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Friday, July 28, 2017

A Reader Asks About Three-Year-Olds Relating to Newborns

A reader recently wrote, "I totally agree with your approach to dealing with big emotions outlined in your tantrum post and did most of what you are saying when my older son was an only child... The difficulty that I am having is finding ways to do this for my older son in the moment while he is having big emotions, while also taking care of the newborn, especially when I’m the only adult in the room. I find that the big emotions happen most often when the newborn is needing my attention. And, no surprise, the big emotions are bigger and more frequent now that the newborn is here! Please let me know (and I’m sure many other parents out there!) when / if you find good resources for this issue that fits in to your objectivist parenting philosophy."

First, for those of you that haven't already had the newborn, please consider waiting. All of my research has led me to conclude that children (and parents) do much better when children are spaced five or more years apart.

Next I would recommend reading, in order of importance, 1,2,3... The Toddler YearsHow To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Dear Parents: Caring for Infants with Respect, and Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cry.

And in the mean time, here are some ideas:

Prepare the three-year-old. Talk to him about what is going on, about all the things he might be feeling. Talk to him about how when the baby cries, he will feel a great deal of stress in his body, and that the stress will make him want to freak out about something too. Tell him you feel the same way. Nature has programmed us to freak out when babies cry so that we deal with it. (Babies who cry in such a way as to destroy all those around them until they are no longer crying were, surprise, more likely to survive and pass on their genes. So the theory goes.) Tell him that it is normal to want to run, jump, scream, yell, hit, throw, or even cry himself when he hears the baby cry.

Tell the three-year-old that this will be an uncomfortable experience, but you want to teach him how to deal with a crying baby, so that he can be an amazing dad one day. Tell him that crying babies are okay, that we must take deep breaths and move slowly and just be with them. Tell him the next time the baby cries, you want him to run straight to you so that you can teach him about crying babies. Then, when it happens, pick him up and take him to the baby. Invite him to put his hand on the baby's chest. Speak softly. "She's sad. It's okay to feel sad."

Practice with the three-year-old. Tell him to pretend the baby is crying. Make eye contact. Show him how to move slowly and softly. Show him how to go to the baby and just watch. "The baby can't tell us what is wrong, so we have to figure it out." Is it the diaper? (Maybe it can be his job to check.) Is it gas? (Teach him how to rub her belly.) Is it the light shining in her eyes? Is she hungry? Make this a game and practice it as many times as you can before a real episode happens.

Tell him that as he gets more used to the baby, he will able to take action when the baby cries, trying to help the baby instead of focusing on his own inner stress. But tell him that for now, when he is just getting used to his inner stress, if he needs to run to you for a hug the minute the baby is crying, that could help both him and you. Look in his eyes. "THIS FEELS SO UNCOMFORTABLE!!!!!" You can yell to him! Try to connect with him about the sheer discomfort of the sound of a crying baby.

But tell him if he can't handle it, if he is feeling something too big, he needs to tell you. Because often, the baby can wait. Tell him you won't want the baby to wait, because the baby's cries are soooooo stressful to you, and it will be hard for you to focus on his issue while the baby is crying, but that if he really, really needs you to, you will tell the baby to wait. He will test you on this, and in that case, you put your hand on the baby's chest and you say, "I hear you and I will be with you when I can." And then you focus on the older child. Perhaps you take the older child into a different room so you can really focus on his issue. Let him know that his needs matter. As soon that is dealt with, tend to the baby. He will feel much more secure knowing that if he ever has an emergency, you will be there for him. The goal is to help him feel so secure, that he does not need to use this and weaponize it against the baby. (This is also a good gage of how well you are doing at giving him enough attention. When he is not feeling like he is getting enough, he will want to punish the baby.)

And the of course always newscast. "Erin is crying. She needs me to find out what is wrong. Oh no. The crying is making Erik crazy too! Erik is only three! He needs help dealing with his big feelings! I want to be there to help him. I want to be there to help the baby too!"

And of course later, when everyone is feeling good, talk to the older child about how it feels for you, about how sad you are that he is not your only child anymore, about how hard it is to have two children that need you, about how much you want to do right by him and take care of him and give him all that he needs, about your fears that you won't be able to. I have always found children to be much more empathetic and less self-centered when they know I am having a hard time too. In this way I disagree with pretty much every parenting expert out there. They think children need Mountain Mom who is always calm and never has issues. I think that is presenting a false reality to children that they see through anyway. I think children do better with Real Moms who talk and express what is going on with them, who model how to deal with big, stressful feelings, and who let the kids know that all humans, no matter their age, are dealing with big, stressful feelings and we do better if we support one another during those times. This shouldn't be abused, of course as it is in alcoholic households, but three year olds love feeling competent enough to support their parents when they are having a tough time. I don't think it "stresses children out" if they are generally well cared for and have a secure attachment. On the contrary, I think it raises their self-esteem and makes them feel competent at life.

Unlimited Television? And Crack? Why I Am Not a "Radical Unschooler" When It Comes to Television and Other Drugs

A reader called me recently to discuss my approach to screen time. She found it fascinating that I am so strongly pro freedom, and yet strongly against unlimited screen time for my son.

How we do screen time: We don't own a television, but we do own computers, iphones, and an ipad. Occasionally, maybe once a week, we watch documentaries on our computers or the ipad. On the full moons we watch a fiction movie. We have educational games on the ipad that are played sporadically, maybe once a month.

This arrangement, for my family at this time, is quite simply not a problem. It's not a problem for me; it's not a problem for Tom, and it's not a problem for Anders. So first, I never really thought very much about the unlimited television question because there was just no problem that needed to be solved.

But my reader asked me to consider: Should Anders be watching more television? Is he being deprived of valuable life experiences? Have I poisoned him against television by reading to him  chapters from Remotely Controlled and Living Outside the Box and explaining to him that television is a drug to be used with care? Have I deprived him of making his own conclusions about television by helping him draw the connection between his ability to pay attention to his math and the amount of television he watches? Isn't it controlling and therefore against my philosophy to say to Anders, "I notice you have been watching television for over an hour now, and I am wondering if you want to do something else?"

Great questions!

My first response is that I don't believe in biting my tongue and taking a deep breath when my son is doing something that makes me uncomfortable. Because my needs matter too. When Anders was two he liked to climb very high and, though he never fell or even seemed unsafe, I would sometimes get uncomfortable and ask him to come down. "Anders, I am sure you are safe up there, but the stress in my body is so intense right now, I can hardly handle it. I feel so much fear I might start crying. I am wondering if you would be willing to come down?" He always came down – because my needs matter to him. I think that's wonderful. I think this negotiation of needs is the dance of healthy human relationships.

Because here's the thing: Bite your tongue all you want, if your veins are coursing with stress hormones, those are going to affect the people around you. Idealize that away all you want, it's a fact of human nature. (Presented compellingly in the book Connected by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler.) The fact that anxiety felt by one family member will eventually most likely be felt by all family members for one reason or another is also written about in Bowen's work on family systems theory. These facts should never be used as control mechanisms, but between respectful people who have a healthy relationship – I need to know when what I am doing is stressing you out because your stress is going to get passed around to every member of our household.

I love NVC, but I don't buy into the idea that, "We are not responsible for other people's feeling's at all." There's just no common sense there. It may be a good approach to offenses caused by strangers or to unhealthy relationships, but in close, healthy relationship, I think it is more true and more helpful to believe that, "It takes two to tango." In our family, we consider all problems we have relationship problems for both of us to solve together. You're insecure? Yes, you need to take responsibility and do what you can do to solve that problem, but because we are married, it's my problem too. You're wanting to numb out into a drug? That's definitely a problem you need to look into, but because I am your mother, that's a problem I will look into too. You needs matter to me; let's solve this together.

This was one of the most interesting things I learned in marriage. Before I met Tom I lived by myself and I had no problems with myself so ... there just wasn't a lot of drama there. Then Tom moved in and suddenly I close all the cupboards too loudly and my desk is too messy. Suddenly, I had problems. Or rather we had problems. It wasn't my job to placate Tom by training myself to be quieter and neater, and it wasn't Tom's job to accept me for who I am and deal with his feelings on his own; it was our job to be sensitive to one another, accept one another, and give each other gifts.

When I peruse the unlimited screen time approach to television and video games, I find a lot of it disrespectful to parents, to their needs and discomforts. I find that the abstract ideal of freedom is presented as more important than creating a relationship between the parent and child that works for both of them. There is no right answer here. There is no "should" when it comes to how I keep my desk. There is only what works for me and what doesn't and what works for other members of my household and what doesn't. In a household focused on healthy relationships, everyones needs matter, even their irrational ones.

But I don't think my discomfort around television and video games is irrational. There is a reason parents feel instinctively worried when they see their child watching television or playing video games, because no matter how hard you try to tell yourself it's okay, deep down, you know your kid is on drugs. Meth to be specific. Television and video games are in the same addictive category as meth. 

"There are few things ever dreamed of, smoked, or injected that have as addictive an effect on our brains as technology. This is how our devices keep us captive and always coming back for more. The definitive Internet act of our times is a perfect metaphor for the promise of reward: We search. And we search. And we search some more, clicking that mouse like – well, like a rat in a cage seeking another "hit," looking for that elusive reward that will finally feel like enough.... Computer and video game designers intentionally manipulate the reward system to keep players hooked. The promise that the next level or big win could happen at any time is what makes a game so compelling. It's also what makes a game so hard to quit. One study found that playing a video game led to dopamine increases equivalent to amphetamine use – and it's this dopamine rush that makes both so addictive. (Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. in The Willpower Instinct: How Self Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.)

"Television is unique, the perfect medium to produce strong rewards for paying attention to something. So what is so powerful about this reward? Compared to the pace with which real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, television portrays life with the fast-forward button fully pressed. Rapidly changing images, scenery and events, and high-fidelity sounds are overly stimulating and, of course, extremely interesting. Once you are used to food with monosodium glutamate flavour enhancer, real food doesn't taste as interesting. Television is the flavour enhancer of the audiovisual world. Nothing in real life is comparable to this. Television overpays the young child to pay attention to it, and in so doing it seems to physically spoil and damage his attention circuits. In effect, television corrupts the reward system that enables us to pay attention to other things in life." (Dr. Aric Sigman, Remotely Controlled: How Television Is Damaging Our Lives).

Our ability to pay attention is our life. Our ability to focus and control what we pay attention to is consciousness. To do a drug that damages your ability to pay attention is risking your ability to be consciously alive. That is why there is a direct correlation between how much television children watch and ADHD, among other things.

"Children who watch television at ages one and three have a significantly increased risk of developing such attentional problems by the time they are seven. For every hour of television a child watches per day, there is a nine per cent increase in attentional damage. The scientists suggest that their findings may actually be an understatement of the risks to children. They speculate that even if there is some educational benefit to be had from the actual programmes watched, this benefit may have covered up the even greater damage to the child's attentional systems that would occur if they watched programmes that had little educational benefit for them." (Sigman)

"A 26 year study of the 'Association Between Child and Adolescent Television Viewing and Adult Health' was recently published in the medical journal The Lancet, involving 1,000 children born in 1972-73. It found that children who watched more than two hours of television a day between the ages of five and fifteen suffered serious health risks many years later, at the age of 26. The study concluded that 15 per cent of cases of raised blood cholesterol, 17 per cent of obesity, 17 per cent of smoking and 15 per cent of bad cardiovascular fitness were linked to the television viewing that took place years before when the adults were children. This link remained, irresponsive of other factors such as social background, body mass index at age five, parents' BMI, parental smoking and how physically active the children were by the age of 15." (Sigman)

"Within 30 seconds of turning on the television, our brain becomes neurologically less able to make judgements about what we see and hear on screen. Our brain treats incoming information uncritically ... Our brain's left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically tunes out while we are watching television." (Sigman)

"Television provides the best means of persuading you to buy into the right values... Nowadays television executives talk of 'raising public awareness of...' This used to be simply called propaganda... Long after people forget what they hear, they remember how they feel. So Bonneville creates those unforgettable feelings..." (Sigman)

"And a study of 22,079 American adults for the pharmaceutical industry quantified the link between television viewing and rates of depression, concluding, 'The incidence of depression is a monotonic increasing function of television viewing' It seems that a television nation becomes a Prozac nation." (Sigman)

So television and video games are dangerous drugs. But, the argument goes, happy people don't get hooked on drugs. Happy mice can have access to heroin water and will choose to not drink it.

Of course, but first of all, those were adult mice not baby mice choosing not to drink the heroin water, and second of all, allowing my child the freedom to do heroin is entirely different from allowing my child to do heroin after I have told him about the dangers and risks involved.

I read these posts by these moms who advocate unlimited screen time, and I just can't imagine that it is possible for a mom to watch her kid do heroin and think, "He'll decide for himself what he thinks of it. Maybe he'll love it all his life long, and that'll be great! So important for them to find their One True Passion!"

So I have to assume that these moms either have never done any research on this particular drug or are television or gaming addicts themselves and therefore comfortable with passing on the addiction. The old, "I'm an addict, and I turned out fine," argument is reprehensible to some, but I am actually okay with it, because evolutionarily speaking, they're right. Likewise, the Christians that beat their children for the last thousand years had six times the birth rate of the modern day Swedes who don't. Not saying we should beat our children, just saying that we shouldn't immediately knock what has clearly worked (evolutionarily speaking).

Like moderation. Moderation served our ancestors well. Drugs are a part of life. Teaching our kids to use responsibly is an important part of parenting. I tell Anders that we must make sure we use the dangerous drugs like spices, to spice up our lives. If occasionally we want to use them as medicines, to change our mood, that's okay. But when we want to use them as drugs, to numb out, we need to find someone we love to talk to about it, because those feelings and choices can lead to very risky places.

Note that I have read some evidence to suggest that anyone allowed to do a drug as much as they want will, after a certain amount of time (almost never more than ten years), give the drug up voluntarily. There is possibly a "life cycle" to most addictions, an eventual end to the desire to numb out. But again these studies were done on adults, not children. In children, if I recall correctly, studies generally show that their brains alter to accommodate their addictions, making them likely candidates for lifelong abusers of that drug. I have, however, read anecdotes from parents that refute this.

Some moms who write in support of unlimited screen time say that it is not the abuse of screen time that is the issue – the issue is why the child wants to numb out. To this, I can only say, "Exactly! But then why are you handing him heroin instead of figuring out what is going on in his life that is causing him to want to not exist?!"

In my experience children, even the very young, are fully capable of having these discussions and of judging and moderating their use of dangerous substances provided they are given the information they need to make wise choices and a relationship they value. I have never had to force Anders to stop watching something. I have only ever reminded him that we don't want to overdo it.

For the record, Anders has overdone it a few times. I remember once he watched five or so hours of television in one day. The next day when he sat down to do his math it took him eight times longer than it had the day before. It took him a week to get his ability to focus back. The experience was very educational.

But back to my house where we don't usually overly indulge in screen time. It's interesting to me that none of us care very much about television. It's not like we have to exert great amounts of self-control to abstain from something truly glorious. A documentary is a welcome addition to an afternoon for Anders when he is curious and wants to know more about something. Both he and I appreciate what my ipad has to offer when I want to socialize at a friend's house, and he has to wait for me. He enjoys full moons when he watches movies that he has heard other kids talking about. But otherwise, television doesn't really occur to him as something to do with his time. He plays and when he is bored with playing he comes to see what I am doing and joins me. It's the same with me. I cook, clean, do errands, and write and when I need a break, I read or exercise or join him. Television isn't really on my radar. I love that.

I was raised without television. Of all the parenting choices my parents made, that was the single most wonderful gift they gave me – the gift of time, the gift of reading, the gift of not knowing what giant corporations wanted me to think.

When I was in elementary school my friends were obsessed with Full House. They learned that they were supposed to be obnoxious to adults and hate their siblings. During those years I read the Little House Books and thought families were supposed to be kind to one another and sisters were supposed to be good friends.

When I was in junior high school my friends were obsessed with Saved By the Bell. They thought school was lame and people who liked school were nerds, and the most important thing was to be popular. I read the Anne of Green Gables series and thought being the smartest girl in school was the best thing to be. I had no idea what popularity was, or that I was supposed to desire it.

When I was in high school my friends were obsessed with Buffy. They continued to hate school and began to obsess over boys and sex. I loved everything I got to learn in school. I thought every subject was fascinating and couldn't understand why they hated it so much. I was into Jane Adams at the time and though I did care a great deal about boys, I was just not as obsessed as my friends.

When I was in college my friends watched Sex and the City and were obsessed with sex and expensive shoes. And I ... was obsessed with James Joyce and couldn't care less about shoes.

The unlimited screen time moms shake their heads at me, "Do you really think reading is a more important activity than watching television? That reading is a more valid life experience in some way? How dare you claim that you might know what is better for me!" They're right. I don't know what is better for you and your family. But I do know that television is a dangerous drug that makes humans numb, unable to focus, passive, mainstream, unsatisfied with their real lives, poor, obese, and divorced.

I also know that while reading, our critical mind is active. A book is generally one person sharing his worldview. It's like a conversation. With television, you are hypnotized while exposing yourself to someone who will do anything to get your attention and keep itWhen you watch television, you are the product. Your attention is what is for sale. Companies are not interested in providing quality entertainment, so much as they are interested in getting your attention and keeping it by whatever means necessary. Then they sell your attention to their advertisers. That is the nature of the business.

A writer has to sell his books. The reader is the customer. If the books are not good, the writer will not have customers. Not so with television. You are not the customer. You are the product. His customer is the advertisers. And the television writer will write accordingly. The more product they can deliver, the higher their ad revenue. (The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu)

This is why, if you are going to watch something, movies are much preferable to television. With movies, the viewer is the customer. (Though product placement often fudges that line a little.)

I also know that reading is directly related to our ability to think at abstract levels. According to the research of Leda Cosmides our brains cannot abstract verbally past more than five levels of abstraction. To think more abstractly than that requires writing our thoughts down in order to follow them. Reading is directly related to our ability to think complexly.

We ignore and override so much valuable information our subconscious brains feed us. There is a reason we smile and feel warm and fuzzy when we see a child curled up with a book and a reason why we feel disgusted and turned off when we see a child all zombied out in front of a screen.

"Most of the stories are told to most of the children not by their parents, their school, or their church, but by a group of distant corporations that have something to sell." (Sigman)

There are 150 different products linked to Dora the Explorer. The average American child watches 40,000 commercials each year. When the parents of TV free households are surveyed and asked how often their children pressure them to buy brand-name or otherwise popular toys, games, or foods, 97% of them answered never, rarely, or not very much. (Sigman)

"If you think about it in imperialistic terms, cultures and minds can now be colonised remotely.... Formerly known as propaganda, soft power lies in the abiity to attract and persuade other cultures of the validity and desirability of your own.... CNN, HBO and Disney have succeeded where napalm failed. Perhaps Apocalypse Now – The Sequel is playing out on the streets of Hanoi as young Communists can be seen eating M&Ms while watching Eminem." (Sigman)

"'The difference between children who can picture a story or scene in their mind's eye and those who were raised in front of a TV screen are obvious and very profound," wrote Sue, a TV-free mother who is also a kindergarten teacher. "This difference is evident in their play, their artwork, their writing, the foods packed in their lunch boxes, their show-and-tell, and their conversation. TV permeates every facet of thier being. I think children raised with screen shave never experienced what it's like to dream, create, and imagine inside their own heads–independent of externally supplied (usually corporate) vision.'" (Living Outside the Box)

"In 1990, the American Family Research Council reported that the average American parent spent 38.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with his or her children each week. That's less than six minutes a day. Given that our TV viewing has spiraled steadily upward since then, chances are the situation today is no better... For children raised without television, however, circumstances are different. The parents who participated in my survey of TV-free families reported spending an average of 55 minutes per day in meaningful conversation with their children. That's 385 minutes per week...." (Living Outside the Box)

One last interesting thing I remember reading about television is that our brains cannot tell the difference between our television show "friends" and our real life friends. Because our brains are wired to pay more attention to higher status people than lower status people, we will feel a greater need to check in with our television show friends of high status than our real life friends of lower status.

I was not homeschooled or unschooled, but I was raised without television. Yet I am far less mainstream than the homeschooled and unschooled kids I knew growing up who were raised with television. Contrary to the stories some Unlimited TV Moms spread, I didn't pine away wishing I had television in my life or wishing I were more "normal," and I didn't turn into an adult who became a television addict, neither did my siblings. None of us actually watch a lot of television still today and all of us are happy about it. I am not advocating being TV free here – I don't know what would work in your family! But I would encourage parents to think twice about their choice to welcome screens, and especially unlimited screen time into their homes. Television is not in the same addiction category as sugar, it's more similar to METH, and should be treated as such. My research and life experience has led me to conclude that heavy television exposure is more damaging than sending children to school. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Anders's Education - 5 2/3

Feb 20-June 20, 2017

Reading

Anders made it 3/4 of the way through the Hooked on Phonics second grade level. We are currently taking a break while he does summer camps.

During this time period, Anders realized that there are books he can read on his own. We started going to the library for him to check out his own books to read, but once summer camp season got under way, we ran out of time for this.

For the first time in over two years, my books are out of our storage unit and on bookshelves. Anders has been a little obsessed with them, constantly trying to read them, taking whole stacks to look through, asking me what they were about, and saying that he wants to know everything that I know.

Before camp started I was still reading to Anders for about an hour each night. After camp started we have not even had time for that!

I still read frequently and give my husband the play-by-play of whatever I am learning. Anders now insists on being a part of it. Anytime he sees me reading he wants to know what I have learned. Often he asks me to read aloud to him from the book I am reading.

One time when we were in the car Anders asked me why there are so many ugly buildings in LA and I went off on a mini-lecture about how a man named Kant convinced the world that beauty is subjective about 140 years ago. When I realized I was lecturing I paused and said, "I'm so sorry Anders, you asked a simple question and I started lecturing at you!" He replied, "That's okay, Mom. I like listening to you talk. It makes me smarter."

Despite not having a lot of time to read, during this time periods we did manage to finish the adult book about airplanes Cockpit Confidential, and we reread the entire Little House series.

Math

For the last four months Anders has relished going to the Kumon center twice a week to do his work with Miss Mariko. He runs in there with a big smile, races through the ten pages they expect him to do, and then asks for extra work. They are wild with laughter every time they return him to me as they have never seen a child so excited to do his math. One time he stayed for almost two hours completing 110 pages of work. He finished the entire unit of 2A in  and is now working on A (first grade).

We had a lot of discussions about the pros and cons of doing Kumon, the SAT's, and going to college. I was asking him every month before I paid for the Kumon program if he was sure he would like to continue, and every month he said a very quick, "Yes." Then in May he told me I didn't have to ask him again until he was 6.

Once the camp season started in June and Anders got busy, Kumon became less interesting/exciting/fun to him and returned to being work, albeit work that he takes a great deal of pride in. He generally puts off doing it until I say, "Anders, it's almost seven; if you don't start your Kumon now, you won't have time to do it today!" Then he races down to do his pages while I do dishes in the other room. Every now and then he says he is too tired to do it, and I ask him if I can support him in some way. He asks me to sit with him at the table while he does his work.

During March, April, and May Anders did math tutoring with a Montessori teacher at a nearby Montessori school once a week. This he loved immensely and would never let me cancel no matter how busy we got. His sessions were ninety minutes long (he chose the length) and his teacher reported to me that he is two years above grade level.

This makes sense to me because in daily life I have seen Anders do (simple) subtraction, multiplication, and division problems with ease, like if I had 100 dollars and divided it up among 4 people, how much money would each person have?"

Anders taught himself roman numerals using the Mathopia app on my phone.

Business Skills

Anders has continued to go to the office with his dad and just loves it there.

We watched The Apprentice television show on DVD, which I found to be an invaluable teaching tool about business. We will likely watch this show again when he is older. My favorite episode was the one with Trump's son – I could tell he was already being given a business education.

Anders told me in April that he really wanted a job and asked if I could help him get one. His father offered to hire him for $3/hr to pick up trash around the auto square where his security company is located. Anders said he would do that, but he wanted a real job. I explained to him that 100 years ago the government made it illegal for children to work in every industry except one – the entertainment industry. So the only legal job available to a child of his age would be acting or modeling. He asked what actors and models were, and I explained the jobs to him. "That's fine. I'll do that." He said. "Well, " I said, "as long as we are in LA, I guess I can look into it..."

Papa then asked him why he wanted to work. We told him we will feed, house, clothe, and take care of him for many years to come. He said that he really wants to buy assets, like cows, a farm, apartment buildings, and companies. He wants to find a partner and have children of his own and before he does that he needs money so ... assets.

Games

Before camp started we played a lot of Money Bags. Currently we just play Legos and hide and seek.

Social Skills

One evening we were making pumpkin cookies and had all the dry ingredients mixed together before we realized that we did not have any butter. Anders wanted to go to the store right, then but when I said I couldn't go until the next day, he was fine with it. It has been that way during this entire time period. We have no disputes, no issues. He is super easy to get along with.

In many ways I feel deeply like "my job here is done." Anders still doesn't know many things of course, and my job most certainly isn't done, but he is so solid, confident, happy, assertive, respectful, and curious that I feel very at peace, like whatever happens he is going to be fine.

Then again he is five. Five is famous for being a very easy and pleasant age.

A conversation I shared on Facebook:
Camp Counselor: You're Anders's mom?
Mama: Yes.....?
Camp Counselor: I have to tell you a story about your son!
Mama: Okay.
Camp Counselor: Yesterday, your son was sitting with three other boys, and one was like, "I hate girls!" and the next boy was like, "Yeah, girls are so gross!" and the next boy was like, "Yeah, girls are the worst!" And Anders just looked at them all with his mouth open and a big, confused, smile on his face, and he was like, "How can you hate girls?! They're so beautiful!"

Anders switched camps every week all summer, doing gymnastics, four different science camps, ballroom dancing camp, ice skating camp, and Spanish camp. He has made new friends wherever he has gone, but he commented to me that last summer he went to the same camp for six weeks, so he was able to make much better friends. He said that that is what he would like to do next summer, but this summer he is just interested in too many things, so despite the constantly changing peer group, he wants to stick with his plan to do a new camp every week.

Anders continues to exhibit none of the tensional outlets that the books I read tell me are normal for his age (that I have never thought were normal). No finger sucking, nail biting, clothing chewing, eye twitching, stuttering, or attachment objects. He has still never had a nightmare (except that one when he was 2 about cookies) nor is he afraid of the dark or harmless bugs. He does pick his nose occasionally but not often enough for me to think it's a tension thing. He also swings his legs under the table when he is bored, but again, it doesn't seem to be tension related.

Fantasy

Anders continues to play games with his Legos for hours each day when he comes home from camp. Usually he is building farms, robots, or armies. He has conversations with himself and will sometimes tell me not to talk to him because he is playing a game.

He continues to exhibit a solid ability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

Eating & Nutrition

In his camp lunches each day he usually packs some kind of grass fed meat stick, but sometimes sardines or oysters or homemade sausage, a cheese, a sliced up piece of fruit that is almost always an apple, a vegetable which is almost always seaweed, a grain which is almost always crackers but sometimes gallo pinto, and a treat which is almost always a small piece of chocolate. He always brings a thermos of water and sometime adds a bottle of coconut water as well.

His favorite thing to have for dinner during this time period has been Erewhon sushi. He likes the salmon and tuna with rice. He also likes it when I make him lox and cream cheese rolls. I found a great hot dog from US Wellness meats that we have been eating with fermented ketchup as well, though he isn's ever as enthusiastic about the hot dogs as he about sushi or lox rolls. He also likes it when I make pesto pasta or when I serve liver pate on crackers. He goes through phases of being obsessed with kefir smoothies and drinking a pints worth every day for a week or two to not liking them or drinking any at all for a month or two. He also goes through phases of loving a certain nut (it was pistachios and then almonds and currently it's walnuts).

After it turned out that the snacks given to the children at his camps gave him red cheeks, Anders stopped accepting the snacks offered to him at camps sometimes, but not all the time.

Anders is generally effortless to feed. I buy whole grain sourdough bread, but sometimes I buy white sourdough bread. Anders is happy to eat either. I cut the crusts off for him (because my mother would not do that for me) but he doesn't care all that much. I slice apples for him. I stopped peeling them for him because he really didn't mind them with the peels on. Sometimes I serve brown rice and sometimes white rice. He likes both. He thought the brown noodles were tastier than the white noodles with pesto sauce. He will taste anything I ask him to taste and doesn't spit it out or make a big show of it if he doesn't like it.

I wrote down everything Anders ate for a last week and analyzed it on NutritionData.com to see if he was getting all his vitamins and minerals. I shared the results with him, that the good news is that he was getting at least some (50% of his RDA) of every vitamin and mineral through his diet and that the bad news was that he was low (only 50% of his RDA) in vitamins A, E, and K. I told him the best foods to eat more of to get those vitamins, and he has taken it from there. I also told him that most likely he doesn't gravitate towards foods with A and K in them as he gets those from his cod liver oil high vitamin butter oil vitamin, which were not input into the analysis. So we are going to focus on eating more nuts (soaked!) at our house for the vitamin E.

I continue to believe that children are rational and make great choices if given information and control over their own lives.

It is stressful to decide that we are doing "good enough," that 80% in any given vitamin and mineral is good enough, that I don't need to go after the 100%, that I can continue to maintain this relaxed attitude about nutrition. But for now, that's what I am going with! Because it makes me happy. I love my relaxed attitude and how well it has worked with Anders. He doesn't act like a deprived kid, stuffing his face at parties or camps. He acts like a kid who gets plenty of treats. I am hoping that we are eating well enough for Anders to get straight teeth without ever needing braces (both Tom and I wore braces for years, and we both need them again as adults). Only time will tell, unfortunately, and even then, I wont know for sure that the WAPF claim is true until child number two has grown because I did not take cod liver oil when I was pregnant with Anders, so he did not get ideal nutrition in the womb. Thus far his dentist says his palate looks great, so ... I hope!

Anders recently watched the entire documentary Food, Inc.

Interests

Though Anders has loved all the camps he has done so far this summer, the one he loved the most was the robotics camp.

Average day in Los Angeles 

8am: wake, dress, eat, brush teeth
830am-11am play
11am-12pm: home school work
12pm: lunch
1pm: errands or more play
3pm-5pm: class (Krav Maga, ballroom, Montessori math, Kumon, music, pre-hockey)
530pm: dinner
6pm: bath, get ready for bed
730p: read and talk
9pm: sleep

Average day in Los Angeles during camp season:

8am rush: wake, dress, eat, brush teeth, pack lunch, go!
830am: drive
9am-3pm camp
3-345pm: drive
345-5pm: play with Legos or read books to himself
5pm: dinner
530pm: play
630pm: Kumon
7p: bath, get ready for bed, wrestle with Papa
8pm: lights out, cuddle up and talk
9pm sleep

Home School Work (about 1 hour)

4 problems from Ray's New Primary Arithmetic (I was doing 1 but Anders upped it to 4)
Addition flash cards when learning something new
10 pages of Kumon math
1 page Brain Quest questions, first grade level
1 lesson in Kumon Spatial Reasoning work book, kindergarten level
1 lesson Kumon coins workbook
1 page (both sides) in Gifted and Talented Test Prep work book first grade evel (logic)
1 page (both sides) in Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Kindergarten level
1 page or 1 book in Hooked on Phonics
6 NVC flash cards
Read to Mom for twenty minutes

Generally he has a current favorite workbook in which he does many more than one page, more like sight pages. Which workbook is the current favorite changes by the week.

Anders's Music Playlist

Whenever Anders hears a song playing that he likes, he asks me to add it to his playlist. These are the songs that have been added so far. Despite the variety of songs on his list, I only ever hear him playing Josh Vietti and "I'm Goona Getcha Good."

Alanis Morissette: You Learn
Ben Harper: Gold To Me, Fight for your mind
Bucky Covington: It's Good to Be Us
Capella Istopolitana: Mandolin Concerto RV425 Allegro
Carrie Underwood: Wasted
Cross Canadian Ragweed: Constantly
Dave Matthews Band: Best of What's Around
Enya: After Ventus, Evacuee, I Want Tomorrow
Jamey Johnson: In Color
Josh Vietti: In A Trance, Night in Paris, Fur Elise are his favorites but he likes everything by Vietti
Kenny Chesney: Young
London Symphony Orchestra & Micheal Tilson Thomas: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
Nina Gerber: Lullaby
Secret Garden: Passacaglia
Shania Twain: I'm Gonna Getcha Good
Sting: When We Dance
Taylor Swift: White Horse
Terri Clark: I Just Wanna Be Mad
The Beatles: Birthday
The Civil Wars: Dust to Dust
The Evening Guests: Lost at Sea, What a Show
The Youngbloods: Let's Get Together
Wynonna: Always Will

Why I am Not Posting a Lot Right Now

I have gotten a couple of emails from people asking me why I am not posting anymore and if I have quit the blog. The answer is, no, I love this blog! I have no intention of quitting it. However, I have a very important job (raising Anders) so whenever we get busy, this blog must take the back seat.

Also, I need to stop blogging so much if I ever want to finish my next book! But the fact is, I haven't had time to write at all because--

Last year we spent 9 months at the farm and 3 months at hotels in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. At the farm I have ample free time to write. But we didn't like Anders being at the farm during the dry season of March-May (too much sun) so this year we decided to leave the farm during that time. Because the dry season is followed immediately by the summer camp season in Los Angeles (June-August) we thought we would try a 6 months Nicaragua / 6 months Los Angeles split this year.

Six months is too long to spend in hotels, so we decided to rent a Los Angeles crash pad. We have lived in many different LA neighborhoods and hated all of them, so this time we decided to do an experiment. We stayed at AirBnB's in different areas all over the city, trying to find the area of the city we liked the most. It was quite grueling, but very worth it. Brentwood was the winner. In June, we rented a cute, little townhouse in Brentwood that has both a library and a Whole Foods within walking distance, among other things.

But between the constant moving, house hunting, furniture buying, cooking, cleaning, taxi-ing Anders to various activities, and the other normal busy-ness of life in Los Angeles, it has been quite a whirlwind. Brentwood is by far my favorite place that I have ever lived in LA, but man do I miss the farm!

Anyway, I can't wait to catch you all up on everything I have been learning. Hopefully I will have time to write more soon. At the very least the update on Anders's education will be out.

Last note, I have been fairly decent during the last few months about posting interesting articles on my Facebook page, Raising Children is an Act of Philosophy and conversations with Anders on my personal page. So if you want some interesting things to think about in the mean time, check those out.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Notes on Anders's "Education" age 5 1/3

At 5 1/3

Reading

We stopped doing the Kumon reading program in January. He had wanted to do their program, so I supported him, but I never liked it very much. After I read The Well-Trained Mind I was able to explain to him (and myself) exactly why I was not liking the program and why I thought he should stop doing it. Anders agreed to stop after he finished level 3A. Here is the post I wrote about that decision: http://roslynross.blogspot.com/2016/12/ideal-reading-programs-and-kumon-i-can.html.

Sometime in January we went back to doing Hooked on Phonics. We reviewed the kindergarten program for a few weeks, focusing on mastering sound combinations. Anders flew threw it and really enjoyed revisiting books that he had read when he was "young." Then we reviewed the first grade program up to where we had been when we switched last year. It was quite surprising to me how quickly it all came back to him. We have been doing a lot more repetition this time through, reading each little book several times until he has truly mastered it before moving on. We are now about two weeks shy of finishing the first grade program.

We currently read at night right before bed. We read something hard (new) for ten minutes, something easy (review) for five minutes, and then do flashcards for five minutes and some brain quest (we finished the kindergarten one during this time period). Then I read to him until he wants to go to sleep.

I finally found a series of kids' versions of the classics that I like. It's called the Classic Starts series. It is much less dumbed down than the other series of classics for kids that I have read – I have been happy with the vocabulary level. They are short. They are like a quick intro course that enables us to cover more books and decide which ones we really like and want to read the longer versions of. For example, we recently read Pinocchio, Oliver TwistTreasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights in the Classic Starts series. The only one we want to read a longer version of is King Arthur.

We also recently read (the original versions of) Little Men, Swedish Folk Tales, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All were hits with Anders, of course. The one I liked the most was Swedish Folk Tales. We have read many different books of fairy tales at this point and Swedish Folk Tales is the only one I have ever liked values-wise.

Another thing we have learned – several times, we keep accidentally repeating this experiment due to random circumstances: If Anders watches more than about ninety minutes of television (documentaries) in a single day, he will find doing his work extremely difficult the next day. It's cumulative too. If he watches no television for a few weeks and then has a television intensive day due to traveling, he will only struggle a little the next day whereas if he watches a bunch of television several days in a row, he will get progressively worse at his work each day until he is struggling to the point that we decide to forgo any more television until his brain is better.

What is different about his brain is his ability to focus. If Anders hasn't watched any television in a week, he can sit down and do five pages of math in one sitting. If Anders has had an overdose of screen time, he will do a half a page, stare into space, get distracted with something else, focus long enough to finish the page, and then decide he doesn't feel like doing his work today.

Math

At the beginning of this time period Anders needed something to change with his math. He would say that he wanted to keep doing his math program, but for about two weeks he would never make time to do it. I couldn't blame him – there is so much exciting stuff going on at the farm all the time! I asked him if we could just put the program on pause as I didn't want to pay for it if we weren't going to do it.

That made him very upset, and he started doing the program again. After a few weeks I felt like I had to threaten him with cancelation of the program constantly otherwise he would not make the time to do it. That wasn't working for me.

I told him I was very confused about what to do. His words were saying he wanted to do the program, but not his actions. He told me to just make him do his Kumon, like the kids I used to be a nanny for. Thus began a very interesting discussion that lasted a few days: We try to have no force in our family, but is force okay if the other person gives you permission because they have a goal, but need help with their self-control? Anders thought so. He has helped me from time to time to limit my chocolate consumption, and I was always appreciative.

In the end I decided to experiment and see. I thought Anders might be curious about what it is like to be forced to do something and, when you are five, there is value even in negative experiences, provided they are not traumatizing. I didn't think it would be traumatizing, so we decided that the next day I would be "Anders's nanny instead of his mom."

So, the next morning I didn't let him leave his chair until his math was done, as I had done with many children before him. It was fascinating and depressing. He pulled the math out of his head with a slowness that I had never seen in him before. I have always marveled at how fast and bright he is, but that day he seemed slow and stupid. When his work was finally done, it was ugly, lots of erasing, scribbles, rips, and doodles. His behavior and the work he produced was virtually identical to the kids for whom I had been a nanny. All this time I thought he was so bright, but as it turns out he was bright because he was doing what he wanted to be doing. Shocker.

When his math was done for the day, I asked him what he thought about being forced, and he said, "It was fine. Will you do that again tomorrow?" I was feeling very conflicted. But the experience helped me realize what the problem was or, rather, what Anders needed.

The next day I told him I didn't want to force him. I told him that what I thought he might be interested in was something called self-control.

I said (something along these lines):

 "You used to do math for the experience of doing the math. You were learning something new, and it was fun. Learning new things is fun. But after you were done with the learning, it became time to master the math problems and have them so memorized in your brain that you never have to think about them again. That is your new task. And you are experiencing it right now as a boring task, because you haven't learned how to switch brains.

"In a way, we have two brains in our head. Our Long Term Goal Brain and our Right Now Brain. Most of the time, when you are five, your Right Now Brain is the boss. But as you get older, your Long Term Goal Brain starts to grow, and it wants to be the boss sometimes.

"Our Right Now Brains just wants to be experiencing the world, not memorizing things. In fact, it hates memorizing things. It hates it so much that every math problem is painful, and when doing work is painful, the work itself becomes ugly. Look at this work you turned in yesterday!

"If you can learn how to command your attention, by strengthening your focus muscle, your Right Now Brain will be quiet for a minute and your Goal Brain will take over. When your Goal Brain is in charge, doing your math will be easy; you will be fast; your work will be beautiful; and you will feel powerful and competent. For that reason it will be fun again. It is fun to feel powerful and competent.

"You get to decide what brain is the boss. It's called commanding your attention, deciding what to focus on, and then having a strong enough focus muscle to stay focused. Yesterday, when you did your work, you were in your Right Now Brain. That's why the work felt boring and miserable.

"Today, I don't want you to think about doing math. This work isn't about math. This is about your ability to be the boss of your attention. Not me. If I am the boss of your attention you won't get stronger. If you are the boss of your attention you will get stronger and stronger every day. See if you can give all your attention power to your Goal Brain, and just get this done. You will know you are succeeding when time disappears, and you find yourself just whipping out numbers."

This was exactly what Anders needed to hear. His goal became, not to do math pages, but to see if he could command his attention and strengthen his focus muscle. He started with just one page at a time. But he could feel the difference. When he was in his Goal Brain he felt powerful and capable and the math was easy to do and time flew by. When he lost his focus, there were suddenly lots of mistakes on the page, and he felt powerless and miserable. (Or at least, that is what he told me. It's entirely possible he was just repeating to me what I had said.)

It took about a week for him to get his focus up to five pages straight. The new game of "Can I Focus My Brain?" was so interesting for him that he started hopping out of bed in the morning and saying, "Give me my pages!" Then he would sit down and whip them out, five beautiful pages with no errors and nice handwriting. Many times there would be a section, around page two or three in which there would be three problems or so that were scribbled out, and I would say, "Look, I can see you lost your focus here, and I can see here you got it back here."

At the end of this time period: Anders continues to race through his math every day, impressing himself with his speed and memorization abilities and blowing me away with his persistence and determination. He is almost done with the long, hard unit of 3A.

After he is done with his Kumon pages we do one page in his logic workbook. Sometimes he thinks it is so much fun that he ends up doing ten pages.

Business Skills

It occurs to me that this should be its own section, as it is a major part of Anders's curriculum. Right now, we play Money Bags every day. In the past we have also played Monopoly. We recently read (again) all the Tuttle Twins Books, Who Is Bill Gates, Who Was Steve Jobs, Buy My Hats, Lemonade in Winter, Escape the Rat Race, Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Go to Market, Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday, and Fisherman's Catch. In the past we read: Who Was Milton Hershey, Who is Richard Bronson, Diddle Daddle Ducking, Pelle's New Suit, and How and Economy Grows and Why It Doesn't.

Anders also goes to work with his dad once a week or so for two to six hours. Tom also takes Anders on special "business dates," in which they meet an important lawyer or car dealer.

I talk about gold, silver, dollars, and cordobas with Anders and we have been to a coin store where Anders bought himself some pieces of silver. For the solstice this year, Anders decided to forgo getting sweets in his stocking so he could have another silver coin.

Games

Anders's favorite game is still memory, though he loves any game anyone wants to play, especially games that involve running like hide and seek and tag.

Social Skills

Anders thinks that calling people names is the funniest thing ever, so funny that he shrieks. What is funny to me is what he thinks is funny to call people: a hammer, a nail, a window, a block of cement, rice, beans, milk, an ant, a chicken, a dog, a pig. I assume his brain is learning metaphors.

We had a family visit us at the farm for a week. They had a five year old boy who was our guest. They boys butted heads a lot at first, but after a few days they learned how to get along and became quite good friends with almost no squabbles.

I don't really have anything else interesting to note. Anders seems quite competent, outgoing, friendly, bossy at times and kind at times, and struggles with things other five-year-olds struggle with.

Fantasy

Anders pretends: that he is on his way to an airport and might be late, that he is riding on Air Force One with the president, that he is a Jedi and has to protect his property from thieves, that he owns a farm, and that he has invented a new weapon that makes him super powerful. He has an endless fantasy life and is always playing games and talking to himself. He can entertain himself for hours at a time. On our recent long travel day from the farm to Los Angeles, he never asked for the iPad, he was too involved in the world around him and the game he was playing with his Legos.

The other mom that was visiting marveled at Anders's ability to entertain himself.

Eating & Nutrition

We read The Adventures of Andrew Price and I still talk to Anders regularly about why I make the food choices I do. I also told him that our taste buds are largely habit based, liking anything they have tasted twenty times. I asked him if he would start tasting various healthy foods and he happily complied. He generally announces that he loves something new after only the second or third taste. Many times he likes things the first time.

There is no force here. If he says he doesn't want to taste something I say, "Okay, maybe next time." or I argue with him, "But Anders, carrots have vitamin A in them which is so good for your eyes!" Generally any argument works and Anders decides to taste whatever it is I was offering.

Because Anders has been raised on real food (as opposed to processed food), if he eats too much processed food he will throw it up. I was reminded of this recently when he was served goldfish at a friend's house (and vomited them up the minute he got home).

Interests

One day I saw two fire trucks. Anders saw them at the same time and said, "Look mom! A ladder truck and a pump truck." I looked at the trucks and noticed that yes, one did have a ladder on it, and the other, well, let's be honest, they all just look like firetrucks to me.

Anders is interested in Star Wars because other boys are. He is also very interested in war, weapons, money, and Donald Trump. He continues to be interested in being stronger and finding a partner.

Average day at the farm:

6:00am Wake, do Kumon
6:30am Have breakfast as fast as possible, run off to play
8:00am-12:00pm Work with German or Erick or Elieser, weeding, trimming trees, stacking fire wood, digging swales, or do cooking project with Emelia
12:00pm lunch
12:30pm Play with friends, swim, run around, play Legos
5:00pm dinner
5:30pm get ready for bed, admire the stars
6:00pm get in bead, do Hooked on Phonics, play games with Mom, read
7:30pm sleep







Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Different Way to Think About Death

I've been reading book about death for a while, wanting to grasp the psychology of it, wanting to know more about my own future. One thing that struck me is that those who care for the dying say they need two things above all: permission to die and company while they do so. In our society today we are terrible at meeting that first need.

What do we do when we see a dying creature?

In some times and places compassion for a dying animal meant giving it a quicker death. Now it means fixing it, at all costs, and caring for it, if necessary, for the rest of its life. Now it means prolonging its death for as long as possible. And if it is dying and there is nothing we can do, lying about it.

What we are doing, that we claim to do in the name of compassion, is not compassion. It is avoidance of pain and fear of death.

We, the living, don't want to confront death. We would rather the burden of carrying a dying creature for fifty years than a week at his bedside holding his hand while he dies. Yet that is what the dying need, I have read. Not to be our burden. No one wants to be a burden.

We know this, deep down, that no one will accept burden status, so we lie to them. We tell stories to make them feel entitled to being burdens; we play a dishonest psychological game with ourselves pretending that they are not burdens, that it is meaningful to carry them, that good people are genuinely happy to do so, that it is their right to be carried, that they deserve it, etc.

But this dishonesty is not kind because dying people need two things: our permission to die and company while they do so.

To turn them into a burden and then lie to them, telling them they are not a burden, is to deprive them of our permission to die.

More than denying them permission, it gives them the message that they are bad to die. It also deprives them of a possible meaningful death.

"Am I a burden to you?" What if they need to hear that they are? What if that is what will give them the strength to face what is perhaps the scariest thing a person will ever have to face? What if we said, "You are a burden to me, a heavy one. I am struggling under the weight of carrying you. But I will carry you, until you are ready to go."

The journey of death is the journey of acceptance. How can the dying find meaning in their death if we refuse to? What if their death could have meaning? What if instead of their death being a failure, it can be a gift they give those who survive them, a lightening of the burdens of the living?

The faceless society cannot bear the dying, individual people must. Because it is the desire to not burden those individuals that gives the dying the strength to go, that enables their death to be a gift. I would so much rather my death be a gift to those I love than a traumatizing event that causes them pain.

Not saying we should run around telling people to die. Not saying death will ever not be painful. But I would like to see a cultural shift in our attitudes about death and especially about choosing to die instead of live and the many times it is a highly rational choice. We treat death as such a tragedy, but it is the fate of each and every one of us. It is not a failure on the part of the dying person.

Someone wrote to ask me about my position on the elderly and here is what I have to say: In Tibetan Buddhism it is said that a person spends the first half of his life learning to live and the second half learning to die. The elderly are those in the final stages of learning to die. They should never be infantilized nor turned into burdens against their own wishes. Their death is natural and right and should not be prevented or prolonged, rather it should be treated as sacred, beautiful, and theirs.

The dying need two things from the living: permission to die and company while they do so. Most people die today, sadly, without the former. Like labor, the "no" instead of the "yes" can make the experience last much longer than it would have otherwise. Death can be dragged on for years if someone is given the message that their death will cause pain to others.

And the latter not everyone actually needs, just most people. I will want someone to hold my hand. But many people are so connected to their spirituality that they don't need anyone there. If that is the message an elderly person gives by choosing to stay in his own home alone, so be it. He doesn't want to be a burden. That is actually far more natural and right than convincing him he would not be a burden. He should be praised as heroic, honest, emotionally aware, brave, and generous. It is not sad to know that, no matter how much your family loves you, caring for you would be a burden for them – a burden they would bear, but a burden you don't wish them to bear. It is beautiful to refuse to be their burden, beautiful to give them that gift.

Perhaps this isn't a new way to think about death at all. I have read of hunter gatherer tribes in which the old were expected to get lost in the forest. That was how they died. No one offered to carry them. No one insisted the tribe go slower. Similarly, old vikings, when they saw that they were becoming burdens on the living, left to fight in a battle. They did it consciously, knowing they would not survive the fight. They said their goodbyes and then picked a cause to die for. Of course, their main cause was that gift they wanted to give their families. Because life was understood to be endless toil and death was understood to be rest, it was easy to talk about the burden of caring for the old. Contrast that with today, when we can't seem to have honest conversations about death at all.