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!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hagg Lake

What a muddy lake! Well it's not really like that except when there are dogs tearing through the shore line and drudging up the sludge. About two months ago all that area was under water, and the shore line went right to the edge of the picnic area. You can see it in the picture with Kaipo running where there is a sort of bluff behind her, that's where the water went up to, and then right where Margaux's pink flipflops is almost where the water is.

So all that recently dried out lake bottom makes for some great mud! I think I need to get all of us aqua socks. This is only the second time I've taken the kids to Hagg Lake. I went there when I was a kid and remember seeing fishing hooks in the shore line because it really is a fishing lake. It's a manmade lake that was made by damming a natural wetland area that flooded all the farms right below the lake. Every thursday fish is dumped in the lake and people are out there fishing in their boats. It looks really small where we are because it's a small inlet, but I like that spot because there isn't a boat ramp there, so it's not as crowded and it's easier to swim and play in the water, and people take their dogs and let them off leash to play.

Marguax made some doggy friends which didn't want her to leave because she kept throwing the toy out for them to swim and catch it, water fetch! Chamille took her laptop to make some discs, for her friend, of music that she had ripped. Her friend is moving and so we are trying to cram some time in before they are gone. While Marguax and I were playing in the muddy water, they were all enjoying some fine tunes.
We are going to go back to the lake and bring some rafts to float on, or maybe I'll dredge up that big blow up shark we have out in the garage somewhere!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Going to the Mall

Yesterday we went to the mall, actually two malls. We don't go very often, just sometimes. We happen to live down the street from a large mall. However, we had to go to a mall across town, because I needed to exchange something from a store that was in that one and not in the one next to us.

I got to spend all of ten minutes in the store I needed to go to, and I'll have to go back because I didn't get to do what I needed to do. We spent much of the time in stores that Chamille likes. Yes, yes, you know, Hot Topic, and similar stores.

So after our mall experience yesterday, I've decided that I'm not taking the girls to the mall again together. Margaux hated being in Hot Topic and Chamille hated being in Build a Bear, let's not even mention the Disney store! Their needs are so opposed to one another that there is no middle ground here!

I love doing Margaux things at the mall and I love doing Chamille things at the mall, but for some reason, at this time in their lives they can't find a way to love doing that for each other. It's a lose/lose situation and I really try to avoid those. I like the win/win ones.

In the car, on the way home, I told the girls that from now on I will take one or the other, but not both of them to the mall, unless we absolutely need to stop and will only be there for about an half an hour at the most. Surprisingly they both loved this idea! Margaux starts talking about how cool it would be for her to stay at home with dad while Chamille and I go, or that Chamille could get to hang out with dad while mom and her got to go. Both girls were in complete agreement on this decision! See, they can agree on some things sometimes! Win/Win! Did I say how much I love win/win situations!

So, going to the mall might actaully be fun again, and I don't have to play mediator about every decision we make while there. I know they are just in very different places with their needs and wants and likes and trying to force them to deal with each other's needs and wants and likes isn't necessarily the best solution. A little empathy and negotion would help, but it just isn't happening with this particular part of life. They can do it on other things, just not this one yet. Maybe next year, or six months down the road, we'll see.

Since they are both good kids and Chamille is very caring and generous, and Margaux is getting better at that with each day that she gets older, I know it's not forever. We spend so much time together, the girls and I, that eventually it was bound to happen that we would run across something that they don't like doing together. Honestly I feel pretty lucky that this is a first!