Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Me, getting jumped, on facebook

Friends of mine who don't have children or who aren't involved with unschooling or don't care at all about TV should come back tomorrow and see if there's a better blog post! No one has been court ordered to read my blog, and so anyone who reads past this will have done so voluntarily and shouldn't bitch about having done so. The disclaimer is ended; go in peace.

In fifth grade I told a girl if she came to school more she wouldn't have to ask me so many questions. She said she was going to beat me up after school, and to be behind the Beta building. So I went there, afraid, and stood as near a teacher as I suavely could, and the girl didn't show up. I was willing to meet her where she told me to meet her. I had perfect attendance that year (the only year I ever did, I think) and that girl, sadly, dropped out, pregnant by one of her male relatives. She was already 13 and the rest of us were 10 and 11.

I was a safety patrol that year. A lieutenant! Had a canvas belt with a shoulder strap and a badge. Creepy, looking back at it, but there it is. 1963. I was out at recess, near the "I'll beat you up" area and, lined up to go back into that room, we were told that President Kennedy had been shot.

Yesterday I was minding my perfect-attendance online life, and being at home with two of my kids when I was jumped behind Beta by people who didn't know I was there.

The photos are of Marty and Holly yesterday, about the time much of the verbal ruckus was taking place; I stayed home for the unschooling chat and they went to stores.

Lyla Wolfenstein had sweetly and innocently posted a quote. Lots of unschoolers have been posting quotes on Facebook lately. I've quoted three different other-unschoolers in the past few days myself, here and there. I do it all the time. That random quotes generator on my unschooling page is mostly other people's words: SandraDodd.com/unschooling

Lyla put up this quote: "If watching TV is his thing and complaining about TV is your thing, you've spoiled a chance to have a shared thing." It's on the page about sharing experiences with our children, which has the writing of three other unschoolers, not me: http://sandradodd.com/t/sharing

Some people responded with justifications for limiting TV, and for "creating balance" in their children's lives. Some just went straight to "don't get me started on Sandra Dodd" and going off on me as some sort of TV-worshiping demon. One wrote, of that quote "Sandra just drips with cynicism and negativity here directed at the parent." Someone wrote "I would go out of my mind in a house where tv was a central focus or a battle and where kids spent their lives on a couch." I pointed out that that was a misconception, and our TVs were hardly ever on, but that was by choice and not limitation.

Someone else said that when that she occasionally parks her kid in front of a TV so she can do other things, and when she does watch along, the child is THRILLED (her caps). When I quoted that back and said "exactly what I was talking about," she got all pissed off that I had used her words to defend my point. But her words PROVED my point.

People were super snarky and sarcastic, and I kept trying to stick to the original point, and they kept trying to discredit me and seemed to accuse me of heading a cult and being or not being an "authority." There was much gnashing and flailing.

I can't quote it all whole, because it's only for facebook friends of the author to read. I can quote myself, though. After I was calm yesterday, I woke up thinking about it and went back to find there was even more, overnight. I wrote this:
You wrote that you didn't criticize me directly. Either you knew I was Lyla's Facebook friend and figured I would see what you wrote, or you thought I was NOT and intended to write those things behind my back. Either way, given all the choices in the world you chose to write negatively about me over and over. It doesn't make you a better person and it doesn't make me a worse person.

Someone said she hoped no one felt worse or had a knot in their stomach over this discussion. I'm not sure it's a good wish to hope that the hateful people feel just as happy as the kind ones.

I don't want to make parents feel bad about themselves. I want parents to make decisions that lead them not to have things to feel bad about. Big difference. And when I talked about being useful, I meant to this discussion, not to your children. I'm going to take this discussion out, now, to my blog probably, so that those who want to comment can.http://sandradodd.blogspot.com,
and that's here so the quote can end.

I'm used to people reacting badly to the suggestion that they should put their children's needs first. I'm accustomed to parents asking for help and then getting hostile when the help suggests they might want to change their point of view. I have a collection of the "supportive" statements people say all the time that they want: SandraDodd.com/support

Some people defended me, some hit me hoping I was down. But I wasn't down, and I wasn't hurt. I learned many years ago as an SCA officer to be careful what I put in writing, and not to give advice I couldn't defend or back up. That stood me in good stead when unschooling discussions came along. I already had a great deal of practice in "I meant what I said and I said what I meant."

I have represented my children's learning and lives faithfully, with their permission, for 23 years, starting with La Leche League meetings where mothers share their experiences for the benefit of other mothers, and moving seamlessly over Kirby's first five years to helping other mothers unschool. Kirby will be 24 in July. My kids knew that my sharing their lives was helping other children have more peaceful lives. They met other unschooled kids in the same situation, just as they had already known other La Leche League kids whose breastfeeding and early development took place with witnesses and sometimes the audience of new mothers.

I'm not apologizing for sharing what I I've done and am doing.

At least one of the people who ranted about my TV quote charges money to advise other parents. I realize sometimes people are frustrated that I'm giving away help that they'd like to charge $35 an hour or whatever for, but as I've been doing it online, about unschooling, since about 1991, I'm pretty sure I don't need to stop doing it for the convenience of people who don't even understand (nor want to try to understand) what has come out of these many years of discussions.

One person in the discussion did admit that she went and listened to my voice, and that I did sound friendly. She said "one of your podcasts," but I don't have any podcasts of my own. A couple of people have asked to interview me on their online shows, and have let me put up the sound file or link later. There are links to sound files and videos here: SandraDodd.com/listen

People who have met me and heard me speak often relax their hostility (if they had any), and many of them apologize at some point if they badmouthed me without knowing what they were talking about. Some stick by their unreasonable rants to the point that they'll say "when I agree with you, I'm amused" in a too-self-conscious way. It's about me, again, instead of about the ideas of how to be happy with their children.

One person wrote (not a friend of mine, not someone I know):
I used to dismiss nearly everything Sandra said... I believed if she couldn't communicate with parents the same way she believed we should communicate with kids, she wasn't "walking the talk". As I've grown as a parent and unschooler, I see her words so differently now. Where others see (and I *used* to see) harshness and negativity, I see clear, caring communication. I don't know if I can explain the switch that happened. When I got that she was speaking to me as the mother of my children, NOT the injured child of my mother, that's when I saw her differently.
While I'm pulling quotes, I didn't comment on this one over there, but will here:
I set limits on tv b/c we just don't watch it. Maybe it is an issue of modeling--the kids just do other things. If they want to watch a tv show (at night) they do, but usually they are busy or they forget. Or they will watch it later on hulu. Or the kids will just watch several episodes of some show as if they are watching a movie. I have no idea which shows they watch..."
That makes my point too. The mom has no idea. They're not sharing those shows. There's isolation on top of negativity. And "I set limits because we just don't watch it" isn't clear.

Lyla wrote:
I have never seen more "balance" in my kids lives than once i fully embraced their interests, stopped trying to apply MY sense of balance onto them, and yes, stopped complaining about who and what they were passionate and interested. i could (and might) :) write a book some day.
If she writes one, I'll definitely buy a copy!

Someone wrote, "We parents out here are actual PEOPLE too." I responded: "All those parents' children are actual people too. I'm an actual person, too."

And so, full circle, I think that if watching TV (or anything) is a child's thing and complaining about TV (or whatever it is) is the parent's thing, an opportunity for a shared thing has been lost. How anyone could argue against that without admitting they have an antagonistic relationship with their children is a mystery. WHY anyone would argue against it so defensively and adamantly is less mysterious, but still I can hope they'll soften up some and be nicer people in public and at home, too.


Heather said...

I have been following that thread and was disappointed that what could have been a meaningful discussion turned snarky and mean. When I read the quote that she posted, I thought about how those sorts of statements from you & many other parents changed the way I thought about "traditional" parenting ideas. It's a way to inspire a shift in perspective in simple terms. Oddly enough, one of my facebook friends (someone I knew in High School) posted this morning looking for advice on how to limit her kids Wii time because she is unhappy with how much time they have been spending on it since receiving it at Christmas. Well, I decided to pay it forward and left a description of our life with no limits and how much joy my boys get out of their video games...and how often those systems collect dust as the interest in them waxes and wanes. I have to say I was a lone voice in a sea of people talking about set times and earning minutes for good behavior, but maybe, maybe, someone will hear it :)

Lyla Wolfenstein said...

"Lyla wrote: "I have never seen more "balance" in my kids lives than once i fully embraced their interests, stopped trying to apply MY sense of balance onto them, and yes, stopped complaining about who and what they were passionate and interested. i could (and might) :) write a book some day."

If she writes one, I'll definitely buy a copy!"

thanks sandra, that means a lot to hear you say that. i was struck by the direction the thread took too - in many ways. one main thing that surprised me was that nobody seemed to be noticing that the original quote wasn't even about limiting tv. it was about losing AN opportunity of a shared thing. not ALL opportunities. not about people being horrible parents. it was about ONE little thing that plagues many parents and that is uncommon to see examined. but the thread became about something completely different. i was thinking it would be a good social experiment to post quotes of lots of people, you, john holt, joyce, and then unpublished "lay people" too, and NOT put the reference on them - see what the response it.

ErikaDP said...

Hey there Sisterfriend,
Thanks for still being willing to be "verbally jumped", I for one really appreciate it! ♥

Linda Wyatt said...

I find it interesting that people get so defensive when all they need to do is ignore advice they disagree with.

I also find it interesting that so many people get hung up on the amount of time their kids spend watching TV, or playing video games, or using computers, or being online, or whatever it is, rather than having any concern about, or interest in, what their kids are getting out of all that. As if it is all created equal, and their kids are indiscriminately wasting their time. As if there is no value at all in such activities.
We went without a TV for ten years. We have one now. No big deal, either way.
We don't have any limits on how much time anyone spends using any of these things- or limits on other things, either. It's too counterproductive.
I do understand that many, if not most, parents are much more stressed about parenting in general than I've ever been. And I understand that they can't believe what they don't comprehend, they can't comprehend what they can't see, and they can't imagine things that are in too much conflict with their experience and worldview. The parents who get defensive and critical and sometimes, downright nasty, believe what they are saying, and often seem to believe that those of us who say we don't see or do things that way MUST be lying or making things up because it really doesn't make sense to them. Saying "We've never had limits on TV time and my kids don't really watch much" or "we don't limit sugar and my kids generally don't care about candy" or similar things makes as much sense as if we said "we eat organic food so my kids have sprouted wings and learned to fly."

Enough rambling.

Sandra, isn't it odd that people get so weird about you being an "authority" when all you've ever done is share your thinking about things?

Lyla- my mentor often plays with posting quotes and misattributing them, to see how that changes people's responses to them.

Sandra Dodd said...

Thanks Linda, all except that misattribution of posts thing.

John Holt is being badly misquoted lately. Something someone else wrote is being quoted as John Holt, and there's No Way, but once it's mis-attributed, there it goes.

And there's a quote that went out as "anonymous," and someone claimed it and now it's got her name on it but it wasn't hers. About throwing marshmallows.

Anyway... I hope people will not misattribute. Maybe leave it off and reveal it in the comments in a day or so, but please don't confuse the world of plain truth with any purposeful misdirection.

SagePixie said...

I am very grateful for your sanity amid the madness. You and others have reinforced my longing to listen to my children and be an active part of their lives. It is "easier" to control small people and force them to do as you wish but the cost is more than anyone I know can even imagine. The closeness and the love I have experienced while working in tandem with my children, just the short years they have been alive, I wouldn't trade it for anything, even the illusion of control.

Lyla Wolfenstein said...

yeah i didn't mean misattribute - i meant leave it blank.

i'd be curious which quote is being attributed to john holt incorrectly - and also about the throwing marshmallows one...

Laura said...

I've come to believe that the snarky, the quickly offended, the quick to attack, the easily upset----these folks have their own reasons to act like matches seeking sandpaper. We can try addressing their concerns logically but whatever instigates them has nothing to do with us. It has to do with pain or fear or the great effort involved in hiding darker shadows.

We know the place of truth and honesty you come from Sandra. That's the light you carry. Sometimes there's not much for you to do but bless the others and move on.

'Zann said...

This reminded me of the old AOL homeschooling boards when we first met. Good times. (Sorry you were jumped, but I know you can take care of yourself!)

Rinnyboo said...

This is totally off topic, but I was watching "The Trouble with Angels" the other day and I realized that I think Holly has a resemblance to Hayley Mills. Not "Parent Trap" or "Pollyanna" Hayley Mills but older, young adult Hayley Mills.

That is all.


~Katherine said...

It's exactly the kind of out of control nutty that happens when people go off ranting on their kids and their spouse. Forgetting that respect and self-respect are not really separate things.

Eileen Smithdeal said...

Unfortunately, no matter who you are, where you are, or what you say, this type of thing- facebook jumping-will exist. It doesn't sound like you took it too personally- I hope not! You are a breath of fresh air!!!

Unknown said...

Oh goodness, Sandra, I have so much to learn from you! I got jumped on facebook for a quote about how assaulting an adult is bad but assaulting a child is okay (a quote against spanking, specifically). I didn't quite know how to handle it, but I'll learn. What baffled me even more was that my fiance "saw the other side's point" about disciplining. I didn't see how, at all!

Tracy Million Simmons said...

I think I have a lot of personal maturing to do in this area. It turns my stomach to even think about this thread and I'm not even your friend on Facebook! I go back and forth on the matter. I really admire you, and people like you, who write and speak honestly and openly about unschooling and better ways to live a life with children. But I guess I'm overly sensitive to the comments, and I can't stand to have my own stomach in knots when I've failed (as I perceive it) to get my point across. Then I also find myself being sensitive to my many friends and family (many of whom read my blog) who don't unschool, or even homeschool. Some of them have great relationships with their kids and do many things that I admire. I guess I default to a place where I sometimes talk about unschooling/our lifestyle, but just don't give it a name. Then I cringe when people take my words and turn them into something I really didn't mean, or obviously they don't understand the whole message. But I've avoided the hostility, for the most part. Sometimes I think I'll "grow up" and learn to be more bold. Then I see that my kids are more bold, and maybe that's enough.

Anyway, this post really made me want to respond. Maybe I feel a little better knowing "getting jumped" isn't entirely easy for you either. I've always imagined I would have to grow thicker skin to put it all out there like Sandra Dodd does. Anyway, as always, I appreciate that you chose to share.

laura said...

i have had the same experience of having been asked advice by my sister once. i rarely give advice. but she asked this time and i gave it. she wanted to know what to do about her daughter's attitude and behavior. i said that she can't do anything about ANYONE else's attitude or behavior. only her own. that is it. that is all you can change or have any control over. she didn't like that and proceeded to tell me that she would from now on not ask for advice and that they would continue to do things the way they were. a year or so later she was complaining about teenagers and i said i enjoyed spending time with mine and she just rolled her eyes at me and said "but your kids actually LIKE you, they RESPECT you...so it's different" i had nothing to say to that that wouldn't cause a major family melt down so i just smiled to myself and thought about how for once i agreed with her. people don't want to hear that they need to make changes. they want the kids to change.

i have learned so much from you over the years...i can't imagine what my/our life would be like had i chose to not be open and receptive to what you had to say.

Roya said...

I don't have kids, but I wouldn't have the same relationship with my fiance that I do today if you weren't mine or my mom's friend. I might not love the specific video game he's playing, but I love how much he loves it. Why would I WANT to impose any sort of negativity on an activity that obviously causes so much joy?

Even if it wasn't obviously causing joy - because while he's sitting and staring at a tv he is not always doing so with a giant grin or jumping up and down for joy - he's choosing to spend his time that way, so obviously it's worthwhile to him.

This seems so simple. He has resources. He has brains. He knows he doesn't have to play that video game or watch that tv, so if he's doing it, it means he wants to be.

But I digress. What I wanted to say was thank you.

Flo said...

Thank you, Sandra, for your dedication despite the critics. Your words have inspired me to be a better mom, especially when they've caused me discomfort. I've learned that's the feeling of my mind stretching and my heart opening wider to a new perspective. That growing has lead to such a happy, peaceful place, especially for my kids, and I'm grateful for the time and stories you share. You really do make a difference and I'm glad you haven't been limited in that sharing.

Rebeldream said...

Thank you, Sandra, both for your willingness to put yourself out there (and therefore have things like this happen) and also for bringing it out publicly so others like myself can observe and learn.

This struck me: "When I got that she was speaking to me as the mother of my children, NOT the injured child of my mother, that's when I saw her differently." So many of us are still blinded by our own upbringing that the ideas you present are mindblowing. Very sad.

I was also struck, as I clicked the link to leave this comment, by the words at the bottom of your blog: "Everything counts."

I don't have anything to add to the overall topic here, but I just wanted to say thanks. I'm one of the parents who hears the words and gets the concepts but is still struggling to overcome what I know and do better for my children.

Parmer said...

I am very grateful for your sanity amid the madness. When I read the quote that she posted, I thought about how those sorts of statements from you & many other parents changed the way I thought about "traditional" parenting ideas. I didn't quite know how to handle it, but I'll learn. What baffled me even more was that my fiance "saw the other side's point" about disciplining. You really do make a difference and I'm glad you haven't been limited in that sharing.

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Venus Taylor, Family Healer said...

I didn't even know of the original conversation and scandal. But I'm so excited and inspired by what I've read here that I am immediately subscribing to your blog.

Your courage to speak truth boldly inspires me to do the same. I respect your commitment to fostering mutual love and communication among families.

Madeline Rains said...

Almost makes me wish I were still on FB so that I could have been one more voice sharing my experience of how your direct, inspiring words have changed my kids' lives. Thank you for rolling with the punches all these years.

Jenny Cyphers said...

The Throwing Marshmallow quote came from an online thread in the unschooling dot com boards a long time ago! I remember it when it happened because people were so excited about it, it just made sense in such an interesting way. I just wish I could remember who said it!

I tried looking for it once through the way back machine, but, it's a monster beast to go through!

And you are right, the person claiming it is NOT the original person who said it, this much I do know. I remember someone attributing that quote to someone and that person saying, "yes, it was me." and thinking, "no I know it wasn't you" because that name was not familiar from the unschooling dot com boards! It was a more regular poster from those days, it's been on the tip of my brain for a while and I just can't get it to come forward!

Sandra Dodd said...

Jenny, if you could look in Rue Kream's book (or if anyone could look), the quote is in there correctly attributed.

I'm in Colorado at Jill's house or I could check on my old computer. I saved the correspondence.

The John Holt error was a Pat Farenga quote misattributed to John Holt. That was discussed recently somewhere and maybe someone could put a pointer to that conversation? Always Learning list, probably.

Gosh, I'm just a font of vague information today! We're about to walk to the Fort Collins post office so I can mail some books.

Glenda said...

Roya, I love what you said in your comment here. I'm going to quote part of it on my Facebook page :).

Sandra, I went to look up the marshmallow quote in my copy of Rue's book, only to realize it was one of the books in the stack I donated to the library last month. (How quickly the brain forgets such things.)

Rue said...

The throwing marshmallows comment was made by Katrina Gutleben, who posted under katgut on the .com boards. ~Rue

Rue said...

There was recently a conversation about a Pat Farenga quote on Always Learning, in the thread, "Who said this?"


~Rue, remembering the link fairy