I’ve been writing this blog for 21 months now. 61 posts. This is the stellar start to number 62!
I wasn’t actually setting out to count, because I knew I wasn’t at a significant, take-stock moment in my writing, although at some point I should probably be brave enough to use the word “blogger” instead of telling someone that “I write a blog.” But that’s a whole other issue lol.
I was looking back, because I occasionally find myself with an idea and then wonder if I’ve already written about it.
Case in point: sisu.
And yes, I had.
But it’s a good time to bring it up again, because I don’t often see sisu in action. Actually, it’s not so much something that you can literally see. It’s something to be felt.
Here’s what I wrote before:
The Finns have a word called sisu. It’s often loosely defined as persistence…pushing through adversity or never ever giving up. I’ve heard it described as the Finns fighting and losing a dozen wars to Russia, but never surrendering. That’s the way I have always understood sisu, as a physical, mental, and spiritual toughness, but as I’ve done more reading about it, I’m understanding that it is more than that. I find that Emilia Lahti explains it best: "Sisu denotes extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. It relates to an action mindset that enables individuals to take action against very slim odds and reach beyond the observed limitations of their present moment. Sisu begins where grit and perseverance end. As a construct, it is an integral part of the Finnish culture but it is also a universal capacity of humans all across the word.”
I was thinking about sisu at (of all places) junior boys volleyball playoffs yesterday. I gave our staff the long play-by-play version, but here’s the Cole’s notes version.
To me, that’s sisu. And the boys felt it.
All day long they talked about how proud they were of just getting to the final day. How proud they were to beat Osler. And VCA. And to make semis. And then the finals. And when we lost, they kept that same attitude. They were devastated, absolutely, tears welled. But the smiles came back out for pictures and they talked about being proud to be second in the league and looking forward to next year.
There are so many amazing lessons our students learn through sports. And so many that we, as adults, learn from the kids in the process.
I love that we can stand on the sidelines and coach in real-time. When a mistake is made, or a miscommunication happens, it is instantly a teachable moment. And then because another serve happens, we get to try it again. We get to build connections outside of the classroom, and like yesterday, when a kid accidentally calls you ‘mom’ it’s a compliment to that relationship. We also spend a lot of time reflecting: in timeouts, in between sets, after a game. What's working and what isn't?
Besides skills, we had to work a lot on teamwork concepts this fall. We knew how to be good losers from last year’s season…we lost a lot…but had to learn to be gracious winners when we found success this year. That wasn’t easy. We also learned some hard lessons about respect: for people’s property and people’s dignity. At one point in the season when we were on a win streak, I said to them: “How we do here today isn’t in question; how people go home and talk about our team definitely is.” When the last player out of the classroom yesterday asked me for a broom to sweep the room before we left, I realized that some of those lessons might have stuck.
Last night as we waited for other matches to wrap up, one of the boys commented on being worried about the final game. “I’m nervous, but it’s an excited nervous!” Which lead to a big conversation about, of all things, the importance of a positive attitude and growth mindset. After that surprising bit of philosophy, the boys had a conversation about whether just the winners get medals, or if the second place team gets anything, and someone even went to find out the answer from the Colonsay host. (We got a plaque lol.) They also decided that we weren’t underdogs like last year, but more like “mediocre-dogs.” Haha. And just before he got up to go start warming up, one of the other boys added, “No matter what happens, I’m just really proud of what we’ve done.”
Me too, kids. Me too.
“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Jim Watkins
A former student has his own clothing design company: Howard & Lloyd. I was scrolling Instagram today and saw one of his past t-shirt slogans: “Move forward. Stay Weird.”
I love that.
It’s like it should be the two mantras of my life.
Whether we like it or not, life is always moving forward. I’m sitting in an empty house right now. Trust me, I’m pretty aware that life is marching its steady pace, and even if I’ve thrown myself in front to slow it down, it feels like I’m presently getting trampled by the entire tuba section.
I didn’t get a chance to see my kids much over Thanksgiving. They had their reading break and were actually here for the whole week. I only had one night where there wasn’t a meeting, or practice, or travelling for sports. We hosted a tournament on their last day here, and then they were gone. They won’t be back until Christmas.
It was typical of how this fall has gone, as I’ve had one-day weekends for the past five weeks. I get that math isn’t my strong point, but it works out to two things for sure:
One. I’m tired. Literally, not just in the post-election sense.
And two. One day isn’t enough for catching up. Right now I’m failing on about every imaginable metric there is. As much as I convince myself that it doesn’t matter - because most of it really doesn’t - it doesn’t mean that I have to like it!
But we keep moving forward. This past week I had two opportunities to rejuvenate my thinking. The first was PD on Reconciliation. There are many, many times that I feel absolutely discouraged and disheartened. It’s Saskatchewan. The list would be long and depressing. But the opportunity to come together with other educators to learn, and support each other in our learning, gives me hope to continue this important work in any way I can.
The second PD was listening to Dr. Jody Carrington and her “ReConnection Revolution” message on relationship building in our communities. She is a truly amazing speaker, and her message that ‘kids are only as okay as the people holding them’ hit pretty close to the mark. When I know I’m overextended, the housework can definitely wait. The piles of clean laundry on my floor are a testament to that. It’s only two weeks until I will head out to Calgary and see the kids. And if this is another week where this isn’t my finest writing, well, I guess I can live with that too.
Staying weird isn’t a problem.
For the right price, I could dig out all my middle and high school pictures. There’d be no doubt about it.
At every opportunity, I try to model that and to encourage kids to be themselves. I haven’t written about author Matt Haig for a while, but he’s a touchstone when I need a shot of authenticity. This week he wrote: If you aim to be something you’re not, you’ll always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. So long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, embrace that you-ness. Be you to the power of you. You2.
So in the spirit of taking care of myself so I can be there for our kids and colleagues, I’m cutting this short. Again. And then calling it a night.
Have a great week everyone, and wish us luck as volleyball season wraps up this week with playoffs!
So today is the national day of writing. I had borrowed my mom's old typewriter to show my students, but thought it would be fun to do my blog post for the week on it.
Already realizing that the apostrophe isn't where it is supposed to be.
That there is not an ENTER button or text-wrap or backspace key that I can fix my typos with.
That if I go too fast, the metal arms with the letters on them will overlap and get stuck.
And that my hand and arm muscles are already sore from having to press, aka pound, the keys down.
But this is where I started to write. I think I was 8 when I asked Santa for a typewriter for Christmas. I got a kid's one and typed so many stories and poems on it. (OMG I just realized there isn't an exclamation mark on this keyboard. On my laptop, it's one of the most worn out keys haha.)
That typewriter made me feel like a writer. Or I should say, i was a writer with my typewriter. I submitted and had work published in the kids' section of the Western Producer. I even remember my pen name: Tytto, which means 'girl' in Finn.
In grade 5, our SRC sponsored a poetry contest for the school. I wrote one about a Rubik's cube. (It was the 1980s...)
I won $15 and bought myself a clock radio. Giant swaths of my life, I don't remember, but that sticks.
I loved writing.
Correction: I love writing.
When I feel like I have words bursting out of me, I write. When I'm sad or frustrated or just having feelings like human beings do, I write.
Sometimes there are even other human beings on the receiving end of those words. And sometimes, there is not. Sometimes I just keep them for me.
Some words are not meant to be shared. They are meant to be saved.
And sometimes they are just sat on. Waiting. In that in between space where I'm trying to decide if they are just for me, or if they are meant to go out into the universe.
A lot of my blog ideas reside in that space. (Again, where is that exclamation point???)
We talk frequently about the power of words in class. The power to hurt, or heal. How really strong writing will take us to places we will never go, or to feel things that we may not have yet felt. The power to explain, describe, persuade, and to go beyond its power to empower. To let others know they are not alone.
To share my writing and not feel so alone myself.
I can't see where the bottom of the page is, but I know it is near...happy writing day everyone. And have a great Education Week. (Don't doubt the important work we do. Again, where is that exclamation point when you need it lol.)
“What’s the deepest belief that you think is true? Suppose it wasn’t true. Then it opens the possibility for everything.”
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. In our work with social justice issues in ELA, it often requires students to examine their closest-held beliefs. To reflect on things that they have seen, or said, or done. To do, as Maya Angelou said, the 'best they can with what they know...and when you know better, do better." Sifting through their written responses in their notebooks, cognitive dissonance is frequent.
They question the topic at hand.
They question themselves.
They often get the importance of the issue, but then question, "Now what?"
Sometimes, they question, "So what?"
There are tiny steps forward. Little epiphany-style lightbulbs popping up periodically. Most days it doesn't seem like much.
But it's something.
It's not nothing.
And it opens the possibility for everything.
I think about that for myself too. What are our closest-held beliefs about education and learning? Why do we believe it? Is it because that's all we know? Because it's always been done that way? Because that's how everyone else is doing it?
What is important?
Why is it important?
How do we know?
This week, we gathered all the girls in our school together to acknowledge Day of the Girl. We told them how valued they were to the world and to our future. Afterward, some of them told us how important it was to hear that. We fielded questions from the boys, and it was important for them to hear those words too.
This week, an 11yr old told thirty grade 12 ELA students of her personal experiences with racism. She told them of the power of those words. Afterward, some of them wrote of how they've hurt others, and how they know they need to do better.
This week, a student bared her soul in her writing. A raw and gripping account, she shared it with the class. Afterward, some of them reworked their own stories with more honesty and vulnerability.
What’s the deepest belief that you think is true?
Suppose it wasn’t true.
*Then it opens the possibility for everything.*
I published then deleted this post. Twice. I lost track of how many different ways I started it. Sometimes the thoughts won't fall into place and the words won't organize. I have a sticky note here that says, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good." To model that, this isn't my best thoughts or writing, but it's where I am right now.
We spent Thanksgiving day at the farm today. I had a combine ride with my dad, and sitting on the little seat beside him, couldn't help but feel like a kid again. Both of our own kids are home from university for the first time since school started, and more family is coming to our place tomorrow.
Tonight our daughter dragged out old home videos. So many memories. So many laughs. So much to be thankful for.
I saw this quote on social media today, and it captures the essence of the day. “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)
Thanks to everyone in my life - I know I don't say it enough, but you make it better each and every day.
Keeping myself open to all possibilities...kiitos paljon!!
If you know me at all, I'm terribly stubborn.
I don't like to lose. Or be wrong.
I never quit something once I've started it.
From the time I was young, I don't know if it was shame, embarrassment, or as I said above, just outright stubbornness, but if I start something I will always see it through.
And I still do.
I ran the 5km course for the CIBC Run For A Cure today, despite the fact I have an injury that is requiring chiro and physio. (Besides being stubborn, sometimes I'm just not very bright too.) I signed up right after the death of my cousin from cancer, and even if I would have had to walk-hobble the whole thing, there was no way I was going to quit.
The rest of the day and evening involved helping with the annual Fall Supper in town. (Huge shout-out to Barb Kielo who organizes the whole take-out side of it!) I wasn't really feeling up to it, but there is no way that I would let her down. The job is just too big (over 200 take-out dinners) to be short on hands to help. Seven straight hours on my feet later, I literally might not be walking tomorrow.
So tonight, I've got to quit on this blog. Midnight will be fast approaching and I have a small pile of emails, assessments, and planning still to get through. With World Teacher's Day this weekend, there were a lot of reminders that we need to take care of ourselves, in order to take care of our students. The older I get, the more I know that to be true.
I just need to be less stubborn about it.
Have a great week everyone!
As a sequel to last week’s blog post, in this week’s episode, Edla can’t handle the blatant disinformation that continues to appear on her timeline and mutes several people on social media.
Including some family.
So here it is:
If the young people of our world don’t care, we are screwed. All of us.
That’s it. That’s the blog.
Okay, I might have a little more to say to some adults in my life. Let’s start with this.
You don’t get to have it both ways. You can’t bemoan the apathy of ‘kids these days’ and in the next breath complain that they are pawns of liberal agendas when they speak passionately for a cause.
And if you really want to place blame on where we are as a society, it’s time to look in a mirror.
Here is an actual list of complaints about kids who participated in the recent climate strikes that landed in my Facebook feed this week….with my commentary added!
1.You are the first generation that required air conditioning in every classroom. Like most schools in rural Saskatchewan, ours was built in 1965, and I don’t think air conditioning was even invented yet. When it’s June, +30, and full of sweaty teenagers, feel free to stop in. But even so, I’m pretty sure most new office buildings (or schools) come equipped standard with AC, unless you want to argue that it’s cool for adults to have comforts but not children?
2.You want a TV in every room and your classes are all computerized. Ummm, who bought the kid that TV and PlayStation for their bedroom? And no. They aren’t. However, our rural kids are fortunate to have the option to take online classes in courses that wouldn’t be offered otherwise: Agriculture & Sustainable Food Production. Animation. Autobody. Cow/Calf Production. Energy and Mines. Equine Studies. Entrepreneurship. And that’s just up to E in the list! (I’m not sure how technology always gets tagged as the bad guy in these posts…)
3.Oh, speaking of which lol: You spend all day and night on electronic devices. Hellloooo, parents? Guessing most of you are paying for that device? Phones on the kitchen counter before bedtime…solved. And on the flip side, ever watch adults at the grocery store? Doctor? Rink? Kitchen table? Phones. Phones. Phones. Annnnd phones. I’m not saying that isn’t me too. Because it is. Just don’t say it’s only kids!
4.You don’t walk or ride bikes to school but arrive in caravans of private cars that choke local roads and worsen rush hour traffic. Hah, coming from a small town where almost all my classmates got brand new trucks or a sweet Trans Am when they turned 16, that’s rich. (I had 3 siblings and we shared a used Chevy S-10, and even at that we were spoiled.) Oh, and follow the SPS Twitter feed to get an idea of who is getting traffic tickets for speeding or parking in school zones. Hint: it’s the people with offspring. The ones who aren’t putting their kids on a school bus and drive them there instead.
5.You are the biggest consumers of manufactured goods ever. Everyone growing up in the 80s has forgotten about Calvin Klein jeans? Walkmans? Brand-names? Because trust me, as a kid who never owned any of the above, I noticed. I’m certainly not defending this. The forced-consumerism every time you upgrade a phone and none of the adapters work makes me sick. But this is not new.
6.Okay, this last point was long-winded, convoluted, and didn’t make a lot of sense. But the gist seems to be: that immigrants increase the need for energy-manufacturing-transport, and the more people we have, the more forest and bushland we clear, and more environment destroyed. Wow. I am a granddaughter of immigrants who cleared land using oxen when they homesteaded in the 1920s. Land that was the traditional territory of First Nation and Metis people…it’s always convenient when we leave out the part that at one point or another, most of our ancestors were also immigrants. And I’m pretty sure that the farmer breaking up pasture land just down the road from here, is motivated by his bottom line, and not the fact that 11,000 people moved to Saskatchewan last year.
It just didn’t get better. In fact, for someone who has worked with kids for the past two decades, it breaks my heart to hear them described as, “selfish, badly educated, virtue signalling little princesses” and more. You can see why some people got muted!
Yes, society is rapidly changing and it definitely has affected kids and families.
But at their core, kids have not fundamentally changed.
They are passionate. They believe in doing good. They aren’t afraid to take a stand. I think of youth groups and Scouts and Guides, who have for generations inspired kids to always do their best. More recently, I only have to remember the power of WE Day celebrations at SaskTel Center with thousands of kids, excited about positive social change on a local and global level. And what teen hasn’t read or watched the Hunger Games or Divergent, and not been moved by the courage of the protagonists?
They believe they can make a difference.
They are hardwired to try.
Like I said, if the time ever comes where even the young people of our world don’t care, then collectively, we are all screwed. We should be celebrating these kids, not publicly shaming them.
The world isn’t black and white, but that’s how my social media feed feels right now. And absolutely, diversity of beliefs is a strength, not a weakness. But you can’t talk climate change without looking honestly at the facts. (It’s snowing right now and my parents’ crops are buried under 10cm of snow already.) Tomorrow is Orange Shirt Day. You can’t talk reconciliation without first looking at the truth of Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples.
And you can’t talk about kids, without wholeheartedly and unreservedly believing that the kids are alright.
*Just don’t hold VSCO girls and Beanie Boos against them…we had mullets and Billy Ray Cyrus. It’s pretty much a toss up.
Have a great week everyone - hoping for some sunshine to melt this snow!
I try not to correct people on the internet.
Besides the fact that it would be a full-time job for all eternity, there really isn’t a plus side to it. Most people don’t want to be told that they are wrong, and even more will ignore the facts you present regardless of their accuracy anyway.
Darn facts, always getting in the way.
So it’s usually an exercise in frustration that I try to avoid. Except when it involves kids. Then I’m all in lol.
This week, some of the pushback against the worldwide climate protests came in the form of disinformation. The one that showed up on my facebook timeline was a garbage-filled photo, supposedly from a protest, with the caption: “Aftermath of ‘Climate Strike’ yesterday. Yes, listen to the kids, they will guide our planet, I guess they haven’t learnt the basics yet.”
(My first response is always to correct grammar and punctuation, but I resist that temptation too.)
Except the photo wasn’t from a climate protest.
It was from a 420 marijuana gathering in London last April. Not from this week. Not from this country. And not related to kids or climate.
It was a pretty easy thing to fact-check, so I posted the correction as a comment. With citations. Except instead of acknowledging that the meme was wrong, the poster (and other comments) doubled-down on the criticism of kids (and teachers) in the process.
The one that sticks with me is one that we often hear in the comment section of posts: that kids in school are being told WHAT to think rather than HOW to think.
Well, I knew better than to get sucked into that debate. But what I’d love is for people to come into schools more often. Come into a classroom. Talk to kids.
“Yes, listen to them.”
Because although there are aspects like ‘learning the basics’ that will always be a part of education, from a very young age our students are also thinking.
Soooooo many questions! If you work with children and teens, you’ll know that they hold pretty strong beliefs of their own. And they are very quick to question things that don’t align with those beliefs. Cognitive dissonance is a big part of learning.
Or like the quote I came across this week: ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable, because that’s how you grow.’ That feeling in the pit of your stomach doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve learned something but it’s a step towards it, albeit an uncomfortable one.
In a similar vein, an article I read tonight resonated with me. “In a nutshell, the concept of desirable difficulties embodies the adage: no pain, no gain. Just like how taking the stairs is better for our health than taking the escalator, making learning more challenging can lead to better retention…As a rule of thumb, if students aren’t struggling a bit - that is, if their performance isn’t somewhat hindered - they’re probably not engaged with the material in ways that will lead to meaningful, long-term comprehension and understanding.” (Nick Soderstrom)
Kids are up to the challenge. They seek it out. And no matter your personal views on protests or climate change or kids protesting climate change, it’s apparent these youth have questions.
Lots of tough questions.
And they are definitely engaged.
I can’t definitively say what the motivations and incentives were for all 4 million people who took part in the Youth Climate Strike, but I can guess it had less to do with WHAT people have told them about the issue, and more to do with WHY it’s important to them as youth, and HOW they hope to effect change in their lifetimes.
As lifelong learners ourselves, there are a lot of lessons here to learn…from our kids.
I stopped to grab this picture on the way to a volleyball tournament Saturday morning. It was this massive black rain cloud, and in the left corner, the tiniest streak of rainbow. I love visual metaphors, and this one had last week written all over it.
It was a bit of a stormy one.
Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of great things happening! But sometimes it’s good to share when things are hard work too.
Besides being the first full week back, which can feel like we are a month in already, there was a lot of cold and flu and general summer-withdrawl malaise going around. We had a staffing change so the timetable needed revamping, and extra curr commitments began in full swing. It was a busy one.
A lot of emotional energy was also spent in some social justice discussions this week. There were some really interesting thoughts around privilege, hateful and hate speech, and the consequences of the words we use. I’m on Twitter a lot. And I get sucked into reading the comments. So you’d think I’d totally anticipate the strength of people’s responses.
I never fully do.
It got pretty stormy. That little rainbow was hard to see at times.
I’m working my way through the book “Hacking School Discipline: Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice.” In it, the authors say, “Perhaps one of the most valuable traits we can teach our students is how to feel empathy. Empathy is not shaming students or making them feel bad, but teaching them to understand those who have been affected by their actions, as well as the need to repair the harm.”
“We have two choices: try to correct behavior by continuing to punish, or spend time building relationships, getting down to the root of issues, and helping students repair the harm they caused…Punishment might be quick and easy, but the Band-Aid effect is short-term. Restorative practices take effort, but the effects are long-term.”
It also made me think about my beliefs in the classroom. There were a couple of times this week, even knowing that the benefit would be short term, where I wondered if I should just take the quick and easy path.
To lock my door and shut out late students.
To move out my tables and bring back desks and rows.
To stop randomly assigning groups.
To plant myself as self-appointed expert at the front of the room.
To remove the messages and symbols of inclusivity.
To assign books to kids.
To assign marks to reading.
But I didn’t. And I can’t.
Why not? Because it goes against everything I believe in. Like the restorative practices above, a podcast by Peter Block says that “the determinant of wellbeing is our connectedness to each other and our willingness to do this thing together…there’s a misbelief that more control leads to better outcomes. It’s true on a manufacturing line. But we are not manufacturing. Don’t call children products.”
If you’ve listened to Sir Ken Robinson, you’ll know how he feels about that factory model.
Knowing that I shape the conditions for learning in my room, I make deliberate choices. “I don’t care what the world looks like. I always have the capacity to create a future in whatever room I enter in.” (Block)
And I will always make choices that foster growth, not compliance.
I want the room students enter in, to be one that is glad that they are here. To support them and help them to learn courtesy and responsibility.
I want to foster conversations. Encourage ideas. To disagree but with respect. “Unpopular opinions are welcome; impoliteness isn’t.” (Weinstein)
I want students to listen outside of their immediate peer group. To collaborate and work with a variety of people. As Block says, “All transformation occurs in a smaller group.”
I want students to be confident in their ability to think and discover ideas on their own, and not rely on someone else to do the work of learning for them.
I want students to see themselves, and the whole of our society, reflected in the flags on the walls, the books on the shelves, and the messages spoken and written in our room.
I want them to choose for themselves. To be self-aware enough to reflect honestly, and to push themselves outside those comfort zones.
I want them to read for the enjoyment it brings. To write to express themselves. To represent an idea in a creation. To speak up and be heard.
To see the big picture…the little rainbow too, and not just the storm.
I don’t want them to take the easy way out, any more than I could.
So we will continue to get to know each other, to build relationship, to ask questions and to really listen to the answers: ‘How is this year going? What’s working for me? What am I frustrated with? And what can we do together to make it different?’
Looking forward to some sunshine to get harvest going again! Have a great week everyone.
On the Friday before school started, we invited our new grade 7 students and their families to come and move in to their lockers, practice with their locks, and just generally reacquaint themselves with the school before the big day. We weren’t able to access any student information this summer, so we had to rely on the power of the local town Facebook discussion page to spread the word, and I was happy to see as many families as we had!
It was an awesome opportunity to take away some of the stress and anxiety of a pretty big change.
And not just for the students.
I heard several parents say that they were more nervous about their kids coming to the high school than their kids were. I come from a long line of worriers. I get it!
Fear is a funny thing. As humans, it’s kept us alive for millennia. It helps us recognize danger, and then to run from it! Athletes and performers know that the feeling of fear is a natural thing. I always told my kids that if you’re at the starting line, or ready to go onto stage, and you DON’T feel anything…then that’s when I’d worry.
Managing that fear is something that we need to learn to do on our own. Of course, it doesn’t happen instantly and it doesn’t happen without support. Like I wrote last week, we weren’t helicopter parents hovering over our bubble-wrapped kids, and we didn’t lawnmower down every obstacle in their path. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t help them manage their fears. I crawled in with them when they were scared of the dark. I talked kids into the pool for swimming lessons, onto the ice for CanSkate, into competitions and music festivals and at starting lines on the track. And we weren’t always successful. There’s the year we got kicked out of the parent & tot swim group because the fear was just too strong! (That was a little bit embarrassing.) Into adulthood, those become more figurative than literal, but the support is still there.
We are all afraid at times.
All of us.
And not just the spiders, heights, and public speaking ones.
Afraid that we aren’t smart enough, or good enough, or patient enough, or interesting or funny or likeable or significant or understood…
Oh yah. Fear is helpful, until it isn’t.
As part of a class discussion this week, we were talking about our fears. And I was pretty shocked at two things: almost everyone felt safe enough to share their fears out loud, and as much as teens may come across as fearless, they aren’t. I didn’t write our list down, but suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have guessed ‘dying alone’ would have been on it.
So how do we mitigate these fears? Keep them from dominating our life? From limiting us?
To keep our fears from being the only voice we listen to?
I was so proud of the kids that day. By putting their words into the air, trust was built. And that’s likely the first step. To realize that we are all just people, and that everyone else has fears too. Some of their fears will require seeing beyond the group to the individual. Relationship will be the key, and there will be more days to manage those fears, and to learn, and to grow.
The discussion also gave me another opportunity to use my favorite quote: “There is no courage without vulnerability.” Thank you Brene Brown! That gave them pause to think.
I follow the work of the Walk Alongside group, and how they advocate for relationship building amongst students, families, and schools. I think, for me, these ideas also help to take away the fear of the ‘other’ and to make meaningful, personal, connections with parents.
It also made me think of how we need to walk alongside our fears.
I mean, it’d be really cool if they all just went away and we left them behind in the dust. But yah. Ain’t gonna happen.
Acknowledging that our fears are there is certainly better than ignoring them. And when they start to drag us along for the ride, there are others walking alongside us for support to help rein them in.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Walking alongside you this week if you need me!
I’m not always great at heeding advice.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always welcoming feedback and truly am continually working towards improving and learning in all areas of my life.
But when my gut (heart? brain??) doesn’t agree with something, I listen to my body parts.
When our daughter was a baby, the big push was the Ferber method of sleep training. Letting your baby cry it out and eventually “self-soothe” themselves to sleep.
For us? Garbage.
We tried it once and it tore my heart to pieces. So it was short lived, and our daughter slept with us for most of her infant months. She also hated her crib. Hated it. So when she was about six months old, we laid a futon mattress on the floor in her room, and that was her bed. Because the stress of being confined was gone and she could come and go to us as needed, sleep (for all of us) wasn’t an issue.
We always knew that communication was key. My husband is fluent in sign language, so when they were toddlers, we taught both kids some simple signs so that they could communicate before they could talk, which meant fewer frustrations for us all. Before the ‘baby Mozart’ craze, I had a university prof who told us his pregnant wife would straddle a speaker and immerse their babies in music, in utero. I wasn’t quite that committed lol, but believed in the power of music and words, and sang and listened to music with both kids, both before and after they were born. One of the kids’ favorite memories was running around the kitchen island, as I would play “She’d Be Coming Round the Mountain” on the piano, steadily getting faster and faster until they’d slide and crash into the cupboards, then laugh and laugh.
We didn’t spank our kids.
Never swore at them.
Didn’t yell, because I didn’t want to have the day come where they swore and yelled back.
For people who did those things with their kids? You do you. It just didn’t feel right in my gut to do that with my own.
A lot of parenting columns say that you need to take care of yourself first. The whole ‘put your oxygen mask on before your kid’s’ analogy. I get that. Over the years there were things I did on my own, but the vast majority of our activities were tied to our kids and their activities. Which meant our social life was mostly visiting with other parents at the pool and rink! And there was nothing wrong with that.
We made the choice to include our kids in everything. We took every vacation as a family, except for one, and saw 15 states, 6 provinces, and 1 territory. We were fortunate to have schedules where we were able to make it to every synchronized swimming practice and competition, track meet, hockey and football game. But we also included them in difficult conversations. We never shied away from talking about hard family histories that included alcoholism and abuse, or topics like residential schools and estrangement. We modeled that tears were okay.
That tears are okay.
From the time they were babies, we told them we loved them. As they grew and the words caught up, it was reciprocated. No conversation ends without them now.
We were always our kids’ parents, but they turned out to be good humans, and also our friends.
Advice columns will tell you that’s bad too, but my heart says otherwise.
Lest I give the impression that we lived in a laissez-faire utopia, it wasn’t. I love this meme that says: “I never realized how annoying I could be until I made a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it.” Truer words have never been spoken. But I often wondered if we just lucked out and had really easy kids to raise, or whether the conscious decisions we made in our home helped to shape them into those people. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
As we pulled away from the driveway in Calgary, leaving both kids behind for truly the first time, of course it was really emotional. I was literally leaving pieces of me behind, pieces that I have had with me forever.
Sad doesn’t quite do it justice.
(Okay, I looked that one up because, by coincidence, it was in a novel I was reading today!)
But I also was really proud of the strong, independent young people standing there too. I know it would be easier, and substantially cheaper, for them to stay with us here. To go to school locally. To have mom and dad right here to problem solve for them. Lots of families do it. Again, you do you. But I also believe strongly that you won’t learn to ‘adult’ until you actually have to act like an adult. Make decisions like an adult. Feel the responsibilities of an adult.
Be by yourself, and be okay with yourself. Like an adult.
And as we come to grips with the empty nest ourselves, it’s advice I need to heed myself.
I know that a lot of parents are feeling that same stress, as their children move onto different stages whether it’s starting Kindergarten or their Grade 12 year. A lot of those kids will be in my classroom tomorrow morning, their first day in the ‘big school’ in Grade 7. And although there will be sadness as one time period ends and another begins, I hope they feel that same pride and know that I’ll not only be listening to my gut/heart/brain on what is best for their child, but listening to what they know is best for their child too.
Have a wonderful first week everyone! Welcome!!
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