Tuesday, June 1, 2010
We just got back from the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference in Vancouver, WA, and I have a lot of thoughts. I can break it down to 2 main take-aways from the weekend:
1. My perceptions of what goes on for Joran internally can be wrong. Joran is very introverted around people he does not know well. Even when we go for playdates with friends he knows, he can be pretty quiet, internally focused, playing alone with whatever toy interests him, or just sticking by my side for a while. Yet, he loves playdates and wants to go back to see friends again and again. Likewise, when we go someplace that is fun for him, he spends a lot of time in silent observation. Many times, he is grumpy and disagreeable or just quiet and unhappy-looking, often expressing a desire to leave, and I think he hasn't gotten anything from the experience, I feel upset that he's not more easy-going, communicative and able to show enjoyment for things most kids outwardly enjoy. But then, hours or days later, he will talk about what thoughts he had and what fun it was.
We arrived at the unschooling conference Thursday, but John wasn't able to join us until late Friday, so I had 2 days with the kids, spending a lot of time in the hotel room because of Joran's personality, getting out of the room mainly because Jasmijn and I both enjoy exploring and a couple times because there was an activity Joran and I thought he would enjoy. We walked around through the conference area a lot, and I saw things I thought would be fun for Joran, but he didn't think so. We also saw a couple kids he knows well. Joran was quiet and serious during all the walking around and even the two activities he wanted to go to. He would hardly look at or speak to the friends he knew. Many times, he complained and pushed on me to go back to the room. My assumption was that he was not enjoying anything... until John arrived.
Joran talked all day Friday about seeing Daddy, and as soon as John arrived, to my surprise, Joran babbled on and on about the things he'd done and seen, and he wanted to show Daddy the whole conference. So, in that moment, I did a clear readjustment of my perceptions. It was so obvious to me that Joran experiences life in a very different way from me, and even from most other children I've seen. In Joran's lifetime, I've found many ways in which he is "atypical," and this was one more addition to my list.
I feel a little more relaxed to realize these things. I feel okay that Joran doesn't express enjoyment like I do. I can trust that he's getting what he needs out of an experience and I can still take care of my own needs, even if he seems unhappy in a situation.
The conference experience with Joran also had me thinking about people I know who seem unhappy, negative or pessimistic in some situations. Knowing that Joran probably seems this way because of stimulation overload, not being able to process all of the sensory and mental stimulation in a "typical" way, I am more understanding of others who seem unhappy and uncomfortable in new, unfamiliar situations.
John understands Joran's introversion, being similar himself. John has also learned the benefits of adaptability and communication, which he uses in his career and in personal relationships. As Joran matures, he may see the benefit in developing these skills as well. If he doesn't ever feel the need to do so, it's his life, and my hope is that I just raise him with the sense that he has the power to make the choices and changes in his life that are right for him, for I believe that we are all the makers of our own lives... "no matter how small," in the words of Horton, the elephant.
2. My second key take-away was that no matter where I go, I will always have some sense that I identify with the moment and the people around me... and some sense that I don't fit in at all. Maybe this comes from having grown up in so many different places, exposed to so many types of people. Perhaps it's the influence of having been raised in a multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-politic family. It's probably also a result of the part of my personality that wants to find common ground among all people and avoid conflict.
Wherever it comes from, this aspect of myself, this ability to identify while never really feeling that I fit in, has left me searching for most of my life for that place where I do feel that I fit in. However, it occured to me over the weekend to just accept that I don't "fit in" anywhere despite being able to identify with many stories. Instead of searching for an "answer" to a "problem," I can see it as a gift that has allowed me to feel great compassion, to mediate conflicts, to listen in ways that make others feel understood and accepted. Acceptance of this aspect of myself opens me up to the realization that there is a place where I do feel I fit in completely: that place is right here inside me.
Wishing you your best life!