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When I am mindful and present, I feel peaceful and content. Yet it often feels I live in a fear-based, you-will-be-blamed- shamed- and- antagonized -till -you-give -what- you- owe- me kind of world. It is maddening and quite exhausting. If I could draw this sentiment, this is what my comic strip would look like…

Me trying to do a standing yoga pose with a bullseye board behind me; knives, arrows, cell-phones, computers, TVs are being thrown and hitting me every where. There would be a thinking bubble coming up from my grimacing, shocked face of me doing a supreme yoga pose, every projectile has perfectly missed me as well as created an outline of a scenic background, and I have a serene look on my face. And then some random, giant finger pointing at me and pops my dream bubble.

…after a bit of introspection, I thought it ironic how one of my dreams is to create relationship self-help books in comic book form yet after many failed drawings, I gave up. So in the last frame of this comic strip, instead of a random finger popping bubble, it is actually me bursting the bubble with one the projectiles after falling out of the pose I was attempting. Because let’s be honest; it is my own fears, negative reactions/habits, and self-defeating thoughts compelling me to give up.

Cheers to dreaming and reality merging!

My son is practicing being a king as his 7th birthday is a few days away. When we went to eat dinner tonight, he ran to get a chair for me to sit on. I commented on what a gentleman he is and he responded: “I am a king for the people.”

What a noble aspiration and I look forward to the grand party he is creating for his birthday celebration as he is focusing on giving, encouraging healthy habits, and non-violence.

It’s good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give ’em a smile
It’s good to get high, and never come down
It’s good to be king of your own little town

Yeah, the world would swing if I were king
Can I help it if I still dream time to time

It’s good to be king and have your own way
Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day
And when your bulldog barks and your canary sings
You’re out there with winners, yeah, it’s good to be king

Yeah I’ll be king when dogs get wings
Can I help it if I still dream time to time

It’s good to be king and have your own world
It helps to make friends, it’s good to meet girls
A sweet little queen who can’t run away
It’s good to be king, whatever it pays

Excuse me if I have some place in my mind
Where I go time to time
~Tom Petty

Manners drive me nuts. I often feel like a social dunce and much prefer avoiding social situations than offend anyone with my faux pas. So instead I annoy my partner endlessly as he has a strong awareness of manners. My lack of manners is the most apparent at the dinner table, that’s if you can even get me to sit at one. When I do, I am slouched, legs not under table, and of course my elbows are on. I usually burp too. If I am using a utensil, I am likely using it incorrectly. Even my 2 year old hands me towels and wipes food off my face. No wonder my partner’s fuse for my son’s struggle with table manners is so short.

My mom’s excuse for my poor table manners is how could she teach her kids table manners when the head of the table modeled very few. So out of respect to my dad, she would not correct us and undermine him. I am actually grateful to my parents for this shortcoming and perspective. I naturally think about those who are less fortunate. What about people who cannot afford tables, chairs, silverware, napkins, or have no clean running water? Are they less human and deserve less respect? Do they need to be punished and humiliated?

I remember when I was a little girl, eating at my cousin’s house. I was terrified to do or say anything but eat my food. I waited till my cousin finished her food and ask for us to both be excused from the table. It’s not that my aunt or uncle were mean, they just had different expectations that I didn’t know how to meet.  All it took was a look, or a simple correction that made me feel horrible. I feel stupid at the fact that I can’t do something that you can do. And that I didn’t even know that it was something I needed to do in the first place, multiplies my feelings of ineptitude.

I know it can be much worse. I just heard a story how a dad would tie a broom stick to his son back to force him to sit up straight at the table.  And forcing kids to finish their food on their plate is so against learning natural self-regulation. No wonder we have nations of people suffering from eating disorders…

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for manners… from a quick search on Wikipedia:

“Etiquette tells one which fork to use. Manners tells one what to do when your neighbor doesn’t.” Manners involve a wide range of social interactions within cultural norm…Etiquette and manners, like mythology, have buried histories especially when they seem to have little obvious purpose, and their justifications as logical (“respect shown to others” etc.Others feel that a single, basic code shared by all makes life simpler and more pleasant by removing many chances for misunderstandings and by creating opportunities for courtesy and mutual respect.”

I have also recently discovered that many manners regarding eating actually encourage healthy eating habits, digestion, and optimal absorption of nutrients. I am a huge fan of clearing up misunderstandings and creating mutual respect.  What I dislike is the manner in which the manners are enforced, seeming to nullify the intent and merit. How can one learn “to be respectful” when the approach to correct is disrespectful? I don’t care how old you are, if you tie a stick to me, I am bound to feel embarrassed, put down, and demeaned.

I want to travel the world with my children and believe it is important to learn more about the customs and etiquette in all cultures, but it is impossible to know it all. Many of these rules are unwritten, covert, and contextual. The chances of offending someone are high and endless.  I choose to put more of my efforts on teaching tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and compassion. I give my children resources to handle discomfort, suffering, and negative emotions. I want my children to be mindful of the have not’s.

I don’t mean to be a slob, and I am sorry if my dirty face, knotty hair, or poor table manners offend you. I just cannot stand that looks are more important than what truly and intrinsically exists. I guess my looks are my form of civil disobedience. So I ask for your forgiveness, unconditional love, and patience as I express myself and learn. When I mess up and offend you, find a creative, and respectful way to highlight the harm I am causing. Please offer suggestions, then I feel empowered to learn other mutually satisfying ways to get our needs met. And when my children seem ill mannered, you can blame me. I take full responsibility and I will love them through their many indiscretions and learn along with them.

“We must be bold enough to challenge inequality, brave enough to speak out against social injustice, and visionary enough to believe we can change our condition as a people if we put our collective energies forward” (T.A. Parham, Beyond Intolerance)

I ran across the book, SummerhillA Radical Approach to Child Rearing by A.S. Neil  in 2010 as it was cited in Norm Lee’s site http://www.nopunish.net/pwp-ch2.htm. He writes “Neill taught me how extraordinary the possibilities when we really respect children, and place our trust in them and the democratic process.” I have not read the whole book, yet it speaks my language on many levels and greatly aligned with my research and experience. It feels validating that someone has had success using a loved-based and diplomatic approach. I also just read in Becoming Attached that John Bowlby (father of attachment theory) was a fan of Summerhill and progressive education.

I aspire to create safe-heaven like Summerhill on the island I now live and my sweet home Chicago. I will create a place where all children are accepted and will get their vital needs met. They will get unconditional love and respect they deserve. Where they will be safe to express and process all their thoughts and feelings. Where there is no boss because they are free to be their own boss and given tools and opportunities to regulate themselves. We will create a homestead to nourish ourselves from food to knowledge. Emotional intelligence, mindfulness and inspired, hands-on learning are the experience.

I have faith that we will make this dream come true

We will heal and transcend the suffering, negativity and the fear

The essence of free will and trust will emanate…

Here a few random quotes from the book:

“The thoughtful parent will be shocked to realize the extent of pressure and power that he is unwittingly using against the child. This book should provide new meanings for the words love, approval, and freedom… Children reared by such methods will develop within themselves the qualities of reason, love, integrity, and courage…”

“Obviously, a school that makes active children sit at desks studying mostly useless subjects is a bad school. It is a good school only for those who believe in such a school, for those uncreative citizens who want docile, uncreative children who will fit into a civilization whose standard of success is money.”

“Self regulation implies a belief in goodness of human nature; a belief that there is not, and never was, original sin.”

“Well, we set out to make a school in which we should allow children freedom to be themselves. In order to do this, we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, and all religious instruction. We have been called
brave, but it did not require courage. All it required was what we had–a complete belief in the child as a good, not an evil, being. For almost forty years, this belief in the goodness of the child has never wavered; it rather has become a final faith.”

“We are human like everyone etc, and our human frailties often come into conflict with our theories. In the average home, if a child breaks a plate, father or mother makes a fuss–the plate becoming more important than the child. In Summerhill, if a maid or a child drops a pile of plates I say nothing and my wife says nothing. Accidents are accidents. But if a child borrows a book and leaves it out in the rain, my wife gets angry because books mean much to her. In such a case, I am personally indifferent, for books have little value for me. On the other hand, my wife seems vaguely surprised when I make a fuss about a ruined chisel. I value tools but tools mean little to her.”

“I think that the Freudian emphasis on aggression is due to the study of homes and schools as they are. You cannot study canine psychology by observing the retriever on a chain. Nor can you dogmatically theorize about human psychology when humanity is on a very strong chain–one fashioned by generations of life haters.”
“To be a free soul, happy in work, happy in friendship, and happy in live, or to be a miserable bundle of conflicts, hating one’s self and hating humanity – one or the other is the legacy that parents and teachers give to every child.”

You can read the whole book here: https://trisquel.info/files/summerhill-english_1.pdf

I found a review of students who attended Summerhill: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/summerhill-alumni-what-we-learnt-at-the-school-for-scandal-2373066.html

“What it did was put me off conventional schooling, but it sure as hell left me with a childlike thirst for knowledge.”

Zoe Readhead, Neill’s daughter and Summerhill’s principal since 1985, says: “In society as a whole you would be considered ‘more successful’ if you studied maths and sciences than if you took art, woodwork and drama. Who can define success? The only person who knows if they are successful is the person themselves. We produce people who feel in control of their lives and have the courage to follow their interests.”

Hussein Lucas concludes: “The key feature that sums up the distinctive nature of the Summerhill experience is the virtual absence of fear: fear of failure; fear of authority; fear of social ostracism; fear of life and the consequent failure to engage with it with a feeling of optimism and a positive outlook.”

WANTED: A MOTHER. No previous experience necessary. Will train on the job. Must be willing to work long hours seven day a week. Must be able to clean the most awful messes. Must be able to be adaptable to perform a variety of odd jobs every day. Must be willing to work with children of all ages. Must be tactful with the adult male who tries to rule his domain from the couch while watching endless hours of sports. No over time pay. In fact salary will consist of hugs and messy kisses. Must have a loud voice that can for the tenth time kindly say, “go to your room.” Must be prepared to cook at least three meals a day and 5 snacks. Must be prepared without warning to have unexpected guests for supper. Some veterinarian experience would be helpful in dealing with numerous pets. Though not necessary, a masters degree in child psychology would be helpful. Must be willing to arbitrate between waring children. Must be willing to work at this job for about 26 years. At the end of this period you may apply for the position of Grandmother. Will not be fired. But you may not under any circumstances quit. Must apply in person. Be prepared to go to work immediately. Author—unknown.

Found this on a slide show from a newsletter:  http://www.slideshare.net/Terry34/communication-4408803

I think it funny that I had a Masters in Human Development and Family Studies and thought having a child would give me more credentials for my work. Yet after having my first child, I gained more empathy for parents and still didn’t feel qualified to be a mother. It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life; allowing the child in me to grow, cry, and play along with my kids…

My heart goes out to every mother and caregiver who understands the necessary to put your wants aside to put another vulnerable soul’s needs first. There is a fine line between martyrdom and motherhood: may all mothers be blessed to find the unconditional love, encouragement and support you need to manifest the difference.

I recommend clicking on the link to read the full newsletter as it shares great tips on how to listen and communicate effectively with others when emotions rise.

NAMASTE

My thoughts scatter and dig beyond…

When I look at anyone

I see their grandparents suffering

their parents controlling

their loved ones flailing

I hear children crying generations away

People die in my dreams

Or merely exist to pay their next fine

When I ask how you are, I want to hear the truth not the version you want me to believe

I want to plow sorrows so JOY may seed and grow

I am sick of pretending and keeping the illusion of clean while numbing our body, mind, soul with endless balms

Stress, hate, fear, intolerance kills more than germs could ever dare

I am tired of feeling I am crazy and the only one who cares

Not about stains, knots in my hair or mixed matched socks

There is more connecting us than marionette strings

Dear Tao, God, Mother Nature (or what ever your mind is open to conceive),

I surrender to the Great Flow and Unconditional Love

We will recover from fear, the delusion of control and ego

May each of our presence be known when is meant to be shown

And trust that grace and hope is always within reach…

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