Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Danger of Raising Freethinkers Through Radical Parenting

I've been in kind of an unexplainable funk this week. Not depressed exactly. More melancholy. Perhaps pensive. Basically, I've floated through life the past few days quietly wondering what is bothering me without finding any real answers. But this morning, halfway through my second cup of coffee, I think I finally figured it out.

I'm in the middle of the Long Goodbye. Currently my three teenage children are actively working on their exit strategies. They are planning their jump from the family nest, taking steps farther and farther away, waving farewell the whole time. The oldest leaves for basic training in just over 10 weeks. His sister is actively researching out-of-state colleges because she desperately needs to experience life outside of this limiting small town (Yes, I said "needs". She needs to stretch her wings as desperately as she needs to breathe). And the fourteen year-old is  planning to leave homeschooling, applying to an early college program with long-term goals that include a career in technology and perhaps the military.

They are all leaving, as I knew they someday would. (Except the youngest. She still has plans to live with us forever. Right now, I'm okay with that.) But I didn't realize how this long process of saying goodbye would twist my heart. I didn't realize just how long this process of leaving would stretch, that I would watch them go by weeks, months, years at a time.

With three kids perched on the threshold of freedom and independence, I've pondered how they will look back on this nest once they've flown. How will they remember their childhood when they are safely on the other side of it?

Right now, it's hard to tell. I figure they will either remember their childhood as wonderful, their parents as the most wickedly awesome parents EVER! . . . or they will think we were absolute complete and utter weirdos.

Either one is fine with me.

My well-loved freethinkers
That's the danger and the beauty of raising free-thinkers. They won't all grow up to agree with my methods of child-rearing. They might just grow up and look back at their childhoods and think their parents were totally wacked-out dingbat crazy people. I don't expect them all to think exactly like me. In fact if that happens, I will have utterly failed as a parent.

For certain, they haven't had the experience of "the typical American childhood". Home birth, cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding, whole foods, freedom, homeschooling. None of those things are mainstream.

My children will know that their parents never just followed the herd. We looked beyond cultural norms. We didn't resort to the easy road, often risking social ostracization to give them the best start in life we thought possible. In everything, in even the smallest of decisions, we made a conscious effort to thoroughly research and deliberate the life we were creating for them. My children won't be able to deny that we, their parents, embraced a parenting style we believed in down in our very core, in spite of there being easier, more mainstream, less alienating paths to travel.

I hope they know that we tried. We really sincerely and wholeheartedly tried. I hope they know that they were loved and cherished, that everything we did, no matter how counter-culture and lunatic fringe it may seem once they are out in the world, we did because there has been nothing in life that we've taken more seriously than being their parents.

It's going to be interesting to see where they go once they've left this cozy, yet radical little nest. They might turn out to be rebels and revolutionaries. . . Or they might be happier choosing to conform, to integrate, to not make waves. In that case, they'll probably look back with nostalgic hindsight and think that their parents were screwball nutcases. I'll at least know that they weren't pre-programmed that way. These kids know how to think for themselves (thanks to their screwball nutcase parents).

I just hope that in any case, they will remember how much they are loved. And maybe in that remembering, they'll still move mountains to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.


CuriousWitch said...

Alice, that's a lot of leaving to process! My goodness. Hugs to you both.

I have a sense that children raised such as yours, and Iona's, will (once the transition to full adulthood takes place), become friends with y'all. Once upon a time, families WERE closer, because they shared each others' lives more.

AmySo said...

I'm in a very similar in college, one graduating, one in high school, and then the youngest who would like to stay ten forever! (He told me that just this morning.)

I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog post. I tried to raise freethinkers, too. In a different way than you did, but I worked really hard to teach my kids to think for themselves. The results of that are sometimes painful to me. So I needed to read your brave "I'll be OK with either" idea.

Thanks for writing what you did!

ajoneswebb said...

There are many paths to raising freethinkers. I'm glad you stumbled in here.

Banned Brooke said...

I love that you chose a path that was right for your family when you were deciding how to raise your little ones-- and that you let them choose their own when they weren't so little anymore!

Eileen B. said...

Oh my goodness,this article is so timely. My three punks are in the midst of leaving, also. Eldest to the Army, middle to college in North Carolina (we are in CT.) Leaving is a true need for her. She needs to go and do and be, independent of her siblings. Youngest punk is in her last year of home schooling, wrapping up her freshman year of college simultaneously.
I am so excited for each of them and their new journeys. My heart aches at how often our house is now quiet. Alone, the old dog and I don't make much noise.
I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Gary of the Adams family of God said...

As an old geezer your philosophy is right on. like your free thinking and free spirit it is a shame that so many have bought in to the hidden new world order which is crushing humanity without them even knowing. Much like the frog in the pot of cold water as you raise the temperature he just accepts it and dies so with this era of humanity.The older I get the more I realize how little I do know or even understand/overstand. Did you know the earth is flat!!!
The Fukashima disaster is thousands time the Chernoble nuclear meltdown. lie lies and more lies that is all we have no actual reality.
Good luck and keep a stiff upper lip and do smell the roses.

Anonymous said...

yes, truly timely article. and funny as I recount how many times I've been told I'm a weird parent yet then "mom, I know how to think because we homeschooled."

I have only 2 in college now, but I deal with those feelings too, and then how will it all turn out when there's so much more to battle against normality now than when I was their age. Did I prepare them enough? especially as I struggle to find my way in a very different time than I am used to?

A specifc example: Like the other day I partially rued that I didn't MAKE my kids try to get very high SAT scores (not so emphasized in my day) so they could play the system better, even if we didn't have the desire to do so. Trade-off to live with in some real ways, but not others.

Sometimes it gets very overwhelming. Reminding me of labor pains again, only don't know yet what is to be born in the larger world as well as my children's.