Sandra Dodd

I have a story that will strike different readers different ways, I think. I wrote it as part of an exchange I was having with an unschooling friend. I added some details to bring it here, so if she reads it there will be a bit more to it.

Her concern and worry was that her husband was working out of town a lot and when he came home it wasn't smooth, and she was worried about the relationships. My first thought was that he was being excluded, or felt like an outsider. That happened with us, when Keith was on a contract in Minnesota and only came to New Mexico for a week each month.

But it turned out that the "problem" was that their child wanted to be with the dad when he was home, rather than with the mom, and they were doing things that didn't much include the mom. That doesn't seem like so much of a problem to me. Certainly nothing to be upset at either of them about. It seemed healthy and advantageous to me, in fact. But she was feeling better after a while, anyway, and I wrote the first two bits to her, and then a briefer story of the trip to the restaurant:


I think it was your image of a perfect happy family that was the problem. There are moms dying for some time alone, and you were thinking it was wrong to have some. :-)

Let it flow a little more without trying to orchestrate and direct it, maybe.

Yesterday I didn't feel like making dinner, and we planned to go to Soup or Salad, a very NON-fancy buffet we've gone to since they fed kids free in the early 1990's. It's by our old house. Marty (23) was working for our old next-door neighbor, cleaning and weeding her yard. He's gone there for two hours every afternoon for about a week, and isn't through yet. Keith wanted to work in our yard. So we planned to meet Marty there when he was through with his yard work. Holly (20) went with us. She wasn't feeling very good earlier in the day, had gone to take a math test at the college, and come home and fallen asleep. But because she had said she wanted to go, I woke her up five minutes before we were leaving and asked if she still wanted to go. She did. She called Marty to coordinate that, to tell him we were leaving and would wait for him in the parking lot.

Marty was already there, in his jeep, when we pulled up.

So our whole family (minus Kirby, 25, who lives in Austin) went out to eat, casually and sweetly, at a place we used to go when they were babies. Holly had chosen the table, and it was one where Keith and the boys and I had sat several times before she was born. I didn't mention that. I could see the kids' booster seats from where I was sitting--the same familiar tan two-sided booster seats. I didn't mention that.

Keith and I would've been fine to go by ourselves. We would've been fine if Holly had said she would rather sleep or stay home, or wanted to go somewhere with her boyfriend, or to yoga, or dance class she does on Wednesday sometimes. We would've been fine if Marty had said he would rather come home and shower, or go see his girlfriend.

Part of what made it so good was that no one had been pressured to be there.

I think those things will happen more, and more easily, with teens and young-adult children, the less they are pressured when they are young. Letting them choose to be with parents or not makes it easier for them to choose to be with parents.



There are so many ideas that are out there that I think came into being because of school (have not researched them and may have heard them mentioned here) that can be let go of when you are unschooling. The idea, and the studies, that families should eat together is great and we do it often, but I don't stress anymore when someone does not want to eat with the family, we are together most days so the reasoning behind it has already been satisfied. Our life became much better when I let go of what I thought was a great family life and just lived what was happening within our family. Dinner outside in the garage with dad, changing it up. Eat out of the pot night on a picnic blanket on the floor so I don't have to wash but one pot and a few forks for a change, special night. Eating together, all of us at the table, at the same time, happens too. Letting go of our ideas of how things should be can really open us up for more joy. I would love some of that Mom time because the kids all want to go with Dad! My daughter usually wants to be with me(she's almost 6)and I am working on letting go of the idea that she should be wanting to be away from me. The boys at that age were okay without me around but it is okay both ways.