My kids are fascinated with the idea of, and workings of, a Utopian society right now. We are reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and we have had many discussions, for the last month or two, about our own ideas of a utopia, what would work, what couldn’t, what shouldn’t even if it could. This talking has lasted hours and wasn’t just superficial ramblings, either. These convos have really challenged us in our outlooks and behaviour to really define what we want and value, and how we can practice those values in our everyday lives. It has even translated into ideas of business ventures!
“An absolutely new idea is one of the rarest things known to man.” – Sir Thomas More
With all of these discussions the thing that always comes up, is not just how to implement these ideas but how to share them with others. Everyone has unanimously agreed that it can’t be forced upon others by “preaching” or insistence that our way is “more right”, but must be a reflection of ourselves. The best persuasion is to show the success of a principle or thing, and the best way to do that is to prove it is a success in one’s own life.
Before you dismiss this Utopia idea as just wishful thinking, I will challenge you by saying it is not the idea of Utopia that has made the greatest impression on my family, but rather the principles and ideas that were spawned by the discussions. The most powerful principle that made a difference is the power of the mind and thoughts.
I’m not sure if everyone can relate to this or not, but I have been living under the impression that I have to change my children’s behaviour to be a success as a parent. They should behave, be courteous, know how to work and study, help other people, etc. etc. . If they don’t do these things we are judged and held accountable because we aren’t tough enough, nice enough, didn’t instill ENOUGH something in them to make them turn out alright. It’s all a lie and we have been conditioned to believe it. I have blamed much of some of my children’s challenging behaviours on Fetal Alcohol Exposure. I am now going to backtrack and say that I, and the psychiatric professionals, are wrong…sooooo wrong!
“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”
― Sir Thomas More, Utopia
What if these little people were just guided and accepted and not changed deep down inside? What if we stopped giving them labels and started having meaningful dialogues with children that allow them to develop their own beliefs about the world and it’s inhabitants without being weighed down by everything that makes us not enough? (Yep, it comes back to that other post about being enough, doesn’t it? It’s all intertwined…) It can be done! I, the parent, can actually stop tormenting myself that my kid isn’t as perfect as someone else’s and stop beating myself up when I lose my temper and raise my voice, or even stop losing sleep when one of them doesn’t have then skillset that they are “supposed” to have by a certain age.
Finding beauty in unusual places…Seamus (right) and the Fox
That doesn’t mean that we never tell our children that something is wrong or unkind, but instead of a harsh demand to do better, we can tell ourselves that these are people, too, and sometimes they have the right to exercise their personal likes and dislikes. I don’t believe that we are supposed to raise our children to be someone that we like, or are proud of – is it a necessity to say that you are proud of their achievements? – just as we don’t have to be disappointed when they don’t fit the criteria for success set forth by the world. We shouldn’t set the goals for our kids, but collaborate with them to discover the goals they want and support them in achievement. Being satisfied that they are their own person, following their own hearts, knowing their own minds, able to make decisions that they can live with should be the standards we strive for. Giving them the opportunities to learn and grow and be supported in these efforts is the #1 priority we should have in our families.
When we started to discuss the responsibility we each have to make our own choices, that we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and we have the power to direct our thoughts into action, the whole world began to take on a new hue. No longer are we impotent audience members watching the movie of time play out on a screen, and we are more than participants, but actual screenwriters of the dialogue, directors who can call the shots of our roles, the choreographers in this dance called life!
The Fox loving up the Bear
If some of this sounds too “new age-y” or “permissive parenting”, maybe a little more effort should be put into the discovery of what our own ideas regarding what parenting really is and what we hope to accomplish. It isn’t enough to just say I want them to be this, that or the other thing. Do we really want to force our ideas and ideologies on the future generations or do we want to make certain that they equipped to think, act and reach the potential that they have born with? To teach ourselves to change our thoughts is to change our lives, which then allows us to change the world.
Some of our conversations have centered around how we think, some around how we act, and some around what we believe. This has led to a new dynamic in what the Clan uses as a diagnostic for our lives. When we hammer it out, discuss it all, try out the ideas, words and actions we use before we put them on display, we were able to really make some radical changes, some that weren’t supposed to happen for some of my children according to the diagnosis and prognosis given them. I would like to tell a little of how I have seen amazing changes in my children when they learned of, and began to harness, the power of thought, or rather, their own power. I will only give a brief examples, but they are significant and indicative of the possibility of change and higher thinking.
“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” – Sir Thomas More
One of my children was diagnosed as a narcissist. He has made change that has lasted longer than ever before by harnessing the power of positive thinking, prayer and a undertaking to learn about living WITH people, instead of just existing. He now looks on in wonder that other people have feelings and he can get involved in discussions that don’t revolve around him and his wants, likes, needs and be respectful of others choices. He is able to have a discussion, and not just a monologue about himself. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but this is huge for him (and us! It’s hard to be interested in someone who only values themselves!)! He is now more truthful, more interactive, more helpful and definitely more enjoyable to be around.
Another child has less anxiety and even after travelling to a new country and housing, has had less of the “usual issues”, i.e. increased arguing, insomnia, etc., that usually follows changes.
The Caveman Clan on the move. Belgrade, Serbia 2016
“[how can anyone] be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer woolen thread than theirs. After all, those fine clothes were once worn by a sheep, and they never turned it into anything better than a sheep.”
― Thomas More, Utopia
Have we discovered Utopia? I think we have identified what it means to us and applied the principles that make “utopia” something to aspire to or endeavor toward, rather than a far off dream-like idea of perfection that could never be attained. As we apply the principles we have defined for ourselves, as individuals and as a family, we have found some slices of heaven and we grow stronger in the knowledge that we don’t have just let life happen, but can actually make history and prepare for the future just by making good use of our time in the present.
Looking thru the keyhole… Bar, Montenegro 2016
* ED Note
The Fox gave name to our ramblings and ideas about finding the beauty and peace in life by calling the discussions “Utopics”. We will refer to them in this way from here forward…