I was sitting in the living room in front of the fire tonight on one of the last really cold nights of winter. My daughter was snuggled in the corner seat next to me. My husband was on the other side of me and my son was on the chaise next to him. We were watching The Price is Right as we have been doing every night for the last few months.
Today was one of the coldest days we have had all year so we mostly stayed home. We visited the Guinea Pig Sanctuary and took a ride along the ocean. Yesterday, we stayed home all day and my mom came to visit. We played games, ate yummy food, watched YouTube, created some art, and spent hours being silly. Tomorrow we have Park Day.
These are typical weekdays for us.
As I cozily sat with my family tonight I felt so much gratitude for the life my children have. I found myself thinking “they don’t even know!”.
I considered the words that had whirled through my mind; “they don’t even know”. They have no idea. None.
They don’t know how good they have it or how easy their lives are.
They don’t know that life is supposed to be hard and tiring and filled up with activities and be busy busy busy!
They don’t know the stress of not understanding a concept and that making it impossible for them to finish their homework. They don’t know the worry of staying up into the wee hours thinking of how to tell their teacher. Wondering if they will be in trouble, or worse, embarrassed.
They don’t know what it’s like to have a pit in their stomachs all the time. Maybe it would come from peers belittling their intellect or shaming their bodies. Maybe they just wouldn’t fit in. Maybe the pit would come because they learned how to fit in. Maybe they would endure relentless ridicule day after day after day and shatter their mental and physical health.
They don’t know what it’s like to be on autopilot. To live groundhog day over and over again; wake before they are ready, shove something down their throat and pretend it’s breakfast, endure a day of being directed through their lives, come home, stress and/or fight about homework, eat dinner if there is time, fight about screens, wish they had time to play their guitar or work on those barrettes, and get ready for bed only to start the same 24 hours again, just waiting for Friday night. Having Sunday arrive too early every single week.
They don’t know.
They don’t know what they are missing.
Waiting for the bus when it’s cold or hot or buggy. With mean kids or kids who don’t see you. Riding the bus for nearly an hour while it’s still dark, hoping they remembered both soccer cleats and their after school snack. Remembering too late that they didn’t get a parent signature proving their stupidity by failing that math test. Choosing to trade the shame and fighting with parents for the reprimand of a teacher.
They don’t know what it’s like to have a tag driving them crazy and have to wear the shirt all day. Or to have cramps and have to sit through the lecture on hypotenuses anyway. In pain.
They don’t know what it’s like to not have autonomy or to be able to affect their day- what they wear, eat, and do. When they wake, rest, play, snuggle, or take time alone in their room.
They don’t know what it’s like not to be able to say “I am really overwhelmed and people’d out right now and I need some time at home or time in my room. Please give me some space.” and get what they need.
They don’t know what it’s like to have somebody else shuttle them through their lives. To have somebody else dictate their course and how they spend their hours. All of their hours.
They don’t know what they are missing.
Sometimes I hear unschooling parents say something like “they don’t know how good they’ve got it” and it’s true! They don’t know how good they’ve got it. And isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why we are doing this?
Don’t we want to give our children the childhood we wish we’d had? The one that’s void of artifically inflicted stress and grief so that space is freed up for exploring, playing, connection, love, trust, and learning?
Do we want them to know how bad it could be? How stressful? How unfortunate? How complacent it could make them? How it would rob them of 18 years of following curiosities and exploring? Do we want them to know those things so they can appreciate the amazing life they have?
If we answer yes to that question we have some thinking to do. Because giving this life to our children freely cannot include reminders of how lousy their lives could be if we were not so generous. The two things are not compatible. They cannot coexist. We are living this life/working on living this life with our children or we are not.
So as I sat there on the couch tonight in what many would refer to as my happy place, with children who have no idea how good they have it, I thanked my lucky stars. I am so grateful my children have no idea their lives are exceptional.
They have faced adversity that wasn’t their fault. They have not always had easy lives and do not now have perfect ones. They sure do have beautiful lives though. Now.
They are free and supported in exploring all the things that intrigue them. Stupid, unimportant details do not interupt their play (which is the exact same thing as real learning). Each day they spend their hours comfortable, happy, curious, engaged, connected, and generally happy.
It’s hard to understand from the outside looking in. Impossible, maybe. If you get a glimpse of it though, the sheer beauty of freely giving this life to our children might make you physically stagger. Steal your breath momentarily while you catch a vision of what could be.
My children have no idea what they are missing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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