Experiments are always interesting. Some days they have mind-blowing results, other days you feel like you are back at the beginning; getting no where. Every day though, you are analyzing every aspect. I went to bed last night critiquing my unparenting performance so far. Not fully knowing what I was doing, what I had committed to, and what unparenting looked like, I threw my entire family into it without a plan… not sure how smart that was, but I did it anyway…
Our decision to unparent less then a week ago, came after an inspiring talk by the author of the book: Unconscious Parenting. Her inspiring lecture, had me convinced that what I had been doing up till now needed radical reform, and swinging the pendulum entirely the other way, was the answer.
As parents, we often live in the purgatory of guilt. Guilty of yelling, being short-tempered, not listening, not providing, and not playing enough with our children. We feel guilty when we take away too much, and then when we give too indulgently. We ride the wave of guilt for all our good and bad decisions. We carry a stick to wack ourselves, should we for a moment stop feeling guilty for something we haven’t done perfectly.
To be free of my guilt by “Unparenting”, felt alluring. To think, that in one magic swoop, all parenting issues could be solved, eradicated, and I would be on a new guilt-free path. The possibility had me lunging at the concept of non-parenting full-heatedly.
Yet guilt, reared its ugly head when my son told me I was also failing at unparenting. He said I was still telling him what to do and enforcing my household rules. He lashed out that this is not what unparenting is, and I should do what I said I was going to do; just leave him be! Not only had guilt made me feel like I was failing at parenting, now I was terrible at unparenting too.
Or was i? in my late-night analysis of our last four days of unparenting, I looked at all the things I used to do, and all the things I had radically changed. I was definitely less authoritative and controlling of my kids. I was certainly less demanding, and 100% less oppressive of the life-path they should be following despite still being children. Where I had failed?... According to my son, it was in not allowing him to do WHATEVER he wanted. Somehow, he got it in his mind, unparenting meant he had full reign, carte blanche' to do whatever, and ALL rules were over.
What is fun about experimenting is you get to change the variables as often as necessary. You get to look at the results, and modify whatever you have to, to get closer to your desired outcome. That meant overcoming guilt on my side. Overcoming the need to appease and stand in high praise of my thirteen-year-old. That meant not to be doing parenting from a place where the feedback I got determined how I felt about myself. Or, in truth the unrealistic expectations of a teenager, entering his independence, wanting to challenge all constraints on his livelihood, govern how great a parent I am.
When once guilt ruled many of my decisions, unparenting has allowed me to be fully present in my choices and conscious of my actions. It has empowered me to see how I can be different and notice when I need to act and parent, and when I can stand back and support. I don’t feel guilty these last few days about any of my actions, because so many of them are great, and the ones that aren’t, are normal. It isn’t all or none. It isn’t his way or my way; full out control or full-blown teenage mayhem. It is more about a cooperative space of what can I do to empower him, AND still have some rules in play. How can he feel free, and yet there be age appropriate expectations/rules that lead to peace and harmony in the family?
Unparenting is possible, but I see now it needs some structure and guidelines; things I would never have known without having stepped into it first. There is no right way or wrong way to unparent, and like all things that are new, it needs to unfold uniquely for the best of the family, and the individuals in it. For the parents, it needs to be from a place of today and going forward, not from the hang-ups and guilty feelings of the past. What you did then, was then... what you are doing today, needs to be defined one-day-at-a-time, with your heart leading your mind. Guilt is in the head when we wished things were different then what they were. Love comes from the heart and blossoms in The Now; what all parents want to give to their children. I see no guilt in that.
Does unparenting still require some rules and parameters? You bet, and that ultimately IS what is best for young minds still needing some direction… otherwise it would be endless chips and video games. My kids still need a few rules, still need me to declare when it is bedtime. Those rules are still going, but many of the others, like “you need to do this because I said so”… well, those are now gone…guilt free!