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Secure Foundations: Parenting Outside the Box

Updated: Jun 21

There is no one "right" way to parent. I can share what works, and what doesn't/hasn't, for us. As well, I appreciate hearing what works for you, what resonates, and what doesn't. Mainly, I am striving to un-condition myself from the nefarious idea of being a "good" Mom. Good and bad are value judgements that I can use to prop myself and make myself feel better or tear myself down and stew in guilt and anxiety. (I can also use the terms to judge others on their unique paths.) Instead of an 'either/or,' black and white mentality, Burt encouraged me to view life more from a "Yes, And..." perspective. It all exists simultaneously - thus, how can I live forward holding life's complexities in each of my hands? More so, how do I embody this so that I am modeling for Cee how to do the same? "TRUST THE PROCESS." This mantra has become more commonplace in recent years but, when I first heard it - over and over again while in graduate school in the mid-2000s - I didn't understand the phrase. In fact, I resented it. WTF did it mean?

Almost twenty years later, and I understand more. If I lean into believing that Cee chose me to be his Mama, for better and worse, and that all the lessons I am teaching him - both those spoken and shared as well as those that go without words and are more unconsciously conveyed - are exactly what he needs for his optimal growth, then I can relax and laugh more about my so-called "mis-takes." Perhaps, I can take it all less seriously and do my best to just enjoy the ride - especially when Cee is this young. I won't lie though - as a lone Mother confronted by this world in which my heart-centered values are rarely mirrored as 'success' and instead a profits over people mentality often reigns - I usually feel overwhelmed, anxious and fearful. My red hot rage is typically my go-to emotion that often fuels my passion for creating solutions and alternatives, but underneath all of it is a deep well of grief always threatening to pull me down below its roiling surface. Especially in having to play all the roles to Cee - the disciplinarian and the provider, the nurturer and "the domestic Goddess." (Please laugh deeply at this and vomit in your mouth, if you have to.)

I miss Burt and the way his lightness and joy filled heart balanced out my heaviness and the way I can feel so stuck in my uncomfortable e~Motions. I have to TRUST that his life and death weren't in vain though. So, I seek purpose in all of it because it's the only way I know how to churn my pain into a healing balm and a life-affirming power that I can use to propel our life forward.

Every child deserves to be seen, heard and appreciated for their unique way of being. This is why I am a proponent for radical unschooling because of its capacity to honor the individual needs of each person. Which is in complete contrast to contemporary education whose global model has become a top-down approach of classroom management that too often caters to a lowest common denominator.

Still, I appreciate all of the Me-time that comes with a regular structure in a more formal setting. I also acknowledge that continually exposing my child to others, and other ways of being, is essential to his growth. At 9.5 years old, my son has had a mixed experience of attending more traditional - in terms of an 8:30-2pm daily schedule spent primarily in a classroom repeating the basics of math and literacy - programs as well as being given the time and space to just be and create his days as he deems fit.

I also appreciate what "school" brings into our life. Namely, more friends for Cee and a community for me in which I do rely on others to teach Cee things, like reading and writing in Spanish, for example. What doesn't work about a traditional setting is how Cee feels belittled and disempowered by a system that has to treat him like he is incapable of the things that his Dad and I have taught him to have confidence in. Such as, using knives and scissors, trying "dangerous" things (like skateboarding, climbing trees or jumping from high heights), etc.

Cee understands why these systems operate the way they do and that these rules don't have anything to do with him, personally, but rather with keeping the whole "safe." So, it's a dance - we engage in these environments to soak up all that we can from them and then Cee will reach a point when he is ready to call it "quits." I aim for Cee to know how to listen to his heart and Soul, to follow these as the True North on his inner compass of Life and to make healthy choices for his body and Self.

I do not homeschool my child. Rather, we lean into the times when he is predominantly at home with me and the times when he is enrolled in a program somewhere. In recent times, Cee has become more enthralled with Minecraft and learning about how to create and manipulate worlds there. I still demand of him to have time for boredom which mainly looks like his sitting with his art supplies, which I supply with gusto as an essential component of his daily life.

I feel immensely grateful for what Burt and I were able to provide for Cee in his first, five years of life. Here are some highlights:

  • Non-stop baby wearing for Cee's first, 3-months. At the three month mark, when Cee had become proficient at sitting up by himself, I began leaving him "alone" (with me in the room behind him) to play on his own for thirty minute stretches;

  • Breastfeeding for almost four years. When cancer arrived on our doorstep, my breasts clearly indicated - via "pain" - that it was time to segue to belly-to-belly time in bed with Cee;

  • Maintaining a daily schedule that included nap time for both Cee and I as well as weekly sessions spent gardening our plot in our local community garden where I grew and harvested artichoke, chard, carrots, sunflower seeds, strawberries, squash and more;

  • My working part-time in helping to care for a girlfriend's three daughters by picking them up from school and spending the afternoons with them a few days a week. Cee had the experience of being surrounded by the din of other children;

  • Papa Burt & I both volunteered at our birth center where I held a weekly, support cirlce for postpartum women and their babies. Cee has witnessed me holding and caring for other newborns since he was a baby;

  • Cee grew up in a secure container where we often ran into people we knew at the beach park or while out and about in town. He was often surrounded by friends via playdates as well as weekly community events, such as at Dance Church, the Leucadia Farmer's Market or while at Swami's Roadside Beach Park for Sunday afternoons;

  • Papa Burt & I launched a cooperative of families out of our home where Cee was encouraged to share his life, and things, with other children. Meanwhile, I felt supported by the regular hugs and heart felt connection with other Mamas that came with this village which we continually worked towards maintaining around us.

  • Asking for help and leaning into all of the support that came with Burt's cancer diagnosis & journey;

  • Choosing to release all of the comfort found in this environment and flying into the face of unknown of a life south of the border in response to cancer;

  • Papa Burt was adept at closing his door and going into his office for hours of concerted work only to come out of the door, drop to his knees and play with Cee;

  • During Papa Burt's final year of life, I had stressed to him the importance of his doing the things with Cee that Cee wanted to do - like making paper airplanes, playing with Legos, etc. Especially in lieu of watching a Disney movie, or being in front of a screen.

  • Papa Burt and I were friends, first and foremost, who respected each other. I looked forward to talking to Papa Burt about both everything and nothing everyday. Our relationship was not perfect. We had our issues. AND I did my best to support Papa Burt up until his last dying breath.

  • Seven months of traveling together into new lands while making new friends and meeting new people. Burt started Cee and I on our new life path, I don't know if I would have had the courage to do it alone - even though I had traveled the globe as a single woman.

I am not sharing this to make another feel shame about the way they have chosen their path. THERE IS NO ONE "RIGHT" WAY. Whatever you do - and have done - is perfect. AND if you would like more support on your journey then please reach out.

In all honesty, my life as a lone Mother doesn't look like this today. E.g I rely on the screen a lot to provide Cee with engagement so that I can tend to my/our needs. I can often feel stressed out and emotionally unavailable, but I give myself a lot of grace and compassion because lone parenting should not be socially acceptable. When, in fact, it is a recipe for insanity & disaster. I/WE NEED MY/OUR VILLAGE ONCE AGAIN. THIS IS HOW WE THRIVE. Very few of us can & will succeed as the A-type personality and lone wolf mentality that our western culture reveres.

It's all an experiment. I don't know what my son will do with his early childhood experiences when he "grows up," or how our current life now will affect his future. I am certainly not parenting in the way it was done with me - for better and worse. And, from my perspective, I don't think Cee's future is going to look anything like what we have seen in the past.

I believe what will serve my child best in our quickly approaching future isn't the highest test scores, or acceptance to an institution of higher learning, but rather his ability to adapt to his environment and what is happening around him, his resilience in the face of both trauma and the unknown and his confidence that he his worthy at his core of living a brilliant life filled with love and wonder.

Papa Burt always advised me to parent backwards. Meaning, to envision the man that I want Cee to grow into one day and to provide him today, and all along the way, with the skills he will need for success, in all ways. I want Cee to be an emotionally available man who finds ease in partnering with fierce, brilliant women (& others). So..... here we are.

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