Acceptance

Home education neurodivergent (autistic, ADHD etc) kids is a lesson in acceptance. Part of the unschooling philosophy is to follow your child’s lead. If you are the parent of an autistic or other neurodivergent diagnosis, actually doing this in practice is actually really difficult.

One of the ways to accept the less than ‘educational’ interests of your child is to look at their interests with a magnifying glass and recognising even the smallest things they are learning. For example, with YouTube, children can learn a lot. Firstly, exposure to lots of different language accents and styles of speaking is educational. Secondly, in our case, watching others play and build things in Minecraft then inspires his own creativity. Thirdly, the tech / coding / web side of the platform is obviously useful for a future that becomes more and more technological.

Furthermore, the branding of toys, games, activities as educational or non-educational is really problematic. A lot of the time it is an arbitrary line and is more about marketing than developmental science.

By sharing this, I hope that anyone searching the internet about this issue will find this and feel a little less alone.

Books I recommend

Becoming intentional is about learning how to value your time and money and use it in the best way you can. As a former high income earner, who is now a low income earner, I know what it is like to have to evaluate everything in terms of how useful it is. Becoming intentional began from my journey into minimalism more than seven years ago.

There are countless books available on minimalism, but for me, the most important aspect is to ask ‘why’ and to understand what is happening in your thoughts that is pushing you to consume and spend more, and on things you don’t actually value.

This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission if you purchase.

We can’t say we didn’t know

I’m listening to a library audiobook copy of Sophie McNeil’s book “We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know”. I’ve followed her for many years and the book does not disappoint. I am equally in awe of her career (I did have aspirations of being a war correspondent after I finished uni), but it’s hard to think of anything else but the vividly described situations covered in the books. I’ve read lots of articles, books and listened to podcasts about Syria in particular, but every new account brings new information that hits me to my core.

We might not all know the details Sophie knew, but we can’t say we didn’t know at all. How can we as a society accept that people in another country, who were born there by chance, and not in a safe country such as Australia, suffer such violence and hardship? I can’t accept it, I don’t. But it is hard to know what to do.

Becoming intentional is about moving past the immediate concerns of life, letting go of the noise and consumption we are encouraged to embrace, to focus on what is important to us. For me, justice is important, so is understanding others. We are all born into families in which understanding is inherited. We learn and come to understand the world through the eyes and brains, so to speak, of our families and our ancestors. Hence why racism persists in some families, and why certain ideas about life prevail. In order to change this course, we have to take a step outside of that inherited understanding and rediscover the world on our own terms.

This means, finding our own information, reading reputable sources, reading more than one source, reading sources across the political spectrum and thinking. Thinking deeply. It means being open to changing your view, it means understanding we can’t understand everything. But we can try to understand more.

The best resource on human rights issues is Human Rights Watch in my opinion. They have countless reports verifying information provided by those on the ground. I also recommend watching the following documentaries online

  • E Team
  • Born in Syria
  • Born in Gaza
  • Under The Wire

A Private War detailing the life of Marie Colvin, foreign correspondent who died in Syria in 2012, is also on Stan with Rosemary Pike as Marie.

Racism

Did you know that skin colour is caused by different exposure to UV in different parts of the world?

Did you know humans share more DNA with each other than penguins? To us, penguins look very similar, and humans look more different. But it’s just an evolutionary adaptation.

To think that systematic racism based on skin colour has occurred because of misunderstanding about the causes of different skin tones, well it’s sad. To think that we as humans could so misjudge each other is sad. And today, we have the science to tell us all humans are one race. We are one.

Yet, still today we are divided. Women who were enslaved by ISIS are separated from their children, Syria’s economy is plummeting and more children and families are starving while bombs still fall, the US faces an election in a divisive environment with a pandemic raging, and many parts of the world are facing new waves of the coronavirus.

While we can never be totally harmonious, is it too naive to wish for a better world? Is it impossible to imagine a world where things are more equal, where gender, skin colour, ability do not determine your opportunities? Is it too hard to imagine things could be a little more fair?

Today, New Zealand decides whether to keep a liberal PM Jacinda Ardern or bring Judith Collins, a conservative, into power. Historic that it is two women facing off, but I hope Jacinda returns. I hope that Joe Biden is elected, I hope we can become a fairer world and come together. This divided world makes me sad for my children, and every child in this world.

The feminist cause

Growing up I was not really aware of feminism. It wasn’t a topic of discussion in my house. In my early university days, I came across it a little but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I began reading more in earnest.

Gloria Steinem’s documentary on SBS called ‘Women‘ is fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed reading Selma James and bell hooks lately, with Sara Ahmed a newer discovery.

The problem is, most women of my generation were taught that feminism was about burning bras and having hairy armpits (nothing wrong with that). We were taught that we had equality and we just had to act like men in order to succeed. We were told we could have everything, and we just had to be confident.

But now, in my late 30s, it’s pretty clear you can’t have it all, not at the same time. Sheryl Sandberg says to lean in, there is a bit of a resurgence in the housewife, homemaker movement, and women are obsessed with labelling food in their pantries and ‘tidying up’. But it distracts from the key issues. The patriarchal system is still alive and well, the rise of nationalist, white and populist governments, far-right white supremacy and the gender pay gap, are all issues that are present today. The latest Australian budget essentially ignores women and a twitter hashtag #crediblewomen was trending for a few days. The hashtag arose from the PM’s office who were quoted as saying ‘no credible women have complained about the budget’.

And in less industrialised nations, as highlighted in Gloria’s documentary, things are far more dire. We can’t give up, and we have to speak up for those who voice isn’t loud enough. We can’t speak for others, but we can speak to the issue, and to raise the stakes enough to allow for marginalised voices to be elevated.

I’m a feminist, and proud to be one.

Why?

I get so many questions about the choices we are making in parenting our kiddos. I’ve learned not to argue or justify. I just ask, why?

Why does it matter if they don’t go to school?

Why do they need to wear shoes?

Why do they need to cut their hair?

Why can’t they wear PJs all day?

Why do they need to fit society’s mold?

Why do they have to look at you?

Why do they need to conform to your expectations?

Why can’t they just be, who they are.

Turning 37

This week I am turning 37 and I was reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in life and what that would mean to a 17 year old me. In our world heavily influenced by busy lives, media portrayls of perfection and the ‘good life’, I wondered, what would I do differently if I could go back.

I would stop criticising my body and all of my perceived imperfections. I would recognise that I was perfect the way I was (still am!) and my body is more than something to look at.

I would not let anyone stop me from exploring my dreams. I wouldn’t feel swayed to follow a particular path, I would choose my own experiences, make my own decisions.

I would be much more careful about relationships.

I would explore more of the world, have more adventures and be more in nature. After having kids, this becomes more difficult, not impossible, but certainly there is a regret for the things I could have done when it was easier.

I would take better care of my body with how I move and what I eat. I would pay more attention to the niggles, and do ALL of the exercises my physio gave me.

Becoming intentional is about learning from the past and making better, informed and deliberate decisions today, tomorrow and in the future.

The rebel, the black sheep

Growing up, the black sheep of the family was always considered a rebel and not a favourable person to be within an extended family.

Looking back on people I’ve known to be the rebel, I feel a respect for their confidence in eschewing social norms, the things that are expected of them.

Perhaps being a rebel is a way to feel more connected to our inner selves. Maybe the act of rebellion gives us a sense of power. Particularly for women who despite decades of feminism still do more housework, are expected to take pay cuts and career back steps to manage family life and work, to have perfect bodies and skin and do everything else in the exhaustive list.

I want to be the rebel. I will live how I see fit. I don’t mind being a black sheep!

Why I dislike using the word ‘behavioural’

There is something about the word ‘behavioural’ that really irks me. For so long, I have had specialists and health professionals tell me that my kids’ sleep issues are ‘behavioural’. Apart from some of it actually being completely normal (see the link to some studies), there is also a view that I am gradually becoming more familiar and comfortable with, about control in relation to children.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

For me, the word behaviour conjures the idea that the child is doing something on purpose, intentionally. Certainly, I think a lot of parents actually do believe two and three-year-old children are capable of intentionally manipulating their parents. Sarah Ockwell-Smith argues that manipulation is a myth, and I agree! There is no doubt that we as human beings are all interested in having our needs met, and that can look selfish to some, but it is completely typical and normal. The difference is that children are actually completely incapable of manipulation, some scientists believe that type of thinking is actually not possible until our mid-twenties…

So how can we look at the way children ask for their needs to be met, without calling it manipulation? I am continually told that my breastfeeding at night was the reason my kids woke. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Firstly, how can he be asleep and think to himself, I am going to wake up now so I can breastfeed. No, he isn’t capable of doing that, in fact, I don’t think anyone can will themselves awake while asleep… However, when he does wake, he needs to be comforted for whatever reason, and I happen to choose to use breastfeeding as a comforting and soothing practice. I’ve talked before about why that actually is not a problem; it’s only a problem if I don’t want to do it.

Exploring the reasons our children do the things they do, whether it is night-waking, or screaming tantrums, or hitting their little brother or sister, all leads back to the same place, the same question. What needs do they have, that are not being met? Do they need your attention, do they need a cuddle, are they hungry or cold, did they have a nightmare? The questions and possible needs are definitely endless and also often impossible to distinguish from one another.

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

However, instead of calling it behaviour, why can’t we just call it ‘asking’, ‘communicating’ or ‘needing’? Why do we as a society need to view children as behaving incorrectly when all that they want or need is something from you in order to be regulated back to a calm and happy place. Even Raising Children have a good article on self-regulation where they explain that school age children start to be able to regulate properly, seeing both sides of a situation. I would love to see the word behaviour removed from all situations involving children. Children don’t behave poorly, they are communicating and asking for their needs to be met.