I was afraid to become a parent. I was afraid I’d be a lousy mom, that my type-A personality would make me controlling and exacting.
Likewise, I loved the idea of homeschooling, but knew I would drive everyone around me crazy if I tried to be super-structured. Like Bert sings in Mary Poppins, my default is to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone. I am relentless when it comes to doing, to improving, to being just slightly type-A.
So I tried to find ways of homeschooling that are organic and kid-driven instead of crazy-mom-driven. Instead of setting up school at home, we try to work and play and make stuff, assuming that learning can happen without anyone grinding anything. That empty space and joy will create magic. That books and blocks and princess clothes serve as a fine curriculum. That play is actually work in disguise. (Okay, and we do a little math curriculum too.)
I have been pleased about this affects my kids. But to my surprise, the biggest change has been in me.
Letting go of grading, of comparing, of keeping up? It infects how I look at everything.
Why? Because how we treat our kids—or anybody we love, work with, disciple, teach—is a magic portal to how we treat ourselves.
I started wondering: I’m giving them freedom to do X, and they thrive. What if I gave myself more freedom?
I started noticing: I give them permission to not be ready for reading, or math, or fill-in-the-blank, and when they are ready they take off like a rocket. What if I gave myself that same space?
I saw that many of the expectations, hurry, anxiety, schedules and grading of school are actually quite optional, and I wondered: Is there any other thing in my life I’m agreeing to without good reason?
I’m not saying that if you unschool, these attitudes will magically set themselves on your shoulders, or that I have them perfectly figured out. I’m not saying you have to homeschool to experience them. Heck—you don’t even have to have kids.
But I know I see this truth more clearly after seven years of unschooling.
I see that the freedom I give to the people I love will rub off on me.
Letting go of anxiety will lighten not just my shoulders, but my friends’ and family’s loads too.
The patience and grace I give myself will affect how I parent and live.
How I treat my kids is a magic portal into my heart–and vice versa.
Please don’t take this as me saying you should do better.
Instead, think this: If I give myself grace for being who I am today, I am extending that grace to my spouse, too.
Think this: That over-and-over patience I have with my friend is a deep patience with myself.
Think this: The freedom and creativity I say yes to today is a legacy I’m creating for my son.
Because how we treat other people—especially people we have power over–matters. How we live out our lives in the wiping of noses and making of lunches matters. How we pursue our passions and make playdoh cupcakes matters.
It matters because no matter how small, how humble, and how unintentional, every small decision will be writ large in the sky of our becoming.
Originally published in February of 2014.
Image credit: Gary Wall