My son grabs my hand to hold.

I say, “I can’t. I’m holding the cello. Let’s just go. We’re in a rush. Come on. Just grab the music.”

He says, “But I thought you said holding my cute little hand is your favorite thing in the world to do.”

“It is. I just can’t do it now.”

“Does it make you the happiest you will ever be except when I get married then you’ll be happier?

“I will be happy for you when you find someone you love that much.”

Then I get a little nervous. And I add, “And she should treat you well. It’s important that the person treats you like you are so so special.”

He says, “You mean find someone who treats me like you treat me?”

Silence. I think, “No!  Of course not! Do not find someone who makes you late for cello. Do not find someone who yells at you. Do not find someone who takes anxiety pills to deal with you on bad days.”

But I say what I think I have to say, “Yes. She should love you as much as I love you.”

Is that right? I don’t even know. I don’t need help teaching my kid math. I need help teaching my kid how to pick a wife. The spouse choice is so much more important than long division.

I feel like I’m not even in a position to be teaching kids how to pick a spouse. After all, I picked so poorly the first time that he asked for a divorce. And now I find that the books that help me learn how to be in a relationship are how to deal with borderline personality disorder because my mom had it, and kids with parents like that usually develop the same disorder, which means the odds of me torturing my kids right now is high.

Almost everything kids really learn comes from simply watching how their parents live. It’s a hard fact to face, so we focus on skills like multiplication, which they can learn independently of watching us model it.

I can see the appeal of loading up on workbooks.


18 replies
  1. Amy
    Amy says:

    “I can see the appeal of loading up on workbooks.”

    Oh my goodness, there is so much depth wrapped up in that one line. Hit me between the eyes.

    We differ on a lot of things, and yet for me, you nail it repeatedly. Interesting and refreshing.

    Great post.

  2. leftbrainfemale
    leftbrainfemale says:

    Oh, Penelope – I so *love* your posts. I have been so busy that I don’t often respond, but you’ve had so many lately that just *resonate* with me. Having an Asperger’s spectrum daughter, who graduates high school this year (2013), struggling with where to go next, wanting to inspire her to entrepreneurial endeavors as frankly, that seems easier than struggling more with college at this point. But oh, you have really said a mouthful with this post. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to be married to a good man – not perfect, but better than many, so teaching my daughters how to choose wisely is uppermost in my mind as well. Truth be told, though, we all have so much baggage from our own upbringings that I think the best thing we can do is to communicate our hopes and fears at appropriate times to our children – give them, as much as possible, the wisdom we’ve gained from our choices, both good and bad. I tend to be of the school that believes it is better to not share my bad choices directly – hence the backlash of “but you did it” responses are minimized. Instead, I share from the perspective of seeing the known mistakes of others – or by sharing what someone in my past went through. There are some things that I think our kids don’t need to know; and truthfully, there are things that my daughters may go through that I’m not sure *I* need to know. If we make our best efforts to raise thoughtful, confident children, and give them the ability and strength to make their own decisions, they too will survive to carry on a legacy of strength.

  3. Lynn Lawrence
    Lynn Lawrence says:

    Whenever I think we have accomplished absolutely nothing via homeschooling, usually that is the time one of my boys will question authority in a way that is meaningful, or they will share a very heartfelt thought. For so many families, the blessing of homeschooling is that it keeps the family a part of the vision, and, in general, who has your best interests at heart…not the institution, that’s for sure.

    One of the most important components of entrepreneurialism is “out of the box” thinking…in so many ways, my homeschoolers are very comfortable with that, and it came from homeschooling.

    • leftbrainfemale
      leftbrainfemale says:

      Absolutely! It’s why I don’t regret a minute of the 8 years we homeschooled, and often have mixed feelings, wishing I’d kept it up through high school. But as it is, my girls adapted very well, and I think in some ways what they’re going through now is valuable too in that they’re seeing the world as it really is rather than just “mom’s view”.

  4. Mary Eve
    Mary Eve says:

    I love your writing but this is my favorite post so far, sweet and to the point… I agree we really have to do the work to model for a good life as well.

    I’ll get me some other books too.

      • liz
        liz says:

        This is my favorite post too. This really gets to why I had fears about homeschooling, and sometimes still do. It’s my ability to model, considering the childhood I had and the demons I still have to deal with sometimes. Just this morning for example, trying to get a spot of work in while my kids and their cousins play, but my oldest was super weepy and grumpy.

      • liz
        liz says:

        This is my favorite post too. This really gets to why I had fears about homeschooling, and sometimes still do. It’s my ability to model, considering the childhood I had and the demons I still have to deal with sometimes. Just this morning for example, trying to get a spot of work in while my kids and their cousins play, but my oldest was super weepy and grumpy. Which made me grump in turn, and now I feel a bit weepy.
        Here’s another article that expresses a similar thought & that I was glad for:
        And now they are playing happily and I better get that spot of work done!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      In hindsight it’ll probably be a good place for Penelope and all of us to take this as a start to a discussion that just because people are having bad days it doesn’t always have to reflect on you (the child). That because mom has to take Xanas doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unbearable as a kid.

  5. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    When my kiddos (now 15, 12, and 8.5 years old) were young children I used to ask them to hold my hand in the parking lot or store or where ever so *I* would not get lost. They all tried dropping my hand and I would playfully be *lost and confused and anxious*. Soon they would slip their hand back into mine and all would be right with my world.

    My kids often offer to hold my hand in the parking lot still. :-)

    • Niecie
      Niecie says:

      AHHHHHHHHHH MONIQUEWS…..that is the sweetest thing ever. You just started my day off with the BIGGEST smile !!!!!! How beautiful that was to read.

  6. Meg
    Meg says:

    Was that YOU in the photo holding the boy’s hand?

    You must be more like me than I had imagined. Tall, broad-shouldered? Do you have a masculine digit ratio like me, too? Just wondering.

  7. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I have two sons too. Your boys loves you so much, I know. No one else will ever love them in quite the same way you do. A mom’s love stands apart.

  8. CJ
    CJ says:

    Many others before him have said what Tough is saying now, after a plethora of research. Helping children deal with stress and providing encouragement and support but letting them figure it out for themselves is the most important. Letting go, being more of a mentor than a “decider,” lets children develop a strong sense of self and independence. This is why at least some form of unschooling in homeschool settings is so very convincing to me as the best route to nurture our growing little people.

    I agree with Tough and the many others: “non cognitive skills are at least as important and probably more so than the cognitive.”

    Though you often express your self doubt on these pages, one of the reasons I admire your forthrightness is because I think to myself, at least you are a parent trying to focus on the “right” stuff with your boys. At least you are trying to ignore the static of orthodox cultural ideas of what we “should” be focussed on.

    • CJ
      CJ says:

      (My last sentences ipad cut off) I applaud you regularly for thinking out loud to us about what you think about, consider, plan for with your children. My girlfriends and I call this the parenting “staying awake at the wheel” importance.

  9. Karen Loethen
    Karen Loethen says:

    I agree that, the most important lessons my kids get are the life lessons…just like those were the most important things that we learned as kids.

    Being nice,
    Helping people.
    Standing up for what is right.
    Asking for help.
    Figuring out who should be our friends…

    And so, as with any friends we choose, our life partner should be our FRIEND. If they are not our friend, they can’t be our spouse. Period!

    The kids and I actually DO talk about choosing spouses and friends. We also talk about what kid of person is likely to attract them and how to make great choices in spite of those initial reactions. Listen, great therapy really pays off for the next generation!

    Thanks, Penelope, for your honest, touching, and funny posts,
    Peace, Karen


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