Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fanaticism

There is only one topic about which I expect to continue learning and growing but to never change my position, one area where I am fanatical:  Children must have their needs met.  My daughter says that should not be considered fanatical, it should be considered normal.

I really don't care how you parent, how you live, what your religion is, what your eating habits are, who you vote for or pretty much anything else.  Live how you want to live, but make sure your children's needs are being met.

What are your children's needs?
Food, shelter, love, having their feelings and experiences validated, to feel understood, being able to speak honestly with safety to their parents, being loved unconditionally as they are, for who they are.  To feel loved and valued just because they are alive.

Live however you want to live, but realize that your child is their own person and may need to live differently.  Your child may need to eat a different diet, sleep on a different schedule, or follow a different spiritual path.  They may need to ride the roller coaster while you wait holding your breath at the bottom, or they may need to wait at the bottom while you go for a ride.  Do not let your beliefs, your way of life, or anything else become more important than your child.  Do not let your fanaticism get in the way of your relationship with your child.

Merriam-Webster defines fanatic as, "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion." I know a lot of fanatics.  Religious fanatics, dietary fanatics, spiritual fanatics, exercise fanatics, fanatics of various healing methods, political fanatics, and unschooling fanatics.  Enthusiasm is good, passion is a wonderful thing.  Having a cause, a calling, a belief, something that gives us a feeling of belonging or community, enriches our lives and gives us a reason to get up each morning.  However, when we go past enthusiasm to the point of "intense uncritical devotion," when we stop asking questions, when we refuse to consider that someone else's views might be valid, when we are completely uncritical of our own beliefs and values, we risk becoming fanatics.

Nothing is more important to me than meeting the needs of my children.  Nothing is more important than my relationship with my children. Nothing.  Not even high fructose corn syrup, not even saving the planet.  In the last 20 years I have changed my values or beliefs regarding God, eating meat, and the school system, just for starters.  I continue to learn and grow.  Things that I thought I would never do I have done and things I thought I would always do I have given up.  I have been a vegetarian for a dozen years.  Where as once I chose to eat meat, I no longer do.  And once I would have told you that everyone should be a vegetarian, but I no longer believe that.  I know that in the future I may one day eat meat again.  My children are all vegetarians at this point, but they are free to eat meat if they choose.  And if they choose to eat meat they will not get lectures or guilt, by way of obvious guilt trips or passive aggressive comments and behaviors.  They are free to eat as they choose and to try different ways of eating to see what fits their lives and their bodies.

When it comes to parenting, I cannot say that everyone should parent any one way.  I cannot say that I have all the answers and that the way our family lives is the only way to be a happy, healthy, connected family.  Your child may go to school, do chores, have a bedtime and eat a restricted diet because of life threatening illness or allergy.  Your family's life may look very different from mine.  You child may stay up all night, sleep all day, play World of Warcraft for eight hours straight and not take a shower more than once a month.  Your child may thrive on structure or your child may need to live spontaneously.  What matters is your relationship with your child and your child's freedom to be who they are.  If your child goes to school and their needs are being met, that's great.  If your child does assigned chores because they truly are happy to help,and not because of the reasons described Here, fine.  What matters is that your children are respected, have a voice, can make their own choices and have those choices respected.  What matters is that the needs of everyone in the family are considered equally important and valid.

What areas of your life border on fanaticism?  Is there some value, belief or issue that you are making more important than your children?  Remember, nothing is more important than your relationship with your children.  Please make sure you are meeting their needs.


I talked extensively about meeting the needs of children in my post, "The Easy Button of Parenting."

And in follow up I wrote, "Identifying needs that need meeting."

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