I explained to the kids after we got back from the conference that things were changing, and that it was hard to explain what all would change for them, but basically that we wouldn’t be limiting them at all on tv, computer, what to eat and when, when to go to bed, etc. Thomas gives me a half smile and says, “so what if I want to sleep on the couch?” And I said, “then you could do that. Just please remember that other people are sleeping if you’re staying up later.”
So for the first two nights, he slept on the couch and then on the floor in the living room. Testing us, I’m sure. The next night, however, we went out to dinner and on our way back home, he said to me, “Thanks, Mom, for letting us stay up as late as we want.” Aww! We weren’t even discussing anything related, it just came out of nowhere. He just surprises me sometimes, and I loved it.
Then again just yesterday he said, "Mom, thanks for letting us play computer all the time and eat in the kids' room." Previously, we'd limited the World of Warcraft hours, through parental controls settings, from 9am to 9pm, and had a rule of no computer or TV turned on till 9am. We also didn't want them eating or drinking in the living room/kids' room, because they tend to leave a mess of food bits and the plates and glasses there, instead of cleaning up. We were concerned about drawing ants or other insects, and that something would spill on the computer or laptop, or just with the sticky/greasy fingers using the computers and remote controls.
That's still an issue, but there's no restriction on them. I just try to explain that this is "their" room and that if they respect their stuff, they might want to keep it in working order, clean, etc. I reminded them that if something happens to the laptop, we can't afford to replace it. Two nights ago, before we started playing Yahtzee at the kitchen table, I went to the living room and started cleaning up popcorn bags and empty glasses. I also scraped up some popcorn from the futon. I didn't say anything to them while I was doing this, just cleaned up and got ready to play. Well, when I was putting the popcorn bags and food in the trash can, Thomas went to the cabinet and got out the dust buster and vacuumed up the small bits of food I'd left off the futon! I thanked him for cleaning and left it at that.
I'm sure that I'm still falling to habit when I answer them on things that come up during the course of the day, but I'm stopping myself and trying to analyze what I said, or trying to think before I actually speak (that's a tough one for me!). I am trying to remember to ask myself if this is what I'd say to Eddie in the same situation, or to a friend. But that's a new habit for me and I'm not there yet.
I keep trying to talk to them, a little here and there, about the new lifestyle: that everyone in the family has needs, wants, emotions, feelings, thoughts that have equal value, and that we (Eddie and I) want to make sure we're taking their ideas into consideration when we do things, instead of just making the decisions and then telling them about it. I think it needs to be lived for them to understand better. So that will only come with time. And they'll learn they can trust us to keep our word and not pull the "Parent Trump Card" on them.
Oh, another story to relate. This one is about Emily. She came downstairs to my office just a couple nights after we had returned from the conference and was obviously upset about something. I asked what was the matter, and she said she was thinking about spring cleaning (already!) and that had upset her. What she was talking about was when Eddie goes through her room with her and forces her to choose things to throw out and things to keep. She's rather a pack-rat, so this is always really hard for her.
I told her that just wasn't going to happen anymore, but I could tell she really wasn't sure if she could believe me. Maybe she needs to hear it from Eddie. But I did tell her that if she wants help organizing her things sometime, we'd be happy to help her. And if she wants more shelves or storage in her room, we can do that, too. I know it will take her a while to understand fully what this RU (radical unschooling) or consensual living lifestyle means. Thomas just keeps sleeping on the floor by the dog, and seems not to have any questions. :)
The dog bed is the olive greenish thing in the left corner of the picture (partly covered by the quilt). The dog was up and Thomas was still sleeping, since he'd been up till probably 1am. :)
So a huge thank you to everyone who organized such an incredible unschooling conference, and also to all the families we saw and talked to—we were so inspired to be around so many wonderful unschoolers, and like I keep telling everyone (at the conference and now back home), the teens we saw, met, talked to, were the best advertising for this lifestyle, and I could adopt any of them. We (Eddie and I) really needed to see that this works, and that’s what the conference did for us. We’re really looking forward to next year!