Coffee and Conversation: Is Teenage Rebellion a Given?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while. It’s time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own..

“All teenagers rebel, at least a little.” – This was written by a family member of mine, when my oldest child was eight years old, as though it was a fact everyone knew, to be accepted without question.

But is it a fact?

My oldest will be thirteen tomorrow. Is it a foregone conclusion that he’s going to rebel, now that his adolescence is at hand? Will he morph into someone with an entirely different personality than he’s had up till now?

I don’t think so. Why not? Well, let’s take a look at the word ‘rebellion’, as defined by Google.

re·bel·lion

riˈbelyən

noun

  • an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler.

“the authorities put down a rebellion by landless colonials”

synonyms: uprising, revolt, insurrection, mutiny, revolution, insurgence, insurgency; More

  • the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.

“an act of teenage rebellion”

synonyms: defiance, disobedience, rebelliousness, insubordination, subversion, subversiveness, resistance

“an act of rebellion”

Do you notice something, there?

In order for the action of rebellion to occur, there has to be an opposing force to act against. In this definition, ‘established government’, ‘ruler’, ‘authority’, ‘control’, or ‘convention’ are the opposing forces.

Eight year old future rebel?

Those things aren’t part of our family dynamic.

My Accomplice in Mischief and I aren’t fond of using our parental authority as a tool or a weapon – we reserve it to use when we truly need it, and, the rest of the time, we live in our home as four equals. When disagreements crop up, adult views don’t supersede younger ones. That’s our convention; and there’s nothing to rebel against in a convention that guarantees him equal footing and due consideration.

As he enters his teenage years, Jeremiah is in control of his own life. He knows that:

  • His parents are on his side, willing to do what we can to help him to fulfill his wishes and his purposes.
  • He can make mistakes without fear of being punished. As he’s growing up, the slings and arrows of life will inflict enough damage, without us adding to it.
  • He can talk with us, ask us questions, state his wishes, and have them respected. That’s why he doesn’t appear as often as his sister on this blog- he’s a more private individual, and part of respecting that is honoring his desire to keep most aspects of his life personal, rather than having me expose them to anyone who comes here to read.

  • When he wants new freedoms, he can ask us. His requests are considered, and usually granted, because he tends toward being very aware of his own limits, and seldom asks for freedoms he doesn’t feel ready for.
  • We don’t say no, without offering something he can hang onto or work toward. When we don’t allow something, which isn’t commonplace, we are prepared to explain why, discuss options, or what might need to change first.

With these as the conditions of his life, rebellion would be a waste of energy!

Planning a subversive campaign, or hanging with friends at the lake? You decide!

I think teenage rebellion is something of a boogeyman, and often has more to do with parental attitudes than with the behavior of adolescents biologically geared toward gaining independence and adult status. As in many other aspects of life, point-of-view and purpose can define an interaction. If life is black-and-white, with the demand of adherence to parental rule, any deviation from that is an uprising that must be suppressed (but is likely to surge up again, in some other conflict). Eventually, suppression will fail, because teenagers do become adults, beyond their parents’ ability to legally control.

Our purpose is different. We accept that our children will be adults, and we don’t think that rules and punishments are the most effective way to help them get to that point well-equipped to function in the adult world. We’d rather give them as high a degree of autonomy as possible, so that they can learn, piece by piece, choice by choice, interaction by interaction, how to manage the matter of living.

What some might term rebellion, because they are focused on controlling their older children, I see as an opportunity to help my kids build conflict resolution skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Conflicts can be resolved without an escalation of tensions only so long as everyone involved is willing to listen to the others, and to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution. I can’t expect my children to develop that ability if I’m not practicing it myself; so it falls to me to be willing to hear my children’s perspectives and be open to them.

Deep thoughts of rebellion at the Albany Art Institute? Well, maybe not…

When life is engaging, and teens aren’t being forced to simply carry out parental choices with little regard for their own, there’s no need to rebel, and nothing to rebel against. There’s simply life – with all its successes and failures, contentions and resolutions, growth and learning, grace and missteps.

And isn’t that enough for anyone?

What do you think? Are teens fated to rebel, even in a family whose objective is to support them as they pursue their goals? Is my family headed for even more lovely chaos, or utter disaster? There’ll be birthday cake here, later, and a variety of beverages. Won’t you stop be and enliven the conversation?

On a final note, this post is Jeremiah-approved. =)

Twelfth birthday. Is this the face of potential teenage rebellion?

Coffee and Conversation: Projects, or People?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday Tuesday again  (Okay, I’m a day late!)- time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own...

What happened when I stopped treating my children as projects to be completed, but instead as whole people, already?

Too often, in modern American culture, children are seen as projects. Maybe it comes from an illusion, carried over from times past, that babies are blank slates, empty vessels waiting to be filled with what their parents and their society deem important. It’s true that babies aren’t able to do many things – but they aren’t empty. If I look at my children today, at nearly 10 and approaching 13, I can see in them the seeds of who they were as babies.

Jeremiah on his twelfth birthday. We were on our way to lunch.

Maybe it’s because very small children need a lot of care. They need to be changed, fed, carried, cuddled, comforted, helped to know what is safe and how the world works. There are many book, magazines, programs, classes, and products designed to meet these needs…and the insecurities and fears of new parents, maybe far from their own families. Much money is made by preying on parents’ desires to not only do well by their kids, but to give them the advantages that will lead to a “successful life”.

I used to indulge in more of these than I’m comfortable admitting. I bought into the idea that I “owed” my kids all I could afford, and then some.

But over time, I started to notice something. So much of the literature and programming was designed less to help children, and more as a means of manipulating them, steering and pruning them, making them more convenient to live with, and steering them in the directions we want them to go…often, directions that will give their parents something to brag about.

At Lake George, NY, being Just US. Three people. Photo by Jim Burton.

When my children were 7 and 4, my growing unease with this led our family to make a huge shift. We were already homeschooling our oldest, and the lessons I was conducting at the kitchen table were not going as well as I wanted. My son’s spark of curiosity was fading, and household battles were far more common than I wanted.

My kids were my projects, and I was screwing them up.

And so, we stopped.

I gave up the idea that they were projects, and began to learn to see them as….well, as people. Just that. Small, new people with lots to learn – but with the skills and desire to learn it.

It’s been remarkable.

Every day, one or both of my children will do something unexpected, or learn something I never would have thought to teach them. Every day, they become more who they are. And, because my role is as facilitator rather than project manager, I get to see something I might not have, if I were still managing them as projects.

I get to see that they know how to learn, that they’re hard-wired for it. They’re naturals at growing up – they just need support along the way. All that effort and angst and never knowing if I was getting it right, when they were little, was time and energy I could have spent on simply loving and supporting and enjoying them…

Because they are remarkable people. They always have been. There’s no one just like either of them. Each of them is unique, individual. Each of them is learning to become an adult – one moment, one breath, one action at a time.

And, now that I’ve let go of the idea that I need to direct this, I get to do something I like a lot better. I get to just be myself, and enjoy. =)

Girls Night Out, to see Phantom of the Opera with a sweetly silly person.

Have you noticed the “projectifying” of children? Have you seen the people within? Pull up a chair, enjoy your cuppa, and let’s converse!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “With/Without Kids”

When they’re here….they’re HERE! =D

 

This post is a part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday meme.  Click the title  for the rules, and to read other posts! =)

The point is as simple as it sounds. Using the weekly prompt, I write a stream of consciousness piece, correcting typos but not otherwise editing.

So, raw and immediate, here is my post!

Today’s prompt is With/Without.

I’m sitting in my study, in a house without children. That’s not a common state, for me – partly because my kids have lived their lives without school, and with me.

We orbit one another, much of the time, intersecting, then moving away into our own lives again…it’s very different from the life I lived, growing up, and yet, in other ways, not.

They do not live with parental abuses, shaming, punishing, arbitrary rules arranged to make their parents’ lives more convenient.

They live without chores, homework, fierce competition for their parents’ love.

They live without a brother who died while one was a toddler, and before the other was born…

And they live with each other, and with us, their parents.

I am their mom.

I am also their friend.

So often, in parenting circles, this is set up with a false dichotomy….you can be your child’s parent, or their friend, but not both….

But I can’t be one without being the other.

I am their mother- by biology, by law, by choice. That title comes with responsibilities, and authority. At almost 10 and 13, they aren’t little kids anymore; there’s no need for me to be forever perched or hovering over their shoulders. That would only get in their way – and, if I’ve been a good friend to them, they won’t need me to.

Why?

Because good friends look out for you. They don’t let you get yourself into trouble without trying to keep you out of it. They forgive you when you make mistake, and offer you support when you need it. They don’t act superior, or lord the fact that they sometimes have greater skill and experience.

That’s the kind of mom-friend I strive to be.

The kids are home, now, and the flavor of life is different, now that they’re home. Time to go enjoy that – they aren’t going to be these ages, forever!

Coffee and Conversation: Who Mowed the Lawn, and Why?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again - time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

I know, it’s a day late for a Coffee and Conversation post. I’ve been rather lost in my Story A Day May Challenge, and I just didn’t get to this yesterday. So here it is, belated, but heartfelt…

On Sunday, my 12 year old son mowed the yard.

My guess is that he was far from the only boy in America that could be said of, on any given spring weekend when the weather is cooperative. It seems to be a traditional chore given to boys large enough to handle some adult jobs, but who haven’t yet reached their full strength, growth, or perhaps ability to resist…

Because, on a fine spring weekend at the end of a long winter, and approaching the end of a long school year, it’s conceivable that a boy might begrudge that time spent on lawn work; that he might have some other idea of how to spend those few precious hours of freedom…

But, because kids must learn responsibility, and chores are a means to that end that also shifts some of the burden of yard maintenance from adult shoulders, the boys (and, I imagine, in our current climate, some girls as well) are sent out to mow.

But that’s not how things are, at our house, and not at all why Jeremiah was mowing the yard this weekend.

As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t assign chores in our home. Both my husband and I grew up with gender-specific chores, and neither of us felt that these helped us to learn responsibility as much as they built resentments at the unwanted workload, the time away from the things that fired our passions and spoke deeply to us…

Chores stole from my life, far more than they added to it. That isn’t to say that I begrudged my family my help – only to say what I suspect is true of most people, whether children or adults.

I wanted to choose the ways in which I helped, to give my help freely, and to have it appreciated without being judged.

There were things I did happily, without being asked. Yard work was one. None of my three siblings seemed to enjoy it as I did, and so, more often than not, I would do it alone. In the house I grew up in, alone was a rare and treasured state. Alone meant that the stories playing out in my head, the deep thoughts waiting to be explored, at last had a little space, a time to unfurl without interruption. The repetitive motions of raking or weeding provided a rhythm, and there was pleasure in both the physical exertion and the creative introspection.

Chores, though, were assigned labor. In our family, there was no thought given to whether the chore suited my nature and talents; I was expected to do as I was told. And, to me, that seems unfair to a child. Children are already smaller, more dependent, less powerful, and too often disenfranchised.

And so our children help when and as they choose.

And, on Sunday, after both my husband and I had mowed portions of our steeply sloping yard, and after hinting a time or two that he might, Jeremiah asked if I minded if he did some mowing.

He mowed for hours. When the mower clogged, he turned it off and cleared the blockage – safely. When he ran out of gas, he told me, and I showed him how to refill it. When he got tired, he took a break.

After, as I looked out upon a sweeping expanse of freshly mowed and fragrant grass, I asked him what he’d been thinking while he mowed. He said he’d been thinking of stories he’s read, and ones he’s been attempting to write for the last few months.

He enjoyed the mowing so much, he said he needed to find a way to pay people to let him mow their yards. When I told him people might willingly pay him to mow for them, his grin took over his face (he likes earning money!).

Today, he went to work at his grandparents’ house, and learned how to drive a lawn tractor.

Will he mow again, with the same enthusiasm? Maybe – or maybe not.

But I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have quite the same joy in it, if we assigned it as his chore.

I like it this way. The lawn looks lovely, and, rather than a grumbling child who feels his life is being measured out for him, there’s a boy here who’s gained some confidence in his own strength and abilities, and had all the time he wanted to think big thoughts while the rest of the world was shut out by the sound of the motor. He’s accomplished something useful and easily quantified, and fulfilled deeply personal creative impulses. He’s helped his family, and himself, just because he wanted to.

And I’m not the only one smiling about that!

How about you? Did you have chores? Assign them? What did you love, or hate, to do as a child? Is there some “chore” you still love today? Have a cuppa, and tell me all about it!

Last year’s lawn…shadow-dappled, A perfect canvas for dreaming.


Coffee and Conversation: Post Mother’s Day Post

It’s Monday again - time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

Mother’s Day is over, and I can relax again.

It’s not that I want to forget the day exists, or criticize those to whom it’s a much-anticipated celebration of the trials and tribulations of motherhood.

It’s just that I have a different perspective, and the rampant glorification of motherhood as a state of being.

It’s not that simple a picture.

Some women would desperately love to have children, and aren’t able to.

Some women, like me, are the parents of children who died.

Some women choose not to become mothers, and they are no less women, no less valuable, because of it.

Some of us were raised in “good homes” where there is enough food, decent shelter, clean clothes, toys- and an element of abuse and volatility that made it impossible to feel safe or trust our mothers fully.

Mother’s Day is a pat celebration, and it makes certain assumptions that aren’t true for all mothers, or all children.

Being a mother does not confer or assure that a woman is what her child needs her to be. Every day, there are women who mistreat, neglect, or abandon their children. There are mothers who are still, due to the abuses they suffered, children themselves, without the resources they need to provide a safe, loving, nurturing environment where their needs are met – not just the physical, but the ones higher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What makes a good mother? Who decides?

I believe, in the end, it is the child.

I don’t want to be feted on the second Sunday of May – I’m not into productions or fuss. I don’t need fancy food, or fancy flowers, or fancy gifts.

Personally, I have something different in mind.

I want everyday to be a day that builds my connection with my children. I want every day to be one where I tried harder, in concrete ways, to be a mom who supports them as they reach for higher planes on that pyramid. I want them to be well equipped for a happy, healthy life…for themselves, the people around them, and maybe especially for their potential partners or children.

I want our relationship to come without a yearly does of guilt if they don’t show the proper adulation…

I want Mother’s Days that embrace the fact that, for me, as an estranged daughter, and as the mother of a child who died in infancy, this day is tinged with loss and sorrow. It can’t ever be magazine-perfect, and that seems too high or far, and too artificial, a goal to reach for.

This year?

Annalise brought me a bouquet of dandelions she picked from the lawn. She decorated them with items from the craft bins. There was a her flower and a me flower, with ribbon arms and skirts. She gave them to me three days before Mother’s Day…on Sunday, they were going to seed. Today, we admired them one last time, and she got rid of them in the yard, where they can become parents.

Jim made me French toast before he left for work. He’s a chef; we’ve had only one Mother’s Day with him home in the 12 years we’ve been parents. I wasn’t hungry yet, so it waited in the fridge till I was ready.

He and Jeremiah cooked up a surprise. Jim left his cell phone, money, and the menu for our favorite Chinese restaurant. Miah was going to call in an order and pay for it…only, Miah is currently in his nocturnal week, and he fell asleep in the early afternoon, and didn’t wake until 10pm – as Jim was getting home, and the restaurant in question was closing.

It was a sweet gesture, even if it didn’t go the way they planned.

It was loving, and the mistake adds charm. It’s Lovely Chaos in action ( like the fact that I forgot to charge the camera battery, so no pictures from the day).

So now, post Mother’s Day, I want to wish one and all a happy everyday!

What I love about being their mom, everyday!

Blogging from A-Z: R is for Robert (Kifo Island Chronicles)

Ready to learn more? Click the “R”!

Robert sat on the back porch, kicking at the step.

Thump. Thump. Thumpthump.

“Robert, stop that. Your brother is napping!”

Mom’s voice through the open window was too loud, too high, and too sharp. Robert held his head; Mom got mad when he tried to plug his ears, ’cause that was ‘diss-specful.’ She didn’t want him to be loud. But she was even louder!

“It’s not fair!” he whisper-hissed, pretending he was a Cobra Bad Guy. He liked to be a bad guy. Mom and Dad were always telling him to be a good boy, but being a good boy meant doing what they said, when they said, the way they said.

But Robert usually couldn’t do everything that would make him a Good Boy. He couldn’t always remember that he had a brother, when Joey was sleeping. He didn’t know when he was too loud, or why Mom and Dad could talk about anything they wanted, but, when he did, he was “a pest”, and “went on and on, even when no one wants to listen.”

Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, used with permission of Jeremiah F. Burton

He didn’t always want to listen to them , either!

What made things OK for them, and not for him?

Because he was a kid!

“And it’s not fair!” The Cobra Bad Guy was mad now, and mad was bad, at least if he let the mad come out in a yell, or throwing, or hitting….

But the mad had to come out. Robert couldn’t hold it. It was bigger and stronger than he was.

He could run though. That’s what Dad had said. He could run around the yard, and up and down the quiet sandy road, until he was tired.

So he ran for a while – but running where he was told to did not make the Cobra Bad Guy happy. The Cobra Bad Guy was a bad guy, after all, and what made a bad guy a bad guy?

Doing what he wasn’t supposed to, that’s what.

But what bad thing would the Cobra Bad Guy do?

He could spy. Yes. Mom and Dad hated when he listened to their “grown-up”talks. Usually, what they said was boring and didn’t make any sense, but sometimes he listened, just because he wanted to get even and they didn’t like it any better than he liked being bossed around.

This time, though, they were talking about Uncadan, and now Robert had to listen, had to know, because Uncadan was his very best friend in all the world. And Uncadan was sick, and Mom and Dad never answered when he asked about him.

“I don’t know how we’re going to tell Robbie,” Mom said. She was crying, and Robert almost forgot that he was a Cobra Bad Guy, almost forgot how much he hated being called Robbie when his name was Robert. Robert Daniel Saylor- Daniel, like Uncadan was. He almost forgot, and went to hug Mom – but then she’d know he had been listening.

But then he remembered that Cobra Bad Guys didn’t hug crying people. They made people cry, because they were bad guys.

He stayed where he was.

Dad was hugging Mom when Robert peeked in at the window, keeping to the side and hoping they wouldn’t look. “I think we need to just tell him. He’s six, now – old enough to learn about these things. He’s going to grow up, and we can’t protect him from the hard things forever.”

Hard things? Robert’s finger found the loose paint at the edge of the window, and slipped underneath to peel it back. It jammed under his nail, and he almost yelled, but bit his finger instead.

When he looked again, Mom was staring at Dad, and her face was all red and messy from her crying. “But how are we supposed to do that? How are we supposed to tell a little boy that his favorite uncle – his only friend in the whole world – is dead?”

Dead? Uncadan? No!

Robert Daniel Saylor, who had been a Cobra Bad Guy, ran from the porch, ran to the ocean, ran to get away -

Want to learn more about the Kifo Island Chronicles?

Ready for more“R” posts? Read them  here!

0829a-atoz2b255b2014255d2b-2bbanner2b-2b910

 

Coffee and Conversation: The Nature of a Boy

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.


It’s Monday again – and, around here, that means it’s time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on an interstate highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living their lives, lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to see what those lives were, and to share my own…

Here, each Monday, I strive to reach that understanding through offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and share something of yours.

 

Have you ever looked at your child and seen past, present, and future, interwoven?

Jeremiah is twelve, today. “ It’s my birthday. In one more year, I’ll be a teenager, Mom.” Those are the first words he said to me, after midnight, when he hugged me. He’s a charmer. Always was.

He has also been focused, self-determining, innately aware of physics, generous, and intensely curious about how things work since he was a baby.

Baby boy with vacuum!

Today, nearly five years into our lives as an unschooling family, in a home where passions and nature are primary focuses, I support Jeremiah. I meet him where he is – and that takes a good deal of attention and intention on my part, since he is at an age where he can easily be simultaneously very grown, and very young, in the same breath. When his research, in a single day, might cover Bronycon, the legal driving age in our state, and anything in between.

For the seven years before that shift, I was, a mother who often said “No!”, slapped little hands, punished, or spoke unkindly to this small person who was so engaged in his own becoming.

I acted as though I who got to decide which parts of his nature were acceptable, and which not, and as though I could change the parts that didn’t suit me,or pick and choose the parts of his nature he would express, and when and how he would express them.

I mentioned up there that he was self-determining, right? My efforts to force Jeremiah never swayed him, even when he was a baby. He went for that yellow can of fish food hundreds (maybe thousands!) of times. He stood up 126 times in his crib after I laid him down (yes, I counted, and I was mad, and now I shake my head and wonder why I didn’t just pick him up instead, while he was still small enough to do that.

What is this charm you speak of?!

Parts of him grew into who he is today.

  • As a toddler, he stacked nineteen cans of cat food in a tower, intently focused.

  • At three, he strung “sticky tape” from point to point in the dining room, silent and fully engaged for nearly an hour, never tangling it.

  • At seven, he was fascinated with Crayon Physics.

  • At twelve, he is a fan of The Big Bang Theory, Schrodinger’s Cat, Nova, and string theory.

Another:

  • As a toddler, he was furious I would not let him play with tools and small fasteners.
  • As a preschooler, he did “exhiriments” at the kitchen table with coins, rocks, and water.
  • At six, he perfected bubble mix and lemonade.
  • At nine, he was building vending machines, time machines, and teleporters.
  • At ten, he began building with snap circuits.
  • At twelve, he is an accomplished Minecrafter, a seasoned researcher, and often organizes group experiments, “Can we move around in a circle fast enough to make a whirlpool?”

 

 

Sharing Elijah with Annalise.

And one more:

 

  • As a toddler, Jeremiah shared toys, cookies, snuggles, and laughter freely.
  • As a preschooler, he was quick to learn to share our time, energy, and affection with a baby sister.
  • Once he had an allowance, he often used it to benefit others, and loved to donate change.
  • Now, he often mentors others in technology, writes reviews, and shares his talents freely.

It’s taken twelve years for this collection of bits and pieces to coalesce to this point. In the coming years, it’s likely that these details will change, and change again, as he continues to grow and learn, deepening some passions, adapting others, leaving others behind.

 

 

Ingenuity and determination in a sword and buckler, self-made.

What will he be? Himself. Beyond that, I can’t say for sure, and I don’t think he can, either, at this point. He’s twelve, and there is still so much to learn in order to become a man – and long after.

 

What I can say is that who he is, and who he will be, are extensions of that baby who loved vacuums, who got right up and started interacting with the world, who has always wanted to make things, and understand things, and share things. Every time I honored those things in him, I fed his nature, and his becoming. And, every time I didn’t honor them, I placed an unneeded obstacle in the path of that nature, and hobbled his becoming.

 

 

Beautiful Sunshine Boy.

Today, as I celebrate this strong and capable boy, as he comes nearer to manhood, that’s what I want to remember – that,in honoring who he is and what he loves right now, I am helping him to embrace all the unique things that make him who he is, and who he will be…the man who grew from the baby I first met, twelve years ago today.

Have you ever had this feeling, with your child? Can you see the child you were in who you are today? I’ll sip and listen while you share!

 

 

Claw machine scientist, and those who will benefit from his research!