heartbreaking and frustrating to see your child so strongly clutched by a fear, and feel powerless to stop it.  I tried my hardest to respect it, and to honor his feelings.  I held him, I talked to him, I comforted him, I reassured him… oh how I tried to reassure him!… but still the fear remained.    It was a paralyzing fear, one that kept him under the porch’s cover as I would push Tegan on the swing, wanting to join us but not able to make himself do it.   I hated seeing what it was doing to him, and as much as I hated it for him, I know he hated it more.   My sweet, happy boy wasn’t always happy any more, and I didn’t know how to make it better.

I thought it was starting to get better, but a few weeks ago we went off-roading.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and we’d stopped for a picnic lunch at a really beautiful spot up in Sedona.   And again I held him as he cried, petrified, when some wind started to pick up. 

I shared my own stories of fears with him.  I shared other people’s stories.  I told him I didn’t blame him for being scared, but that he was safe.  “I know all of that!” he’d tell me through his tears.  “I tell myself not to be scared, but I just don’t know how to stop it.”  And I didn’t know either.  So I held him, and we waited.

And slowly, slowly it has started to get better. 

Today, we took the two youngest kids out to the library, and to go grocery shopping.  It had been raining in the morning, but it was relatively clear when we left the house.  They chose some books from the library, and we made quick work of our shopping list.  It was windy when we left the first store, but Everett was too busy eating his Clif bar and chatting about his upcoming birthday to pay much attention.  It was very windy by the time we got to the second store, enough that I was watching him – waiting – as we exited the car.  Still he was calm and happy as we went in the store and grabbed our last few things.  When we came back out to the parking lot, the air was thick with the heaviness that comes before the rain.  The storm clouds had all gathered together into one massive sheet of charcoal, and the wind was whistling in our ears.  And Everett grabbed my hand, laughed, and wondered aloud if we’d make it to the car before it started raining. 

He laughed.  I didn’t say anything at the time, but the fact that we were hurrying through the wind and darkness once again wasn’t lost on me.  But he wasn’t crying.  He was happy.  And this time, he was still smiling as he buckled himself into his seat.  It started raining just as we pulled away.

Breakthrough.

When we got home, I gathered him up in a big hug, and asked him if he’d realized that we’d been out in the wind.

“Oh yeah!”  he told me.  “I didn’t really think about it until just now.  It was pretty windy, wasn’t it?”  He was still hugging me.

“Yes, it was.  And we were fine.  You were fine, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, I was!”  He sounded happy.  Proud.  And then he ran off to watch T.V.

I don’t know what made the difference.  Maybe it was just time.  And I don’t know that we won’t have to deal with scary wind moments again in the future (in my experience,  a lot of these things tend to take the path of a one step forward, two steps back resolution) But I do know that today was a huge leap forward as far as I – and Everett – are concerned.    I am thankful, and I am relieved.

Just after we got home, when I was still celebrating his victory, my sister sent the above picture of the rainbow.  I couldn’t have gotten a more perfect picture at a more perfect time. 

It’s a new day, and it’s beautiful.


signature

Comments Off on Rainbows & Breakthroughs

Filed under Everett, fears

The Ladies In My Backyard

I’ve always been afraid of birds. They’re unpredictable, and they flutter and fly and dive-bomb. And to be fair, birds never really seemed to like me either. I was attacked by a rooster once as a kid, and by a pheasant that flew out of the woods when I was walking home from the bus stop.

But.

I love my chickens.

They’re about three months old now, and they’re finally comfortable enough to wander the whole yard. They’re funny and sweet and friendly, and they – thankfully – don’t do anything too terribly scary, even for someone with a bird phobia like me.


signature

3 Comments

Filed under fears, pets, pictures, random