Answering the Wrong Question

In response to someone's complaint that we didn't answer the question she asked, Karen Pielke Santos wrote:

You know, my hackles have gone up when I have heard answers to the hidden questions. I have gotten defensive. I wanted an answer to MY question, not realizing that there really were deeper aspects of the question I had, that would eventually lead to the question I originally asked.

There is a line in Fried Green Tomatoes that I liken to that feeling - it's from the darling Evelyn Couch, during her inner transformation, and it really fits my own situation. Maybe you'll find something in it for you, also:

"Someone helped put a mirror up in front of my face and I didn't like what I saw one bit, and you know what I did? I changed."
Kathy Bates (as Evelyn Couch) in Fried Green Tomatoes)
(the original has disappeared; sorry)


This is too long to include in total, but it's a good read and I'll link to the full topic below.

Someone wrote to a moderator of Radical Unschooling Info:

Am I allowed to ask a question? I will tell you what I wish to ask. I wish to ask: "What if the gifts that are in the house, were not gifts I have chosen to give to my kids, but are things grandparents have chosen to give my kids? This, having to do with my having to clean up the mess because I do not like my house messy. says I must see having the house clean as my desire, not as the desire of the kids. I have in-laws who choose to fill up our house with toys that I have to pick up. How is that fair? Shall I then direct my response at the in-laws, instead of at the kids, and ask them to please not buy toys?"
I'm going to quote a few responses, but there were over a dozen, good ones.

Sandra Dodd:

You're looking for rules and defenses. We're trying to give you softness and generosity.
-=- says I must see having the house clean as my desire, not as the desire of the kids.-=-

Wrong. What Joyce wrote was about the benefit of being generous instead of being controlling...

-=- I have in-laws who choose to fill up our house with toys that I have to pick up. How is that fair?-=-

It's not at ALL fair. You're totally misrepresenting them.

I have given children gifts, and lately. I ordered things to be delivered last month to the five year old living at Kirby's house (his girlfriend's daughter). I did not "choose to fill their house with toys that they have to pick up." I saw some things I knew she would like, because I've hung out with her quite a bit and know her routine and her physical space and her sense of humor. . . . .

Do you REALLY think any adult chooses purposefully and hatefully to add to another adult's workload, for meanness, and that the motivation for buying gifts is to piss off a third party?

That is NOT fair. It's not good thinking.

Robin Bentley:
My daughter would love to have her grandparents around to give her gifts. Three of them are dead now and she misses, in particular, my parents' loving consideration of who she is and what she's interested in.

If a mom resents grandparents' gift-giving because she doesn't like the resultant mess, she doesn't like the toys themselves (for whatever reason), or otherwise makes a fuss about their generosity, she disrupts all the happy relationships involved.

Jenny Cyphers:
It seems totally ungracious to me. Those kids have grandparents! Those kids have grandparents who are willing and able to buy those kids things! People find the weirdest things to be upset about! Your thoughts should turn to abundance instead! ....
Joyce Fetteroll:
*** What if the gifts that are in the house, were not gifts I have chosen to give to my kids, but are things grandparents have chosen to give my kids? ***

I think you're looking for a target for your frustration with the mess. Unfortunately that particular target -- gifts from the grandparents -- is also attached to your kids hearts. Would you want your husband to chuck all the gifts you have that weren't given by him?

Take a deep breath. Pack away, give away -- with your kids permission! -- things they're done with. Their possessions aren't yours.

Lisa J Celedon:
You're complaining that your in-laws give your kids too many toys?! Too many gifts?! I'm not trying to be rude, I'm just completely astonished. What a wonderful gift!!!! What a great savings for you! Toys are wonderful tools for learning and sources of joy and fun. I suggest thinking about how to be grateful for their generosity. Not all grandparents have that in them. ....
Jonathan Ford:
As someone who had a child with a life-threatening illness, and know parents with children with life-threatening illnesses, I know I am grateful every moment I have with my kids, and I am grateful they are alive to make a mess. They are now at an age where they do clean up after themselves, and even clean up MY messes without asking, but that came from years of me cleaning because *I* chose to clean, and learning to let go of my perfectionist, Type-A control over having to have a spotless house (impossible with children, no matter how hard you try!). Enjoy your gifts, both the living ones and the inanimate ones.

Me/Sandra here (not in the original discussion:

That mom must have been furious that we weren't "supportive." We were supportive of learning, of peace, of compassion. She was enraged at her in-laws, at toys, at Joyce's website, at a moderator who had rejected one of her posts.

Rage doesn't set the stage for unschooling.

Original topic begins with a post by me, June 14, 2014, Radical Unschooling Info.

Insisting that we provide links to research about unschoolers getting into university, rejecting anecdotal evidence, rejecting all suggestions

The original discussion, in 2006, is still frustrating, but interesting. I had a higher tolerance for extended defense than Joyce did in those days, and she outranked me in that group, so she rejected one long analogy, by the original poster, explaining WHY we needed to answer her question just as she asked it, and why we were wrong to go on about unschooling and learning, instead. Though it had been rejected, I saved it.

If you're philosophical about how people learn, then looking at how people come to unschooling is worth considering for that reason AND that it can help you understand how you yourself are learning about unschooling. It's a couple of layers deep. 🙂

"You didn't answer my question."

"it wasn't really what I was asking."

"Wow, this list is seriously oversensitive and honestly the responses by many of you all are also insensitive and downright rude. It was a small joke, as it wasn't really what I was asking and felt that particular response was trying to prove something to everyone about how well her children did."

That was someone whose name I didn't save, who had young children and has asked about college. She was insulting Pam Sorooshian for responding kindly and in detail to her question in a way that others saw clearly WAS a good response to the original question.

The discussion, some public, much on the side, continued, with some good writing by Joyce about how discussions work. It's here: "LOL" and then saying we're rude for objecting to being laughed at

Getting It

Some real unschooling questions

Learning to read on the list —how to benefit from Always Learning and Radical Unschooling Info