Chaos is Bliss
Photo credit: Bernard Ward
This is unconfirmed, but I heard through the grapevine that that Duggar family is preparing for their twentieth. I watched their reality show once after hearing so much about it, and they scare me. All those orderly, well behaved kids and teens that act like parents themselves was just downright spooky. I suspect abuse of the highest order. I am not making any accusations here, just raising my haunches in suspicion.
What’s with the fantasy that so many parents have about having children that don’t talk back, don’t rebel, do as they’re told, eat the food on their plates and play nicely with their siblings? Ok, I admit these things are nice and were welcome in my house any time when I was raising my kids. They were never requirements for living however and I would never have dreamed of coercing, bribing, threatening, scaring or punishing them into behaving in these culturally approved ways. I certainly would never reward them for such behavior.
I know I don’t like it one bit when someone tries to get me to do something I don’t want to do or don’t feel comfortable doing. I would probably even get quite angry if someone tried to tell me that I had to live a certain way or think certain thoughts or fear particular outcomes if I did not act in certain ways. Why do we as a culture of people expect our children to behave in such unnatural, unpleasant ways? Yes, they are unnatural and unpleasant. No one except the most highly conditioned of us acts in such ways and when we do it’s only because we’ve never had the freedom of expression to voice our preferences, opinions, likes and dislikes. We’ve never been comfortable moving in the direction of what feels right and true for ourselves, choosing instead to be guided by the dictates of others, thinking it somehow easier that way or calling it cooperative.
I think children are born with personalities, natural drives and inclinations, tastes and desires for things like food, color, smells, activities, social needs. Even toddlers show wide ranging natural interest and ability in things like artistic expression, scientific experimentation, mathematical ability, an ear for music, physical ability, etc. Young children naturally express their needs for sleep, activity, cuddling, play, conversation, privacy, etc. in ways that dramatically differ from their siblings’ needs or those of all the other kids. I am so befuddled about how we have managed to create a society of people that wish to see us as all the same? Don’t deny it, you know it’s true. How does it come to make one iota of sense that we all need the same educations, in classrooms no less, having stuff done to us and force fed to us … and maybe only one of a thousand of us claims it was a positive experience? And we keep doing it!! Why do we ask or require our children to adopt our worldviews instead of trusting their own abilities to thoughtfully make their own decisions? And why are we so afraid of what will happen to us, to them, if we don’t submit to all this nonsense? Why is all this conditioning necessary?
In my perfect world it is not. My children have taught me that even in infancy they are capable of self directing. With freedom of expression and action, a child wants to discover, experiment, manipulate and take on the world. Their world, the world each one of us creates for ourself. My perfect world is one of chaos – magical, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional chaos. Chaos is this wonderful, glorious environment that can exist anywhere that is identified by the presence of people, it doesn’t matter how many, who are each living life on their own terms – in search of information, resources, people, places and things that are of interest to them. Who says we should all eat dinner together? Bah, humbug. Who says we should all be eating the same things? Nutty! Who says we should all be sleeping at the same time or wanting the same vacations or dressing in the same fashions or choosing similar friends or, or, or. We are born as individuals. We are meant to thrive in this lifetime. We can only thrive when we are joyful and fully alive and moving in the directions that allow us to feel exuberant and hopeful and good… or great… or powerful. We can only feel that way when we have the freedom to do so. There is no other way.
I agree! What comes to mind for me as I ask the questions you’re asking is…. FEAR. I feel it coming to us in many comments to our posts about child rearing- fear that children will be way ‘out of control’, unable or unwilling to get a job or get along with others, and, possibly worst of all, their actions will cast shame upon their parents who were, upon their birth, bequeathed with the task of forming these children into good citizens of their family, church, community, country, world- whatever the parents’ primary affiliation.
Chaos is a loaded word when we talk about children because there is so much negativity associated with it. And yet, I have found chaos to be a very comfortable way to live with children. It is the constant planning, expectations, and external pressures to conform that create most of the exact behaviors that parents are attempting to modify. So what does chaos mean? I can tell you that it does not equal the mayhem that most are envisioning. To me, chaos means that everyone follows their own direction. Because we live in a family in which we care deeply for one another, everyone’s needs are met without infringing on the needs and desires of others. Overlap or cases of conflict are opportunities for growth and we attempt to meet them with conscious regard rather than coercive tactics. As such, they do not happen nearly as often as I see in other families that squash arguments and use behavior modification as a means of controlling the symptoms rather than addressing the situation and feelings and working toward solutions. Control begets control. We published a powerful story in Rethinking Everything Magazine’s Issue Eight by Lisa Russell about bullying in which she unequivocally made the point that bullying begins at home. Adults call it discipline.
Do we feel so little power ourselves as adults that we flail in the face of untidy homes and relationships, unable to work together to create an atmosphere in which we all feel loved and respected? Do we bully our children because it is culturally expected or because we, ourselves, feel bullied in our relationships or workplace? Do we manipulate our children out of fear of the future when, in reality, it is momentary love and respect that will achieve our ultimate goal of having loving and respectful children?
I am amazed at our cultural desire for uniformity while we partake in television, movies, music, books, therapy, etc. that prescribe individuality. Is this a pleasure reserved for the adult that no longer has the perspective to identify their own individual identity? No. Peeling down the layers of our parenting that are laden with fear of inadequate production of well mannered children is the key. Humans are social beings that have an innate desire for a certain level of conformity to belong. It doesn’t need to be beaten into us. Sitting in the corner does not help us to understand how we fit in. And, while ‘fitting in’ is not the desired goal of parenting without fear in favor of supporting individuality, it does seem to be a positive side effect because of the conflict resolution skills that are modeled and the positive regard for individuality that is perpetuated.
Parents almost always love dissecting the interesting aspects of their children’s personalities, how their children differ from each other, their children’s interesting hobbies, quirks, and ideas. Why not take it one step further? Rather than seeing these as quirks that make them different, recognize them as the things that make that child unique and wonderful. A homogenous society lacks inspiration and, as such, lacks growth. It starts with the children.
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