A few thoughts and observations about parenting, education, life-long learning, self-care, marathon running and how it all fits together.
Finding the right PACE
It is a foolish thought
in this life and beyond
there is always more
so it is a marvellous thing
to find your own pace
your own unique stride
that leaves time and space
and this world
This makes it more likely
to preserve or rediscover
This is true
even for the soul
that’s been crushed.
I run marathons. It is a useful endeavour as an analogy for life. It also gives one lots of time to reflect on the analogy and consider how the attitudes, skills and disciplines of all that involves the running of marathons can be applied to other areas of one’s life.
Like rest and self-care and having time to bum around, the running of marathons can appear to be a luxury in our fast-paced, profit-oriented society. Time is money, right? Wrong. Time is my life and I get to choose the value of it.
In this post I want to share a bit about how my parenting decision has been affected by the practice of marathon running. For me, marathon running is self-care, pleasure, discipline, reward, focus, socializing, planning, direction.
For successful marathonning one has to remain focussed on the heart of the run: enjoyment. For maximum enjoyment one has to pace oneself and accept that all runners have different abilities. Another’s faster or slower pace does not become a threat or a reason for pride. All the runners are brave and beautiful human being who have taken on a challenge that requires focus and dedication.
At the right pace, one can enjoy the scenery more, there will be just about the right amount of pain to contribute to character development, but not so much that it will induce a sense of futility leading to the temptation to give up. This would be bad, because when one gives up, the reward of success is lost and one can lost one’s way for a while.
Let me move over to my only son and the journey we have been on together. He was born a delightful, fun-loving, curious boy with a glint of mischief in his eyes. He was also born in the middle of August in the United Kingdom. This set him up to be amongst the youngest in his year group, in a country where there is absoluty no room for any consideration of an individual child’s readiness for the demands of the school curriculum.
As parents, we asked, even pleaded for him to be allowed to be in the year below. He was not ready, he needed more unscheduled time. He was only just four when his life became swamped with worksheets! So we brought him home for the first time. Then we tried again when he was only just 5. It lasted for over a year. He loved the opportunity to make friends, but the pressure to do things he was not ready for, eroded away his confidence until he was mostly by himself during playtimes. He became angry and tearful, he started chewing his nails and complained of tummy ache on Sunday evenings. The teacher said: “He is doing well, he is making progress.” Of course his writing would improve… he was made to do it. He was only five. They did not hear what I told them. They brushed aside my concerns. They told me this is usual, especially for the boys who are younger in the year group. He will catch up, he will grow out of it.
But will he? These are his formative years. These experiences will shape his expectation of life. He was struggling and felt that he was not good enough. He came home crying one day, saying that school is too hard and that he will never be a superstar again. These things matter to children. If we compare them to each other, this is what they learn. They learn that their value is relative and if they are always last or slowest it makes them sad. My boy became sad. I became sad. He did not want to try new things anymore. He curiosity was getting buried under his growing lack of confidence.
I spoke to his teacher some more. Later that week he came home with a ‘You’re a star’ certificate that congratulated him ‘on trying so hard.’ Well that just summed it up! My child was struggling and was getting good at ‘trying so hard’. I was observing the emotional toll of this pressured life on my then just-turned-six year old.
It could have been different if he was allowed to be ‘held back’ a year and be with his younger rather than older peers. What is the rush? Life is a marathon and each one has to find their own pace for health and enjoyment. Those who go out too fast, usually do not finish. Yet we require of many of our children to go out too fast. What was even more frustrating, was that all those in the education system would agree with what my son needed, but then shrug their shoulders in powerlessness before ‘the rules’ and ‘the system’. They themselves have come to believe that they have no power, but simply have to do as they are told.
As parents we could not stand by and watch. We did not believe in our powerlessness. No! We explored the options and took him out of school for home education. This is almost a year ago. It has been an enligtening journey so far. We have all learnt a lot. It has been challenging and it has been fun. We are on a journey together. I will write more about the details of our journey.
I recently read a gem of a parenting book. It is for parenting children who have suffered developmental trauma. It sounds dramatic, but I think we all suffer developmental trauma to varying degrees as we grow up in life. Some of us maybe have a few scratches, whilst others suffer life-threatening haemorrhage. The wonderful thing is that we can always keep on searching and learning and adjusting and changing for a happier and healthier life. It was great to read an evidence based book that affirmed the healing journey that we discovered together! The principles: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy. With this approach, ther is hope to get to know ourselves and each other for who we really are. We can base our relationship on an authentic connection. I am so glad that I can learn this, even if it is late in life. I hope that learning this: connection with himself and with others, will protect my child from unneccessary feelings of loneliness throughout his life.
What brings playfulness to your life? Do you feel under too much pressure from the demands of our culture and society? Are you still excited to discover new things? Do you have time for play and reflection?
Book referred to: Everyday parenting with Security and Love. Using PACE to provide foundations for attachment. Kim S. Golding.