May 5, 2005

Lessons They Learn

As home educators we often concentrate on the lessons we will teach that sometimes we overlook the lessons that we do teach in the meantime. Writing the Out of the Mouth of Babes post this morning got me thinking about some other things.

First, my appearance and what I am teaching my kids about their own. As I type this I am wearing my sweats that I threw on bleary eyed this morning to let the dogs out and pour some cereal and soymilk in bowls for the kids as nourishment. I have yet to brush my hair and definitely have not yet taken a shower yet. I have begun speaking in complete sentences thankfully - but that came after awhile as well. Yet I am blogging!?!?!? I know some of you think my priorities are wacky but this is an easier time for me to get to the computer while my kids are still eating and then entertaining themselves with games with each other.

Now my kids are all dressed and their beds made and rooms picked up, no joke actually! But my bed is still a crumpled mess and I am not worthy of being seen by anyone. Yet my kids see me like this all the time. Yes I need to be able to relax and just be myself in my home and not stress about what I look like - yet a part of me says I need to be better and wonders what exactly my kids are learning. What am I teaching them when I choose not to get dressed out of sweats or other comfy but rather weary looking clothes until I "have" to, until Serona comes home, until we go out, until someone other than my children will see me. What exactly am I teaching them about themselves and about myself? I want to say that I am comfortable and I don't need to put on any pretenses in front of them, which is true. Yet, I also think it says that I don't value myself and/or them as much as I value others which is simply not true.

When they were babies I never gave it much thought, after all what do they care? Though in the back of my brain I always remembered Fly Lady's advice to "Get Dressed to the Shoes" and hung my head that I wasn't/ She is right you know - you DO feel different when you are dressed and wearing shoes. Somehow it is so much easier to simply sit still or lay back down into bed if you are still in pj's and the bed is not yet made and inviting you back into it. When you wear shoes and are dressed nicely you actually feel more motivated and you feel ready to do things. It is strange to me but when I am fully dressed and wearing shoes I know I get much more done. Things seem easier and I want things to be in order. Yet when I am still in my sweats I am just content to let it go and get to it all later.

I think it goes deeper though I think getting dressed is important for my kids to see. It must be weird to them that the first thing I make them do is get dressed yet sometimes I am still in my sweats at noon (or later) and I wonder what it says to them that I would not go outside (with rare exceptions) dressed the way I do at home. I think they are still naive enough to not care or notice but Rhiannon is starting to change.

She wants to pick out my clothes, she wants me to wear pretty things, she wants me to dress up. Yesterday she came upstairs carrying my very best dress, an evening gown that I wear to weddings. She asked me if I would "pleeeasse" try it on. I said it was something I only wore to weddings and events and then she asked if we could go to a wedding and why don't we go to balls. Can you tell we have been reading Cinderella? She would not relent until I tried it on and she lit up when she saw me all dressed up. She made me feel like a princess and then I realized that is how she sees me and she probably wants me to dress that way all the time. I think she would like it if I would wear dresses like Ma in Little House on the Prairie every day. My appearance is important to her already at the age of 5. Not because she cares what anyone else thinks of me but because she wants me to look nice and looking nice is important to her even if it is not to me.

I know there is a balance to be struck here - I will never be a mom who has to "put on her face" before she faces the world. I can probably count on two hands the total times I have ever worn makeup! But I need to take more care about the way I present myself to my family each and every day. I need to be willing to get up and get dressed like I expect my kids to. Ever notice how unkempt children can affect our moods in negative ways and well dressed washed children make us smile, well I wonder if our kids feel the same way? Why wouldn't it? Okay so I am motivated to get dressed better and sooner each day.

As I type I am reminded of a second inadvertent lesson my children have learned - the computer is important to mommy. Between blogging, checking news, Iming with Serona, email, streaming music and online research I spend a good portion of my day on the computer. Not constant but often in short spurts. My kids have often been held at bay while I "just finish this email" or heard "We can do that after I check the news" or the answer to "What are you doing?" is "Writing a blog post" - in many ways the computer is my telephone and television.

Still I do use it too often and I also can make my kids angry with the computer because I spend too much time on it. I don't use the phone much and we don't have television (other than a monitor for videos) so those are not areas of weakness for me as they are for others but the computer has become my problem area.

I want my kids to see this value of the computer, I want them to know that you can find many answers here, use it for many purposes and that overall it is a good thing. So I need to be cautious that they not grow up feeling resentful of how much time their mom spends on the computer. So I need to be cautious of the lessons I may be teaching. Unfortunately I have taught them this from birth as I have nursed babies and toddlers at the computer. Even as I type now Sirah just climbed in my lap for a nursing!

To the defense of computer nursing I will say that I have spent so much of my time nursing over the past five and a half years that I have no guilt over this! In the very early baby days I did not do it much, nor when they actually want to look at you while your nursing. But let's be honest here after a certain point the babies are just about business - the closeness is important sure but they are not continually gazing into your eyes when you nurse five or six times a day so if I am at the computer for one or two of those it is fine. Nursing at the computer also helped me continue to nurse longer as I was able to double task more. Nursing is important to me and to my kids and I have continued it but I have also found ways to get other things done too. Perhaps I am feelings some guilt here that I required a paragraph to justify it but overall I am sure it has been a good choice. Yet it means my kids realize that I use the computer often and they have known that since birth! So I need to be cautious.

To be sure there are also many good lessons my children have picked up from spending so much time with us, lessons I never really tried to teach. Every one of them, yes including Sirah now, loves to be read to and it is often their first choice of things to do. They have a love for a good story and Rhiannon reads everything you put in front of her. They have been exposed to reading as a natural part of our day since birth as well and have been read to since then as well. So there is a good lesson they have learned through our example.

Another important lesson they have learned is the importance of family. I have seen my kids put their siblings before their friends time and time again. I know they are still young but I see the opposite behavior in other children their age already. Rhiannon and Ciaran both consider each other best friends and both of them love to play with their sister. All three of them would choose to play with Serona or I over their friends. The kids continually chose to spend time with their grandparents instead of their friends and instead of going on field trips when they were recently here for a visit. This I believe is another lesson they have simply gained by osmosis and the way their life is.

There are many others, just as I am sure there are many in your own lives, both good and bad. The important thing to remember is that our kids are always learning whether we want them to be or not. Just as in my faith I continually remind myself that "my walk speaks louder than my talk" our kids live with us day in and day out, what they see lived out in our lives will stay with them forever, much more than any individual lesson we teach them.

Next time when you are planning out your lessons for the day, week, year (if you even do that) think about all the other lessons that go into your day and your child's life. I better go get dressed now!



  1. Girl, I could have written this blog myself! Sounds like our homes are very similar. LOL Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! You put into words the very thoughts I've had about being presentable, time spent @ the computer (including nursing), and so on. I'm trying to incorporate the FlyLady's ideas into my day, and I can say without a doubt that wearing the shoes is a huge plus! I can't really explain it, but it is SO true, and you really do feel like you're ready to tackle anything when you're showered, dressed neatly and wearing your shoes. Keep up the good work with your blog!