Thursday, September 9, 2010

Balancing Acts

As of last week, I am officially a home-schooler. Or, as of the moment I returned the call from La Ballona Elementary School and told the secretary that my daughter wouldn't be attending second grade. "Good luck" she said, when I shared my plan. Then I was officially a home-schooler.

Two weeks into being entirely responsible for the education for another human being, I am conscious that the discussion around education in contemporary society is based in anxiety. Anxiety about the future. Anxiety about the fact that the United States/the American Dream is not what it once was. Anxiety about how to survive. About how to live. About what a person needs to thrive. Anxiety about the absences or flaws in one's own life that one doesn't want to pass on to the next generation.

I am guilty of all of this.

I surf many mind-waves in the course of the average day. I take a deep breath and visualize a wave rolling up beneath my board, catching that wave and speeding towards shore with the force of the tide beneath me. During the good moments of teaching, my children are the wave and I can catch their force and ride it, too, in the right direction. Being with children, like being with water, is about being present.

But as a surfing instructor laid it out for me one day; surfing is a balance between surrender and the aggressive attack of something larger and more powerful than one's self. And such it is with children as well.

The unending question then, for both water and little humans, is when to be present and go with the flow and when to bring certainty, force and intention? When do I discipline my daughter to sit up straight, brush her teeth and do the things she doesn't want to do but are important, i.e. math? When do I nurture her inclination to dawdle around tree roots and speak in a quiet voice to insects and fish?

Which will help her more to thrive in an increasingly uncertain world? How do I get this thing to balance?


  1. The feeling of being present is the best feeling. And you're right, it happens with kids just like with surfing. I seek that in sports --when you're on the water (or the mountain), you have to be present, you have no choice. It's such a relief (and a high) when my brain goes there, to that place where it notices everything, where time slows down and I can feel everything and see everything. I wish I was always in that space with my kids. I can't be tired or distracted or pissed off. It's much harder than with that wave, because the wave forces you to tune in.

  2. Like you I'm often on a mind wave. But I never thought about comparing the necessity (and the payoff) of being present when you're out in the water to the ways that such presence pays off when I'm with the kids. So often I suddenly "snap into it" and realize I've been mentally somewhere else when I should be "with" my children. I think I crave surfing in a way that I don't crave "fatherhood" partly because of the way that it wipes every other concern away and leaves me 100% focused. But I'd like to be able to apply that focus more often to parenting.

  3. Matt, I hadn't realized you'd been writing all these comments until I figured out there was a comments tab on my dashboard that would let me see all of them. Hello, learning curve.

    Don't "crave" fatherhood? I hope you're not beating yourself up about that one.Where surfing may wipe away every concern, doesn't parenthood confront you with every concern and then throw a few extra in just for kicks?