How to Parent a Budding Adult

Last Friday I posted something about my most recent frustration with my oldest.  Jake  skipped his mandatory advanced placement biology exam. When he got home, he met my wrath, which resulted in my giving him the silent treatment for the rest of the weekend.
But, as the eternal optimist, I do believe these moments allow relationships to become 10x stronger than they were before.
By Sunday, we finally sat down to talk, and the conversation was straightforward and simple.  We were both visibly upset—at ourselves and at each other. I lamented that I felt I had babied him his entire life, which resulted in his not being able to do for himself at anything – not even sitting for a damn exam.  He admitted he hated my pushing him constantly to do things he didn’t/doesn’t want to do.
I told him welcome to real life; we sometimes do things we don’t want to, because it helps us later. Overcoming difficult – or challenging experiences is the fuel for more trying times, and the strength to persevere.   And the trying times are always going to be there.
But that’s the boring stuff.
What came next was the icing on the cake—the crowning jewel on my ever developing relationship with a child that is really no longer a child anymore—but just about an adult.
At the end of our discussion he said: I’m really sorry I disappointed you.
And I blurted: I’m glad you did.
I paused for moment before finishing, because I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to say at first.
I’m glad you did. Because believe it or not, it is your job at this point in your life to disappoint me. Just like it’s my job to let you down, or watch you struggle. That is life. I have to push you, you have to push back. This is how the world works.
It all seemed so simple, and suddenly what happened Friday felt not only unavoidable but absolutely necessary. I’m always discovering and rediscovering different parts of parenting with him—likely because he’s my oldest. I had him when I was so young, at 22 years old—when the rest of my friends were still going to frat parties and scoring internships. We were both inexperienced and I’ve always cringed at the fact that I am learning how to parent using Jake as an example. I’ve made all the mistakes on him. So, the first kid should be disposable? I’m not so sure, because I wouldn’t ask for a do-over on any of these experiences, tough as they are.
So-Called Mom
So then, it’s fair to say we’ve been learning along side each other for almost two decades. Which means the Biology blunder on Friday was a part of his growing up. And that it’s possible that the sting I felt was really just my own growing pains in letting go.
Still Learning,
So-Called Mom

To Homeschool … Or Not.

Jake, Phoenix, Earth, Milla, MJ, Pascal, Leopold Sauvie Island Farm Homeschool

 

Having my kids in a traditional school was ruining my family. homeschool

Those days, my kids would get home and have to begin homework right away or they would be doomed. And by they, I really mean me. There were days they did homework straight through dinner, straight through the weekend, in the car, and in their beds. I once watched MJ fall asleep with a pencil in her hand, mid-sentence. I have even kept them home from school before, just so they could finish projects for school. homeschool

HomeschoolWhat kind of example was this teaching them? To work day and night and never take time to explore who they were? Their school left no room for them to follow their passion or explore being an individual in a big family. I saw them growing up too fast. I saw them overworked and really, really unhappy.

So I pulled the plug on the whole thing. I bit the bullet and took their learning into my own hands.

When I made the decision to homeschool, I imagined my kids becoming instant geniuses in knitted hats (made with their own talented hands of course). Their little creations would become so bloggable that we would become a global inspiration to other families. My imagination ran wild with this.

So called mom Homeschool

Because of this decision, I also could see us going off grid— as though the house would become an experiment in and of itself—we’d learn everything there is to know about solar panels, passive heating and compost toilets. My lesson books were going to be impressive.

 

I would become an expert at recycling, gardening and keeping chickens.

All of this would happen in my heels and tutus, because let’s not forget about the importance of style. The kids would learn instruments and how to sing together and meditate. Dinners would be wholesome and I’d finally have the endless hours of togetherness I wanted. We would be a solid family. The kids would be confident and different, by choice.

Instead, they turned into people-phobes with social anxiety. Homeschool

They became the weirdos that didn’t go to school. No matter how awkward it was, I kept going and for a couple of years it worked. Like kind of how a compost toilet would’ve worked I guess: Some days were better than others, but most of the time I was still troubleshooting, knee deep in my own shit.

Homeschool So Called Mom

Then my oldest, Jake unraveled the whole thing.

So Called Mom HomeschoolHe got the urge to become “normal” and insisted on going back to school. I think he actually just wanted to gawk at teenage girls like any other 16 year old. MJ applied and got into an arts-based middle school over the summer while Pascal formed a posse of girls from the neighborhood and wanted to give elementary school a shot. Earth was the last one remaining—though it was mostly our call to keep her in another year. Milla and Phoenix have yet to experience homeschooling. Milla thinks she wants to learn from me for high school, but I know this will change over summer. Phoenix, I have no say. I’m only the other mom. And of course that baby, Leopold, will always be homeschooled. Even though he isn’t a kindergartener yet, doesn’t mean I haven’t already started with him. Homeschool

Homeschool

Not long after returning to our standard “six kids at five different schools” model, only one of them has returned to homeschooling: Pascal. Mostly because that kid has so much extra curricular life, it has taken over what would normally be considered important: school. I just feel like when you’re a kid with talent and a lot of heart, you should be allowed to lean into your passion and develop it. It’s only habit that we moms put school first. What about French and Swedish lessons? What about Accordion? What about Skateboarding? Are those things not worth their full attention?

MJ-Davinci-Letter-edit why we Homeschool

Last week MJ wrote me a letter asking to be homeschooled again. It was really sweet and made me cry a tiny bit. I can’t decide if it’s because all of Pascal’s new learning materials just arrived or if she truly misses it. Or misses me. I know I miss her. I miss all of them—I even miss the kids I haven’t taught at home—yet.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Up Next: Why So Many Kids

The Benefits of a Good Fight

pippin kristen kissing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I love a good fight.

I love fighting with my husband, because it helps restore order. Like how I imagine the day after the apocalypse to be. Fighting makes us love each other more; it makes our family tighter. Whenever we experience an imbalance in our relationship, we let loose and drag it through the house, because displaying confrontation is important. You can be sure the dog, the chickens, the kids and maybe even the neighbors know when it happens because we aren’t shy about it. Fight.

Wait.

Did I say we fight in front of the kids?

You bet.

I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out. There are a few reasons why we fight in front of the kids:

  1. Having an audience keeps our fights fair. I tend to fight like a Queen, but having them watch reminds me that I don’t have a pedestal to scream from. Heads don’t need to roll—every time at least!
  2. Kids can learn conflict just like cooking and balancing a check book in Home Ec. They’re watching what it looks and sounds like to be heard. They are witnessing two people work through understanding each other. The kids are taking mental notes for their own future conflicts. To us, we’re modeling healthy ones.

While there are so many subjects to fight about, let me focus on just one of them:

Making plans.

pippin kristen driving The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomI am the type of person that needs to know what the plan is. I want to know the plan, and then I want to know plan B. I just think this is responsible parenting. My husband is not like this. He can board a plane at the last minute and arrive without anything lined up—no accommodations, no map, not even any luggage. We took a red eye to New York City in August like this. I was 8 months pregnant. I had swollen ankles and wanted a plan really, really bad. But our relationship was still new, and I pretended to be more adventurous than I really was.  We arrived with no hotel room, no toilet, and no idea how to get out of the airport.  I learned early in our relationship, that Pippin’s laid back nature, may work when it comes to building sand castles, but it crossed a line when it came to plans.
Plans of any sort.  We are currently selling our house.  We’ve outgrown it with seven kids, four of whom are teenagers.  Pippin has no problem selling our home, going on a (mostly unplanned) vacation and returning, without anything lined up to return TO.  Sounds crazy, no? Well this is about to become my future. Hawaii sounds nice, but what’s going to happen after  Hawaii?

“We will figure it out. We’ll survive!”

But I don’t like Survival Mode.

kristen sun bathing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I like Relaxation mode – whether it’s vacation, weekend plans, or even Sunday breakfast—life is stressful enough. When I’m forced to survive and play like I’m enjoying it, that’s when shit hits the fan. (And side note:  not one of the kids is on board with this type of whimsical lifestyle). So I fight.

A typical fight starts like this: I go nuclear with little warning.  Pippin might be surprised but is so non-confrontational, he will probably feign complete confusion. Then he may bring up some completely unrelated “transgression” that I did.  A common tactic to confuse and divert the prey!  So begins the circular arguing that, like most conflicts, has nothing to do with the subject.  It’s about power and who gets to win that round.  This goes on until we are finally speaking the same language – mine. And I’m usually crying (it’s exhausting being right). It’s OK, though. I like a good cry. Anyway, I truly believe fighting is the sound of our relationship evolving, and I think after ten years, we are getting better at it.

The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomONE upside is that I am learning things about myself.  Our 5 year old, Leopold, recently hushed me with, “Mommy, you are being really rude to Daddy.” As a So Called mom, I have learned to be wrong. That I don’t have all the answers and can still be loved and accepted by my family. It takes the perfection out of motherhood, and replaces it with being human.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next Post: How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You