Anne Mason and Thea Mason
Okay. Hi Thea.
So today we’re going to talk about bringing the community back into family. And this topic was triggered by a conversation we were having about, well, first of all, the ways in which the dynamic of family rhythm and really life’s rhythm has changed throughout the course of this last year and the restrictive lockdowns that have brought people to remote working and remote learning, and how much time families have suddenly found themselves spending together contiguously, continuously. And it was also triggered by a conversation we were having in which you had been observing children who seem to have difficulty taking really any direction, especially in a group context. And I had remarked at the time that I wonder if you have not had as much exposure to that as I have having been in the homeschool community for a long time and taking on a leadership role within that, where I’ve met a lot of parents who, and children who have come to homeschooling as a last ditch resort, because––and these aren’t, I’m not talking about the families who have decided that the system just wasn’t healthy or working for their child, and so decided that really the best option is homeschooling––but rather parents whose children have had so many challenges just functioning within the system, working and being in, not just the system, but in groups and have then come to look at homeschooling as an option. And the thing that I had observed to you is, because I could see the parents and children together for the course of a few hours navigating, and the parents didn’t, often don’t seem to have really any ability to exert or exercise their authority over their child, which is a necessary thing as a parent.
And from that conversation that we were having and sharing those pictures, the idea or notion that I thought of is really how throughout my time, as a parent, which has been now 21 years, the way our culture seems to have flipped the script in so many different places and tricked out of parents the freedom and the understanding that to be a parent is to be an authority, not to be an authoritarian, but to be an authority. And I think somewhere along the way, that got lost in the shifting away from the authoritarian gestures and the oppressive ways that can be seen throughout history and through different systems and through households. But without an authority in the household, no one knows where they are and no one knows who’s the captain of the ship, so to speak. And when that’s not established, children don’t know how to respond to those sorts of directions that come out of the world for their own good, for their safety, because there is this time in which children must be reared. It’s like training a dog. There is a training period so that there is safety, there’s learning social cues and social norms, which are always, something for a good discussion. And then when they come into themselves, hopefully at 21, they’re able to make true judgements because they’ve had a framework that’s allowed for a safe sphere for them to be walking within to then now navigate with their own honed judgment. So that’s a long, I don’t wind through it, but we were discussing just the, the need for authority. How do we as parents––how do we as adults––become a healthy authority for our child, for our children, for our communities, and how does that then ripple out? Because we notice when we look to the world and we look at the people in leadership, it’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. We don’t see many true authorities in our world. And so what a task to be a parent, to be a true authority with love, with compassion, with generosity, with clarity and with firmness.
Yeah, I agree. And yeah, well said. And I guess we would like to explore something to provide folks with, to work with, to think about as some, and not all, but some are struggling with this, this setup, this new dynamic and being there at home with their children. Because I think what has happened in our modern world, where we have moved away from the home base and we send our children to school, we send our children out for extracurricular activities, both parents work. Rather than a rhythm dictated by the needs of the family as a whole, it’s more of an external schedule and rhythm that’s imposed, that the family learns to work within and around. And so it’s, I think in many ways, the dynamic––especially as the children get older––of a family is, it follows the comings and goings of each person rather than the being together, consistently. And, I think we touched on this in our discussion, but the first and foremost thing that parents I think need to be comfortable with is saying “no”. And, I mean, there’s been so much kind of, psychology, exploration, examination about saying “no,” I’m sure you remember. I remember when I first had little ones that, you know, you’re supposed to design your house so that you don’t have to keep stopping them from doing things and taking things away or saying no, but you need to set it up in a safe way, so that that impulse of just the no, and the negative, doesn’t need to be inserted so much.
Well, and it’s interesting because there’s truth in that. There is. Because what that means, but it gets lost, I think, into an avoidance of saying no, rather than use your “no’s” when you mean it, like make them be real as I’m looking at training a dog, you know what I’m seeing is––it’s the positive affirmation is what trains something well. Animal, child different, but similar, especially in the early years and be very clear when there’s a “no” and be distinctive in that “no,” but you don’t want to be saying no all day, because that will have no power, you know, if that’s all that’s happening. So with that picture of building a home where you minimize the necessity for the “no’s,” that’s sensible, but it kind of can get lost in translation, I think.
And you just made me think of a friend who had described his childhood and he had described it as such that, because his parents weren’t that involved on a day-to-day level, they put a ton of restrictions in place. And so it just makes me realize, well, yes, I mean, as long as the positive input and involvement outweighs the negative, I think that’s what we should strive for. We want to avoid just being all negative and no, and limiting. But I find saying “no,” you know, yeah, there’s, a fairly regular occurrence throughout my kids’ childhood. And, I’m now realizing as we’re talking about it more, how many even friends I’ve got, who have some challenge with saying no to requests, requests that are really not even that healthy, but they feel a guilt in saying no in that way. Depriving. And I remember saying to a friend recently who had described a video game that I guess her son had requested and she had agreed to it until she realized the nature of it. And she felt it was too extreme, and changed her mind, but was kind of struggling a little bit with having said yes, and then had to take it away. And because he was also angry about that, of course, as any kid would be. And I remember saying, “you know, first off you can never go wrong by saying no to a video game. I don’t care what video game it is. Like, liberate yourself there. You know, you can really never go wrong, saying no to almost any acquisition. That is not going to damage your kid in later life.” Right? And so I think, perhaps that’s one thing. Just recognizing, it seems kind of obvious I think, but recognizing how much privilege (I hate that word, it’s been so stupidly used), but the more someone has, the less they appreciate what they have! Right? So that’s just simple. And that goes for privileges, that goes for experiences. You know, you don’t want to saturate a child with so much that they lose the value of each experience.
Absolutely. And I think with this dialogue, the other element that we had sort of pulled in through recollection of parenting through different stages was the importance of feeling we have our community behind us in our parenting. And I know that where you are right now in a more rural place, you have a sense of that. That the adults that are around you when you’re out in the public sphere, they’ve got your back because they’ve got the parents’ back. And I will say from my experience when I was in Southern California, I didn’t sense that as much. It may be shifting now, as parents have now been home with their children in a more consistent way, but in the years past––so this was my experience of it was that, you know, I was attentive. I could sense the judgment of people, if I was having a situation with one of my young children where I had to be very firm. Not abusive obviously, but firm. I have three boys and, you know being a mother, sometimes there were moments where I had to hold them with my firmness to stop them from flailing, kicking, hitting me or whatever walked by. But I could feel it in those moments if I was out, you know, if I had to run an errand, if that happened, I could feel people not saying, “Hey mom, do you need a hand?” I never had that. I never had someone come and say that. I mean, I wasn’t in this situation often, but. And how important that part is in the investment or the faith in ourselves, in the authority that we have, that we have to make those decisions in those moments. And how many people have seen a child throwing a crazy tantrum in a store and a parent, just either acquiescing kind of ignoring it, letting it happen, and maybe trying to appease the child––rather than “No! We leave now, we’re done” or whatever. And I don’t say that without understanding it, sometimes a child needs a nap and these are the things.
And that’s most of it, right? That’s most of it. The child needs a nap.
They’re out of rhythm, they’re tired, but you know, those are the things that establish that ability to say no. You start that holding. The children need to know they’re safe with you. And then when you say it, it means something. So. There’s overuse of no, which is to no purpose.
Absolutely. But I think that we’ve gone far in the other extreme. And, it isn’t just, I mean, we both were raising our kids on the West Coast. I’m now not there on the coast. But it was all over, but it wasn’t just there. I remember in the middle of America too, you know, I think you and I remarked about someone we had known you were gathering with, they were just following their young child, wandering everywhere in a park or whatever, instead of kind of holding the space for the child. Being like, “no, you’re going to be in this area, but I’m going to sit here and talk, I’m not going to go follow you anywhere you want to go because you know, we’ve got to coexist here. I got my stuff and you’ve got yours. So yeah, so it is across the board. I don’t think “no” is particularly the extreme problem at this point. So, I think that what you’re referencing, perhaps things have changed some, as parents are there home with their kids all the time. I mean, we’ve all been put through so many different challenges. And so parents that are both working and also having to manage their kids, out of necessity, they’re going to probably have to get a little bit more real about it. Right?
Well that’s the other part of it. It’s the getting real part. Where you say privilege, I also would say soft. There’s a softness and I don’t want to interrupt your stream right there––but one of the pictures that I’ve always had, which is sort of traumatizing when I think about it is like, I want to know that if things really get nitty gritty somehow, and I need my kids––and I remember thinking this when they were babies––if they need to be quiet and still, I need to know that can happen. That’s like a survival from trauma of lineages and ancestors who’ve had to flee war torn places and I know that exists today. But that thought has always been there. That that’s the kind of authority a parent needs to be able to have.
Absolutely. And that’s the kind of direction a child needs to be able to take in the moment that that is necessary. And the child also has to be able to read that, you know, there is a spectrum. But yeah when we’re out and about, and I had similar kinds of concerns or just, you know, in a situation that might just unexpectedly be a dangerous one, I need them to, in that moment do exactly what I say, get in the car, whatever it is. Right? No questions asked until afterwards. So that’s a good point. That just on a level of just, safety,
They need to be able to do that and have that capacity. You need to have that relationship with them, that when you take on that very serious tone, they know “Okay. Mom is in charge and let’s follow that order.” And let’s find out later what that’s all about.
And out of that, speaking about family culture, family community, when a family is in a rhythm out of the living rhythm of their life, they recognize, I notice my children recognize, we’re a team. We are in this together. And of course there’s conflict and such here and there. But when there’s a real sense of the importance of their participation and purpose within the community of that family, I mean, I guess what I’m seeing through our dialogue is like, it’s that sense of purpose, place and necessity. That’s where we can step into those roles properly.
Yes. When they know that they are integral to the team, right. They are not just, kind of, peripheral…
Kind of, yeah, I don’t even know what the word is. It makes me think of, a friend of mine really has an issue with how––many times you go to gatherings or even restaurants, and there’s all of these healthy food choices for the parents, but the kids menu or what the kids are served is some crap, you know, white bread crap. And it reminds me a little bit of what you’re talking about. Kind of like, they’re not treated like
Like an afterthought.
Yeah, like they’re not treated as valuable members of this unit. And the same goes for chores. We’ve talked about this in previous recordings, but, Parents, feel very good and not just good, but just like, know that you’re doing right by your kid, the more you say no to them. You know, obviously in a measured and intelligent way, but I’m just saying, you know, “no, you can’t stay up late again. You can’t go do this again, when you were supposed to do this first, you can’t…” Those are good things and they need it. But the other thing I was going to say is like chores, right? And chores and responsibility. The more responsibility and chores you give to your kid, again, appropriate to their age, the more they are going to feel a valued member of that team and that unit, of course more self-worth naturally anyway, but then there’s more investment in actually listening to what your authority is bringing to the situation, because they know that you’re all kind of like, we’ve all got different roles. And there’s an operation.
And with all of that and the picture of the child, having that sense of purpose, that’s where as a parent, that’s our purpose. Like that sense of purpose is just as much to be able to make it so the child is safe, so they know they’re safe. They know they’re seen, so that there’s that quiet. There’s that center, you see who’s there in charge. The children can then relax and breathe.
And that’s the key, right? It’s that they, I mean, frankly, we all feel this at different times in our lives, when we see someone else taking charge, we can really relax. Right? And so imagine a child at five whose mother or father does not even seem to be in charge enough to, to tell them, to get it together and stop with the tantrum or whatever it is,
Or to give them their clothes to put on.
This is what you’re doing, this is where we’re going. And that’s it. If the child doesn’t even have a sense of that, then imagine the stress, the kind of anxiety, an ongoing anxiety that that child can take on.
Absolutely. Because can’t we all relate to a sense of “who’s in charge? Is anyone in charge?” Cause if nobody is in charge, so that means what’s going on?
Right. It’s kind of this, “Well, because if no one’s in charge, then I am on my own.” And that for a child is scary. And it’s really not what they should be burdened with yet.
And that would be one of those things that, you know, we’ve had conversations and I don’t want to go too far into left field, but, the resistance for adults to step into being self responsible. Because maybe, maybe are we a part of this generation where the parents were afraid to be the authority so that it’s like, it’s still being looked for, as we grow, where, where there should be more of that. I mean, I feel like I’ve mostly come into my own sense of self responsibility, but it’s still growing and emerging. But when we look to the world and what’s happening, we see a lot of that. People wanting to see who’s the father in charge. Or, I mean, that’s usually what I see.
I agree. I mean, it’s a larger issue that we could examine at at length. And even in terms of unhealthy levels of compliance with government BS and all of that, too.
So that’s like Part Two, But this one was simply about parents to have the faith in themselves that they can make the right choices for their family.To rear their children with a gentle and firm hand.
Yes. Yes. They are the best equipped to do this. No one else. They are the best. So knowing that parents, we are all the best equipped to guide our children with a gentle, but firm hand, let’s feel free to exercise that without guilt, without concern that we’re not doing it. And see what happens. And I think we all know this from growing into parenthood. Versus, when I was, you know, first a parent and I’m at your house and my kid is, you know, climbing on the table because he’s one and a half or whatever, and I’m letting him explore everything. And you tell me, “We don’t do that here. We don’t climb on the table.” You know, it makes things a lot simpler and clearer when you get comfortable with that and realize that again, and this is back to healthy boundaries, right? Boundaries are necessary. Good, strong or good, firm boundaries really make life smoother.
But it’s also you saying that, and I know we’re trying to wrap up now. It’s interesting though, because it does remind me of the beginning of parenthood. It’s like, you are born anew with your child. I mean, if you’re paying attention, I think, and you’re looking to the world and the constructs and the norms and going, “what?” When did we decide this is reality, this is the way? And so that’s that impulse of change, which is what our youth bring as they come of age as well. There are a lot of layers to it. It’s not simple and it’s not easy, but I guess it’s simply like–– we can be awake, we can be kind, we can be compassionate and nurturing and clear with clear boundaries and clear direction for our children. Even if we don’t know where we’re going quite yet. I mean, that’s part of it, you know, you learn as you go, but they need that from us and it does get clearer. And then you get to a new stage and you can’t see it again, but, you know, hey.
Totally. I agree. But being comfortable, being comfortable with it and being comfortable with boundaries, I think is important. And exercising, exerting those boundaries and sometimes, when we screw up and we’ve exerted too much of a boundary, we can always change it. And that’s, you know, that’s another thing. I think that’s gone wrong. This notion that you have to hold to your decision to establish your authority over your kid, or for your kid and not be wrong. I think on the contrary, when you screw up, it’s important to let them know, “You know what? I screwed up. That was, that was wrong. I’m going to change that.” It’s a good lesson for them. It’s a good lesson for you. It’s a good lesson for them to know that you’re, you know, in a moment of seeming unfairness that you will come to your senses, and that that’s not going to be as much of like end of world feeling for them, and also to know how to be that as an adult too.
And we’ve had those conversations too––I mean, there’s so much here. It’s fun––that the way in which we address our own mistakes, how we can recognize that allows for them to have the freedom and the safety to recognize their own mistakes. So that there’s actually a space for transformation and improvement, because if we’re just blocking that, “Oh no, I didn’t mess up. No one saw that,” then there’s no room for something true and real to be transformed in to develop better. Because they’re learning by what we do. Right?
Totally. And just to share, I mean, I don’t know if this is what most parents say or not, but I have had conversations with my kids in certain situations where I’m just like, “You know what, Daddy and I have actually not been here before with this. So, you know, this is the best I can come up with right now. If you’ve got some input…I don’t know I’m doing my best here, you know, we’re first timers.” So to just acknowledge that.
Absolutely. Well, thanks. Good chattin’ with ya!
And you! All right. See you next time.
Nice to see you.
You too. Love you. Let me figure out how to do this. It’s been so long.