Tuesday, August 7, 2012

joyfully imperfect

I am not perfect as a mother, wife, daughter, unschooling facilitator, friend, homemaker, gardener, photographer, crafter, cook, or house finisher.  I am not perfect (or even attempting perfection) at any of these things, but I attempt them all joyfully (well, not always joyfully, I'm not perfect at that either).

The TV is often on in our house.  This is not how I envisioned it when I imagined my children growing up in a natural environment full of peaceful learning opportunities and beautiful wooden toys.  BUT, there is joy and learning in abundance and in many forms.  
Sylvia coloring in the letter F on her Magna Doodle while watching The Electric Company on Netflix
Camille using her spelling and math skills to play Upwords (while the TV is on)

For Camille's 9th birthday we bought her a computer.  We set up this corner of her room with a desk and curtains (a tapestry, cut and hemmed) for her glass doors so that she could have privacy from her sisters.  Here she can watch Netflix, Youtube, or Nickelodeon shows; play Wizard101, GirlsGoGames, PBS Go!, or other game sites; write stories or create digital art; or play CD-ROM games, DVDs, or audio books from the library.  She still seems to prefer hanging out in the living room watching something with her sisters and jumping on the mini trampoline or a mattress on the floor.  When she is in here playing Wizard101, she loves it when I come in and chat with her (and cheer her on).
The idea of a 9 year old with unlimited access to her own private computer might have freaked me out when Camille was 3 years old.  However in the last 6 years I have read about and tested out the theories behind attachment parenting, Waldorf, radical unschooling, and other ways of people living, learning, loving, and raising families in and out of the mainstream.  Some theories have held up in our family and others have fallen by the wayside quickly, but I have found that living with an attitude of openness, respect, trust, and playfulness trumps living with fear, limits, and restrictions.

Ayla came up to me this evening in a princess-y dress-up gown with her hands and face smeared with blueberry-soymilk smoothie and joyfully announced, "Queen of the World is messy."  She then asked for help washing up.  I may have said, "please don't touch my skirt," but I have no fear of messes or princess gowns or Barbie dolls.  I am raising three young girls in the country.  If I thought that being covered in smoothie (or wet sand) were cause for alarm, there'd be sirens going off all of the time. If I thought that Barbie was an anti-feminist force for evil that would give my girls body-image issues and that Barbie toys were forbidden in my house,  you can bet they would find a way to be magnetically drawn to all things Barbie.  As it is, we have a Barbie mermaid toy in the bathtub because she lights up underwater (which is way cool), and not much interest in her beyond that, but princess-y dress-up gowns we have in abundance.  We also have messiness in abundance ;)

In my early days of parenting, I thought it would be strictly wooden tools, nature crafts, and play silks around here, but why limit a child's world that way?

A new computer set-up is even better to enjoy with friends.
Getting muddy and chasing chickens is fun with friends, too.

Camille does not like anything that even remotely resembles competition with her younger sister.  When I could see that the BINGO game from the library summer reading program was causing her Big Stress, I asked the librarian to let them play separately.  The librarian kindly agreed, although I'm sure she would have preferred to do it all at once.  Each girl chatted nicely with the librarian in turn while they hit number after number that didn't line up on their BINGO cards.   No problem, BUT I know from gauging their moods that this would not have gone well if they had done it together.  There was a time, I would have told them to just 'play nice' and do what the librarian expected, rather than ask for special treatment (it wasn't busy there or we would have done it a different time), but I have learned to peacefully and respectfully advocate for my children in small ways.  No One wants a public meltdown, not the sensitive child melting down, not the public, and not me.
The next day Camille went on a book club field trip to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and chose to sit next to the librarian on the bus and enjoyed chatting with her to and from the theater.

Camille painting re-purposed aluminum ducts as chicken coop siding
We have so many partially-finished projects going on around here that if I were a perfectionist, I think I would faint just contemplating it all.  There are times I feel a bit stretched thin in too many different directions, but then I just pick the ONE next thing I'm going to do, be it finding something new and interesting to do with the kids, doing enough dishes for dinner (which may be just the beginning), harvesting lunch out of my weedy garden, or painting tiles (that Papa cut and smoothed) to side the chicken coop.
Sylvia painting coop tiles

Speaking of imperfect, I may have been caught on camera (by Camille) singing and bopping along to cheesy pop music (with Camille) and using the paintbrush as a microphone.

Somehow, I think our chicken coop is a perfect metaphor for our lives right now, about one-quarter creative, colorful, re-purposed goodness; about three-quarters tar-paper shack, sturdy, functional, but not-so-glamorous.  Always a work-in-progress.


  1. such a positive and honest blog post.... My very best kind of perfect is with an 'im' at the beginning. Thanks for sharing x

  2. Ahhh - so you are not all hippie perfectness after all, are you!! (LOL!!). Love posts that keep it real - I love your real (all of it!). Keep doing what you are doing :-)

  3. i swear we are like the same person except you live on a cool homestead. trying to limit tv did not work here. my kids are obsessed with barbie movies but not into the dolls. after watching the movies, i think they are fine. you are so right about limiting things only to have them want it more. i just do what they want and make sure to put down what im doing to help them when they need help and answer questions when they have them.

  4. Loved reading this post. I got such a happy free feeling after reading it. You seem very joyful right where you are.

  5. Of course the details are different, but so much of this post is something I could have written. We started our parenting journey from more of a waldorf perspective and worked our way around a winding path to radical unschooling. I never thought we would have Barbies in our home and giggle inside at the concerns, now, while I play with a 3.5 foot barbie dream townhouse with my almost 6 year old. What a beautifully written post on trust and respect of children's interests.


I love hearing what you have to say. Leave a comment?