Sunday, May 22, 2011

Not with the whole family!

We all want our kids to get along; to really like one another. When you unschool, it’s a given that you see more of the family.  This is great for learning how to get along, resolve problems and creating strong bonds between all the members of the family. But there are times when a kid just needs a little more space and time alone.

This post is in defense of the kid having his or her own friends and interests and not having to have the whole family tag along all the time.
I write this because I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’ve put an age limit to an event I am organizing, or if I have invited a youth over to work on something with my kid (age 12), the mother will say, “No! Not without the whole family.” 

I am the first to say that learning is a family adventure. Heaven knows as a family we are all forced to learn about things from individual members by virtue of living in the family. I know for a fact I would never have taken a second look at say- Manga graphic art or Dogs and their behavior or America’s Next Top Model or canoing with Bill Manson.
But there comes a time in a child’s life when he or she wants to get serious about something-really dig into something and does not want brothers and sisters and mother trailing along.
Sometimes, the kid would simply like to hang out with friends her age or not her age-doesn’t matter but just away; but mom expects her to include the siblings.
Other times the kid’s friend is over and mom wants them (kid and friend) to include the siblings as well. In my case, I am guilty of doing the reverse where I will urge my other daughters to join the pair; “Come on. Get off the computer and hang out with them too.”
In both situations, I don’t think we as parents are showing respect towards the youth who might be wanting time away from the family-to stretch their wings and not feel obligated by expectations of ‘family togetherness.”
It comes down to a question of balance as usual. When is too much.. too much
As my girls get older, I recognize their desire to be less around the family.  We can not expect to be their 'one and all.' I encourage them to talk and meet with other families, adults and peers who have so much to offer.

I try to make sure though, that opportunities to strengthen family ties are present. We have our common area which is the dining room where we often work on the computers do home work, chat, eat and hang out.  This is probably the most important place for us to enhance our bonds.
I wonder how other families play out the balance between ‘with the family’ and ‘without the family’? Tell us about it.

8 comments:

Vickie said...

My kids are young so they usually both want to be with me for now. It's funny, sometimes I will suggest to my 4 year old that we do something without her little brother, and she gets upset about that because she wants him to come. But I know things will change and I will keep in mind that it's ok for each of them to want separate time too, without making the other feel rejected. Good to think about it now, before it comes up!

Rachel said...

My dds are 8 and 4 and are starting to need/want different things. My 8yo has a recorder lesson with an older girls and this most definitely does not include her sister.

I could just drop her at the girl's house and pick her up later but my younger dd loves the girl's younger dd and they play together while their older sisters play music behind a firmly closed door. I get to drink tea and talk to a friend too!

We have times when I have sent older dd to places or activities on her own with another family whilst I have done something different with younger dd.

It takes time to feel a closeness within a community to feel happy doing this but I see that my children are not the same person and do have different needs and interests at different times.

I think this is a whole tangle of responsibility, trust, understanding, freedom, choices, control and autonomy. We spend such a great amount of time together talking about compromise and balance and sharing so perhaps to just 'let' one child of the family go and do exactly what *they* want seems odd.

This transition is worth thinking about in advance as it is more about parents than children. My sons teen years have been about more time away from us as a family and more time to find out who they are in relation to other people. So many parents hit this stage feeling that the children are ready but perhaps the parents aren't!

rfs said...

@Vickie- often my daughters who are 12, 13 and 15 will want to do something with me-just one on one but I don't tend to push it at all. I am careful to make sure that I make time for each one though-even if it is just chatting together or going together to get groceries!!

rfs said...

@ Rachel-"We spend such a great amount of time together talking about compromise and balance and sharing so perhaps to just 'let' one child of the family go and do exactly what *they* want seems odd."

Just to clarify-I don't suggest urging kids to do 'exactly what they want.' As I wrote in my post, unschooling families are already pretty close due to the nature of unschooling and being home togethre quite a bit. So when children express the desire to do something that doesn't include the gang, I see this as positive-and not a threat as many unschooling families I know tend to experience it. Thanks!

Cathy said...

We have been going through exactly what you share here in your post. My teens are ready to experience life a little more often solo of the whole family. My son recently started going to a homeschool teen group and now that his sister is old enough to join him, he shared that he has enjoyed having something that is just his. My daughter will be going to NBTSC this fall and looks forward to something that is entirely hers alone.

As they are looking for more independence, I find that I when they do want to spend time with me, I need to stop what I am doing and take advantage of it. They do still enjoying talking with me a lot and I enjoy it too. Trying new outings together seems to work too.

rfs said...

@Cathy-yes,I'm trying to organize a couple outings as well. Some camping and maybe even a more ambitious trip to the US. I agree that the outings really enhance the family ties.

sara said...

I was a little surprised to hear that *many* unschooling families have issues with letting their kids do something of "their own." Is this really the case?! Maybe it's because I only have one child, or maybe I'm a different kind of person, but I guess I have always expected my son to want to do things on his own. I hope he would! I definitely like to do things without "everyone" also...this makes me think of that article in the National Post (which led me here!) and how the author made it sound like unschooling parents are almost overly involved in their kids' lives, or kids are shielded from diversity. I'm curious if other people really feel there could be an inkling of truth to that...?

rfs said...

@Sara- thanks for the comment. I am only talking from my experience when I say that there are families that I know (in my city) who insist that the whole gang come along to-definitely not the majority. When I wrote this, i was thinking of a few people I know!!

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