Some days just getting by surely must be enough. The kids are fed. They poured themselves a bowl of cereal, I think. They’re dressed. Well, he did wear that outfit to bed, but it’s relatively clean. And they’re kept out of harm’s way. Until I realize a hot cup of tea shouldn’t have been on a side table with a toddler in the house.
…advance, do well, get ahead, get better, grow rich, prosper…
In early family life, just dressing them, feeding them, and keeping them safe seems a daunting task.
Finding time to pee or shower without an audience is a challenge. Grand ambitions of happy outings to the zoo seem unrealistic when you have the two year old unhappily strapped into her carseat, container of cheerios splattered on the car floor, and the baby desperate for a nap just as you are finally ready to get out the door (exactly two hours after originally planned).
Kids get older and are independent enough to make their own breakfast, but they still need to be directed in talking kindly with their siblings. They need to learn how to speak in a way they’ll get heard from parents. And, they need to learn to deal with their angst about, well, everything adolescent kids get anxious about.
Different ages, different struggles.
What does thrive mean when we just hope to survive?
Be proactive, not reactive.
Reactivity is the go-to, default setting to parenting. It is too easy. Your child walks away from you while you’re telling her something, and offense is your instinct.
Someone comes roaring down the stairs with, “Mom, she hurt me, took my thingy away, isn’t being fair, was mean to me…” And a big sigh from mama…Can I just ignore this? Hide under my covers until they fall asleep…”Could you just stop fighting already?”
If I know that one of my kids has a habit of whining, what will I plan to do when it next happens? If I know that one child reacts more harshly than seems appropriate, what will I do the next time I hear her lambaste her brother for touching her?
If I can see that two children fight whenever they’re under-slept, over-sugared or overstimulated, how will I plan their days? I definitely need to pre-plan.
When studying the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, we drafted a preamble to our family constitution:
“We the people of the Wiedrick family, in order to form a more perfect family, establish harmony, ensure happiness, provide people space, promote consideration, secure privacy, share and help those in need, do not play fear inducing pranks on our kin, do not create excessive noise, do not stir trouble into our kin’s life. We endeavor to keep the spirit in the bond of peace.“
It was primarily inspired by my three girls. I was pleased that they knew what they valued in how they should treat each other.
And as you know, it was a lovely piece to pin to the fridge, but easier to write than to implement. Y’all know it hasn’t been followed perfectly. We acknowledge our imperfections and we’ll always be imperfect. We accept that this family thing is a journey so we’ll continue practicing proactivity, rather than reactivity.
Recognize that each child has a vision for their own lives.
We have our visions, but our children have their own too.
This, of course, might be more challenging to see when they’re three. They are playing with scissors and books, sifting the flour bag onto the floor, or staring at picture books for hours.
But I would suggest that even these early activities speak something about them. Give them enough time and you’ll be able to look back and see that their person was uniquely them right out the gate.
As my children have grown, I’ve come to understand them better. A couple are spitfires. A couple like to follow the rules. Some love structured time, and satisfying all the boxes.
Some want to explore things their own way, thank you very much! Just as there are no two fingerprints, or DNA strands, each person contributes heartily to our world if we follow their spark and allow those sparks to flame.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” (Thanks Plutarch). Dr. Peter Benson summarizes these thoughts in a TEDTalk titled “How Youth Thrive.” He asks, “What is their spark, what is their fire?” We should be asking this and observing our children too.
Adjusting the vision along the journey.
Our understanding of our kids change along the journey too. A child can do the same thing day in, day out, that we identify that ‘thing’ as them, their identity. Then one day, they stop doing that activity.
A child loves reading British history, and is lost in books for hours, then one day, that child has no time for reading at all. Another child gravitates to Barbies for years, so many years you wonder if it’s appropriate that they’re still playing Barbies, and the next day they won’t leave the solitude of their rooms as they write song lyrics onto posters for her wall.
Kids’ interests expand along the way, and so will their visions for their lives. When once she thought she wanted to be a country singer, an advertising exec, or a nurse in Africa, she grew up, trained as a nurse, traveled to Africa, and decided to homeschool her kids.
Later, she wrote a couple books, started a homestead, built a bed and breakfast business, and is writing this article today. Our vision for our lives expands along the way, so do our kids’ visions.
Just as my personal growth has helped me enlarge and adjust my vision along the way, so my parenting vision grows too. When once I understood spankings and time outs to be the natural response to inappropriate behaviour, I now understand that a child needs to be taught how to engage, needs to have his emotions heard, and be honoured as a separate person. I had to adjust my vision of parenting as I learned about my own human autonomy and spirit.
In my early homeschool days, I rang a bell, did grammar drills and insisted on written narrations of history books. Give me six months and I learned, my children weren’t Ivy League scholars, they were six year olds wanting to make mud patties in the backyard. I had to adjust my homeschool vision as I learned my children along the way.
When we learn to be more proactive, and less reactive, when we consider our children’s visions, and expand our vision, our families thrive.
“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.”Maya Angelou
Teresa Wiedrick is eager to share the freedoms of the homeschool lifestyle with the skeptical, the intrigued, and the curious. Eleven years ago, she searched for arguments against homeschooling, and that search shifted her family’s next decade. She is a hearty advocate of home education, and encourages other homeschool families to live their charmed homeschool life, despite their challenges.
Yet, having homeschooled for more than eleven years, Teresa is very aware of the intensity and demandingness of this lifestyle. She has had much opportunity in honing her self-care practices and will soon release her book “Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Taking Care of Mama so she can Take Care of her Kids”.