DSM: Re: Re: dsm

Dawn F. Harkness (dawn@harkness.net)
Sat, 18 Nov 2000 10:55:05 -0500

Please note: This is a discussion group. My understanding of what a
discussion group is can be summed up as the following: People have signed up
allegedly to take part in a vigorous debate on the Sudbury model and all the
the issues which relate to such a radical approach to education. I have to
assume that anyone who participates in this forum has a thick enough skin to
read about the dissenting and/or oppositional opinions of others. I also
have to assume that if they can't take the heat they will get out of the
kitchen. Me, I dig the hurley burley. If thin-skinned traditional school
employees need a support group or therapy, there are other forums for that.

You can rest assured that I would state my opinion just as vociferously to
someone's face, privately or publicly if the appropriate occasion arose. I
don't run up to unsuspecting traditional school employees and rail on them
for their life choices. However, when asked what I think, I have no
compunction to let it fly. My own personal motto is: If you can't handle my
opinion, don't ask for it.

Therefore, I am hesitant to analytically shred your wife's essay because it
wasn't written for this forum, and I'm not sure she has invited any
dissenting view. So other than to state a resounding "PUCKY", I am going to
pass on that unless and until she asks for this forums feedback.

-----Original Message-----
From: Allan Saugstad <asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca>
To: discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
Date: Friday, November 17, 2000 8:21 PM
Subject: DSM: Re: dsm

>I would like to offer you an essay to read that was written by my wife a
few weeks ago. It
>addresses the whole issue we were speaking of earlier around the
attack-defend mode we
>sometimes get into.
>It's interesting how easy it is to damn so many things, and e-mail makes it
so easy. I
>wonder how many of us would state our opinions so easily in public?
Anyways, it's quite
>long, so ignore it if you are pressed for time, but I think it's incredibly
>Itís precisely because the political is personally based (to me), that I
would never want
>anyone to hide from me or buffer their thoughts or feelings to protect me.
You see,
>although Iíve never experienced unowned intellect and I canít receive
information through
>my intellect without the oxygen it takes to keep the rest of me alive too,
I want nothing
>more than to have friendships where wherever you are, however you feel, ití
s O.K..
>Accepted. Just like we try for our kids. And you canít hurt me with your
perspective. And
>you canít disappoint me. Yes, I will have feelings about our conversations.
No, I wonít
>think you caused them. Yes, I want this to happen because we will, in the
end, through
>honesty with ourselves and others, be closer. And I think thatís so very
>Watching you people parent is like watching someone eat homemade gelato out
of a
>sweet-smelling waffle cone on a warm day. Thanks for sharing the
>I have been so very drawn to so many of the people I've met through L L L,
>attachment parenting meetings, and the natural learning course at
Wondertree because I
>sense the practiced, gentle approach of understanding and trusting, that
these parents
>relate to their children in. You provide inspiration that shines onto my
children. I
>appreciate that you offer me personally this quality of connection in your
>also. I share, with this same appreciation, some of my writing.
> I have personally gone through a transformation of thought recently. I'd
like to share
>some insight which I have encountered for myself. Let's start at the new
beginning. The
>whole reason I held Anya in my arms, that first night, instead of putting
her in the
>plastic bassinet in the hospital was because she was restless in the
bassinet and
>peaceful in my arms. I brought no expectation of not putting her in the
bassinet. In
>fact I was so excited I took pictures of her in it because it had her name,
on pink paper
>yet, attached. There was no argument in my mind of how good or bad the
bassinet was, nor
>how appropriate or inappropriate her restlessness was. I just picked her up
and held her
>where she was content. I was blessed to be in a time and place where I was
able to offer
>completely fresh trust to my child. I was lucky to have trust to offer and
the courage
>to will myself to do it. And I instantly felt the beautiful, enjoyable
truth of
>connection. The seed of my parenting relationship was offered to me in the
experience of
>how right it feels when I trust my children's dignity, communications,
desires, and needs
>as being more important than the expectations of the people around me. I
have recently
>been learning to trust myself in this spirit which Anya and Sophia have
taught me. I am
>nursing, tandem nursing, co-sleeping, and living and learning alongside my
>because in the moment, day by day, this is what has been respectful of our
truth. I was
>raised by a society that expected me to please, shine, avoid punishment and
criticism, be
>outstanding, achieve, get good grades, be judged, run fast, win the
ribbons, join the
>right groups, get the university education, get a good job, shine at that
job, make
>responsible choices, fight for the right causes... Then I had kids and lost
all of that
>tangible measure of how good I was doing compared to all else. The
temptation is there
>to find a measure of my love for my children. To do it the right way. To
somehow know
>that I'm a good mother. To keep score even though I'm not, as a full-time
>required to be in the game anymore. Even though no one is tallying points
and handing
>out the trophies anymore. I have noticed that one way to keep score is to
clearly define
>the opponents by recognizable uniforms. Another is to believe that they
are plotting
>against oneself with ill will so that one can feel justified in bringing
out the
>defense. Another is to put up goal posts: stay at home moms at this end of
the field vs.
>working moms at that end, parents who have it together at this end vs.
parents who lose
>it at that end, being in the know at this end vs. being ignorant at that
end, home
>learning at this end vs..institutionalizing at that end, good health
practitioners at
>this end vs. bad practitioners at that end, good food at this end vs. bad
food at that
>end, good parenting at this end vs. bad parenting at that end,
anti-establishment at this
>end vs. establishment at that end.
>Where have we learned to play this game before? Good behavior at this end
verses bad
>behavior at that end. Rewarded behavior at this end vs punished behavior
at that end.
>The right body, cloths, status symbols, school-friends, at this end vs.
being the kid
>whoís the ďoutsiderĒ at that end. Did we learn to play this game so
proficiently and to
>cling to it so desperately that we continue to play even when the stages of
our life have
>completely changed the landscape? I didn't have a clue that I was still
chasing the ball
>about by still trying to do things "the best way," and in other ways was
purposely going
>to the wrong side of the field when I felt wrong in being. I still
believed I was making
>choices for my children based on the same criteria available to others. You
know, the
>ridiculous notion that a level playing field could even exist on this bumpy
globe. And
>even if it did exist could there really only be a few positions to play?
What I have
>since learned is this;
>∑ If I believe I'm doing it right I must believe someone else is doing it
wrong. (even
>if I want to do acceptance right and so I deny that I think others are
>∑ If I believe in a good way then I must believe that there is a bad way.
>∑ If I believe in systems of parenting and providing learning opportunities
then I do not
>believe in the inherent good intent and dignity of every human being. If I
trust Ferber
>or Dr. Sears or the kindergarten teacher or the un-schooling friend instead
of allowing
>all of my own feelings, and all of my childís feelings, then I am not
accepting of my own
>nor my childís good intent. If I want to fix others then I probably donít
accept my own,
>nor their good intent. This is because I would then believe a system, or
philosophy, or
>policy of politics, is needed to take the opportunity of unintimidated
choice away from
>the human lives which are affected by them.
> ∑ When the fear of trusting all human dignity from a place of equality
threatens me
>because it will take away my cause, Iíve found it interesting to ask myself
ďHow am I
>benefitting from my cause?Ē
>Cheri Huber writes "As adults we're still trying to survive our childhoods.
" I'm
>learning to say to myself "Wow, itís amazing how I survived my parents'
parenting, my
>church's preaching, my society's training, my school's grading, my
>requirements, and my job's description. And I'm learning to say "Wow, my
>preachers, neighbours, teachers, professors and employers did something
amazing by
>surviving their childhoods. And these days I'm practising giving up
internally for
>myself, just what I've given up externally in order to parent my children.
Iím giving up
>the pressure to fulfill the expectations. And then I'm thankful to the part
of myself
>which brought me here. I survived, as do all, by figuring out, judging,
what I should do
>and shouldn't do to win security. I could judge myself for being
judgmental; or, I could
>realize that it is this beautiful strength of spirit, this will to sustain
the gift of
>life within me that all creatures share, that kept me alive.
>Cheri Huber writes "The degree to which I am delighted when I am "right" is
the degree to
>which I will suffer when I am " wrong". If I don't need to take credit, I
don't need to
>take blame. " The reason it upsets me to percieve that I am being judged is
that my
>learning has set me up to believe in the merit of judging and I have, in
some degree,
>thought that way for a lifetime. That is why I take percieved judgements
in and hurt
>myself with them. In a few years, I will be able to leave ownership of
other people's
>thoughts to them. And I won't feel compelled to take them in. And here I
access so much
>compassion for the part of most of us, sewn in so fine it seems both
invisible and
>inseparable, wanting so much to be good and thinking that we must earn the
right to feel
>good. We don't expect that of our babies. Why do we of ourselves?
>Can we afford ourselves the compassion and trust that we meet our children
in? Can we
>parent by our natural connection, without paying any attention to the
direction of play?
>Parenting in a naturally attentive present, without questioning itís merit
in relation to
>ďthe direction of play,Ēis like giving our children the time and freedom to
play, without
>questioning itís merit in relation to education. Can we live what is
wonderful, alive,
>interesting, comfortable, and enjoyable for us and accept that we're whole,
>worthy, and deserving and that we don't need to weigh it any further? Can
we stop grading
>ourselves? If we don't have to grade ourselves is there any need to compare
>with, or even define, others? I 've challenged myself to afford myself the
simple grant
>of not judging the appropriateness of how I feel, just as I try to, for my
kids. I am
>touching but not yet holding this new understanding.
>And when I stand where I need to, to touch this, I see that I don't need
others to be
>wrong in order for me to be right. I am understanding that, just by being
a living part
>of this beautiful intertwined world, I am right in being. Period. And so
is everyone
>else. And they are all trying on some level, by the surviving they've
learned, just as I
>am. And they're giving their kids what they've got to give, with the same
love in their
>heart that I've got for my kids.
>If we breastfeed, go vegetarian, un- school, because it's the right thing
to do, we do it
>for our own identity. Sometimes to appease the outer judges. Always to
appease the inner
>judge. To score, to win, so that we will not lose. Lose our conditional
worth. Then we
>do it because we need to be right, responsible, kind, educated etc. to feel
good enough.
>Or, we need to be right in order to control the fear of what wrong would
>Punishment - the kind adults get: regret, emotional- revealment, isolation,
pain, ill
>health, death, misfortune, rejection, having kids that end up getting sick,
beating the
>crap out of the neighbourís kid or otherwise "going astray". But we are
good enough
>without doing anything. Look into your child's face and see your own. And
then tell me
>this isn't so. If we find ourselves breastfeeding, having a vegetarian
meal, or spending
>our time outside of a school, because in this moment, it is what seems
>respectful for our own self, and for the beings we are attentive to in the
>without anxiety about the future, fears from the past, nor concern about
others beliefs,
>then for this time, only this particular moment now, in only our own
particular life,
>we're living our present truth.
> I have loved with all of the same heart that I love my own children with,
many children
>through day cares and schools. And I know in my held experience that those
children are
>as worthy and beautiful as my own. And that their parents gave of
themselves, of their
>hopes, love, dreams, abilities, realities, situations, pressures, and
within the confines
>of their self identities with precisely the same devotion to their children
that I am
>giving to mine. And in that very same place of personally limited, gifted
and applied
>caring devotion, many day care staff and teachers give. And I thank the
stars, the moon,
>the fire, the water, the devotion of everyone who has cared for me, that in
my loot bag,
>at the end of the party that got me here to my present reality, I found the
>clarity and peace of having my children at my breast, and beside me in my
care. I do not
>long to be the woman, who having given all within herself, and all that is
>herself, walks to a day care or school in the dark of the morning, to hand
>childrens' day to someone else, because it is best, in the truth of her own
assessment of
>their life, in that moment. She doesn't have something I want to take away
from her. So
>why would I present to her my expectation that she give something that
doesn't fit for
>her to give, based on her own assessment? I've wondered; does this mean
that the world
>will go to hell in a hand basket if I don't draw circles around the places
where I see
>injustice and cruelty and then try to fix it? After all, I think, itís out
of empathy
>that Iíve tried to do the right thing, to fix some of the injustices. I've
noticed for
>myself, that what comes between my natural compassion and my children is
the clutter of
>feelings of isolation, hidden fears, rejection, feelings about conflicting
needs in the
>family, and self doubt. From this I can guess that the less pressure each
parent feels
>to be better than the present reality allows, the easier it it is to tap
their own
>inherent good intent. This is something I have observed in children too.
The fewer people
>there are telling them what to do, and how to do it, the closer they are to
their own
>intuitively connecting, uncluttered selves. My hunch is that if we felt
free and safe to
>live without anxiety, fear and regret, we would be more aware and attentive
to our
>natural connection to the earth, other people, and other beings. "When we
attack justice,
>cruelty, and suffering with intolerance and loathing, when we whip
ourselves into doing
>good by telling ourselves that we're bad when left to our own devices, we
make the
>mistake of believing that hatred can generate compassion and goodness.
Hatred is
>suffering, and can only perpetuate suffering, not alleviate it. " Cheri
Huber again,
>(can you guess who I've been reading lately) referring to self-hate. We
have grown up in
>a time and place where the natural self is not trusted and is even
punished. To survive
>then, we have to learn to alienate ourselves from,and hence hate the part
of our natural
>self which is integral to being human and yet gets us into trouble. I have
>this. I have also struggled with the notion that we can hate the political
thoughts of
>people without hating the personal.
>I now can't see how it is possible to talk politically about parenting
without talking
>personally. No rule or philosophy or insight has ever cried much less
cried it out. No
>thought of protective hope has ever followed a child through the playground
>from a caring soul. No angry outburst has ever erupted outside of an unmet
need in an
>emotive being. Each cry belongs to a name. So does each hope. So does each
call for
>fulfillment. No notion of discipline, of appropriateness of human
interaction, has ever
>existed outside of a human mind, connected with a human history, making a
personal human
>perspective. Sure we can find a whole bunch of people who agree,
discourage the company
>of those who don't, and believe our philosophy exists outside of each
person. But it is
>still just the agreement of many personal perspectives each owned by a
name. No home,
>nor school, has ever existed as anything except an empty building without
the spirits,
>and hearts, and the learned personal perspectives of each person
interacting under their
>name within. Believing that politics are separate can only be empowering
when people
>agree because it fits their own experience. It makes one person's identity
step in front
>of the crazy mirror at the fair and suddenly one looks like 20. It also
fills our human
>need to feel accepted and this is what can be lost when the personally
>political, is seen as being real outside of that which makes it living. No
>imperfect present truth fits the perfection that only ideas extracted from
reality can
>achieve. I'm having to ask myself then " What is more valuable? Dead
perfection (the
>kind of dead that never lived at that) or present living imperfection?
Maybe living
>imperfection is the actual definition of perfection? Perhaps there is
>everywhere there is life? How much of myself do I have to deaden, control,
or remedy in
>the pursuit of ideals? In achieving a hope of being good enough? And, with
the help of
>others I've started to answer the question for myself. I figure we are all
>living imperfection. And so I've started the celebrating, for myself, for
my friends,
>and for that woman on the street I don't know who's parenting out the
harshness of her
>learning along with her love. There's no need to wait for perfection. We
can party
>now. And still I will mourn for the next new soul I hear wailing,
pleading, to connect
>in safety. But I'll know that her parents aren't wrong. And I'll know that
there's pain
>in the world that can't be fixed. (Unless we stop and suspend everyones
heartbeat until
>we, without living, figure out perfection.) Mourn and party both.
> So I'm keeping the uniforms off my kids. And off myself. And then there
wonít be an
>expectation to run away from ourselves towards the goal posts. And if I
don't need to
>wear one then nobody else does either, because we only need uniforms if we
need an
>opponent to beat for fear of losing. And I've got good news. The new
coaches (a great
>therapist, the authors she's recommended, and Brent at Wondertree) have
given me a new
>seat on the bench. And from here it doesn't look like there is any other
>We're all in this together. Just with different present realities. Our
names are
>different. But we are all pulled into, securely attached to, and nourished
by, the same
>spinning planet. Wherever weíre at, our feet are all planted on the same
spinning soil.
>And gravity pulls and embraces all mass with equal force.
>Imperfectly Yours,

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