Friday, March 19, 2010

Emptying Oursleves

I have this addiction to labels.

I don't care to label other people..just myself and those closest to me. I want to put myself in a box so I can have some rules. (you know..rules to break) and in creating my own labels, I keep a hold on something. I refuse to be empty. Why? Because empty means room for other things. Empty means lack of control...and when things around me are completely out of control, (Kids health, etc) I want something to grasp onto.

When the kids were younger we were a Catholic School Family. Yeah...well..that didn't last long.

Then? We were homeschooling family. But that was not enough. I needed to know what type of home schoolers were we? Were we un schoolers, eclectic, school-at-homers, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori? I wanted a label! We settled on Waldorf-Inspired Unschoolers. There. I had given us some parameters.

Then there's our co-op. Riverside Homeschool Initiative. What type of Initiative? We can't just say we're a co-op. We want to be honest for transcripts and stuff. So what do the families agree on? We are a Waldorf-Inspired Democratic Homeschool Cooperative. Now really? Are colleges really going to look at that? Probably not.

Then there was what type of parents are we? Are we authoritative? No way. Authoritarian? Nope. Permissive?...maybe?

Aha. Attachment parenting. I didn't even know there was such a term until Brian was almost 11. I was so relieved to know there was a parenting style that almost fit us. Better than that, this label I previously didn't know existed.. fit us well. We "wore"our children. We have a family bed. We home school.

Then? Last year a nine-year old boy is found riding a subway in New York and the birth of "Free-Range Kids" began. This threw me off. Well..we let our kids do all these things. But we're attachment parents.

Can you be Attachment Parents and have Free Range Kids? Does that even make sense?

I decide to confer with Big B.

We had quietly stepped over bodies of anonymous Austen friends. You know, those bulky teenage bodies buried in blankets. These bodies were camping in our yard and had mysteriously transported themselves to the living room floor during the night. These bodies smelled of camp-fire and gasoline.

I hand Big B a cup of coffee and whisper: Do you think our kids are Free Range?

Big B: You mean like the Chickens?

Me: Well, yeah.

ig B: Hmm..we just stepped over three boys who smell like fire and spent half the night beating eachother with sticks. Cody and Mason are currently boarding a fishing boat in a storm. Yes. I would say they are "Free Range Kids".

Me: They weren't sticks. They're sticks with foam..they are lairing..or larping..or whatever they call it.
(Big B raises eyebrow and grins).Okay..they were beating each other with sticks.

Big B: ..and they had a blast. So what does it matter what you call it?

It just does. Because if they are free-range kids. Does that make us
Slow Parents?..and if we're Slow Parents are we still attachment parenting?

Big B: You're a dork, you know that? Where is Austen right now?

Me: In our bed. He said he was cold and jumped in while you were in the shower.

Big B: So we have a 15 year old chicken in our bed and you are asking us if we attachment parent? (another grin) Your going into a speed wobble. ..and why is this important?

and I know he is right. It is not important. It is down-right silly, but it is a way to avoid just letting things be.

When I was in college (the first time around), I spent the end of my sophomore year and part of of my junior year constantly listening to the hurt of those around me. I also celebrated in their joys. Basically, I immersed myself in other people. Let's face it, I like people. I am a very social creature at heart.

I immersed myself so much, that my room-mate pulled me aside and said, "Stop. Refill. You're going to be like an empty refrigerator. There will be nothing left." ..and she was right. I knew she was right. I also knew that without being "empty" I couldn't really listen. I chose to ignore my roommate. I lost myself along the way.

When I had my own family (less than a year later), I found myself constantly fighting for some me time. I knew it was important to recharge..but sometimes, I become so busy recharging..thinking of myself. That my world-view takes a paradigm shift with me at it's center.

Also not healthy.

So this struggle goes on. I know I need to empty myself to listen to those around me. To offer that healing space for others..but geez, I think so highly of myself sometimes. It's just so hard to let go. Bottom line? I can't do it. Not by myself.

I listen to learn. (because I like to learn) but that is still very self-involved. Still about me. I have been thinking about how to do this emptying when we receive a handout at our last Kairos team-building.

I would like to share some of this here:

Offering A Healing Space (from Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life.)

To pay attention to others with the desire to make them the center and to make their interests our own is a real form of self-empting, since to be able to receive others into our intimate inner space we must be empty. That is why listening is so difficult. It means moving away from the center of attention and inviting others into that space.

From experience we know how healing such an invitation can be. When someone listens to us with real concentration and expresses sincere care for our struggles and our pains, we feel that something very deep is happening to us. Slowly, fears melt away, tensions dissolve, anxieties retreat, and we discover that we carry within us something we can trust and offer as a gift to others. The simple experience of being valuable and important to someone else has a tremendous recreative power.

If we have been given such an experience, we have received a precious kind of knowledge......Every time we pay attention we become emptier, and the more empty we are the more healing space we can offer. And the more we see others being healed, the more we will be able to understand that it is not thorugh us but through Christ in us that this healing takes place.

When I first read this I thought.."this is it." This is what I knew somewhere deep down when Tami was telling me I can't be an empty fridge. She was both right and wrong. Good's only taken me nearly 20 years to understand it!


The tricky part. To make it habit. This emptying of myself. To let go of my silly labels. To truly empty myself.

To enjoy the journey.


Hi, I'm Terri! said...

Omg...everytime I read your blog I just have to bust out laughing....your daily conversastions are so off the wall, I love it, I miss it!

grillledcheesechic said...

We miss you too! Come see us!

Sardine Mama said...

I am a self-centered attachment parent of five free-range kids who are classically-inspired unschoolers :)

Pebblekeeper said...

Great Article - I love the talk about emptying ourselves in order to listen to others.

Christina said...

Ai Nicole, to listen does require complete focus on the other. And yes, you have always been good at this. It is your gift and one that is highly prized by those of us who have known you so long.

Similarly, your flexibility as a parent - to let your fledglings fly and be free - has allowed kids that a traditional school system would label and "deal with" to flourish and prosper. I find it funny that you can be so obsessed with labels and titles when you have kids that strive to be an outlier and break the ability of anyone to label them.

Finally, you are blessed - so very, very blessed in your family.

grillledcheesechic said...

Nice meeting you here...what can I say? It's a neurosis? A hobbby...I agree..there is no rhyme or reason to it;)