Unified Individuality - Finding New Family Rhythms

Boredom leads to grabbing the moon in a pan.
Okay, parents, so you've had a bit of time to get used to this 24 / 7 shared space thing. It's pretty crazy, right? Maybe you started with schedules and activities. Then, that fell away. Next came the onslaught of suddenly new and free internet content. And you were scrambling to see all the "lives" and "tours" and "shows." Cool. There’s so much to do online!

A good bit of it was there before the pandemic. A good bit of it will be there after the pandemic. Have you considered that now is a good time to step back? Because not only is this virus healing the world, right now, it’s inviting us to heal ourselves.

Our society always asks us to measure our worth in relation to our productivity. If you are a parent, all too often, you have been trained to look at your child as a product. The factory is your house. The bosses are the grown-ups. How your “product” turns out is due to flaws in your manufacturing process. The contractors (school) didn’t deliver “the right education.” The contractors (their friends) were faulty products which damaged your goods (children.) The construction team (government, economy, etc.) skimped on your resources. If the products (young adults) are unfit for consumption by industry, then the factory is to blame.

This is a malignant, destructive lie which is built into every aspect of our society. Do you like how that feels seeing yourself in this manner? I didn’t. That line of thinking over 16 years ago, sent me down an amazing journey with my family.

Your children are wonderful beings with whom you have chosen to share a life. They have ideas and opinions. They are creative and loving. They are thoughtful and caring. They can talk on and on and on.  Sometimes, it is hard to listen.  But, what a terrific gift! To know that someone in the world is actually listening to what you said. This one really small thing is a gift that keeps on giving.  It can be really hard. It can be mind-numbingly boring.  But, children ask us to stretch to our highest selves. When we are making mistakes and working towards being our best, they are watching.  Imagine a whole world of people who actually listened to each other.  I am not saying agree.  I am not saying do what is asked. I'm saying listen.

Just the other day, my son wanted to do something.  He became frustrated because we didn't agree. So, I asked him to stop and remember. I said, "every fiber of my being stretches to find ways to tell you yes. My first and preferred answer is always yes.  It's all the other stuff ... like safety ... that gets in the way.  So, hold onto that idea for a moment and then help me say yes." He instantly became less frustrated.  But, he remembered over our lifetime together, I was someone he could count on to listen. And we reached an accord. We found a way to have both of our needs met.

Fruit/edible flower ice bowls he designed.
I'm hoping this will be a really beautiful time for you to become immersed in relationship with your family.  Truly active relationship. So much of our lives are structured around being productive for someone else and achieve someone's else's goals.  We are always asked what we are "giving" to our jobs and our schools, we often forget to be generous with ourselves and our families.

This is an opportunity to discover each other and the inner rhythms of each individual in your life.  A time to become acquainted with the different ways you family flows together and apart. A time in which you begin to learn the practice of Unified Individuality.

1. Stop trying to entertain each other.
2.  Start just being with each other. Or near each other doing different things.
3. Stop trying to make everything “perfect.”
4. Make yourself available.

It can be so frustrating to be available all the time for your children.  I actually developed this idea of Unified Individuality from my son.  From the time he was very small, he had a way of sitting patiently in a LOUDEST manner.  It was nothing at which I could point.  He was just sitting. Content. Self contained.  But, it was so loud!  Eventually, I grew to realize that the 10 minutes it would take to answer a question or do some small task would not derail my thoughts.  I could actually stay on task easier.  That was the day I realized, we had been doing what we needed to do for ourselves together.  Unified Individuality - he's watching tv while I read a book.  He's making ice bowls, I'm writing a poem.

What is important is to give your absolute, undivided attention to the times when you are actually needing to connect with each other.  To be fully present with each other.  If you are trying to share an important idea or feeling, there should be no screens, no phone, no music.  Connect.  Talk. Take as much time as you need.

Often the first advice people are given when they jump into homeschooling is to allow the kids a period to "deschool." "Deschooling" is a process by which kids shake off the system. During the deschooling process, they release all of that crazy energy that institutionalized living forces into their fresh and vibrant beings. They may want to play video games all day. They may want to watch all the shows on the devices. Let them.

I remember once a long time ago, my son just wanted to watch all the things. So, I let him. You know what happened? He found it terribly boring about 2 months into the process. He has not been much of a device person ever since.

Boredom is magical.  Just sitting leads to great inventiveness and creativity.

During this time, we’ve actually pulled back from devices as a family. We’re spending much more time with each other than we usually do. It’s really nice. But, we’ve had a lot of practice with unified individuality. That thing where you are all in this together, but, able to do your own thing side by side. With breaks for talking with each other. Whenever that arises.

Ease the burden on yourself to be a food delivery service.  Batch cooking is cool. Leftover lunches can be heated up easily. I’ve been finding that having a few self-serve meals are optimal.

I try to make a fresh new dinner made for those who care to eat that specially prepared hot meal... whenever they want it. We've actually moved away from "the family meal" unless we all seem to be congregating in the kitchen at the same time. We don't really need the family meal anymore because we flow in and out of each other's day.   "Dinner time" is a necessary thing in a world where people are separate all the time and are not in absolute control over their own time.

Find new ideas to discuss.  Find something everyone can read and challenge its ideas.  Have civilized debates.  Find your natural family rhythm.

 You may never want to go back. Then, you’ll truly be able to demand more from the people you've contracted to make your life meaningful and enjoyable - your government, your schools, your workplaces.

If you relax into this time and fully make the most of it, you’ll have a clear picture of exactly what your demands are. Time slows magically down when you are not on someone else's time table.  You begin to feel less frenetic.  You begin to feel as if you can be luxurious and generous with your attention.  Imagine living your life this way.  Knowing when you have external obligations and completing them efficiently so you can move on to the things which give your life meaning.  We don't really need 40 hours a week.  Most meetings can happen as emails.  Many folks don't need to go out at all.

For the people who provide the incredibly valuable labor our society requires: chefs, grocery store workers, delivery people, truckers, nurses, sanitation workers. I don't have solutions for how to slow down.  But, I'm going to stay dreaming about that...even if we only come to a realization  - as a society -that your work should be valued with appropriate compensation; that you are given humane hours; that you are given ample sick leave and vacation time.  That is something I would like to use this time doing.  Figuring out how we make the world a better place for people who really serve our community.

For Parents Of Littles

Batah bath fizzies

It occurs to me to talk about ways of fostering autonomy. As a parent who home educated using my own philosophy of directed autonomy, I'm seeing a lot of science and math links on the page. They are so fantastic.  But, those websites might feel daunting. Like any parent, I needed time. Here was my strategy for coping with providing fun, educational activities.

When mine was a little, I always made sure the kitchen sink and the counter next to it was clean. Then, I put a box full of fun and messy activities on a shelf nearby. (The Science Shelf/Box).

It had a few yogurt containers for pouring back and forth or mixing items. I think I made sure he had a set of clear, plastic measuring cups and some empty clean, clear water or soda bottles. Also it contained supplies like baking soda, vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, salt, food coloring, a plastic bottle of oil. He was allowed to play with all those exciting messy things in the kitchen sink. He would mix them together, pour them out. It was completely autonomous science.

I also made a thermometer available to him. He was welcome to roam around writing down the temperature of anything he could think of.

The nice thing about the box was he could also take it outside. Many a volcano was born in our backyard.

The point being I didn’t have to direct him constantly. He was free to observe, explore, play, have fun. Sometimes the things he mixed together had exciting reactions. Sometimes they didn't. But, he was learning all the time. I would refresh the supplies on a schedule. If he ran out, he ran out until the next refill. That way, he also learned to be judicious about how much he used. He taught himself moderation.

See if there are anyways you can adapt your home to encourage autonomy. One thing I did do was make sure all the toys were put away after bedtime.  So, the palate was fresh and new every day to inspire self-directed learning activities. I used to leave a puzzle out on the table after he went to bed. Our set up the beginning of a domino structure. They were great morning discoveries! "Show me what you discover or figure out" was my phrase.

To encourage independent play, a timer is always a good resource.  I'm going to do [whatever] until the timer rings.  Show me what you created when the buzzer buzzes.

Autonomous Necessities
About that sleep thing.  I used to keep my little in the bed with me.  Keep a basket of toys near your bed so they can play next to you while you are sleeping.  Also - you can let them know that it is "Mommy Time" after a certain hour.  They can be in their room.

Food: Also - consider teaching them how to make a bowl of cereal.  Keep fresh washed fruit at eye level in the fridge so they can help themselves to snacks.  (If they can not be counted on to be rational about it, keep a few selections at eye level and put the rest where they don't see them.)  I also had a snack shelf.  Again, it's a time for learning. Eat them all up, they're gone.  Now is not the time for buying anything. But, I also kept a child sized pitcher for drinks.  That way, they can be hungry and manage their needs.


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