Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm offers birth –2nd grade education based on the Waldorf philosophy on a working farm in Essex, NY.
Fall Newsletter: Freedom and Independence
By Emily Schmitt Sprouts Teacher & Mt. Tots Facilitator
In a 2011 New York Times article titled “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?”, Paul Tough, author of “The Success Equation” explains, “It is a central paradox of contemporary parenting, in fact: we have an acute, almost biological impulse to provide for our children, to give them everything they want and need, to protect them from dangers and discomforts both large and small. And yet we all know – on some level, at least – that what kids needs more than anything is a little hardship: some challenge, some deprivation that they can overcome, even if just to prove to themselves that they can.”
After a bit of an awkward start, I now feel like I’m generally competent and confident in my parenting. However, there are still times when I get turned around a bit. I sometimes parent based on deeply ingrained fears. My negative parenting self talk go es something like this, “He’s crying! It’s unfair of me to ask him to do this! I’m so insensitive! He can only do what I’m asking if we do it a certain way! I’m torturing him and he’s going to have lasting emotional scars from me insisting he do this! He just can’t do this!” And on and on…
You see, in theory, and in practice much of the time, I have a very easy time agreeing that limits, boundaries, consequences, and challenges serve the developmental needs of my children and all children. But in reality I still parent sometimes by a method that I did not invent, but that I like to call “He cries when I do this, so instead I’ll do that”. Boundaries can sometimes evaporate when I least desire. I remove obstacles more often than I like to admit. And yet, the times that I do have the courage to set clear boundaries, allow my children to adapt to a challenge, or make change necessary to our whole family’s needs are the times that I often find myself surprised that they could actually learn and grow in the face of change or discomfort.
Dr. Renate Long-Breipohl spoke at last year’s Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America Conference. Dr. Long-Breipohl is a former Waldorf kindergarten teacher and now travels and lectures on her experience, writings and research. I took great inspiration from her words about working with children and took these notes during her lecture: “For freedom and independence something must be taken away and the more evolved one cannot participate in the evolution. Let evolution and development happen. It is a form of sacrifice on our part to do that. ‘When something is taken away and longing is here then there is space for experience in our soul that we need to go forward. We need separation in order to evolve.
‘How is it to wait, to be by yourself? Give them that longing. Let them try it out. Don’t be full of pity. We don’t evolve if we live in happiness. Soul turmoil and sorrow move us forward through evolution. Separation gives children the ability to create images themselves. Do it out of deep wisdom.”
I want to rewrite some of my parenting scripts or at least have the unhelpful ones fade so far into the background that I don’t give them much thought or energy. I want to parent not out of my fears but out of deep wisdom. Most of all I want my children to know and feel that I believe in them and their own evolution. I must rewrite some of my inner parenting dialogue because my children’s beliefs about themselves depend on it. For this most important task, I need to ready myself for more of the hard work of putting my boot to the parenting
trail again and again. And for that long and lovely path, I need to muster my greatest courage. I need to find the courage to take steps forward, but also to realize that not all of my steps will be alongside my children. For a mother who will always be connected through an incomparably sweet and strong love, I need to find the courage to, at times, take steps away from my children. For how can they learn to climb if I only carry them? My present plan involves stopping at some nice overlooks while on my journey, because I believe that they too will choose a beautiful path, and I look forward to watching them emerge from the trees again and again while they walk it.
- Lakeside School: Storytelling (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Doodling = Freedom (essexny.us)
- Lakeside School: Spring Newsletter (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)