Sunday, May 18, 2008

the kids are always watching

i think an awful lot about the example i am to my kids. my actions, habits, reactions...good or bad. i think about it. recently, my friend and her family got to witness the feeding of a deer to wolves at a state park. it sounded like something really amazing to watch. she describes it here in an email to one of the unschooling lists:

"Yesterday, we watched wolves eat a real life. The kids were fascinated by the whole process and watched as guts and bone were eaten with abandon. It was an incredibly beautiful process to me, watching one life feed other lives. It's hard to describe the feeling, because of course we're sad for the deer. But being an observer to the very sacred and real circle of life felt amazing. It could have been me saying "ooh, that's gross" or "don't look, it will freak you out" kinda stuff."

i thought that was really awesome, that she didn't cloud the experience with fear or negativity.

the other day, scotty and i were talking and somehow we got on the subject of the lottery. i think we were looking at how to save for a trip we are taking in september and winning the lottery is just a joke around here. i told him that it was funny we always joke about buying a ticket one day but we never do and i wondered why that was. and samuel looked up at us and said, "buying lottery tickets is stupid and a waste of money." i looked at scotty, pointed at samuel and said, "oh yeah, that's why!" scotty had no clue what i was referring to. i told him, "everything we do sets an example." if we bought into the idea that there was some free, easy money out there to be had, our kids would probably think the same way.

i've always had this idea of what i want to show my kids about living. that you don't lie, cheat, steal, litter, intentionally hurt people for no reason, all that. but not by telling them, by being an example of it. when they were younger we had some friends that always lied about their kids' ages to get cheaper meal prices. i get this, i understand money can be tight. but i just never felt it was something i wanted to start doing. i remember one time we all went to mr. gatti's together and their daughter turned to me, she was maybe 6, and said "tell them your kids are all under 4 and they can eat free" with a big grin on her face. this is not some evil being practiced here. i'm not saying it's deeply wrong. but the impression it made on me was that she learned that lying has these perks. i didn't like it.

so fast forward to now. samuel just turned 13 and he is very excited about all the new 13 things. no more kids' menu, using the teenager computer at the library...all that stuff. we went to the drive in for the first time in years. he is no longer 10, so his ticket is adult price. sadie is no longer free. it could've been cheaper than it was, had i lied...not that samuel would've let that happen, he was yelling from the back...hey i'm adult price now!!! and for a split second, i HAD thought about saying they were all under 10. i don't know why. another day we were at a mexican place and he shouts out that he can't order from the kids' menu now and in the back of my mind i'm thinking "sure you could've, it wouldn't matter!" ah well...they learn so much so well.

i've gotten away from my point here. ooh, that's unusual. but i was thinking about my friend's attitude and not setting the example that seeing a wolf eat a deer was gross. i am really freaked out about blood. so is my dad. watching surgeries (even the fake ones) on tv is not easy, the room spins. stuff like that. i wonder about tolerance levels for that sort of thing. is it just part of who you are or is it learned? did i learn that seeing blood should make my knees weak, did i see his reaction to it at an early age?

so i was telling my kids about the wolves and the deer and they said they would not want to watch that. funny thing is, i knew that already before i told them but i still wanted to tell them about our friends' experience. it's something interesting. so i'm wondering, did i set an example at some point that seeing that sort of thing was difficult. it doesn't bother me to watch nature programs that show animals killing and eating their prey, but my kids usually cover their eyes or ask to change the channel. it's people blood, especially accident and surgery blood, that bothers me...animals in the wild blood doesn't.

for them, it's more of an "i can't stand to watch the animal die" than a "it's too gross" sort of thing. and i get that, i know that about them. they hate when i kill spiders or flies, even. they would rather chase them out of the house. i think they are buddhists! LOL. so it gives me a lot to think about. to be aware of. to look for in my behavior. there is always a chance to do differently.

these are just random, sort of all over the place thoughts that have been running around in my head. usually i just leave them there to run until they get tired and go away. but i'm trying to learn to put some of my thoughts down in this blog (now that i can) there ya go.Share


Ren said...

I'm pretty sure that had the deer been alive and well when it entered the enclosure they could not have watched.:)

I think the society we live in shields us in many ways from the very natural rhythm and flow of life and death. Living on the farm, you are such a part of it and children learn to be comfortable with at least certain aspects of it.

So I think it's part environmental, part anything, but mostly environmental. We tend to get comfortable to what we're exposed to regularly.

The deer had died an untimely death and I think it made them feel good to know it's death was not wasted. It would have gone in a landfill if not for Bays mountain and the wolves living there.:)

I actually was NOT sure they'd want to see at I casually explained about it and let them tell me, giving them the "out" of not looking if it got uncomfortable. Never happened. They were happily disgusted and fascinated all at the same time.

Oh, Sierra blogged about it a little bit:

Ren said...

~~Living on the farm, you are such a part of it and children learn to be comfortable with at least certain aspects of it.~~

I already feel a need to clarify my own writing! Upon reading that, it sounded like I lived on a farm which you know I don't.:) Wishful thinking perhaps.
I was thinking of my Dad's upbringing and the summers spent at my Grandparents farm when I wrote that. And about people like CG and Danielle who live it every day.

CG said...

ooh ooh ooh, I'm sure you and I could have a real good discussion about this! Like, what is honesty, and do you really owe complete and transparent honesty to people or institutions who are not being honest with you? See, I'd say, no you don't. Situational honesty. Is it dishonest to lie about kids ages? I'd like to account for the drugged out 8 year old disgustingly fat kid who eats more than my four combined, personally. And (like this will surprise you!), I don't mind that that's the example I'm setting for my kids. Although they are much more prudish and straight-laced than their adults.

I'm pretty sure the wolves had another big meal Monday as our neighbor's had a dead deer in their yard that I'm assuming was picked up by Bays Mt. We would have taken it if we'd known when it had been hit. Sort of a waste for it to go to the wolves, honestly. In the natural world, it wouldn't have gone to "waste" but would have fed who knows how many things. We've watched as fairly large dead animals disappear entirely in just a couple days with a "sky burial".

Are they still horribly schooly at Bays Mt? Last time I was there the presenter was SO condescending it was disgusting.

laura said...

i don't owe anyone but my kids that sort of honesty. i don't give a flying flip if the institution thinks i'm lying...i wouldn't care. it's my kids that i care about seeing me lie. i just think it matters. even if we had some big discussion about how they rip us off anyway and we should get a better deal, it still wouldn't matter. i don't think it is real clear to say/set the example that sometimes it's okay to lie. and what is a lie anyway? some people have real blurry lines about that...and i think that comes from this sort of hypocrisy. the question forms in the mind (whether we know it or not) "when is it okay to lie?" and we act upon it.

CG said...

well, I get what you are saying, but I think we DO have to ask (and answer), when is it ok to lie? Because sometimes it IS. The very worst thing you can do if you are arrested is to tell the truth. The second worst thing you can do is lie. So you maintain silence. BUT you (and kids) have to know that, have to have had that discussion (and seen that example), or else they'll come out with this transparent honesty and get screwed.

laura said...

oh we have had those discussions about lying, the when to lie, etc. but i was referring to that moment of being in line, or even before going into a place and having some discussion like "okay kids, we're gonna lie about your age..." we've never done that. i think if you are going to lie, it needs to be about something bigger than that. it's like a wasted get a cheaper meal/admittance, etc. like keeping silent when arrested. that truth/lie both getting you into trouble is so much bigger than this. but i do agree that it is important to discuss all this. and we have...and do. it's amazing how often it can come up when you have a nephew who is a compulsive liar.

there are also "white lies"...i've never been able to really grasp that either. the belief that they are okay, and always benign. i think they can be, but not always. there are a lot of levels to it.

i prefer the silent method...usually.

CG said...

me, I'm just generally bad at it. Oh, I can tell a whopper and have no one question it, but on the small things, the truth is out my mouth before I can stop it.

laura said...

this subject has been on my mind constantly...running through all of the situations when i'm willing to lie and that my kids know it. like they know we lie when we send in the letter that says we do not vaccinate due to religious reasons. lie, they know it. so i'm thinking about rules vs. principles. do we have a rule that says "no lying"...NO! do we have a principle that says "in general, lying is not a healthy habit." probably. rules are unbending and i think principles have more room for discussion and modification...changing as you learn and grow or whatever. and also when situations make the principle mute. or the situation is more important than the principle. like filling out all this homeschooling paperwork to register. is it all truth, heck no. but it is closer to truth than not. so it's a gray area. whereas the religious exemption thing is totally a black and white issue.

that last comment CG, was hilarious and so so so true. that's why it cracked me up when you had that big sorry disclaimer about the guinea pigs being raised for food...just too funny. oh, i told the kids and they were like "yeah, we know" and samuel was especially confused as to why you were telling me that in the first place. for him, everything must have a reason, he's funny that way (like your L). and then we talked about how almost every single animal has been raised for food at some point in time in different cultures...dogs, cats, monkeys.

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jessica said...

I did a bad bad thing, or maybe not... Every time I drove by a neighbor's house I noticed a large brown trash can by the home that is now vacated - no windows, totally gutted of anything inside, NO TRESPASSING signs, very empty and ready for demolition. The trash can was in pretty good shape, and it sat on its side looking lonely. I had a yearning to collect water for my garden and wanted that can for part of my overall plan. So, one day after coming back from the dump, I stopped the truck and got and drove off with it. The kids were shocked. I explained it was abandoned by the people who took what they wanted from the house and it would be destroyed by time, weather or people who came to tear the house down eventually and we were just going to give an unwanted thing a home and use. This wasn't a lie, but it was a reason to steal something that didn't belong to me. They accepted it in the moment, but Aleah has asked me since, "Mommy, why did you steal their trash can?" Arg, I wonder if I shouldn't have done it when she asks me. I can handle living in the grey on these issues, but it has really stuck with her. Am I bad or just a thrifty person?

Ren said...

I don't see that as stealing, but as re-using!:) Claiming abandoned things helps items out of the landfill. It's GOOD.

~~Are they still horribly schooly at Bays Mt? Last time I was there the presenter was SO condescending it was disgusting.~~

Well, we didn't go to any presentations so maybe that's the way to do it! The guy that I asked about the deer was really cool about us just popping in to watch something that was unplanned. Great moment. We asked questions, they answered. It was about as natural as you could get as far as learning opportunities.

The guy on the barge was totally laid back and handed things over to the kids while answering questions. I think the answer is "it depends" about how schooly they are. We didn't run into any of that the day we were there....but we weren't with a group, so maybe that helped.:) I dunno.

As far as the deer, I think it was GREAT that the wolves got it. I saw no less than 8 dead deer on the highway today driving home from our trip and while they will eventually get eaten by birds and maggots, most of the forests creatures can't even get to them...laying on the side of the highway as they were.

laura said...

jess, this totally cracked me up. my kids are so used to me picking stuff up from the side of the road, they think this is a totally normal activity.

i would say about 97% of my furniture is from the side of the road. you can always tell when someone has put something out that they don't want...or that is waiting for the city to come get. like ren said, saving from the dump!!

just last week, on our way home, a house near ours had a changing table and some other stuff sitting out. i stopped and picked it up and walked home with it (to big to fit in the van and home was around the corner...but man did my arms hurt the next day). it required taking apart to fix it up a bit and put back together but now i have a shelf next to my computer to replace the 2 boxes that have been sitting there waiting to be unpacked labeled "computer crap"...i'm happy!!

so the moral of the story is...if there is one...pick up more stuff other people don't want anymore and your kids will never question it again. they will just begin to see things on the side of the road and say stuff like..."mommy, we're not going to stop for that are we??" to which you will reply "oh yes we are!! isn't this fun!! see how free it is and how it won't go into the landfill!!...this is good!! can you help me just get that side and everybody move up a bit so we can get this in the back, it's not THAT heavy..."

Jessica said...

Ren and Laura, thanks for your comments to my comment, I did read them aloud to the kids and they agree in the use of items that would otherwise just take up more landfill space. Your story is great about the crib/shelf. It kind of reminds me of how Pippy Longstocking loves to go thing finding! Jessica