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Then Came The Internet…

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. When my first son was born in 1994, I remember the very moment I saw his face, with his huge eyes looking up at me. I literally felt something inside me shift; I’m sure it was all psychological, but it felt physical. Looking into those sweet eyes, I became a new person, someone utterly transformed by love like I had never before known or imagined. My world tilted on its axis, and everything changed. While meeting my son was life altering in many positive ways, I was also overwhelmed with absolute terror as the enormity of what had happened set in quickly. I understood that I could barely take care of myself, and now I had to not only take care of myself, but also this amazingly beautiful, small, helpless, fully dependent child whom I loved beyond measure. I wanted his life to be everything mine wasn’t. I wanted his childhood and beyond to be amazing. I wanted him to someday see himself the way I saw him – an incredible human being having unlimited potential with endless possibilities, being inherently worthy of all goodness, and undoubtedly loved without restriction. So began a journey, a mission, a determination to fulfill my promise to my son, which was, “I will never do to you what was done to me.” But I quickly realized that not doing what was done to me left a void – I could choose to not hit or yell, but what should I do instead? My programming, my knee-jerk reactions, my life’s messages were deeply ingrained, and they were almost overwhelmingly negative. Nobody had demonstrated unconditional love and acceptance to me, so I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t have anything on which to model my lofty goals because I hadn’t done anywhere near the work necessary to overcome what had been done to me. I was, for all intents and purposes, still a hurt child who was now challenging herself to raise a child who would not carry that legacy. Realizing I didn’t know what to do was the first step, so I turned to books. Unfortunately, the books I found reinforced mainstream society’s ideals on parenting, and I felt a great deal of disconnect from what I was reading and what I instinctively wanted to do (co-sleeping, long-term nursing, not allowing my son to cry himself to sleep). What I was not getting and could not find was support for what my maternal instincts were telling me to do in caring for my child. So I buckled. I caved into the pressure. I accepted that my instincts were broken and... continue reading

Perspective

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. The most remarkable tool humans possess is the power of perspective. Also known as point of view or perception, the ability to visualize life from varying angles is an amazing asset. When we recognize this truth and learn to consciously evaluate our own perspective, we can literally decrease our stress, which improves our health, and work toward healing or creating positive, loving, life-affirming relationships with others. As the expression goes, “There is no reality – only perception.”From the moment we are born, our minds begin to form perceptions. These perceptions are the basis of our perceived reality. If our families were loving, nurturing, and kind to us, we learned the world was a good place, and that we were good people who deserved to be treated with love and kindness. However, if we were treated with disrespect, cruelty, indifference, or inconsistent affection which we had to work to earn, we came away believing we deserved to be treated that way. Every single thought and idea you have ever had has been filtered through your perceptions, and that is the foundation for your belief system. Your beliefs have shaped your life, your own personal reality. You have most likely surrounded yourself with people who have similar filtering processes and who can relate to you based on their life’s experiences. Let me give you an example of how the power of perspective has played out in my own life as a parent. A few years ago, I filmed a clip of my youngest son doing his “Firefighter Guy Dance” followed by “The Scooby Doo Dance.” I lied to him by saying I’d put the camera away if he danced for me. I encouraged him to perform like a trained monkey when it’s clear he has other things he’d rather be doing. I muttered, “I see prom night in your future.” I then edited the short video to add credits and finished with, “Future shame and humiliation brought to you by…” and, “Show this to your therapist.” Sandwiched between those were the words, “I love you, son!” Today, I look back on that video and feel my own shame and humiliation. I cannot see how it was loving to my child. It’s not that the video has changed, but my perspective sure has! My perspective at that point in time was with the mindset that it would be hilarious to break out a video of my toddler to show his future female friends how awesomely cute and funny he was when he was little despite how it would make him feel (ashamed and humiliated). That is the mainstream perspective I... continue reading

Crime and Punishment

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. In mainstream society, we tend to see the actions of others as the result of their conscious choices and decisions. We seem to believe every action and behavior is the result of a well-conceived idea, a thoroughly rehearsed and planned course of action followed through to fruition. Thus, when someone acts in a way we perceive as wrong or bad, we quickly want to assign a punishment or consequence to “teach a lesson.”Think about it – you read a story online about a man who has robbed a liquor store, and immediately you and the others commenting on the article are advocating punishments like, “Throw him in jail!” Or you hear about a woman who has badly abused her children, and suddenly “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” becomes the overriding mantra. I remember learning about Susan Smith murdering her two young sons and believing she should be forever locked in a prison cell with the cries of her children piped in to torment her for the rest of her life. But when do we stop to ask ourselves, “What could have led to this?” Rarely do we try to understand the circumstances which were in place long before a crime happened. I could write a book on this as it applies to adults, but for now, I’d like to focus on how we tend to have this same knee-jerk condemnation in regard to the actions of children. Let’s say your 2-year-old is caught red handed sneaking a cookie after you’ve clearly told him, “No, you may not have a cookie.” Mainstream thinking would tell you the 2 year old has blatantly defied your authority and chosen to do wrong. Therefore, the “correct” course of action is to enforce a consequence and punish him in order to “teach him a lesson.”  Let us examine that a bit more closely. Based on the assumption that a child is deliberately making a “wrong” choice, we make his life miserable as a consequence. When we really evaluate it, the logic sounds a bit like this: If I punish my child for what he’s done, the goal is to ensure that the next time he’s “plotting to defy me,” he will pause to have an internal dialogue of something like, “Gosh, last time mom told me, ‘No,’ and I did it anyway, I was put on time out for 2 minutes [or put in the corner, spanked, yelled at, jerked by the arm and led away, held by the face as my parent yelled at me, lost my trip to the park, had my favorite toy taken... continue reading

Gentle Parenting

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. I read an article this morning by Dr. Laura Markham, and a quote near the beginning really struck a chord with me, “Do you even have children?!!! Obviously not, or you would know this kind of parenting is impossible, and would raise criminals!” I have been accused of not having children by faceless people on the internet who genuinely and truly disbelieve my assertion that children do not need to be hit or even punished in order to be loving, kind, empathetic, worthwhile people. And I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen meme pictures making the rounds which proclaim the problem with today’s spoiled rotten-ungrateful-worthless punk-lazy-video-game-addicted-children is that they have not been punished by a belt or wooden spoon or paddle or . For example: Sadly, I once believed that, too. My first son was a super compliant child who was very fearful from an early age; it just seemed to be in his nature to be compliant. I still remember the first time I smacked his bare bottom, though. I was trying to get out the door for work and was, of course (due to my own poor time management), running late. I needed to change his diaper, and he was fighting me tooth and nail. By that stage, I’d worked out a way to sit spread-eagled on the floor and pin his hands down under my calves and his feet under my thighs to reduce the squirming and fighting which accompanied each diaper change. However, he managed to escape my restraints and stood to make a getaway. I pulled him back and without even thinking, raised my hand back and smacked his bare bottom. The shock on his face was a horrifying moment for me, and then he, of course, proceeded to cry from the stinging pain. I laid him back down and finished the diaper change with tears in my eyes as I noted the raised red whelp on his sweet little baby bottom. He was only 13 months old. I wish I could say that was the last time I ever struck one of my children, but it wasn’t. It was the first time I ever understood, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” I really did believe physical punishment was the last resort when every other effort to control, manipulate, bribe, and coerce my children into compliance failed. Son #2 is a strong-willed child with strong negotiation skills. I daresay his verbal maneuvers would give F. Lee Bailey a run for his money in any courtroom. He is not... continue reading

Let’s Talk Bullying

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. For most children across the United States, school recently started back up, and with it come the slogans and campaigns to “stomp out bullying,” and a dozen different ways to say, “Bullying is NEVER okay!” Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? If we put up posters and repeat slogans and create songs and chants, children will surely learn that hurting other people by hitting or name calling or teasing or ignoring is not acceptable behavior in our society. Or will it?Children will act out what they see those around them doing. Their behaviors in our culture are learned. They learn by watching and then implementing what they’ve seen. So what are we showing our children? I spent a bit of time in a local middle school a year or so ago, and I will tell you what I saw. I saw a 13 year old girl pushed up against the wall by an irate administrator. I saw that adult stand over that child, wave her finger in the girl’s face while lecturing her on how wrong her behavior had been, and when the child attempted to speak in her own defense, I heard the adult woman raise her voice to shut it down by saying, “I am not through speaking!” A week later, as I walked toward the nurse’s office, I saw a teacher standing beside a young man between the ages of 11 and 13. The child’s shoulders were slumped, his head was hanging down, and the teacher was standing over him as she lectured him. He didn’t even try to speak on his own behalf, so downtrodden was that poor boy. Do you think these are isolated, random cases? My life experience tells me they are not. As a culture (remember, I used to treat children that way, too, since I was treated like that when I was growing up), we are taught that adults are the authority and adults hold the power to which children must comply – or else. Adults are not to be questioned or challenged. Adults are only to be deferred to and “respected” (meaning children should fear adults – and authority – solely based upon the adult person’s age and status as an adult). So let’s examine “bullying”. The dictionary defines bullying as, “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” (Emphasis added.) Based on that definition, I’d like you to contemplate where young children could have possibly learned such behavior. Do you think they got it from their friends, saw it on TV, or heard it in their favorite music? Or could it... continue reading

To Embrace the Positive, it’s Helpful to Know the Negative

Send her mail. “Love Perspective” is an original column appearing every other Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Serenity. Serenity is the mother of 4 boys and both a recovering mainstream parent and statist. She seeks to share what she has learned along her journey to voluntaryism, radical unschooling, and living a counter-culture lifestyle. Archived columns can be found here. LP-only RSS feed available here. Hello! My name is Serenity, and I am a recovering mainstreamer in every sense of the word. My journey into a counter-culture belief system led me to realize and embrace many things which, only a few years ago, I would have completely scoffed at and ridiculed. I hope you are here to learn, and to genuinely question concepts you may find ridiculous or unlikely on the surface but which I promise are worth exploring further.The two most important truths I’ve found on my journey are that every single action (and reaction) you and I make is rooted in either love or fear. Think on that for a moment. Every single feeling you have is coming from either a place of fear or a place of love. Whether you are feeling jealous (fear of losing someone/something about which you care), content (love), sad (fear of change, fear of loss), angry (fear of not being in control), it can all be traced back to either love or fear. This enlightenment was gleaned from a book written by Bryan Post, an amazing man who is doing a lot to help families raising children with attachment issues. While there are many other books I love and which helped my journey, Bryan’s insight was a game changer for me. Once I understood that love and fear were at the root of everything we think, feel, say, and do, I realized the overwhelming majority of our society (myself included) truly believes they are doing good even though they are functioning from a place of overwhelming fear. One of the ways we see fear-thinking is in our political climate – left vs. right, us vs. them, right vs. wrong. This is not a problem isolated to the United States, either. When a person votes based on the hope of their shared beliefs with a politician prevailing in the political arena, they are saying A) I fear others will not make good choices unless they are controlled with “righteous” laws with which I agree, and B) it is okay to violate another’s freedom as long as they are compelled to do what I firmly “know” (believe) is right. In parenting, fear-based thinking is also very clear. Without knowing it, many parents are relying on fear-based techniques while firmly believing they are acting out of love. What do I mean? I mean having rules for your children which are “for their own good” and can following that sentiment with, “If I don’t have this rule, they will grow up to be {insert fear here: delinquent, drug addicted, unhappy, overweight, a criminal, thoughtless, unable to work with... continue reading