Something wasn’t right.
My normally close teenage son was checking out, snapping at me, being unhelpful and bordering on being a little “mean”. Miro was clearly agitated and despondent, a state I was not accustomed to witnessing. But I recognized that his frustration and behavior were certainly a symptom of something else. But first, we had to get there, through the behavior to uncover what was really going on. Clearly it was my job not to fall into reaction mode in response to his behavior, or nothing would ever be resolved.
For the first few days, I managed to stay accepting, calm and loving, biting my lip, trying not respond to his nastiness. But as some point, I failed, I reacted in response to his mood questioning “what the hell was wrong is wrong with you?” As soon as I lost my composure, I knew that we couldn’t wait any longer to address what was really going on.
That evening, Miro and I talked about his recent the behavior. Miro was remorseful about the way he had been acting towards me and luckily didn’t take a defensive stance. For that I was grateful. Throughout Miro’s life, we have been practicing non-violent communication and had learned about what triggers both of us throughout the years.
During our conversation, Miro and I both agreed that the “behavior” wasn’t really the problem, rather the result of something else, a symptom of what was really bothering him. Together we sat, both filled with emotions and I listened, held space for him to explore the things he was feeling deep down inside.
At 14 years old, I recognized Miro’s body, blooming, filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions, even hormones running amok. I assured Miro that I honored and recognized all he was going through. I listened with compassion and recalled how difficult my teen years were for me too.
Miro spoke his truth. He said was unhappy, feeling depressed, feeling alone and isolated.
With tears flowing from my eyes, I listened. He talked. Together we talked for hours.
After our conversation, I wondered if this lifestyle was the cause of his feeling of isolation. I wondered if I was responsible. I wonder if we had chosen a difference path if he would be experiencing this.
Our lifestyle isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t not easy being an outsider in a foreign country. Nor is it easy being a teenager. All I could do is sit with him and allow him the space to feel what he was feeling and let him know it was very real. It was not my place in that moment to solve the problem but I assured him that together we seek out a solution over the coming days.
Feeling what we are feeling should not involve shame under any circumstance. I know this intellectually. But emotionally I still fight my own demons surrounding loneliness. I feel shame when I admit I am not that strong super-woman I try to live up to and I do want to find a partner to ride this wave with us. Knowing how intense feelings of loneliness can be, I have assured Miro he is not alone. I get it. I really do.
He is the person I want to protect. He is the person I want to experience and share the world with. He is the person I am trying to build a future with (and for). He is the person I desire the greatest things for. And as you can imagine, my heart breaks as he goes through his struggles and feels his own loneliness.
And yes I realize, that experiencing intense feelings are an important part of Miro’s own personal development. But still, it’s not easy.
When we lived in the States, Miro didn’t really have a huge network of friends before we left either. To be fair, he was 10 when we left. But even then, Miro’s greatest complaint was that he felt so different than most of the other kids his age. I think of the connections he has made through his lifetime and realized he always made friends easier with older kids. (I too, was the same growing up. ) Through our travels, most of the schooled children in a variety of different countries do seem to have a “different state of mind” than him. He had a group of friends in Mancora, in the north of Peru, which prompted him to write this post called Why I dislike Children. Among other reasons, Miro finds the schooled children he came across to be less creative, less interested in intellectual explorations, and less articulate about their personal interests. Miro wrote this article called My First Conference Rocks in which he explains “finding his tribe”.
But still, I wonder, has our lifestyle, my support in Miro’s unschooling journey helped lead to further isolation?
The next day, Miro and I talked about finding some solutions together.
One of the ideas that came, perhaps spend a couple of months with his father in Ohio? We thought, maybe that would provide the opportunity for Miro to connect with others his age. Miro said he was willing to try, so I contacted Miro’s father. But a week after putting the idea out to his dad, I still have not received a response one way or another. I am Miro’s custodial parent. Unfortunately, I do not receive support from Miro’s father either, neither on a financial nor on an emotional level. That being our reality, we need to work this out on our own.
Miro and I talked about hypothetically moving to the States. (A possibility, I am not fond of.) We recognized that if we were to take on that option, we would still have the challenge of connecting with other home schoolers or unschoolers to create community. We certainly would be closer to other potential “communities” but then there would still be the challenge of making friends.
But it’s the US…
Then my blunt question to Miro, “do you want to return to the United States and go back living a conventional life?”
His answer, a clear emphatic, “No.”
Miro does not want to go back to the US to live. He’s clear about that. Equally, Miro does not want to go to conventional school. He’s clear about that too, as he says over and over that he loves unschooling. And he assures me, he likes the freedom of traveling.
Next, I suggested to Miro that we reach out to our community, online. I am a member of many homeschooling and unschooling groups on both facebook and yahoo groups. I am also the member of many other groups that support families who travel. I figured if they all had children there would likely be some that were at home too, maybe even some around Miro’s age. Perhaps some of them might even be interested in some of the same things as Miro is. Maybe some might be willing to connect online as well. At least it’s something.
And so I put the message out there. Again, I had to remind Miro (and myself) that there is no shame to share our desires as part of the human race. There is no shame in wanting connection. There is no shame in saying we desire “community” either. There is no shame to seek support in order to learn and be supported. There is no shame in asking for help.
So we asked.
The community response was amazing. Miro added about 8 new friends on facebook. Although he’s a little shy, he hopes to connect and create a circle of friends across the world. I hope he finds some connections this way. For now.
Being a single mom is not easy. Choosing our lifestyle is not an easy path. And if we hadn’t chosen this lifestyle, I would almost guarantee we would have a different set of problems, no better, no worse than the ones we have now. The beauty about our lifestyle is the ability to choose what we want to experience every day. We have the freedom to choose something else if it is not working.
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
So we are looking at lots of different possibilities now, open to where the world will lead us. We both love traveling and are feeling the itch to explore some more, new and exotic places. But we also are committed to stay here in Peru for another 6 or 7 months. Together, we are producing a project we both believe in so deeply, called, Project World School Peru. It is no coincidence really this project is about the very thing we are both struggling with right now: community. The project focuses on having learning experiences together and building relationships as an integral part of the process.
So for the next half year or so, we focus on building our vision and fulfilling our dream. Hopefully our passion can keep us fueled during the next few months and we both can find our way to combat loneliness while we explore options for the future.