Sorry, Son

Sometimes when I see the news, I feel ashamed that I brought a child into this world. I wonder with so much wrong, what does he have to look forward to? Especially, knowing how he feels things so deeply. Is it possible he’ll be able to lead a healthy, happy life?

You may think that since I feel that way, that parenting would be easier because I could just give up and coast. Like if the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, why bother trying? I wouldn’t be alone if I chose that route. Many people are throwing their hands up, shrugging their shoulders or turning their backs.

That would be too easy. That would also be like accepting the wrong in the world as just the way it is. When it seems as though an entire generation is on the verge of just that attitude, it becomes that much more important not to jump on board.

No, I’m not deluded enough to believe that if I help my son cling to his moral compass, that the world will be all rainbows and unicorns when he’s an adult. It may actually be worse. But I’ll do my best anyway. We all should. As long as there are still kids being raised to know right from wrong, then there’s still the possibility of change for the better.

 

 

A Regular Unschool Day

Memorable conversations from our day yesterday are a perfect example of this unschooling journey we’re on. I want to share some with you.

The first was on our drive to work, where I talked with B about how we have two weeks left at my nanny job, before they move, and then we will be starting something else. He offered to start doing his lemonade stand every weekend to contribute to our family budget. I love that he wants to help. I talked about finding another babysitting type job, so he can come with me to work. Then I said, “unless you’ve changed your mind about starting school in the fall?” He came up with many reason why that was a no, but this was my favorite. He said, “then I’d only get to see you like 9% of the time.” That warmed my heart like nothing else.

Another conversation was with B and one of the children I nanny for. We talked about the presidential candidates and that one of them is a woman. How all of the presidents so far have been men. B had told her that before I entered the mix. He remembered from his Picturepedia book and a previous talk we’d had. The qualities that would make a good president, based on gender, were volleyed back and forth between the kids. I left them to it.

While eating dinner together, B and I talked about how people can tactfully do things with regard to their jobs and sticking up for themselves. We talked about what quitting vs. being fired means and why burning bridges with employers isn’t always a good thing.

On our way from dinner to a store, he noticed some people waiting at a bus stop and he mentioned that they were homeless with a level of disdain that made me recoil. I explained that they may not be homeless, they may just not have a car. Even if they are homeless, they are people just like us and we could just as easily be in their situation. Homelessness is not something that happens to just a certain kind of person. It can happen to anyone and shouldn’t be something you ever look down on a person because of.

Then we got into the store and we’re walking along when we came across a woman who was distraught and was tugging at her clothes and yelling, “excuse me!” to no one in particular. B looked at me quizzically and I told him that she seemed to be unwell and that one of the employees seemed to be handling it. He asked how I knew she was sick. I explained that sometimes people have sickness inside their brains that we can’t see from the outside.

On our way home, Amy Winehouse’s song “Rehab” came on in the car so we talked about what rehab was and how sometimes people need help quitting, when they use drugs. I shared how sad and ironic the song is since she died because of her drug use. No sooner had we finished that bit, when we drove past a table set up gathering signatures to push for marijuana legalization. Naturally, we talked about that too.

So, B’s “schooling” for the day may not have even included the 3 R’s but we hit on A LOT of big topics and lessons of great importance. This is my favorite part of the unschooling process. We discuss interests or topics as they come up organically in our day. There is no school or curriculum that could rival this, in my opinion.

 

 

Being Strong

The past week has been a test of my strength. Many of them have been, actually. People tell me that I’m one of the strongest people they know.

First there was the five-day notice to vacate our home. That turned out to be a mistake on the leasing office’s part. They lost my rent check. The one I had enclosed in a card to explain why it wasn’t big enough.

shh

The picture shows how I also had to go about getting some coins on the sly, for a lost tooth. I do what I need to do. The teller at my credit union was amazing about it and even wrote a note back saying she chose nice shiny ones!

So the rent got paid in two chunks, we still have a place to live and I could breathe for a day or so. Then I got the news that one of my dear friends was hit by a car while riding his bike in New Orleans. Luckily he wasn’t killed. Unfortunately he has no insurance and has a very broken hip that had to be pieced back together. He’s out of the hospital and on the mend for at least the next ten weeks. Which means he can’t work. I started a GoFundMe for him. It’s all I can do from here, although it pains me to not be able to do more.

Yesterday was Vegan Fest here in town. I look forward to this every year and was excited to go. B wasn’t excited to go and when we got there he proceeded to scowl and make the brief time there as unenjoyable as possible. We left and went to run a couple more errands. I was very disappointed with how the whole thing went but tried to hold space for how he was feeling and why. I didn’t want to let it ruin our day. Well, my car took care of the ruining. The brake line failed, the brake pedal went squish to the floor and I got home as safely as I could.

Here’s the part no one knew until now. My being strong sometimes involves taking the time to myself to completely come unraveled. I went into the shower and stood there under the water and sobbed until I felt functional again. I let as much of the weight of the week as I could roll right down the drain. Then I got out, ate a popsicle and then lounged in bed for a good part of the evening, playing Clash Royale and texting friends.

There’s always more to the story, but they are mostly other people’s stories to tell. My heart is going out to a few people I care about right now because of their financial situations, health and relationship statuses. A lot of people I know are having a hard time and they’re getting through it too. That’s all that makes me strong, I guess. That I  do what I can for others when I can and I keep plugging along when life beats on me.

Judge Not

Most judgement of others comes from lack of information. I’d like to share why I have ‘that kid’ at the grocery store.

Although my son just turned eight, he often sits in the shopping cart and…brace yourself for it…plays on his tablet. Yep, we do that. People stare, shoot me dirty looks and occasionally make comments. You too, may even have rolled your eyes. I get it.

Here’s the why. I don’t have a village raising my son. I have me. If we need food, then he has to come with me to the store to get it. He hates it! It’s a ‘have to,’ so not enjoyable for him.

We also have a limited budget, so I need to be able to concentrate on my list and get the things we came for without him being distracted and overstimulated by all that’s going on around him. When he gets anxious, I get anxious. If he is quiet and content doing his thing, then my mind is where it needs to be in that moment.

Finally, I feel it’s important to make healthy choices for what B and I eat. It’s much easier to do that when I’m the one making the choices. There is no, “I want that, I want this” happening. I ask for his input on flavors or have him pick out his breakfast cereals. He enjoys organizing the cart as I hand him things and he builds a fort around himself. He’s happy and I’m happy and we leave the store with healthy foods. This is a win in my book, regardless of what the other people at the store think.

Math Adventures

We have been loving a book series for a while and I wanted to share it with all of you. The Sir Cumference books by Cindy Neuschwander are phenomenal and no one is paying me to say so. I discovered our library system has all of them so we checked them all out. B asked me if I had bought them so that we could keep them forever and that is a glowing endorsement!

Each book is a typical 32 page children’s book with colorful illustrations by Wayne Geehan. The stories are usually some sort of adventure that the characters have. Different math concepts are introduced in each book, from a range of typical school grade ranges. Even as an unschooler, I still look occasionally to see what grade B would have been covering a certain topic that he already understands. It’s funny to me when I discover it would’ve been three years from now. But, I digress.

These books present the information as part of the story and that lends well to my son’s learning style. Didactic, teaching type books, rarely appeal so I was thrilled with these. I get asked to read them again and again. That helps solidify these concepts and I don’t mind because the stories are fun too.

The names of concepts get brought into the stories in the best ways. So memorable when you have characters named Sir Cumference, Radius, and Vertex as well as places like the Mountains of Obtuse. Brilliant! The play on words that occur in these books are such a wonderful literary hook for my new reader. He is loving all the language play he can wrap his mind around. I’m in love with seeing it unfold too. Seems like not long ago, I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. Great books help for sure.

B noticed that these books are a sort of series, but that they aren’t numbered like his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. So, that evening I showed him how you can find the copyright in a book and we put them in order that way. The learning never ends.

The books are;

Some math concepts that they include, are; diameter, radius and circumference in the first book, Pi in the second, angle measurement and acute and obtuse in the third, three dimensional shapes in the fourth, area and perimeter in the fifth, place value in the sixth, map use with x and y axes in the seventh, pie charts and bar graphs in the eighth and rounding in the ninth. So, they’re helpful resources to add to your collection or to borrow from the library and enjoy for as long as you can. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hardest Lesson Learned

Today is Earth Day. The lesson my son took away from today came in the spaces in between. This is the nature of unschooling though.

I picked out a lot of our books this morning, before he woke up, about topics related to recycling, rain forest preservation, and caring for our Earth. I inflated our globe beach ball and set it out near the books. He walked into the living room, saw it and said, “really?!” I think it amused him. It reminded him what today was and he immediately wanted to bike to the park to pick up trash. No reading of books was necessary.

He grabbed a plastic bag for trash and stuffed it in his pocket. We got ready and headed out. Once we were almost there, he felt in his pocket for the bag and realized it had fallen out or been left behind. We went on with cleaning up the park, found some treasures that had to be kept and then headed back toward home.

About a block and a half away from home I spotted his bag and pointed it out to him. It had blown into someone’s yard. I stopped my bike and waited for him to go pick it up but he told me he wasn’t going to. I asked if he wanted me to cross the street with him or hold his treasures. No. I expressed that since he had brought the bag and lost it, that it was his responsibility to collect it. It was the right thing to do. He waited near me, in the hopes that I would just go pick it up. I could have. This seemed important. He was a bit afraid or embarrassed to go into someone’s yard. I wanted to support him in this.

I had a whole story going in my head that kept me so calm during all this. My parents would’ve just yelled or threatened, but that wasn’t even it. I thought of all the people who suggest that we need to “discipline” our children to teach them responsibility. “Kids these days…” This was so hard and yet so simple. I just had to be there for him and let him know that doing the right thing was important.

He even rode his bike away from me and went home briefly, although it seemed like an eternity while I stood along the road with my bike. I knew he’d come back and he knew I’d still be there in that spot. When he came back, he said some angry things. I listened. And waited. Finally, the wind blew the bag out of the yard and down the street. B chased it down, tucked it into his pocket and raced for home.

That was it. A big lesson in accountability. The best takeaway for this Earth Day, or any day, really.

It’s Not All Rainbows And Unicorns

Sometimes single parenting sucks. There, I said it. I’m not trying to delude anyone into thinking that this doesn’t come with some definite challenges, so I’m sharing the not so pleasant aspects.

You can’t just leave the kiddo with your spouse and run out to the store. They have to come with you EVERYWHERE until they’re old enough to stay home alone. Even if you’re lucky enough to have family or friends close by who are willing to watch them for a minute, it’s not as convenient as being able to say, “hon, I’m, gonna run to get some milk.” Easy to take for granted too.

The older they get, at least with my son, the less they enjoy ‘running errands.’ It becomes another exercise in patience and empathy on my part when all I really want to do is get stuff done and not have it be some huge exhausting life event.

Without a co-parent, you don’t have the built in support when things get difficult. Someone who is as invested in raising this little person will have a much different outlook than when you unload on your friends at the end of a particularly challenging day. You can’t ask a partner what they think or how they feel you could handle a particular hiccup with this child that they know equally well.

Then there is the play part of single parenting. Sounds like it should be fun and most of the time it is. However, especially if you only have one child, you are their playmate. I can’t tell him to go play with his siblings or his other parent, I’m it for choices. ALL THE TIME. I’ll tell you another secret. I loathe pretend play when I have to be involved. A lot of adults do and that could be a whole other story. If I want to foster it though, I must get in there. So I do.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. I’m not looking to be a complainer, merely to shed some light on the trials associated with parenting on your own. Feel free to share yours too. I’d love to hear from others who can relate.

On The Fringe

I found a Meetup group that was for vegetarian families and they were having an event soon. Since it seemed like it might be fun and I’m lacking in a sense of community, I put in a request to join. The short application asked questions about my son’s age, his diet and mine. As I always am, I was honest. I answered that I’m a vegetarian, my son is seven and he makes his choices about what to eat, although our home is predominantly vegetarian.

After what seemed like ages, I got a response. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I was declined, albeit politely.

Really?! Because I allow my son to make his own decisions about what he feels comfortable with, we were ostracized from a group of families that gets together at restaurants and goes camping periodically? It almost seemed comical to me.

I told my son about it and that I’d rather he has his freedom to choose, than be a part of a group that is obviously a bit uptight. Even when you’re one of the weirdos (a term we wear with pride,) sometimes you’re even too much for them.

So Many Pets!

Why in the world do we have so many pets? Anyone who’s been to our home or seen my Instagram knows we have a lot of pets. I suppose that wouldn’t be strange if we lived on a farm or something but we rent half of a two bedroom duplex in the middle of a city. So, why?

I did grow up on a farm and developed a love for animals, almost from birth. While my parents were raising animals for our dinner table, I was naming them and getting to know their unique personalities. So, I gave up eating them at age 14. I learned so much from them as a child; love, loss, birth, and life. It’s hard to imagine my life without pets now.

So, my son and I have 3 hens who live in our back yard, 3 cats, a gecko, a newt, a dwarf hamster, 4 goldfish and 2 plecostomus. We have to take all of their different needs into account when making a home for them. B is aware that they each have a unique biome and food requirements. He helps with feeding when he’s so inclined, but he’s not required. I want him to know the love aspect of caring for others, rather than the drudgery of unpleasant chores. The care is most genuine then.

There is so much to learn from having so many different kinds of pets but it’s not the main focus of why we choose the ones we do. We adopt pets when we do because we want to share our lives with them. Strange to some, I suppose. They give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning, although I’ve never been a morning person. When a bout of depression strikes, they give me a lifeline to hold onto. Before B came along, that was huge for me. I need to be needed in times like those. These little creatures depend on me and I won’t let them down.

B has loved and lost pets several times in his short life and he remembers each one. He has learned to guard his sensitive heart ever so slightly but he still loves deeply and talks about how sad it will be when it’s their time. I believe that having learned young the fragility of life, helps one better enjoy and appreciate the time we do have.

While these pets are in our care, we take the best care of them that we know how. They are part of our family and B knows they have feelings and needs just like we do. We take them in for life when we adopt, no matter how difficult that may prove at times. We learn about them, from them and also about ourselves as people. I’m more inclined to wonder why people don’t have pets.