Posts Tagged ‘teens’

my birthday 2009 005

It can be tricky to find times to connect with all four of the kids every day, especially the older two, who are so busy with their own lives.

Which is why I get up a full hour before I really have to.

I set the alarm before the sun gets up so that I can wake R. He could set his own alarm, and make his own breakfast, and he’d be out of the house and off to the uni. before the little ones even got out of bed, but he asks me to wake him. Every morning I go down to the kitchen, put the kettle on, then go down to the basement grotto where he has his adolescent den before heading back to my room to get my running stuff on.

We meet at the kitchen table after he has his shower, and we read the paper together.

Very often nothing is said. He’s not much of a morning person. Or a talker.

But words probably aren’t what he’s after.

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In a nod to David Gilmour, R and I have started our own private film club. We decided to watch one movie a week when he’s at my house, which ends up being one movie every other week. We decided to limit our selections to documentaries. I have to say that it feels somewhat subversive to close the blinds and sit on the couch in front of a TV screen in the middle of a bright and sunny afternoon, but also very cool. Last week I chose Blind Spot, the film about Hitler’s secretary, which turned out to be little more than an hour-and-a-half interview with the now quite elderly German woman. Not too heavy on the action, but riveting in it’s own way. Quite the conversation starter. This week R downloaded Steal This Film II. I’d never even heard of it, and I love that. We had a good long talk about information sharing etc, stuff that we don’t usually talk about.

I don’t get much of a chance to watch movies, especially not with the kids, so when we do, it’s usually a blockbustery sort of film. I doubt that I would ever have been moved to download and watch Steal This Film, which is part of what makes our little experiment fun. I show him stuff, he shows me stuff, we don’t necessarily expect it to be Hollywood entertainment, and we see things that are new and interesting and different.

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My fifteen-year old son wants to go thrift storing with me tomorrow!

Update: Purchases: one (working!) projection alarm clock with am/fm radio
three matching dinner plates
one camping thermos
one stainless steel rack for purposes unknown
Total cost: $3.82

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Growing Independence

Parenting doesn’t come with a set of rules, which was something that bothered me a bit when the kids were younger. If I just knew for sure that this would turn out alright. Am I doing this properly? All of my decisions around the kids seemed fraught with enormous potential long term implications, and there was no way of knowing how it would all turn out. I am my daughter’s mother, and like her, I’ve never been all that comfortable without a clear set of rules to follow.

So I read a lot of books, scrutinized the methods of parents that I admired, but to what seemed to me a scary degree, had to follow my gut. As the kids got older, and as they started seeming like they were doing alright, it got easier. I had set up a bit of a system, I had expectations for behaviour in place, and I was comfortable with where I fit on the laissez-faire to authoritative spectrum. We were coasting.

Now, as the older two enter adolescence, I’m once again faced with decisions, mostly related to how far to let the safety rope extend from home base. How much “freedom” to allow the kids as they begin to explore worlds increasingly outside of their parents’ jurisdiction. There’s that push/pull between wanting to keep them safe, and wanting to give them as much room as possible in which to make their own choices. And like in toddlerhood, there’s no concrete way of knowing where to draw the line.

The Folk Festival was a good example.

I allowed Tee to run free all day, which he loved, and seemed ready for, but each time I bumped into a family I know with kids Tee’s age, I noticed that the kids were with their parents and I felt a twinge of concern. Was I possibly being a bit lax? Was I being irresponsible? What if something happened to him and I wasn’t right there? Those thought bubbles kept popping up and making me uneasy, even though my gut was telling me that I was doing the right thing. He was at a large music festival, surrounded by crowds of strangers in wide open spaces, so there was a potential for him to get lost, or maybe to have an unsettling encounter and my reflexive Stranger Danger radar was beeping madly, but I fought down the impulse to keep him by my side, because I think that I would have been doing it more for my peace of mind than for his safety. There’s always the risk to reward ratio to consider, the learning potential to weigh against the possibility for harm, and in this situation, if I looked at the situation logically, it was actually a pretty darn safe place for a nine-year old boy to test himself. It was hard to go for more than a few minutes without bumping into a familiar face, I had a “home base” set up for us all to return to, and he and I crossed paths often enough for me to have a fair idea of where he was almost all of the time. Besides the great music and all of the junk food, it was the thrilling sense of being on his own that Tee loved about being at the festival this year. He’s a capable boy, and I was giving him the message that I trust his decison making ability. He was the happiest kid in the world. If he’d been with me the whole day, we’d have been at the same festival, seen the same things, and eaten the same food, but he’d not have been as happy. He was ready for this step,

Just like R was ready to volunteer at the festival this year. He worked a four hour shift each day, and the festival site is about 20 minutes out of town, so we agreed that he should take the shuttle bus there and back. The first day, got a ride there with a friend, and returned home with a different friend’s family, but he left around 5pm and didn’t walk back through the door till after 1am. He had a cell phone, I knew I could contact him, and I know he’s a smart kid, but it was still a bit unsettling to know that he was such a long way from home at all hours of the night. I guess it comes down to knowing your particular child, and trusting that they have the resources necessary to make decisions that keep them safe.

When the kids were small, I let them take physical risks on the play structure. I now let 7 and 9 go to the playground (together) without me. They’re allowed to ride their bikes to friend’s houses down the street, as long as they phone me when they get there. L, at 12, is allowed to roam our neighborhood as long as she’s with a friend, and as long as I know where she’s heading and how long she’s expecting to be gone. Some parents I know allow none of these things.

I think that I may be on the More Freedom Sooner end of the spectrum than many parents in my circle, but it feels right for who I think my kids are. It’s that gut thing again.

I don’t have any pictures of Tee to go with this post, so here’s a shot of the flags that some of the festival kids made in the craft tent. I think that one of Tee’s is flapping on that line.


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Last weekend L and Jay and I watched Juno, the movie that stars Ellen Page as a 16-year old girl who gets pregnant and gives her baby up for adoption. R watched a bit of it, but soon excused himself, and T was at a birthday party.

I watched it once before I rented it with the girls, and when I saw it without them, all I remembered, other than the plot, was the cute soundtrack and the snappy dialogue. Then when I watched it with the girls, I suddenly saw the sex scene (which showed two pairs of bare legs and a pair of underpants around one pair of ankles) in an exruciatingly new way. Same with the one or two references to the act. I kept looking over at L, hoping that it wasn’t going to be embarassing for her to be watching this movie with her mother. I wasn’t too worried about Jay, because she and I have had quite a few talks about sex recently, and for her, talking about it is just like talking about anything else.Take today for example. We’re in the pet store, and she’s standing in front of a tank filled with turtles. squealing They’re mating! They’re mating!

I’m glad that she’s so comfortable with the whole concept, but Miss L never did ask questions about sex, and I wish I’d been a bit more intentional about bringing it up myself when she was younger, because now we’re past the point where it can be absorbed as just another bit of information, and yet it’s clearly something she and I need to feel comfortable discussing. I’m still not sure how she felt about it watching the movie with me, but she did say that she liked the movie, and I’m hoping that she and I can begin to talk about the issues presented in it.

I really don’t want her thinking of me as some kind of dinosaur that needs protecting from the kinds of topics that she and her friends are likely discussing, nor do I think it healthy for us to be like Rory and Lorelei on The Gilmore Girls. A happy place in the middle of those two extremes would be just fine.

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A Room of My Own

I’ve been thinking about creating a haven for myself in my bedroom that I’ll keep off-limits to the kids. I’ve been successful in making my bathroom my own, but the rest of the house is common space, and on Friday nights I’ve got nowhere to go. Take yesterday as an example. I made many pizzas, as usual, and as usual, they were eaten by the stream of kids traipsing in and out of the kitchen. Mom, do you mind if e and z and r stay for supper? Then L and four friends went down to the river to have a fire, but they needed matches, and marshmallows, then cups of water, and later on, they staged a water balloon fight from the kitchen, or hang on, was that earlier in the evening between R and L and totally different kids? At the same time, R had two of his hulking teen friends over to play the Wii that one friend always brings with, so the couch was completely taken over, not to mention the TV we watch movies on, plus of course T was playing Civilization on the computer with S so that meant no catching up on emails. Music was blaring, kids were laughing, the phone was ringing and while I do love that this is a house that welcomes friends, I would also love to have a quiet place to go away from the festivities. I’m so clearly outnumbered.

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Life Learning

This homeschool year has been an exciting one for me because it feels like I have made a paradigm shift that has been a long time coming.

After countless illuminating experiences with my own children, after sifting through and internalizing book after book on child development, cognitive psychology, and learning styles, and after reading first hand accounts of adult unschoolers life experiences, and ruminating over the impassioned words of several leading child development experts, my maddeningly slow-to-accept-new-ideas brain is cottoning to the whole concept of “life-learning”.

Trouble is, I don’t think that I can provide the ideal sort of environment for a life learning approach. As Wendy Preisnitz said in the latest issue of Life Learning magazine, “Life learning is about kids doing their own real work, motivated by their own real interests and goals, and being around adults who are also doing their own real work.” She went on to say that ” Unfortunately, there are very few places where children can experience the adult world. Many children – and even many homeschooled ones – don’t have nearly enough opportunities to be with adults who are doing their own thing in the real world, and not….just hanging around entertaining or instructing or being nice to children.”

I agree. Having the children at home, where they are free to explore their own interests and learn in their own way is a step in the right direction, but it is still an artificial situation in which they are at a remove from the real world. They are not being given the opportunity to witness much of what adults do on a daily basis, and they can’t contribute their own skills in any meaningful way. I get the sense that the kids would like nothing better than to do “real work”, and I feel frustrated that they have nowhere to do this. I am glad that they, at the very least, get to observe the workings of the “real” world during “school hours”, by watching the dishwasher repair guy do his thing, and by taking knitting lessons from a local shop owner, but I wish that they could contribute and work too.

As Wendy said, “The working world of adults is not very accessible to children because we fear they will get hurt, get in the way of, or slow down production, or abuse or break the equipment. So we make childhood a rehearsal for personhood, replacing real experiences with pseudo experiences. Many of those pseudo experiences take place in schools, but they can also be part of the home-based learning environment.”

I would like my kids to be a part of the real world outside of this house on a daily basis, particularly as they approach their teen years. All I can do is to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunites…..volunteer positions, community projects, maybe even apprentice work. Outside of school, outside of book learning, outside of situations contrived to teach them something, and into situations in which they are actively working.

It is at times like this that I wish we either lived on a farm, or had a family business, because they would naturally see adults working, and naturally find a way to contribute. I hope that some real world life learning experiences open up as each kid follows their own interests, but I’m guessing that I may have to help them actively search them out.

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