Hi Anna, there’s been a lot of hot air floating around my head during these hot and steamy days, so your talk of fans (and the rather large hint that me and Rachel are slack arses when it comes to blogging) has inspired me to share it with you!
I’ve been thinking recently about freedom and what it really means to be free—how much do we allow ourselves and our children to take that risk or have that experience?
When my oldest son was little, a friend and beautiful mother talked about how important it was for her to say ‘yes’ as much as possible to her wee ones so that they might experience the world fully. So when they’d want to play in the mud or the rain or go nudie in the sea, for example, she’d let them, overriding various voices in her head: ‘They’ll get dirty’, ‘They’ll catch cold’, ‘What will people think?’ And so on.
I really liked this idea and went along with it for the most part, within (my) reason. But ten years into family life, we’ve moved on from the mud and the ideal of ‘yes’ and onto other things. I don’t know how or when it happened but somewhere along the way my children’s desires for experiences turned into longings for ‘things’; mostly technological things for the boys who are ten and eight and crystals, clothes and horse mags for my four year old girl. Clothes—Four?! And this is for children who have been mindfully—mostly— shielded from the mass media hype.
I find it so much harder to allow material acquisitions than experiences of the world, so my ‘yes’s’ have become ‘no’s’ and all of us are struggling—me to be consistent and upright in my resolve and my children with the unpleasant surprise of not getting what they want as often as they used to. I kind of wish I’d said ‘no’ a lot more now, just for the hell of it and certainly for the practice of it.
The thing about a ‘no’ in our family is its longevity. How long will Mum and Dad last under the barrelling determination of the children? I’m tired at the moment and would like some more time so ‘yes’ beckons with promises on the horizon for all of us. But ‘no’ quietly grunts along in front—for the most part anyway—with roots stretching back to my past (the past that inspired my initial ‘yes’s’, ironically, having been brought up to be such a good girl).
‘Mama doesn’t get upset with Dada when she doesn’t get what she wants, you know,’ I found myself telling my daughter via the rear view mirror as we drove along. She was on mega sulk and I was trying to talk her out of it. But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt it fill up with the thought of such a big fat lie! The countless times I have been challenged (and that was just through questioning—not an outright ‘no’) about something I have been planning to do have infuriated and enraged me to different degrees depending on my yearning and the manner of questioning.
Yearning, longing, desire—it’s such a fundamental part of our being-ness in the western world; how much time do we all spend wanting something and being a slave to our desires? From world peace to DS’s to a good night’s sleep! But this is where freedom comes in because desire, whether it’s for a material thing or an experiential thing or even a kitten (my eight year old’s current obsession), is linked into freedom. And I say this with the deep appreciation that I live in a democracy, never go hungry and have a relatively luxurious existence. I’ve realised that the best thing about longing for something is the actual longing itself; the yearning is the sweetest feeling—allowing myself to be in the moment and the middle of it is great and liberating! It’s not the object of my desire I want it’s the desiring and I’m right here, right now doing it. But try telling this to my four, eight and ten year olds! The last thing they’re feeling is liberated when they come up against a parental ‘no’.
‘No’ is a container for them to push against and flex their muscles; a ceiling where patience floats in clouds and lessons of practising to live with unrequited wants abound. Maybe after enough time they might get into the groove of just feeling the desire and enjoying it? For the moment though, they’re not having a bar of it! So I content myself with the thought that I’m providing some boundaries and holding for them; in navigating their desires and mine too, I just have to make sure the container of ‘no’ is solid enough to withstand their tenacious spirits and mobile enough to allow us room to grow...