Sunday, February 7, 2010

Manifesto of the Idle Parent

The Manifesto Of An Idle Parent

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
That should mean that they leave us alone, too
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We fill the house with music and laughter
We don't waste money on family days out and holidays
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment

I read this a few nights ago via a facebook link through a friend.
At first glance, I was really keen on it, I agreed with it. But after being prompted to look at it again today, I realise I have more than one or two issues with this manifesto.
The first issue being simply that I can't live by a manifesto. A public declaration of my intentions... well my intentions might change tomorrow, and then what?

But anyway, the idea that because I leave my children alone (and I do, really), because I expect them to not want to be constantly entertained or pandered to, that they'll leave me alone in kind. Hmm, no, it doesn't happen and I don't think I'd like it to happen. Sure, they play by themselves for the majority of the day while I supervise from the peripheral, but I am included often and am asked to join in with whatever it is that's captured their imagination for the moment. I'd be sad if they really left me alone.
It's true, I've often (possibly too often) cried 'just leave me be for a minute'... but that mostly comes from having a small child in arms and on the breast for the most part of the last 6 years, I get touched out. But I only ever want them to sit next to me instead of on me, really. I don't ever want to be alone. I don't mean that I don't want to be by myself, I simply never want to be alone.

Now read on in this manifesto, to the bit about reading poetry and stories without morals. I will admit to being confused here. I read to my kids, and often preselect books for our collection that cover a realm of different areas of social conscience, not necessarily morals that are upheld by the greater community. Sometimes we read poems about bums and farts, and fall about in fits of laughter... no morals or lessons there. But I don't think I'd be committing to never reading anything to my children that wasn't, at least in part, attempting to vicariously bring their attention to potential quandries they may one day need to address. I do believe in letting my children have fun with reading.

When it comes to the item about alcohol, I have to admit my IGG went ballistic. I can understand not wanting to drink alcohol with guilt. I don't believe we should feel guilt about enjoy a drink or two, and sometimes a few more, but I can't live with that as part of my day to day goings about. I don't feel guilt over indulging my taste buds with a Baileys on ice at night, but I do believe I'd feel guilt, and rightly so, about indulging every day, and more than enough to alter my ability to parent. So whilst I agree with drinking alcohol without guilt... I guess in my head there's always the addendum: in moderation.
I'm guessing any who read this would be thinking "well, that's a no brainer", but from what I've encountered in the world of parenting, it's apparently not as obvious to some.

It then comes to the encouragement of no family days/holidays. I totally agree. We don't go on holidays for the sake of a 'family holiday'. We don't need encouragement to spend time together in the form of forced company. We spend tonnes of time together every day, because we all live under the same roof and my children still rely on myself and hubby as their only mode of transport outside of the yard. Our family days are really every day. Every day we've got something on, or not. Every day we are a family. We don't need to, nor would I want to make a big deal of us being connected as a family. We simply are, organically.

We go on holidays, albeit not as often as we'd like simply due to lack of funds. Last year I took Rhiannon to Adelaide for 5 days. Over December we went camping, all 6 of us. In January we went to Gracetown, WA for 5 days as husband was expected at a wedding down there as he was the best man. But they're weren't specific family holidays, they're just holidays we do as a family, because where we go, the kids go for the most part.
Take today, for example, we're about to head out to the farmer's market. A veritable family day out, but it's not really, it's just a day and as a family we're headed out. But it's not a 'family day' where we're committed to spending the day together in some false hope of fostering a connection by force.

And then my last nitpick: Down with school. Hmm, well I understand the basis of the homeschool/unschooling arguments. I just don't agree with them enough to give it a go. I have a two kids who love school.
They're always offered the opportunity to stay home, but when given the choice, 9 times out of 10, they'll choose to go to school. I guess that's because their friends are there, and they have structured activities to look forward to (unlike the complete chaos of home).
I do sometimes think 'down with school'... it's true, I would love for my boys to be home and happy and just hanging out. Over the long summer break, we had a great time, but by the end of the 6 or so weeks, our big lad was in need of something other than what we had to offer. Sure in a homeschool/unschool environment I'd be forced to look for stimulation for him outside of the school setting. But I have things I want to do this year for me. I'm returning to school. My husband will be teaching at a school. School is a pretty big part of our lives right now, and will be for at least the next 4 years... so sure, 'down with school'... so long as I've still got the option to send my children there ;-).

As for the rest of this manifesto... It's pretty much spot on. I'm sure that the bits I was hesitant to accept are mostly just areas that lacked explanatory notes. I am an Idle Parent. So is husband. We want our children to be self sufficient, and not needing to rely on anyone/thing for encouragement or enthusiasm in life. I want them to be entertained within their natural landscape without having to seek artificial stimulation, whether it be television, electronics or ballet.
Don't get me wrong, if the kids ask to be allowed to participate in something that they are interested in, or want to learn about, then hell yes, I'm there. But I won't be enrolling them in every extra-cirricular activity for the sake of keeping them busy and filling their lives with 'opportunities' which really aren't that opportune at all.

It's not laziness. It's not even lack of wealth. It's wanting my children to be the best they can be, all on their own.

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