There’s enough guilt, shame, worry, comparison, and regret that naturally comes as the side dishes to raising kids so,
It’s nice to hear when you do things ‘right’ as a parent.
Today’s blog is based on a question I asked to each of my boys this past week:
“Would you share with me 5 things that you think Daddy and I did well in parenting — well enough that you’d want to pass it on to your kids one day?”
And they answered. So I will share.
By the way: Here’s my parenting deal-io with ALL parents and in my upcoming parenting book: This was MY way of raising kids. It doesn’t have to be your way. These are not rules for every parent, so please don’t think I’m telling you to do things the way we do them in the Robbins’ nest; because I’m not.
This is me asking the kids to evaluate what we did and asking our kids to reflect back to us how that has worked out for them so far.
I encourage EVERY parent to follow their peace: Whether it’s on how you educate, feed, vaccinate, raise spiritually, travel with, heal, or teach philosophically on politics, relationships, or what have you…
Your business is not my business and there are a million great ways to be great parents and raise great kids… I do not own the corner on the subject. I live in my own space and aim to do what I do with grace, peace, joy, commitment and yet, flexibility.
And at the same time, you will hear my strong opinions about things. They are my strong opinions for my ‘why’ and as I said, they don’t have to be yours.
So, are we good? You can read ahead knowing two things:
1. I’m not telling you what to do.
2. In a few weeks the blog is all about what they DIDN’T think worked. So, you know… “All is fair in love and war…”
|So, here’s “5 Wins” today from my Caleb (almost 17) (and next week you’ll hear from Seth! (almost 15):
|Caleb Robbins is 16 (almost 17 in June!) and is a homeschool kid who is an avid reader, language learner, vocalist, violinist, and storyteller who also describes himself as an empath — someone who is able to read someone’s energy and see colors of where they are stuck or free.
He is the oldest son of Stacey and Rock Robbins and is a great friend to humanity!
1. “You raised us without technology.”
That’s mostly right on. We didn’t have a TV in the house for most of their upbringing. We had an old Sony from my teenage years sitting blank in the garage and brought it in for the elections and Olympics one year for a few weeks when they were little littles… and we did have my husband’s desktop that they would watch some 30 minute educational programs to learn Italian or Chinese or Planet Earth…
Overall, we didn’t have a TV or violent games (which I personally abhor but my husband is fine with). Here’s what Caleb said the benefit was with that (and then, I’ll share my ‘why’ about it.)
“We didn’t have any outside influences to base ourselves off of. We got to be in a natural environment and acting on our own impulses and not someone else’s morals.”
I love that he said that because he truly is such a Caleb. He is just as unique and truthful and accommodating as he was when he was 4. Even though he’s gone through a lot, he’s remained true to himself.
He didn’t take on a sassy Disney attitude. Or a mope-y victim attitude. Or that ‘too cool for school’ attitude.
He was just Caleb.
I had two main values about no/low media:
A. I wanted them to remain connected to themselves.
I got this download when I was pregnant with Caleb that he needed nature and not TV. We already had the TV out of the house since our late 20’s but I felt particularly compelled when I was pregnant to keep it out.
As someone who was also counseling a lot of teenagers and adults at that time, I saw that there was this disconnect in who they knew that they were.
I’m not saying that’s not a normal part of development; I’m just saying that I asked myself what could I do to foster a maintained connection to who we are and what we value?
TV has a lot of wonky shit, quite honestly… it promotes buying habits, and attitudes, it defines who’s acceptable and who’s not, it shows and celebrates destruction on grand scales, it reveals dark behaviors with plots and schemes, and it manipulates emotions.
Which leads to my second reason for the no/low media decision:
B. Entertainment is education to a young, impressionable mind.
What we call entertainment is education to a young child, so you’re not just teaching what’s funny or silly, you’re allowing the media to partner in your value system and care for raising your child. If the show on TV has to sell spaces to sponsors, then they don’t hold the same value I do in making my child first. I couldn’t let them have that big a voice in my child’s development when they didn’t have as big a heart or thoughtfulness for my child’s well-being.
2. “You taught us how to love unconditionally.”
That is so Caleb. He runs toward the brain-injured kiddos in the wheelchairs at the park and engages them, the homeless people on the street who might smell funky and have a crusty handshake; he helps the senior citizens who might be a little slower or more quirky than the average bear.
Caleb loves people who are not like him. People who others shy away from and are uncomfortable with.
It’s not just differences he embraces to love someone unconditionally, it’s also the people who are challenging in relationships. The people who are rude, irritating, and hurtful… he actually loves those people too.
“Mom, you taught us to just love people — to see that there are a lot more ways than ending a situation in anger or violence. You taught me you can brush things off and still love the person who’s not being kind or handling something the way you wish they would.”
That’s such an interesting thing to hear because I sort of think that kids come in with that capacity to love unconditionally and we mess that up with teaching our kids whom we judge or prefer — and how we pick such a strong side of beliefs for religion, politics, education, health, and more — that we express our determined ‘rightness’ in our choices that we make others naturally and decidedly wrong.
How many times in society do we hear, “You’d be an idiot to believe (vote, think, pray) that???”
We really aimed to not do that with the kids.
We wanted them to maintain their ability to own their opinions and not make others wrong in theirs.
We taught them through example and conversation that you don’t have to agree with someone to accept them. You can speak your truth and love a person. You can even walk away because there’s not honor in a relationship, and yet you don’t have to demonize the other person in order to walk away.
You can live in the place of AND and not BUT.
It’s not “I love you BUT you’re a jerk” or
“I love you BUT you’re making stupid choices…”
Which really sounds like “You’re such a loser and undeserving of my love but you’re really lucky to have it.” Ick. That’s awful and not the message we wanted to send to our kids.
And we also didn’t act nice in front of someone, and then walk away and defame them. That is super shitty. We’d walk away and talk about how we disagreed with them or had different thoughts but we didn’t, in general, act one way in front of someone and then, gossip about people behind their backs.
Because none of that works to maintain connection and unconditional love.
We can say to someone:
“I love you AND those choices you’re making are hurting you.”
“I love you AND this is not working out to bring peace between us.”
And probably, the most important thing that has helped that is that I taught them:
Love and trust don’t always go together. You can love someone and you don’t have to trust them if they’ve given you reason not to.
Caleb was horribly bullied at a Waldorf School he attended. We loved the school and the community AND we didn’t love the way bullying was handled there (which is a systemic weakness in many Waldorf Schools).
Caleb loves every kid, even the bullies.
Caleb loves every teacher, even the ones who didn’t rise to support or protect him.
He took himself out of school because he loved himself and couldn’t function peacefully in an unsupported environment
AND he is so freely in love and care for each person so that when we mention their names he has a smile on his face remembering the best parts of that place and those people.
He doesn’t live in the pain
Because he doesn’t live in the BUT (which is a super funny sentence but you know what I mean.)
Living in the AND means you can see what’s wrong and still love people.
It’s okay to walk away and understand that if someone is not trustworthy you can still love them AND you don’t have to play marbles with them.
(If you want to explore more of that, read my blog here)
(And you can read the chapter “Send in the Clowns and Cue the Ninjas” in my book “An Unconventional Life: Where Messes and Magic Collide”)
3. “You snuggled us a lot.”
“We got to hug our parents a lot and that helped a lot with loving our parents. We never thought it was awkward. And still don’t.”
We’re just a super affectionate family. We are. Rock loves touching me. I love being held by him. We love holding hands with our kids. They love sitting with us, leaning into us and getting hugs and kisses from us.
Even Caleb who’s 5’11 and has size 16 feet. He’ll greet me every morning with a big hug, “Good morning, Beautiful Momma!” and sometimes midday will hold out his arms and ask, “Can I just get a hug real quick?”
I LOVE homeschooling for this reason because we’re around each other a lot and hugging opportunities abound!
We’re just really connected and have raised them this way so that’s how we roll. They do the same thing in front of their friends or strangers.
A few weeks ago we performed a Carole King/James Taylor Tribute Show in Utah and the boys performed as well. When I walked back on the stage toward the piano, while they were finishing a James Taylor song that I wasn’t a part of, they walked toward me and hugged me. Each of them.
In front of 300 people.
Because that’s our norm.
And they’re pretty protective of it.
Caleb wanted me to share with you about the time I took him to the doctor’s when he was 13 or so, to deal with his allergies, and the doctor playfully said to him, “So, what’s your problem, other than your parents…” And ooh, Caleb got pissed. He said to the doctor, “My parents are not my problem and I don’t appreciate you saying that. I love my parents and they are very good people.”
The doctor had approached Caleb with the presumption that all teens are in constant conflict with their parents (something strongly perpetuated in the media) and while that may be true for some and happens sometimes in our house, it’s not the standard.
We are pretty bonded and Caleb attributes snuggling as being part of that.
4. You let us pursue and experiment with what we wanted to do.
“When I told you that I wanted to be an astronaut, you said, ‘Go be that!’ or when I wanted to make dolls you said, “Go do that!” Experimenting helped me to figure out what I was good at and what I liked. I wasn’t told to get straight A’s or to become a doctor or lawyer and make our family proud.
It was, ‘Do what you want to do and love it!’”
Okay, I have to be honest, when Caleb answered this, I got a little misty.
He was the kiddo who cried to me when he was 7, “Seth knows that he wants to be a businessman when he grows up, but I don’t know what I want to be!”
It was such a funny statement because I didn’t care what my kids did and we didn’t talk about it. But I had just started Caleb in a school program that was very focused on going to college and what you want to be when you grow up. That is not my jam with my kids and was never a pressure in our house. I just wanted them to see where their gifts and interests were, and then I was going to support those with lessons, tutors, teachers, mentors, and experiences that turned their joys into skills.
He snuffed and cried while I assured him with such love, “Oh Caleb… honey, I know what you’re gonna be when you get older.”
He stopped crying and turned his eyes to mine, “You do?”
I nodded, “Of course I do!”
He stared at me, waiting.
That’s when I said, “You’re going to be happy.”
He seemed confused,
“You know how you love going into the ocean? That makes you happy. Or helping kids get across the street? That makes you happy. Or singing or skating or drawing or reading… they all make you happy and feel natural to you. That’s how your career will be when you grow up. You’ll do the things that you love and that will make you happy!”
He was so relieved and we hugged.
Bonus truth coming…
My kids are FREE to discover and live their dreams because I’ve lived mine.
Because I’ve lived so many of my dreams, I don’t need my kids to live out a life I didn’t have. I’m living my life. I write books. I do music professionally, I lead retreats in Italy, I coach amazing women… I make a nice life doing what I love.
So, my kids don’t feel pressure to fulfill my dreams; they feel joy in fulfilling theirs.
I remember when Caleb told me at 4 that he wanted to learn Chinese. I was staring at this little blue-eyed blonde who already was learning Italian and I was like, “Okay. Let’s do it!” So, I was at the store a few days later and grabbed a language learning package for Mandarin and he started right away with flashcards and audio CDs and a picture book.
And there we would be at a rest stop on a road trip and a bus full of Asian people would step off and my son would go tearing across the parking lot as if to say, “MY PEOPLE!!”
Now, mind you, he didn’t understand that there were differences in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and more… he just took off and with his eyes bright and smile big and arms outstretched, he would start chatting away and they would stand around smiling right back at this little boy who had adopted all of them.
Caleb would joyfully stomp back, arms swinging, proud as punch… So freaking happy.
Now, he speaks Japanese and Italian, some Spanish, a little Chinese, and just informed me that this year he wants to learn Russian and Arabic (in addition to checking out modeling, writing a new fantasy novel, learning about being a daycare worker, and taking his next herbology course).
I laugh, “Of course you do — you got it! Have you checked out DuoLingo so you can get started before we find a tutor to help?”
And he jumps in — to whatever it is — because he’s empowered to explore all of what interests him.
5. You taught us to respect our bodies and made learning the benefits of each food fun!
“Like how walnuts help the brain because they look like brains, and carrots look like eyes and celery looks like bones. I loved that! And that we shouldn’t eat things that damage us, even if they taste good — I don’t have many allergy issues anymore and I don’t eat gluten because I’m aware that what a food does for me is more important than the pleasure it gives to me. I’m able to make choices that are in my best interest.”
Don’t get me wrong, we eat yummy food that tastes good but Caleb learned and it stuck with him so far, not to compromise his health because of something tempting.
We really did go to the farmer’s market almost every week and aim to eat the color of the rainbow. But then, you know there were those weeks when I was so sick with Hashimoto’s and dragged out or dizzy that I felt like they were eating roasted chicken and potatoes again… no color. Lots of bland, boring food…
But then, we’d do smoothies. And they’d watch me try different food protocols to help with my health. And that 30 day juicing thing and learning how to make salmon (not to juice. You know what I mean…)
And that’s what we did. We made food about health and healing and fun. The boys were always in the kitchen with me. It was so much work and such a freakin’ mess but both of them know how to feed themselves and eat balanced, healthy meals and I guess what I’m hearing from Caleb now is because he learned some valuable lessons about it
And those lessons were fun!
I hope you enjoyed those top 5 and got something groovy out of it.
Thanks for joining me this week. Next week is Seth’s top 5!
And then, you know… after that, we’ll get to the nitty gritty stuff that they didn’t dig.
Stay tuned and let me know how you like this parenting series.
Can’t wait to share the upcoming book with you!