Old Fart

So I’m here at my Grandfather’s funeral and my world is a bit rocked. Funerals often make people resolve to change something. “The thing that hurts the most is________.” I have several ways to end that sentence and each of them ends with a personal commitment to not ever feel that way again.

The thing that hurts the most is that I can never make things right again.

My PopPop and Grandma in the 70's, I think

Before I left, I told my husband “I don’t know why I’m so upset about this, I haven’t seen my PopPop for years, it’s not like his death is going to affect my day-to-day life, 3000 miles away, I can just pretend he’s still there… far away and alive. The same way I can pretend they still live in the same house they had when I was little. They lived in that house for over 50 years. My Dad and my aunts and uncles grew up there, it was like a family historic museum. The place was saturated with memories; every wall, window and doorway witnessed generations of King family’s milestones, setback, celebrations and struggles. That house knew my parents when they were dating. It’s ancient and my childhood memories all take place in that house. They call it “The House on The Hill” and it’s now a freeway onramp. Even the hill it stood on is gone. Fill dirt. It was a magical land of Christmas decorations, summertime swimming and Grandma’s love. In my mind, that house is as real as my back porch. Just because I’m not standing in it, doesn’t mean that it’s gone. It can’t be gone, it’s always been here.
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Relax: Your Identity Cannot be Stolen

No one can steal your identity. It isn’t possible.

Definitions of Identity
1- the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity
2- the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known

Definitions of Identity Theft
1- the co-option of another person’s personal information (e.g., name, Social Security number, credit card number, passport) without that person’s knowledge and the fraudulent use of such knowledge
2- Identity theft is a term used that is to refer to fraud that involves someone pretending to be someone else in order to steal money or get other benefits.
3- The deliberate assumption of another person’s identity, usually to gain access to that person’s finances or to frame a person for a crime

Is this making any sense yet?

Your identity is what makes you YOU. It’s what makes you special. It’s your distinct personality, not your credit report. It’s why your friends love you. It’s why your enemies hate you. It’s the tiny things you say and do that you won’t even realize until you hear your kids copying you. It’s everything amazing and wonderful about you… just you.

No one can take that away.

How silly is it that so much money and stress is spent over the grossly and dramatically mis-named crime of “Identity theft?”

It’s a result of our society that believes that “who you are” can be summed up by your assets.

This is a culture that tells you to NEVER reveal your social security number or your pin#, but it’s OK to put your child on a school bus with a driver you’ve never met.

When we lived in California, an undocumented farm worker gave my social security number to the boss. Apparently, Mrs Gutierrez (or Mr?) brought in round $1400 that I ended up being taxed for. I might have ended up having it waived… I don’t remember…but who cares? That’s not identity theft. That person was never really me and I’ve lost nothing of myself.

My mother in law had an experience where someone got a hold of her credit card information and purchased a surf board and other random items. But it wasn’t REALLY identity theft. They didn’t call us up asking for pictures of the Grandkids, they didn’t go out for ice cream at midnight, they didn’t start making jewelry or smacking gum bubbles or play MahJong on Tuesdays with the Red Hat Ladies. SHE LOST NOTHING.

SHE was not the “victim of identity theft” her bank was the victim because THEY paid for the surfboard. Or maybe it was their insurance company. Or maybe it’s all just bullshit. We all end up paying for it because eventually it ALL FALLS BACK on consumers.

Insurance rates go up, interest rates go up… corporations need to recoup the costs and consumers pay the price.

The only way to avoid it is to opt out. If it’s a big deal to you, opt out. Instead of throwing your money into the collective pot, opt out. Take care of your own. First. Always. But don’t believe – even for  minute- that your financial records are your identity.

How do people not SEE that the “Identity theft” fallacy is that YOU ARE NOT YOUR CREDIT. The value of YOU extends far beyond your potential for securing a loan to spend outside your means. Your identity can not be stolen.

Our government, the banks, insurance companies and retailers work very hard to keep their files straight. They want your money, plus interest, fees, taxes and whatever else they put in the contract.  The most effective way they’ve found to keep track of things is to have YOU do it for them. “Monitor your credit report, at your own expense and time, so we can be sure to loan you the maximum amount we can justify (so we can get our fees)”

Here’s where I start inventing John Lennon lyrics; “Imagine there’s no credit… and no debt counseling, too.” or how about “Imagine all the people… spending within their means…”

One thing that particularly gets my goat right now are the radio ads I’m hearing for “Holiday loans.”

If you haven’t heard these… basically, they’re selling you money to go Christmas Shopping with.

I’d like to sit down and talk to someone who has secured one of these loans and ask them “What the hell is wrong with you?” I’d listen intently to the answer before grabbing them by the shoulders and shaking them senseless while shouting “You’re a f—ing idiot.” OK- I may not actually use the F word, I tend to do that in writing, but not in conversation. Still, there are other expletives… And I probably wouldn’t shake them either. But I’ll talk smack… a lot. But I won’t yell it.

Let me disclose here that I am not religious. If I’ve ever mentioned going to Church, it should be known that I enjoy going to the UU Church for the purpose of stimulating conversation, and not because I believe any God has declared UU to be his or her preferred people. My belief is that God (as creator of the Universe), if (s)he exists, probably has no opinion on religion.   So maybe I’m not qualified to discuss the religious aspects of Christmas. But I’m about to do so anyway.

And if you don’t listen to me, listen to Dave Ramsay because he agrees about this “holiday loan” business.

Isn’t it a bit sinful to get into debt in order to put on a false display of wealth and bravado in the form of gifts you can’t afford?

Didn’t the bible say that debt was a curse and children are a blessing?

Isn’t this supposed to be “The season of giving?”

I have to be honest. I’ve spent a small fortune on our Christmas this year. But I’m not in debt over it. I’ve probably spent more than is wise… I’ve probably exceeded good judgment. I’ve probably spent more than twice as much as I ever have before. And I know that in 2 months I may wish I hadn’t done so. But I won’t be making PAYMENTS on it, and I sure as hell won’t be paying INTEREST on it. My regret will come in the form of wanting to spend it again, on different things.

I wonder if some of the “holiday loan” phenomena is due to the cultural perpetuation of Santa Clause. Perhaps families who were in the habit of overspending before the “economy crash” simply don’t want to face their kids on Christmas without magical, unexplainable, extravagant gifts. Reality has changed for them, and they don’t want to admit it. Perhaps ‘scaling down” is too difficult for them. But it has to happen, eventually. Lies (like Santa and consumer credit) aren’t sustainable.

And what kind of culture supports a “holiday loan?” What adult.. with dignity… can walk in and ask for a holiday loan? At least with a home loan, you get a house. At least with an auto loan, you get a car. But with a holiday loan, you get… presents. To give away. That’s not generous.. to give beyond your means, that’s PRIDEFUL.

I’m all for a healthy level of pride regarding your own accomplishments. Like I said, I’m not religious. When we sit down to eat, we thank the person who cooked it, not the God that created the world that created the person that invented the oven or created the seeds that created the food that created the meal… I think pride can be a good thing and that when we kick ass, we should give ourselves credit for it. Especially if we worked out butts off to get the job done.

But if you’re down… and not feeling proud of what you have to give… it’s not the time to LIE and BORROW in order to keep up appearances. Appearances of what? We appeared to be badass business owners a few years ago, but a friend of mine knew better. We paid our staff before we paid ourselves and Christmas was looking skinny.

I went out to my car one snowy morning and discovered a few hefty sacks filled with presents. I sat there and cried… and cried… and cried. I was humbled, grateful, ashamed, grateful and so very very very happy to be able to surprise my kids a little better on Christmas morning.

The following year, we were struggling again and I opened my front door to find more wrapped presents.

I suspect it was the doings of the same generous friend both years. She’s never admitted it. Collectively, those gifts were the greatest thing I’ve ever received.

I was caught up in trying to give.  It was painful.  I didn’t have much to give, but I wanted to.  What I realized was that in order for there to be givers, there must also be receivers.  As an adult, empty (spare the desire to give more than I could), the presents filled me.  Suddenly, I had something to give. And the fact that I didn’t know exactly who they were from really fueled the desire to spread gratitude everywhere.

Suddenly, everyone in my life was a suspect.  Without much in the way of recourse, I just suddenly looked at everyone in my life a little differently.  I wondered if my employees had pitched in… how would they know?  I began to look at everyone in my life as if they’d given me an amazing gift. Suddenly, I had a debt to the entire world.

THAT is what Christmas giving is about. I could have borrowed money, I guess… to buy them presents. But I never would have felt such a deep and helpless gratitude. I struggle to explain the feeling, of being gifted that way. In the end, all I can do is continue to spread the generosity and gratitude.

Receiving is powerful.  Giving is powerful. Offsetting the balance between givers and receivers by borrowing money and creating a debt is like putting a curse on yourself. It changes the dynamics of “giving.”

We find ways throughout the year, and during the holidays, to help in any little way that we can. That deep feeling of gratitude has inspired me to want to share it. I wish I could leave a bag of presents outside the door of every family in need. Instead, we send casseroles when people have babies. We bake cookies to share. We give from our garden. We knit hats and scarves for friends. We give what we can, when we can. But we’ll never BORROW money to give outside our means. And we’ll try our best to not be too proud (phony) to accept gifts.

Why isn’t “being a phony” something our culture frowns upon?

Maybe because people don’t know what it’s like to really “need.” So maybe the good feeling that comes from giving gifts is a bit distorted because the feeling of gratitude is just.not.there.

Maybe because we teach our kids to be phonies. Instead of open, honest, authentic communication with children, we teach them to “say thank you” by default before they’ve even had chance to experience natural, honest gratitude. Gratitude is more than just “saying thank-you” It’s about FEELING grateful. Deep down inside… crying in the snow… With no one to thank directly, just a mental list of people who “might have done this.”

Why is it Ok to give gifts that you’ll end up feeling bitter over. I wonder how many of these presents will outlast the terms of the loan. I bet all the loans are 11 months long, so people can get one next year, too. I bet people who get holiday loans will end up carrying that debt for years because they’ll be in the habit of overspending and just rolling it over into another loan every year.

I wonder if “holiday loans” will become as common as credit cards.

What do people do with all the crap?

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but our government has a long-term plan for our nation to become the inventors and the primary consumers of EVERYTHING IN THE world. Our government’s vision of a healthy and sustainable future for the US involves enlisting the labor forces of third world countries for making more crap that we invent, and sell back to our fellow Americans.

It’s true- Check out the document Tough Choices or Tough Times by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which inspired my article Reclaim Personal Freedom in the US by Ending Compulsory Schooling.

THIS is the document that most states are using to guide their school reform efforts. THIS is why your credit report matters. But it’s still not your identity. It’s a way for you to be cataloged, monitored, measured, assessed and manipulated. But it’s not WHO YOU ARE.

And you don’t need to play that game.

I don’t care what your income is, you can live on it. And you can have a Christmas on it. It may require the generosity of friends and family. And it might not be a huge, sparkling Christmas that puts the neighbors to shame. But that’s OK. It’s just Christmas. And even if it is huge and sparkling, it’s still not on your mind in June (unless your summer vacation is ruined because of those Christmas Loan payments)

So if “identity theft” is a big deal for you, just OPT OUT

Opt out of overspending
Opt out of stupid loans
Opt out of systems that index you (I dare you- And I’ll be so impressed if you succeed)
Opt out of holiday celebrations that only go skin deep

If you’re going to celebrate Christmas, it’s OK to give all you can give. but don’t do it at the expense of your future.

GIVE GIVE GIVE to your children, but do it all year long. Not just on holidays. Make generosity a way of life. We happened to get a nice fat unexpected check that made our Christmas a little brighter this year. If the check had come in June, I may have indulged my children’s fantasies then, instead. Again- our indulgence isn’t because of a holiday, it’s because I love them and want to see their dreams come true. I want them to know that the world is their Oyster. I want them to know that I am not the one standing in between them & their dreams. I want them to know that I am on their side, that I will use whatever resources I have to help them build the life they want.

Make generosity part of your identity.

My husband and I have played the “credit game.” We were never much into consumer debt. Very early in our marriage, we charged things like… a VCR, some clothes, some furniture… and it didn’t take much calculation to see that in the long run, it was a stupid thing to do. We filed bankruptcy and lost our house after we closed our business down in 2007 and the attorney was just amazed that we had no consumer debt. Truthfully, at that moment, I was wishing we had… I mean… who DOESN’T want a bunch of cool new stuff that they don’t have to pay for, right? All we had were 6 hungry kids, bad publicity for our business and a 15 year black mark on our credit report.

But it’s not WHO WE ARE.

We are… a million different things. We’re human. We have wonderful traits and terrible faults all rolled into one. We can’t be defined by a number. And neither can you. We can’t be identified on paper, and neither can you. Even a photo doesn’t tell the whole story.

No one can walk into your house and start BEING you. No one can steal your identity.

Fuck any organized system that attempts to equate your DATA with your IDENTITY. Your identity includes your thoughts, your unspoken dreams and potential, your nightmares, your memories, your preferences, your beliefs and things YOU don’t even know about yourself. Your data is just the measurable numbers surrounding your SHOPPING HABITS and INCOME. THAT is what matters to the banks. Not you. They don’t really care about your identity. They care about your credit report. They only convince you that it’s important so you’ll do their bidding and play their game.

When they say  ”Protect your credit so you’re not a victim of identity theft,” what they’re really saying is “We want to be sure we can victimize you as much as possible in the form of fees, interest and other contractual obligations because we are banks and it’s our business to have all the money. ”  and they can’t do that if someone else is using your identifying information for their OWN crime.  Your information, if it’s safe and secure, can be used to SCREW YOU in favor of the banking industry. That’s all they want.  So go protect your credit, at your expense, so the banking industry wins instead of the average street criminal. This is the USA and the thief with the most paperwork wins.

Just like academic test scores don’t reveal the true intellect or intelligence of any child, your credit score doesn’t reveal the true accountability or value of YOU.

Opt out.

Nothing Much

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would ask how school was “Fine” might have been the answer. You probably weren’t trying to be evasive, but life, whether you’re at school, at home or at work, changes by the minute. One moment, it could be too warm in the room, the next minute, you’re enjoying a funny joke and ten minutes later, you’re waiting for someone to finish talking to you so you can use the bathroom. That’s just how life is. So when someone asks “How’s life” or “How was school,” most people will just say “fine” and let it rest there, because overall, everything probably is fine.

The other day someone said “I wanted to check out your blog & see how your family was doing, but I couldn’t access it.” The truth is, there were ten thousand things I’d rather be doing than hacking away at my database and de-bugging my website. We were busy with so many fun activities, plus I have schoolwork that I’m trying to keep up with and a bunch of new clients I’m trying to keep straight. So I’ve been working probably 4-5 hours a day, plus schoolwork for around 2 hours a day AND playing playing playing with my munchkins.

So when someone recently asked me “How is life” my answer was “Just fine.” And in order to avoid specific details, I quickly ask “Is your daughter enjoying dance this year?” because I know specific questions will elicit a longer response that gets me off the hook so I can get back to what’s REALLY important in life, and that’s my kids.

Here’s a few pictures we took this week while I wasn’t blogging: (screenshot links to facebook photo album- must be logged into facebook- sorry, that’s how lazy I am this week. And while you’re there, be sure to follow me on Networked Blogs)

A mom’s gotta have friends :)

Lack of sleep… hormones… nutrition.. who knows? My mind is exhausted. I underestimated how emotionally taxing it would be to do 3-4 hours of schoolwork a day, continue working, chauffer my two oldest back and forth to school (ovr an hour round trip each day) and still manage the house (although not very well) and the 4 little kids all day. On top of that, my two older girls are bringing home homework that needs attention; even though only one of them is turning in her homework (lesson learned, she says)

Anyhow. I’ve been finding it difficult to set aside time for myself, to do the things I like to do. I noticed my painting project went untouched for about 2 weeks, my hula hoop was collecting dust, I hadn’t finished any pleasure reading and the shelves on my fridge really needed a wipedown. Thank goodness my husband can cook or we’d all starve to death. (Don’t complain about the clean-up, at least he’s cooking)

I did something crazy a few months ago and signed up for this Visionary Mom’s Team. It’s not something I’d normally do, all that life-coachy, blabbidy blah .. whatever. The idea of not getting paid for my time was kinda weird. Anyway, I signed up on a whim, impulsively. I think the words that caught my eye gave me the impression that I’d be focusing on a work-related goal. I have a website that I’ve been fantasizing about building for months now and planned to use the VMT as a forum for getting input from other moms and getting feedback along the way.

I was not prepared for how deeply I’d be impacted by such a close-knit group of female friends. It’s not something I’ve experienced since the Mothering.com due date club. Damn, it’s nice having mom friends. And we can say all sorts of things that don’t get said very often. Or ever.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was something special. Lisa, the lady who runs it, is absolutely amazing. In the first month, we were introducing ourselves and our goals. I’m a total overachiever and totally financially-minded. My day is spent working toward a financial goal. Unfortunately, the reality is that I work BEFORE I am a mom, each day. My kids are self-sufficient, and once they wake up, I stop and make breakfast, play games and do other mom-stuff, but there’s always just a few more things that need to get done and the minute they’re occupied, I’m popping back over to work stuff, willing myself to try not to get distracted by the self-indulgent social aspects of facebook. And then there’s school. I have a 3.4 GPA right now, I think. It hasn’t been difficult, but it’s been time-consuming, all that studying and writing essays…

Anyway- so I stated my goals and she asked “how will you feel when you’re doing all that stuff?” “Who the hell knows,” I answered. I never planned to feel any certain way. Should I? Heck, maybe I should. Should what? Be happy? OK- it seems like there should be more. I’ll try.

It turns out that I worked diligently on my dream website for a solid ten days and met all of my 1st month goals (wondering- should I feel something specific right now?). Then, I crashed. I haven’t added any professional goals, aside from reaching my daily income levels and meeting contractual obligations. Actually, for the first time in a while, I’ve just chilled out.

In fact, last week I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with my sister (and kept the hula hoop up the entire time) We’ve picked apples, baked apples, juiced apples and made cakes and painted pictures and gone to the playground and planned a few field trips, studied the platypus, adopted a dog, (or more) lost and buried a bunny rabbit, watched the chickens grow, eaten fresh tomatoes every day, harvested foods and learned how to prepare them, worked on sewing projects, found an awesome park with the best river-swimming ponds, picked blackberries, talked about hiking a lot, fantasized about a motorhome trip and gotten used to working around the public school schedule.

I know it doesn’t seem much about chilling out, but it is. I’ve skimmed work responsibilities down BELOW a bare minimum and I’m completely overwhelmed. Look at what I’ve set up for myself. I’ve really dug myself into a hole. I didn’t even remember to call my Dad on his birthday, or get a present for my 5 yr old. Luckily she settled for an impromptu trip to McDonalds for soft serve.

Anyway- so here I am: crazy, overwhelmed and over-committed. We just added a rehearsal schedule for a December Musical to the mix and another Girl Scout troop.

Kid-related commitments will likely increase and with them, work-related commitments (because all that driving isn’t cheap)

Instead of adding new professional commitments to my schedule, I think I’m going to relax, finish school and be a mom. I can’t stop working, but I can replace the tasks that produce LESS income with tasks that produce more income. That way, I can still do the things I want to do with my kids, and not feel overwhelmed with work-related tasks.

And I’ll hire a housekeeper (mwahahaha- and convince myself it wouldn’t be a grand waste of money)

Anyhow, I credit Visionary Mom with part of my “good hard look” at how I felt about things. It’s not like I haven’t displayed an abnormal level of introspection before, but there’s something very special about getting heartfelt feedback from women who GET.IT.

If you’re interested in the VMT teams, check out Lisa’s website. Another group is starting soon, each group is small, I think we have ten women. Lisa matches people up intuitively, the people in my group share a lot of the same personality traits (busybodies) and values. Communication occurs on a secure private message board, where we get to know one another, set goals, help each other reach them, share resources, and get professional input from Lisa, who is absolutely amazing. She has a gift for knowing the right thing to say to get you out of your BS and into authentic examination and SOLUTIONS. Also on the message boards are exercises- like introspective journaling things designed to help you understand your own mind better. In addition to the message boards, there’s a weekly conference call, email access to her for direct private concerns and a one-on-one phone coaching session.

Sounds cheesy, I know. Like I said, I signed up on a whim. but I’m so grateful for the amazing women I’ve met. Their friendship during this crazy time in my life has been priceless. Watching them reach their goals and improve their relationships has been very special.

 

The following video was made by Lisa, from the Visionary Mom
 

1 comment to A mom’s gotta have friends 🙂

Bullying (quite possibly the longest blog post EVER)


 

Because Bullying is a LEARNED SKILL

 

These news stories about kids getting bullied are sad. But what’s even sadder is that so very few people see how bullies are rewarded and encouraged. Adults model bullying behavior in so many ways, but fail to connect the dots and see thatchildren learn by example.  As Jenna says; Bullying begins at home.

Bullying behaviors are an adult privilege in our culture.

Kids learn how to be bullies from adults

I doubt many children see themselves as bullies, just as many parents, teachers, bus drivers and kid sitcom writers don’t see themselves as bullies. Subjecting people to a constant evaluation of their actions (while ignoring other aspects of their development, namely their preferences, dreams and skills you can’t see them making a living with) is just plain rude, including the labeling of certain behaviors as “bullying.” Call it what it is, rude. When we stop tolerating and teaching rudeness- on all fronts- and stop dividing the different flavors of rudeness into “parenting” and “bullying,” recognizing that being mean to other people SUCKS, then maybe it won’t be such a problem.

 

As long as we’re a nation with compulsory schooling, bullying will never end.

Yes- you read me correctly, I attribute a lot of bullying ENTIRELY to forced schooling. The rest of the blame is with parents, parents of both the bullies AND their victims

But in order to proceed with this diatribe, I need to try to stop using the word bullying. Yes, it’s convenient to lump every form of rudeness into one nasty word. Intolerance, homophobia, domination by force, physical violence, coercion, ridiculing… these are specific types of rudeness that are often lumped together as bullying. Or discipline, if you’re a grown-up.

Let’s take a look at the dictionary definitions of Bullying:

1. the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something
2. repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful. The power imbalance may be social power and/or physical power.
3. includes behaviors and actions that are verbal, physical and/or anti-social, such as exclusion, gossip and non-verbal body language.


How can anyone expect children to be strong in the face of behaviors like this when popular parenting practices encourage adults to be BULLIES.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s look at popular parenting advice:

Sara Chana at Parenting-Advice.net gives parents this advice for teaching toddlers how to share:

Be a referee. When kids play together, always expect fights. Be observant. As soon as a situation comes up, get in between the kids and play referee. Use presence of an adult could stop a scene, but if not, then it’s time to negotiate a little. Use the opportunity to teach the value of sharing. If the kids do not want to play together, then divide the toys equally.

WebMD gives this advice for parents when dealing with the grocery store tantrum:

“I call it the “Stepford Wife” approach,” Lerner says. As your child screams, say, ‘I know, I know,’ but stay completely calm as you pick him up. Don’t show any emotion.

Sometimes the best tactic is to ignore the behavior entirely. “You just literally act like they’re not doing what they’re doing. You ignore the behavior you want to stop,” Lerner says. When your child realizes that his screaming fit is not going to get him a second lollipop or your attention, eventually he’ll get tired of yelling.

Supernanny advises parents struggling with tantrums:

(OK- more than half of the article WAS quoted below, I had to choose just one, but to be honest, it was a hard decision. PLEASE avoid the insanity that is Supernanny. Her techniques are not to be used on humans, EVER)

Sometimes young children need it spelled out so they can see how their behaviour relates back to Mum and Dad pulling them up all the time. Your child reacts aggressively when you try to enforce rules and limits – so he gets told off. Explain to him in simple terms the connection between those two events: “Jack, being told off makes you cranky. But if you keep hitting and biting, I’m going to keep telling you off. If you stop doing it then I won’t tell you off.”

So a quick rundown of those expert parenting resources tells us that parents should, at times,

1. Expect kids to fight and micromanage the child’s social life so that children can’t have an honest interaction with their peers. Keep your eyes open for the slightest sign of conflict and intervene right away. Show them (by example) how to take-toys-away, then arbitrarily re-assign them. This is a good way to be sure that they don’t get emotionally attached to anything they like because that’s an adult privilege. The goal is to teach them that they’re not in control of their social life or their possessions.

Does this sound like a practice that will help kids learn how to share with one another? These kids never had much of a chance to communicate with one another and the domineering intervention was completely insensitive.

Hmmm… this kinda reminds me of bullying definition #2, where parents use the imbalance of power to “force” toddlers to share, instead of respecting that the 1st toddler isn’t done with the toy yet. Nature doesn’t often put two toddlers in the same family, naturally occurring multiple births are quite rare and toddlers should not be expected to share, nor should they be forced. Luckily, adults are creative and resourceful and there’s ALWAYS a win-win option.

Sharing is an act of love, you want your friend to experience the same joy you experience when you’re playing with your favorite toy. Forcing a toddler to give up a toy, then to watch another child enjoy it is a SUPREME INJUSTICE- it’s torture. This breeds nothing but resentments and not a sense of generosity. Think about it. When you WANT to give something, giving feels good. When you do NOT want to give something, giving feels bad. Let’s not teach our children that sharing is a punishment.

Expert parenting Advice #2 teaches children to internalize bullying in another way:

Forget about preventing tantrums at the store by maintaining an active, connected constant conversation (It’s amazing how much a toddler can talk at the store when you’re counting grocery-dollars in your head) These “experts” assume that tantrums are inevitable and advise parents to ignore it.

Can you imagine the emotional distress a child must be feeling in order to throw themselves around, kicking and screaming like that? Is it really mature to pretend that such a display isn’t distressing to witness? In her defense, the author was trying to get parents to react without violence or anger. Which is noble. But how about we remind parents that the child didn’t suddenly notice the price of peas and implode. Volcanoes don’t just blast. they rumble, they vent and THEN they blow.

Tantrums at the grocery store are generally the result of a child’s repeated requests being ignored. Yes, it’s difficult to hear “can I have a cookie?” and “can we get corn dogs?” and “I wanted the blue noodles” and “Grandma has a cat named Lucy” and “I need to pee.” Especially when you’re on a budget or in a hurry or afraid they’re out of your favorite creamer.

I have six kids ranging in age from 2-16 and I promise you, without a doubt, that EVERY SINGLE grocery store tantrum I’ve experienced was MY FAULT. Toddlers want to be heard. Sometimes it’s hard to listen, especially when you’re distracted. Communication is a basic human need, like touch, food and sleep. Communication and opposable thumbs set us apart from chimpanzees. If you don’t want your child to act like a chimpanzee at the grocery store, allow him to communicate by participating in his conversation. YES- it is that easy.

But this expert’s advice is completely insane AND- bears a striking resemblance to the “social exclusion” version of bullying. It models a forced and phony lack of emotion at just the WRONG time- the time when your kid is dying to make contact. It’s almost psychopathic, isn’t it? The author even recognizes that, by likening it to The Stepford Wives.

Put yourself in the child’s shoes. You want something stupid (no offense). You asked. You might have whined, you might have yelled. You might have whispered or sung it to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle.” But you asked. Several times. You might not even remember what it is you were pointing at 3 aisles ago, but you know that your mom is ignoring you. She might be talking to you “I know” but she’s obviously not paying attention and dammit, she’s supposed to respond. Your head is spinning, you hate this feeling, when will she answer?

So when you finally do implode and throw yourself on the ground kicking and screaming, you’re not even thinking about the whatever-it-is you wanted to begin with. You.just.want.to.be.heard.

But this expert advises parents to put on a poker face and ignore the child even more, until she is exhausted from the screaming and loses her will to try & communicate further.

Give it up, brat, no one is listening to you and they never will.

Your distress will never affect me.

Choosing a perfect cantaloupe is more important than listening to you.

I like this can of evaporated milk more than I like you.

Your emotional suffering doesn’t matter to me.

If that’s not bullying, what is?

Oh, I know.. blaming children for the parent’s lack of control, maybe. This Supernanny system teaches kids that control and order are of supreme importance, and that a parent’s job is to enforce rules. Affection, snuggling, cuddling and love, according to Suppernanny, are the perfect tools to manipulate children with, to gain their trust and cooperation. Give positive reinforcement (love) when the child is ACTING in a way that you like and take that love away (she actually advises a stern, low voice and more social exclusion) when children act in a way you don’t like.

Emotional manipulation is NOT parenting, it’s evil and twisted. Can you imagine being cornered by your boss and having him say “Every time you wear that skirt to work, something comes over me. I know you don’t like it when I grab your ass in the break room, but you keep wearing that skirt. If you want me to turn in your overtime hours, wear it tomorrow, too.”

The real world doesn’t look like that. In the real world, the boss would be slapped with a harassment lawsuit. But at home, children are just supposed to suck it up and allow parents to blame THEM for losing precious control over the situation. Even worse- they’re supposed to be cheerful and obedient throughout the social hierarchy indoctrination.

We are not here to control one another. When you seek to control another human, you are focusing on the wrong thing. When you seek to control your children, you are setting up a paradigm where your children will either become comfortable allowing others to control them, or BECOME A BULLY- using any and all of their skills to manipulate and control others.

Can’t we all just be friends?

Nope- because shortly after they’ve passed this toddler stage (all of the above advice is directed to parents of toddlers) they’re expected to go to school.

Where teachers (who were previously strangers) are suddenly the ones “in control” and by the very fact that there are now 20 kids and one adult in the room, rules get even MORE arbitrary.

By the time kids are school aged, they have mastered the art of 1- withering in submission to their parent’s rules or 2- putting on a mask of compliance when they’re being watched.

So they’re sent to school where an adult they’ve never met before is suddenly in charge of 20 of them. Naturally, social relationships will form. Teachers WILL have favorites. The socially astute will climb to the top of the class, and have a lot of friends. The kids who have trouble adapting (to this completely unnatural environment that goes against nature and psychology) will fall to the bottom.

Humans are not meant to develop under the stresses of an institutionalized setting.

School is unnatural.

PARENTS are supposed to raise children, not teachers, not talk show psychologists.

I could scream when reading my psychology book. it talks about the stress hormones that are released when people are institutionalized. Then, it lists some forms of institutionalization, in case we need examples. Throughout the book, their examples are “prisons, nursing homes, dormitories, and residential treatment centers” but NEVER public school.

It’s like the entire psychological world is blind to the fact that forcing children to go to school creates an unnatural paradigm that humans are NOT EQUIPPED to deal with.

Valedictorian Erica Goldson said it very well;

I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme”

Is that really the best use of a brilliant mind?

We’ve been so insulated from the pseudo-reality that is public schools. With my teenagers enrolled this year, I’m consistently shocked at the things kids are expected to put up with. I’m not the slightest bit worried about my girls, they’re spreading light and love, making mental notes, analyzing the social dynamics and doing just fine. I worry for the kids who have no choice. I worry for the parents who feel that they can’t pull their kids out of school. I worry that so often bullied kids suffer in silence. (Memoirs of a Bullied Kid)

I was talking to a very good friend the other day, she said that in high school there was a boy she picked on mercilessly. A few years after they got out of school, she realized how horrible it was and wondered what ever happened to that guy. She found out a few years later when she discovered her cousin was marrying him. My friend was nervous & excited – he looked sane & healthy- but she wanted to apologize, before the wedding. She met the couple for dinner and apologized- deeply. “I am so sorry for calling you names, for embarrassing you, for treating you like shit and I know I can’t take it back, but I am very very sorry.” She totally cried at the restaurant and he forgave her. Today, they are friends.

Bullies are victims, too. Without fully developed brains, their reasoning, empathizing and social skills should not be expected to handle an adverse and unnatural social environment like school. Especially when the only skills they have entering into the situation are a 5 yr old’s perception of what he’s learned at home

Through the magic of six degrees of separation, I found a friend from 5th grade on Facebook. Crystal lived around the corner from me and we’d walk to school. My parents were freshly divorced and I had no friends at this new school. Crystal was my friend for the 4 or 5 months I lived in North Hollywood. Her friendship meant a lot to me back then.

When I found her on Facebook, the first thing she did was apologize. Apparently she’d turned into a bully that year (must have been after I’d left) and terrorized people throughout the rest of her time in school. She felt horrible for not remembering me right away (honestly, I didn’t expect her to, it was such a short time) but she was so glad to be able to apologize. I’m glad she didn’t bully me, I might not have handled it well at that time in my life, but the fact remains. Bullies suffer, too. It doesn’t feel good to hurt people. It felt nice to be able to tell her how awesome she was back then, when her memory was giving her shit.

The mainstream discipline-and-control parenting paradigm, followed by the insanity of forced institutionalization for children is BREEDING hatred, intolerance, intimidation, imbalance of social power, disregard for individuality, gossip, disregard for privacy, liberty and personal freedom.

No child can reasonably be told that they are responsible for themselves when they’re not allowed to make their own decisions. No child can reasonably be told that bullying in intolerable when the adults who rule over him are manipulative and coercive.

Check out Alfie Kohn’s “Atrocious Advice from Supernanny” (quoted below)

Supernanny’s superficiality isn’t accidental; it’s ideological. What these shows are peddling is behaviorism. The point isn’t to raise a child; it’s to reinforce or extinguish discrete behaviors – which is sufficient if you believe, along with the late B.F. Skinner and his surviving minions, that there’s nothing to us other than those behaviors.

Behaviorism is as American as rewarding children with apple pie. We’re a busy people, with fortunes to make and lands to conquer. We don’t have time for theories or complications: Just give us techniques that work. If firing thousands of employees succeeds in boosting the company’s stock price; if imposing a scripted, mind-numbing curriculum succeeds in raising students’ test scores; if relying on bribes and threats succeeds in making children obey, then there’s no need to ask, “But for how long does it work? And at what cost?”

In the course of researching a book about parenting, I discovered some disconcerting research on the damaging effects of techniques like the “naughty corner” (better known as time-out), which are basically forms of love withdrawal. I also found quite a bit of evidence that parents who refrain from excessive control and rely instead on warmth and reason are more likely to have children who do what they’re asked – and who grow into responsible, compassionate, healthy people.

If you can bear to sit through them, the nanny programs provide a fairly reliable guide for how not to raise children. They also offer an invitation to think about the pervasiveness of pop-behaviorism and our hunger for the quick fix.

I like how Mr Kohn sums it up. Avoid the quick-fix in parenting. Don’t be a bully. Don’t insist on instant compliance or obedience. Model intelligent decisions. Don’t succumb to the idea that you need to know everything or control everything. YOU do not need to be in control of anyone but yourself.

Your children learn more from the way you treat them than from the words you’re saying. You can’t hit a child and say “no hitting,” you can’t lie to a child and punish them for lying and you can’t bully a child, then send them off for institutional bullying and expect them not to be bullies.

So I’ve totally failed to stop using the word and for that, I apologize. but I hope I’ve made my point.

And the only thing I have to add is that mainstream parents, who struggle to inflict those rules are suffering, too. Being a meanie doesn’t feel good, even when you don’t know another way.

Opt out.
It’s never too late.

Articles referenced here: (I’m not making clickable links to sites I disagree with. Google views outbound links as endorsements and I don’t want to endorse them. You can copy and paste the URLs if you’d like to visit those sites)

Parenting-Advice.net

http://www.parenting-advice.net/toddlers/my-child-wont-share.html

Web MD

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/7-secrets-of-toddler-discipline?page=3

Supernanny – How to control a wild child

http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Parenting-Skills/-/Discipline-and-Reward/Calming-your-kids-how-do-you-tame-a-wild-child.aspx

Alfie Kohn “Atrocious Advice from Supernanny

Supreme court rules parents can sue the school district if their child is bullied – Spokane Society of Young Professionals


comments from before the server crash:

  • your sister

    Love it! You pose the question I have been asking all along – where is the parental accountability?!? It is so alarming when you realize that these kids who are bullying are just doing what they have been taught and, in a way, trying to please their parents. Wonderful article, one of my faves! Great job!

  • Your sister-in-law

    Wow! You make many valid points and I applaud the fact that parents must take partial blame for their child’s actions, but most importantly make the child accept responsibility for his/her actions as well. As a private school elementary and middle school principal I can assure you that my “institution” fosters creative thinking, exploration, responsibility, and respect for other human beings. School itself should not be the blame for bullying, rather the adults that are placed in charge of the children can either make it a place of discovery and acceptance or a place of conformity and torture.
    I am lucky to have a caring staff who do all that they can to ensure that all students feel safe and accepted and I make it a point to seek out those who are lower on the social ladder to make sure they know they are just as valuable as those who are more socially skilled.
    With that said, bullying still happens on my campus and most of it stems from home and not school. These children come from parents who make excuses(not MY perfect child, he would never lie or cheat or call names. It must have been the other child who caused it!) or are too busy or too weak to teach their child properly. Bullies come from parents who give their child everything they want, from parents who allow their child to run the household because G-d forbid their child is unhappy, or parents who want to raise “tough kids.” Don’t forget about the parents who turn a blind eye and say, “kids will be kids.” And of course those poor children who are bullied by their parents.
    I am lucky however, that when it does happen there is always some student who feels comfortable enough to tell me what is going on (most of the time the victim will come in) and their anonymity is honored by me. Middle school and high school students are caught between a rock and hard spot when it comes to bullying. They want to tell, but they are afraid. Sometimes the school is the only place that actually deals with bully. Trust me I would be a millionaire if I had a penny for every parent that does not deal with their little bully, oops “perfect child”. At least I can make it a learning experience,teach right from wrong and give out appropriate consequences. If these children were never taught empathy by the parents and never had an opportunity to perhaps learn it in an “institution” it would be a scary situation when this child grows up to be an adult.
    Not every parent can home school,the economy does not allow for it and trust me Lisa not every parent should. I cringe at the thought of some of the parents I have come across in the past 25 years ever having control of their child’s education. Not all homes are loving like yours and schools are the only form of escape for some children.
    I feel that schools should implement a solid character program that teaches empathy and respect for others. It should start in preschool and stay as a mandatory class through high school just like English and Math. Good character should be embedded into the child’s brain so it becomes second nature.
    Lord knows that so little of it is taught in the average home with reality TV, computer, texting, and video games as the main source of entertainment/babysitting tool. Schools need to hire empathic teachers and add a solid character education to the curriculum, parents need to wake up and take a more active and responsible role in their child’s life and children themselves should be held accountable for their actions. It does take a village :-)

  • Good for you. Most mainstream so-called “parenting” advice is actually child management advice – and child management is NOT parenting! It would be a better world if more parents woke up to that.

  • Administrator

    I see what you’re saying about parents who think their kids can do no wrong. We have a local mom whose son is an absolute terror, every time she turns her head. In “her world” he is perfectly trained and I’m sure she believes that he really is perfect, but whenever she’s not looking he criticizes, insults and makes fun of the other kids. Whenever she’s confronted about the way he interacts with the other kids, she is simply shocked, and says “there must be a misunderstanding” and “that’s not in his nature.” She’s a mean mommy, too. It starts at home. I’m sure she thinks her meanness (discipline) paid off, and created this perfect child.

    Come to think of it, she’s nasty to him when she thinks no one is listening. So he really is doing what he was taught; behaving only when she’s looking, because she only “makes an appearance” of being nice. She has no respect for him as a person, he’s her robot. He’s programmed that way. Yuck. I can’t imagine wanting a life like that.

    I’m glad you keep kids’ confidence when they come to you. Meagan complained about the kid next to her in Algebra talking nonstop (after asking him to be quiet a hundred times and telling him she was having trouble concentrating) and the teacher went right over to the desk and confronted the kid in front of her. Of course when the teacher walked away, the student turned to Meagan and said “You didn’t have to tell on me.”

  • Umm Sakina bint Curt Eisenman

    Whew, i wish more people could see your common sense approach to parenting! This was by far one of my favorite articles you have written. Some of these things I realized myself, over the years with my kids, listening to them and learning different strategies on parenting. As far as the typical tantrum at the store I practice two solutions for this. 1.) I made it a rule to not be where I would spend large amounts of time dragging my kids around a place filled with images and stuff that were not good for them or they couldn’t have 2) if i absolutely HAD to take them with me, i told them what was expected of them and I knew they were capable of good behavoir and IF they started screaming or whining, i knew if was because their needs were not being met. Simple. In public kids are tired, hungry, needing attention or a connection with parent or feel embarrassed wronged because other’s needs come before theirs (such as shaming your child bc ppl are watching or caring more what others think than your child’s feelings)OR they just want something they either can’t have or they are in the moment with WHAT THEY WANT or want MOM to buy. SOOOOO….if they are causing a scene…believe it or not, if I cant calm them down addressing what is the real issue, I LEAVE. Honestly, we need to wear our babies more and listen to our kids need’s… and meet them…and stop listening to “experts” Once I realized even using words like “You better” was using intimitation to get what i want. i am SERIOUSLY frustrated by people who tell my daughter to hit her brother back,,,when parents spank, they DO teach the child that who ever is bigger wins and its OK to hit!!!! how could it not? SO AS YOU SAY, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE! keep yourself in check and your children will follow! al hamdulilah

Today at school I learned I really AM crazy

“Besides the noble art of getting things done; there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. Lin Yutang

OK- So you know I’m going to school, right? I’m at National University. My courses are entirely online, they’re accredited and if I happen to choose to transfer to law school in Washington, the credits are transferable. That was my original goal, but who knows… To be honest, I still want to write. I’m not going to school to change my career, I’m going so I can be paid more as a writer. I want whatever credentials I get to add credibility to my work, so one day, if I choose to write a book, people won’t say “Who does she think she is, Ms Nobody from Nowhere?” So basically, since I live in a culture that values education and credentials, I’m getting them.

Anyway- so I’m taking psychology right now. It’s interesting. Interesting enough to steal away my original intention of majoring in law and changing over to psychology… maybe. I have this belief that psychologists are crazy. So for now, I’m resisting the urge to change my major because I don’t really want proof that I’m crazy. Although, having already admitted to a degree of insanity, maybe I should just bite the bullet and switch majors.

But anyway- so one of our assignments was to complete a stress profile. Basically it was a series of quizzes, only we had to score them ourselves, which I felt was a little ridiculous. They could have just sent us the links to online self-scoring quizzes, but I can’t expect everyone to always be on top of technology, right? The script would be so simple to write, really.

OK- so the quizzes, here they are:
1. Stressed Out (how stressful is your life?)
2. Susceptibility to Stress (SUS) (how you handle stress)
3. Response to Stress Scale (physical reactions to stress)
4. Are you a Type A or Type B?
5. Coping with Stress (your mental response to stress- how you handle it)
6. Locus of Control (how much control do you think you have over your life?)
7. Life Orientation Test (how optimistic are you about the future?)

OK- after answering all those quizzes, we’re supposed to write an essay about our results. Of course I thought mine were interesting, probably everyone thinks their results are interesting. But here’s mine..

Stressed Out– apparently, my life is twice as stressful as everyone else who is female, everyone else who is my age and everyone else who is married. According to the results, only separated people even come close to my level of potential stress.

 


My score – 23 points

 

 

AGE GENDER MARITAL STATUS
18-29….14.2 Men 12.1 Widowed 12.6
30-44 13.0 Women 13.7 Married or living with 12.4
45-54 12.6 Single or never wed 14.1
55-64 11.9 Divorced 14.7
65-over 12.0 Separated 16.6

Whatever- honestly that doesn’t even phase me and the next test proves it…

Susceptibility to Stress – Apparently I am completely not susceptible to stress.


My score – 12 points

 

 

Any number over 32 indicates susceptibility to stress. A total score between 52 and 77 suggests serious susceptibility, and over 77 means extreme susceptibility

Physical reactions to stress – this one measured whether or not your stress manifests itself physically, like in headaches, bellyaches, zits, insomnia and other stuff.

 

My Score 12 points
 

scores between 0 and 35 indicate a low level of physical stress symptoms and little danger to long-tem physical health. Scores between 36 and 75 are judged to be average and are associated with an increased likelihood of psychophysiological illness. However, there may be no immediate threat to physical health. Scores between 76 and 140 suggest excessive physical stress symptoms; respondents with such high scores should probably take deliberate action to reduce their level of stress and thus to ward off the possibility of psychophysiological disorder.

Type A or Type B test came up negative. OK- so this quiz had an even number of questions, 40 to be exact. On half of the questions, my answers were indicative of Type A and on the other half, they were indicative of Type B. According to the test’s interpretation, that means I’m a Type B, but I think I’m neither. I’m like Type C- if it hasn’t been defined yet, I’d like to offer up the following:

“Type C personality takes things as they come and reacts with a level of urgency indicative of how much they happen to care about the issue at the time, knowing full well that there’s no reason to dilly-dally or get stressed out about things. A Type C person generally doesn’t give a ____, because things always work out in the end and the form of resolution isn’t nearly as important as how we respond to it. They are astute observers in life. They suck at mailing things and filling out paperwork, waiting until the last possible minute except in cases where a late payment fee would be incurred. Unless they forget, then they curse about it and then move on because honestly, what more can you do, right? A Type C person isn’t likely to beat themselves up about things, or to repeat mistakes unless they still haven’t learned their lesson, which is what life is all about anyway.”

Your mental response to stress– this test measured the way you respond to stress, apparently there are three ways to deal with stress:

Active-cognitive (active efforts to construct thoughts to help cope with the problems)
Active-behavioral (active efforts to change the situation)
Avoidance (trying to keep the problem out of awareness)

I scored 26 points on Active-cognitive, 29 points on Active-behavioral and 5 points on Avoidance.

But in defense of those “Avoidance” points, I have to say that sometimes you need to NOT focus on a problem in order to approach it from a fresh mindset. There’s nothing wrong with strategically avoiding a problem that you A- can not change right away or B- are having trouble working out. I’m totally comfortable with a 5 point level of avoidance. I got those points by “keeping my feelings to myself” (no need to get other people all concerned, right?) and (shamefully) snapping at people & being irritable and also by avoiding social interactions. Honestly, I’m cool with everything but the irritability, although it was “a little” and not “fairly often” but I do have room for improvement.

Locus of Control– this one was in two parts. The first one was related to your health. They wanted to know whether you feel like you’re in control of your health. Apparently some people feel absolutely no control over their own health, placing everything in the hands of professionals, or luck. Others, like me, feel a personal level of control over their own health.

Scores between 23 and 30 on any subscale indicate strong support of that dimension. Scores between 15 and 22 reflect moderate support; scores between 6 and 14 suggest low support.

 

Powerful self – 35 points
Powerful Others – 10 points
Powerful luck – 11 points
 

So Apparently I have scored off-the-charts in thinking I have control over my own health.

The second part was measuring how much control you think you have over your personal achievements

The average for college males on this scale = 51.8 and for females = 52.2. The higher the score, the greater the sense of an internal locus of control.

 

I scored 54

So apparently I’m more confident than a college boy about how much control I have over my own personal achievements.

The Life Orientation Test“assesses a person’s optimism, or more specifically, a person’s expectations regarding the favorability of future outcomes.”

Scores can range from 0 to 32, with higher scores reflecting greater optimism. The mean score is approximately 21

 

I scored 29 points

So apparently I am very optimistic.

**************************************************************

All of this sounds very nice, right… But the fact of the matter is, I think that I am completely neurotic. Honestly, I have these OCD symptoms (I count stuff obsessively) and then there was that big depression following my dog’s death a few months ago and the fact that my lifestyle deviates from so many cultural norms has made me question my sanity a thousand times. Seriously- I considered getting mental health attention in 2003 when I was pregnant with Madelyn but the voice in my head said “You’re working 60 hours a week, you’re homeschooling three kids, you’re pregnant and trying to start an online business… obviously you’re crazy…” Imagine if I were to go in now, they’d say “You’re waking up at 5am and driving 90 minutes a day (total-round trip) so your teenagers can go to school in the next town, you’re homeschooling 3 kids, you’re working full time from home and you’re a full time student… obviously you’re crazy.”And that doesn’t even consider my food obsessions, (speaking of, did you know Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder for people who are obsessed with healthy food?)

So… apparently I’m a control-freaking lunatic and I’m really good at it. Except when I crash. Looking at the test results, it would appear that I am completely balanced and have superior stress-handling skills. But the reality is that I’m completely nuts in ways that these stress charts don’t even account for. I’m not affected by conventional stressors, and my stress doesn’t manifest itself in conventional ways. You can tell how stressed I am by whether or not I’m wearing makeup, how much work I put into the house, whether my kids have their hair brushed, or if we showed up on time. But stress won’t give me an ulcer, dry skin or asthma, it will just make my bathroom sparkly.

So- leave me a comment and tell me how crazy you are, so I can think thoughts like “At least I’m not that bad.”

Random Russell Updates

OK- I keep telling myself I need to blog more often. Life’s fun.

I think after writing so much nonfiction all the time, and sharing the little funny stories on Facebook all the time, I end up actually blogging less. I have several posts in draft about my older girls, but they don’t want me publishing them, and I do respect that. The entire blog is, after all, supposed to be a family scrapbook of memories anyway.

Last week we took the kids to the pet store for an impromptu field trip. Grace wanted to go see fish, so I’m trying to get some info on a hatchery in the area, but I think they may not give tours. We’ll see.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here that I’m itching to play on a trapeze. Actually- it’s the aerial silks that have me most excited, but it’s considered a trapeze art and I’d love to trapeze, too. If deschooling myself is all about doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do (and the gymnastics school doesn’t offer anything for adults) then I’m going to take a Trapeze class in Seattle. Actually- I want to drive the RV over and take every single class they offer for a week-long intensive, instead of driving back and forth every week. And I know I’m strong enough for this because I can hang by my toes from the Perfect Pullup Bar in my kitchen door frame. Actually- I can do a lot of tricks on the bar, but I want to fly through the air on a Trapeze and get tangled up in 30 feet of silk. My husband was supposed to build me a trapeze earlier in the summer and I’m pretty bitter that it hasn’t happened. So I won’t talk about that anymore.

(Honey, if you’re reading this, I’m bitter, and I’m complaining about it in public. But if you build my effing trapeze, I will delete it and write nice things instead.)

I also don’t think I’ve mentioned our RV here yet. We got a killer deal on a 36 foot RV. Even the repairs we’ve had to make still don’t override the bargain factor. We were planning to drive it down to the Rethinking Everything Conference in Dallas, Texas last month, but that was apparently not in the cards. We’re looking forward to traveling aimlessly all over the US, except that my teenagers have decided that THIS is the year they’ll try public school.

That’s a whole ‘nother nightmare. Leaving the house, driving toward the sun and helping with algebra homework while driving is a bit beyond my pleasure zone. Oral algebra should never occur before coffee. The girls are enjoying themselves, though. I made an ass of myself at my first-ever “Open house” night. Plus, I’m raising funds for extra copies of The House on Mango Street for one of the teachers. So donate, OK. Each book is $5. The teacher likes every student to have their own copy of the novel they’re reading and this year they’re reading The Outsiders, The Giver and The House on Mango Street. She has enough of each book except the one, I ordered one for my daughter, but I know some of the other families won’t do that.

Our garden is ginormous, 6000 square feet with winding pathways and benches, statues, a windmill, a scarecrow, rows of corn, watermelons, pumpkins, tons of tomatoes… Evelyn call the the tomatoes “mato’s” and she knows each variety (Roma, cherry, grapette, Juliette, yellow pear, giant ones…) and she eats them all day long. We also got double harvest on our artichokes. I didn’t expect that, we got about 12 from 3 plants in the middle of the summer and now each plant has 3 more (bigger ones) that we’ll harvest in the next few days probably.

We also have chickens, it’s so cool to have them following us through the garden. They know how to peel open the corn while it’s on the stalk and peck at it to eat. They don’t bother most of the plants, but they do eat grasshoppers and other bugs, which is cool. They grow very fast. They all have names, too. The only one whose name I remember is Gabriella’s, it’s called “Dudley the Dark Lord Muffin.”

I have elaborate plans for decorating the RV, too. Like a steampunk gypsy wagon, in case you wondered. And we’re planning to do an East Coast Christmas, and visit friends and family, plus check out historical sites.

Oh yeah- so one day a strange dog comes around and she’s super sweet, just starts sleeping in our house. We’re amused – this dog just moved in. I mostly just wondered how long it would last. The kids call her Dorothy and she’s super sweet. A few days later, Dorothy is at the edge of the yard, talking to another dog, a very shaggy looking long-haired dog. Dorothy runs off to play and the shaggy dog comes INTO OUR HOUSE and lays down. WTF??? But I notice that this long-haired dog doesn’t have matted fur, she looks clean and brushed. She’s very friendly and sweet. She’s clearly someone’s pet, right? After I decided she was passable, she scampers off with Dorothy and I wonder if we’ll ever see her again.

Later, Brandon tells me, the two dogs come to the garden gate. Dorothy runs off and Shaggy comes and lays her head on his lap. Strange greeting from a dog he’s never met before. Brandon is amused, Dorothy must have said “Go kiss up to him and you can stay.”

So next thing we know we’ve got these 2 dogs who just suddenly move into our house. Dorothy is sweet and all, but Shaggy stole my heart. We took them to the vet to see if they had microchips, we posted “found dog” signs at the gas station and on Craigslist. Shaggy seemed so grateful to be brushed, and followed me from room to room in the house, lying in the doorway. After about a month, Shaggy didn’t come in for dinner and the following morning, Brandon saw her on the side of the road. About a week later, we lost the black rabbit, too.

Dorothy is still with us. We suspect they may have been together when it happened because Dorothy hasn’t really left the house much since that day. She’s been kind of mopey. She’s very sweet and very good with the kids. Plus, she hunts squirrels, which is absolutely fascinating.

Have I mentioned that I’m in school? I’m going to school online. When I first signed up, I wasn’t sure if I wanted Journalism or pre-law. I went with pre-law and learned that if I change right before I graduate, it will extend me another year but I’ll end up graduating with both degrees. See, no tough decisions necessary. So far the courses have been really easy, English, writing, psychology and media literacy. Through the school’s library, I have access to all the latest research journals, which is a lot of fun. In my English course, we were all writing, reading and discussing Education Reform. I was worried that I’d have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about my radical ideas, but I got an A in the class. I published my papers online, Reclaim Liberty in the US by Ending Compulsory Education and Adler’s Defense of a General Education is Lost on Modern Readers. My final paper in Media Literacy will be against regulation of the Internet.

I think that’s all I’m in the mood to write about right now. Have a great week.

1 comment to Random Russell Updates

Death On a Silver Platter

My husband and I were discussing a radio talk show (I don’t even remember the topic) and we were struck by the irony of a caller who said “Kids these days have everything in life handed to them on a silver platter and they always want more.” I really wish I remember what he was responding to, but his outrage, at the modern “generation of spoiled kids” really set me off.

Does this caller, or any of the other people who believe modern kids are “spoiled” really believe that? How do they define spoiled? It’s not really a word I use. To be literal, a human can only technically be spoiled after death, when the body begins to decompose. Truly, decomposition is the root of the term “spoiled” which was probably a reference to sour milk, when it was first used. Children, living children, do not spoil.

However, just to humor him, I’m trying to be fair… does he mean “ruined?” because humans are resilient and can really not be ruined under most normal circumstances. It’s in our nature to bounce back, to survive. Humans have been known to overcome all manner of abuse and neglect and still turn out quite awesome. Beethoven, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey (surely you can think of several more) … An entire generation of ruined children would not look like todays’ kids. More on that later.

His premise is that if you give children too many “things” or even too much happiness or affection, that their lives will be ruined, they will grow up with a false sense of entitlement and expectations and an aversion to working toward their goals.

Bullshit.

I’m really rather disgusted with this attitude, which seems pervasive in parents of my 30-something generation, as well as those older than myself.

Are these people unable to distinguish between WANTS and NEEDS? Here’s a little bit of a reality check:

Needs- nutrition, shelter from inclement weather, human affection

Wants- a house in the suburbs, designer jeans, seat covers,a crock pot, insurance, shoes, painted trim, duct tape, toenail polish, pink shoelaces, blonde highlights, an electric razor, matching bra and panties, a new laundry basket, Christmas napkins, fabric softener, peace of mind, twist ties, fleece blankets, mousetraps, dog food, dust ruffles…

I think you catch my drift.

What do these people think life is all about when they say modern kids have “life handed to them on a silver platter?” Because the children they’re speaking of have bodies (and therefore minds) robbed of nutrition, and are sheltered even in nice weather. And what of human affection, when mainstream parenting “experts” defy thousands of years of human evolution by speaking out against co-sleeping and saying that daycare is OK for infants? Or when schools disallow hugging and physical contact between children in the name of “sexual harassment.” I think what modern kids are getting is really “Spiritual Death On a Silver Platter.”

I can’t even think of a time in history when kids have been more starved and neglected than today. They speak of an “obesity epidemic” as if it’s the children giving it to one another. But the reality is, aisles and aisles of dead, processed foods sit on grocery store shelves, devoid of nutrients but high in calories and marketed especially for “busy families” with cartoon characters on the labels and “kid approved” stamps. As if the children really understand that prolonged exposure to non-nutritive foods is DEADLY. How could they know? What, in the history of evolution, would ever cause children to be skeptical of their food source? And the USDA food pyramid? What a joke, it has white bread on the picture. That’s not food.

So what about kids with cell phones, designer jeans and things like that? Why should kids- surrounded by the same advertising messages that cause their parents to piss away their income, be exempt? And in a culture that values consumerism, shopping-til-you-drop and “feeding the economy” – should the children be blamed for wanting? Of course they want, how could they not want? They are TRAINED and CONDITIONED to want. And it’s not because their parents gave them their old cell phone, it’s because 80% of the people in any given town have a cell phone, because there are no pay phones, because families who aren’t together still need to communicate and every night on the news, some kid is kidnapped and because cell phones really are more convenient and why the hell would anyone call a child spoiled just because they’re easy to get in touch with? Are we defined by our possessions? Oh yes, I forgot. In this culture we are, aren’t we? So adults with phones are important or responsible. Adults with iPhones are badass, but kids with cell phones are spoiled? Or are they only spoiled if they happen to want an upgrade? I’ve always had trouble with rules, sorry. And if the child has some remarkable character traits, like maybe they care for their elderly grandmother, they knit sweaters for the homeless, they call their elders Mr and Mrs, or maybe they dislike the taste of coffee, then are they still spoiled by virtue of the jeans they wear and the phone in their pocket?

And nutrition- isn’t it frightening that there’s a multi-billion dollar industry who makes a goal of reducing the number of women breastfeeding. Isn’t it rather disgusting that people view infant feeding as a consumer choice, rather than as a child’s inherent right to grow and develop the way nature intended? Why are chemicals the “popular alternative” and not banked human milk? Many of these kids are doomed from the day they are born, fed lies and toxins designed to turn them into lazy consumers.

Sorry, sir, you can’t convince me that today’s kids are spoiled because I think YOU are the spoiled generation. Yes, you, old man. You got to walk to school and decide, with every step you took, that you were going to make the best of it. Of course, you didn’t have to start attending until you were 6 or so whereas today’s kids are forced when they’re 4 or 5. But developmental psychology is bullshit, right?

When you were walking to school as a little kid, it was an empowering experience, you were excited to be a big kid, you enjoyed the silence and magic misty morning world and the peaceful fresh air and when you arrived, your teacher was allowed to hug you. In fact, so were your friends. Today’s spoiled kids aren’t allowed to hug at school in many towns and teachers can be punished for hugging students, too. Even if you’re not the hugging type, physical affection is a human need, Russian orphans go crazy without it, but American kids are supposed to cope, right?

When you were a kid, you poor old man, you had to work in the fields, right? Modern kids know nothing of hard work, right? Close your eyes and remember the delicious taste of a homegrown tomato, or the blueberries that grew by your swimmin’ hole, and then try sending my daughter a text message telling her what it tastes like. Because modern spoiled kids don’t often get to taste fresh produce and you probably don’t know how to use the latest technology, which means my “spoiled kid” is already a step ahead of you, who probably couldn’t get a job as a cashier because you don’t adapt well to technology.

I don’t mean to insult your generation, Mr Grump. In fact, there are a lot of things you had that modern kids don’t. You were spoiled in ways my children’s generation may never know.

You and your buddies camped out in your tree house while my kids are led to believe that every time they’re not supervised a child molester will hunt them down.

You and your childhood friends got to play until the streetlights came on, while today’s modern kids are too busy with dance class, soccer, scouts, drama, singing, music lessons and karate to bother with playing outside, where it’s dangerous anyway.

You snuck a flashlight into bed to read under the covers while my kids can access their school textbooks from their cell phone, which lights up all by itself.

You got to trick-or-treat, facing the devil himself and living to tel the story while modern kids often drive across town to the one neighborhood where kids still trick-or-treat, if their parents dare to put their soul at risk like that. Otherwise they can dress in costume for the church’s harvest party, but they can’t do both because, coincidentally, “harvest parties” are always on Halloween, now and they involve tons of candy (without the work of walking up and down the street) being given to them by religious people who claim that our bodies are made in the image of God, but it’s OK to fill them with high fructose corn syrup, right?

One trend you might be missing here, Mr Grump, is that your generation owned their own minds. You were not bombarded by media messages designed to trick you into spending your piddly allowance on candy. In fact, the candy you bought with your allowance wasn’t laced with addictive chemicals, either. You, Mr Grump, were allowed to make your own decisions. If you chose to hide in the bushes and smoke with your buddies in 8th grade, you might not even have gotten caught. And if you did, it would have been dealt with by your parents. Today’s kids, however, don’t have that “luxury.” The school’s automated attendance system would send a voice mail and an email to their parents, their grandparents and CPS. The fat man who failed police training that sits watching the security cameras would see them smoking, they’d be called into the school counselor’s office whereby they’d undergo psychiatric testing and their parents might never be notified about the smoking, but may end up facing prosecution for the unexplained absence. But you call them spoiled?

Are you aware that malnutrition can affect the mind? Surely you must know it affects the body, or did you think all of your impotence and digestive problems were from aging? Impotence is the FIRST sign of heart disease, but these days there’s a drug to undo the impotence, so instead of advising men to take better care of their bodies, they’re given a drug. Crazy, isn’t it? They do the same thing to little kids.

Modern spoiled kids are fed “fiber bars” and boxed cereal and frozen sausages with high fructose corn syrup and even hfcs waffles and pop tarts and sugary chocolate breakfast drinks, and then they’re expected to go to school and sit still. Sounds a bit like sabotage, doesn’t it? I bet you ate eggs growing up. Did you know modern grocery-store eggs have only a fraction of the nutrients you’d find in a backyard flock? It’s because the chickens are genetically modified to lay more eggs, then confined and fed food filled with hormones to get the most eggs from each one. The end result is a nutritionally deficient egg with The Frankenstein Factor– mother nature would NEVER EVER create foods like this. Even grocery store “organic eggs” are often made this way.

This is what I mean when I tell you modern kids’ minds and bodies are STARVED. But you insist upon calling them spoiled, even though they can’t possibly function at their most optimum level because their bodies do not have the vitamins and minerals they need in order to thrive. How can they be spoiled when they’re starving and not allowed to think for themselves?

Empty calories, excessive amounts of sugar and salt are just one factor behind modern kids’ obesity. Early schooling is also a culprit. Kids are trained to be inactive. Because we’re in a fear-based culture, parents would rather their kids stay home than play in the neighborhood or- god forbid- explore beyond the neighborhood.

When you were a kid, you got to ride your bicycle after school, and feel the wind in your hair. Modern spoiled kids must wear helmets (even in the summer) because there should be no consequences for reckless behavior, right? Kneepads and elbow pads at the skate park are for safety, but what ever happened to just being careful, and maybe bleeding every now and then? Instead of giving kids safety gear as an intelligent option, it’s made mandatory, because our culture likes to impress upon children how very stupid and fragile they are, every step of the way. We can’t trust kids to want to ensure their own safety by being careful. Heck, those stupid kids probably want to get hurt, right? We can’t expect them to voluntarily wear a helmet when they’re doing a new stunt, so we force them to wear it at all times. Did you wish for a helmet when you were a child, is that why you’re calling them spoiled? Or did you, like I, think they were the stupidest thing in the world when you first saw them?

When you were a smaller grump, did you enjoy the feel of sunshine on your back in the summer, or wind in your face in the winter. Even a little? Or sledding with your friends on a snow day or lying in the grass in the summer, watching the clouds change shape. Did you ever sleep under the stars, or have to close your window in the middle of the night because the rain woke you up? Shelter is a good thing, But being trapped indoors all the time is not. It’s a lot like prison. Are you aware that in a recent survey, less than 1% of 6th graders had ever even been on a camping trip? How can you expect a child to be grateful for having a roof over their head when deep inside, part of their soul is dying to just be free for a little while?

I can not imagine how anyone would think modern kids are spoiled, when in every possible way, mainstream culture seeks to destroy their minds and bodies. The real and natural world that humans have evolved to live in just doesn’t exist for American kids, whose government schools are training them to be the inventors, marketers and primary consumers of a world of products that are constructed in third world countrieswhere, generations from now, those kids won’t know how freeing it was for their grandparents to get water from the well or run around barefoot. But they sure will be grateful for their factory job, their free education and American style health care, right?

Give me a break, old man. Modern kids have struggles that you can’t comprehend. Their basic needs are ignored while they’re trained to be consumers, and you sit back and criticize them for wanting their phone upgraded.

And for just one more perspective, here’s Rose…

4 comments to Death On a Silver Platter

Interruptions fit for a rockstar

Last night my 2 yr old came over to me with a broom and a small chair. I remember seeing her approach out of the corner of my eye. She set up the chair to face me while I was cleaning the kitchen and handed me the broom. Seeing the broom in my own hand (because that’s how much I zone out when I’m cleaning) I leaned it into the corner because that’s where it goes and she SCREAMED loud enough to snap me out of my cleaning zone. I looked down to see that she was clearly very angry with me and I squatted down to her to find out why. “You ‘sposed to Lzzy Hale from Halestorm‘tend the broom is a guitar and sing me ‘you are my sunshine” Boy was that a surprise. No one has ever ASKED me to pretend the broom was a guitar. It’s not even something I’ve ever done, I can air guitar without props. But I can deal with that, improv is an important life skill. So I picked up the broom as she took her position in the “audience,” I grabbed a pair of sunglasses from the top of the fridge and in my best air-guitar impression of Lzzy Hale, with my hair flying around everywhere, I sang her the song. By the end, we were both laughing so hard. I had tears in my eyes and she felt very special. What a wonderful gift that was, Kids ROCK.

And I can’t help but compare it to when my oldest was the same age. She wasn’t allowed in the kitchen while I cleaned because I thought “it was too hard to do both.” I’d trained her to stay away by yelling “OUT.” It breaks my heart now to think about those days. I’m so glad I’m who I am now, and I’m able to treasure the interruptions, and that I haven’t trained her to stop interrupting me.

Now, I need to work on that stage dive…

1 comment to Interruptions fit for a rockstar

Stop Being Consistent

Someone actually once said “Oh you must be so consistent” when my oldest was little because she was so “well behaved.” It makes me sick now, to think that I was consistently bossy and rigid enough to counteract her easygoing nature in order to force her to conform to my whim.

Consistency is ugly. Looking back, I realized this when my oldest was on time out. She’d go to time out really well, I’d say the word and she would run to the corner and stay there until I said she could come out. I put her there in front of people and they’d snicker behind her back about how compliant she was, whispering “she just stays there…hehe….wow” They were admiring my parenting skills, so I was proud. Little did I know that I’d look back at that time in our lives & wonder what the hell were we thinking. She was probably 3.

Consistency isn’t normal. It isn’t natural. The world is inconsistent. Unless children are violating laws of nature (gravity, centrifugal force) they’ll never experience consistency with humans, and that’s beautiful.

In an inconsistent home, Mom & Dad are distinctly different people, with different opinions and different perspectives, both of which are valuable. If we are to constantly grow & change and evolve as humans, and become better people every day, then what the hell are we worried about consistency for? Stop trying to be consistent and just be honest.

Do you know (you probably do) that so many parents are alienating grandparents because the grandparents have “different rules.” Consistency is supposedly so important, or maybe kids are so stupid, that they can’t be exposed to any adult who has different rules. WHAT is that all about? Different employers have different rules, different cultures have different rules. LIFE is all about understanding how to work within several different environments. HOME shouldn’t be a place you have to learn how to “be” in. At home, you should just be you. Safe, loved and growing. What rule can be more important than that?

As we prepare (which really means scrimp & save & stick to our budget) to go to the Rethinking Education Conference again this year, I’m trying to reflect upon everything we’ve learned about gentle parenting over the past 12 months. We’re not perfect. We still have a VERY LONG way to go. We’re improving every day. We’re helping each other be inconsistent. Consistently improving.

Here are three of my favorite resources that we’ve been using over the past year, to be more gentle parents.

The Daily parenting emails from Scott Noelle, called The Daily Groove it’s a really quick read. I subscribed myself and my husband, each one takes less than a minute to read. I wish I could get it via text message.

Bob Collier’s monthly Parental Intelligence Newsletter, which is absolutely HUGE- it can take all day to read but it’s so worth it.

And our kids.

I list them last not because they’re least important, but because they require a longer explanation. The concept of consistency in parenting assumes that you have a motive and a prescribed means of reaching that goal. Consistency means sticking to the plan, so that you never show your weaknesses. It’s very “Art of War.”

But our goal for the kids is that they’re able to communicate and have healthy relationships, loving each other and appreciating one another’s journey in life. I want them to spend their whole life growing and changing, evolving and improving. I don’t ever want them to feel like they’ve “figured it all out.” Most of all, I don’t want them thinking I’ve figured it out either, because no matter where I am in life, I always have more to learn.

In my opinion, the only way to reach that goal is to let them bear witness to our constant growing & changing, To not separate so much between us and them. They need to be part of our family’s changes, especially right now the older ones who know what “the other side” is like. Their transition has been an adventure because we really shook up their world when we decided to be radical unschoolers. It must have felt like having the rug pulled out from underneath them.

In life, including marriage and in business, the relationships you have with people define your level of success. A marriage without communication is likely to fail. An employer or employee who isn’t able to communicate with their co-workers, staff, clients, or vendors won’t be around for long. A person who can’t relate to others, or communicate effectively will be limited in the amount they can leverage the skills, wisdom and insight of the people around them. Relationships matter and honest, authentic communication is so important.

Consistency in discipline represents a solid and steadfast commitment to NOT communicating with the children. Or maybe it says;

Nothing you say will change my mind. Cry all you want, see if I care. Go ahead, have a fit about it. I’m not changing my mind. It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t matter how you feel. I’m the parent, that’s why. Because you’re a kid. When you’re an adult, then talk to me about it.

I’ve actually heard adults saying these words to children before. Can you imagine how that would feel, to be crying and upset and to have someone you love saying things like that?

Parents may huddle together in unity, figuring out a “consequence” for some action, in an effort to represent an aligned front, but no one is communicating WITH the kids. The only REAL consistency is that the children’s voice doesn’t matter.

We just can’t do that anymore.

With six kids in the house the only way we can survive is with complete honesty.

I know you used to get punished for that when you were little, but I’ve learned that it wasn’t really fair, and it makes a lot of sense to me now.

And the thing about punishing kids is that it often teaches kids to just “not get caught” which means that they’ve really learned that they can’t have an honest relationship with you. They can’t be their true selves in front of you. I think it’s the worst sort of loneliness a person can have, the inability to be themselves in the presence of their primary relations.

or how about

I’m sorry I snapped at you for that, I really freaked out when I saw you _____ because all I could think of was _____. I love you, and I know that wasn’t very nice of me. Let’s figure out a way that you can __________ without the risk of _________ because you seem to be enjoying yourself

or most often

Because that’s how I was raised and I know it makes no sense, so let’s figure out what the root of this issue is, and let’s move on. Thank you so much for pointing it out. Really. You want this___ I’m thinking this_____ it’s really probably not a big deal, so can you just tell me when you’re done so I can clean it up. Thank you again, and I apologize for reacting so quickly.

It seems to me like so many of my parenting role models have been perfect parents the whole time they were raising their kids. Like they discovered the secret to perfect parenting while they were pregnant and have been radiant beams of sunshine ever since. Like Naomi Aldort, Alfie Kohn, Dayna Martin and Scott Noelle.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only parent who started off with one philosophy and has learned another. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person transitioning to unschooling. In my generation we were taught to keep our mouths shut. A lot. No back-talking. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t talk like that to your mother. Don’t talk like that to your sister. Not in my house. Not in my car.

Who is going to write the parenting book that teaches us how to move FROM authoritative parenting TO consensual, non violent communication? Has it been written? Please let me know because I have an Amazon.com credit that’s burning a hole in my… um… amazon.com, credit account.

All I know is that constant, honest communication has been the best tool we have. Our kids know we’re changing, and they know that their freedom is our priority. Some days, that’s enough.