Since Aspen was 12 years old when Willow was born, I have had a foot in both the worlds of little kiddos and the big kiddos at the same time. I have had a lot of people with little ones ask me if parenting as they get older gets easier. I always tell them the same thing; it isn't easier or harder, just different. I am not perfect by any means, we have had our “moments”, but I can count on 1 hand all those “moments” between 4 kids. I have just tried my best to listen to my kids needs, be open, and meet those needs as best I can.
With my younger kids, it was physical energy that was the highest demand. I was very young and I did have tons of energy, I will admit though, that I was lazy :). I breastfed my kids forever, we slept in the same bed forever and we adjusted our sleep/awake schedule to the natural changes that occur in humans, not to the “school system”. We were sometimes looked down upon for this by well meaning family and friends…but it never stopped us from doing what we felt was right. I so miss this simpler time in our lives. David and I were just talking about “back in the old days” when we all slept in one big giant bed made from our king and 2 twins pushed together. We read so many books, made big plans, told so many goofy stories and reconnected after doing our own things all day. We have been so lucky that those “own things” were truly our own, and not some random school teacher telling us what our busy work would be for the day. We have truly had an amazing life together.
As my kids grew, the foundation of having their true basic needs met has helped them to know that if they had a problem, that they go straight to Mom and Dad. They were never left to scream in a crib alone in the night only to have no one show up, so the screaming stopped. Trust was built by our family co-sleeping. Our kids were taught that David and I were there for them 24 hours a day. Not just till the sun went down. My babies were worn all day …Mara lived in the sling till she was almost 4 ;) Human touch is the most primal of all basic needs. Breastfeeding on demand was just icing on the cake. Yes, I was a La Leche League Leader for over 10 years, and we all know that breast milk is the superior infant food, but attachment parenting comes first in my book. Showing your kids at the earliest age that you are there no matter what, creates secure, confident, empathetic, compassionate people. It makes a difference in the world. This is what allowed my children to have the confidence to try new things, excel in some, fail at others and find those things that feed their soul.
Unschooling was never a decision. It was just there, it was instinctively, the path for us. It was just the title given to what we had been doing since birth. Following the interests of 4 children…exhausting…truly exhausting. But also, exhilarating…joyful… free… real.
Parenting my teens has been the greatest adventure. First of all, I have 3 VERY different teens. Nothing one has done or experienced can be even remotely related to the others. Sometimes, unschooling is hard. You may have already been through a certain experience and you may or may not know what the outcome will be. Standing back to let your child have the experience is what makes them strong. It also creates respect. Your child sees that you trust them to do “X” and even if they fail that you are 100% behind them. Unschooling and parenting are just one for me; I don’t really separate the two. Unschooling is our lifestyle, it isn't something we do between certain hours.
My teens are just my giant babies. I say giant, because I am shrinking under them :) I am still listening and meeting those basic needs. That has not changed. They may be out their having sleepovers, parties, driving or away at college but they still need that foundation.
Aspen is such a strong, dedicated, determined soul. She amazes me with her ability to just go after what she wants and not let anyone stop her. She is so independent. She knows we have her back and that gives her the freedom to go on and be successful at all she does.
When Josh is home and not away at one of his marathon overnights he always comes upstairs before he goes to bed and hugs me and David and says” I love you Mommy… I love you Daddy” Gotta love those 16yr old boys that still do that! He is truly, the most loving caring boy I know. His enthusiasm for the things he loves is contagious.
Mara is the most determined hard worker. When she wraps her mind around an idea then you can forget trying to sway her in any direction! She goes into all that she does with such a force that you will be knocked aside if you don’t watch out :) If she decides she is going to take something on, she will give it all she has. Right now, that is theater/acting.
And there is Willow. She is not a teen yet, although she sometimes thinks she is! I guess that comes from living in a family where all of your siblings are at least 8yrs older than you. :) She has no problem relaying the things she wants and needs. She is very “to the point” about what she wants and does not want. She has incredible communication skills, although she is very quiet sometimes. Her life is full of all those same wonderful beginnings that the older 3 had.
I read recently some parenting advice that was being given to someone that was something like, when your child says they hate you, then reply to them that you must be doing your job right. I would die. I seriously would die if one of my children told me to my face that they hated me. I would know that I had done something wrong. Not the child. I was not doing my job as a parent. I would ask myself, why is my child doing this? What kind of expectations am I putting on them? What situation have I allowed my child to be in? What can I do to change the situation? I would do anything and everything to fix it. I could never live in a home with that kind of contention. That is absolutely the WORST thing I could ever imagine.
I want to parent to make a difference. The world needs creative, critical thinkers. The world needs more empathy. Raising my children to be happy, loving people is my job. My job is not to make my children fit some pre-determined mold that society says "This what they should be". I am not saying it is easy or that I am perfect. I am only saying these kids are my responsibility. How do I know if I have been successful? If my children are happy and doing the things that bring them joy then I know that I have done my part.