Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Welcome to Lefty Parent

November 25th, 2008 at 22:23
Me in my home office

Me in my home office

Hey fellow travelers… whether you are involved with raising your own progeny, someone else’s, or are just playing a role as an adult in some kid’s life, I want to share that experience with you, because there is nothing more profound than helping people (young or otherwise, and even including yourself) come into their own in this world and move forward on their evolutionary path.

Having spent over half a century in this incarnation on earth, and almost half of that as a parent, you can bet that I would have some thoughts, posing perhaps as wisdom, about this very fundamental role in human society, and I wager that you do as well. You cannot go through the experience of helping kids on their journey to agency and adulthood without feeling at times inadequate, moved to tears, longing to have another chance, blessed, relieved and many other gut-checking emotions. It is hard work, and as many have noted, you are more likely to feel guilt and get blame for failure than feel pride and get kudos for success.

For me, the job got easier when I took a deep breath, went back to lessons I learned from my parents and my own youth, and chose to go with my gut. I was raised by two people, my biological mom and dad, who made a decision even before I was born in 1955 to raise me outside the conventional parenting “best practices” of the 1950s. They were no experts on parenting, but their instincts told them that they should do everything their parents did not do, and ignore much of the conventional wisdom of the time, from Dr. Spock and others. So they created an enriched environment with love and liberty in which I managed to grow and flourish. Not that there weren’t rough times. Their own relationship was problematic, and ended in their divorce in 1965 when I was 10. But they both continued their focus on trying to be the best parents they could be for me and my younger brother.

My mom used to say that “kids will tell you what they need”, a philosophy in no way permissive, but was an honoring of the personhood of a younger person, who in the end must chart their own course. My youth was a rich mixture of adventure, imagination, respect given, freedom exercised leading to responsibility learned.

Later as an adult I became a parent myself, wrestling with the conventional parenting wisdom of the 1980s, with its tough love and directed “helicopter” parenting, versus my own instincts in a different direction. In the end, my partner Sally and I agreed to throw away the rule book for parenting and and try to come to grips with the following…

1. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, and is the beginning of just about everything

2. Life, at its best, is an adventure – not always successful, not always happy, but a compelling narrative worth living and sharing with others

3. Understanding the context that surrounds the situations we find ourselves in is always critical to effectively navigating them

4. There is both creative tension and synergy between looking inside yourself for guidance and being connected to something transcendent and larger than yourself, whether civic, magical, religious, spiritual, universal and/or biochemical

5. We all ultimately have responsibility for our own actions, adult or youth, and given that, are best when we have the liberty to rise to that challenge

6. It is most effective to treat people with respect, whether adult or youth, including offering but not insisting on giving guidance and other help, unless that guidance or help is asked for

7. The education that stays with you are the things you learn on your own initiative, the other stuff tends to be forgotten

So why “lefty parent”? It reflects that creative tension between the politically liberal, left-leaning family and community I grew up in and my own left-handed tendency to think outside or not quite fit in the box of a right-handed world, even the left-leaning part of it.

Unlike some blogs I have posted on – where I never get a response from the blogger to my posts, and the opportunity to have a real forum for ideas is squandered – I commit to reading your comments on my posts, replying with my further thoughts, and fostering the dialog towards our evolution as individuals and as members of our shared society.

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4 Responses to “Welcome to Lefty Parent”

  1. Emily Says:

    Boy, Cooper, did your email for your blog come at an apt time. We are having such difficulty with our son in middle school this year. I know we’ve talked before about alternatives to public school and I think Dana and I are ready to really have a thorough discussion with you and Sally about homeschooling and other alternatives. Be ready for me to bend your ear! Thanks for blogging – I look forward to reading what you have to write.

  2. Joan Jaeckel Says:

    Cooper! Sending a huge smile. You’re bringing joy to the world.

    Emily, would it be possible for you to describe the “trouble” your middle school is giving your son? Maybe we could all pitch in as a case study. Maybe don’t use his actual name. I have alot of experience with the “Waldorf” educational approach and could offer that perspective into the mix along with Cooper’s views. There’s alot you can do at home to counteract the negative effects of mainstream schooling depending on the nature of your concerns. I’m open.

  3. I.M. Coggins Says:

    Hi Cooper!

    Great blog! I’ve only just perused it and hope to check in often. I think a key to our efforts at Human Greatness is creating an unbreakable link between educators and parents. As both an educator and a parent I feel confident in saying that a true paradigm shift in education will be impossible without educator-parent unity.

    Cheers!

    Iain

  4. Emily Says:

    This post is to response to Joan. Hi! The issue we’re primarily having is the way the material is taught to our son. It’s worksheet after worksheet, study question after study question, memorization upon memorization. This works for some kids (heck, it didn’t bother me when I was in school) and I don’t have any problems with kids learning critical thinking skills, it’s just the method and the delivery that is problematic.

    My son is thoroughly enjoying learning about ancient civilizations this year in 6th grade, but you’d never know that from the grades he’s bringing home. He loves to discuss what he’s learning about them and even researches things on his own. He just hates the same old homework and doesn’t put a lot of effort into it. He’s an avid learner of “stuff”, i.e. he’s fascinated with languages, Japanese culture, and WWII history to name a few topics he’s currently interested in. And, he’s tremendously creative. There’s no focus on creativity or finding ways that kids can express themselves – everyone MUST conform to how the teacher teaches and the material that is to be taught.

    I am so happy that my concerns are being addressed; this has been such a tremendously large burden on my shoulders. I look forward to reading all responses. Thanks!

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