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Calm in the face of chaos, otherwise known as modern parenting

I just got back from a refreshing and fun homeschooling conference. Homeschooling conferences are their own sort of thing: part conference, part costume party, part mass therapy session. This one was no exception.

During the Q&A part of a talk I gave, one of the moms in the audience told me something like “I feel so reassured by how calm you are.”

I was a bit taken aback.

People have said this about me before, and all I can think is that I must be a really great accidental actress. It’s not like I try to put on a persona or try to broadcast something that’s not true, but calm?


My sister gave me a weird, tingly facial mask for my birthday. Calm. I am calm. As long as I can get those crawling bugs washed off my face Right Now, I am calm!

My sister gave me a weird, tingly facial mask for my birthday. Calm. I am calm. As long as I can get those crawling bugs washed off my face Right Now, I am calm!

Like all parents today, I feel like there is way too much coming at me, way too fast. Just a few facts of modern parenting will suffice:

  • We grew up in a world that seemed like it was going to last forever (or at least “billions and billions of years,” said in a Carl Sagan voice). Our kids are living with global warming and homegrown terrorism.
  • We grew up with toys that seemed wonderful and sometimes magical, but we knew how they worked. Our kids play with magic of a very different sort every time they turn on a screen.
  • We grew up in a world where you had a menu to choose from—the TV Guide and the limits of what your town (and the Sears catalogue) had to sell you. Our kids can get everything, nearly everything they can imagine. Instantly, or at least with two-day free shipping.

Our kids don’t just have their own slang for the world we know; they have their own world which didn’t exist when we were kids. The rate of change is fantastic. The rate at which we are acquiring knowledge about ourselves and the natural world seems boundless.

My parents had Dr. Spock to turn to for advice. We’ve got Drs. Galore—not just MDs but PhDs, LMFTs, PsyDs, and PhGs (Philosophers of Google, that is). Everyone is telling us that whatever we’re doing is wrong, and they’ve got all the answers.

Our kids are being diagnosed with disorders that didn’t exist when we were kids. We just used to have weird kids. Now we’ve got Asperger’s replaced with Autistic, Sensory Processing Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bipolar Disorder…

We’ve got more disorders than we’ve got orders.

We’ve got public schools, private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, schools of choice, and homeschooling.

Heck, when I was a kid, you just went to school.

And if you’re homeschooling, you’ve got Christian homeschooling, secular homeschooling, eclectic homeschooling, classical homeschooling, unit studies homeschooling, not to mention outschooling and hybrid schooling.

Calm? Am I calm yet?

We parents have too much choice. We have too much input. We have too many people telling us to do too many things. We are both supposed to sign our kids up for Kumon and let them play in the mud. We are both supposed to inspire our kids and teach them to toe the line. We are both supposed to give them strong self-esteem and not praise them too much.

It’s a lot. It’s a very large lot in which we are playing at parenting, never sure we are doing the right thing.

I keep coming back to the word “calm.” If I appear calm, it’s not a charade. It’s not me trying to reassure you that it will be OK.

Calm is just me in the midst of the chaos we call modern life. I know that there’s very little I can do outside of that little space I operate within, so I just do what I can. If I can help one other parent feel self-assured enough to be a slightly better parent, I guess I’ve done my job in the world. If I send my kids out into the chaos with a few tools to use for their survival, even better.

I am calm, because what’s the point of adding to the chaos? We have no idea where this world is going, so we might as well enjoy what we have around us and try to spread a little bit of goodness out from our tiny space.

Calm. I am calm.

Posted in Culture, Homeschooling, Parenting.

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