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Today, as we were leaving the house to go into town, Reuben asked to carry his belongings himself in a small backpack. This is just one small request but the last of a long list of things the boys have done on their own when they were ready, with my full support.
There are many things that have been happening lately, seemingly by magic, like starting to read and write, sharing toys (and especially the one remaining iPad after we took the other one to be repaired), walking long(ish) distances, being kind to people, apologising, helping, and many many more. When the boys were born I soon realised that motherhood, as well as much else, can easily be driven by fear. What if they never learn stuff? What if I’m ruining their life by not potty training them/putting them to bed at a certain time/punishing “bad” behaviour, and if fear drives us then we end up slaves to control. If I control our environment and the way they behave I might keep these fears at bay. Fear means I can’t trust myself or others, so who knows if I should pick up a crying child? Can I trust myself or the child? Maybe an expert can tell me…
I was not prepared to go down this road, it seemed like madness to me. So I decided that I would not be controlled by fear and I did not want to control the children either. I felt that the distressed caused by being “trained” or taught “life lessons”(as if life didn’t throw us so many anyway) was not worth the dubious benefits of being coerced into sharing a toy or being out of nappies at age 2. I wanted to value the relationship and closeness I had with the boys, I wanted to offer them the freedom to choose, and if they chose to wear nappies till adulthood so be it!
So no coercion or training took place. The boys were accepted for who they were and their choices respected. And they did come out of nappies, share their toys, say please and thank you, and now Reuben is beginning to read and write. I am not saying that they conformed to my idea of what a child should be like, and I wouldn’t want them to, in fact they can also be very loud, quarrelsome and plain speaking! I could not be worried about producing a “normal” child, as I did not wish to push square pegs into round holes when I was not sure the round shape was the right one anyway. I would rather have an “odd” child who is happy in his own skin rather than a superficially normal child who carries many anxieties and fears. And I might well have lost any concept of what normal is in our society. I find the boys confident, inquisitive, creative, and happy little people. Obedience and passivity are not important to me. They are able to pick up skills and concepts when they need to so I’m not worried about their educational experience compared to school-going children. Who knows what sort of person they will turn into but I don’t think life is practising for who we might be, I think that our life is right now, we are not practising, we ARE! How much love and connection would have been lost if I had decided to train them or teach them against their will?
I do occasionally worry, that they might be unhappy or that I should provide more opportunities or more freedom or more attention. But it is good to remind myself that the aim is to live fully, live joyfully (a nod to Pam Laricchia), enjoy the learning and living journey as the destination is still not known.