Surprising Truth #9: There will be pain and confusion

…mostly for the parents.

At Acton, we re-commit ourselves each day to let the children solve their own problems and take responsibility for their own choices. This means inevitably we will watch them suffer through moments of confusion, disappointment and even failure.

It would be much easier for us grownups to tell them where to be and what to do. Self-directed learning is so messy. We could have their pencils sharpened for them and their work lined up for them each day. We could tell them how much time to spend  reading their books and how many math problems to do. We could even tell them to be quiet.

Ahhh, it would be so peaceful and organized. Students in line – check!

But where would this lead us in the long run? From where would the perseverance, resilience, creativity, critical thinking, joy in discovery come? As Albert Einstein said: “Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”  

I don’t like the pain I feel when one of my boys tearfully tells me of his day. Whether it’s not understanding math or having a difficult experience with a friend, the tears and simple honesty cut deep in my heart. I want to fix it. Maybe I’ll just call Kaylie and tell her he needs help. Maybe I’ll call the other mom and together we can solve the issue in the friendship.  It would make me feel so much better to do something.

Listening alone without taking action goes against my problem-solving, protective mother mode. But just last week Sam told me between sobs, “Mom, before I tell you anything, I want you to know this is one of the times I’m venting like you told me to. This is not a time for you to say anything or do anything. I don’t want to tell you if you try to do something about it.”

So begins the letting go and the freeing up. So continues the hard work of letting him live his own hero’s journey.

As we move into the Mother’s Day weekend, I hope you hear the silent voice that says, “Mom, thanks for letting me do it on my own.”

This video clip from the movie Ray shows how the mother of Ray Charles stopped herself from helping her son so that he could find the joy of discovery:

You are unique and wise parents. You continue to inspire me. Thank you for letting your children discover how to be their own best teacher. This is the gift of a lifetime.