14 April 2009

What is Really Important?

My youngest daughter (Catherine) has been funny lately. It's like she suddenly realized how the world works and knows we tend not to live the "normal" way.

Last fall I taught a class at our homeschool co-op on painters and styles. One of the subjects was Jackson Pollock. I took the classes into the parking lot of the church where we meet and got them large pieces of paper and buckets of different colored paints and sticks and brushes and they went to town, a la Jackson Pollock. It was so much fun. I made a few paintings myself. It was such a free way of doing art. One didn't have to think about an end result, the art was in the doing.

Recently Catherine asked me if she could "Jackson Pollock" one of the walls in her room. I told her she'd need to clean it out a bit, so we could move all the furniture so she could have access to the one wall, and how we'd have to get some drop cloths to cover everything so she could splatter away. She laughed at my answer. She knows that not one of her friends would ever be allowed to do that in their rooms. She marveled that I didn't even bat an eye or give it a second thought. And why should I? It's her room. She wants to do art in her room. How cool is that? Currently she paints and draws on her walls, mostly by her bed. She has been using black, which I know will be a bit tough to cover, but when you walk into her room, you can see her personality all over the walls. I love that she knows she has the freedom to be herself in her room.

Another example: A few days ago Catherine was complaining about her hair. She wants to get it cut. We have been bartering haircuts with our neighbor whose dog we care for when she flies (she's a flight attendant). I haven't been able to set up an appt. for Catherine's hair, so she was complaining about it. And so she asked me if she could just cut it off. I told her she could, but she might not be happy with the results. She looked at me and laughed. She did not expect me to say she could cut her hair off. It's her hair and it's ONLY hair. Go ahead, cut it off. If it looks horrible, we'll just try to hurry that appt. along with the neighbor. She decided against cutting her own hair, but she genuinely appreciated that I didn't care if she did.

Why do some parents choose to control their children just for the sake of control? Who cares if kids paint their walls or cut their hair? I watch families a lot when I am out. I am always amazed at the battles I see going on between kids and parents. And so much of it is over the most trivial things. What shoes to buy, what jeans to wear, etc. I think it's just common sense to give kids respect, to listen to their opinions and feelings. I certainly wasn't raised that way myself, my parents would have killed me if I had drawn on my walls or cut my hair. I see a lot of sad kids in my day to day travels. Teens/tweens who are just beginning to have a sense of who they are away from their parents and yet they have no ability to control anything in their lives. They aren't allowed to voice an opinion or able to make the smallest or even the biggest of decisions. My eldest daughter has made the decision to go to high school next year. Some fellow homeschoolers are frowning on me for "allowing" her to make that decision. I'm not the one going to school, who else should be allowed to make that decision. She will be 14 1/2 when she enters high school. Isn't that old enough to decide for oneself?

What is the magic age of allowing children some autonomy over their lives? How about from birth? Listening to a babies cries and responding accordingly is letting them make decisions. I was never that parent that let a baby cry. They cried for a reason and I listened. As toddlers they got to to pick their own clothes and choose what foods to eat. As my kids got older they got to decide (age appropriately) what they needed. We did the family bed with our girls. At 5 years of age, Carley decided she wanted her own room. At 8 Catherine still shared a room with us (she had her own bed by then). People found it odd that I shared a room with my 8 year old. I wasn't about to force her to leave, she had the right to choose what she was comfortable with. At 10 she moved into her own room and loves it. I've never had night issues with my kids, nor sleep issues, because I've allowed them to make choices for themselves.

Too many people have stuck in their minds the way they thing things "should" be. Who said things need to be a certain way? I say make up your own rules. Live a life of joy and love instead of rules and boundaries. Be free.

I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.
~Simone de Beauvoir~


MamaLou said...

I hope to be the parent that says, "Sure paint on your wall" but I still battle the traditional voices in my head. I hope that I have developed (evolved?) enough to hear myself and let them be.....I want my kids to be like Jack Black (I know I know weird guy, but I loved School of Rock!), wild and crazy, fun and enthusiastic, creative and curious......and good decision makers....I think reading this post will keep at the forefront of my mind "why not!" instead of "no!" Thank you!

Parsley said...

How refreshing. Individual thought. Thanks for making me smile.

unschoolermom said...

I love this post! Thank you! I wish more people were like this. It is so important to allow kids to have choices. I'm glad I'm not the only one who allows drawing and painting on the walls. We even have a couple of small areas in our living room that have "sticker art." LOL. And each time Taliesin or Nathanael make art, it gets hung on one of our walls (their choosing where) either in the living room, the kitchen, the family room, one of the bedrooms, or even the bathroom. I love reading things like this! Thank you!


Stephanie said...

I love you!
Sorry I'm learning how to feel my emotions :)
Seriously, this post rocks!
Choice, freedom, respect right from birth!
My Cassie has decorated her walls also. I actually blogged about the neighbor girl telling Cassie that God doesn't like it if you write on the walls, love that lie, eh?

Donna said...

OMG, her mom told her that God doesn't like it if you write on the walls? This is why children grow up and stop going to church!!!! God probably loves it when we let children write on walls! You should tell that girl that God doesn't like it when parents lie about HIM to their children!

JoJoBeans said...

You rock, Donna! Great post!

Stephanie said...

Here I thought it was someone new,so I went to the profile and it's Lesa.
Hey JoJo :)
Oh and you do ROCK Donna !!!!

Donna said...

Aww, ladies, you are making me blush ; )

Anonymous said...

Hey Donna....good post! I've been reading around,I like your stuff! You're also a very good writer. Keep it up!

Donna said...

Thanks Gary. I trolled around your blog too, who knew you were so into wine and cheese : )

Stephanie said...

Hey wine and cheese I need to go check out Gary :)