I visited a historic battleground monument and museum today. As usual, I was quite bored. As my 2 year old took a break in a hand-carved wooden chair, laid against a well-maintained marble wall, I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to pretend to look at all the war memorabilia, at least for a little while. As she started to squirm indicating the break was over, I said to her, “Well, are you ready to look at more old, white dudes?”
An over-simplification, to say the least, but a fairly accurate generalization (there were a few photos of white women hidden among the displays as well). As we gazed at the guns and swords and rifles and pistols and military uniforms, my 2 year old asked what they were and it was difficult for me to give her a clear, but appropriate answer. “These are weapons to kill other humans” was accurate but a little much for a 2 year old (and even for me). So I simply told her this was a ‘sword’ or ‘rifle.’
Even that felt a little wrong to me. I want to shield her from the violence that we humans commit against one another or the fact that we’ve created machines to perfect it. I don’t let her watch something so violent on television so why would I show her this shrine of violent instruments?
As we continued on, it became apparent that the museum was severely lacking in color. As in people of color. There were no indigenous people or African-Americans in this war of the Americas according to the museum’s display (although they surely had been there). No, the largest and most prominent displays were of old, white men and their weapons.
The old, white men and their weapons. That seems to be all I hear about these days. And I wonder if perhaps these shrines to violence that we’ve built all over this country don’t contribute a small part to all that is going on today. There are towering monuments to war and the heroes that fought them. There are entire museums that document the wars and their weaponry in great detail. Even my history classes in junior high and high school talked mostly about ‘the great wars.’
I understand that wars are huge, world-altering events that take many, many lives and those lives must not be forgotten. And I understand that, sometimes, we must fight for justice and what we believe in. But I wonder if we were to build more statues and monuments of peace and less of war, if things might be a little different. If we had more museums of peace and fashion and science and food and love instead of war, if things might be a little different.
I wonder how different the world might be if my 2 year old and every 2 year old were able to go to a museum of kindness today and be shown the great acts of kindness that humans are capable of. I wonder if things might be just a little bit different and a whole lot better.
Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York City – A Tribute to John Lennon
One of my teenage relatives was recently having a rough time of things.
This is what I would say to her (and my high school self).
I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear and already know: life isn’t fair. And sometimes, I think, a teen’s life can have extra bits of unfair-ness. First, there is school. Don’t even get me started on school. You can read about why school sucks here, here, and here. Then there is the fact that you’re almost sort-of an adult but not really. You are given tastes of freedom and independence but none of the trust or respect to go with it. “Be an adult. Stop acting childish” but also “Listen to me. Do what I say. You live under my roof, you have no rights.” This is in addition to the pressure and expectations of everyone around you: friends, teachers, parents, relatives, your church, your culture, the media, etc. And as the cherry on top are all of the ‘normal’ things in life that suck: trauma, abuse*, hardship, death, etc. What I’m trying to say here is that, generally, a teen’s life can really suck. And when your life has a tendency to suck, you tend to have a few bad days (or weeks or months or…).
This is for those times. The bad days. First, I’m going to give you some advice my mom gave me (yes, parents do actually know something from time to time): you can’t change anyone but yourself. Another gem from the old lady: what other people think about you is none of your business. And lastly: don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides (this includes the crap people post on Facebook). These three statements have profoundly changed the way I look at myself and the world.
MEDITATION : Am I spending enough time alone? Do I make time to deal with my big emotions? Do I make time to get in touch with myself and figure out who I am and what I want? Do I listen to my inner wise voice?
SELF-EXPRESSION : Am I making time to express myself in a way that feels true to my soul? Even if I’m not going to share it with another living person, it still needs to be expressed.
What I’ve just listed is essentially radical self care. And contrary to popular belief, caring for yourself is not selfish. It’s like they say on an airplane: you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else put on theirs. And let me tell you – self care isn’t easy. Change takes time and you will fall off the wagon. Be kind and gentle with yourself and just get back on. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or get creative.
And if all else fails, get some perspective: read a book, make a list of what you’re grateful for, help someone else, give back, focus on what you do have. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than high school and you are stronger, wiser, braver, and more resilient and powerful than you know. Hang in there – I promise you it will get better.
Oh, and one final thing:
YOU ARE VALUED.
YOU ARE NEEDED.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
YOU ARE LOVED.
All my love,
*If you are currently in an abusive situation, I urge you to seek help. Please call one of the hotlines on this page. You will get through this. You will survive.
One of my good friends is looking into unschooling her son and asked for more information about it. My husband and I knew we would unschool before we even had kids and will definitely be doing so with our daughter. These are, in my opinion, some of the best unschooling blogs out there (in no particular order).
4. Penelope Trunk: work at home unschooling mom. I used to read her blog for about 3 years – there is a lot of good info here. She uses a lot of studies and science. Be warned: she is very frank. She’s not afraid to overshare or offend people (which is part of the reason I like her. lol)
Her website: http://education.penelopetrunk.com/
If you look at her menu under education, she has things like ‘why I homeschool,’ ‘Curriculum or not,’ etc.
[OCTOBER 27, 2015 EDIT: After having this blog in my feedly for a few months now, I can tell you with certainty that she has great content.]
6. Beyond Moi: this is by the founder of theleakyboob.com and her husband. This is not actually a homeschool blog but they do homeschool some of their kids and most of what they talk about aligns with unschooling, i.e. trust your kid.
“The world is changing. We need to give children the permission and guidance to find a new way to gain the skills and experience necessary to build a good life, not just a successful career.” Yes, yes, and yes. Unschooling at its finest.
I’m not sure I could have said it any better so I’m linking it here. Enjoy!