This is a post I have been trying to write for a really long time. The guts of it were written a couple months ago, but it never felt quite ready. There may have been a reason for that...
I just read a memoir by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. She is an 80 plus year old author who has written about her observations of animals and 'primitive' (ask any of my anthro students the definition of primitive. It is not what you think...) people in Africa. Her earliest works were about the Ju/wa also sometimes known as the !Kung in West South Africa (Namibia). This woman is an amazing writer with years of working (playing) at her craft. In one of the last chapters of this book, she offers six rules for writing, that she always attempts to follow. The sixth rule is about revising. One of her suggestions about practicing revision is to remove the sentence you are the most proud of. Wow, that is brutal and will remove any ego from my writing, if I remember or have enough time to follow it. You may have noticed, some of my posts are written at the last minute with very little editing or revision.
In the end, and, as you will see, in the beginning, it is all about trust. I have to believe what I put out in the world is the best that I have to offer at that moment and the folks reading it will appreciate the message for what it is.
I have been passionate about trusting kids for a long time. Trust that they know what they need to become the best people they can possibly be. Trust in their abilities and insights. Trust in the goodness of their hearts. Trust that they will make mistakes, mess up and make bad decisions. But as with all screw-ups, belief that they will learn from the experience and move on to the next important event in their lives with a larger cache of knowledge to draw from. Trust they are not wasting precious time, 'doing nothing'. They are learning, growing beings soaking up information every moment of every day, because it is impossible to 'do nothing'. As parents or teachers, we can not judge what learning actually looks like, or more importantly, what experiences are valuable for an individual at any given moment.
We get frustrated because teens can't seem to motivate themselves to do what we deem important. But, we don't give them the opportunity to be self-directed. Many children are told what to do all the time. At home, in school, socially... they are bombarded with instructions. “Do this, do that” or for that matter, “don't do this, don't do that.” They are not inspired to gain the skills for decision making, because society does it for them. It is our fear, as parents and teachers, for their future that inspires us to micro-manage their lives.
I wear both of those hats, mom and teacher. I am the parent of two teen-age children (I can say that for three more months before the oldest turns 20) and one of them is home-schooled. At times I have to hold my tongue, really, actually bite my tongue, to stop the unsolicited, judgmental comments from tripping out. OK, sometimes I am not always successful because holding back some of the comments would mean an explosion of Mom parts flying through the cosmos. But I would like to think that I do trust them, most of the time, to make the best choice for themselves at that moment in time. Sometimes they do ask for advice and sometimes I reply without even thinking, “can this one be answered on his own?” or “does she really need me to tell her how to do that?” Our goal is to have happy, empowered children who are comfortable making important decisions on their own, but sometimes it really is easier to solve the problems for them or at least it is faster. I have to remind myself constantly that my answer or solution may not be the best one for them.
So, how do we strike the balance between coddling or controlling our kids and supporting them to become emotionally mature young beings. I believe it is all about mutual respect. If you actually listen to your kids and have real conversations about your life together, including your dreams and goals, not just for them but for yourself, they will respond positively. Kids want us to be real. They should understand we aren't perfect, because we are all learning, growing beings. Youth need to bounce ideas off us without fearing ridicule or judgment. And most importantly, they need us for that emotional connection of unconditional love, support and occasional moments of pure, unadulterated silliness. Because when all else fails, a sense of humor will see you through even the toughest times.
We sent out a letter via email this past Monday, requesting donations. If you did not receive that letter and would like to, please let me know. At this point, we need to have some money coming in. The insurance bill is due as is the monthly replication fee. If you are able, please consider a donation. Deep Root Center is a project of Seedcorn and checks should be made out to DRC/Seedcorn. Our mailing address is PO box 424, Canton, NY 13617
We will also be creating a crowd funding appeal, through Incited in the next couple weeks.
If anyone has other ideas on raising funds, please let me know.
As always, thank you for your support. I continue to be amazed by the number of people who recognize me and stop to thank me for opening this Center. This community is an awesome place to call home.