So, here I am, deschooling.
Here are some choices I've
made lately that I think are
better than ones I used to make:

1) Samantha (9 y.o., adopted
5.5 years ago from China) just
had a birthday. She got everything
that she asked for, namely, a laptop
and "Guitar Hero: World Tour" for
PS3. When she opened them, though,
she showed no emotion whatsoever
about the game and actually complained
about the laptop, b/c she wasn't thrilled
about the color.

Old reaction might have been to think,
"What a spoiled child. How ungrateful
can she be?"

New response: I remembered that Sam
has a hard time with abundance. Her
early experiences were of extreme deprivation,
and she is still recovering from those
experiences. I felt disappointed, not
in Sam, but in myself, that I hadn't
prepared her better for her birthday.

I know, but had forgotten, that Samantha
finds it helpful to role play giving and
receiving gifts in the days immediately
leading up to a gift receiving occasion.
It helps her remember what others expect
her to say when receiving a gift to role
play it beforehand. I had assumed--you know
what they say about "assume"--that Samantha no
longer needed this practice. My assumption
was wrong.

My mother was annoyed that Sam didn't show
gratitude for the gift. The sad truth is,
there was a time I probably would have agreed
with, and sided with, my mother. I probably
would have scolded and shamed my daughter, and
on her birthday, no less.

Now, though, I had a different response. I knew
Samantha was picking up on my parents' disappointed
vibes, and I took responsibility. Better late than
never. It was a bad moment, but that didn't mean
that we all had to go on to have a bad day. ;-)

I gave Sam a reassuring hug. I gave voice
to her feelings. (I knew what she was feeling, b/c
she's explained it to me, in private, in the past,
after receiving lots of gifts, or expensive gifts.)
So I hugged her, and smiled at her, and let my love
for her flow. I felt my total acceptance of her, just
as she is.

I also decided, then and there, not to let myself get
stuck in blaming myself for not preparing Sam better for
receiving presents. Instead, I looked at what I could do
to make things better for her in that moment.

I said, "Even though you wanted this game, it's still pretty surprising that you actually got it, isn't it?" She nodded.
I saw my parents eyes light up with understanding, saw their
disappointment and harsh judgements melt away. We all know
that it is still really hard for her to accept abundance.
Then, I whispered in her ear; I told her that her grandma and
grandpa would like to hear a "thank you" for the present they
gave her.

She ran up to them, hugged each of them, and said, very
sincerely, "Thank you sooooo much! I really wanted this
game. I hope you will play it with me." What could have
been a very bad moment became a very sweet one. And there
were more sweet moments later as three generations played
the game together.

I also told her we could look into exchanging the laptop
for a different color. She thought about that, and
decided that she does like red, after all.

2) I read the wonderful essay, in sonnet form, posted
here. It gave me goosebumps. And I knew that there
was a time when I would have reacted with jealousy and
fear. You see, my 12 y.o. son, Caleb, struggles to put
his ideas into writing. It comes up sometimes...
For example, he has a very large repertoire of songs he
can play on violin. His violin teacher asked him to write
down the first few measures of each of the tunes on index
cards. That way, he can bring the index cards to gigs, and
have a reminder of how his songs start. (Once he's started
playing, he can continue on from memory.) Or, he goes to
religious school, b/c he wants to participate in a Bar
Mitzvah ceremony next year. Writing assignments come up
there, and he struggles.

He is very bright. He can read well, and he is very
articulate and thoughtful. He's also a talented musician
and a fairly good athlete. He has amazing inter- and intra-
personal skills. He has a knack for mathematics and a
natural facility for strategic thinking. He is incredibly
kind, and generous. But when he tries to write... oh! He
can't remember which way 9s go versus Ps. He can't spell
very well. He struggles with the grammar and punctuation.
If he were in school, he would be labeled "dysgraphic" and
he'd be constantly challenged to write better. It could get discouraging. Anybody judging him by his writing, and
only his writing, would get a very inaccurate idea of
who he is.

Anyway, I read that amazing sonnet, and I didn't feel
jealous. I felt happy that this young woman could
write something so wonderful, and also happy for my
son, for all the things he can do well, and for the
fact that he doesn't have to struggle with language
arts classes for 12 or more years. I'm not worried.
He will find his way in life. He will even learn to
write well, if he wants to, when he wants to. And
if not, that will be fine.

3) We went to a cave yesterday. Samantha, who loves
gaming, said she wanted to stay home to play video
games. Old response would have been along the lines of:
"Video games are a waste of time, and you play them all
the time. YOu can play on the computer any old time, but
you can't go to a cave every day. You are coming with us,
and that is that." New response: "Okay." (And it really
*was* okay with me.) "I know how it feels to want to
keep playing. We will miss you, but I know you will
have fun." (All said sincerely; I am a video game convert.)
And then...

...Samantha logged off, saying, "This 2D cave will be
here when we get home; I wanna see a 3D cave."

MOREOVER, while I was delighted to have her company,
I truly would have been happy if she stayed home to
continue gaming. I'm glad she really has choices.

4) At the caves, my 9 y.o. son, Mark, adopted last
July from China, asked me how the stalagmites
and stalagtites had formed. I admitted that I
didn't know how to explain it to him, but I would
figure it out. On the ride home, I realized that
we could make a supersaturated sugar solution,
then grow sugar crystals and make rock candy.
That's not exactly the same as how stalagmites
are formed, but I think the general idea is close
enough... for now. The four younger kids all
wanted to make rock candy, so we started on that.
Once upon a time, I would have been frustrated
about how to explain such a concept. Opening
up and being more playful helped me to see a
solution... no pun intended.

5) My 10 y.o. daughter, Amelia, has a lot of
neat ideas for video games she wants to write.
But so far, the only programming she can do
is with Alice software, and she is bumping up
against the limits of that software. If she
really wants to write these games, that will
involve choosing to learn to program in a more
powerful computer language. I would like to
learn to program, and I told Amelia so, and
said that if she'd like, we could learn together.

She said that sounded cool, but hasn't come back
to me yet about doing it. She continues to
refine her ideas about the games, though.

There was a time when I would have pushed her
to get into the programming part of it. Now I can
see that would have crushed her enthusiasm. She
might have abandoned the whole project, even though
it means a lot to her. So now, I focus my interest
where her interest is focused: on the storylines and
characters. She loves to talk about the games, so I
ask her about them and really listen to what she has
to say, and only offer suggestions when she asks for them.
I may decide to learn a programming language just for my
own pleasure, and if I do, maybe I can program the games
for her, if she wants me to.

6) My 17 y.o. son, Yuyu, adopted 3.5 years ago
from China, is visiting us at our summer home. He
will soon be returning to our year-round home
to take a summer class (English for Speakers of
Other Languages) and to take a summer job. He
got a position in the kitchen of a local nursing
home. It's a good foot in the door for him; he
wants to work in food service. Anyway... he's
been acting like he feels blue. Once upon a time,
I would have left him alone in his unhappiness,
figuring, "teens are just like that sometimes."
But now, I realize that his boredom is my
responsibility. He came to visit us; we could
do more to make his stay pleasant. I asked him
to come along to the cave, and he did, and he had
a great time. I asked my husband to take him grocery
shopping and to cook with him--two things he loves--
and my husband did, and Yuyu was happy. I asked my
parents if they would invite Yuyu to come along
with them when they go out to walk the dogs, and
they agreed, and Yuyu was happy, and so were my parents.

Yeah, I've had a lot of parenting moments that I'm
not proud of, but being present and aware and positive
and focused on now is helping... I think. I'm still
making mistakes, I'm sure, and will continue to, but
hopefully they will be fewer and farther between, and
hopefully I am making amends with each good choice I
make now, and in each moment from here on out.

No names have been changed, and everybody involved
is fine with the sharing of our family experiences.

Kelly Sturman

Cameron Parham

Kelly, I was really moved by this post, thanks for the work you put into it. Cameron

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