Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Being an advocate for my children

Here is a picture of my daughter and her friend...
Sometimes it is really hard to be an advocate for your children. Over the last week and a half I have been put into a position of acting and speaking on my child's behalf in a way that was uncomfortable for me. It was uncomfortable because I tend to be shy and non-confrontational, not wanting to rock the boat. However, when my kids really need something that they feel they can't get for themselves, whatever it is, as a parent, I have to put myself out there. I do it because my children are far more important than my discomfort!

I just got back into the house after such a confrontation with the neighbors. My heart is still beating fast, but I did it. Chamille really wants her friend, the neighbor girl, to stay the night tonight. They are in the process of moving and her dad and stepmom are splitting up. Dad is moving about 2 blocks away next weekend, and stepmom moved about 30 min away into her own place. Chamille's friend is over at stepmom's house while their current place is being cleaned.

They always have reasons for not letting their daughter spend time with mine, mostly trivial and stupid reasons. So, when I saw the stepmom drive up to the house across the street, I went over there to ask if the daughter could stay the night. Her immediate reaction was that "no she couldn't because she wasn't going to be coming back out this way after going home.". I knew this was going to be the answer from the getgo. They are very predictable that way. I removed that barrier by offering to do the driving. Then, it was, "I'll have to ask her dad.", again I knew it was going to be the next answer. Then up he drives so I ask him repeating my offer to drive. They say theywill get back to me. I took away their excuses, and are, I'm sure,trying to come up with another one that I would actually buy. I put them in a position of having to justify their behavior.

It was uncomfortable for me to do this because I knew it would be confrontational. Chamille won't even talk to them anymore because they don't like her and she can feel it, even though they say that isn't the case. She is afraid of them. Their daughter won't ask because she knows they will say "no" and offer no explanation and expect her to accept the answer. They can't do that with me and they know it, so I psyched myself up for it and went over there and did it for them. I am willing to be the "bad guy" for them so they don't have to. They seem to have it in their heads that moving will dissipate the friendship, however, I will make it clear by my actions that if the friendship dissipates it is all them. The kids aren't stupid, they know what's going on.

Over and over my parenting skills are tested this way. Over and over, I put my children's feelings over my own discomfort, because I am their advocate when they need me to be.

Confronting friends, or inlaws, or whoever, is just one of many ways we can be advocates for our kids. It can be uncomfortable for people like me who don't like dischord, who aren't outspoken, and maybe even shy. I have to say though, my kids are so much more important than all that discomfort. They absolutely know this without a doubt.

They trust me to act on their behalf, they trust me that I have their best interest at heart. This lends itself to every aspect of their lives. That deep trust allows them to accept my answers to their questions, or to accept an answer of "no" from me because they truly know that if I could I would, that I do everything in my power to find a way for "yes" to happen. It also allows them to be able to question my actions freely when they feel that I'm wrong, without fear of punishment, largely because if I've said "no" to something that doesn't make sense, it is glaringly obvious to them and they correct me in my error.

All of this, for me, is at the heart of unschooling. My job, my life, is for my kids for as long as they need me. It lends itself well to learning in a happy stress free environment. And I get to grow as a person as a side effect!


Zenmomma said...

YAY for you, Jenny! I've been confronted with uncomfortable situations in standing up for Qacei lately. She's being excluded by a teen clique and she's kind of left pretty alone right now. I tried to talk to the kids and the moms. I don't think I was direct enough. I think I tried too hard to be the mediator. Nothing has changed. *sigh* I hope you have better luck. Next time I'll have your voice in my head urging me on. :o)

Jenny Cyphers said...

I wrote that in response to someone on alwayslearning, and decided to cut and paste it into my blog to remind myself everytime I feel that discomfort!

I'm really sorry about Qacei, that is sooo hard! Chamille has felt that way many times over. I'm just glad that she is strong within herself to deal with those things and still have self respect and dignity! I'll bet Qacei is the same way, even though it doesn't stop it from hurting.

Kat said...

Although it is tough & uncomfortable, it is an excellent chance for a life lesson. We know that she will encounter this from time to time throughout the rest of her life. Today it is a friends parents. Tomorrow it may be a boss or co worker, a neighbor, a spouse or in laws....I have learned through life that the people whom it appears don't like me, are usually those who don't know me or have their own fears, insecurities or discomforts. I try to use those opportunities to help people overcome those fears. So many times I have heard "I didn't really like you until I got to know you". People base opinions on outside impressions. It is up to people like Chamille to teach them otherwise. The people who are not receptive, are usually not worth it in the end anyways!
You tell her I said to just keep on keeping on!

Jenny Cyphers said...

It's strange though, these people have known Chamille for about 4yrs. They liked her great until she evolved into the person she is now, ie, how she dresses.

It all comes down to physical appearances. She hasn't really changed the core of her being, she's still as awesome as ever, kind, sweet, generous, fair, honest, all those things are the same. They say she is a "bad" influence on their daughter because the girls like the same stuff. The parents just highly control their child and don't want her to dress like Chamille. (it goes beyond that though)

I honestly wish I didn't have to have anything to do with those people, but I do because it is soooo important to Chamille to remain friends with their daughter.

EccentricSimplicity said...

hey, thanks for the comment! yes, Gregory Hines is a great dancer! it's so sad he died so young. I would have loved to see him live, I'm a tap dancer myself.

SwissArmyWife said...

I came across your blog and I just wanted to mention how much I really enjoyed reading this post. My children are young, but I remember having to advocate for my youngest son while he was in public school. It is a shame to see adults passing such judgment onto children. You have handled the situation beautifully and honorably. Preparation seems to be the key in these cases.