Friday, September 21, 2012

The Zest of Life vs The Experience of Life

A few days ago, my husband and I were watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy(one of my guilty pleasures when I have extra time) and there was a really interesting interaction between two of the doctors.  Two attending dr.s were talking about how they keep the residents around because they bring a fresh perspective to the hospital which helps keep the attendings from getting too set in their ways.(Apologies if you don't understand the lingo, here's a link if you are curious.)  Leave it to my husband to make the connection from that to kids.  We like to talk about how children have the zest for life that adults usually lack, and adults have the experience of life that children lack.  What a perfect team!  

In a perfect world children would keep adults young, and adults would help guide children through life.  Are you thinking, "well, that's what I do!"  Good for you!  Even I have to admit that what usually happens is the adults feel like children are sucking the life out of them and children feel like adults are too bossy and wont let them make any of their own decisions because they(adults) know better.  Come on, admit it, you have probably felt that way at least once in your life, whether it was with your own kids, or your parents, right?

Who here has felt like these parents?

So this whole exchange between adults and children is really something I like to think about a lot.  Not only just in a family dynamic, but in a cultural, or societal dynamic too.  One thing that really gets my blood boiling is when older adults talk about how "kids these days are so selfish and disrespectful."  This reminds me of when I was a teenager and I knew I was right, but because I wasn't the adult it didn't matter.  I was subject to whatever the adults decided.  It has become a power struggle, and lets face it, adults have more power and can subject us to their will much easier than children can.  But really, there should be no power struggles, just cooperation, and hopefully some kind of compromise between the zest and experience.  

Living this unschooling life has been really eye opening for me.  One blog that I really love is Play at Home Mom.  Her son, who I'm not exactly how old he is, but he can't be anymore than 3 or 4, has his own drill, hammer, and other real life tools, where most children have play tools.  Some parents might be shocked by this, but what I love about it is that the mother is always with him when he is using them, guiding him when needed, but mostly just being with him and enjoying watching him learn how to navigate his world.  This is a perfect example of a parent helping a child navigate his world, not by suppressing him into safe choices that she thinks he can handle, but by letting him handle some real life choices and being with him to make sure he stays safe.  Now, I'm not telling anyone to go out and buy your toddler a drill, but to start critically thinking about the decisions your child wants to make and if you can help him/her navigate that choice.

And, for those of you with out children who think that kids these days have no respect, think about when you were a child and you wanted your opinions and views to matter.  Sometimes experience clouds your ability to be open minded.  I only hope when I am the face of the older generation that I can remember the zest of life and try to keep an open mind for what the new generation wants to bring in.  I hope to teach my kids correct principles, but I also hope to teach them to think for themselves and consciously choose for themselves what they believe.

As far as our life goes, the perception that we get from people who don't know us very well but know we unschool seems to be that our kids just walk all over us and get whatever they want.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  I believe that children are born good and learn the junk, rather than are born evil and need to be trained to be good.  So far, this has been our experience with our kids.  We have found that if they are respected, they give respect, if they are responded to, they respond to us, etc, etc.  At our house, honestly, it is still balanced in the parents direction.  We try to let the kids have as much say as we feel comfortable, but we are still adjusting the balance.  We want to be our child's guide through this life, not their dictators.  We want them to feel free to make the choices they feel are right for them, as we like the freedom to do the same.  And as far as zest goes, we try to get off our high horses and let the kids remind us how to have fun.  Its been a learning process for us, but I am happy to adjust.  It is my belief that how we raise our children ultimately shapes the future.

Raising my children with freedom and autonomy and love is the best way I know of changing the world.  Sure hope it works!

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