Saturday, May 01, 2010

Other adults in their lives

I was chatting with an acquaintance about our kids and what they are up to when she told me about having the daughters of a mutual friend over for the night.
"They always come over," she explained. "If they are having a bad day at home, of if they just feel like hanging out over here the door is always open," she said. "The other night, we sat on my bed in pajamas and talked for hours."

Her son, the same age as the girls, regularly goes over to their house as well.
When I told her how much I loved that sort of interaction and wished it for my daughters, she exclaimed,"Oh good! So many people see this as breaking up the family."
It's a perspective I'd never have considered. I imagine that this kind or reaction comes from parents that feel insecure about their relationship with their children or are over-protective of their kids.
It also made me think about my own rapport with the friends of my own kids: am I a mentor for them? Am I approachable? Do I care about them?

In a book by John Holt entitled Escape from Childhood, Holt questions the institution of childhood and argues that, "not only is the modern nuclear family a very bad model of adult and social life, because so incomplete and distorted, but it is its isolation from the world that creates the need for models."

This is interesting; we often bemoan the lack of models for our kids but if we lived in a world where kids were not isolated from adults, but worked, played, celebrated side by side grown ups, the 'models' would be a given.

Holt continues,
"For many reasons children need a much larger network of people to relate to. The small family is so often unhelpful or destructive because it is so small. The relationships are too intense, too much is always at stake.... The family is so dependent on these high-powered feelings, so shut in on itself, so non-involved with others or with the community, so devoid of purposes outside of itself, that it is fragile, easily threatened by a quarrel. Human relations cannot be only about human relations. If there is nothing in a family but feelings, if it is only an arena for feelings, if its life depends on everyone feeling good about or loving everyone else, if the members have no other way of being really useful to each other, then it is constantly threatened by anything that might upset the good feelings, and perfectly normal differences and quarrels take on too much importance."
Like Holt, I think that children and youth need more adult friends. Like Holt, I'm all for recreating the 'extended family.'
There is one interesting part in his essay where he uses a poem by Robert Frost to illustrate his point. He says:

Robert Frost, in his poem “Death of the Hired Man”, put it very well. The hired man,now too old and ill to work, is sitting exhausted in the kitchen of a younger farm couple.The husband, not quite knowing what to do about him or with him, wonders why he has come to their house, since he has other relatives nearby. For answer his wife says to him -it could not be said better - “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in.”Just so. Children need many such homes. Perhaps we all do...."


3 comments:

clementine said...

I agree with much of what you say here. Our own families can be the cruelist and hardest on us.
Unschooling families must make huge efforts to seek out mentors because we spend so much time with the kids. I think that might be one of the reasons that older unschooled kids might end up choosing kids- they need more people in their lives.

clementine said...

Sorry re-read my post. I meant choosing school!!

Anonymous said...

Funny! choosing kids makes sense as well. Not enough role models around so kids gravitate towards other kids, maybe?

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