Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on May 16, 2009 at 01:34 AM

People write books for children and other people write about the books written for children but I don’t think it’s for the children at all. I think that all the people who worry so much about the children are really worrying about themselves, about keeping their world together and getting the children to help them do it, getting the children to agree that it is indeed a world. Each new generation of children has to be told: ‘This is a world, this is what one does, one lives like this.’ Maybe our constant fear is that a generation of children will come along and say: ‘This is not a world, this is nothing, there’s no way to live at all.’ — Russell Hoban, Turtle Diary

thank you penni for sharing this quote!


Comment by Lynn on May 16, 2009 at 03:09 AM

What a beautiful quotation! Thank you, Lori (and Penni).

Comment by molly on May 16, 2009 at 03:12 AM

look at me lori! i'm on the open thread :)

a friend and i were just talking the other day about raising our children (in some ways) the way we were raised. but i've also been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which we raise our children differently from the way we were raised - intentionally. not that the way we were raised was wrong, it's just that we really want our children to inhabit a different world. i'd love my children to create a world of their own, then show me how to live in it.

in so many ways i'm a passive parent, simply because i love to sit back and see where nature leads my children. it's a fascinating experiment.

Comment by Meredith on May 16, 2009 at 03:27 AM

This is a very interesting quote indeed! It is contrary to what our culture says isn't it, that we are the model of our world and that the children should emulate it :) I can only hope to scratch the surface of showing my children what a privilege it is to live on our God given planet and to respect it enough to live within our means so that they can enjoy it after we have passed on...

And maybe along the way we'll all learn a little from each other :)

Happy weekend Lori, thought provoking for sure!!! Blessings,

Comment by Cordelia on May 16, 2009 at 09:54 AM

Related but different, is this funny thing we do with tv. We started out "no" or "little" tv in our family, but have devolved into "mostly tv shows that we watched when we were kids." As though somehow the junk food tv of our childhood is more nutritious, or better for your soul because of the nostalgia factor. I really do think it is, though. At various points, we've enjoyed the Cosby show's family dynamics, old Tom and Jerry and Roadrunner cartoons, and some Jetsons, of course.

For me, it IS about sharing our worldview, not as the only acceptable one, but as ours, as a lens through which we've enjoyed life.

Comment by amy c on May 16, 2009 at 02:46 PM

Molly is so right on this - passive parenting with intention reaps rewards of self-realized little people. I've watched her parent, she is not passive so much as relaxed and aware.
I came full strength up against the (annoying, embarassing) truth of this quotation when faced with the possibility of preschool for very good reasons. luckily I had spent a lot of time getting clear, thanks in many ways to open forum and people like Molly and our own hs group and having to "defend" our homeschooling to friends and family that I had a clear grip on our motives and desires for him - as much as some reasons had to do with avoiding pains of my own past, more strong were the desires for him to be a competent, confident person who enjoyed his life - and the language program is a key for that.
It's interesting, I still think of us as a homeschooling family, but my understanding of what homeschooling means for him and for us has revolutionized about 115%. It's much less about avoidance and a lot more about embracing. It has been really nurturing as a parent to be able to step out of that place of fear and protectionims that really has a lot more to do with (as said) my own fears, etc. and just follow his lead a little. He commands enormous strength in this regard; he doesn't go into a situation (ie public school) full of baggage. I think the first day I talked to the IEP coordinator I told her I had a sincere distruct of schooling and it would be challenging for me to temper myself in the face of what our son needed. She was nothing but flexible and kind to this end, and his enthusiasm and growth has ben the best antidote to letting go.

Comment by Theresa on May 16, 2009 at 09:12 PM

When I read quotes like this one I think about flower gardens. Two types of gardens, actually.
The ones where the flowers have been lovingly tended,watered and fertilized, but allowed to grow according to their own innate directions, to seed freely, and assume the shape nature intended. This kind of garden is a little wild, a little unruly, but full of beautiful surprises in unexpected places.

The other type of garden is manicured, trimmed, gracefully inhabiting a perfectly balanced and artful composition. Looking at this garden creates a sense of peace because everything is just as it should be, a classic ideal, flawless.

Both types are lovely, really.
One type is lovely because of innate beauty of the flowers themselves.
The other is lovely because of the vision of the gardener.

Now, if my children are my beautiful wildflowers,what type of gardener do I want to be? Do I want to train them to my particular vision of beauty? Or do I tend them lovingly but otherwise let them grow according to their own design, and learn to appreciate the beauty that is their own?

Comment by Alison Kerr on May 17, 2009 at 01:10 AM

Finding a quote related to children's books for your open thread interested me a lot. Being in the book business, I have quite a few opportunities to observe both parents and children choosing books.

I find that kids are best at choosing their own books. What a surprise! Unfortunately most parents think it is their job to choose the 'best' books for their children. I think there are a variety of reasons:
- they think they are smarter than their kids
- they want to buy a book they'd like for themselves, while appearing generous
- they have an agenda for their child's learning
- they want to control the purse strings

Maybe this is the reason I'd rather do the reading incentive events, where kids are in charge of choosing their own books, than the home parties where parents choose. I just can't get excited about letting parents choose the books. If a parent chooses a book their child doesn't like, or simply isn't ready for, they judge it a 'bad book', or they might blame me for providing a poor service.

Since when did you need to be an adult to know your own mind? Then by the time kids have been through school half of them have no clue what they think or feel any more. Grrrrrr....

And what's with the children's book awards where parents, librarians, teachers, etc choose the winning books? I'll admit that some librarians understand pretty well what kids like, but what about letting the kids determine the winners? If we don't it must be because we have some kind of educational agenda to fulfill when we choose the award winners.

Comment by Nancy on May 17, 2009 at 01:41 AM

yowzer, what a quote. I've gotta read some more russell hoban! this really dovetails with the personal (adult?) reading I've been doing lately -- about letting go of security, finding peace with the fluidity and loss of it all, coming to "there's no way to live at all." I think my kids get this instinctually and the trick is to not get in the way. gotta read this quote in context -- it's a thought-provoker! xo Nancy in NC (I've been reading, Lori, just absent from comments. quietly waiting for you to drive down here and shed your light already :)

Comment by Dawn on May 17, 2009 at 03:22 AM

Wow... Theresa just blew me away! That is beautiful!

Comment by Kat on May 17, 2009 at 03:16 PM

what a powerful quote!

At first I read it in my idiosyncratic way of course, namely as our children's rejection of the damages we've done: this is no way to live, that "way" being not the way *you*' have lived - when you were children, or even most of your adult lives - but the way of life you've left possible for us. (I'm a doomer.) So the quote sparked in me fear and shame.

Thank goodness for the comments to get me out of that despair (again) and show me the wonderful hope in it: the hope of freedom!

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go and install some rough plumbing in my daughter's playhouse...

Comment by Elise Edwards on May 17, 2009 at 10:37 PM

I've been thinking about this one all weekend... We starting watching Into the Wild on Friday night (haven't finished it yet) - I was thinking about how Alexander (the protagonist) faced his reality with 'this is not a world', and consequently set out to create a completely different reality/world for himself. I know the ending isn't going to be 'happy', but he is/was living a very authentic life... Don't know where I'm going with that, but the big themes of the movie have been on my mind!

I love your analogy, Theresa. That one type of garden or flower isn't 'right' or more beautiful... I gravitate toward the wild and need to remember that it's okay to appreciate the cultivated too.

Comment by Andrea on May 19, 2009 at 11:19 PM

ugh, I struggle with this. I am always checking out books about how to talk to my children, how to teach my children how to discipline or not my children and sometimes the information I get is stuff I already know deep inside. But I want to change things, I want my boy to listen to me more and I want to ensure that I am talking to them right. But I am not perfect and slip up. I really think that I don't need a how to but need some kind of inner grounding that will put me at ease to know what I am doing is O.K and my kids will be themselves and their entire personality and future doesn't only hinge on me.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 20, 2009 at 11:56 PM

sorry, peeps — i abandoned this poor open thread to celebrate my birthday and go camping in the smokies! but i’m back now and i promise i am reading … and i’ll put up an apology tomorrow and point back here …


Comment by Lori Pickert on May 22, 2009 at 12:25 AM

thank you, lynn! :^)

molly, shoot! you came on the open thread and i abandoned you. :^)

i don't think it's passive parenting -- i think it's a conscious choice to step back and allow your children more freedom and control! :^)

thank you, meredith, and i hope you had a great weekend as well!

theresa, you know, that makes me think of something i read years ago when the boys were babies about how there are no difficult children, there are only situations where the style of parenting doesn't appropriately *match* the child. so, a laid-back child can be aggravating to a high-strung mom, and etc.

i think the problem is when we are absolutely set on a particular style of garden and we aren't willing to wait and see what is sprouting there. :^)

alison, interesting thoughts -- thank you!

nancy -- i was in NC this weekend!! :^D

i really do think that each generation tries to control the one coming after, telling them what they need to do and how they need to do it, but sometimes (not always, historically) the new generation says "hold on a minute -- we want change."

thank you! i'm glad you're lurking about! :^)

kat, i was thinking of the quote more in the sense of -- here is how you live: go to school, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, buy a house, work to retirement...

it takes a strong parent to focus on making their children strong and capable and then letting them choose their own way!

(hope the plumbing went well! :^)

andrea, sometimes i think reading those how-to books, the most important thing is to listen for that small inner voice that says "yes, this is what i *already think*" -- sometimes you just need someone to validate what you already know is right!

also, i think if you send the message to your children that you are just as flawed and liable to make mistakes as the next human, but you care deeply about doing what's right for them (and yourself), they will respect you and grow to see that they, too, can continue striving for their best selves no matter what the obstacles.

Comment by Amy on May 23, 2009 at 05:25 PM

I've been waiting for you to come back! I missed you. ;) Glad you had a great time.

Alison's comment got me thinking, because I *do* exert some control over what my kids read--very, very little, but some, and that's mainly because there are so many awful, horrible kids books out there, with bad writing, or that talk down to kids, or that are preachy, or that are simply long in-print commercials for TV or movie characters. When my older son was nearing 3, I'd say, I started to talk to him about why I didn't like some books as much as others. And while I don't *censor* my kids, I do think it's completely within my responsibility as a parent to help them judge what we read. (And incidentally, some of the worst books we've received as gifts were from a relative who is a librarian. I agree with Alison that being a librarian does not ensure good judgment in books.)

Whenever we go to the library or a bookstore to pick out books, I make sure we have lots of time. At the library, the boys pick out a big pile of books and then we read as many as I can out loud together. Then we decide which ones to take home. If there are some I don't like, I tell them why. In the bookstore, they have free reign over how to spend their dollars or gift card or our dollars, if that's what we're doing, but we do offer some guidance. We might point out how this book has more of this kind of information, or do you like that better? Those pictures, or is the information presented in a way you like better over here? And so on. If I think it's a book that will get read once and tossed aside, I might mention that. But it was a lot of fun a few weeks ago taking my 7yo to spend a gift card and watching him spread out all the Tintin books, trying to decide. I'd never choose Tintin for ME. But it's right up his alley. ;)

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 23, 2009 at 06:32 PM

i have to agree about the librarian recommendations — i know at least two librarians who are wonderful at recommending books, but i also have experience with some who have left me astounded by their lack of knowledge (children’s librarians!).

i let my boys pick out anything they want at the library, but i am selective about what we buy for our home library. you are so right, there are some *terrible* books out there for children. i am a huge winnie-the-pooh fan — *classic* pooh — and the new stuff is just loathsome.

the boys will occasionally ask for me to buy a book for them, and they know i will only buy something if it will be read again and again. they wouldn’t even bother asking me to buy anything else. (they rarely ask anyway.)

Comment by Alison Kerr on May 27, 2009 at 04:49 PM

I can't praise libraries enough and the helpful staff, who just love to answer questions and can take you right to what you need, are indispensible.

Funnily enough, my kids never got excited about picking their own books at the library. Maybe it's just too much choice. I also think that seeing the spine of a book isn't that enticing. My solution is just to pick out a pile of books with the expectation that a few of them will be chosen for reading at home. I'm sure I got fussed about the whole thing at one time, a little irritated that they didn't read my favorites, but I've learned my lesson. I wouldn't want to read every book put in front of me, even though I can't articulate why. Kids are no different. Provided your library allows checkout of piles of books, just grab a ton and let your kids choose at home.

And, yes, we too only buy the books that want to be read several times, which seem to get fewer by the year. Also, my kids are very careful when it is their money or gift voucher being spent. Nothing is as nice as a brand new book!

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