Oct 14

Free To Be 2014 – Day Three

Photo by Kiera Cook

Photo by Kiera Cook

Day Three – Saturday – is at once the hardest and yet most interesting day to write about.  It was the busiest of all four days, and arguably the most memorable.  Besides the violent monsoon and the subsequent flooding (I’ll get to those later) it was an emotionally taxing day for me personally, so very much like my feelings, this blog post will likely be a little bit scattered and all over the place as I re-live it.

I woke up feeling terrible on Saturday, burnt out and exhausted.  Recognizing that I would be crawling by the end of the conference if I didn’t do something about it, I cancelled yoga and took the extra hour to myself.  Some ibuprofen, a shower, some coffee and a proper breakfast – Yay!  Breakfast! – later, I was feeling a bit better, at least physically.

One of my kids was going through something difficult… something that would have been difficult under the best of circumstances, and was made almost unbearable by the conference setting.  As a parent, it’s always…. well, it was difficult (yes, I just used the word “difficult” three times in four lines.)  It was difficult, (4) and I share it just to give a fuller picture of where my head was at on Saturday.

So Saturday.

There was a chance of rain (Ha.  Foreshadowing is great.)  so we’d already planned to move the dinner inside, instead of on the pavilion.  We also had the talent show to think about, and Jungle Jill, and board breaking, and air brushed tattoos.  Mike also left at one point to go pick up Amy Steinberg from the airport, which left me somewhat… anxious.  While he was more than content to work quietly in the background, (“This is your conference,”  he kept telling me.  ”I’m your assistant.”) Mike and I very much worked as a team, each of us doing entirely different things.  There were questions that only he could answer, and vice versa.  All of that to say, whenever one of us left the hotel – which only happened a handful of times over the course of the four days – I got a little nervous.

But all was well.

The rain started when he was gone, and it wasn’t long before it was coming fast and furious, complete with the unrelenting lightning, rolling thunder, and gale-force winds that make Arizona storms so exciting.

Up until that point, everything had been going smoothly.  Jeff inspired everyone by opening up a conversation about passions. Sara & Matt Janssen taught us how to become gypsies.  Matt Jones talked about reconciling unschooling with a corporate life. Jen Andersen reminded us all to tune out the outside voices so we can better focus on our own kids.

My parents had come set up their air-brushed tattoos, and there was a line 10 deep.  There was button making and face painting and plastic bag print-making.

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Everyone seemed to enjoy Jungle Jill despite the apocalypse happening outside:

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

And all the teens on the teen panel were wonderful and well-spoken:

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I don’t remember where I was when the flooding happened.  That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Like all those big moments in history, the ones where you always remember exactly where you were, and exactly who you were with.  (Where were YOU when you heard about the flood? :-D)  Anyway, I was in a lot of places, and it changed moment to moment, so I really don’t know where I was.  I just know that at some point, there was flooding, and everyone that was attending anything downstairs made a mass exodus for the second floor.

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

In typical unschooling conference fashion, people hardly blinked.  (Which is so, so interesting to me.  We got complaints over much smaller things, but flooded out conference rooms?  No problem!)  We had to shuffle around the rest of the schedule a bit, the whole evening starting with dinner had to get pushed back an hour; and Erika’s SSUMs, Laura Flynn Endres’s main presentation, and Matt’s board breaking funshop all graciously went along with the flow.  (See what I did there?)

The staff had to work harder than ever, there were some downed trees, and some definite scrambling.  But no one was hurt. It was not a catastrophe. And in the end it just made for a little extra excitement.

Oh and the kids?

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

I don’t think they were too broken up about it.

And even the big empty rooms that were drying out turned out to be a great place to play:

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Once the excitement of the flooding had died down, we all gathered for the Mexican dinner.  It was the first time during the conference that everyone was really in the same place at the same time, and it was a little overwhelming to me.  Not in a this-is-way-too-many-people-around-my-hamster-ball-of-introversion kind of way, but in a “We did this!!  We created this thing, and people are here, and they’re happy and they’re chatting and they’re eating and they’re HERE and we did this” kind of way.

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340 people, all in one place.

Looking around that room during that dinner was an incredibly powerful, surreal moment for me, and it’s one I will remember above almost any other.  Granted, I was physically and emotionally spent by then, someone had just given me a hard time about something, and everything was a little extra…. raw.  Still, what I felt was real, and it turned out it was just a precursor for what I’d feel an hour later.

On the surface, the talent show that followed the dinner can be summed up like this:  a couple of skits, dances, music, and jokes interspersed between a whole bunch of little girls’ interpretations of Frozen’s Let it Go.

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Photo by Chrissy Flornence

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

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Beyond that though, it was So. Much. More.   It was a whole roomful of people offering genuine love and support to every child who got up on that stage.  It was parents encouraging – but never pushing! – their children into trying something new, and feeling their joy with them when they did it.  It was people accepting and celebrating the uniqueness and beauty and perfectly imperfect quirkiness of each and every person in that room.  It was people who knew they were free to…. well, free to BE.  It was the whole of gentle parenting and unschooling and the conference all in that one moment.

And that’s what made me lose it.

I was admittedly on the precipice of tears the entire night, but the exact second they finally spilled over was when this lovely little girl was singing:

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

This is Tegan’s new friend, and Jennifer Andersen’s (of Our Muddy Boots) little girl. It was a big deal for her to get up there, but she did it. I looked at her, and I looked at her proud mom, and I looked at Tegan who was doing all the hand motions with her off-stage in solidarity (Let it Go is ALL about the hand motions). In that second, all the stress and the anxiety and the wondering and the worrying and the relief culminated in a sudden unstoppable rush of tears.

I was very grateful for the previous rain, because when I slipped out the door onto the walkway, it was cool and comfortable outside.  There were a few kids running and laughing nearby, but it was otherwise silent and still.  I stayed for but a minute, all by myself (there was too much of the evening left to totally check out) but I stayed long enough to cry, to breathe, to pull myself together, to feel gratitude…. gratitude for that moment, gratitude for the conference, and gratitude for all the people who came and made it a conference.

Until two days ago, even my husband didn’t know about that moment.  In two minutes I was back in the room, and back to business as usual.  And an hour later I was drinking white Russians and serenading everyone with Wrecking Ball.  (Wait what?)

I share it with you now mostly because I’ve received so many really lovely comments of gratitude over the past two weeks, and I want you all to know what it all meant to me too, and what YOU all meant to me.  I don’t know that I can truly put it into words, so my hope is that a glimpse into a vulnerable, private, tear-stained moment might give you some idea.

It meant the world to me, truly.  And I thank you.


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Oct 12

Free To Be 2014 – Day Two

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Like Thursday, Friday started (at least for me) bright and early at 6:00.  I sadly missed breakfast again, but I did get to grab some coffee before yoga.  I also got to hide in the art room for almost an hour until I was called away, while I helped kids fancy up their fingernails. Bliss. I’m not exactly sure what the scheduling gurus (us) were thinking when they scheduled me to do yoga at 8 followed immediately by fingernails at 9…. but I made it work.

Friday also brought us improv instruction, string painting, bubbles, and duct tape.

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Photo by Laci Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

It brought in-depth dad discussions with SSUDS, circle chats about relating to your teenagers, unschooling and diversity, an FAQ panel of grown unschoolers, a discussion about unschooling and parenting

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Photo by Jenna Boring. We did this talk rather on the fly, but it went well! Lots of great discussion from the audience, and I had a surprisingly good time.

and main presentations by Brian Curtice

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Photo by Jenna Boring.

and Tiffani Bearup

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Friday night was my favorite night of Happy Hour, because the fabulous Craig Davis was warming up the crowd with his strolling magic before his show.  Mike and I adore Craig Davis, but I’ll admit that there was a small amount of “Will people think this is too hokey?”  And indeed, there were a couple.   But he won over so many of them with this card tricks. I especially loved hearing the skeptical people squeal and laugh with … shock, maybe is the word? at some of his reveals. And yes, I know intellectually that it’s all an illusion, a slight of hand, and that it’s simply a skill that he practiced over and over and over (and he was awesome enough to give a couple of us some insider tips and even showed us how to do a simple trick).  But still.  Some of that “mind-reading” stuff FREAKS ME THE HECK OUT. He’s genius.  He’s also a living unschooly example – even though he went to school – of someone who followed his passion and made a lifestyle out of it.  He’s never supported himself in any other way than doing magic, and he clearly loves what he does.  Awesome.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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Photo by Jenna Boring

After Craig’s show, I actually got to hang out at the pool until they closed it down.  Have I mentioned the pool yet? So much of a conference’s magic happens in and around the pool! (figurative magic, not magic magic :))  My kids logged many many hours in that pool with new and old friends.  It brings people together.  The connections, the play, the relaxation, the quiet late-night chats over drinks.  Sometimes there’s just nothing on the planned schedule that can compete with the pool.

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Magic.


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Oct 09

Free To Be 2014 – Day One

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Life is not a bubble (which, by the way, if you’ve never been to one, an unschooling conference is exactly that:  a giant, 4 day, unschooling bubble) so the time since the conference has been quickly ticking away on me… one appointment, one bill, one trip to the grocery store at a time.  Like most big and surreal events in my life, it exists on some other strange space-time continuum, simultaneously feeling like it just happened, and like it happened a whole lifetime ago.

In real life, it’s been two weeks.  In fact, the first day was exactly two weeks ago today.

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

That’s me giving the opening welcome and announcements.  This picture kind of cracks me up because I look so serious.  In reality, I was giddy.  Nervous.  But giddy.  I don’t remember what I said (though I am pretty sure I did announce “I’m so nervous”), and I know for a fact that I left out at least 65% of what I’d planned.  But I got up there, and I kicked us off.

Day one was a whole lot of running around, setting up, checking in, and introductions.

I had to keep checking in with myself to confirm that the conference was actually happening… that there were real-live people there… that it was not in fact yet another pre-conference dream (I had a LOT of them, especially in the last couple weeks)

It was exciting and nerve-wracking – in the best possible way – to meet and hug and talk to so many people that until that moment I’d only known on the internet.

Day one was busy and lovely and validating.

There were ice-breaker games.  There were gnomes and fairies.

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Photo by Sandra Jessop

There were fantastic main presentations by Pam Sorooshian

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Erika Davis-Pitre

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Roya Dedeaux

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

and Jeff Sabo

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

A little aside about the laptop in the picture with Jeff.  It’s my own personal laptop (the one I’m writing on at this very minute), and it performed very well in its conference duties, despite the fact that it was essentially limping along.  I dropped it a couple weeks ago – bad shoulder – and each day is bringing more and more side-effects from said drop to light.  Anyway.  The sticker on the right hand side was a treasured gift from my friend, Jess, that says, “Going down the road less traveled” and it made me happy to see it up there at every talk I attended. Also, I was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t had the forethought to change my wallpaper before the conference.  For those that didn’t happen to catch it when it was up on the screen: it’s a meme that resonated with me strongly that reads:

My spiritual teachers, in order of importance:

1. People who annoy the living shit out of me
2. All other spiritual teachers

A little crass perhaps, but oh so very true.  Our challenges are some of our best teachers, are they not?

But I digress.

There was also parkour.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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We were thrilled with the turn-out, in 102 degree heat no less!

And a dance….

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That red-headed blur in the front right is Tegan, who looked so cute all dressed up for the dance (which I sadly never got a picture of), and who, like so so many other kids, completely came into her own in a whole new way during the conference.

And a teen dance.

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Getting the privilege of playing DJ for the teens confirmed for me that they are truly some of my favorite people on the planet. Teens are awesome.

And through it all, there were the quieter, more important things.  The things that unschooling conferences exist for:

The connections, between parents and kids, new friends and old.

The gentle examples of kind and respectful parenting.

The answered questions, the moments of “a-ha” clarity, the new nuggets of wisdom.

The joy.

I could have missed it all (and, admittedly, I missed a lot of it). I was running on adrenaline for all four days… there, but not really there…

But still, I saw.  I witnessed.  And it was beautiful.


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Oct 03

Free To Be 2014, Part One: It Was More

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One week from yesterday, we woke up bright and early at the Embassy Suites, and began the first day of our conference that was over a year in the making.

I really believed that I wouldn’t want to talk/write/or think about it for a good long while after it was over.  I need to rest, I said.  I need to be process, I said.  Well… I do need to rest, and I do need to process.  But I pretty much haven’t shut up about it yet.  And it turns out that I won’t really process it until I write about it (which should not surprise me, because that’s just the way I operate.)

Without having ever done anything remotely like this before, we were going into it somewhat blindly.  Still, we had put in a LOT of preparation, and I felt like we had a fairly good idea of what to expect.

I expected stressful.

I expected busy.

I expected exhausting.

I expected high highs.

I expected low lows.

And it was all of those things, but it was more… of all of it.

Stressful – This was truly one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.  Someone compared it to planning a four-day wedding, and while I suppose it’s a fair comparison, I don’t like weddings and I sort of hope all my kids choose to elope.  I’m kidding.  (No I’m not.)  All of it, from the scheduling to the decision-making to the ordering to the fire-extinguishing to the millions of little details that were all threaded together into one big elaborate web… it was more stressful than I ever could have anticipated.  Was it fun and exciting?  Unequivocally, YES!  Oh but the stress.  I couldn’t have fully appreciated it until I actually experienced it.

Busy – I envisioned myself doing a lot of running around, a lot of fetching, a lot of answering, a lot of facilitating, a lot of working.  I just didn’t envision the right amount of running around, fetching, answering, facilitating, and working.  I didn’t sit.  I barely ate.  I think I made it to the bathroom once a day.  And I loved doing it!  That’s what I was there for.  A year’s worth of work had culminated in my doing exactly that.  The level of my own personal amount of “busy” was just even higher than I’d thought.  In my head, the conference would sort of run itself… and it DID, in many ways, with all the amazing speakers, prepared funshop hosts, scheduled entertainment, etc… but I wasn’t exactly in a position to sit back and enjoy it.  And don’t get me wrong:  I was completely happy to be doing what I was doing.  Very happy. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me very tired.  Which leads me to:

Exhausting –  Conferences in general are just exhausting.  And the exhaustion that comes from hosting a conference is its own animal, for sure.  I hit a wall on the morning of the 3rd day.  It was 5:30, I’d slept for around 3 hours, and everything hurt.  I didn’t think I could get out of bed.  I cancelled yoga, took the extra time to take a shower and eat breakfast, two things I hadn’t gotten to do yet.  (That’s gross.  Sorry.) But I rallied.  Even now, a week later, I’m still more exhausted than I’ve ever been in recent memory.  I’ve been an insomniac for most of my adult life, but I have had NO trouble sleeping for the past week.  I’m more or less slipping into a coma every night. I go to bed fully intending to watch a TV show or two before I go to sleep, and I wake up six hours later…. the remote still in my hand, and the TV still on its menu screen.

High highs – So this is the part where I get mushy.  I want to give some specific examples in subsequent posts, but to sum it up as much as possible:  I think the goal of any unschooling conference is to get connected. Refreshed. Recharged.  Inspired.  To gather together with your “people.”  To talk to others who understand.  To witness the sweetness and magic and love that is unschooling and gentle parenting.  To strengthen and heal.  To feel supported.  To feel empowered.  I saw all of that, and so. much. more.  Good grief you guys.  You’re incredible.  I feel so, so unbelievably grateful and lucky to be a part of this awesome community.   It seems cliche and almost… self-serving… to say it but I gotta:  THIS is what makes it all worth it.  This is what makes the stress and the exhaustion and the work all fade away.  You Are Incredible.  And the support and encouragement that I personally received from those of you who took the time to share your thanks, and your kind words, and your positive feedback mean more to me than you’ll ever ever know.

Low lows  - Yes, there were a few.  I’m a sensitive person, and an introvert, and an empath, so…. conference hosting (and blogging for that matter) was an odd choice, as I knew it would be.  There were some big, big emotions.  Big letdowns.  Big hurts.  And again, I was expecting it.  But whew.  I really shouldn’t have ended with this point though, because it’s the highs that “stick.”  The highs that will sustain me.  The highs that will remind me why I did it in the first place.

At least they will after I get caught up on sleep.  :)  And by then I’ll have some more (happy!) tidbits and memories and favorite moments to share.

I LOVE AND THANK YOU ALL for an indescribably amazingly awesome experience for our first foray into the conference world.


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Sep 16

Q & A – Algebra, Geometry, and Essays… Oh My

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Every Tuesday, I’ll choose a question or two to answer here on my blog, as long as the questions last. Want to ask me about unschooling or parenting or anything else I write about (which is, uh, pretty much everything)? Send them here, or post on my Facebook page.  

Here’s today’s question, and it’s another one that I get a lot:

 

How do unschoolers learn advanced math like algebra, geometry, etc, and proper writing like essay writing, MLA format and the like? I’m starting my unschooling journey in a few months and my hubby is concerned about these things.

First, I need to start out by asking:  Do you use advanced math in your daily life?  Because I don’t.  I use very basic math and algebraic concepts for things like shopping, baking, figuring out tips, etc.  For many, many people, that’s the only math they will ever need.  Even my husband, who went into a math-related field largely because it was a strength of his and as such was always pushed as a career path, rarely uses more than the basics.

If something is a must-learn in an individual’s life, it will present itself… and along with it, an opportunity to learn it in  a real and applicable way that makes sense for the learner.  If it’s not necessary in life, and it doesn’t present itself, why would you need to learn it in the first place?

If an unschooler wants or needs (for example: for a certain chosen career path, a college plan, or just an innate desire) to learn an advanced math, there are a literally unlimited number of ways for him to do so.  There are free websites such as Khan Academy.  There are online courses.  There are family and friends and mentors.  There are college classes (lots of unschoolers choose to take classes well before they are “college age”).  There are books. There are DVDs.  There are moments of play and discovery and epiphanies with calculators and other tools.  Just try and stop an interested and engaged child from learning about math! Can’t do it.

Likewise, “proper” writing like essays is something with a very limited application that not everyone is going to want or need.  I haven’t written a proper essay since college, and I’m not ashamed at all to admit that I don’t even know what MLA format is.  I’ve made it forty years on this planet without that knowledge, and I’m doing okay.  ;)  But just like with math, when or if a child (or an adult for that matter) wants to learn something writing-related, the answer is never more than a click or a Google search away.

And it’s not that I’m minimizing the importance of learning certain things, because yes - absolutely - some people are going to need to know advanced trigonometry.  Some people are going to need to know how to write a killer essay. Some people are going to need to know what MLA format is.  But what I need to know as a mom, a writer, and a yoga teacher, is going to be vastly different from what my husband needs to know as a budget and payroll director.  Which is going to be vastly different from what our oldest, who’s studying small engine repair, needs to know. Which is going to be vastly different from what our fourteen year old, who’s interested in computers, needs to know.  Etc.

No one knows what knowledge, skills, or tools are going to be useful for another person on their particular life path. And the beauty of unschooling is that you don’t have to know!  Your job as an unschooling parent isn’t to impart a certain set of “must-know” facts.  Your job as an unschooling parent is to help provide the people, places, tools, and experiences that enable them to learn what they need to know, when they need to know it.   Your job is to nurture and foster their natural and intrinsic desire to grow and learn, so that when they DO need or want to learn something – whether it’s geometry, writing an essay, or baking a cake – they can do so.  Easily, naturally, and in a way that makes sense for them.


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Sep 15

Hitting is Hitting is Hitting

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On March 27th, 2014, an NFL player named Ray Rice was indicted by a grand jury for third-degree aggravated assault on his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer.  This past week, the website TMZ released footage of him punching Palmer, which led to the Baltimore Ravens terminating his contract.

Also this week:  Adrian Peterson, another player with the NFL, was indicted for child abuse when his child’s mother noticed whipping injuries on their 4 year old son’s legs, and took him to a doctor who contacted the authorities. Peterson was benched by the Minnesota Vikings, but was reinstated three days later.

Like most people, I’m angry and saddened and frustrated by these stories of violence in the news.  In this instance though, the disparity of the public’s reaction to these two similar cases has left me particularly cold.  I would say I was shocked, but sadly I’m not.  This is 2014, and children are still seen as second-class citizens.

While few are defending Rice – people overwhelmingly, and rightly, realize that it’s not okay to use physical violence against your partner – many are rising up to speak out in support of Peterson, who was just as violent, only against a small child.  

“He should be able to discipline as he sees fit.”

“That’s just the way people are raised in the South”

“People need to butt out and let him parent however he wants.”

“I don’t get why he’s in legal trouble for disciplining his own kid.”

“Someone explain what Adrian Peterson did that was considered child abuse?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is.  I got my ass whooped as a child, and I turned out fine.”

Let me be very, very clear when I say this:  There is NO defense for what he did.  There is no defense or justification or excuse for hitting a small child, ever.  What he did was wrong.  It pains me to have say it out loud, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  It is wrong.

And to the people who are out there saying, “Yeah, he took it too far.  There is a difference between spanking and beating.  There’s nothing wrong with spanking/some kids need it/they have to learn, etc,”  I humbly offer that you are indeed part of the problem.

Stop.

Stop making it a game of semantics.  Stop pretending that it’s okay to hit children if you add certain qualifiers.  Stop refusing to see spanking for what it is.  Stop believing that children are lesser beings than other humans.  Stop perpetuating the cycle of violence.  Stop ignoring the fact that if you’re still advocating for hitting people smaller than you that you are not fine.  Stop equating DISCIPLINE with PUNISHMENT.  Stop defending people who hit their children, and start speaking out for the people who can’t speak out for themselves.

And to my fellow Christians?  Stop using misinterpretations of the Bible as an excuse for hitting children.  It’s an unending conversation, and I’m not having it anymore.  I will no longer publish, acknowledge, or respond to any comments that claim the Bible commands us to spank.  Read Jesus the Gentle Parent.  Read Gentle Firmness. Read Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me (this one is a free download).  Read the words of the people who have put in the time and the research and the study that shows that the Bible just doesn’t say what you think it says.  Don’t let ignorance be an excuse.

As a Christian (and just as a caring human being), I believe that relationships should start from a place of love and respect.  I believe this to be true of ALL relationships, but especially the relationship between parent and child. Hitting has no place in any loving relationship.  Our children look up to us.  They learn from us how to navigate the world.  How to solve problems. How to get along with others.  How to deal with conflict.  Hitting our children, for any reason, raises them to be people who believe that hitting is a reasonable, acceptable way to interact with others.  It raises them to be people who, unless they fight to break the cycle, will hit their own children.

It raises them to be individuals who defend people like Adrian Peterson.

Stop the justification and the word games and the Bible-verse-slinging.  Spanking, swatting, switching, popping, tapping… paint it any color you’d like.  It’s all hitting, and it’s all wrong.


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Sep 08

An Explanation

So, last week I vanished from Facebook.  For a few days I even pulled down my blog.  And while I admitted that the whole thing made me incredibly sad,  it also felt extremely liberating. Just the idea that I could do it – that I could walk away if I wanted to, that the option is always there – made me feel infinitely better.

It was a fairly easy decision to re-publish my blog itself, if for no other reason than the fact that keeping it down made entirely too much work for me.  I was getting a ton of emails, people were asking me about individual posts, I was wanting to share things that I could no longer share, and I’d created a whole bunch of broken links all over the place.   The rational thing to do was to bring it back, a whopping three days after I’d announced that it was down.

The Facebook page is another matter altogether though, and I feel at peace about taking a good long break.  I never gave any sort of explanation for that…. partly because I don’t feel I owe any explanations, but also because I didn’t yet really have an explanation, other than that I knew I needed to step away.

Today though, I have an explanation, and I thought I’d share it for the people who are still wondering.

First, I’m sure there’s an appearance of something akin to a child’s playground tantrum:  “That is IT.  I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME!”  And sure, that’s part of it.  I mean, I was hurt, and frustrated, and burnt out, and had had it with everyone and everything.  Given the timing of my exit, a lot of you assumed that I left because of the last couple of conversations we’d had on my wall, but that really wasn’t it.  I’d been a hair’s breadth away from making this decision for months, and that just happened to be the impetus that pushed me over;  not the reason itself.   I was not feeling heard, and that’s really one of the worst feelings in the world, isn’t it? Don’t we all just want to be heard?  I verbally vomited shared a little bit of that in the Things I’m Not Saying post, and while it was a very true representation of how I was feeling at the moment, in hindsight the full truth is a little bit different.

I received another email this morning wondering what had happened to the Facebook page.  It wasn’t one of the sweet ones, telling me she missed me, and that she hoped everything was okay (and absolutely, I got those too, and they were appreciated.)  No, she was almost…. indignant.  Angry.  And she wasn’t particularly nice about it.  Why did I leave?!  Why didn’t I tell her what was going on?!  She was wanting to share a specific post, and she couldn’t find it, and what was she supposed to do now?!

I literally read it as I was walking out the door.   I was frustrated because I was supposed to be playing Minecraft with Tegan, and I had to postpone to go the doctor.  The surgeon’s office had just called to tell me that they’d had a ton of cancellations (half of the valley is flooded right now), and if I could come in right then, they could get me a cortisone injection, as a way to sort of cross every t and dot every i before we decide that a revision surgery is the right next step. Spencer wasn’t feeling well, so I was doting on him;  I felt bad for bailing on Tegan; I was off to get what I knew would be a painful injection that would render me out of commission for the rest of the day; I had a million little things to do when I got home…

and all I could think about was a stupid email from a random stranger.

I realized at some point during the 8 minute drive to the doctor’s that the issue was NOT the email.  It was not the other person at all.  All this time I’d made it so easy and convenient to blame others for what had been happening, when really it was my own issue all along. Somewhere along the way, I’d failed to set appropriate and healthy boundaries for myself.  It wasn’t that I simply got the email (and others like it), it was that I’d allowed them to take up any space in my head.  In my day.  In my life.

I allowed that to happen.

Every day I went to my own Facebook page, and I’d read the comments and while I KNEW intellectually that I’m the same me no matter what; that what others say to me reflects on them, not me; that I don’t have to give any attention or weight to any negativity;  that I don’t have to even blink an eye about not living up to anyone’s expectations but my own… while I knew – and KNOW – all of that wholeheartedly, I was letting it creep in.  Letting it create that tiny dark spot on my day.  Letting it make me tired.  Letting it get me down.  And over time, it all just got to me.  But it was ME, and not the “haters”.  People are allowed to think whatever they want about me. People are allowed to call me whatever they’d like.  People are allowed to email me. People are allowed to expect too much of me.

And I’m allowed to protect me.

So that’s why I took down the Facebook page, and why it will stay down for the time being. Because of what I’ve allowed it to do to me. When I figure out what I need to do to stop the negativity from digging its way in (and to be clear, I’m not asking for advice),  I’ll be back.  And I’ll be glad too, because I do miss it.   A lot actually.  But I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been really really nice to go a whole week without being called names.

I’ll figure it out, and I’ll come back.

In the meantime, I’ll be nursing a shoulder and playing Minecraft with my girl.  Because priorities.


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Sep 05

The Missing Boot

When I was around Tegan’s age, I had a little Strawberry Shortcake doll.  She was one of my all-time favorite toys.  That was back when Strawberry Shortcake looked like this:strawberry-shortcake-doll

Instead of like this:

strawberryshortcake2

I loved that doll!

One day I realized that one of her shoes had gone missing.  Total devastation.  And the worst part was that I had no idea when I’d lost it.  Was it at church?  In the car?  In the house? In the backyard?  At the neighbor’s? I mourned.  I mourned for a shoe.

A couple weeks later, after having given up all hope, I was walking across the street to meet a friend to play.  And there it was, lying in the middle of the street.  It was dirty, and had clearly been run over more than once.  BUT IT WAS MY STRAWBERRY’S SHOE.

I immediately picked up the shoe (I probably squealed while doing so) and turned around and started running back for home, not wanting to wait a single second to return it to where it rightfully belonged.    My friend stood in the middle of the road yelling after me, “Hey, what is that?  What’d you find?  Where are you going??”  In my excitement, all I could answer was, “I’ll tell you later!!” over my shoulder as I ran away.  Interestingly, I don’t remember anything that happened immediately after that, but I do remember feeling badly for leaving my friend standing in the lurch in the middle of the road.   Funny the things we remember with 35 years of hindsight.

I was thinking about this yesterday, because Tegan has been desperately looking for a missing Barbie boot. She has about a million Barbies (maybe not that many.  But a lot.  More than 20), but she has some definite favorites. This one had come in a set with a horse and saddle and everything, and had been a gift from mom and dad a couple birthdays ago.  And she was missing a boot.  And my girl was sad.  We’ve been having random search parties, and making a valiant effort, but, well… as I mentioned yesterday, our house has been a little bit disorganized lately, and it truly could have been everywhere.

Well, yesterday I was picking up and getting some things organized, and the boot magically appeared (in a place that had already been checked multiple times, no less)  My heart leapt.  I called Tegan, hid the boot behind my back, and said, “I found something that’s going to make you happy!!”  Said in the voice of Rachel from Friends, when she finds Chandler’s missing Best Buds bracelet from Joey, because I can’t seem to say it in any other way.  Anyway.   Tegan definitely DID squeal, and hugged me so hard she knocked the wind out of me.  She played the rest of the day with her happy Barbie and her two matching boots.

This to me is one of the absolute best parts of parenting, and also the worst.

The best because I don’t just remember what it was like, I feel what it was like.  I’m connected with her in that moment.  I’m Tegan… and I’m me… and I’m the 6 year old me finding my Strawberry Shortcake shoe in the street. I know,  I truly know what she’s feeling, and I know how big and important even the “little” things can be.

And the worst because sometimes you DON’T find the shoe.  I don’t just remember what it was like, I feel what it was like.  I’m connected with her in that moment.  I’m Tegan… and I’m me… and I’m the 6 year old me missing my Strawberry Shortcake shoe. I know,  I truly know what she’s feeling, and I know how big and important even the “little” things can be.

My hope and prayer is that I never forget.  That I never lose sight of the childhood me, and that I never lose that commiseration and connection with my own kids.

Six-year-old me is one of my greatest parental teachers.


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Sep 04

Ruminations Over Coffee

coffee

My to-do list is lengthy.  For every three things we cross off the conference list (shirts, programs, attendee bags all went to print this week), another dozen new details are added. With 21 days to go, we are down to the wire.

There are four over-flowing baskets of clean, unfolded clothes in my bedroom.  It’s been too long since I’ve really cleaned… anything… around here, and it shows.  We’ve been running around like crazy people lately, and the house is clearly bearing the brunt of the collateral damage.

I miss my blog (if a blogger writes, but no one can read it, did she really write?  Obviously, I also need more sleep), and am in an actual state of mourning.  It has become such an important, personal part of me, and it is frustrating to realize that no matter what I do, it won’t go away.   Stepping away did not make me happy….I so loved the community!   But the daily stress and negativity did not make me happy either.

I came across this quote today, and it called out to me:

“If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”

 ~ Flavia Weedn

This website is currently that broken dream.  I don’t know what its future holds anymore, and that makes me so unbelievably sad.  But I’ll eventually pick up a piece or two and move on.  Is there ever any other option?

I will figure it out.  But I don’t have to do it this second, or today, or even this week.

For now,  I’ll just drink my coffee.  Drink my coffee, make cinnamon rolls with my girl, and trust that no matter what happens, every little thing’s gonna be alright.  If Bob Marley said it, it has to be true, right?

(Seriously, I need more sleep.)


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Sep 03

Things I Am Not Saying

(Note, mostly to myself, so I’ll remember later:  This is the first day my blog has been offline in many many years.  At the moment, I’m writing this not knowing if or when I’ll make it public again.  I’m essentially writing for an audience of one.  If that doesn’t make for more honest writing, I don’t know what does)

I hate back-to-school season.  I really do.  I mean, on the one hand, it doesn’t even affect me.Our life doesn’t follow a school schedule, so it really doesn’t make any difference to me what time of year it is.   And then there’s positives of back-to-school time, like the fact that the parks, zoos, museums, etc are all quiet again.

But there’s a whole host of things I observe this time of year that just stress. me. the. heck. out.  Which means I piss more people off this time of year than any other.  And it doesn’t matter how I temper my words, doesn’t matter how diplomatically I try to speak, doesn’t matter how good my intentions.  People are on edge and defensive and deduce that it’s all my fault for having an opinion.  Or voicing it.  Or existing.

And the thing is, I’m cool with respectful disagreements.  I’m cool with discussions.  I’m cool with passive aggressive, I-disagree-with-you-but-don’t-want-to-get-into-it comments like, “Hm. Interesting.”  The thing I will never be cool with (and in fact the thing that ultimately pushed me over the edge into believing a good long break was my only option) is the people taking me to task for THINGS I NEVER SAID.

And I get it, I do.  Emotions are high, we all have our own crap to deal with, and we’re defensive.  We read something that creates cognitive dissonance for us, and we react. Doesn’t matter at the moment whether or not what we’ve just read actually does say what we’ve projected onto it.  We’re pissed off and we’re gonna let people know it.  The problem – for me – is that you then spew at me and you feel better and go about your day.  But I deal with not just your anger, but the anger from the 50 other people who felt the same way.  And the next day, when the 51 of you have all moved on, there’s a new batch of people angry, or hurt, or crying about the fact that they’re disappointed in me.    It never stops.  It literally never stops.  My own blog has become a veritable source of “Let me tell you why you suck.”  I can’t apologize to the world every day.  And I WON’T apologize for being me.

What I can do is provide you with the following handy little chart.  The next time you read something I write and are about to hit “send” on your little diatribe telling me what a horrible person I am, you can double-check the chart and see if I REALLY said what you’re so sure I said.  If I didn’t… well, say what you want, but it’s a reflection of you, not me.

Unless I expressly say these words (hint: it hasn’t happened yet) the things I write DO NOT MEAN any of the following:

_______________________________________________________________________________________

You’re a terrible parent who hates her kids.  It seems ridiculous to even have to expressly write it, but my sharing an opinion on something related to parenting is not exactly the same thing as calling someone a terrible parent.  Or accusing her of hating her kids.  It is the grossest of leaps to make, and yet it’s something I see, verbatim, over and over and over.  I’m not calling anyone a terrible parent.

I’m a better parent than you.  The other day I went to the store with the two little ones.   It was four in the afternoon.  Tegan says to me as we pull into the grocery store.  ”I’m starving.  I haven’t eaten anything all day!”  A few minutes after that, as we walked into the store, I gave Everett a verbal list of about 5 things to remember.  I’d forgotten the (relatively short) list at home, and didn’t have anything to jot it down on.  He looked at me with a deadpan expression that could have come from his 14 year old brother and said, “Geez. Forgetting to feed us, now making us remember the grocery list.  You’re the worst mother in the world.” They keep me humble.  It should go without saying, but the truth is, I’m as perfectly imperfect as the next parent, and would never pretend otherwise.

Homeschooling is the only answer.  Of course homeschooling isn’t the only answer. Obviously, we’ve found it the best and right choice for us, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. Everyone should be confident in their own choices!  But happiness with my own choices is not the same thing as condemnation for your choices.  And I don’t care where your kids go to school.  Really.

People who send their kids to school don’t love them.  Some of the best, most loving parents I know send their kids to school.   Wonderful and loving parents do all KINDS of things that I’ve chosen to do differently with my own family.  These differences are what make life interesting.  They do NOT make me, or them, any more or less loving than the next family.  It’s ludicrous to suggest that someone who does something differently than you doesn’t love their children…. and equally ludicrous to accuse me of the same.

Wanting a break/getting tired/having struggles makes you a bad parent.  Want to know a secret?  Every time I go to the bathroom, I take at least an extra minute longer than it actually takes to use the toilet and wash my hands.  An extra minute to breathe.  An extra minute to pray.  An extra minute to put on some lotion/smell some essential oils/refresh my lip gloss.  An extra minute to just BE.  Parenting is hard, and we all have our struggles. I get that.  I GET THAT.  It would get a little redundant (and obnoxious) if I prefaced everything I wrote with, “I understand that parenting is hard….” so let me just state for the record, once, that I DO understand that parenting is hard, and I AM aware that we all – all of us – have our struggles.

I AM JUDGING YOU.  Oh sweet baby Jesus, the JUDGING comments.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been called judgmental, I would be writing this in an upscale cafe in Tuscany… NOT on my old and stained couch in my sweatpants and holey t-shirt in my middle middle class neighborhood in Phoenix.  First, a definition of “judgement:”

an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought. : the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought

We all judge, every day.  When you’re pointing your finger at me, and crying about how judgmental I am, you too are engaging in the “act or process of forming and opinion or making a decision.”   Thanks for the nice dialogue, pot. I’m the kettle.

Beyond that though, is this pernicious idea that I’m always filtering everything through a veil of Homeschooling is best / I’m an awesome parent / You’re a terrible parent / You must hate your kids.  Guess what?  I’m not.  I get that it makes you feel better to think that about me when I tick you off, but that doesn’t make it any more true.  And of course the great irony here is that your little snips to me about my needing to have more grace for others, more understanding, more support, and yes, less judgment, should go in both directions.  But they never do.

Yesterday I got a big speech about judging someone for not homeschooling….. on a post that had literally NOTHING to do with homeschooling.  Homeschooling wasn’t even in the back of my mind.  I think that was the point that tipped me over into the realm of, “I give up.”  Truly.  I cannot currently handle even one more comment judging me for  - ironically enough – judging something I’m not even judging.

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If this had been a “real” emergency blog post, I would painstakingly craft a suitable ending that would tie it all up in a neat little bow.  But I just realized (with a sudden blinding burst of wonderful freedom) that I’m no longer writing for anyone but myself.  So I’m just gonna stop writing.

Let the healing begin.

 


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