Here, Maite built a structure for Cesar to play with his animals. It’s interesting to see the different ideas people implement with the same building materials. Our previous structure had steps and bridges, this one has a yard and gates. Playing with different people, Cesar comes into contact with different possibilities, different expressions from which he can learn, grow, develop and make his own.
I’ve been walking by a tub of wood cut offs from various projects in the shed for a while now. Each time glancing and wondering if there’s anything we’d be able to use it for with Cesar. The last few days Cesar has been playing a lot with his plastic animals, where they do all kinds of things in a little lego house we have. Seeing the blocks again, I figured it would be nice if we had a more expansive house available for him it to play with the animals. Most of the blocks had the same width or height since we use the same type of wood for most projects, which made them nice candidates to stack and create little structures with.
Here we made a little structure with steps and ‘bridges’ that the animals travel over. Cesar’s giving Wildebeest and Zebra a tour.
I often wonder if Cesar is getting enough ‘stimulation’, if he’s happy with the activities and things available for him to play with and explore. But perhaps that’s just because I am still looking at everything from my own point of view, what I find interesting and fascinating as an adult. Where I often have to push myself and breathe through resistance in playing with him, because what we’re doing doesn’t fall under my category of ‘fun’. Accumulate those moments where I’m the one not having fun and not directing the experience, and soon enough I think he must not be having fun.
It’s in those every day, ordinary moments I realise how much I still need to work on myself, how far I have removed myself from my own innocence as life, how much of my adultism I still need to deconstruct.
Cesar crushing almonds for muffins we were making. When he has got a lot of energy, he can get into hitting things to get the excess energy out. He was getting a bit fed up and so I looked at how we could redirect his focus and energy. He would single out an almond in the bag and slide it across, away from all the other almonds, then hit it into pieces. First he was just hitting lots of almonds at once but then he couldn’t really see what his actions were producing. He ended up crushing all the almonds one by one.
When it comes down to learning and education, there are a lot of different views on what is appropriate and what is not. Children are being taught too many things too early, Children need more play and unstructured time. Children need to be taught earlier, they need more structure.
As a reaction to our overzealous educational system, many parents believe it’s better to ‘let their child be’, ‘not bother with learning to read or math’ and ‘just letting children play’. Where learning, such as reading and math are seen as arduous concepts which we should not depress our children with ‘just yet’. In an attempt to let go of the old and introduce the new – we may leave behind the old structures, but our perceptions are still with us, and taint the ‘new’.
Whenever I introduce something to Cesar which I believe or perceive to be under the banner of ‘educational’ or ‘teaching’ – he is not interested and I am met with great resistance. Say I want to show him a word (that I perceive as being a ‘difficult one’), he will quickly be distracted and want to move away. So I took a step back and asked myself what it is that I am doing different in this situation, than in other situations – where his learning or absorption ability runs smoothly and can integrate new information easily. When I introduce him to someone new and say their name – he gets it. This person, this face = that name. When I show him or introduce him, I just ‘say it as it is’.
I don’t go ‘hmm, this person has quite complex facial features and kind of also looks like that person and their name is quite unusual I wonder if he will ‘get it’’.
Whenever we perceive something as hard and difficult to comprehend, and then try and have someone else take in this information – we create our very experience, as we act out this expectation unconsciously through our choice of words, voice tonality and body language.
In showing him a ‘difficult word’ for example – my sounds would become louder, longer, repeating myself often, and have a sort of ‘belittling’ look on my face.
Cesar loves words, shapes and counting. Not because they are ‘educational’ – but because words, shapes and numbers are everywhere around us. Just like balls, dogs, people, toys,…
Recognizing and reading letters or words – is just as easy as recognizing a person and being able to say their name. It’s when we make a ‘thing’ out of it, make it more or less than what it is – a point of separation is created and we’ll be in conflict with the object, being or concept in our world.
I had to challenge myself (and still do) to drop all expectations of what is hard, easy, educational, fun, relaxing – as for Cesar – there’s no distinction. There’s just things around him, and stuff to do – whether it’s reading, playing with a toy or cleaning – it doesn’t have to change him or who he is.
The School of Ultimate Living is a great platform to explore your relationships to words, to see them for what you have made them to be, to deconstruct and redefine your relationship to words so that they form the building blocks of your life, your potential – and live the best version of yourself that you can be.
This is my view from the toilet. Something’s been different lately, as Cesar is not often part of my bathroom view when it’s my potty time.
From when he was teeny tiny, I’d bring him with me whenever I had to go to the toilet. Overtime, we moved from bouncer, to bath seat (cause it was around lol), to simply plopping him on the floor, to him playing around with bathroom items, to him opening and closing the door for me, handing me toilet paper and managing the tap when washing my hands.
Initially I brought him with me, because I figured it would be the best way for him to see what pee and poo is all about, where and how we do it, and where he’ll eventually do it as well. Even if he couldn’t make use of the bathroom, I could show him pee, poo, where it comes from and how we clean ourselves up after, to start establishing the vocabulary for when the day comes that he sees himself able to use the potty, so that we have the vocabulary to discuss and direct this transition.
After a good while, I started going to the toilet without telling him that I was going to or asking if he wanted to come with. Once he realised I was gone he’d quickly come find me and insist to get into the bathroom. I thought that since he’d been to the toilet with me for a gazillion times, he’d be over it by now. The look on his face as he’d run after me was quite something. He was seriously upset. I looked into his eyes and the stare of dismay really got to me. I saw that I had made an assumption, where I believed that ‘he should be over it by now’, that I made a decision and assessment on his behalf of ‘who he should be’ and ‘where she should be at’ within himself. Instead of asking, instead of checking.
When I got Cesar, I had made a decision to meet all his needs to the best of my ability. Looking back at my own childhood, I realised that a lot of my beliefs about myself and my personality resulted from a lack in responsiveness to my needs. When my needs weren’t met – whatever they may have been – the tacit implication I derived from that was: that it was my fault, that I was not worthy, that there must be something wrong with me, that I’m not competent enough, that my communication doesn’t matter.
The actual walking of that decision was and is still somewhat a rocky road. On the one hand I’ll be meeting his needs, but on the other hand there’s a little voice going ‘you’re spoiling him’, ‘his never going to learn how to do things on his own’, ‘he’s just playing games with you’, ‘he’ll never be independent and forever cling on you’.
The voices of years of conditioning. My common sense tells me one thing, but my fears another.
Back to the bathroom.
So – I made a point of it again to let him know when I go, ask him if he wants to come with or not.
Then, after a while of our regular, constant potty companionship; I ask him and he just kind of looks up in recognition that I said something, but will look back just as quick and continue focusing on what he was doing. Or he’ll say ‘Stay with Gian’ – that he will stay with Gian while I go potty. Or “stay room” where he’ll stay by himself while I go to the bathroom.
Sometimes he still comes with me, courteously opening and closing doors for me, helping me every step of the way. Other times he couldn’t care less. The bathroom holds no more mysteries for him, he’s seen it all – he’s confident he’s not missing out, so now he just makes a choice in the moment based on what he’d like to do.
This little moment of me sitting in the bathroom and reflecting on the path we’ve walked in all bathroom related things, made me look at the topic of independence and dependence once again.
It’s like there’s this really weird, deep fear that if I meet his needs he will never become independent. Yet, if I look at him and my own childhood in retrospect, independence in itself is a need as well. Independence is not some ‘extracurricular’ skill that you need to carefully craft and plan because it’s not part of ‘normal development’. Doing things on your own, being on your own – these are things that naturally emerge and are part of ourselves, as a need we express as individuals.
And Cesar shows me these signs every day. How he wants to go and poo in a separate room or in the garden, while insisting we stay where we are and he will call us when he needs us. Where he insists on pouring his own cup, taking food out of a packet, help moving shopping inside. How upset he gets when we do something for him in a moment of unawareness, which we know he can do for himself but forgot to ask if he’ll do it.
Independence grows as they grow. All you have to do is meet it, just like any other need.
He now enjoys making that decision to come with or not. That he can own that decision. That he can see and realise out of his own that he is alright being on his own. Not because I told him so, but because he realised it first hand.
When someone announces they are pregnant, it’s happy news. You are going to be so happy when you see that little baby of yours, it’s truly a miracle. And it is – holding that small, innocent life in your hands – whoa; it’s quite something.
One day, I was walking with my husband through the mall, holding my son in my arms. As we are walking he says “Isn’t it funny, all these people here, were all babies once, just like our son. We were once a baby, just like our son”.
I look at all the people walking and shopping by. I notice the expression on their faces, mostly sad, zoned out – just going through the motions. I wonder what lives they live, what struggles they face. I notice their clothes and what shops they enter, which gives an inkling of their economic status. Some must struggle more than others. As we drive back we drive through parts of town with nice houses, we also drive past a township. I notice the people, the children. I remember all the people from the mall. I imagine all the people we’ve encountered today as little babies. All equally, cute, innocent and precious as my own son.
I become really sad and ask myself: God, what have we done?
Each of these people were little miracles. Once they all had the same joyful, trusting expression my son exhibits. That gaze that claims that only good can come their way. That the world is full of fun and possibilities, and they can’t wait to explore it.
And for most of these little miracles, the opposite happened. How could it have gone any other way?
We live in a world of conditionality. We don’t just live, we have to earn our living. While the adults go and earn their living – the children take a backseat. Schools, a place we are told we go to, to develop our utmost potential in life, turns out to be a babysitting factory where we each day get numbed and dumbed down a little more. While the material you get fed seems to rather go in the one ear and out the other once we’ve ‘passed the test’; what really sticks is the conformation, the peer pressure, the obedience towards those in positions of authority, the desire to meet your parents’ expectations, the labels that were thrown at you. Then school is over, and so is your childhood. Now, you too must go and earn your living.
I remember all the people we encountered again. How some were having disputes about their relationships. Parents struggling to get to things in time whilst children wanted to do anything but go where the whole family was headed. The threats, the shouting, the insulting of one another.
Even those earning their living, are not really living. Every day is just another struggle to get to the next, and the next, and the next. We hope for the best, even when our world shows us it’s one of very few winners and many losers drawing the short end of the stick. We keep doing what we’re doing, how we have been doing it – hoping, that somehow maybe things will be different for us or for our children.
This all reminds me of the Divergent movie series. Where everyone lives according to a system, a way of life as ‘how things have been’, and keep doing and living the same thing over, thinking it ‘must be the right thing’ – if it’s what we have been doing for such a long time, surely this is how things are supposed to be.
But then it turns out their entire society, their entire way of living, was just an experiment. It was never absolute, it was never a “law” that things must continue as they are. In fact, the experimenters were waiting for someone to change the whole thing. While the majority of the people saw themselves as good citizens, within living within the predetermined lines of the system, thinking and believing that ‘that must be its purpose’ – the purpose was exactly the opposite.
What if life on Earth, our way of living was just an experiment. What if the whole purpose of how we live, is not to continue living this way, but to step beyond it – to transcend it. To start colouring outside of the lines. Why do we insist on living li(v)es where every single person – every one of these single people having been a miracle at birth – end up living an undignified life? End up getting less than what every single person deserves; regardless of birthplace, race, or economic status?
I’d say we have experimented enough, and that the results of our experiment are pretty conclusive: this isn’t going anywhere good.
Let’s come up with something new. If not for us, do it for the children to come.
In this episode of Redefining Education – Live Conversations with Real people on the Future of Education, we are speaking with Leila Zamora Moreno, mother to a toddler and actively working on bringing parenting ‘back to self’. We discuss what it means to bring parenting back to self, and why it is so important that we as parents learn to, not only take self-responsibility in our parenting, but also how to trust ourselves to parent in a way that is best for our child, despite what societal norms may dictate as ‘good parenting’. We discuss why changing the way we parent, is ultimately a step towards changing the world.
The scariest part of parenting is not having a child to look after. The scariest part is seeing yourself and who you have become as a person. Before having a child, I could seek comfort in knowing myself through various aspects of my life. I was able to define myself according to ‘what I do’, as the ‘job’ or ‘career’ I assigned to myself. I could experience a sense of worth and value in what I was doing. I could define myself according to my self-image, being happy with ‘how I looked’ and that I generally fit in what is deemed as ‘normal’ within society. I could define myself according to the relationships in my life, the amount of time and activities I spent with other people. From that, I experienced a sense of belonging and acceptance.
When I got my son, this all changed. Suddenly, all my time was spent breastfeeding, nappy changing and scrambling for sleep. Who am I without my work to provide me with a sense of value and worth?
My body was still stretched out from pregnancy with stretchmarks displaying deep fiery red colours as my body’s limits got reached towards the end of pregnancy. Who am I when I cannot find solace in what I look like, knowing that I don’t fit ‘the norm’ anymore?
Interactions with others were reduced to glimpses, and whatever activity or interaction which did occur – swiftly ended by the call of the little one requiring attention. Who am I when I am disconnected from those I depended on for a sense of belonging and acceptance?
I love my baby with all my heart, yet these inner frustrations and irritations keep nagging inside myself. I must do more, I must do something else, why can’t I just sit down and have dinner with everyone else, why is my body still out of shape, why do I cringe each time he wakes or needs me?
It’s not like he is actually, physically torturing me. All he asks is a lot of my time – my physical needs are met. Then why do I want to run away? I do not want to run away from my baby – this is clear. Whenever I meet him and look into his eyes, I just see innocence. He is here, simply expressing his needs as they come along. What I want to run away from then?
Although my child is dependent on me for his physical survival, I encountered his superiority every day, in many ways. He was able to move, slowly but surely, taking the longest time – to start crawling from one side of the room to the other. One – tiny – little – shuffle – at – a time.
He could sit for an hour, moving the same object around, in absolute peacefulness.
He does not know of work, friends, body image – yet he lives in total self-acceptance.
It’s frightening to see and encounter. So busy have I been my entire life, to find all the things for myself that he lives to readily. So simply.
All my achievements and successes I cherished, seemed pale in comparison to what I was witnessing daily, in a child simply living, being here.
But – it cannot be, right? I mean, he’s a child, a baby. How can a child – POSSIBLY – hold the answers to Life. Children are wild, irrational, savage creatures. They know NOTHING! How could this child possibly have anything for me to learn. It’s tough to lay aside your ego and admit you’ve been on a wild goose chase. That a babe is more strongly connected to itself and its life force than you are. That while you are the responsible one, you are also the most ignorant.
So what to do with all of this? So much inner conflict. Yet only one thing was certain: I know that I do not know.
Humbleness is the only option.