Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On the seemingly impossible task of gently raising tough kids

     When my teenagers were little, I surrounded myself with like minded moms. Moms who co-slept, who baby carried, who fed on demand and let children self wean. We didn't spank or shame or isolate our children. Many would go on to homeschool. We were going to build more peaceful homes, and a more peaceful world.

     Ideals are a great thing, until reality sets in. I do not, for a second, regret any of the above parenting choices.But guess what? My kids still fought, and the world is still not gentle and kind. I still wanted to raise my kids peacefully and send them out into the world able to make it better, while recognizing the world I would send them out into might not return the favour. I did not want them to be hard, but I wanted their protective outer shell to be.

   This was anathema to the proper attachment mom. My kids were preschoolers when I started noticing that most of the kids around me were "very sensitive", and this only increased when we started joining homeschooling groups. I know some people *are* just born more sensitive, but it almost seemed like a point of pride with some of these moms that little Starshine was so sensitive that "Wallace and Grommit" gave her nightmares, or that Moonbean couldn't stand to have his hair washed and could only wear sweatpants and rainboots. It seemed like these other moms were purposely creating kids who would fall apart the first time the world was cruel to them, and I didn't want to do the same.
     Without compromising my base principles, I started raising them for the world they would inherit, rather than the one I wanted them to.

     Because I knew the world *would* judge them based on what they could produce, I didn;t settle for anything less than 'A' work in their schoolwork. Many assignments went back 2-3 times for improvement.
     Because the world would value their independence, they had to start riding public transit-alone- at about 12.
     Because "letting them be kids" sounds nice but I didn't know how to do laundry when I left the house at 18, my kids started chores as soon as they could walk. By the age of 5, they all helped with dinner, did their turn handwashing dishes, and did their own laundry from start to finish.
     Because someone out there might try to hurt them physically, I stopped getting in the way of their fights. We bought practice swords and took them to ken do. I'm a pacifist, but my kids can defend themselves.
     Because I knew the world might not be kind and kids verbally abuse each other to the extreme,we raised them with a healthy dose of sarcasm that allows them to laugh at insults.

     I wanted to raise kind, compassionate kids, who would in at least small ways, work to make the world better. And they are those people. They give blood, go on mission trips, volunteer with the homeless shelter and with Northwest Harvest. But they're tough, because the world isn't padded with cotton fluff and wallpapered in trigger warnings.


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