So I planned to write this as a lovely Mother’s Day sentiment, dedicated to my mom. But then I remembered that I have 4 kids and a house virtually buried under mountains of laundry. Luckily, my mom’s birthday is conveniently located about 10 weeks after Mother’s Day. Since I’m generally about 2 months behind in just about everything, it all worked out perfectly!
Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you enjoy this post!
During a recent group discussion about unschooling, the conversation turned toward our relationships with our own parents – particularly our moms. As we went around the circle sharing our experiences, a very obvious pattern emerged. Most of us had struggled with our moms as kids, and a lot of us still had strained relationships, especially since we’d made the choice to unschool. In fact, in that particular group, all of us did. All except one, that is. Me.
Listening to the other moms share stories of major arguments during the teen years, and way too much interference and judgement in their adult lives, I found myself filled with gratitude for my own mom, and for the relationship we have shared since I was just a little girl.
My mother was always something of a rebel when it came to her kids. At a time when most mothers gave birth while unconscious, my mother insisted on a drug-free natural birth, complete with dimmed lights and a warm bath. While just about everyone else was bottle-feeding, she sought out La Leche League and breastfed proudly. And when I was seven, she discovered a parenting philosophy truly ahead of its time, which she not only followed, but modeled for others.
I grew up in a home that was filled with respect, not only for the adults residing within, but for the children as well. We were given more choices than most of my friends, though we certainly weren’t allowed to run wild. We were included in family discussions and decisions. My parents demonstrated their respect for us, both in the way they spoke to us and the way they treated us. And as we grew, my parents gracefully stepped back, allowing us the freedom and responsibility to become mature adults. They were always there to listen, to offer guidance and wisdom, and to support us when we needed it.
Since I’ve been an adult, I’m privileged to count my mother as one of my closest friends. She continues to offer me her unconditional support and acceptance. She doesn’t push her opinions on me (well, except for that brief Mars on a Date phase…you know what I’m talking about, Mom. And yes, you were right!) Even more important, my mother respects my opinions. She does me the honor of listening – truly listening – to my thoughts and beliefs, and if they are new to her, she engages in sincere discussion in order to learn more. Most of all, in every one of her words and actions she communicates her belief that I am a worthy human being, who deserves to be treated as her equal.
When our family began unschooling, all of this mutual respect was put to the test. Ted and I were exploring a philosophy that was really radical, a huge departure from mainstream parenting. It even looked fairly radical compared to the way I’d been brought up. I wasn’t sure how my parents would react. Would they think I was rejecting their parenting by choosing something different? Would they be unwilling or unable to interact with my kids in an unschooling way? Would they worry that the sleep deprivation had finally caught up with me and I’d gone clear around the bend?
In many cases, the move to unschooling proves to be too far a leap for extended families to make. I was so grateful to discover that this would not be the case for our family. Throughout our unschooling journey, my relationship with my mother has remained supportive and close. I think she’d tell you that despite her many questions and concerns, the bottom line for her was that I thought it was the right thing for my family. She has always given me the benefit of the doubt, and this was no exception. She figured that if I was subscribing to it, there must be a good reason.
But she didn’t just leave it at that. My mother engaged in many in-depth discussions with me about unschooling. Not once did she try to talk me out of it. Instead, her purpose was to learn all she could. She asked questions, shared her stumbling blocks, and listened to my responses. In so doing, she helped me to formulate and solidify my own thoughts and beliefs. She encouraged me, supported me, and offered me her gentle feedback. She took the journey with me. And it was, to me, a rare and precious gift.
A while back, I wrote about all of the voices in my head. Not many of them are worth listening to. But my mother’s voice is there, too. And it’s one of the best. Mom’s voice tells me to trust my instincts. It tells me to believe in my abilities. It tells me that in her opinion, I’m pretty fantastic.
I don’t think I’m the only one hearing voices, either. I think most of us do, for better of for worse. And most of us will become voices inside our own kids, voices that still speak to them long after they’re grown and gone.
As my children grow, I really hope I can give them the same gifts my mother gave to me.
A strong, supportive relationship.
A willingness to share their journeys with them, wherever they may lead.
And the sound of my voice, even when I’m not around, continually cheering them on.
Thank you, Mom, for who you are, for who you’ve helped me to become, and for being my biggest fan. Happy Birthday!!