Friday, June 26, 2015


It all started so innocently. So sweetly. I asked my daughter what she felt about the lovely classroom program I'm hoping she'll join this coming year, and she showed me an image of a baby swaddled in a colourful patchwork quilt, nestled in a beautifully ornate little wooden chest, and attended by sparkling and joyful fairies - fairies!! The baby's blonde hair and round pink cheeks reminded me of my own sweet one when she was a baby, and even though she's ten, now, it warmed my heart to see her holding that image. I felt so full of love: that cosy, cooing kind of love that comes from holding my children's dear faces close to my own. "Oh that's adorable!" I exclaimed, and that's where the dream broke.

You see, the program I want her to join is built around attachment parenting ideals. It's the community she's grown up in, and she's participated in some of the activities at this place with her friends. Parents are deeply involved in the centre's operation, whether through duty days, parent jobs, organizing outings or activities, involvement with the council or just by participating with the children in whatever interests them. On the face of it, this is ideal to me. The photo my daughter showed me epitomized the cherishing, swaddling, adoring feeling I associate with the school. In my heart it's a community of loving parents, creating a nest of support and safety for our children to grow in, and from that support out into the beautiful world. I saw my own darling daughter's beautiful whisps of hair, her sweet baby lips, and the colourful blanket of love surrounding her. All in a gorgeous wooden chest, keeping her safe but still open with a view to the fairies and the outside world. And I opened my eyes and heart and mouth and exclaimed "Oh that's adorable!" And she scowled.

"No it's not!" She retorted, in the most shockingly discordant tone.

"What?!" My idealism hit the sullen brick wall of a ten-year-old's indignation.

"It's exactly the problem!" She said. "The parents are always around. Everything is the parents' idea! You always have the parents helping and you never just get to do anything that you want!"

"Well you have more say in your activities than you would at a regular school, where the teachers are still in charge," I said, confused.

"Right but they're not your parents."

(How did we come from 'Mama I always want to do everything with you and never anything away', to this??)

The girl herself, 10 years ago, when swaddling was appropriate.
There is a great difference between having ideals and idealism. Having ideals is where we act with a view toward some beautiful thing that we understand not to be absolutely certain or attainable. Idealism is the unrealistic pursuit of those things, without regard for change. Change is essential. Change is what makes life worth living - what makes everything possible at all. Idealism locks in ideals so they can't shift and grow.

That beautiful ornate chest and patchwork quilt were not keeping the baby safe any more; they were keeping her imprisoned. My baby has grown up. Well... she is growing up. Hopefully she, like all of us, will never stop growing up. And I needed to grow up, too. I needed to shift my understanding to keep pace with the changes in my daughter's heart.

The next time she and I went to participate in her homelearner's group, I happily followed along with the other parent. I don't usually involve myself in her activities, but at that place I felt so welcome. She seemed to be happy I was there. She was comfortable. Then I remembered the photo of the baby, and I asked her if she'd like me to go. "Yes!" She said, delightedly, and I did.

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