Enchantment: Encouragement for the Worn-Out Mom

peace

I’ve been sick and discouraged, feeling guilty about all the things I’m not doing for my kids.

Each time I hear of a friend or acquaintance whose kids are doing something we’ve never done I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I write a blog on how we can’t and shouldn’t do everything, but I still feel oppressed by the idea that I’m failing my kids.

So this week I bring you some encouragement from the outside. Thanks to my friend, Monica, who pointed me to this periscope by Julie Bogart at www.BraveWriter.com.

Since listening to this I’ve enjoyed my kids more than I have in recent memory – and if you follow this blog you know how hard it is for me to enjoy my family when there is work to be done (and there always is!). She said when you get a moment of peace don’t make it harder (time to get to work!), just breathe it in and enjoy it. So simple, but I’d forgotten it!

Here are a few quotes to entice you, but I recommend listening to the whole thing if you get a chance.

“When our kids are enchanted they are quiet . . . And because they’re quiet we might mistake the moment. We might think they’re not engaged.” (24:20)

On why “Enchantment” matters:

“People who are richly satisfied and whole on the inside are insatiably curious and open to learning.” (31:15)

Julie Bogart reminded me that a perfect house is not compatible with enchantment. If you strive for perfection you kill the magic. She quotes Thomas Moore in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life:

“A home will never be perfect, for perfection is an idea and an ideal, and our home is always an approximation of our dream. I wouldn’t want to live in a perfect home, because enchantment and perfection do not lie in the same order of things. If you’re looking for perfection, you don’t pursue enchantment, and vice versa.” (Moore, l996 p. 82)

I’ve decided to lower my hopes (standards make it sound as if I achieve it) for a clean house, but I’ve also implemented a compromise:

I did a quick purge of the bedroom and will make it my “clutter-free haven.” If I can have one space that is peaceful then I think I’ll better be able to enjoy the mess that is having kids!

So give yourself some encouragement and listen to the periscope! Then come back and tell us how it inspired you.

Note: You don’t have to know anything about periscope, just click the link and you’ll see the video. Also, she’s talking to homeschoolers, but what she says applies to anyone who is intentional about raising kids – which is all of you who read this blog!

17 thoughts on “Enchantment: Encouragement for the Worn-Out Mom”

  1. As I approached the new year, I had in mind setting another organizational goal for myself. I thought I’d assign myself a “word of the year”- something responsible, like “consistancy” or “organized”. Then I listened to this periscope, and I threw all of that out the window. Making these things my priority also makes them my excuse for not doing real, messy, interesting work with the kids. “We’ll do that project as soon as I…”, “I’ll be prepared for that once I’ve…”, “This will be even better once I’ve found the time to plan …” and then, since the goal itself is virtually unattainable in a home with four small children, nothing enchanting ever gets done.
    So, forget it. I will make enchantment the priority and hopefully things like consistency and organization will tag along to make opportunities for enchantment more frequent. In my thinking, I was starting with organization as the goal, and thinking real/engaging/meaningful work would be the by-product. No more! Now, I will make that work the goal, and some optimistic part of me will hope that organization/consistency will be a by-product.

    1. I so relate! I say no to the kids because I want to be better prepared for them. There is always room for organizational improvement, but better to start responding to the kids now than wait until the “magical” moment when everything is ready. Instead, let’s go for the every day magic!

  2. This comment is going to be disjointed, and not as thought-through and careful as I would like. But I’m discovering that if I put comments aside till I can do them right, they don’t get done and you think I’m not reading. I just ask you to take them with grace, as politeness tends to be the first thing to go when I write quickly. 🙁 Nor am I going to be able to address all the thoughts that came to me while listening — a disadvantage to not having it in written form, as inspiring as it was to hear her speak. Anyway, here goes:

    What occurred to me first was the image of a balance scale, or a pendulum. This concept has obviously met you and Monica (and I expect several others) at a place where it is a welcome corrective. So when my reaction is “Yes, but…” I have to remember that we’re in different places.

    I noticed the phenomenon first in schools. Forever in search of the right course of action, they swung back and forth between extremes. First, in my memory, came the (correct) idea that education is about more than just memorizing facts, which is a dreary business for children. Then came the (correct) observation that while the children may have had fun crafting dioramas and expressing their opinions, they retained very little knowledge of history and spouted bilge because they had no facts on which to base their opinions. So the pendulum swung back to requiring schools to teach measurable knowledge, and is even now going the other way again, as a reaction against “high stakes testing.” Reading instruction has done the same thing. Name a subject, and the prevailing educational philosophy seems to be based on the faults found in the previously prevailing educational philosophy.

    I suppose that’s true in much of life. I’ve certainly seen the advice for a healthy diet change radically several times. And homeschooling philosophies are no exception. All that to say, despite your misgivings, you are very, very good in certain areas that have been a struggle for me. I have become fully convinced that a certain amount of structure (more than I have, or gave to you as children) actually facilitates freedom, and yes, enchantment. But while I’m still in the place of applying that lesson, you have reached the point where you need to pull back and rediscover the other side of the coin. So take my observations below with that in mind.

    I really don’t like it when people change the meaning of words. At least the speaker acknowledged that by “enchantment” she does not mean the kind that involves wicked witches. In fairy tales, as I recall, enchantment is usually a bad thing, and magic is a serious, often dangerous business. So while I really like her concept, it took me a while to adjust to the term. I had the same problem with “silence is not an absence of sound.”

    It’s funny that I have the same observation here that I did with Project-Based Homeschooling: why all the emphasis on art? Surely other things are at least as important, from music to — yes — math. How sad to reject math because all you know of it is worksheets. Math can be as much of the feast spread for learning as art: jigsaw puzzles, Rubik’s Cube, chess games, number sequences scrawled on a Pizza Hut placement as we wait for our meal to arrive….

    Personally, I like the “what’s the educational value in this?” game. It made writing yearly progress reports fun. Maybe the trick is in doing it post facto, and not letting it interfere with the activity in progress.

    It’s a great idea to teach children to pick up their toys when they are done, and I love the progress you’ve made with your kids. That’s definitely not incompatible with having a child-friendly house and putting your child’s art on the walls. Maybe my problem is, as relaxed as I was about housekeeping, I never liked wet towels on the floor….

    Ah, that’s enough. I don’t remember what else struck me while I listened. I love that even in your small apartment you found space for your children to be creative. I’m excited that you now have room to loosen the reins a little, to make more tools available and spread a bigger feast. I know you won’t lose the organized, structured life you’ve fought so hard to attain. At least not for long. 🙂

  3. Good grief, all I can say is how does almost every single post you write manage to resonate with me?! We live halfway around the world from each other and raise our kids in pretty different cultures, but still…the first 2-3 sentences of this post could’ve been written by me! I admit I haven’t checked out the recording yet but was uplifted by the blog post itself. I’ve been in a deep depression (and sick) for about a week, doing NOTHING day after day, the guilt over my failure as a mom – and dishes and laundry – piling up. Yet yesterday, in the midst of another lame, thrown-together “meal,” one child turned to me and grinned sincerely, “This was a great day!” Say what?!? They have a totally different way of measuring “success,” I guess, so we never quite know…
    Oh, and about the orderliness at home, I had recently come to a similar conclusion that if I could just carve out one little haven of beauty, cleanliness, and order in my home (also preferrably my bedroom), I’d stand a better chance of not coming undone over the chaos that seems to rule the rest of the house (and, notably, bothers NO ONE else but me)!!! Haven’t managed to implement it yet, but I keep reminding myself that I won’t regret spending quality time with my kids, while I may regret spending too much time on my home…that tradeoff might never come naturally, though! Definitely more a Martha than a Mary!
    Well, thanks for providing a place of encouragement and solidarity as we grow (mostly through trial and error!) in our role as mothers. 🙂

  4. You’re right that balance is very important, and it’s important to know what the audience is. Julie is mostly talking to stresse-out young moms whose kids undo every bit of order they work to create. It is a different stage of life, for sure!

    Since we moved I see so much that needs to be done. I look at the disaster of a workspace and panic about how to fix it. Since listening to the podcast, I see a space alive with use that doesn’t have to look neat. I can enjoy the bits of paper and crayons typed up for display as a sign of my 2-year-old’s creativity and not as a comand to find a better display area.

    I think the emphasis is not so much on “art” as is creating what you want and like yourself. When kids are young, this is easier to do with paper and pens than with a violin or times-table (though you know our 5-year-old can spend hours with his times-table).

    The point is to participate in what engages you, and that makes messes. Yesterday I let the kids cook pancakes while the baby was on my hip and I didn’t worry about how we’d clean up the mess afterwards. Lucky me, my husband cleaned up after us. 🙂

    I think she makes it clear that it’s not that looking for educational value is bad, we just don’t need to do it all the time. If we are always looking for something in particular, we might miss what’s going on. We should be careful not to judge our kids all the time. Only doing it post facto is a good point. We should be able to enjoy the moment as it is. It’s like when I’m already writing a blog post about an experience before I’m doing with the experience – I’m living too much in an alternate world and missing out on the very experience I think is worth writing about!

    I’ve had to train myself to see mess so I could pick it up before it was overwhelming. Now I have to ease up a bit and remember the main point, which I do agree is to live life to the fullest! Keeping a space that supports our full lives is an important part – but not the point!

    (Sorry, written with sick baby and energetic kids running around.)

  5. Oh, poor Ellie. 🙁 Poor Mom….

    “I’m already writing a blog post about an experience before I’m [done] with the experience” — that is SO me. In fact, I have a partially-written blog post about just that. 🙂

    You can’t let a two-year-old play unsupervised with a violin, but I note that your two-year old freely enjoys your keyboard. As I recall, Vita & Ishmael (from Better than School and Child’s Work) had not one but two pianos in their kitchen (yes, kitchen, don’t ask me how) growing up. The video reminded me of them in another way: their “doll game” that was a complex, long-running, very serious (to them) saga, observed in detail by their mother but not interfered with. What was the educational value? Enormous – social interaction, creativity, history, economics, family relationships, math, agriculture, government — but impossible to quantify.

  6. So what happens if your child engages is something that’s not bad but you see no educational value in? Or is that not possible? I think there’s a problem with different definitions of “educational.” I think most people define it more narrowly than you do. What’s the difference between a “valuable” activity and an “educational” one for you?

  7. I think you’ve hit it. Right now I can’t come up with an activity that’s valuable but not educational. Of course there are differing degrees. Watching a Great Courses DVD with my husband is obviously, directly educational. Watching NCIS together might not appear to be educational, but I’ve learned specific facts (they’re pretty good about getting a lot right, even if in the interest of time they can hack into the Pentagon faster than my computer can boot up), and I frequently find inspiration for personal growth (if something promotes growth, I see it as educational). Watching M*A*S*H reruns — not so much, which is why I never do it alone; there’s value in the social interaction, but education? Hmm, maybe I’ve found the valuable/not educational example.

    1. The first thing that came to mind was brushing teeth. Unless a child is learning how, it’s something valuable but hardly educational. You’re preventing growth, after all. 😉 Cleaning in general seems valuable but not educational, unless you’re learning to do it fir the first time. So maybe habitual things aren’t educational, but something small repeated over time can lead to huge growth and educational achievement (like daily piano scales).

      Planning falls into a similar category as cleaning. If you’re used to making the shopping list, it’s not educational to make it once again. Learning to plan larger projects is a different story, but if you’re used to planning, then it’s routine – not educational.

      Meditation also seems suspect. You’re not producing or learning, but the practice can free creativity and help you in your life and learning, but is it educational? It develops discipline, I suppose.

      I’m not sure I would call socialization educational, though it’s important. Whether social interaction is educational or not depends on what is going on inside a person. How engaged is he? Is he just reacting, or is he reflecting and acting intentionally?

      This angle makes it questionable whether the kid spacing out in math class is doing something educational, but of course everyone counts math class as educational.

      It was fun reflecting on what “educational” means. I think you’re idea of growth is a good one, and it makes it clear that the state in which the one learning is in is very important. What growth is going on inside is something we cannot never be sure is going on – or not going on.

      And that brings us to the main point again: don’t judge every activity a child engages in as good or bad, educational or not. If he is deeply engaged, he is growing whether we can see it or not. As parents, we must do some judging, but we must do so with care and respect, knowing we don’t understand everything that is going on inside our little learners.

  8. M*A*S*H reruns are an educational glimpse into a particular slice of 20th century US culture and a study in political commentary/allegory, no?

    As for the temptation to look for academic value as measured by GPA impact, I think it may be jumping the gun to evaluate any activity until it’s clearer to us what’s actually transpiring. Otherwise, we may miss the real educational value because we’ve checked the box after finding the first educational value and quit looking – much like we take one picture and then quit looking, eyes fixed instead on our smartphone display.

  9. Maybe you’re right about M*A*S*H, though I will say that unlike NCIS, which is looking at a slice of history with 21st century eyes, MASH looked at the Korean War with Vietnam-era eyes, which makes the educational value suspect as far as history goes. Sort of like learning about Mozart from Amadeus or Scottish history from Braveheart..

    But the political commentary angle works, as does the one that strikes me most when watching MASH reruns: How is it that I can watch these old shows and still find them enjoyable, unlike so many of the TV shows from my past that — no matter how much I liked them at the time — now seem both dated and of such low quality I can’t bear to watch them?

    1. Or about Pocahontas from Pocahontas. But if Amadeus gets you interested in Mozart’s biography, and you get hooked, you’ll forgive its inaccuracies because of the introduction it made.

  10. Oh dear! If we put aside any historical input that may contain inaccuracies or bias… what are we left with? 😀 I think we learn as much form the biased works as from the “neutral” ones, because WHY humans hold biases is part of our nature and worth exploring. And I don’t think it’s as hard to un-learn or re-learn things as we sometimes pretend it is. For example, we all grew up on a steady diet of the-civil-war-was-about-slavery, when in fact, that was only a small part of a much larger economic and philosophical debate. Children need stories and heroes, and as they get older, we can get into some of the dirtier details.

    But that’s not what I stopped back in for! I just wanted to address the original post and the periscope form Julie Bogart. I’ve not listened to a LOT of her stuff. I’m a huge fan. She is definitely NOT an unschooler, and while she doesn’t come right out and condemn it, she does say that for her family, it was not a method that worked. Her message seems to be, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Yes, make sure they are tracking in their skill subjects, but then let them explore the feast!

  11. Sorry for commenting and not having listened to the (whole) periscope. ?But i read the fascinating discussion and want to add something.

    By doing routines you can teach your kids a lot.
    Responsibility. Discipline. Constancy.
    And my favourite not educational aktivity is watching other people. How they react, how they deal with difficult situations. I have learnd so much doing this!
    There are so many things to learn in this world, in so different areas. Kids can do anything, they will always learn something.
    But maybe i’m getting it wrong with the meaning of education, then please correct me!
    For me, the main thing is to teach my kids how this world works (i’m not homeschooling). This means to learn reading and writing, but also that things have to be done and i’ts not always fun (like cleaning).

    1. Yes, I think we all agree that nearly everything is educational and therefore valuable. We are teaching all the time by how we live our lives. I think “educational” is sometimes used in a narrow sense and sometimes in a broad sense and that can lead to confusion. Thanks for the great discussion!

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