This house. That book. They both changed my life.
Posted on April 22, 2014 (on a now-gone site)
Before Austin was born Heather had little idea about the parent she wanted to be. Her heart knew there were things, like spanking, that she hoped to avoid but that alone was not enough to sustain a consistent journey toward peaceful parenting. In the beginning, Austin's cries landed him solidly in Heather's arms. It made sense that he sleep close to her, that he be held instead of left alone. It was intuitive in the beginning. As independence increased and Austin found a voice and pushed to find his own edges, it became more challenging. So timeouts and punishment were used before new information arrived to help them find their way back together.
When Austin was eight Heather heard Sandra Dodd present a talk titled Partnerships in the Family and this was the beginning. Heart split open, Heather knew she had wandered shortly on a dangerous pathway. She knew as these words fell upon her that she had found the missing piece, that way back to the connection she had with Austin, in those early years. The road to healing their relationship and repairing their self esteem began to unfold. Seeking out connections with others, parenting from this place of peace and connection, built on what she had heard and gave her the courage to continue moving forward.
It's the commitment to continually improve herself and remain connected with Austin that keeps Heather committed to the path of peacefulness. Seeing their relationship unfolding as happiness prevails and healing blossoms is enough evidence to make sure turning back is never an option. Stepping back and jeopardizing what they have been committed to building with one another, simply does not make sense. There are of course days where things are challenging, where rhythms are a bit off beat and where arguments unfold. But listening more and talking less is what guides Heather's interactions to a place where she can really see the human being in front of her. She opens her heart to see Austin's point of view, just as valid as her own so that they may come to a mutually respectful resolution.
To those stepping on this path, Heather knows that support was huge for her. To find people who are walking this peaceful path, as examples for yourself. Seek out others who see their children as deserving of the very same respect they would offer their adult peers. This may involve walking away from existing support systems in order to embrace new people more aligned with your thinking as a parent. It can be heartbreaking to reach out for support from others who are disrespecting and punishing their children. You may have to be the one in the group that stands us and says, actually I'm doing this differently. Even in the face of shame, once Heather had the trust and respect of her son, nothing, especially not fitting into a group, was more important. Be strong in your conviction that this is the path to a peaceful home.
There is a story, that sums up the hard work and it's worth and remains an anchor for the why of peaceful parenting in Heather's life. In her words: "Monty, Austin and I were at a panel of unschooled teens where a parent in the back was having a hard time understanding the importance of laying the ground work with young children for a connected relationship through the teen years. Austin — who was about 9 at the time — spoke up and talked about how much more connected he felt to us since we stopped being authoritarian parents. He talked about the connection between us, and how much better he feels as a person because of the changes we made as parents. He was articulate and concise, and held the rooms attention while he talked. I was blown away. I think *everyone* in the room was blown away. It's a moment I go back to if I'm feeling shaky because hearing him talk about his experience and how much happier he is now is why I want to keep going down this path."
Heather dreams of Austin coming into adulthood as happy, healthy and confident in his ability to do whatever he chooses. And knowing in the moments when his confidence is shaky he has both mom and dad to fall back on.
Austin turns 18 this year, in 2019.
Heather's old blog is gone, but her new one is Tomato on a Windowsill.
A recording of the talk Heather heard that day is here, to hear or to download for free: /hsc2010.html
The Big Book of Unschooling (second edition now)