Another post!? I must have free time on my hands! And I do. And part of that is covered in this post!
I was also inspired (if you can call it that!) to post about helping and partnering with our kids as they grow up, because I suddenly kept seeing posts and comments about ‘protecting our children’s childhoods’ in unschooling groups and blogs. Mostly this seems to involve photo’s of kids playing in nature in barefeet, not a ‘screen’ to be seen, and also ‘protecting’ them from the big bad world, over-sexualization and hiding them from all things to do with sex and sexuality!
So. Here’s the thing. We can’t protect our children’s childhoods, as much as we (me included!) might want to! We can’t know what will happen. Many things are out of our hands. What we CAN do, though, is help our children enjoy their childhoods right now. Help them follow their passions, see them laugh and play, and help them grow into awesome adults along the way.
I said ages ago I was going to write about unschooling a tween. And I already wrote a bit. I know some people don’t like the term ‘tween’ because they see it as commercialized and from a marketing background. I have no strong feelings for or against the word, myself, but I’ve yet to find another term that does actually distinguish 9-12 year olds from their younger and older counterparts. So, from that perspective, I’ll be using it. Because this age group is different – they aren’t little kids, they are developing teen interests, but there are still things they are learning to understand, and things they can’t do. They are learning to be more independent than they were a year or two ago, but need our help more than a teen. Their hormones are already playing havoc. They might be putting on a bit of weight before a massive growth spurt, or they might already have sprouted and be skinny beans! You can’t protect them from growing up – they are already doing it!
So. Here are some thoughts based on our (limited, as yet) experiences!
Recently, I searched high and low for writing and talks on cocooning. I didn’t find a great deal. I bought Kelly Lovejoy’s awesome talk from LiG, which does talk about cocooning quite a bit, and is where I stole part of my title from! I know Kelly used ‘The Dark Ages’ as tongue in cheek in her talk title, but even with cocooning happening here, there is also a lot of light in the dark!
Kai has been cocooning somewhat. I don’t have a metric to compare it to really. But he’s way more of a homebody than he’s ever been, right now. He just enjoys being home. I can hear him right now, giggling away at some YouTube or another. He’s busy, in there. He’s not still…not at all. He enjoys his own company. He equally enjoys skyping with his friends, which he does every day pretty much. But it’s all in his bedroom. He doesn’t come out often. We still go to park day, visit friends, and the occasional activity, but for the most part, he’s happy at home. And i’m happy he likes our little home so much that he wants to spend most of his time here.
From what I read about cocooning, it could continue in some form for a good few years until he emerges out the other side, all butterfly-like! But that’s okay, I think we will be okay…
But sometimes I feel like i’m not doing ‘enough’, or anything – really! So….on to those feelings…
Feeling redundant as a parent!
Before, Kai needed my help ALL the time. Read this. Type that. Look this up. I’m hungry. Let’s go out. Let’s watch a movie.
Those days are gone, my friend! He can read, type, research, and doesn’t much want to go out or watch a movie with us anymore! For a while there, I sat around twiddling my thumbs, and occasionally trying to emotionally blackmail him to come watch a movie with me or go out!
But I think (hope!) I’m moving on from those feelings. I’m finding other ways to connect and share things with him. Different, but not ‘worse’. I take him food, still, multiple times a day. Usually before he asks. I make him chocolate milkshakes. When I take things in, I’ll touch his head, or ask him what he’s doing/watching/playing. I share interesting articles with him on Facebook, that I think he’ll like – usually on dinosaurs or wolves (then remind him to go check it, because he’s not really as in to social media as some of his friends are at the moment!).
And I started a new job. It takes me away from home for 2 – 4 nights a month, doing scientific field work. It’s something we all talked about before I applied, and it’s temporary….But Kai is fine with it. And fine with me being away for a few nights occasionally. Because he’s growing up and moving toward more independence…that’s what he’s supposed to do. And honestly, I enjoyed my first trip a lot – it’s nice to be doing something out of the house and that means something to me – and it means something to him too (I’m surveying areas for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum).
Sex: You won’t have ‘The Talk’, but you’ll probably have multiple talks over a long period of time!
We’ve been talking about sex since Kai was 7, and first asked me ‘What is sex?’ driving home from visiting friends where they had been playing ‘The SIMS’! I’m not sure I handled that conversation particularly well – probably too much biological detail and too much talking – eventually he said ‘Okay, that’s enough information! Stop!’ So I did!
Since then, topics arise and are discussed and we move on. Information is accrued in small nuggets over a long period of time. Some of the topics we’ve covered already include puberty changes, rape and consensual sex, same sex relationships (though this was covered years ago)…
And sometimes, I’ve felt awkward! For sure! And sometimes I’ve wanted to laugh! But didn’t! A couple of weeks ago Kai came in and very seriously said ‘Mom, can I ask you something?’ – my stock standard response ‘Yes, always.’ So, he said ‘Is beaver another word for vagina?’ Oh…it was hard work to keep a straight face….but I did, and nonchalantly replied ‘Yes. It’s kind of a slang word for it, used more in America than here. Why? Where did you read that?’ – answer, of course, YouTube! Never read the comments!!
Yesterday we had another eye-opening car conversation – where all the best convo’s happen! Kai : ‘So. This guy is doing a Genghis Khan challenge in SIMS. You might not know this Mom, but Genghis Khan had sex with a lot of women.’ That led to a long conversation on history, the genetic legacy of Genghis Khan, the fact he was almost definitely a rapist, safe sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, Heny VIII and syphilis! All in a 45 minute drive!
Facilitating their interests – what’s different, what’s not
My role as facilitator has definitely changed over the past year or two, for many of the reasons I’ve already mentioned….My old role was tied up with helping a lot – helping Kai read things, find things, type things. He doesn’t need my help so much these days – so that part of my role is much reduced….he still does ask me to find things occasionally on Google, and I still do Minecraft downloads and Mods, because that is fraught with virus and adware worries and he rather me do it.
But just because i’m doing less helping, doesn’t really mean less facilitating. It looks different though. As I said, I share articles and other stuff with him online. We skype message each other. I’m more of a finder, than a helper now. If the museum has a great exhibit on something he’s interested in, i’ll tell him, and we’ll usually go. Last week that was Jurassic World at Melbourne Museum.
I book the tickets for Cons like Comic Con, Supanova and PAX. I sew the cosplay costumes. If I see new games out that i think he’d like, I tell him (though he’s usually heard of them way before me!). I buy him gifts that support his loves for pop culture, for wolves, for comics, for movies, for dinosaurs!
Finally, if you treat your tween with respect, kindness and trust they will return that favour to you and their friends in droves….
Though Kai is in a ‘cocoon’ stage, somewhat, he’s not surly or moody with it. It’s a choice, and he’s not doing it to ‘get away’ from us, he’s doing it, maybe, to get closer to himself? A period of introspection as he approaches teenhood and then adulthood? He’s a still a fun and kind person to be around – even more so as he gets older, his sense of humour more sophisticated, and his ability to navigate social situations matures.
Yesterday, he told me something that was super cool. He has a friend he skypes with (who he also knows IRL) who has a tendency to take things personally. So a seemingly innocent comment can easily be taken the wrong way. He was telling me this yesterday, and said he is careful to try and not saying anything that will upset them. I asked how he does that. He said ‘It’s like choosing how you’ll say something in ‘SIMS’ – using moods and emotions. I have to make sure it’s happy and inspired, not anything negative.’ I thought that was pretty awesome that he is taking time to try and keep his friends happy, even though he realizes if they overreact, it isn’t always his fault.
So, I’ve written enough. Too much. We are going out to the Sanctuary now! If anyone still reads this blog, and has more questions on teens – leave a comment! :)