Would you believe me if I said that unparenting so far has been a bit of a breeze? In fact, it has been totally enjoyable on almost every level. I did have a bit of a relapse last night, turning into the old tyrant that comes down the stairs and tells everyone to get to bed in one fell swoop. It was after midnight and three were playing video games and one was watching Netflix. Without any warning, I declared it was bedtime immediately!
All the kids moaned and groaned and instantly shouted…” that’s parenting! That’s parenting!”
“Yes, it is I confessed.” and then told them it was necessary. “If any of you want to work on your business, your art, or read a book, stay up for as long as you like, but it is late and the last thing you need is video games over-stimulating your brain”. As much as they didn’t like it, they all complied.
Our unparenting approach has taken on two categories; SAFTY- all those things that fall into health, protection, well-being, and basic human needs, like food, shelter, and warmth. The other, PARENTING- which is all the things I tell them to do, command them to do, insist they do, and instruct them to do.
Last night, I put getting off the video games into the safety column because I felt it was better for their brains to go to sleep. I did get a bit of backlash and some comments of me failing at unparenting, but I took it in stride replying, “I am happy to unparent as long as you make good choices for your health. If you can’t do that on your own, then I have to go back to parenting.” That shut down the gaming and they all went to bed more willingly.
Establishing the safety column, and the needs column, has been working for my brain, helping to stop me from the constant demanding that I used to do. In truth, I think unparenting is more enjoyable to me than it is to the kids. I appreciate the break, the ease, and the freedom to stop being that drill sergeant mom that I have always been. I used to pride myself in my strictness, and the absolute control I had over my kids that just a “look” told them they were doing something wrong. Only, now I see how “wrong” that approach really was. I hated it when my mom did that to me. I hated the glare, the look of death and the glance that said, “wait till we get home!” I lived my childhood in terror of her wrath, and I have been doing the same thing to my kids.
I realize, I have been doing to them, what was done to me, and frankly it is time it stopped. By starting unparenting, I have told myself to let go of all the insisting and commanding. Do I ask them things? Yes… but the tone is now very different. When once, telling them everything was my full-time job, these past few days I have asked myself before I speak, how important is this? How do you want to say this, and how can you unparent them through this?
Yesterday, my son left the house without his backpack and water bottle, and instead of saying, “where’s your backpack… you forgot your backpack…why do I have to tell you every morning to take your backpack… how many times have I told you to grab your backpack... isn’t it obvious you need your backpack… why do I have to say EVERY morning take your backpack? …bla, bla, bla… on and on with the shaming, blaming, and making him feel bad comments. Instead, this time I said, “are you going to be okay today without your backpack?” I said it in an honest and genuine asking way that allowed him to think it through and answer me clearly. He did go back for his backpack but there was no charge in it that he was wrong, and I wasn’t the All Mighty that had to tell him so. More importantly, I wasn’t emotionally upset for having to say it yet again, and he didn’t have to feel like a failure for simply being a joyful kid talking to his siblings, instead of obsessing about his responsibilities.
Unparenting has helped me ask more, think more and react less. It has made me be curious, accepting and open to my kids being kids; not perfect mini versions of adults. I kind of laugh at myself for being in a parental fog, and see I had this outlandish thinking that they must do, must comply, must acquiesce to my wishes 100% of the time. All of the joy from unparenting has been the lack of battles that often ensued; the lack of bantering back and forth, and the disagreeing over my unrealistic expectations. Kids, (especially teens) push back and rebel when told what to do. I’d tell my son to brush his teeth before school so he’d have fresh breath, and he’d argue, just to argue. It seems teens will disagree about anything, even when they know the parent is right; not complying is just coded into them. And why shouldn’t it be. I hate it when my 72-year-old mom is always telling me what to do. Most people hate being told what to do, so why should my children be any different? Why do we as parents believe that because they are little in size, and young in years. they would ENJOY being told what to do 24/7?
I honestly feel better unparenting, or in real terms, not controlling everything, and then being mad when they push back, or stand up, or question. Aren’t these all things they should do if any other person or institution was trying to suppress and monitor their every move? Unparenting has moved me into a space of teaching, not just telling. It has made me look at why I demand what I do, and why do I feel my way is the only way. It has made me take more time with them, stop and listen, look them in the eyes while breathing and waiting, instead of my short commands and rigid expectations for things to be my way, and quickly. In turn, unparenting has given them a sense of self-responsibility, self-awareness and self- worth. It has made them more conscious of what is around them, what they can do, and how truly capable they are as individuals.
Like all profound learning it is more about you than the other person. It is about what you need to change and what you need to improve within yourself. A few weeks ago, I did get mad at the kids for not doing “this” and acting like “that”. I was grumpy and thinking how can I handle eight more years of teenagers and four of them all at once! Then that voice inside of me said… “instead of blaming them, blame yourself... you are the parent…you are the leader… what do you need to do differently, if you want things to BE different?”
Here I am... unparenting... day 4… trying something different.