Saturday, October 11, 2008

I need to figure out how to use my new phone

I didn't take this picture with my new,fancy phone. I don't know how to use the many cool features yet. If I did I could have already posted about the tons of things we have been doing in between the practices and classes and meets and training and games. We seemed to be the only people at the zoo who took any notice of this event. And believe me, it was difficult to miss! Not because they were out in the open - they were in a corner and I actually had to crane around a fence to get this shot. But I have no idea how you could walk right by without investigating, as we did, the incredibly loud and rhythmic grunting of this male tortoise! My kids aren't ones to just walk on by! And boy did it make for a memorable moment! We laughed til we cried- and new knowledge - who knew they made noises like that?!

I haven't blogged in a while and while I was scrolling back through older posts trying to find some inspiration to write I started to feel like the majority of my posts are about BIG milestone moments and accomplishments in tangible and measurable terms. It was bothering me. Especially in light of a recent thread on Always Learning about unschooled kids and organized classes/activities/sports. My kids do A LOT of those! And it isn't the first time I have felt conflicted about it. My discomfort in the nature of these posts comes from the fact that I don't feel like those moments and achievements that dominate this space are an accurate reflection of the whole of our lives. I see this blog as a chronicle of the unschooling life our family leads. Seeing all of those "moments" I wonder, "do I put too much emphasis on 'accomplishments'"? But really, I don't think that I do.

My thoughts during the AL thread were like this: My kids participate in a lot of activities. They choose all of them. They are free to try new things and move on from old ones at any time. We know lots of schooled kids who only get to choose 1 "extracurricular" activity because their lives are so filled with school and schedules and homework. I have always thought we were lucky to have the space and time to choose to participate in many things -and there are so many things to choose from! The irony, of course, is that those activities all pile up create a packed schedule and suddenly our time is not free and open, but it is also not full of things that we don't want to be doing. The kids freely choose how they want to spend their time.

There is a Subway commercial on TV that makes me cry - and I don't mean in that Hallmark or Folgers at holiday time or cotton commercials when you're pregnant kind of way. This girl - maybe 10 or 11 years old is talking about how she never gets to choose anything in her life. She says she is told what to do, when and where to go, what to wear what to read, etc... and that is why she loves Subway - it is the one place in her life that she gets what SHE wants!!! How yucky and horrible is that?! When she describes her day to day life I always think she could just as easily be talking about someone who is in prison! And obviously the folks at the ad agency thought that this would resonate with kids!

So yesterday we had Asha's birthday party (I swear this as all related!) and we started out with the kids all decorating open faced sandwiches at the dining table. They had everything they needed at hand and all of the seats at the table were full, so my good friend, Sara, and I took our plates into the living room and sat on the couch to eat. Maya came into the living room and said, "Mom, I thought the rule was 'no eating where there is carpet!'" We live in a rental house with plush carpet in the living room. We also live in a tropical climate. In addition to stains and difficult to clean messes, food on the carpet leads to ants, which lead to roaches, which lead to the dreaded centipede (and these things - centipedes- are scary and I will take ants and roaches any day over centipedes, but if you get one the next is on the way)! These statements from the kids baffle me. Yes, we have asked the kids not to eat where there is carpet and discussed why and yes, we adults don't either. Is it a rule? I suppose it is the closest that we have, but we sometimes spread out sheets and eat while watching movies, or have drinks and applesauce and toast when someone is sick on the couch. I have tried so hard to create a life without arbitrary rules. My kids also know that they have the freedom to make choices that are right for them, and yet I still sometimes hear them tell people that "My Mom won't let me..." Huh? What does this mean?

Our schedule has been really packed lately. Each kid has at least a couple of scheduled activities they are involved in and my afternoons are spent shuttling them all to various venues. This will carry on until just before Thanksgiving. These past couple of weeks everyone has decided at one point or another to not go to practice or class. This is unusual, but a little down time felt right. They really do love the things they are doing. They are dedicated to their sports and endeavors in a way that I, frankly, find a bit puzzling, until I equate it with the way I feel about dancing. I understand passion.

Cyrus has always worked hard at baseball because it makes him really happy - it is his passion!. He has started jiu jitsu and is pushing himself really hard with conditioning and strength training as he works toward his goal of earning his yellow belt in record time - this is a new passion. He is really competitive and really goal oriented. He likes things that way.

Maya is pushing herself really hard in swimming with the goal of winning a ribbon in breaststroke at the championships in November. She is doing this for herself - it is what she wants. She trains in the pool just about every day of the week.

Asha just really enjoys going and being social. She is way less goal oriented than the other 2. She enjoys the physical mastery of her dances and aikido moves, but isn't coming from the same driven place that Cyrus and Maya seem to enjoy. Her passion is in the doing - it is a little easier for me to relate to.

In all of these things Billy and I support and cheer and drive and pay and encourage and celebrate with them, but they go for it because they love it. Billy "gets" this way more than I do. He was a driven athlete who pushed himself so hard that he had to have both of his shoulders reconstructed at 15. His parents said everyone assumed they were pushing him, but they thought it was pretty intense for a kid and even his coaches could not have made him do less.

I struggle to find a balance. I would like a less structured schedule. They love the structure. I would like to be more spontaneous. They love to know the plan. I wonder if all of this goal oriented activity is stifling their ability to find joy in the moment, but then I watch them play and I see that they are balanced. And I watch them train and compete and see that they know joy for joy's sake. Their drive isn't fueled by maniac stage parents or a need to be loved or feel successful in anyone's mind but their own.Their drive is fueled by passion.

Here is what the gist is for me. What draws me to read other folk' blogs is the chronicle of daily life. I like the mundane, the little moments that connect the big milestones. I am so busy with the mundane many days that I seem to only touch on the biggies here. I want to try to capture more of the little moments that we string together to create this BIG life. Geesh - now I feel like I could delete all of the previous long paragraphs, but it took writing them out to get me here. Maybe my new phone with the great camera and video features that I can supposedly upload right to this blog would help with that - if I could just figure out how to use it!ool