PAM: Welcome! I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca and today I’m here with Anna Brown. Hi, Anna.
ANNA: Hey, Pam.
PAM: So, this month in the Living Joyfully Network, our theme has been Cultivating Trust. And trust, at least to me, is one of the pillars of unschooling. I really can’t imagine unschooling thriving without trust. So, we’re going to talk about four different aspects of trust that we’ve seen over the years and how we can cultivate them. Let’s dive right in.
The first aspect is cultivating trust with our children.
And first, I just wanted to mention, I say “with” purposefully, because it’s not just about us gaining trust in our kids. Their trust in us is just as important. And contrary to conventional expectations, our children don’t trust us just because we’re their parent. They come to trust us because we’ve shown them that we are worthy of their trust. Keep that in mind.
And trust weaves through our relationships with our kids in a couple of ways. There’s the trust that our kids are doing their best in each moment, because context matters. I mean, that’s something we talk about again and again, with lots of people on the podcast. We’re doing our best in the moment, but there can be lots of other things going on, so that even if it’s different than it was last time in a similar situation, there are reasons for that. We trust that they’re doing their best.
And then there’s the trust in their choices. And that comes with getting to know and understand them really well so that we can see that, free to make choices, the choices that they’re making make sense to them. They won’t necessarily be the same choice that we’d make if we were in their shoes, but it makes sense to them.
And when they feel that trust from us, when they know in their bones that we have their back, it really helps them to more clearly hear their inner voice, because our voice isn’t in there, with our little judgments or our little thoughts. We’re not confusing the matter. We’re trusting them. We’re supporting them. And they can more clearly hear their inner voice and make choices that make the most sense to them. See how it goes full circle?
We can cultivate our trust in our children in various ways. As I mentioned, getting to know them really well by being open and approachable. When they come to us with their questions and their requests for help, that helps us get to know them better. And by giving them space to make choices and seeing how things play out, that helps us see and learn how that choice made sense for them. These experiences help us better understand our kids and their lives. And, over time, we see that consistency of their choices, which helps us to be more trusting and comfortable with their future choices, even in moments when we don’t understand their choice yet.
And we can cultivate our children’s trust in us by being responsive to them, consistently being available when they need our help and support, by being loving, showing our love consistently in words and actions, letting them see our eyes light up when we see them, and by being trustworthy, helping them accomplish whatever they’re trying to do, instead of trying to cajole them into meeting our goals or needs.
So, it looks like fully supporting them in their endeavors, because trust isn’t about pushing them to be independent, but about actively helping them with the things they want help with. So, it could be help doing things, help processing things, help navigating challenging things. That’s where the trust lies. It’s not in, “I trust them. So, I’m going to go off over here.” It is cultivating that trust by being supportive, by being helpful, but helping them in the ways that they want help.
I know that was a bit of a long introduction, but I wanted to hit those pieces, because I think it really is so valuable and there are so many ways that we can cultivate trust with our children.
ANNA: Right. And I’ve been so excited about this month in the Network, because I’m with you. Trust is absolutely this pillar, this foundational piece when we’re building this family, this environment that we want. And it’s that foundation from which we can then explore the world together and develop the deep, connected relationships that we talk about so much on the podcast.
And I think we can all think about how it feels to not trust someone and how difficult it can be to move through that with that person when there isn’t the trust there. And so, that kind of helps us refocus on why we want to do this work to cultivate trust, because it is so important.
And so, for me, one of the things I do is I really look at, how can I be trustworthy? Because, like you’ve just said, this is about them trusting us. We don’t just automatically get the free trust pass because we’re the parent. Am I being true to my word? Am I truly listening or am I in my head thinking of the rebuttal or where I want the conversation to go?
Am I following through? This is a really important one, because we’re talking a lot of times about solutions and making agreements with multiple people. And so, sometimes somebody might push what they want to do to the next day so that we could get something done. And am I making sure that that’s a priority and that we’re following through when I say I’m going to do something?
And this is not about doing every single thing that’s ever mentioned. This came up on the Network. It’s not about that, but it’s about honoring your word when you say, “Yeah, we’ll get to the park tomorrow.” If that’s what the agreement was, I’m going to figure out a way for us to do that. And we’re hearing what they need, because that develops the trust, which allows them the flexibility in a solution-focused environment to say, “Okay. I know that while maybe I can’t have this thing or do this thing I want to do right now, it’ll be a priority later.” We may need to do this piece right now, but that give only happens when we’ve got the trust there that we’re going to keep working until everybody gets their needs met.
And I want to look at, am I second guessing or looking for problems? Because this is another big one. And I think we do it and it may be personality-driven. I want to solve things. I want to fix things and solve it. And so, we’re doing it from this place of love and helping, but it doesn’t feel great and it leaves the sense that we don’t trust them. Am I leaving space for different opinions? I can be strong. And so, making sure that it’s truly an open space for ideas and thoughts, that was really important to me, because I didn’t want to overpower the conversation as they’re bubbling up and trying to figure out, how do I feel about this and what do I want to do next?
And so, what was interesting about that is that, on the Network, as we were having these discussions, this led us into discussing judgment a bit more. And so, I’m going to go off in that direction and then give it back to you to see what bubbles up for you about that. So, how this came up is that currently David and I are watching Ted Lasso, and on one of the episodes, Ted shared this favorite quote and it was, “Be curious, not judgmental.” Full disclosure, he attributed it to Walt Whitman, who did not write that quote. So, I just want to say, I don’t want to perpetuate that, but I still loved it. So, I’ll just give it to Ted Lasso and their writers. “Be curious, not judgmental.”
I try not to spend any time judging other people, who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, how they should be doing something, what they shouldn’t be doing, whatever it is, because it’s so disconnecting. And I really want to keep the connection at the forefront. So, I can judge things for myself, like, how does this feel? Does this work for me? Is this healthy for me? Is this how I want to spend my time? But most people are going to buck against people telling them how to be or what to do or what to like or how they need to spend their time. Me included.
So, I want to be curious. I want to understand what they like, why they like it, why they’re making the decisions that I might not understand, like you touched on, without jumping in with why I think it’s good, bad, or otherwise, passing that judgment on their thoughts.
And, like I said, I do have strong opinions and I talk about why I make the choices I do, why I eat the way I do, why I avoid doctors, why we chose to unschool, why we left corporate America and took this less trodden path. I do many, many things that people don’t understand and I want to offer that courtesy to my children of curiosity, without judgment. I want to offer trust and connection instead, because with that connection, and this is what you touched on, too, we can continue to have conversations. We can learn more about one another.
And so, maybe a decision that I didn’t understand at all becomes more clear. Or maybe in them hearing me and then me hearing them, they can start to trust that and they go, “Huh. Maybe I do want to make an adjustment, because of the new information that I just got,” but they know that’s not an expectation. And they know that I’m not judging. We’re just talking and having conversations, but that only happens with this trust foundation. And I keep firmly rooted in the understanding that I do not know what’s best for anyone else. And I just would much rather stay in that curious, connected place as we build this trusting foundation.
PAM: Yeah. To me, judgment almost feels like the opposite or the flip side of trust. Just imagine when someone’s judging you, whether it’s your partner, whether it’s a friend and they’re saying, “Hey, I don’t like what you’re doing. I think you should do it this way,” et cetera.
And not judging doesn’t mean, like you said, that you’re not involved. Maybe the action is a little bit incongruent with what the person’s usual choices are. But this is the whole point. If we just come in and shut it down with judgment, we’re shutting down the conversation. We’re shutting down the learning. We’re shutting down their inner voice. We’re saying, “What you’re thinking is wrong. It’s bad. I don’t like it. And I want you to stop it.”
ANNA: And if it is, then we’re short circuiting them learning that.
PAM: Exactly. Because how many times are you in a spot and you want to go somewhere and there are three different ways you might get there, so you pick one and you’re going to try it? You’re robbing them of the opportunity to figure out and learn and figure out why it doesn’t work that well for them.
Again, you’re squashing their inner voice. You’re squashing their learning. They don’t get the chance to figure it out. It doesn’t mean you sit off to the side. Conversations are what we’re talking about. It’s like, “Oh, that’s curious. Why did you want to do that?” Or, “How can I help you with that?” when they trust you and feel your support.
If I don’t quite think that path is going to work out for them, I want them to take it as quick as possible so they figure it out. Sometimes it was that. Let me walk with you that way for a while, and let’s see what happens. And I think it’s going to turn out this way. It doesn’t always. But sometimes it does. And that learning when they make the connection personally is just so intensely better than when someone else tells them. It’s not an experience.
ANNA: And isn’t it the piece, too, where, we’ve talked about this before, but I think they’re safer as we have the connection.
So, say they’re making a choice that we’re feeling is a little sketchy. We’re not sure. But if we stay connected with them, then we’re there to help them if there’s a stumble or an issue. Whereas, if we stand in judgment over here, “Well, whatever. You’re going to do that and we’re just going to sit here, judging it,” they’re not going to come to us when something goes awry. They’re not going to come to us if it ends up being a wrong or bad choice for them, because it’s the, “I told you so.”
But we just don’t have to have that. We can just be like, “Maybe I don’t get it, but I want to support you. I’m right here. Let’s see.” And just being there with that loving presence, to me, makes them much safer than me short-circuiting their ability to make those critical decisions and to look at the decisions for themselves, because I’m not always going to be there to be judging what they’re doing. And so, it is part of them developing those skills. And that connection, I think, keeps them safer.
PAM: Exactly. And just imagine if we’ve judged something but they still want to make that choice. They still want to go down that path. So, they’re hiding it a little bit. They’re figuring out other ways to do it around our back and, exactly what you were talking about, there’s a good chance, number one, we’re not there to help them, to talk through things, to help them process things, to help them choose their next step. There’s also the avoiding the, “I told you so” and the fact that now they think, “I want to show that this was good for me. So, I’m going to stick to it so much longer,” than they would have if they were free to make the choice to go in a different direction.
So much about that. Well, we could talk about that for an entire episode, but I’m glad we touched on that, because that is, I think, a huge piece of the trust. It is hard to trust someone who’s constantly, or it doesn’t even need to be constant judgment, but if it happens enough, there’s fear that develops, like, “I don’t really want to share this piece, because they might not like it.” And then that just breeds more and more disconnection in the relationship.
Next, let’s talk about cultivating trust with our partner.
Interestingly, it’s very similar to what we just talked about, because with unschooling, it’s not about differentiating between people by age. We’re engaging with human beings. So, trust, judgment, all those pieces, getting to know them really well, all work and are valuable with our partner, too. Giving them that space to make their choices so that we truly see them in action rather than trying to get them to do what we think is right.
And I remember the first couple of years of marriage, that was a big one for me, because we all have ways that we do things and they feel right to us and they are right for us. Certainly in that moment, they’re right for us. But I think it is a nice layer to peel back, an important layer to peel back, to realize that everybody’s an individual and things make sense to them.
So, we can cultivate their trust in us, too, by being responsive and following through with our commitments to them. Oh, and I wanted to mention, because you mentioned that commitment. Knowing that that’s important to us, it helps us be more cognizant of the commitments we make.
Sometimes, especially with kids, it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, we’ll do that tomorrow,” just to kind of put it off. We can notice that. If I’m going to be careful to follow through on my commitments, I might notice how many times I’m saying, “Oh yeah, sure. We’ll do that. Oh yeah, sure. We’ll do that.” And if you’re noticing you’re overwhelmed with your commitments, I think it’s great to revisit, what are all these things that I’m committing to? Why am I committing to so much? Same with our partner.
And by showing our love consistently through our words and actions, by being trustworthy in general with them, that is a way we can cultivate the two-way trust with our partner.
ANNA: Yes. So, I think for me, the big takeaway here is that it is the same. And so, really hearing, taking an interest, assuming positive intent. But, interestingly, when we were talking about the judgment piece in the bit before, I thought I could think of people going, “Well, you’re overdoing with kids,” or, “Is that too much?” I can’t exactly articulate what I’m trying to say, but, but I thought, no, I do this with everyone.
I want to give this same grace to a friend who’s trying something that maybe I don’t agree with. Or my partner who’s doing something. I want to just be that trusted person who’s a sounding board and, “Yes, let’s see what happens,” and whatever. So, I feel like this is how I want to relate to humans. It isn’t just about kids. I want to be that person who can cheerlead them along the way, can be there as a sounding board, but also not be judging every step they’re taking, because it is so disconnecting.
And I think the minute you think about it in that reverse, like how does it feel when maybe a parent is judging the way you’re parenting or a friend is saying they don’t like this, how terrible it feels. That is just something we want out of our relationships.
PAM: I just want to jump in, because what came to mind there was what you said earlier, curious, not judgmental, because when your friend wants to do something or your partner wants to do something, it’s like, “Oh, that is something I would not choose to do.” But it’s okay. And I enjoy being supportive at that point. That’s what I’m trying to get to, because I’m so curious to see how that would work out for them. It’s like, ooh, I want to see that work. That is something I would never do. I would never bungee jump off a bridge. There are things that would be just so uncomfortable me that I am not going to do. But how cool that that’s something they want to do or they enjoy doing. I can still support them, even if there are things that I would not be interested in doing.
ANNA: And we can even celebrate that. And I think maybe sometimes that comes easier with friends and maybe partners, but then tap into that energy with your kids, because that celebration energy is so great.
And there are a couple of other things I wanted to point out about the partner piece. I wanted to point out that I think it’s helpful to watch for “mission mode”. And that’s just where we’re just about getting things done. There are a lot of moving parts when you have children. There are people to be fed and beds and things and getting to events and whatever the thing is. And it’s just really easy to fall into that kind of mission mode thinking and to lose sight of the connection with our partners. So, this is still just boiling down to connection.
Another mode is “survival mode” and this might happen when a new baby has arrived or maybe you’re caring for an aging parent or there’s some kind of illness or a crisis pops up and it’s hard and it needs acknowledging. They’re typically transient, the survival mode times. But what I’ve seen is that it can create distance if we don’t acknowledge and recognize. So, part of that building trust with our partner is, “I know this is so hard right now and I’m being pulled in a lot of directions and you’re being pulled in a lot of directions, but our relationship is important to me. And we’re going to figure out how to get through this time.” Just those little pieces of acknowledgement help build the trust that yes, our partnership and our relationship is important.
And I think it also helps to be aware of what else is happening with your partner. Are they carrying a lot of stress from work or outside forces? And that could be influencing their behavior at home. And, for me, it’s just always about doubling down on that unconditional love and acceptance, because that can help build the trust even when, and maybe especially when things are feeling hard. I want them to know that I love them and that they’re important and that our relationship is important even with all the responsibilities and the day-to-day work of having children.
And we all want to feel loved and connected and appreciated. I want to feel that, too. But what I’ve found is that it flows to me as I give it to others. And so, that’s the piece I can control. And so, as I just put that out into the world, then I start to get that from different places and the people around me.
And just specifically to the unschooling piece with our partners, I think sometimes we can get stuck in our heads, because we’re going down this path that’s somewhat intellectual at first. How does this work and what is it going to be like? And so, we may be in a deep dive about that, but we want to pop up and just make sure everybody’s being included in the journey, the kids, the partner, whoever is in your life.
I want to make sure I’m sharing the good things and that I’m not just dumping or venting, because this person, our partner, loves us and often wants to fix it. And sometimes the way they want to fix it doesn’t necessarily mesh with the new principles that we’re moving towards. But when we can present the whole picture of the day, the laughs, the joy, the growth, then the bumps are put into perspective and everybody’s feeling a part of that journey. And so, I think that’s a big piece that comes into that cultivating the trust with our partners on this journey specifically.
PAM: Yeah. I love that piece, too, about this part of the journey, because our partners don’t want to feel left behind when we are learning stuff and moving ahead and, at first, really focused on cultivating that trust with our kids and getting unschooling going with our kids. It is really helpful to recognize where our partner is on that journey, as well, and to help them not feel left behind.
And I think a really important part of that is, like you said, in our more intimate relationship with our partner, that can be the place where we feel we can vent and we can share our worries and everything.
But, like you said, number one, if we only have a limited time, because we have young kids or we have multiple kids, et cetera, if that’s pretty much all we’re doing, how are they going to feel about this choice? Because all we seem to be doing is venting about what we’re worried about and venting about what our kids are doing. So, seeing things through their eyes for a little bit is super valuable to recognize that. So, share the good pieces as well and recognizing that there are other places, too, that you can go with questions.
If you’re further along on a journey learning about something, learning about anything, it can be more helpful to ask your questions of people who are also actively on that journey rather than with someone who is going to be coming with more conventional solutions. If you make a suggestion trying to help someone you love and they’re consistently not doing it because it doesn’t fit with the direction they’re trying to go, that doesn’t feel good either. This is not building trust.
And in our conversations, I find, especially like when you’re recognizing where they are on their journey, it is so valuable to not get defensive when you’ve opened up a can of worms or they come with these more conventional questions. When we’re not feeling judged by that, when we can take a moment to breathe that out and to realize the positive intention behind the question, they’re curious. Take it as curious, not judgmental, and meet them where they are, because then they feel like they can share what’s on their mind and they can talk it through with you without confrontation and upset and more disconnection.
So, there are some really good and valuable pieces in there to just consider that they’re part of the journey, too. And nobody likes to feel left behind and feel like the rest of their family is off doing what looks like really fun things for the most part.
ANNA: And they are such an important part of the foundation. So, we’re talking about building this foundation of trust. It’s all of us. And so, yeah, absolutely.
The next aspect I wanted to talk about is another really cool one, and that is the idea of cultivating trust in ourselves.
So, when we begin our unschooling journey, often it’s all about the kids. Should we send them to school or not? That’s the question. And, in fact, I don’t think I’ve yet heard anyone say, “Oh, I chose to unschool my kids for my own personal growth and development.” Yet, as we’ve heard so often on the podcast, that’s exactly what happens. It can be so surprising to discover what a gift the choice to unschool is to ourselves. We learn so much about ourselves. We end up peeling back so many layers. We end up questioning so many things just from first starting to question the idea of school and what it means to us.
Then we get into questioning the parenting. Then we get into questioning relationships and learning so much and learning so much about ourselves. So, cultivating this trust in ourselves really helps us along the way. Doesn’t it?
ANNA: Oh my gosh. I have been amazed by my growth during the unschooling journey, for sure. That was not why I got into it. I did not know I was going to be signing up for all that work that I’ve had to do, but I found it to be this intellectually stimulating journey, but also this deeply reflective one and my girls were amazing teachers and mirrors for me to look at. I just had to tune in and be open to the learning, the growing, and the questioning, and the stretching that was basically brought in front of me every day.
And one of the things for me was, prior to kids, I think I measured my worth on, how well do I do the thing? How fast do I check the box and exceed someone else’s expectation? And through our unschooling journey and a lot of personal work, I found me, like who I am, who I want to be, and how I want to be in relationship with others. And it has just been so profound. And as I’ve really connected with myself and learned to trust myself without looking for that outside validation, I became so much stronger and more confident and, in turn, more compassionate and accepting of others.
And I didn’t really realize until deeper into the journey that that judgmental, right/wrong paradigm was merely a wall that kept people at bay and that it was really all about my own insecurities and my own pieces that I needed to deal with. And when I shed that judgment for true connection, the change was amazing. I felt stronger. I felt more clear. I could live with more intention. And I was able to extend this unconditional regard and love to those around me and it was really profound.
Our children are absolutely our guides in this. They have such an ease about them, especially when they’re little, and just a delight in the world around them and a spirit to try things and keep going and to explore. And so, I wanted to tap into that. But that foundation of trust, trust in myself, trust in each other, made all the difference as we navigated a world that really likes to keep everyone on a very narrow lane. So, they were important pieces of my journey for sure.
PAM: Oh, I know. I know. And that was interesting, thinking back as to how I looked at life and really, as I think about it, I saw life through that lens of performance, which is similar to the way you spoke about it. So, performing for others, or meeting and trying to exceed societal expectations. That’s what it was all about. So, through unschooling, I really felt that shift to the lens of being. So, like you said, that shift to unschooling, that had me doing all this personal work, peeling back all of those layers.
So, when I got to that lens of just being, that brought me more into the moment. Just being in this moment, which then let me connect with the other people that were in that moment with me. And certainly with unschooling, that was my kids a lot of the time. And recognizing the context of the moment.
People used to say, “You must be so bored being with your kids all day, right?” Oh my gosh. These moments are full and beautiful if you notice them. If you aren’t thinking about that to-do list that you have in the back of your head, that I want to do this, this and this, and, “Oh my gosh, I’m just standing here and they’re playing,” or whatever, whatever. There is so much in those moments when you open up to them and sink into them. There are so many nuances at play all the time.
And eventually, I discovered that when someone would take issue with our choices, I came to recognize that that is so much about them and where they are on their journey. It’s not really about us and our journey at all. So, as you mentioned, that understanding of ourselves and trust in ourselves grows and our confidence grows. And so does our compassion and kindness for others, because our confidence in ourselves doesn’t manifest as expectations that others make the same choices as us.
That is the cool piece. We can become more and more confident in our choices. We can trust ourselves more and more. And it doesn’t mean at all that we expect other people to do the same, that this is the right answer, that this is the right way. We recognize that they’re on their own journey, finding their own voice, making their own choices, but we are completely confident that these are the right choices for us.
And we come to understand that our choices can change over time, too. And that’s okay. They can change based on our continued personal growth, the context of the future moment, because we come to realize how important context is. Context, not even just in the environment, but in how everybody’s showing up in that moment. They may be having a rough day. They may be having a great day. What their goals are, the things that are harder for them, their personalities, all those pieces come into that moment in and into the next choice.
ANNA: Yeah. And I feel like when we’re doubting ourselves, because there are times and when we see like, there’s some disconnection between me trusting myself and where I am right now, we can look at, where’s that coming from? And identifying that can help us see exactly what you just said, that it’s rarely about us.
So, say it is a parent, it could be about them processing or not processing their own journey as a parent and needing you not to shine a light on that. If it’s friends or the internet, we can remember that, we don’t need to judge our insides by someone else’s outsides. It’s not a true comparison. And we can only truly know for ourselves. And the work of knowing for ourselves is really short-circuited when we keep that focus outward.
And so, in the end, I found that even people who voiced opinions that were about us, like you said, because we all run into that, they were really just giving me this glimpse of themselves and everyone’s working through their own stuff and they really don’t care what I’m doing. So, I don’t need to lose too much sleep over that. And that’s back to that realization, that judgment is really about insecurity.
So, when I feel that judgment coming at me, what I can do now is just hold that person in a place of compassion. Like, whew, you’re working through some stuff and needing to lash out and put some things forward. But that’s really about them. And that helped me to just really, again, just hold them in compassion, but also not to have it shake my knowing of myself, because I could stand in that trust and in that confidence. And that allowed me to then be the person that I want to be, where I could give compassion out.
So, all of this winds and weaves together and, like you said, it’s so funny when people say that. “You’re probably bored.” I’m like, holy heck, no.
Just being with the kids and watching them learn and develop language and move and explore the world is amazing. And then you have all this deep, personal work to shed baggage from childhood and, who do I want to be now? And how do I want to show up for my kids? There’s so much rich and amazing, interesting work to be done in this unschooling journey.
PAM: Yes. And then along that journey, we recognize that we are unschooling and living alongside our kids. And then we are also exploring, what are we interested in? How are we going to pursue that? There are just so many pieces to the journey. That’s beautiful.
And that leads us nicely to the last aspect that I wanted to look at, which is cultivating trust in unschooling as our family’s chosen lifestyle.
So, that looks like bringing that confidence that we’re talking about with us out into the world. And we feel like we’re all on the same team with our family. We trust that how we treat and engage with each other won’t change, whether we’re at home or whether we’re out and about, we gained trust and confidence in ourselves. We feel less clinging to the need to do things right and more curious about how things might unfold, which in turn shows up as less projecting into the future and more, again, about being in the moment.
ANNA: Definitely. I love the progression of this, this journey of it, and also the spiral of it, because first we’re building this trust with our kids and our partners and ourselves, and now we have this amazing foundation from which we can explore the world. And we will circle back around as we hit challenges, but we still have that foundation and I find I can reorient faster. I gain deeper levels of understanding and trust with each examination. So, each time I’m brought back around, it’s like this new level, and it’s just making this thicker and thicker foundation of trust in the whole process and, like you said, this whole lifestyle.
Your team comment was so spot on for us, because what I love is that there is not this need for the us/them, the power dynamic, the authority over. We didn’t have that. We’re navigating this exploration of life together, trusting that we are there for each other and it just makes all the difference. And I think it can sometimes be hard to explain this part, because it’s really so foreign to the way that most people relate to children and how they were related to as children. We don’t have that template.
But kids are capable. We’ve talked about that before. They want to be a part of the family. They want to understand things, how things work, how to be in relationship. And as we learn to trust that, it leaves space for them to show up and participate in ways that are unexpected in a world that actually marginalizes children. Their creativity and fresh eyes make all the difference when we’re finding solutions, because we can be a bit jaded after all the years. And they bring those fresh eyes.
And, as that trust grows, so does the confidence, and with that confidence also comes to understanding that we can handle what life throws at us. That was a big piece for me, because we had plenty of things thrown at us over the years, but me settling into, “You know what? We’ve got this. The four of us, we can solve these problems. We can be there for each other through the tough times.” That made things so much easier for me. I mean, easy may be not exactly the word, because the things are still challenging, but that connection really helped me move through that. And it allowed me to focus on what really mattered to me, which is my relationships and providing a rich environment for growth and learning for all of us.
And when we’re still looking outward for confirmation or approval, that’s when we lose sight of what’s in front of us. We miss the things that are happening with our children and we miss the relationships that are being developed and the growth and the problem solving. And so, I love how you mentioned, too, that it really leaves space for curiosity, and that that’s such a big piece of this. When we aren’t chasing this ideal and trying to fit into a box that someone else has provided for us, we can allow for our individuality. We can be curious about where that exploration will lead us and let things unfold. And I think that’s the piece that we talk about. That unfolding is magic.
PAM: It is. I’m going to come back to the unfolding. I just want to emphasize one of the things you said, which was the cyclical nature, that these things keep coming back. Because it’s not like it’s like, “Oh, okay, trust is it. I’m going to be trustworthy and off we go.” There are going to be times when trust falters, when something comes up with their kids or a partner or a friend or something that knocks us off.
And I think so often if you’re still stuck in that right/wrong, good/bad paradigm, we can start judging ourselves. It’s like, “Oh crap. I’m supposed to be doing this.” No. Each of those are an opportunity to sink back into your why. It’s like, why is trust important? To sink back into the things that we were talking about earlier, like leaving open space, getting to know them, having conversations, being curious, instead of judgmental, to lean back into those tools that do inevitably get us back to understand, “Oh yeah. This is why it’s important,” more conversation, “Oh yeah. This is why they want to do the thing,” more learning about the other person involved. So, just to not judge ourselves, when we falter or when something comes up that we’re like, huh?
ANNA: Something that makes us question or makes us go, wait a minute. And that’s okay. Because again, that’s just that opportunity to dig into the why and to recommit or to pivot if you need to.
Maybe you’ve gone in one direction and it’s like, okay, I need to pivot a little bit, because I have this new information. But that’s all good. That’s not a time to start doubting yourself or being hard on yourself. It’s just information. And it’s just revisiting those pieces and continuing to build that foundation.
PAM: Exactly. Exactly. And now, to jump back to the unfolding things, because yeah, that’s it. Life unfolds. It unfolds in unexpected ways sometimes.
Often the unexpected things end up being so beautiful, precisely because that’s where we learn more about ourselves and learn more about the other person. It’s like, oh, that’s why this makes so much more sense. And I found that serendipity grows because we’re open and curious. That was something that was utterly unexpected, but when you’re instead curious, now you’re looking, you’re scanning, you’re gazing around, and you are seeing possibilities.
If you are more worried or like, “I really think this path is the right way. I’m going to look for all the opportunities to keep nudging us towards this path,” oh my gosh. You miss so many other possibilities that are out there that ended up being so much more beautiful, so much more fun, so much more meaningful than the one that we originally thought of. And that was, for me, one of the most surprising and the most beautiful things that came out of the shift to recognizing that things are just unfolding. And I’m going to be curious about how that’s happening.
ANNA: Yes. I love that so, so much.
PAM: Yeah. And along with that, the other thing is that also reminds us not to focus on the destination, but to focus on being present on the journey where we are, and just paying attention.
Even if our kids say they want to go or do something, if we jump too far ahead to that, we’re going to miss so much along the way. And then, too, it’s not that their destination is wrong, but I like to think of it as that’s the direction and we’re just taking baby steps, step by step in that direction. But we’re going to pause at each step and see if it’s still fitting, see if we might want to step a touch sideways. Or maybe we’re gaining momentum and we’re keeping down that path, but to be curious about it, rather than fixated on it, makes a world of difference.
ANNA: Because that’s where the learning is and I think we can power through and we’re dragging them along to their destination. And again, it becomes about us, not them. But really, what we’re wanting is this learning along the way. So, here I have this thing in the future and I want to work towards that. Great. But along the way, there are little tweaks or little pivots that maybe feel better. And maybe we end up over here, but we’ve got all this learning that’s happened along the way that make that exactly the place that we’re supposed to be.
So, yeah, just stay in there in the moment and that’s the connection and trust piece, because we’re right there with them. And yeah, I love how it all weaves together and how you will start to see and trust in that unfolding. And it’s pretty delightful. I just remember moments of like, oh my gosh! How all these things came together and that worked and had I tried to control it, which is kind of my way, I absolutely would have missed those things. I absolutely would have missed them.
PAM: Yeah. And I just could not have come up with something that cool.
PAM: The other thing I just wanted to mention before we go was I found it so fascinating as we went through the month to recognize that the progression of these different aspects, like cultivating trust with our kids, and then with our partner, and then with ourselves, and then out in the world, really was like a microcosm of the unschooling journey. It really represented my experience of how I moved through this.
We want to cultivate that trust with our kids and that deeper relationship with our partner and recognize the importance of treating and trusting ourselves with that same compassion and grace. And then we come to really value and trust unschooling as a strong foundation to bring with us out into the world as a lifestyle that we want to live. So, I loved how we could just take this focus of trust and go right back to the beginning, a foundational pillar of unschooling.
ANNA: Exactly. And also, that’s why it isn’t a one and done. It’s not like, checked it off. We’re done!
Because it is this microcosm of this much larger journey, but you’ll see the layers. You’ll see the spiral as we’re like, whew, going around, learning and really soaking it into our bones and really putting it to the test, this trust and all these relationships and all these pieces. And so, yes, I mean, it’s just looking at that. I like looking at that bigger picture and then realizing that’s what’s happening and then bringing myself right back to the moment to just enjoy that journey as best we can, because there’s going to be days. But, oh my gosh. I love it so much.
PAM: Oh yes. So much. Well, thank you so much, Anna. It was so much fun to talk about cultivating trust with you.
PAM: Have a good day!