Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Structure and Nurture with Delight

We've never been a huge "rules" family. 

To some people, (not naming any names, ahem) hard, fast rules can be really difficult to choke down. They might feel unnecessarily oppressive to freedom of spirit, restrictive in liberty of thought and progression, and binding in conduct. They kind of get stuck in the throat. To this unruly fringe, (of which no one I know, personally, is  a part...) rules may tend to be seen as simply a list of rather arbitrary requirements imposed upon other people by those in power. And power, in the hands of humans, is rarely ever not abused.  

Phrases like obey the first time every time, renew your mind, control your thinking, and do it with a happy heart were what we were taught parenting was all about in our Christian cult. Where if you consistently do A)  your children will automatically do B) making you look like the most awesome, well respected authority figures in All The Land. Put a feather right in that self righteous cap!  When we decided to leave the ways of the group behind, these quips left a bad taste in our mouth, to be sure. So we haven't been big on using them.  

Instead, the adults who are posing as mature leaders in this racket called child rearing have made an effort to think of our home's vibe more in terms of guidelines, expectations, and preferences. I mean, hey, we had children in the 2000's!

The idea we have mostly tried to foster is sort of like this: We are your parents and we want what is the very best, most ideal and enjoyable for each of you. We will do all we can to give you everything we've got so you have all you need to reach your fullest potential. Living in this home together, there are things that must be done to ensure we are all learning, advancing and maintaining our individual and collective responsibilities. There are expectations for you, the children, there are expectations for us, the parents. But, we are adaptable and when something's not working, we'll go ahead and make amendments because change when necessary is a mark of humility and true progress, alright? Let's work together, okay? Rah, rah, rah! Go, team Deutsch!

Um, it doesn't always work. Not in terms of results, anyway.

My guess is it's because we're dealing with human beings here. Willful, brilliant, thoughtful and thoughtless and selfish and generous and scatterbrained and lazy and determined and scarred and ambitious and competitive and strong and weak and interdependent and independent and collaborative and opportunistic people. People! We are such a messy breed of organisms. 

Our expectations, they are regularly defied. Children, they tend to forget. Then forget again. And not remember. Right after they fail to recall. And forget to remember to not forget.

Bobby and I are at the place where we don't have any real answers. At all. The older we get, it seems the less we know for sure. Over the years we have tried just about every single thing known to grown ups dwelling with youngsters. Charts, stickers, consequences, rewards, point systems, insentives, you name it, we've probably given it a whirl. Some techniques work for a while, others not at all. Most of the kids kind of transition through stages then grow out of them. Some stay stuck in behavioral ruts they can't break out of. We're coming to realize more and more, you truly can't control anyone but yourself. Not ANY ONE. And sometimes even controlling your self is beyond your scope. All in all, we're basically at a total loss for how to steer this ship. 

So last night after a dinner of fettuccine alfredo and green salad, (of course!) we took it to The People to gather their input, gain clarity and whip them into shape with some cold, hard, rules. Oh, I kid. 

It was really a family brainstorming session.

We asked the 13 and under population, if we were to form a list of rules for our home, what would they be? 

This is what they said:

1) Do your morning and afternoon routines and any chores you have well
2) Put away what you get out
3) Do what you're asked to do by your parents
4) Be honest
5) Don't steal
6) Do your own school work (no cheating)
7) Don't wear muddy shoes inside (Flint's contribution. :))
8) Go to bed quickly when asked (as opposed to the 45 minutes it usually takes)
9) Keep conflict rules with siblings (no hitting, do what makes for peace and resolution)
10) Be quiet when doing your school work

Then, we asked them what the expectations or rules should be for the parent:

1) Provide for the material/physical needs of the children
2) Provide education
3) Give attention, be involved
4) Keep home in good repair
5) Provide transportation
6) Allow space and time for a social life and friendships
7) Provide indoor and outdoor activities to encourage physical, mental and emotional growth
8) Teach morality to the best of their understanding
9) Provide medical care when needed
10) Be kind, not abusive

We talked about how even adults face natural consequences and our responsibility in preparing them for the real world through requiring them to maintain responsibilites.

It's such a tricky balance, parenting. There is so much to do. So many mistakes to be made, so little time to muck them all up.

All in all, as we were throwing out ideas and having actual conversation and I was looking into the faces of these people who are emerging independent and bright and responsive and articulate, I was reminded of how simply it really all breaks down, no matter how many rules we might want to put up. 

There are no easy answers. Only maintenance and adjusting and forgiving and remembering not to take it all too seriously as it passes you by. 

The two basic places where I feel my main focus should be: To provide structure and nurture, structure and nurture, structure and nurture, and remember to delight in them as they grow... 

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