I want to write about yesterday and I don’t. I’ve started and stopped a bunch of sentences. It was a pleasant, mellow day. But for some reason I’m having trouble writing more than that.
I tried so hard to not make the Stanford appointment about me. But they ask so many questions about family history it wouldn’t have been possible to avoid talking about my background entirely. Basically, “When I was 17 I decided I was going to have kids and I was going to homeschool them. I had horrible experiences in almost all of the 25 schools I attended before I dropped out at 16 and I was going to make sure my kids have different lives. So I spent ten years preparing and I worked at all levels of education so I could learn from the inside how I should act over the years with my children.”
This is what I wanted to do with my life. So at 35 I’m stable and have been for ten years. My life varies a lot, but it varies in developmentally appropriate ways for my kids. It’s not that I am a perfect parent (there is no such thing) but I adapt to the needs of my children as my job. So I’m doing really well for someone like me. I attribute a huge chunk of this to Noah’s money making abilities. It’s real easy to feel safe and to make a safe home when you have buckets of cash coming in.
Only it isn’t easy for everyone even under those circumstances. I’ve worked really hard for this. I’m a hard core behaviorist and I believe the most important person I have to work to change is myself. As a parent and a teacher you have power to shape the children/students under you influence but you don’t have ultimate control over them. The only person you have control over is yourself.
They believe that if my Eldest Child had different parents or if she were forced to go to school… she would have behavior and emotional problems. I agree. There’s nothing like explaining for an hour just how fucking hard your kid is to show you that… someone else would have had a harder time.
I came into this expecting difficult, emotionally disturbed children because I understand that trauma is passed down in DNA. I understand that my children are going to be sensory seeking, high energy, highly emotional little beings who need to be taught how to manage themselves.
I have cleaned up so many huge messes. I have been so damn patient with establishing routines within the chaos. We have highly changeable lives so there is a lot of chaos… but there’s a surprising amount of order too. We don’t have a life that would work for other people, but we are very happy. Someday, as my children’s needs change… our life will change. But for now we are doing very well.
Yes, I understand that I need to be more consistent this year that Eldest Child is doing serious academic time every week day. Do you realize I’m only going to insist on an hour a day with half an hour for each subject? That’s all I think she needs right now and how much you wanna bet she will be caught up by the end of the school year?
So far this year I’ve been kinda wishy washy. It’s October. It’s time to get serious about that hour. I’ve been enforcing it 3-4 days a week for a few months. It’s time to settle into an hour a day as just a matter of course. That’s totally easy to do. My kid rolls out of bed and into her chores because she understands that means she has more influence on what she does for the rest of the day and she likes that control.
I enforce it with a smile (most of the time), but we start the day with chores. We are workers, not shirkers. That was one of the phrases the doctors were struck by. They wrote it down to use as a reference later. I’m feeling kinda cocky about that.
Life is full of work. If you want a happy, productive life you must be a worker. Shirkers are people who refuse to do their fair share and they make life harder for everyone around them. Being a worker/shirker isn’t about money at all because I don’t earn money. Clearly I do work.
I’ve just gotta say, I feel grateful that I know so many hard-working-women so that my kids don’t expect that all mothers have to be stay-at-home. Every family has to do what is right for them and that is decided among a lot of different factors. There are benefits and drawbacks to every option in life and what you pick needs to be based on what you as an individual need and want and have to offer.
There is no “right way” to be.
Some people need to send their kids to school so that the kids can be around trained professionals all day who can provide more consistency and stimulation than they can provide. Some people need to keep their kids home so that the kids can have more stimulation. Every family is coming from a different place.
I wish that these choices didn’t so often rest on privilege, but they do. Homeschooling isn’t cheap. There are people who do excellent jobs with far less money than I have at my disposal. I have watched some of it. I’ve been very impressed. There are ways to solve most problems if you have either time or money to throw at the problem. I have both.
Life isn’t fair. I mean, I could try and say that I have such an awesome life because it is payback for my childhood. But what does that mean for the vast majority of kids like me who don’t end up here? It’s not that I worked harder. I had different opportunities and help.
Life isn’t fair.
Sometimes folks express that they find it annoying that my children “remind” adults about what the rules are. This bothers people. I love it. I will be more consistent as the years go by because I am listened to all the time and people around me feel free to remind me of what I said I’d be living up to. I have created a system where growth is mandatory. There are too many external motivations. I believe seriously in working to extinguish behaviors. I have done so with many of my behaviors.
Goodness gracious I don’t even swear like I used to.
I still do in writing. Cause I can.
I’ve worked on lots of things. I had to. I could see the reflection of my behavior in my children and I knew that trying to alter their behavior had to start in modeling. Do you know how much pressure that is? Everything I want to teach… I have to model.
I’ve had people seriously ask me why I think my kids will be readers if I don’t enforce reading. I laughed and said my children will read out of self defense. And it turns out it is working. What I mean by self defense is: my children have a lot of time to fill. They live with someone who says consistently “Only boring people get bored. I can find work for you.” They don’t get bored. They are masters of directing their own time and attention. It’s what they do. They can’t watch a screen unless everything is cleaned up (which has a twofold benefit: they clean up after themselves and they are eager to go through their stuff and do frequent purges to keep the time they spend cleaning small) and they aren’t up for doing that every day.
I am not an entertainment device. If you need to direct your attention, look around you. I have seeded this house with things to do. Get busy.
A lot of what I have seeded this house with are books. Books on topic after topic after topic. Books both well chosen and random because who the hell knows what you will want to look at next.
My children will read. Even pre-reading they spend hours a day with books. I’m not too concerned. If there is a difficulty, we’ll figure out how to fix it. Because that’s just what we do.
Do you realize we pre-seed our kids with the idea that they will need to find and use a therapist at some point in their lives for some reason? We talk about occupational, physical and emotional therapies. “Something will come up. It does for basically everyone at some point. When you run into something you can’t fix for yourself… there are people who work in trying to help fix that. We’ll find the help you need.”
A successful/interesting life is usually the work of building habits. Your habits are what carry you through when you aren’t really thinking about other things. Many people who know me for extensive periods of time have no idea about my mood fluctuations. They think that they know that I’m a little moody. Then at some point they will read something I’ve written and kind of freak out. That’s happened a bunch. My mood fluctuations are extreme.
I have made a very conscious habit of being cheerful. I default to smiling (and I practiced in front of a mirror till my auto-smile affected my eye muscles so that it “appears real”) and being chatty and talkative even when I feel like shit and I’d like to be hiding behind my bed crying. There are times when my facade is thinner than usual… I know I can be brittle and sharp sometimes. But I have the habit of cheerfulness.
It is something I require of myself because there is no other facade I can maintain so blindly, without consideration of who I’m interacting with. Everything else I manifest is more complicated and requires more calibration for audience…
But I’m cheerful backed up with the strength of personality of a speeding train. Partially because I’m forcing that fucking cheerfulness over a mountain of fuss. It takes a lot of force.
So sometimes I jump the track and get kinda sideways. It happens.
Do you know why living in a torn apart house is a forking nightmare? Because I can’t have a “yes” house this way. My children have to ask before touching all kinds of things and they have to ask for help finding things and… I’m going insane.
Usually I have my house set up such that I can take them on a tour and then… they don’t need my assistance much at all any more. They know the conditions of using different items: must be on the table, must have all other games put away before you take it out, only an outside toy, etc
We periodically go to a craft store and the kids walk through the store with a budget and spend every penny on art supplies. We always have stuff to do. An endless variety of stuff. And when my house isn’t torn apart… it’s all neatly organized in a way that is easily accessible to them.
I’ve gone through a number of attempts at organizing before I’ve gotten to the point where I can manage my kids specific attention needs. It’s been a lot of work. I’ve figured out what they use with what. I’ve put things in places where they are easy to clean up. This has been my job. I worked retail and I grew up with a mother who worked retail. I’ve been having conversations about why things are organized the way they are since I was a little kid. Anything can be systematized. And no one can pack a moving truck more tightly than my mother. But I’m good.
It’s a spatial/visual awareness thing.
Noah and the kids are not… as able to organize for themselves. I have high hopes for Youngest Child. They have some natural talent in this direction and I think it is fabulous. But the kid is still in the stage where these kinds of potential talents must be nurtured with the softest of blowing and modeling and talking through why you do things… and no pressure for the kid to just get it right.
My kids won’t have god complexes.
They are going to be fucked up somehow. That’s inevitable. Just… not like me. Cause that’s kinda the best any of us can do.
I hate that I am happy about the validation from Stanford. I feel like an asshole for caring. I should be validated by the happiness of my children. They aren’t anxious. They are weird as fuck because they haven’t been shamed out of a variety of odd behaviors. I’m not going to say what any of them are because… that feels like crossing a line. But they do some odd shit and they’d take flack for it at school.
They fill their time in ways that don’t hurt nobody. I’m fine with them being weird about it.
I’m not sitting in a position where I ought to be judging someone else for being odd. Know what I mean?
I spend a lot of time sitting in my back yard on the swing. I have surrounded myself with green. It has taken years to build this in my little suburban box backyard. This little pretense of nature in a well manicured suburb. It’s time to trim the trees. Sigh. One. More. Thing. But it is so much fun. I’ve been sneaking back yard work in lately. It makes me happy. I have so many plans for this place. And most of them can happen slowly over many years. I don’t seem to be going anywhere.