Joyful Union of Work and Play

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

We can find play––and joy––in work. And the chores we give our children can develop a capacity to approach work with the fullness of being.

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:00                       Okay. All right. Here we are. Take 17.

Thea:                                         00:06                       Hi, Anne!

Anne:                                         00:09                       Hi, Thea. Okay. So if I can just get my words together. So we’re going to talk today, a kind of continuation on last week’s where we were talking about the importance of children’s chores––and how necessary it is for children to participate in the family’s survival, operation and more and how that very much aids in their development, their sense of purpose self-esteem and wards off feelings of depression and angst. So, so we decided, you know, it was not a really long conversation and we thought we would continue on with maybe identifying some concrete examples of the types of chores and tasks that we can assign to our children, but specifically…

Thea:                                         01:09                       Sorry, I need to just speak to my child…

Anne:                                         01:10                       Okay. Let me, let me pause it for one second.

Thea:                                         01:14                       Okay. Sorry. All right. Please don’t eat that, which is dinner right there…

Anne:                                         01:21                       Okay. So we’re recording again. So part of what we hit on was the fact that it seems, and from our perspective perhaps as women, but it seems that the world that we live in, the modern world here in the States––I live in the suburbs, you live in a small city––does not provide as many natural opportunities and tasks for masculine activities. In the same way it does female activities. And by that we’re talking about, you know, the difference in––certainly between people and different temperaments, but also between girls and boys. Girls, you know, the type of household chores we have all the time. There’s never, never in short supply––doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, vacuuming, tidying, making things pretty. Even some of the yard work seems to resonate perhaps, maybe more with my daughter than it does my son. And when I was stretching to figure out, well, what is it that, that my son really resonates with? It’s chopping wood. It’s, it’s getting the firewood to build, building a fire. Though my daughter is pretty pro at that too. It’s, it’s digging. I remember, you know, how he really got into helping my husband taking apart the deck to then repurpose the wood. And fixing things. And it then led me to thinking about, well this house that we built in our backyard, I wrote about this in an article I just wrote about for his third grade year, Waldorf curriculum is building your own shelter. And we built a six by six by six by six foot A-frame wooden house in our backyard.

Anne:                                         03:37                       Something I never imagined I had the capacity to do, and we did it mainly without power tools except when we really needed my husband’s help here and there. Right? And that was extraordinary. And so one of the things I wanted to, to share was this book, a couple of these books that the Christopherus Curriculum––Donna Simmons writes, does this extraordinary curriculum, Waldorf curriculum that’s designed for homeschoolers, multi-age homeschoolers. And she had recommended Lester Walker’s Housebuilding for Children, written in like 1977 or something. And Lester Walker’s Carpentry for Children, you know, it was around the same era. And we followed these his plans in here. And I mean, this is, you know, that’s the house we basically, we built and it just, it goes through showing, you know, building the walls putting the roof in.

Anne:                                         04:47                       And there’s so much, obviously that’s incorporated into that, you know, just from a homeschooler’s perspective––algebra, geometry and more. Right? But anyways, so we had wanted to come up with a prescription for the boys more specifically because it didn’t seem as apparent in this, in this urbanized world that we’re living in. And I thought back to another project that my son had done with my husband, which was a bookshelf. I needed a bookshelf, and I needed one fast. And I’m particular about what will fit in the house. Not that my taste is so high end, but it’s just, you know, I just needed a, a particular kind of height and a compactness for the space. And they took these two old dressers, wooden dressers, and repurposed them and reconfigured them and then built some shelves into it and built a bookshelf. And how wonderful that is. I mean, I walk by it every day, several times a day. My son sees this useful manifestation of his creative force..

Thea:                                         06:07                       Will forces.

Anne:                                         06:10                       Yeah. And that I needed, that he provided. And so that was the suggestion I wanted to give anyone listening and who’s been thinking about this themselves. You know, no matter how small an apartment one has, how no or little yard or back deck, patio or whatever someone has, you can build a bookshelf. You can build a small bookshelf in that. You can build a small table, you can build a spice rack, you can build a cabinet and that is so terribly satisfying, and there’s so much learning going on in so many levels when that’s happening. But I think that that, that kind of task is something that is important to give to your son. Or daughter. I mean, I am so pleased that I, know the basics of building a house now from building this house. I feel so competent. I do as a almost 49 year old having learned this just a couple of years ago. And this is following on our father who was not so inclined that way. And you know, I mean his version of a shed, I mean, we loved him so dearly and he was so great at so many things, but not this.

Thea:                                         07:41                       But he did make the effort, which…

Anne:                                         07:44                       Well, he made the effort, which may not have been the greatest example because his version of the shed, I don’t know if you remember, but was like basically buying a few pieces of plywood and leaning it kind of up against the back wall of the garage, nailing it together and slapping some paint on it. It was a shelter, but I think that kind of thing was left with me and I probably didn’t feel all that competent in my abilities to do something as well as we did these couple years ago with just some good plans. Right? So I highly recommend Lester Walker’s books. Again,  Carpentry for Children, Housebuilding for Children, they’re used books. I can’t find books like this anymore. This, this was written back in the 70s when kids had more time. And time to fill up with purposeful activities like this.

Thea:                                         08:54                       With their own problem solving and skill building, yeah. So with those ideas, I think we can also just weave into that cause I think there’s a lot of room for those sort of projects if we are willing to take the time to fill out the little spaces in our life where it might be a different habit than what would be convenient to get this thing that you need for something, but to them slow down and allow an opportunity for your child or children to make that which you need out of maybe something you already have around or you know, repurposed things or getting the materials. So it’s just a slower pace to give those opportunities to our children, I think. Is another window to look through regarding that topic.

Anne:                                         09:49                       Yeah. I absolutely agree, which makes me of course, think about even the slower pace of growing our own food. Right? Whether you’re doing it in a window box garden or a small garden bed or a community garden or your own backyard, that has been infinitely rewarding for me in understanding many layers I think of just even this existence and making connections. I mean, it strikes me that now that we don’t have a lot of people growing their own food and I know there’s a movement back towards that, but we lose touch with just the process and just the process of life and the miracle of life. Just the fact of taking the seed and planting it in the ground and watering it and with the sun and the nutrients in the soil.

Thea:                                         10:59                       And caring for it, nurturing it too, or allowing it to have its time to do its own. I mean all the analogies for life are in…Isn’t that Thoreau? The seed? What is the quote? I can’t think of…whatever. Life, eternity in a… I’m mixing things up.

Anne:                                         11:26                       But yes, that is. I mean, the miracle of life. I mean, it’s occurred to me, it’s not just that, but health and wellness. You know, a farmer understands that the soil is critical to the health of the plant and that without amending the soil and nourishing the soil over and over again, there’s nothing for that plant. No matter what you do to it, it’s not going to thrive. And so, you know, so gardening alone, yes, brings so many understandings essential understandings back to us, right? A spice garden even, right? Just a tiny little one. Yeah. Or like you said, or the process of building the small table, a small bookshelf. To know what goes into that Is, you know, all, all that is of value in that is hard to even put in a language. And you know, when we’re so used to a world where you can get online and order it with a button now and it’s delivered to your door in two days.

Thea:                                         12:43                       Well there’s something too, just that picture of taking, you know, what’s in your hand and scanning over it. Like you run by it and you don’t really notice it. And then when we slow down a little bit and we stand in that space of––what’s in your hand and you just start to see all that it is, where did the wood that you’re using grow, what was the, you know, what was the journey of that which you’re holding to become that which you’re holding? And that’s, you know, that’s not so much the pace of the world around us. So it’s the real choice to come into that, to slow down, to have appreciation for that, the becoming of each thing that has become, or is becoming.

Anne:                                         13:35                       Absolutely. if we don’t stay in touch with that, we lose touch with everything. I mean, as you’re, as you’re talking, I kind of feel like maybe all this seems like a given intellectually, but I can attest to having been transformed by putting it into practice. You know, I grew up very heady and abstract, you know, and unlike you, I didn’t, I never knitted or cared at all to do macrame or handwork or crochet, or anything like that.

Thea:                                         14:13                       I remember. I know. I’ve watched you go through all of these things.

New Speaker:                      14:19                       And I was forced to by my own choice to homeschool my children using a Waldorf curriculum, which appealed to me for a variety of reasons that resonated very deeply in me, but you know, all of that I kind of dreaded really. And as I have come to each one of those subjects or new learnings, it’s been remarkable how, I mean, I say this, I can’t say it enough. It’s like exponentially transformed me. It has––my spirit, my being, my senses, my awarenesses, my connections have woken up like exponentially, right? Just in knitting, learning to knit. And understanding what goes into then everything that I have that’s knit/knitted. Understanding, as basic as this sounds, but I mean, making yarn, you know, learning to make yarn, the wool that comes from the sheep and beyond, beyond, beyond. Right? But we’re such a society and culture here of immediate ready-made consumption that, you know, the true prescription, I think for reconnection fulfillment, reward that is all here in front of us to appreciate is to get back down to those basics. And not just for a weekend camping, but to start to incorporate that into our lives and recognize how critical that is in order to keep us whole.

Thea:                                         16:21                       And tethered to that force of creation, really. To not be adrift and lost in the darkness.

Anne:                                         16:31                       Yes, yes. Especially for those times of challenge and struggle. Yeah, that aids me, that has aided me in how I have gotten through challenging times in my life, having gone back to those basics and exercised so much more of me, myself. It’s all very hard to quantify and talk about. It’s not tangible. Right?

Thea:                                         17:00                       I don’t know. I mean, I wonder about the tangibility, but I think it’s also, there’s something in there that is the reminder that we are creators ourselves and so that is remembered and recalled and exercised––it is then recognized through all of the weavings of what’s around us.

Anne:                                         17:25                       When it’s exercised on a daily basis. Right? And so, so that brings us back to this with the children’s chores and children’s work and children’s tasks. Our own chores and tasks, our own, as you brought up in the last one, cooking our own food and not going and buying it made or made and ready to heat up. There is so much that we have lost in embracing that sort of convenience.

Thea:                                         18:00                       Yeah. I mean it goes into every facet, really, of what’s necessary for us to live. You know, we think about the way we’ve––I mean this could be a quite the discussion just going from being such community people, you know, where you washed the clothes at the creek or where you, you know, harvest the food or the water, all of these things that our culture is so removed from. And I think what part of that has done––and we were touching upon this for a moment before we started this conversation––those things that are, and there is, there can be drudgery in those monotonous necessities. We know this. And there can also be a lot of joy and camaraderie and space to daydream, space to create ideas. And I think that in that there’s somewhere that the joy of work and that work is play in a certain way that those are two sides of the same coin I think essentially. But we have pretty successfully in our culture seemed to separate them in so many views when I look. That work is something separate than play, and work is to be something that we minimize and want less of so that we can have our relaxation or recreation. But really, if we have the time to come into our work in such a way with our fullness of being, there’s joy there. And within that comes that element of play, which is what allows us to be human, really, and to relate to others. I mean, you know, I work, I work five days a week outside of my home and so I, every week I sort of think, gosh, there would be a better rhythm if I didn’t have to go out to work five days a week, but did four, so that when I’m doing my home work, my housework, I have the space and time to fill that capacity with more joy. To do these tasks with more joy because there’s a little more time to fill them out.

Anne:                                         20:40                       There’s more room, right?

Thea:                                         20:41                       More room, because you know everything is about balance. I love my work that I go to, but I need to balance that with the work that’s essential for just maintenance of life. And it’s always trying to find how to live into the, the work of life with joy, you know? And so that’s what we want to be able to give our children experiences of. That work can be joyful, playful, all of those things. We want them to exercise it and create avenues for those experiences to be there for them to step into those capacities as they come into different challenges and workspaces of life.

Anne:                                         21:24                       Yes. And to have that experience that even in a a task that might seem even drudgery there is in that there is discovery to be had. So to have the experience of discovery, which becomes joyful and leads to the next. And so it keeps us always sparked. It can help keep us sparked, inspired and interested in just everyday living, if we’re allowed to see it through that way. Right? And merge, as you’re saying––and I’d like to discuss, maybe examine this more in the next one, but––work and play as you said, it’s kind of two sides to the same coin. Rather than being so separate, where one is resisted and the other so indulged in.

Thea:                                         22:19                       And then the other thing I had the thought to share, you know, especially for our children and these ideas, if people are working to exercise to find new spaces to give their children these experiences or spaces for these experiences or activities. They’re not always going to be like, “Sweet, thanks!” You know, that’s our job just to hold the line and continue to invite someone to pick up this new way of being. This new way to find meaning and purpose in what is needed in a house.

Anne:                                         23:08                       Yeah. And what I will say, and I, I don’t know how much time, I think we’re pretty far over. I didn’t watch when we started. But a key I think to it is doing it a little bit alongside at first. That really gets a momentum going and then you can kind of leave them to go at it once they’re engaged and involved, so.

Thea:                                         23:30                       So there’s more to discuss here. I mean, it’s a pretty broad and deep idea, I think, that continues to deepen the further we follow it and its ramifications. What we see in the world and what we’re looking to see developed more of. So thank you, Anne.

Anne:                                         23:55                       Thank you. All right, well ’til next time. Hang on a second.

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Purpose and Children’s Chores

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

When children are responsible for essential family chores and necessary home and yard maintenance, they maintain a critical focus on their contribution and significance to the whole––and a general sense of purpose which is a necessary antidote to feelings of angst and depression.

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Hello, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:04                       Hello, Anne.

Anne:                                         00:06                       So today, let’s talk about being purposeful. It follows a little bit on our last conversation about even what makes us feel attractive or what makes us attracted to someone else. And purposefulness was a large part of that. And it also relates to a lot of other things we’ve been observing through our work and experience in life, parenting. We’ve been observing an alarming rate of depression and anxiety, lack of focus in children, in extraordinarily young children who you wouldn’t be expecting that of quite yet––in those typical like angsty teenage years. When children much younger than that are demonstrating symptoms and signs of depression, we need to explore that and address that in a way that we haven’t been doing obviously very successfully in this culture. Right? And you identified the lack, it seems, at least in the communities that we are surrounded by. Granted it’s coastal California. There’s a privilege of wealth in the areas that we live in. So I think that clouds or colors the landscape. But we’re noticing that children are not given, they’re not used to a lot of the similar day to day chores, meaningful, purposeful, necessary tasks that we grew up with. Right?

Thea:                                         02:10                       Right. And actually, and this might be a quick segue, but it’s something else that just popped into my head a little bit. Because as you were talking about that I was picturing our childhood, and while we had work, household work, I feel like, so a lot of our work actually was taken into sport quite young and a lot of our time was put there. And so that’s another coloring of this conversation, I think of the, the hijacking of meaningful work. Now that’s not me saying sport is bad, but there’s a lack of balance. And that ties into earlier conversations we’ve had where we talked about the difference of sport and play a little bit. And then when that play is hijacked right into sport, some other development doesn’t occur. And then the sport takes on a deeper meaning then truly it should have. And sense of self worth––as you were speaking about those stages of depression that come earlier and earlier and then when there’s a little bit more of that nuance of the angsty years where young people are learning how to deal with all of these senses of being, these powers and forces of becoming a young adult, when those don’t have a channel to be directed toward, they become self destructive and socially destructive forces, you know, in their circles of friends. And so that ties into, when there’s not the sense of meaningful capable purpose and work and the capacity to meet those things, we get depressed. People get depressed, and they can become ugly and lash out at others when they’re feeling small themselves. Right?

Anne:                                         04:11                       Yeah. You’re sparking some thoughts in me, ’cause we hadn’t even talked about this in tying in the sports, but it hadn’t even occurred to me. Yes. You know, I’m always saying, “Oh, back in our day, back in our day when I had to wash the dishes every day and clean up or shovel the snow or mow the lawn” or all of those things that I don’t see a lot of kids doing these days––we also though, what I should say for anyone viewing is that, we were a big tennis family, so we all played tennis. It was a bit fanatical. We attribute our parents’ divorce to tennis. And it became our job. And I, and I’m now kind of remembering, I’m thinking back to the fact that, so our father, a second generation immigrant––athletics and sports was very important to them. I think because of the discipline that it practiced, and obviously, there’s a joy and a pleasure in aspiring and honing that excellence that was manifest––like our uncle who was drafted by the Bulls. Right? But they had a balance back then. They certainly didn’t live in this age of technology and hyper developed world and structure, which scheduled kids almost every minute of their day. So that, that sport and that discipline and that activity, that was a respite from some of the chores and hardships, necessary hardships of everyday life. Right? And so then they––our baby boomer parents––brought that to our generation. “Sports! It’s toward scholarships. It develops, you know, rounds you out, keeps you fit. Good values, psychological discipline and all.” Which I admit it gave me, I think it helped me with. And opened up opportunities for me. But that was even too emphasized probably back then, you know, amidst also all of the dance classes and music lessons and voice lessons and, tutoring and school and….And, and, and, and.

Anne:                                         07:10                       And I remember now that I think about it feeling––I mean it kind of cultivates a bit of a narcissism too. It’s just, sure, Oh, you know, yes, lifting our children up is something we want to do but not in such an extreme way which puts all the focus of the family on them and how well they do in their match. Pulling me out of school for tennis lessons. Or I remember I am sure you remember well, yeah, I can say this now, I remember getting into a car accident and I won’t give all the details, but it was a really not a great situation for many reasons, but it was right in the middle of an important tournament, which I was doing well in and I didn’t really have any concern that there would be a problem about it because that was paramount. I was doing well in the tennis tournament and all that other stuff got it washed away. So I really just digressed there, but it does make me realize that it’s not just our generation, it’s, it’s what’s built on the other generation from what they took from their generation. And it’s gotten distorted.

Thea:                                         08:40                       Completely. And it seems that, I mean, and maybe it’s just in the circles I’m living in, that there is, a slow, steady waking up to the lack of balance in that scenario. That this idea, “That’s how my kid’s going to go to college,” is, you know, maybe that works for some people that they start this sport, they pursue it, they get a scholarship. Maybe those children actually continue playing or participating in whatever that sport is. More often than not, those children are burnt out by age 14. Right when it would be a good time for them to be picking up that sport, because they started so young. And then they quit, and that’s the moment they need that channel and that focus to hone. But people are realizing it’s not so successful. I mean college, that’s a whole other conversation about the distortion of all of that and…

Anne:                                         09:44                       Of the importance, the importance of college now, or the relevance of college in this rapidly changing world, given how much it costs, it’s no longer the answer, right? To the predictable paths of adulthood and profession.

Thea:                                         10:03                       Right. I mean because young people come into the world with $50,000 of debt. Or more.

Anne:                                         10:08                       50? 200! Yeah, exactly. So yes, I agree. And you in your Waldorf circle are more in touch with a lot of folks that are aware of that. And, so shifting course, reversing course, embracing a new course that hopefully rounds that impulse in our world out. And me having come to Waldorf as well, as a homeschooler, differently I recognize that too, recognize that more given my own experience. I mean, I was adamant about not letting my kid join sports teams or get involved in any outside, those types of extracurricular classes, whatever––structured, formalized organized sports, dance, all of that––too early because we did it so young that I burnt out by the time I really could have used it much more significantly at the time in my life, you know? So, yeah. You know, I mean it’s not just Waldorf education, it’s, it’s all of the alternative pedagogies. It’s also the increasing understanding and study into the importance of play in education. And how far we’ve gone away from that and how we’re trying to move back there slowly, slowly, slowly.

Thea:                                         11:55                       Well, how much is really happening when we play as children and, and how much is stolen from the development of the human being when those opportunities are lost, or robbed essentially of that time.

Anne:                                         12:11                       Yeah, short shortchanged, I guess.

Thea:                                         12:12                       So then, I don’t know if this is too much, but then ’cause what had inspired this conversation was really––so play is purposeful work at certain stages of the development of the child and the human being, really. And then and then we’re talking about what other purposeful work is there. And we do recognize we’re in one little bubble of a view into the world in coastal California. But you know, where we grew up, we did, we have to shovel the walk or shovel the driveway or whatever. You know, picking up sticks, I remember, just before mowing the lawn or whatever, all these things, which mowing the lawn, I didn’t go there, but raking leaves also. But––So what do these young people have today? And I was sharing that and it’s not quite formed yet still, so maybe something will get clearer––I feel like as a female, and maybe it’s simply because I am one––that there are still more tasks, household tasks that bring me a sense of real satisfaction. Because I, I enjoy the homemaking. I don’t see my sons enjoy homemaking quite as much as I do or even did as a young person.

Anne:                                         13:35                       Yeah, I have a girl and a boy. And the difference is so marked in terms of how they come to it or resist it. You know, so yes, go ahead.

Thea:                                         13:51                       So, so just thinking––and I know the way my life is, I don’t have opportunities for my kids. I’m not living on a farm, so I don’t have this like more physical work accessible to them. So it’s a real task as a parent in a place where I live to find this. And that’s what sport kind of gives an echo of, right? Of meaningful work in our culture. But outside of that, what work do they get to do that we can’t live without? What do they get to participate in that helps the family, that is essential, maybe, hopefully, kind of boring so that they have the time and space to develop a rich interior world.

Anne:                                         14:36                       Or not boring, but monotonous, perhaps. And you just made me realize city living is emasculating.

Thea:                                         14:54                       Totally! So that’s what we’re talking about today. Get to the country.

Anne:                                         15:00                       But there’s quite a push toward the city living and we could go down a lot of rabbit holes there. So what do we do? What’s, what is the prescription? Okay. I mean, let’s first identify the fact that we had also talked about this a little bit too, you know, as a homeschooler and someone actively involved in my homeschool group I recognize that boys earlier on are the ones who come to us and then the girls a bit later, because school is not really suited or designed for a boy.

Thea:                                         15:44                       The energy that is moving and coursing through the boy. And sometimes the girls. I was kind of one of those girls in a way too. Like needed to move a lot.

Anne:                                         15:54                       Yeah. You, you are. Right. Movement teacher and spacial dynamics person that you are––yoga and dance and…so yes, so school with its abstract, very sitting still, obedient––however way you cut it there’s an element of people pleasing obedience because of that framework of school, no matter how great the school is. It’s not that suited for boys. And increasingly with the, what? 20 minutes of recess and all of that, it’s so much less. So we need to recognize that. And in small steps individually, now, what we need to recognize is that for a boy to become a man, he needs to be able to do traditionally male things. And I don’t care who I offend saying that! I mean, there is a relevance to the traditional roles, or the traditional paths.

Thea:                                         17:05                       I mean, I think you could easily say the more masculine activities without it being offensive, because I know for me––and I get to watch at school, so at recess, which we have more than 20 minutes, all in all, we have like an hour, a day of recess. But that’s not the only movement our kids get. But I see, so let’s take third grade, fourth grade, second grade, the boys, they’re building, they’re finding wood and they’re building shelters. That’s their recess. Most often. The girls are now residing in the shelter, and they’re organizing it and they’re bringing little plants and making it lovely and sweet. And then the boys want to come in the house and the girls are like, “No, you mess it up.” And they’re like, “You can be the dog sleeping by the fire.” This is something that really happened and it’s, and it’s so perfect. “You Have too much energy. Unless you’re a resting, boy, you’re not in my house right now.”

Anne:                                         18:17                       Right! And she’s calling the shots. I mean, it’s certainly no diminishment of the female role in her realm, in our realm, right?

Thea:                                         18:25                       And there is a really natural acknowledgement. I mean, and there are some girls that are doing the building, not to say there aren’t, and I’m trying to think of any boys in the house. I can’t think of any right now, you know, currently. But, and I remember being that as, as a kid, even when we played in our, on our street, which wasn’t quite a neighborhood, but it was just a little more country and one of our sisters was much more into, “I’ll build this.” And I was definitely more in, “And I’ll make it pretty!” You know? “I’ll do that part.” So different needs in there to be satisfied.

Anne:                                         19:10                       Yeah. While I managed it. But anyway…

Thea:                                         19:14                       Precisely!

Anne:                                         19:18                       Or not. So, okay, so we’re at 20 minutes. We’ve identified some stuff. Let’s, let’s, let’s come up with a bit of a prescription for a couple of minutes.

Thea:                                         19:30                       I don’t know if this is a prescription, so my apologies again if it’s not that. But I think one of the other threads I just don’t want to forget was really the question of how is time spent? That portion of what makes things purposeful in our life. That is so out of balance. You know, our lives are out of balance and so what––it is! It’s prescription! Look at that. Boom! So it comes in as to these little moments that we get to choose. Do we make this work to survive meaningful? And do we get to put some of our creative forces towards that meaningful work? And that’s simply…food preparation. Do we buy prepackaged things or do we cook? Do we take the time to cook real food? Do we, you know self care products? Do we buy our oils for our face or our creams, or do we make them? And do our children get to be a part of those things––that we then take the time to make those things.

Anne:                                         20:35                       Okay. Absolutely. But what I’ll say is that doesn’t address the boys as much as I think we’d like to. So how about this? I was telling you that we––my husband mainly––chopped a huge tree down in our backyard. Right? And interestingly different people that we were talking about doing this before–– he was trying to get some advice or just discussing––couldn’t quite conceive that he wouldn’t hire that work out. Right? And he ended up doing it and he, it was a challenge. Because it’s a very big tree and it wasn’t too far from our house. And you know, it was like climbing, cutting a few branches here and there so he could still have a ladder to climb on, with the chainsaw, but didn’t want to use the chainsaw really that high up in case it slips. So using, you know, a manual saw. And then it ended with the family with the rope all pulling it down after he had gotten it short enough, it wasn’t going to ruin our house. “Timber!” Right? And then the kids helping chop, stack wood. Right? My daughter my son definitely, he thrived in that. Right? My daughter helped as well. But you know, we have different interests, you know, that that was I think more satisfying perhaps to, to my son. So what about just making conscious choices as, as ludicrously privileged as this sounds? So I, it’s grossing me out to even say this, but you know, things that we would normally hire someone else to do for us that we’ve never done before that do fall under that realm of like building and physical labor…

Thea:                                         22:33                       And fixing and taking apart and putting back together.

Anne:                                         22:36                       Fixing the toilet fixing the faucet. Painting the front door. The fence. Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn. What about making small conscious choices, even though it’s not as efficient, perhaps, maybe you can justify the money because of the time it’s going to save, you don’t have to manage your kid, all of that. Let’s start giving our kids more of those meaningful tasks to do. And see what happens and what comes from that. Yes?

Thea:                                         23:15                       That’s an idea. I mean, because we want to be able to help our children and help ourselves become more capable to meet what comes, whatever that is. So we need the opportunities to, to fail, you know, to, to practice the things that we’re doing. And build the muscles.

Anne:                                         23:35                       We also need to recognize, I mean, I, I’ve heard this argument before that, “Well, you know, the world is turning, you know, basically everyone’s becoming coders,” right? I mean, “the world’s all computerized, technology robotics. Why fight it you know, if you’re going to succeed, I mean, put your energies there.” Well, I don’t think that that is a healthy approach to helping children develop. I don’t think that we should reject that awareness of where the world is and exposure to that at the appropriate times and cultivating those skills. But if we just move in that direction only and put all of our efforts in that abstract video game, whatever, learning we are certainly very weakened. Another aspect of us is weakened. And if that whole framework isn’t there suddenly or wherever you go in the world or whatever, you know, your competence is greatly compromised. So let’s work toward, no matter where we think the world is going, still exercising all aspects of our human beingness––physical and mental, emotional and spiritual. So you know that, that’s the general prescription. Let’s determine to make this, continue this, the next one. Part two of it.

Thea:                                         25:14                       Yeah. There’s more avenues to go down. We’re just getting it started. So thanks for touching in. It’s just something that’s been on my mind, definitely lately. And looking around. So thanks.

Anne:                                         25:26                       Yep. You too.

Thea:                                         25:28                       Have a good one.

Anne:                                         25:29                       You too. Hold on and let me figure out how to press these buttons. Let’s see. Stop.

Featured post

Why Wouldn’t We Homeschool?

by Anne Mason

My homeschooled kids and their friend on a Tuesday afternoon.

I help run our county’s homeschool group, and I field new member requests. Parents come to us for myriad reasons. They’ve always been curious about homeschooling, but don’t feel confident enough in their teaching abilities to educate their children. Their son or daughter is being bullied at school. Their child is bored, doesn’t seem to fit, isn’t succeeding in the conventional school system. They notice a marked difference between their child’s confidence and happiness during the summer and the school year––some children plead with their parents to let them stay home from day to day. Children who have heard of homeschooling beg their parents to let them try it.

I often speak with these parents on the phone or invite them to attend new member park days where they have a chance to speak with seasoned homeschooling parents. We explain all the avenues and how much easier it is to do than they’ve imagined. As Rahima Baldwin Dancy puts it in the title of her book–– You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. And therefore, you are certainly equipped to teach your child.

The US didn’t even make it into the top 20 countries in math, reading and science PISA rankings, and I live in California, which ranks 37th in primary education scores among the states. So, one of the first things I point out to parents intimidated by the seemingly daunting responsibility of teaching their children: You really can’t do much worse than the education system is already doing, so take the pressure off yourself to begin with. Second, you’ll almost certainly do a far better job of helping your children hold onto their curiosity, develop their critical thinking skills, get more sleep, feel less stressed and actually enjoy learning. Third, in this Age of Information, every type of curriculum imaginable is available to assist our efforts. You do not have to hold a degree in mathematics in order to teach your children about long division, algebra, geometry and the like. Just as teachers in the conventional school system are provided with teaching guides and answer keys, so will you be. In addition, “out-of-school” learning programs and enrichment classes are increasingly available to homeschoolers who want to supplement their own teaching. And finally, human beings are natural learners, provided we don’t mess that extraordinary capacity up!

As teacher, author and speaker John Taylor Gatto articulated in his New York Teacher of the Year Award acceptance speech, ”How will they learn to read?’ you say, and my answer is ‘Remember the lessons of Massachusetts.’ When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks––they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.”

I highly recommend any of John Taylor Gatto’s books or videos in which he explains the contradictions between learning and our educational system, and where he lays out the history of compulsory schooling here in the US––which is based on the Prussian model of education in which the goal was obedience and compliance––and what he identified as the “6 Secret Lessons Taught in School“:

  • Confusion and Fragmentation
  • Class Position
  • Indifference
  • Emotional and Intellectual Dependency
  • Provisional Self-Esteem
  • Surveillance and Denial of Privacy

Even in well intended, alternative, progressive schools, our primary educational system cannot provide children as rich a learning environment as they can find outside it. Homeschooled children are regularly involved in the world among folks of different ages and generations, encountering the infinite puzzles, problems and opportunities they find in day-to-day living––with the freedom to pursue and build upon their individual interests and passions. The classroom is a contrivance––an artificial, abstract environment which does not resemble the actual world we live in, and which demands children learn designated material at a designated time in a designated time frame in a designated manner.

A theme throughout Gatto’s books and lectures is that children learn easily when they are engaged and interested––and that they/we can learn in weeks what schools take months or years to teach. Timing also plays a huge role in how well children learn. I use a Waldorf curriculum to homeschool my children, and Waldorf education recognizes that sooner is not always better. This excellent article “First Grade Readiness” by Waldorf teacher and curriculum author Donna Simmons demonstrates this point. Her Christopherus Homeschool curriculum has been a joy to use, and her website has been a wealth of resource for us.

I was raised by liberal academics. My mother had a Masters in Education, and my father’s PhD was in the Philosophy of Education. They were both very heady individuals, and my feminist mother deliberately did not teach my sisters and me how to sew, knit, cook––or any of those traditional female skills, as I suppose she and my father felt they were liberating us from what they perceived could be a prison. If we didn’t even know how to do it, there’s no way we’d be “relegated” to housewives. And they sent each of us to a Montessori school until age 11, a pedagogy with a heavy emphasis on math, science and language, and very little on art, handwork or music.

Art, music, handwork, nature, baking, dance, story telling and more are incorporated very holistically into Waldorf education, so you can imagine what a learning curve it was for me to adopt such a curriculum to homeschool my children. And what a joy it has been! What a journey of personal development it has been! And how fun it has been to learn alongside my children in so many ways! When I am learning something, I am curious about it, excited about it, and that translates to the excitement I have in introducing these concepts to my children as well.

This week, we’ve been reading the epic tale The Mahabharata for my son’s 5th grade Ancient India block, and last year, I re-familiarized myself with pre-algebra to keep up with his math progress. Whether it’s history, mathematical concepts, music, literature or anything else, I am confident that I can learn as well as my kids can, and that while I add another skill set or subject to my repertoire, I can help my kids learn it, too. It enriches our lives, and it makes the whole experience of education and learning fun when the whole family is involved. It also keeps us all very connected to each other and with what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Check out the mini A-Frame house my kids and I (with my husband’s help) built in our backyard for my son’s 3rd grade Waldorf Curriculum.

Some folks are intimidated by the time and energy commitment of homeschooling. As my good friend and prominent homeschool advocate Julie Schiffman points out, “When people say to me that they could never homeschool because it’s ‘too much work,’ I respond with, ‘Do you realize how much work it takes to have a kid in school?'” Between shuttling one’s kids to and from school, packing lunches, managing homework, extra-curricular involvement and increasing requirements for parent volunteerism at the schools, homeschooling feels like less of a time commitment than what most schools require from the family.

And then there’s the oft repeated concern and question, “What about socialization?” Once you start homeschooling, you begin to realize what a non-concern that is. Homeschooled kids are out in the world all the time––interacting with people of all ages, professions and ethnicities. My kids have friends from age 8 to 80, and they regularly run into them at the market, the library and other places in town, often introducing me to folks they know through the open mic or chess club they attend regularly with my husband. My 8 year old daughter has tea dates with some teenage girls she’s friends with. When the kids get together with similarly aged homeschool friends (which is usually several times a week), they spend hours playing and talking, getting deeply immersed and involved in whatever it is they’re doing. My homeschool parent friends and I regularly discuss having to consciously make a point of saying “no” to some of the social events and get togethers in order to have enough time at home for homeschooling and day-to-day tasks. They are definitely not wanting for socialization.

And finally, what about the data on homeschooling outcomes? Homeschooling as an increasingly popular education option has been in place in the US and Canada for long enough to substantially measure the outcomes and get a fairly comprehensive picture of how homeschooled children have fared into adulthood. Homeschooled children score above average on achievement tests, SATs and ACTs and are increasingly being recruited by colleges.

Adults who were homeschooled measure above average in surveys analyzing social, emotional and psychological development, civic engagement and political tolerance. Homeschooled adults are more likely than their conventionally schooled peers to have completed an undergraduate degree, to have multiple income sources, to report income from self-employment, and to have higher average incomes than their peers. They participate more in local community service than the general population, and they report high satisfaction with life.

I’m the oldest of four girls, and after my youngest sister was born, my parents decided to save some money for the year my mother took off from work to stay home with her, pull us out of the private Montessori school we were attending, and homeschool us for a year. There had also been some staffing issues at the school––the teacher in the 9-12 age class that I was in had been replaced by a non-Montessori trained teacher at the time, and my education seemed to be suffering as a result. I had been having difficulties grasping concepts like long division and other subjects that were being introduced to me that year.

So, my parents bought a TRS-80 computer, some other materials and workbooks, and they set up our family room to be the “school room.” My mom was understandably pretty consumed with the new baby, and we spent a lot of that year just playing. I remember kind of secretly feeling guilty that we were “getting away with it,” because we spent so little time on “school work” and so much time playing out in the backyard, the creek, creating Fisher Price villages out on the back porch, designing basic programs on our new computer. My mom made sure we did some school work every day, but it seemed trivial in comparison to what felt like a year-long summer.

And then something funny happened. When my mom went back to work the following year, and we re-enrolled in school, I was no longer struggling at school. I had easily caught up on all the things I had been “behind” in––long division was suddenly a cinch. And I hadn’t even noticed that I had been learning it so easily and efficiently. Ever since, I have always known that if I had children, my first choice would be to homeschool them if at all possible.

Neither of my kids have attended regular school. I have an 11 year old son and an 8 year old daughter who are both curious, avid learners who excel academically, are engaged in their community, and pursue any number of myriad interests and passions including chess, dance, basketball, songwriting, beatboxing, poetry, reading, writing, gymnastics, playing and talking on the phone with their friends. They are generally kind and earnest in their interactions with others, and adults in their lives often remark to my husband and me how “well-behaved” they are. Of course, they don’t see them at home:) But this is a common theme among homeschoolers. Our theory is that because they aren’t cooped up in a classroom all day, they don’t feel the same need to let off steam and “goof off” as much while out at the store, at sport practice, at dance class.

Homeschooled children have more time––to think, to wonder, to sit, to be, to sleep, to breathe. We live in a hectic world, and children are very scheduled. As my kids have gotten older and gotten more involved in extra-curricular classes, teams and hobbies, it strikes me that the only way it’s been manageable is because they have so much breathing room during the day. And the family still has plenty of time together to share meals, have conversations, get chores done, and more. We’ve still managed to maintain what feels like a civilized pace and schedule, even with increasing outside activity involvement.

I enjoy spending time with my kids, learning with them, learning from them, watching them unfold. Parenting is flying by, and in a few years, I’m sure I’ll see less and less of them, as they become more independent, autonomous and more interested in their friends, dating, and outside pursuits. And then eventually, God willing, they’ll leave home to start their own separate journeys. With the state of things as it is in the conventional school system, and with homeschooling’s proven success––why wouldn’t we homeschool?

Featured post

Claiming Our Authority

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

In a world full of pretense and artifice, we’ve been taught to look outside ourselves for answers. Let’s penetrate this false belief by reaching for the essence beyond the image.

TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

Anne:                                         00:01                       And we’re recording. Hi, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hello there.

Anne:                                         00:06                       So we’re going to try to make this another quickie. And what, and I’ll, I’ll lead right in to where we’re going, I think. I was telling you before we started recording that my son, a couple of days ago, had asked for some advice. And the advice was at, at our homeschool park day, we have a variety of ages and, it was a new member park day too, so we had even more new people, new kids. There were a lot of youngers. And when I say youngers, I mean even younger than school age. So four year olds, five year olds. And he asked me, he said that he and one of his other homeschool buddies––they’re both about 11––were playing one-on-one basketball. And they were playing with my son’s ball and his friend’s ball was to the side.

Anne:                                         01:10                       And this little girl, this four year old came over and she wanted to play with the ball and shoot baskets, join in with them. And they tried to I think redirect her, which didn’t work too well, and it sounds like in the end she grabbed the ball and was shooting hoops, trying to shoot hoops right in the midst of them playing. Right? So what to do, how to manage that. And I said, well, if your friend is okay with her playing with his ball, the thing to do is to say “If you bring your mom or dad, whomever’s there with you at the park over to supervise you, you can then go play at the other basket with this ball. We’ll allow you to do that. But we want someone watching you so you don’t get hurt.” And it led to a discussion about boundaries and about the fact that what I find is that we are often helping people, children reminding them that there are boundaries. That we, we are helping children establish boundaries. And really, ultimately we are helping parents be parents, I find a lot these days. Because I explained to my son, the parent should have been there. The parent should have been aware of where their four year old was if the four-year-old is not capable of recognizing that there is something going on here that they need to respect and not intrude upon. The parent needs to be there, and the parent wasn’t there. Right?

Thea:                                         03:00                       Right. And can I jump in here? And then there’s that part where the 11 year old boys have that opportunity to say, “Hey we see you want to play, but we’ve got a game going on. So you can sit and watch for a little while, ’cause we don’t want to knock you over ’cause we might be getting a little rough. You know. So there’s that, that teaching moment that comes for those young children to teach a younger and that’s how, that’s part of that village picture too. You know, if the parent isn’t available or isn’t around, ’cause that’s what, that’s what they would do if it was their younger sibling. Like “No, sorry you can’t play. We’re already playing and we don’t want to have to totally alter our experience right now.” And then there are those times where, I mean I, in terms of those kind of social dynamics where you know, my boys ranging eight years, you know, they would go down to the park and shoot hoops and then other kids in the neighborhood would join in. And there is something that’s just so beautiful about that ability to play safely with those varying degrees, which we’ve talked about in various conversations about the youngest being the oldest, sometimes. The oldest being the, you know, the different roles they get to inhabit.

Thea:                                         04:22                       And then I can recall in the early days of my eldest, when I had time to spend at the park at that time, those experiences of meeting other children and parents and, and those social things, that’s a learning sphere right there for new parents. And I remember sensing that nobody really knows what the rules are. There aren’t any rules here. And how do we find our way and shape and hold this for our children, right? Because there’d be some people who would bring toys. There’d be some people here. And so are we expecting them all to share? What works out here? And then there is that step as a parent where one comes into, “these are my rules and this is how we’re going to do it.” Right? And then that lets the kids know where they are too, you know? And so other parents, as long as people are civil and courteous with one another, everyone can know where everyone is and can respect those spaces. But that doesn’t happen until someone steps up and says, Hey, this really isn’t appropriate for you right now, four year old. Dear sweet child, you can come sit over here and watch. You know, but no one knows until someone says something.

Anne:                                         05:48                       Right! And, and so and what we’ve talked about, like you’re saying here and we talked about in the past is that there is an extreme lack, I think of parents knowing to step up and say that. And, and so what you and I have talked about throughout many of our talks, we’ve talked about resilience, we’ve talked about autonomy. We have talked about boundaries spacial dynamics, spacial relationships, respect breeding, you know, begetting resilience, right? And it comes down to, what we were talking about earlier this morning, is claiming your authority. This needs to be worked on. People need to be empowered to reclaim or claim their authority, their authority as grownups, their authority, as parents, their authority, as people as empowered individuals.

Thea:                                         06:51                       Individuals, yeah. I mean claiming one’s authority as an individual. And we were just talking about that a little bit in terms of the reclaiming of that authority of the individual throughout our broader culture in society. We see that as a trend of lack of real authority figures, you know, standing tall. I’m sorry, I kinda got a little sidetracked, but also that’s what’s necessary for true relationship. Right? Because that’s self responsibility. To really claim my authority in my life, in my sphere. That comes from me being responsible for myself, recognizing what I’m responsible for and who I’m responsible for.

Anne:                                         07:46                       Yeah. And trusting one’s compass, I think. And what we talked about a little bit is that, I mean, again, I am 48 going on 49, you know, we’re both in our forties. How old are you? I always forget.

Thea:                                         08:04                       I’ll be 43 this month.

Anne:                                         08:06                       Right. So it has taken me certainly to my forties, to feel very comfortable with my authority. And you know, and I reflect on this. It’s like, I do think it’s a societal thing. I think that it is certainly a product of our educational system. And many other things. I think intentionally it is cultivating a culture of people who look outside themselves to know what to do to look to experts and authorities that are not them. Right? Whether it is, I mean, we have, we have experts in every realm. All walks, people pay experts for everything. People won’t do things because, until their doctor tells them to. People won’t make choices and instinctively act in certain ways without their lawyer’s advice and, and on and on and on. Right? So I think we all have to work through that to come out the other side and recognize that WE are our best authority. But what I think has really emerged from that culture is this lack of parental authority, too, right? And lack of individual authority in relationships, in marriages. Also people going to their shrinks. You know, spouses who have problems. They, you know, they won’t talk about their problems without a counselor or therapist leading them lead them through it. Right? This is not the way to go. Right? This is, this is, this is false belief. That’s a foundation of false belief.

Thea:                                         09:55                       Yes. Whew!

Anne:                                         09:56                       So, you know, in brief, we, you know, we’ve got just a few minutes, let’s discuss what steps we can take to cultivate that for people, for ourselves, for our children. And, and one last thing, just to give you a little something to think about is, I honestly have learned a great deal about that from you. You’re my six years younger sister, right? But I grew up being the people pleaser, the parent pleaser. I was the oldest. I didn’t take my own risks that I felt worth taking until I was much older than you did when you were taking your risks, I think. I did what I was supposed to do, right? So it took me a lot longer. And then you had children before I did. And so I got to look to you as a model, because I saw what incredible kids you have. You’ve done an amazing job. If anyone knows her kids, I mean they’re remarkable, extraordinary human beings. And with such a sense of themselves, other people as they maneuver and navigate through the world. So you’ve, you’ve really helped me in that way. So I kind of look to you to impart some words of wisdom, I suppose.

Thea:                                         11:24                       Well, that’s very generous in that. I think that there are some things that we all have helped each other, you know, see, for sure. And when we were talking about this a little bit previous, I think it came out of a remark when I was reflecting on what my work. What essentially I do for my work is really help to teach young people what it means to respect themselves and others. That’s what we touch in upon in relationship. So we can’t really have relationship until we learn where one is and where the other is––until we learn how those two spaces can meet and separate in a respectful way. And I mean that’s the work I’m continuing to do in my own life for sure. But in terms of this sort of work and, and then that sparked this reflection of something that happened in the playground because these are social games that I bring to young people. And so in those social spheres, that’s where we learn. We learn by messing up, and then we learn by trying it again. We learn that what I said wasn’t clear. And so I have to say it again in a more clear way. I don’t know if that’s bringing a pointed example, but I do also feel like this is one other part to share with this. I remember one of my parenting mentors, Misty––cause she had a daughter eight years older than our children––and I remember her saying, “Don’t say ‘NO’ unless you mean it, but say it when you mean it.” And I feel like I’ve seen that in our culture––there’s a lot of resistance to using absolutes, “NOs”, you know, “this is a boundary you cannot cross.” But then when people do use it, they’re using it and not backing it up, without following through, which makes “NO” mean nothing, you know.

Anne:                                         13:47                       Because they actually don’t know really what requires the “NO” or doesn’t. And that gets back to, gosh, it makes me even think about the whole, that’s a whole other discussion too, but in terms of the relationship between men and women and “no means no.” It’s like no, it’s not just language. You know, you have to truly know what feels right and what feels wrong. And when something feels wrong, it’s, you know, act upon it. When something feels right, act upon it.

Thea:                                         14:26                       Yeah. And it’s the recognizing, yes, that the language is like the 10% of our communication. I don’t know if there’s some study. But everything that’s behind it is what people are responding to. And I think we’ve talked about that a little bit in different things here––when we’re trying to create rules that are just material or just arbitrary, they fail. They mean nothing. And so we now look at where we are, and a lot of it is due to that, I think, you know.

Anne:                                         15:08                       And I’m just sparking right now. I’ve been sensing this and this is where I see it. It relates to artifice and pretense. You have brought this up a couple of times recently where, what did you say? It’s about the image as opposed to substance?

Thea:                                         15:28                       Yeah, things get caught up into the image rather than the essence. So much. I mean, I remember talking about this years and years back when we talked about, you know, different realms that I’ve lived in, you know, and where the substance, the essence seems to be lost and people just grab onto the image. The artificial, the material things that represent the image of the essence.

Anne:                                         15:55                       The trappings. Yes. And we’re going to actually wrap it up pretty soon, but basically, it makes me think of just like, like this: I mean, you know, we’re not made up, makeup, all that. Right? It’s like, I was telling my husband this, that like, as time has gone on in my life, perhaps as I have lived and forged more of myself, I have a harder and harder time indulging or engaging in anything like that. It feels so unreal, somehow. Putting make-up on, even. Right?

Thea:                                         16:37                       Pointless.

Anne:                                         16:37                       Yeah. so there’s that. Same with, I remember years and years and years ago, in my 20s, starting to have this sense of people in my adult life––as I was encountering adults, I would recognize that some people seemed, or a lot of people seemed like they were pretending to be grownups. They would say things that sounded to me like things they had heard that they think sounds grown up, but I could tell they weren’t really grownups. Right? So it’s all wrapped up in that similar thing of artifice, pretense, academic learning, abstract learning versus knowing this. Right? So there’s, there’s so much of that that we have to explore in another conversation.

Thea:                                         17:26                       We will, and I have to say one more thing before we close it, because there’s something here. I’m gonna try to be really brief, but there’s something in the image. Because I think when you’re talking like that––of people that you would see that would be acting like they were grownups, right? Imitation. And so that, that draws me to the young child. They learn through imitation. We learn through imitation, but it has to then translate. It has to evolve into the being. It has to evolve into the beingness of the essence. But what we’re seeing in our culture so much is that it, it circles and circles and circles around in the image. Into the image imitation rather than it dropping into the essence and then the evolution. There’s something there for us to go more with next time. But that has something to do with the inability to step into true authority. Because if you are functioning in this artifice, this image, and you’re only in the imitation––which is a process! Part of that is necessary. Right? I mean, I think of, when I’ve learned to teach, who do I sound like? My teacher. Until I digest it and it’s become myself and then I’m me. So it’s a process.

Anne:                                         18:54                       Right. We model, we model and then learn, right? We model and try things out. Until we embrace or discard what doesn’t work for us. Right? But we seem to be caught in this cycle of imitation and pretense and fear.

Thea:                                         19:10                       And the appearance.

Anne:                                         19:10                       The appearance. Where the appearance is so important, as opposed to the truth. Truth! And substance.

Thea:                                         19:19                       Substance and truth. Yeah.

Anne:                                         19:21                       Which is messy too. So.

Thea:                                         19:22                       Oh, and but, but so clean. The substance and the truth is clean because everything else falls off of it. But let’s stop there.

Anne:                                         19:35                       Yeah. I get it. Yeah. This one’s a teaser, it’s a teaser, so, all right. Well, we’ll go from that and talk a little bit about this before we go to our next deeper one following on this. Okay. Thank you.

Thea:                                         19:49                       Thanks so much. Be true.

Anne:                                         19:54                       Be true. All right.

Featured post

Respect Begets Resilience and Empowerment

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

My sister Thea Mason and I discuss material examples of Benign Neglect––both in parenting and in relationships, with others and with oneself––which demonstrate respect and cultivate resilience. Which leads to empowerment.

Transcript below:


Anne:                                         00:01                       Okay. Hi, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi there, Anne. Good to see you.

Anne:                                         00:06                       Good to see you too. So starting this again. So this conversation we’re gonna talk, going to follow on last week’s conversation, which was about Benign Neglect as an approach to parenting, as an approach to all of our relationships, in order to encourage everyone to be resilient, right,? To, to help cultivate resilience, to help us grow our resilience. So, and so we want to talk about some material examples of that, both in parenting and in relationships. And I’m going to let you start with that.

Thea:                                         00:52                       So last conversation we had touched on a very early stage of development physically for a young child, being that they pushed up onto their hands and knees in the pursuit of movement and crawling and independence. And we were discussing a little…

Anne:                                         01:12                       Wait, wait. Can I just interrupt? And, and that most parents know instinctively to not assist that, because it’s so critical in them exercising those muscles in order to be able to do that. Because if we do it for them, they won’t exercise those muscles.

Thea:                                         01:32                       Right. I mean, and you have pictures of that in all of nature, right? I mean, one most everyone is familiar with is the caterpillar pushing, struggling out of the Chrysalis or it a chick hatching out. So if you, if you disturb that process, they are weakened and therefore cannot actually survive. So that’s a little, you know, picture. And as human beings, we have so many more varied and complex stages of these opportunities of the possibility to build resilience or to be hindered and crippled, essentially, for the way we meet the world. And so we were talking about, you know, some, some natural things that occur when children are young. And some of the things we were discussing, and from my experience and I’m sure yours in parenting, you know, as children start to develop freedom and then they want to climb the tree and they want to get to that branch. And sometimes as parents we want to support them and be there to help assist them into those places. And I think through learning we find that if you are to assist past a point where someone is ready to carry themselves, you’re actually putting them in danger because a child will only climb to that which they can climb down from and get down from. Right? because they know they made it up, they can make it down. And if you’ve put someone there without their own striving and faith in their own ability, then there’s a fear lock. Right? And then they cannot quite do it. So that was one other example. I don’t know if you want to speak to that or…

Anne:                                         03:21                       No, I mean I think that’s a perfect example. And, and the word that came to mind was, if we put people somewhere prematurely, right? They, they really have to get there themselves in order to then be able to jump to the next, and the next, and the next, I think.To build the foundation. Right?

Thea:                                         03:43                       Absolutely. And another place that I see that in a really practical way out of the work I do and, and my history with my children is, is a swing. Moving on a swing takes its own impulse and will, or rhythmic movement of pushing and pulling oneself where they want to go. So those were just two very tangible, in terms of the development of the human being in pursuit of freedom and fun.

Anne:                                         04:18                       And, you know, and, and, and another one that just occurred to me I remember when we’d go to the beach together when our kids were younger and I would be like, oh, I forgot the shovel, or I forgot the buckets and shovels. And you said, here are their shovels, right? And I adopted that approach more across the board. Less props, less props, less toys, less things. And out of that, I would see wonderful projects being conceived and dams being built and holes being dug and in, in, in, in wonderful ways. Right? And, and doing that more and more reinforces that with our kids.

Thea:                                         05:06                       And builds, and also builds a space of more ease as a parent. You know, I mean, that’s the other part that it doesn’t have to be so busy or fraught with details. And can be a little bit more pleasant.

Anne:                                         05:25                       Well, and you’re, you’re much more fluid when you are living and approaching everything a bit more simply. You don’t need so much. Right?

Thea:                                         05:34                       Very true. And and I will take that just into another stage of development when it moves from the physical with our children to, you know, as from my experience as my children have gone into adolescence and the different emotional states that are coming up, and the discomfort that comes up. And I had a very clear experience, and I can recall the memory moments very clearly where my, my child was uncomfortable, struggling in some pain emotionally about something that was emerging for himself. And I can very clearly see the tactic he was working to employ was to bait me to create a situation of conflict, a drama in some sort to bait me into that, to engage with him, to give him a channel to release his frustration inappropriately. To release it towards me so he could be distracted from actually stepping through his own work. And I remember seeing it so clearly and instead of taking the bait, which I’m sure I have at times, but in that moment really clearly, distinctly saying, “oh, you’re having a hard time, huh?” So that stopped it.

Anne:                                         07:12                       But, but it’s also, it’s also acknowledging it, right? It’s not ignoring it. So it is being, it’s being supportive, and it is seeing, regarding.

Thea:                                         07:22                       And it gives a window. So, “You’re having a hard time” and he then could have the window to say, “Yeah, I am.” And I could say, “Do you want to talk about it?” So it’s really about learning how to have a healthy relationship with the things that come up, a relationship with oneself to be able to name and identify when something is presenting itself for us to look at.

Anne:                                         07:52                       Yes. When something is troubling us. Um I had mentioned to you previously about something with my, with one of my kids. She, she has a tendency to come into the room when she’s upset. Again, she’s coming to an age where it’s beyond the physical, it’s emotional, it’s settling into this, this world and some of its challenges, right? Of being. ‘Cause They’re not just in this oneness of childhood all the time. Right? And Hmmph!” You know a poutiness, throwing oneself on the couch maybe and turning her head away from me. Right? And sometimes I will actually say nothing. If it goes on, I will do what you had mentioned, which is “What’s going on?” So acknowledging that I see that there’s something going on, but refraining from, “Oh, what’s wrong? Are you upset?” Because I feel that indulging that leads to what I see among peers. And I would say women more than men for one reason or another.

Thea:                                         09:16                       Or at least from your perspective.

Anne:                                         09:17                       Okay. From my perspective, I have noticed, and maybe it’s because I have more female friends. Right? But, but I’ve noticed a tendency for people to feel slighted, hurt, something, by me. And rather than come to me and talk to me about it or express that––to wait for me to figure that out, whether it’s through their behavior or their silence. And I think when I was younger, I might have, I feel like it’s, “taken the bait” on that. These days I’m much less inclined to want to get drawn into that at all. Where I feel I’m, I’m asking you, I’m respecting you enough to let me know if there’s something bothering you. If there is, I will do everything in my power to address it. If you can’t even take the responsibility to, to let me know, then I’m not going to be your parent and draw it out of you. Right?

Thea:                                         10:29                       Right. And there, there are so many layers within that. Yeah. And, and it is, it’s, it’s an interesting thing. We’ve spoken about that, you know, finding that balance of being, being sensitive and compassionate to people in a struggle. And also not, not continuing their stuck dynamic by engaging into that. Right? Because, because that’s what we all have, these ways of being that have worked for us out of some difficult situation in our past, our becoming an adult. And if those ways of functioning that may truly be limiting to how we relate with ourselves and the world, if they have still gotten what we want, we’re not going to change. I mean, and that’s, and I have a very good friend, I remember talking about his struggles with parenting. And I remember saying that, well, if there’s, if your children are still getting what they want through their behavior, they’re not going to change. We’re pretty simple creatures. Right? If we’re still getting our basic comfort met our basic needs met, we’re not going to change. You know, so that ties in with that in terms of that dynamic with friends, you know, if we’re still getting the response we need, we’re still getting that sort of feeding of attention and energy, which I think gets, can get really distorted.

Anne:                                         12:13                       Absolutely. It’s, it, it can become codependent. It can just perpetuate a dysfunctionality. Forever and ever and ever really. And when we had talked about this earlier too, you used the word enabling. We don’t want to enable patterns and ways of being in our children or our friends or our partners or ourselves, which keep us limited. Right? And, and not as empowered. Because how empowering is it to feel free and confident enough to, when something that someone has done that you care to remain in a relationship with, bothers you enough to impact you, to be able to then say, “Hey, you pissed me off. You upset me. You hurt me.”

Thea:                                         13:16                       Or I was really hurt when you did this. You know, that’s that language again.

Anne:                                         13:24                       Totally. I hate that I even said that ’cause I, I’m so, I’m, I’m usually very clear about the fact that largely it’s, it’s our choice to feel hurt or not or you know…

Thea:                                         13:42                       Often it is. And I think something we’ve talked about before, when I have had a, an experience of being hurt by something someone has done, if I address it and speak to them, it is often the case that they just hadn’t even realized it. Right? That it wasn’t a true intention to hurt. It was my feeling of being hurt, you know? So what happens, this going along with that, that picture that we give each other opportunities to grow and expand our, our purview of, of perceiving, if that makes sense. When people give us feedback I have a friend right now who, you know, I’m trying to find my way. They’re in, they’re in a difficult time and I’m trying to find the way to be supportive and compassionate in a way that feels really true and sincere for me. And they have expressed to me, “You know, I felt sort of hurt by this.” So I know that by them giving me that information, and now I get to work with playing with––What’s the right dynamic to be a supportive friend here, because I don’t want to take it on, but I also want to make sure they do know I’m here for them.

Anne:                                         15:12                       Right. Again, you want to help draw them out of patterns that they may be also stuck in as we all get in. Um but at the same time, supportive. It’s a balance. Uh just to hit another couple material examples before we have to end. We talked about one one of mine was oh well, well one was when the kids say “I’m bored,” right? They go through these developmental stages where that is, is a, a running theme, you know. They’ve come to awareness and consciousness that they are not just, again in the oneness as much and able to just move from one thing to another seamlessly. They actually now are having to think about what it is I want to do. I am…

Thea:                                         16:10                       They’re separate a little bit.

Anne:                                         16:12                       Yeah. And so the, we both I think have a similar approach with that, which is “How lucky for you!”

Thea:                                         16:20                       “How fortunate you are to be bored right now.”

Anne:                                         16:23                       “I don’t have the luxury of being bored. So work with that and see what comes of that.” Right? And invariably something wonderful will. Or not.

Thea:                                         16:34                       Or not. You know, I think there’s something that’s really to be said for just a question in those moments rather than a gesture of wanting to, to fix. ‘Cause Of course we want to see our kids happy. Of course we want to see them thriving. But this goes to the being comfortable in the discomfort. But when, when a child says “I’m bored,” you could simply say, “Tell me about it. What’s that like?” I mean age appropriate, let’s say, or “Oh, how so?” And you know, it gives them a moment to bring forth, what’s their mind’s state. And then they realize, “Oh, I’m actually not bored,” or “Telling you about it would be really boring, so I’m outta here.”

Anne:                                         17:22                       More likely. Right? Or, or you know, of course another tactic is, “You’re bored, there’s some clothes to fold over there. The kitchen needs cleaning,” and zoom, they are out the door. Right? Figure out something. But not to keep harping on this one, but, there’s a recent thing that happened. It was a few days ago, I think, you know, my son is a voracious reader and he gets lost in his books and and if he’s on one series or another, it can just be constant. And he had not picked up the book from the library that he had reserved. He had finished the other book and just, he’s all, you know, cranky and, and said something like, “I’m bored,” you know, “There’s nothing to do,” you know, and, and yeah, same tactic,”Oh, well,” you know. And out of that, that day, I remember, came two poems. He, he, he found his journal and he wrote a poem and a haiku. Right? That really stuck with me like, “Good. You have to be bored.”

Thea:                                         18:24                       Yeah. To create. Out of suffering is born creation. Really. Sometimes at least. And was there another point we were going to make?

Anne:                                         18:38                       Well, well if you have another one and I’m looking at a time, we’re trying to keep this nice and short. One was about you know, I’d, I had said to you, I said, “I don’t give handouts.” Right? I don’t mean, I don’t mean when I say that honestly I have given money. I used to give money all the time in the street. I’m not even talking about that. I do that much less. Occasionally I do when I’m struck. Right? But more friends and family members, right? Who I will see a pattern with, of asking for, for money, you know, material support. Repeatedly. Right? It’s something that I am not inclined to do unless there is a very good reason for me to believe that this is actually going to help them on their way, and it’s not going to be a crutch to keep them stuck in their stuckness. And you had made a point you had said, well…

Thea:                                         19:51                       I had said, you know, I find you to be quite generous with your time and your resources in terms of just wanting to put them into good use and movement. And I think what it drew forth in our conversation was there is, you know, there is a time for straight generosity. I mean, just out of the goodness of one’s being to see someone who has no comfort, to give comfort, right? That that is, that’s a reasonable thing. And then when you have people that you’re in relationship with that, that necessitates a different holding of how we share our resources of time, energy, money, whatever you want to say. And I think what we identified was, when there is striving, and an energy of movement and growth within someone who is in a hard place. When that striping is there. I mean, we could talk about that, as they’re already building a momentum around themselves by the effort itself, whatever that is. That is where it is much simpler to give support because it’s taken up, and it is in movement already. A.

Anne:                                         21:07                       And it is utilized. We talked about, I put it as if someone is able to receive the gift productively, I want to give and give and give as much as I can. And am grateful to participate in that person’s…

Thea:                                         21:30                       Development, freedom, liberation.

Anne:                                         21:31                       Absolutely. But I am but, but on the contrary when someone repeatedly is…Sorry I, I don’t want to get too much into it right now, but…

Thea:                                         21:50                       Well, I think what that is, is there’s a difference in when it goes into something and it starts to––I, I can see it in my mind––it moves and then there is something that has a stuckness. So this is a little bit of a distinguishing between the practices of parenting and what we’re trying to do with our children with Benign Neglect. To build resilience means when you are in a stuck place, you have the capacity to take whatever you can get your hands on to help you build that resilience towards something better, you know, to get out of your own suffering. And when you don’t have that faith in yourself, you don’t have that practice of taking a situation that’s difficult, even with the generosity of others, you don’t have your feet to stand on, to step to another level of being in yourself.

Anne:                                         22:54                       Yes. Yes. And that wraps, let’s wrap it up because that ties all the way back to the beginning, which is why it is critical with our children that we allow them to develop that faith in themselves, because if they don’t, every step we take in our lives moves us in one direction or another, each step. Right? And so if they don’t have that faith from the beginning or you know, and of course we can get it and learn it and be challenged with very trying situations. But if it keeps being reinforced that they get rescued out of whatever situation it is and don’t ever develop that muscle and really that faith in themselves, then gosh, at 50 years old, at 60 years old, they still will not be able to use that, those generous gifts from others to really make it on their own because they will never found that faith in themselves.

Thea:                                         23:57                       And I would, you know, make it on their own. Yes. But I would even say, I mean, what are each of us here for? You know, what I hold, anyway, is that for each of us to uncover what it is that we have within our being’s destiny, to bring to the world, to work with in the world and to leave into the world. And if I as a person am robbed of my own struggle to discover what it is I’m here to bring to the world, then it’s a disservice to myself and to humanity, all of life, you know, on that light note. But that’s, that’s how I see it, you know, because yes, we can go forth even when we’re handicapped and we can find the tools and build the muscle with right opportunity. I mean I think each of us has found the same sort of challenges come our way until we find a new way to meet them. And so it does come, there is a wisdom in all of creation to bring it to us.

Anne:                                         25:12                       Yes! We don’t miss our, yeah, the opportunities continue to circle around to us throughout our lives, right? But we need to be able to find that faith in ourselves one way or another and find our path.

Thea:                                         25:33                       Yes. And as parents, you know, if we can hold that task with reverence and sincerity and meaning, like, and real respect for how powerful this work is, you know, to know how important that work is. To go forth into it. So, you know, all of that for all of us in these relationships with our children, with each other to be able to build more freedom for each other through–don’t want to say mindful, but it is mindful–through really holding respect for one another. I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to in a way.

Anne:                                         26:22                       I think you are right, because having true respect for someone–again, we’ve touched on this–does also follow that we have the confidence in them, in their capacity, in their largeness and capacity. So every time we hold back from fixing or lifting them before they’re ready, we are, we are demonstrating a deep respect for our children, for our partners, for our friends.

Thea:                                         26:57                       Yes. Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Anne:                                         27:00                       Thank you. See you next time.

Thea:                                         27:02                       See you later.

Anne:                                         27:03                       Alright. Let me end this.

Featured post

Becoming Resilient

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

My sister Thea Mason and I discuss the concept of benign neglect in parenting, as well as in all our relationships, to help everyone build the necessary resilience to face life’s challenges.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:02                       Hi Thea!

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi, Anne!

Anne:                                         00:03                       So today we’re going to talk about resilience. And we come to this, I come to this partly because I have been seeing an overemphasis I think on people’s victimization in this culture, in this society, in, throughout our history on too much emphasis in my opinion on victim hood and identifying with our victimhood rather than identifying with our strengths and our empowerment. And we won’t get too into this, but the last conversation we had was…we talked about empowerment. What is empowerment? And you pointed out that this word has been, it’s thrown around a lot and it’s used a lot, but I think we need to get clear about what is empowerment and what is, what is resilience? How do we become resilient? How do we remain resilient to face the challenges that inevitably we face throughout our lives?

Thea:                                         01:31                       And one of the colorings I think that we had spoken about in regards to the dynamic of victimhood is this the functioning of victim mindset to look to the world, to change, to make the victim feel better. To ask for that, which is outside to alter. And one of the dynamics we’ve spoken about is really this is a relationship, right? So you have the individual in its victim state or non victim state relating to the world. And both of them have to be inter interacting and connecting together. Impressing upon one another to, sorry, helicopter to enact change and development as a, as a species, as a culture and so on. And so when the victim hood is getting stuck in this one direction dynamic to the outside world, we’re really not going anywhere good. So that’s one part. And then we were talking about what is it that, what is it that can cultivate resilience and speaking as parents, as mothers, we’re looking at, okay, what is, what does that mean for parenting?

Thea:                                         02:55                       You know, there’s numerous parenting books and styles, everything. Well, what is the, the function of the parent to be able to bring forth, can we pause? Sorry, my timer’s going off. I forgot.

Anne:                                         03:11                       So just to come back after that interruption, you were talking about parenting what kind of parenting? The type of parenting that really helps children become the type of adult that can weather the storm as opposed to being demolished by it and demanding that the world change or stop or alter to accommodate their inability to handle that. Right? So that, that’s my take on it. Right?

Thea:                                         03:54                       Right. And, and within that take, I mean, we did, we talked about there’s a difference between the demanding gesture and the commanding gesture. And within that, I feel like it’s important just to have those moments to distinguish, I think recognizing the difference of just, “Hey, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and you just do it.” And that’s true. And when there are true things that need altering in a culture, that is that, that’s that picture of that pressing. We have to change one another in that relationship to evolve.

Anne:                                         04:31                       Exactly. We, right. And, and in the last conversation, in another conversation that we had had, I said, you know, the extreme version is that idea of throwing a kid into the water before they know how to swim and, “sink or swim.” Right? And that people may have learned to swim that way back back when. Okay. But that’s not ideal either because that’s traumatizing as well.

Thea:                                         04:55                       And then probably they don’t like to swim. Right? So, so and so talking about the distinguishing, what is that characteristic or style of parenting and through many conversations over the years, I had coined it as benign neglect, ah, as a parenting style or as a parenting tool. And so here we get to talk about how that that dynamic can be utilized as a parent with a child. It can also be utilized as a friend to a friend or a partner to a partner in whatever dynamic. And essentially it is when the child or friend or whomever is in a problem, in a struggle of sorts, whatever that is, that, that you as the, or me as the support, the friend, the parent, the guide is clear about where they are with their problem and where I reside with myself. Therefore I’m not getting into their problem with them and taking it over and trying to fix it, but I can be a supportive tool or a guide to help them find their way to their own solution.

Anne:                                         06:24                       Yes. So it’s, because in, in another conversation that we had talked about, you know, it’s, it’s not helicopter parenting, right? It’s also not “Cry it out.” Right?

Thea:                                         06:45                       Right.

Anne:                                         06:45                       It’s, it is allowing the child the space to struggle and prove something to him or herself really is what it is. And you had identified this in another conversation. It’s also letting that child or partner or friend know that you’ve got the utmost faith in them to be able to do it. And so much faith that you don’t have to fix it for them or do it for them or make it easier. And one of the examples we had touched on was in a very basic way that most parents understand, and I think this is, it’s interesting when we were talking about the knowingness, before? I don’t know that any parent, I’ve never seen any parent interfere with the, the, the, the baby who is struggling desperately to get up on their hands and knees to crawl.

Anne:                                         07:55                       We instinctively know somewhere deep inside of us that the only way that baby is going to move forward is if we allow them to do it themselves. No matter how much their crying and frustrated and you can see it in their face, right? We all allow our kids to do that. The key I think is to continue doing that throughout their lives and to do that with anyone else. But it, it doesn’t mean, I mean if you know, if danger is coming and the kid’s right in the midst of learning how to crawl, we’re not going to just let them do that and come to harm, right? So there’s a balance.

Thea:                                         08:40                       There’s a balance and that muscle has to be exercised so that we can tune into what that is, that dynamic of healthy struggle as opposed to endangering pain. So for ourselves as parents to our children and for ourselves as individuals experiencing pain, I mean it’s such a, such a, such a layered web of becoming an identifying reality as such, you know, in terms of what happens in that moment if we, if I as a parent take my child out of that moment of struggle when it was good, healthy struggle, I have robbed them of their own experience of proving something to themselves. I have also robbed myself as the parent of allowing that growth that occurs for our children to become more individual, separate from the parent. If I take take that child up before it’s time. I didn’t quite hit that well, but…

Anne:                                         09:56                       I know, I know what you were getting at just to because the, the parent, it’s an, you know, we’re doing a, we’re dancing with our kids, especially those first 18 or so years. And if we don’t allow them to do that in front of us, then we’re also robbing ourselves of that knowledge that our kids are actually going to be okay.

Thea:                                         10:25                       Right. And I mean, and then you know, that can I kind of lost where I was going, but it kind of, it can get so hijacked for so many reasons. And, and sometimes you’ll see this with parents who, you know, I can’t remember. It’s some syndrome of some sort or some complex that it’s called when a parent needs a child to be sick? So there’s, so that’s like an extreme distorted dynamic of it, to be needed. Yeah. there is, and then as you’re talking about a child learning how to press up into hands and knees I don’t know what’s on the market these days, but I do know that there are things provided for babies to sit up before they’re ready to sit up, there are things provided for babies to stand before they’re ready to stand…

Anne:                                         11:13                       Or to walk. Walkers, right?

Thea:                                         11:14                       Or to walk. So we have these things that are in our broad culture that are, are pushing us away from the intrinsic instinctual and intuitive parenting that we have with our children.

Anne:                                         11:35                       Right? It’s shortchanging everybody. Yeah. Right.

Thea:                                         11:38                       And so again, so what those things are doing and we can map that back to pregnancy, I mean to, you know, it’s like everywhere that it’s, it’s pulling us away from exercising that muscle of instinct and the other side of that, intuition. Those two sides of knowing beyond the factual seeing.

Anne:                                         12:00                       Beyond the parenting book that tells you, “In this situation, allow your child to learn to climb the tree but don’t make the, make sure the tree isn’t so high” or something like that. We have to get past that. We have to instinctively know. And, and that, that comes from the beginning and practicing this from the beginning when the risks are very low.

Anne:                                         12:23                       Right? So when it’s just learning to rollover learning to grasp it’s to allow the child, the, the full capacity and range to go through their struggle and overcome that step by step by step.

Thea:                                         12:42                       Yes. That muscle grows continuously.

Anne:                                         12:47                       You can, and you know, this would be another conversation, but I didn’t even think, you know, fever. Right? Or all of the other things that our body does, right? It’s like, or pain. The pain relievers. Our obsession with pain relief on every level. Our obsession with not allowing people to be depressed for very normal reasons. Like grief. I remember when our folks died, you know, and you know, people offering to prescribe medication to minimize our grief. Right? No! We have to grieve and move through that in order to come out the other side. Anyway.

Thea:                                         13:28                       Well, one more thing I think, I mean it’s, I know it’s so fun and exciting to explore the ideas and see all the avenues where they’re connected. But one of the other parts was in that experience of struggle and frustration and discomfort, you know, as parents, we are, it’s such a huge responsibility in terms of identifying and naming things for our children. So, so rather than that struggle, that hard work that makes their muscles tired rather than that being pain, that’s frustration and strengthening. But if it has been named as pain, I mean, I’m using this, pushing up on my hands and knees, but it can be so many other things. You know, as, I’ve worked with kids who, oh, they have sore muscles and it feels like pain because they don’t yet know how to name that as, “my muscles are sore because I use them in a new way.” So just the importance of that identifying and naming of something. And if we don’t allow that healthy struggle, when we, when that resistance comes at us in a, in an uncomfortable way, a child who has not had the experience of going through that resistance, feeling that resistance and coming out the other end may think, whoa, that’s pain.

Anne:                                         14:57                       Or there’s something wrong here, which relates to something we’ve talked about before, which is what you’d said, being okay with being uncomfortable, being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Thea:                                         15:10                       Yes. Getting comfortable in the discomfort. And that is parents, I mean, that’s like one of our first jobs, getting comfortable with that discomfort of everything that’s going to be coming our way, raising children into the world. And if we can get comfortable there, our kids can get comfortable there and find their own way with it and not uh…

Anne:                                         15:41                       Avoid it. Not avoid it. Right?

Thea:                                         15:43                       Yeah. Yeah.

Anne:                                         15:44                       Um you know, which also reminds me of other things we’ve talked about. A conversation we had had about just, you know, even in a household, I mean, I’ve talked to other friends of mine about this, but you know, my husband and I fight, right? We don’t take it behind closed doors and then come out after it’s all resolved. The kids see us fight, the kids see us resolve it. Right? And I, you know, some might think might say we’re, we’re a little too, you know, just, it’s all, it’s all out here, right? There’s but hold on one sec.

Anne:                                         16:33                       Okay. So anyway, so yeah, just, just, just in, in regards life’s problems, right? Obviously everything has to be developmentally appropriate. I’m not going to introduce my kids to worldly problems that are not impacting them right now, that they’re not ready, I feel to handle yet, but bit by bit, I think that we can, you know, we need to find a flow in which we’re not contriving the world. You know, the, the, there is a struggle. The human experience is, is, and can be a struggle. It’s, there is beauty in the struggle, right? And, and we overcome. And we triumph. And so, so how do, how do we, how do we guide our children to learn that and know that in themselves?

Thea:                                         17:34                       Well one of the things you had said in our conversation another time was really the task of the parent is to allow for the safe creation of a practice world for the child. And I would tie that even into our, our last conversation we shared about games. That’s what games do, right? There our practice world for meeting challenges and all these different dynamics, social dynamics and such. And as parents, if we can allow for that practice world, the struggle can happen. The conflicts can happen. And when there’s need for intervention, we’re there. But the need is so much, so much less frequent than we think.

Anne:                                         18:24                       And let me interrupt something cause it, it makes me realize something that’s worth saying. I think the reason that we have gone this whole other direction is because our generation, maybe even the generation before came from more authoritarian, an extremeness the other way, that we’ve been trying to, we’re reacting to that. And people may be, perhaps are going overboard in, in sparing children, any pain, any pain, any struggle, right?

Anne:                                         19:02                       Which also goes into this whole idea of giving your kids boundaries and guidelines too, right?

Thea:                                         19:11                       Yes. It’s not a free for all!

Anne:                                         19:13                       Exactly. We both live in areas where a lot of people read a lot of books about parenting. And I think there’s sometimes a tendency to, in order to allow the child to freely express themselves they’re not giving the child enough enough boundary to push against.

Thea:                                         19:40                       Right. And so what that also sparks for me in that is, you know, really when I was thinking about this benign neglect, it was sort of like how to raise the child that you’ll like as an adult. That you’ll like to be around as an adult.

Anne:                                         19:57                       Okay. We’re back.

Thea:                                         19:58                       So I believe I was talking about this idea of how do you raise a kid you’re going to like as an adult and ideally, hey, that you mostly like when they’re a kid as well. There’s going to be periods where you don’t, you know. That’s, that’s appropriate. And we were talking a little bit earlier about how allowing for or giving the space of a benign neglect practice of parenting allows for a young person or anyone to develop their own relationship with, with what is good and true to build a muscle with those activities and ways of relating to the world. And if those ways are practiced and that relationship with what is good and true and beautiful is strengthened, then they’re able to come into the world and touch in with those qualities and know when they’re in line with those qualities and when they’re not.

Anne:                                         20:59                       Without someone else telling them.

Thea:                                         21:04                       Right. So that goes to this idea of approval, external approvals or not. So you also made a comment about Orson Scott Card saying that, an author, saying you’re not really truly an adult until…

Anne:                                         21:18                       Until you stop worrying about what other people think of you. And I, and I qualified this when we talked about it before that of course it makes sense to regard and check in with those you love and respect, or those you respect really, because we all need to be checked sometimes. And we all need the feedback from the outside world to really, to have some perspective on ourselves, some objective perspective. But, you know, and this is a conversation for another time, but I think even our educational system is geared toward training people from very early ages to seek approval, to seek authoritarian approval, really authority’s approval or seek someone’s approval uh in order to move forward. And I think the key is to raise people who have a, the word you’ve used is compass, who, who have a compass, a keen compass. That over time allows them to sense when they are behaving badly, basically.

Anne:                                         22:40                       Right? Or going down the wrong path. Because it’s not about behaving badly. It’s also about behaving purposefully. There are some great figures in history, many who have gone forward because they, their compass told them and directed them so, and much of the world thought they were crazy, but they ended up being the movers.

Thea:                                         23:10                       Well, and, and I feel like, I just want to fill that in a little bit because I think developmentally, you know, there is an appropriate time to look to your teacher, your guide, your parents for approval. That is a healthy, appropriate thing. But the task is then for that dynamic to evolve. So when that teacher, parent you know, is doing a good job, they get to where they don’t, that the student isn’t looking for the approval anymore because the approval is in the doing or the, the act itself. And so that’s just, that’s a dynamic of teaching that gets distorted, as well.

Anne:                                         23:55                       Right, right. And parenting, teaching and parenting, right? Because if, if the teacher or the parent is not mindful enough of their own stuff to, to do their best to regard that other being that other person as a separate.

Thea:                                         24:17                       Free being.

Anne:                                         24:19                       Yeah. As a separate free being, having their own growth, their own challenges, their own struggles that don’t reflect on us. One way or the other, right? If they can do that, they’ll go a long way toward healthily giving their approval or disapproval when the child needs it.

Thea:                                         24:43                       Yeah. Right. And knowing when those moments are which is so key and that really, so…Two things out of that, if I can keep it. One was, you know, touching on traumas before I go into that. The other part I wanted to accent is, so in terms of that, that trauma that, that we can get caught up in, which doesn’t allow that person to go through their own struggle of their own that isn’t ours.

Anne:                                         25:15                       Let, let, let me clarify that…what we had talked about in another conversation was that it is often our own traumas as parents that influence us to not want to let the child struggle through their necessary struggle. Right? We want to spare them the traumas that we had, which is why it’s so important to become conscious of our traumas, identify them and work through them in whatever healthy way we can. Not get stuck in them and project them onto our children as well. So we had talked about that which…Traumas probably needs to be its own conversation, and I’ve seen our time. We’re pretty long.

Thea:                                         26:09                       So really it’s, it’s the notion if we’re just to pull these things together, the notion, oh I got it. Really the work is individually as parents, individually as a a partner or friend, is that work of clarifying our own ah, work, our own habits that either take us into good things or bad things or, and good healthy relationship practices.

Thea:                                         26:37                       And the more we do that individually, the more that simply translates into how we are going allow another human being to develop freely. If we are working on freeing ourselves from whatever is externally pressing in upon us in terms of teachers’ approval judgments…

Anne:                                         27:01                       Pain. Headaches, body aches emotional aches. If we can face those, step by step every day and move through them and prove to ourselves that we’re all okay, we’re all going to be okay. Just keep moving forward. Right? We are powerful beings. We can handle a lot. If we can do that, and be mindful of it for ourselves, that helps us to be more mindful of it for our children. It helps us to be more mindful of it for our friends, for our partners and for all the members of society around us, right? To be compassionate. And respectful. But to have such faith in each other, that, that we are capable of overcoming. And become resilient, right?

Thea:                                         28:00                       Absolultely. Becoming resilient. Yes.

Anne:                                         28:05                       And so maybe, maybe in another one we may flesh out more material examples of that, you know, with, you know, beyond the, the crawling.

Thea:                                         28:13                       Right. Taking it into stages of development, even relationship dynamics or struggles that can come up. That would be really good fun.

Anne:                                         28:27                       Yes. Good work for all of us.

Thea:                                         28:29                       Good work for everybody. All right. Thank you Anne.

Anne:                                         28:32                       Thank you, Thee. All right. See you next time. Bye.

Featured post

The State of Things as We See It––Societal Fabric, Feminism, A New Direction

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

Following on an article I wrote a while back called Feminism Got it Wrong, my sister Thea Mason and I examine and discuss the roles of women and men, parenting, children, Feminism’s impact on the fabric of society––and family camping and playing games as prescriptions for necessary healing.


Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:00                       Alright. So,.

Thea:                                         00:00                       “Hey!”.

Anne:                                         00:01                       Thea and I, my sister Thea and I, Anne, are going to start an experiment and start recording our conversations that we would otherwise have anyway. We find that we have been seeking some understanding as we examine what’s going on in the culture. Thea is a teacher in the Waldorf school in, in, in the Wa, in the private Waldorf schools. And I’m a homeschooling. Uh. Waldorf inspired homeschooling mother. Uh, we both had different experiences in our lives, which have led us to this point and we come at things differently, but find a lot of common, uh, perceptions about, I think the problem…

Thea:                                         01:06                       State of things that we see.

Anne:                                         01:08                       Yeah. The state of things.

Thea:                                         01:10                       Fellow women in families… In what we observe in our little windows into the culture in the world.

Anne:                                         01:17                       Yeah. And into…and the children. Right. Who are coming up to, you know, take over. Right?

Thea:                                         01:26                       And very challenging times that they’re coming into.

Anne:                                         01:29                       Yeah! And the challenging times, uh, includes, uh, w w well, the, the, my own issues, my own lament is, is seeing children all around me…

Thea:                                         01:44                       Suffering?

Anne:                                         01:46                       Suffering, and, and, and parents flailing.

Thea:                                         01:50                       Parents are suffering, too.

Anne:                                         01:53                       And, and parents…Thea…Let’s establish this right now. I think Thea is more compassionate in the lens she brings to this and I, I am not, probably just as a person in general.

Thea:                                         02:06                       Well you’re the eldest and I’m the third of four daughters. So there are different roles. We’ve played our whole lives that we continue to work with. I would say.

Anne:                                         02:14                       Exactly. Exactly. So it’s nice that we have each other to balance it out.

Thea:                                         02:19                       It sure is.

Anne:                                         02:19                       And, and so, you know, just just to, to bring it down to kind of more practical, material, uh, language. You know, children are medicated, uh, to high heaven. Parents are medicated. Children are addicted to video games. Social media. Children are diagnosed with every disorder under the sun.

Thea:                                         02:47                       And diseases.

Anne:                                         02:49                       And diseases. And women and men, mothers and fathers seem to be at a loss. I see… I live in..I live in a pretty wealthy county as, as do you in, in California. And I see people spending a load of money and giving that money to experts to help them figure out what’s going on with their kid and to help them get their kids back on track.

Thea:                                         03:26                       I would say also in here, just in terms of that picture of parents struggling…suffering…there is a sense that they are disempowered to be the masters of their family, to be the shepherds of their children. And um, I think one of the things that we synthesized out of our last discussion that we shared––which we wanted to share but was so vast and varied that we’re working to bring it a little bit more to the point––is, you know, we hear a lot of this notion through the feminist movement and really through, I would say all movements of people right now, is this idea of being empowered. Empowered to choose your life, to choose your path, for your children to choose their path. And…I don’t know if I’m jumping the gun here, but this idea of: what does that mean? What does it mean to be empowered? Because what you’re laying out is this picture of a lot of people who are not empowered, a lot of people who are at the whim of the current science, at the whim of the current trends and disorders. And how do you function with your children or yourself when you’re not really in charge? I don’t know.

Anne:                                         04:52                       Absolutely. And to kind of circle back to even how we got to this. You know, I wrote an article a couple of years ago or whatever, or a year ago, whatever, where I said feminism got it wrong. Because I had begun becoming very disenchanted with, uh, with, with this movement that is…It was around the time of the, the pussy hats and the march and, and I felt like it was misguided. I felt that it was, uh, yeah, I felt it was misguided. And, and I started, you know, thinking a lot about, and, uh, reading a lot about…reflecting on my own experience in, in college, in, in taking women’s studies courses, learning about feminism and, you know, reflecting on the fact that I, I think that it’s, there’s an overemphasis on women outside the home, women as individuals where I, as I had identified in that article, I had identified that, you know, first and foremost, I think women’s role is to be mothers. I mean, otherwise humanity doesn’t keep going. Right? That’s, that’s our main, that’s the main thing. It doesn’t mean that needs to be a mother. Right? And not everyone will be. And we all bring in a different aspect of mothering, uh, and, and the female to mothering society, whether or not we are actually giving birth to children. But by and large, that is our role. And, and, and I to had also, uh, articulated that I believe women, women are the stewards of humanity. Since we are the mothers and we are the primary guides, uh––not to take away from the critical and equal significance of the father––but we are the nurturers. We bring in, uh, or, or rather, let’s just say together we bring in the life, we bring in the children and, but, but we deliver them into the world. And from the early, their early ages, we prepare them, we care for them. We, we transition them into the earth, into this earthly realm.

Thea:                                         07:51                       Earthly existence…and what do we do here with them, and how do they become? And how do they harness the power to meet the tasks? Of life. Right?

Anne:                                         08:02                       Yes.

Thea:                                         08:04                       Something you said, what did it just trigger? Darn it. Women…

Anne:                                         08:14                       Well, well, I, had also said, you know, pointed out that, you know, of, of equal incredible, monumental significance is the role of the father.

Thea:                                         08:26                       Right.

Anne:                                         08:27                       And we as mothers have experienced, uh, what becomes obvious to parents, which is that the early years that the child requires that nurture. As the child gets older, it requires much more of the father’s kind of, you know,.

Thea:                                         08:47                       role. And dynamic.

Anne:                                         08:48                       You know, the father brings the worldly in, right? And brings the worldly regard for that child as the child starts to be…to separate from the mother and to find his own, his or her own individuality. So, all right. So I’ll, I’ll stop there and return to what you were talking about, which is…

Thea:                                         09:11                       So let me, let me interrupt real quick. So in talking about, you did mention what you had written a few years ago about feminism got It wrong. And I think one of the main points that you had made in that well-written article was that there’s been a devaluing of the work of the mother and that, that I think is where, if I’m not incorrect, that’s like the point, the main point of how feminism got it wrong. Because that, and I’ve spoken about this with you in terms of me as a mother and the provider, it’s like how did that, what did I gain? What did I gain by being able to do all of that, you know, and, and having to spread myself so thin because I would love to be the homemaker, the mother, to work in the domain… I like that work. And I know not everyone does. So it’s, so that’s in terms of what did feminism get wrong? What did we really gain? You know, that now we’re expected to, even in two parent homes, you’ve got fathers and mothers both working outside the home. And you know, anyone that knows about cooking real food, that’s like a full time job just to maintain feeding a family. I mean, that takes thinking, planning, prepping. So it’s like we’ve been robbed of all these faces to process and nurture because of time, right? So, so then, so then through that devaluing of motherhood and fatherhood essentially, I mean, they’re both, you know, they both are. And now they’re really mixed up and there’s a lack of clarity and, uh, help me out here because from that, that devaluing, we are less empowered to be who we are and to do the work we’re here to do. Is what I’ve been sitting with and thinking about.

Anne:                                         11:21                       Yes, yes, yes. Uh, so in a way it’s like, so if the feminist movement, originally was born out of an impulse to shine light on the the value of the woman to society, what, what seems to have happened instead is it has discarded a critical core spirit of what a woman is and what a woman can bring to the world

Thea:                                         12:08                       And what a woman does differently than a man, and what a man does differently than a woman. And feminism has been all about, “women can do what men do.” I personally don’t care to do that. Right? Like there are moments that women take the lead or are in charge. And both of us are pretty strong willed, fiery women, but I don’t see the world in the way a man does. I don’t look at things in the same way. So why are women trying to function like men?

Anne:                                         12:40                       Right. Right. Um, I mean, I, I think I, I articulated this in the article too, but just you know, I, uh, that occurred to me a long, long time ago that this, this, you know, this striving to, uh, compete in a man’s world just by its very nature implies that the woman’s world is…

Thea:                                         13:10                       Isn’t valuable.

Anne:                                         13:10                       Less important. Right So that first part is what I feel got got screwed up. Um, I also, I had mentioned this before, but I had seen Ann Coulter’s, an interview with Ann Coulter where she, she said something that kind of startled me into an awareness that the suffragette movement may not have even gotten it right.

Thea:                                         13:41                       Right.

Anne:                                         13:42                       Again, I understand. Because, because possibilities for women, were limited for one reason or another. I don’t know. I don’t know why that happened. Um, because let’s, let’s, let’s be real here. I mean, women have sex, right? I mean, and men want to have sex, right? So I don’t understand. You know, there is a power in that. And speaking of…pause for one second, hold on. Yeah, exactly right. Well, all right, I guess I may not even go there.

Thea:                                         14:33                       Right. That’s okay.

Anne:                                         14:34                       But basically, you know, women and men need each other, right? Men have certain needs and women have certain needs, and there is an arrangement there. Marriage is the arrangement that is made. Women give men what they need, which is sex, um, nurturing love. Uh, they can, they can keep the home, they can, uh, advise and,.

Thea:                                         15:00                       You’re frozen.

Anne:                                         15:00                       Okay, so are you, we’ll wait until it’s not. You there? Oh, it says Theodora Mason, by the way.

Thea:                                         15:15                       It does. It was frozen for a minute.

Anne:                                         15:06                       I know. I stopped. I just stopped. So you were too. Okay. So, yes. So I don’t understand how it went wrong. I don’t understand how men, uh, abused their…

Thea:                                         15:12                       Their role.

Anne:                                         15:14                      Yeah. And so because they did, women had to do something, uh, to right it. And it doesn’t feel as if it has gotten righted because it feels as if they’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Thea:                                         15:37                       I would agree. And it seems, though, what we did also touch in on a little bit is that there is sometimes when, when there’s an impulse, it’s needed. To stretch the fabric, a little bit, of how we function and, and are in the world. And without the stretching and walking out the door and looking around at the world, the view stays so small if it’s locked in. So in terms of how… It’s like it had an impulse and it’s now gone astray. It’s sort of lost, its, uh, its place of being. And, and now it’s about how can it take what it’s learned through this journey and bring more intelligence and true empowerment to the roles in which women inhabit, whatever those are––you know, main ones being mothering, motherhood, family and caring for our young. Because we can see in our country at least there is a deep issue and imbalance in the way young people are growing up. So how do we take that learning and what do we do with that?

Anne:                                         16:53                       Well, let’s, can we, can we, uh, touch on briefly––what is the learning, what is the learning been? What have we gained through this experiment of feminism and what have we gained from, uh, giving women, uh, ample opportunity to step outside their traditional roles in the home and get out into the world, the workforce and the world, politics, government. All that. What have they, what have they gained? You know, I might, I’ll, um, echo what I have talked to other women about in the past. Um, we as, as homeschoolers, we have, you know, we have a homeschool community and there are some very young women in this community as well. There’s also a lot of us older ones who are, I’m almost 49 years old. Right. I guess I understand what happens often, these days is that women wait. They go get educated, they go have a career of some sort and then when the, the clock starts ticking, they have children. That’s what I did. So a lot of us are older and we have had the experience in the world in various professions. Some of these younger women are being brought up. Uh, I, I’m thinking of one in particular, uh, who went to law school to be a lawyer. Um, but she and her husband started, uh, while she was in law school––they were both in law school––to have children. And I see her trying to do it all. She’s not working as a lawyer, but she’s, she’s using her degree in a number of very valuable ways in the world. But I also see that it’s a lot, right? And I say to her and I say to many, and I think I’ve said even to you like, you know what? The most valuable, the most by far the most rewarding work I have ever done is parenting, is homeschooling my kids. Is getting even back back in touch with I think something that maybe we never even had. Us growing up with the two working parent family, um, having order in my home, my home is not chaotic and filthy––sometimes it gets messy––like you said, cooking, uh, uh, doing hand work, ah, having a rhythm of a, a not a hectic pace. All of these things have been, have felt so healthy. And parenting and homeschooling is beyond language in terms of how fulfilling that is. Right? So, I bring this up to suggest that the one, the main thing I think I’ve learned is that I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a mother, to bring these children into the world, to be a part of their experience and to understand my own experience simply by witnessing their unfolding. And beyond and beyond and beyond. Right? But at the same time, maybe because of my experience and my career before that perhaps I have that confidence, to, uh, uh, to inhabit whatever realm I find myself in. I think. Perhaps I have the experience––I mean, as you know, I’ve, I got involved in, uh, a lot in, in Sacramento and basically fighting a lot of legislation. Year after year. Perhaps my experience, my career, has, uh, assisted me in doing that ’cause I’m going there and advocating on behalf of our, of the families and the children. Right? So! I mean, how about you and, and let’s talk about how you’ve done it differently.

Thea:                                         21:34                       Yeah, right. I came at it, at the opposite angle. Um, I think uh, I mean, help me articulate it. I, you know, I, I came into adulthood becoming a parent. So I’ve been a parent for almost 20 years, you know, basically 20 years now. Um, and, and so that’s informed every part of me becoming a real adult. Um, and I, and I didn’t do a career. I didn’t go through the same cycle in that way. So I’ve found my voice in a different way though, in our reflection and sharing too. It’s like my voice was always there, uh, in a sense. And I always sort of, had a gut instinct that I’ve listened to, certainly regarding my children. Um, and, and so, you know, I know I’m not…

Anne:                                         22:12                       No, no, let me jump in. Let me, because for anybody listening to this, it’s like, so Thea had her first child at 23. Right? You were 23, weren’t you? And I actually, I’m six years older than Thea, but I, I used…You were my model actually, thank God. Right? And, and it took, you know, I was, uh, not going as much with my instincts, I think in general as you did, you knew inherently to do. I kind of, I wonder if it’s because it got educated out of me, it or it got, you know, even through or through the experience of just being out there in the, in the world and having to play that game. Right.

Thea:                                         23:25                       Totally.

Anne:                                         23:26                       So I would suggest, and we’ve talked about this before, but like you just articulated, I mean, I don’t really think you grow up. I mean, you can grow up without having children, but it is a, um, baptism by fire into the world of adulthood. Right? At least if you’re doing it, even semi-consciously. So you have always been an adult. I don’t think I really was an adult, uh, until I went through the first few years of the trials and challenges and decisions and responsibility of parenting. Right? So, you know.

Thea:                                         24:12                       Well, it’s curious that what it sparks in me, just even that reflection on your becoming a mother. My becoming a mother makes me think of our mother and our parents. Both. I would’ve called them feminists, you know, growing up. And I would say our mother was a different person in a large degree when she had me and brought me into the world than she was when she had you. She was much more empowered into herself, to a large degree. Through, you know, to, to, to in many regards. Um, and was beginning to trust her instinct a bit more. And I don’t know what those early years were like for our parents, you know, thinking people, but still very mainstream American people in a lot of regards in terms of family life. And, and um, through their trials and uh, struggles. They became something more unique in that time through dealing with our sister who was ill. So, so just in that, what that brings me to is just that when we’re talking about the role of the mother, it’s who you are, that that sets up your children for whatever their cycle, their ways of being, their ways of interacting and understanding themselves in the world. Um, and that’s a huge responsibility for parents, for women, for men. And we’re specifically speaking about women ’cause that’s what we are, you know. Um, so it’s kind of like, “Have courage, Women, for, for listening to your own self and discovering what that is and what that’s speaking because who knows better for our children than the parents, than the mothers? Than the people that have shepherded them into the world?” And when we look at the issues that we’re facing, I keep coming to our word “empowered” for today. It’s like, if each person truly were empowered to listen to themselves and to listen to their child and to listen to the rhythm of their life, that’s where change can happen.

Anne:                                         26:33                       Yes, I’d agree. And what I keep having going through my head is…and I just realized, you mainly, your first many, many years of parenting chose work that you could, that worked around your children.

Thea:                                         26:54                       Yes. Well that was the thing I knew and though my child’s father and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, we didn’t want to um, out…farm out at my kids. I, it made, you know, we were, we were not wealthy and it never really made sense to put my child in childcare. Who’s going to care for my child better than me? I mean, and that was just like a basic.

Anne:                                         27:18                       And that I feel like that’s, that’s somewhat at the crux of this whole thing here too. I mean that is a basic! No one is going to care for your child like you. Right? So..

Thea:                                         27:33                       Especially let’s, I want to be specific about my own thinking there too. Especially the infant. You know, if I had grandma, grandpa, Auntie, uncle, I didn’t have that as a, as a young mother at all. I built community of people. I could depend on what I needed, but in those early, very, very early years, I can’t imagine. I can’t, I mean, and, and I, we made sacrifices that I didn’t consider really sacrifices to not put my kid in some system like that. Um, but as they get older, I mean, there’s that picture of the village, you know, it takes a village because you being an Auntie and, and good friends that are aunties and uncles to my kids, my kids need more than just me as an archetype. And just their father as an archetype, they need other people so they can round themselves out, you know, I think, and so however we build that community, and that’s sort of what I think that’s the natural impulse of what school would be. But our schools don’t work like that. Right. They don’t become part of the village. That’s its separate entity for the most part. Waldorf schools, a small Waldorf school does. It does take on this sense of a village. Um, yeah. It can ideally, um, depending on how it’s held. So I know I’m…

Anne:                                         28:57                       No, it’s good! No, it’s all ’cause, this is important to…It’s all very important to recognize and, okay. So let’s recap. We see that there are some systemic problems. Uh, in the fabric of our society. School shootings have become a regular thing.

Thea:                                         29:29                       Medication, mental health medication for young children, teenagers, adults. That’s the norm.

Anne:                                         29:41                       Yes. That, that alone is a problem. Right? Um, so, so we need to fix it. I don’t think that this third, third wave feminism, I do not think that it’s, it’s serving us. What I see is, uh, is us moving away from the problems and the wholeness and the unity and becoming more and more segmented and shrill and divided and hateful. And we, we have and, and we, we can, we can flesh this out in another conversation, but we’ve, you identified the fact that, you know, for the woman to aspire to the archetype of woman, in, in, the archetypes full glory, she needs the man to be aspiring to the archetype of the man in his full glory. And feminism has been trying to do something in isolation, for some time and now almost in a combatant manner.

Thea:                                         31:05                       Very much.

Anne:                                         31:05                       Right. I find this Me Too movement, um, whacked.

Thea:                                         31:11                       Whacked.

Anne:                                         31:13                       It does not in any way suggest that, um, that, you know, abuse of one’s role or abuse of power is in any way, something I would condone. But I, I think that we are…movements like Me Too. And, and now…I frankly think the pussy hat march and this, what I find a kooky railing against president Trump, by virtue of him being a white man, it’s, it’s, it’s just driving us further away from what our strengths are, and our roles are. And it is…

Thea:                                         32:03                       And what is…would bring health and happiness. And that’s, that there is a togetherness that breeds happiness and health.

Anne:                                         32:14                       And we’re not victims. We are participants.

Thea:                                         32:18                       So here’s where I want to go from the Me Too. When this whole thing, which you know, you’ve already qualified. It’s, “I AM” and “WE ARE” instead of Me Too to that.

Anne:                                         32:32                       Yes. I want to, I want to just put some clarity on it for anybody listening ’cause no one else has been involved in our conversations. But Thea came up with this brilliant idea to, you know, when we were seeing what was happening with this Me Too movement and the witch hunting that it started to become, and also in fact, you know, I won’t, I won’t go into it too deeply, but to a start, uh, accusing men, uh, of…Instead of dealing with what I think were substantial situations in cases of men in power abusing their power and really disrespecting themselves and women, I think it started turning into, uh, it, um, it diminished the severity of the real situations where, and now men are afraid to even have interviews. Interview a woman alone in an office, always has to have a witness so that she doesn’t…

Thea:                                         33:45                       Accuse him of sexual harassment or something else. I mean, I know so many good men who have, who have been a victim of this.

Anne:                                         33:52                       Yes, me too.

Thea:                                         33:52                       And it’s, you know, it devalues the moments where it really is a truly abhorrent situation. Because learning, I mean, part of what I think we also discussed in that is like, learning how to navigate in the world as a woman, as a man is learning how to uh, deal with unwanted, uh, advances. I mean, that’s part of learning how to be in the world.

Anne:                                         34:24                       That is absolutely part of learning how to be a woman. And to put, put even a kind of a broader language on it. It is the responsibility, equal responsibility of the woman, and the man to, uh, to keep the balance of power between them.

Thea:                                         34:43                       Absolutely. Absolutely.

Anne:                                         34:45                       And we’ve never had, uh, more, more physical strength than men. Right? But throughout times in history, women have managed somehow to exert their authority in this dynamic, very successfully. So we need to help women come back to that, both with their men. And then also with their children.

Thea:                                         35:03                       Absolutely.

Anne:                                         35:25                       And stop acting like children and victims. Right?

Thea:                                         35:28                       Victims. Yeah. Because we are then, you know, if a woman is only going to carry that victim role, which it’s like, I want to qualify once more. That doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where a woman is not a victim or a man is not a victim, you know, there are real moments where it is atrocious. And that is not, that is not what it is to be human, to have the, the beautiful transformative power of sex be distorted in such a way that it becomes harmful. That’s not being, that’s not humanity. That’s not true humanity. Right?

Anne:                                         35:53                       Exactly. Because that, that beautiful union between a man and a woman should be empowering and glorious, not debasing and degrading right. That’s accepted as a given. Right?

Thea:                                         35:06                       And when that goes wrong, that is wrong and should be addressed. When there is the playful space. I mean, I could take all of this really back to what my…I’m so fortunate to have this work of learning about play and games and work with children and learning how to teach play because that’s something that has, you know, slowly become less available to young children in the world. Due to so many things. Um, but play, learning how to play.

That’s really what this comes down to, too. People that haven’t learned how to play, which Jaiman McMillan, when we talk about––who’s my teacher, Spacial Dynamics, great stuff. He, um, play is making connections and knowing how to remain separate, making connections and remaining separate. And when that play experience doesn’t happen, then when you have come into this budding sexuality, if you don’t know how to interact and then separate how to interact and read, “oh, that’s not what the situation calls for now.” When you aren’t listening, that’s when violence happens. Right? When those, those feelers that sense and perceive the situation, if they’re not working, if they haven’t been trained to work properly, that’s when we screw up. And you know, I mean obviously there’s, because I think what happens…I have a lot of compassion for the young man. It’s a scary world to come into having these feelings for a woman. How do you put yourself out there? How do you not be too forceful but not be too cowardly? That’s a fine balance to come into and it’s play. That’s what flirtation is. That’s what that banter is. That’s what’s so fun. When it’s engaged in properly. And so that’s part of the work of being a mother too, is to not be a victim. To have clear boundaries with your children and to be able to engage and let them feel where they are and how they relate to you as the archetype of woman for them. I’m talking about sons and daughters, you know.

Anne:                                         38:26                       Exactly. Let me, hold on one sec. So let’s, let’s conclude with touching on some prescription toward healing this right toward, and we’ll, we’ll get into it in further conversations about, about more of this. We’ll flesh it all out, but I, I love what you identified, which is in a way, let’s get first back in touch with that, that unspoken, a lot of the unspoken understandings between men and women, maybe? Because you, you can’t reduce it all down to language. And I think that’s part of what we’ve been trying to do. And so how do we begin to heal this, this divide between men and women? Because let’s face it, our, the survival of our humanity depends on that union, that healthy union, my door has just opened….So how do we simultaneously, um, fulfill each other’s needs, right?

Thea:                                         39:42                       That is the thing. There it is.

Anne:                                         39:45                       So, yeah. So how do we, so, so we need to focus on healing that. Perhaps a conversation needs to begin between men and women, right? A new conversation. That fosters renewed respect for each other’s strengths and what they bring to the party. Right? Once we do that, we can start focusing on our roles as parents to these new human beings coming in who are going to take our place and, uh, keep steering this ship. And I guess this is not any great epiphany or great answers to it all. But in our last conversation, I had mentioned that, uh, you know, someone, a friend of ours had been talking about, you know, maybe like a, a woman’s conference to kind of to heal, to heal the traumas. Right? We haven’t even touched on to traumas that, and we’ll do that in another one. And my reaction was resistant because I feel as if it may draw, uh, the type of person who wants to have more me time, be coddled, uh, and try to do this work in isolation, which can’t be done. Right? And then you said, you pointed out, well, let’s bring the men, too. Right?

Thea:                                         41:26                       It’d be more fun!

Anne:                                         41:28                       And, and, and then, and I was saying, well, and the children, right? Let’s bring the children. And so let’s make it a family conference. Right? And you said, “It’s called camping!” And there’s something to that because when you’re camping, you’re out there. You’re together. And unless you’re gonna go run away into the wilderness, you’re stuck together and you gotta make it work.

Thea:                                         41:56                       And you gotta make it work and it, and it simplifies. I mean, why do we all like to go? I mean, those that like to go camping? It simplifies our, what we do, eat, sleep, clean up, leisure time. And that’s about it, right?

Anne:                                         42:15                       Yes. And, and spending all that time together without distractions of television.

Thea:                                         42:22                       And, and phones, and everything else that is so accessible and prevalent everywhere.

Anne:                                         42:27                       Yes. Forces us to respectfully figure out how to inhabit our space together.

Thea:                                         42:38                       And so, and, and, and to have conflict that you then can learn how to create your own boundaries and respect other’s boundaries for solutions.

Anne:                                         42:50                       Gosh, that’s so true. Even without lots of rooms in a house or you know, uh, a job to go off to. Right? So…

Thea:                                         43:01                       Because you’re in it.

Anne:                                         43:28                       Yes. Cause you’re in it and you and you, you can’t go anywhere. So we’re going to hold that thought for our next conversation.

Thea:                                         43:37                       Let’s go camping.

Anne:                                         43:14                       That, you know, maybe what the world needs, the Western world needs is families going camping.

Thea:                                         43:19                       Families going camping!

Anne:                                         43:21                       And they may be able to work it all out,.

Thea:                                         43:25                       It’s true though! Because then your, your problems present. Your issues present when you cannot isolate in the way that the world is becoming more and more accustomed to. So…

Anne:                                         43:39                       Yes, yes! And you don’t have your shrink there to go talk about it with either.

Thea:                                         43:43                       And you don’t have anyone to complain to. I mean, honestly, families going camping is like step one, you know, your own nuclear family. Step two is do it with another family. Step three, add another family. And then it’s like that’s how you build culture. Because then you’re going to have conflicts. You and I, even when I, when I come up with my kids and the things that come up for our kids, how they have a different family culture that they have to interact with and work through and meet and find a dynamic together. So that’s our, our remedy. Play games, interact in real ways. Do real things.

Anne:                                         44:28                       Yes. And let’s start talking about putting it into language that what we’re trying to do is heal the dynamic between men and women. Not, and that is the empowerment. That is empowering. To, to continue dividing and uh, vilifying…

Thea:                                         44:50                       Blaming.

Anne:                                         44:50                       Right. Blaming will get us nowhere. So let’s, let’s shift these movements. Let’s figure out some new movements for the next conversation.

Thea:                                         45:02                       Absolutely. Wonderful. Thank you, Anne.

Anne:                                         45:05                       Okay. All right. I’m going to stop the recording and hang on. Looks Right. Stop. Can we want to stop it? Yes. If you, yes.

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