Re: Respects and Responsibilities
From: The Newberry Family (
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 22:24:09 -0700 (MST)
On Fri, 21 Jan 2000, I offered:

> For our discussions on children in community here in Cascadia, I developed
> a list of thought-provoking quotes, mostly culled from members themselves
> and an issue of _Communities_ magazine (I think) that focussed on
> children.  If anyone is interested in the whole list of quotations
> (nothing is credited), I'd be happy to send it along -- please drop me a
> line privately (more than 5 requests and it comes to the list ;-).  

I have indeed received more than 5 requests, so here is the list of
quotations.  I hope you find it useful.  

If you plan on using it in your community, you'll want to change the
references to Cascadia.  I'd also recommend adding physical concerns
specific to your community (not everyone has a wetlands on their property,
for instance), and quotes from your own community members if possible.  To
ensure that people actually read it, you might consider reciting it aloud
in a circle, with each person taking the next quote.

FYI, I formatted it in 10-point type, and used 2 columns since so many of
the quotes are short.  I think it came out to 2 pages, but it might have
been 3.  I put boxes around the long segments -- they are indicated below
by indented paragraphs that are kept together (I put little dashes around
a poem and before the last long segment).  If you really really want a
formatted copy, please email me privately and I'll try to attach it for

I recognized as I reviewed this that I also made free use of the archives
of cohousing-l (searching on childcare), so some of you may recognize your
own voices. :-)

Gretchen Westlight
Cascadia Commons
Portland, Oregon, USA
In the final throes (we hope, we hope) of contract negotiations.
Please keep us in your thoughts!!!

                Children in Cascadia:  Food for Thought

        Children in intentional communities tend to have early, frequent,
and enduring relationships with peers who are diverse in age and
personality.  Communal environments facilitate "children's societies"
where children hang together in groups and provide for each other much of
the support and teaching that is traditionally provided by adults.
        Especially for young children in rural communities, the open
environment and close-knit peer groups seem to provide rewarding and
stimulating experiences.  One community member went so far as to say, "For
our young kids, it's the nearest they're ever going to get to Paradise."
        Occasionally, such "children's societies" are forces to be
reckoned with, as children gather strength and solidarity from their
numbers.  This fact was humorously portrayed in an interview with one
precocious eight-year-old girl.
        Interviewer:  Do you believe in God?
        Eight-year-old girl:  Mmm-hmm, do you?
        Interviewer:  I'm not sure.  I think I do.
        Eight-year-old girl:  I believe in a Goddess, a girl God.
        Interviewer:  That could be.
        Eight-year-old girl:  I believe that there's a girl ruling the
        Interviewer:  It's probably you.
        Eight-year-old girl:  No, I just rule this community.
        Interviewer:  You do, huh?
        Eight-year-old girl:  Us kids do actually.

Even if we do manage to come up with some great working models of
sustainability, they won't endure unless we learn how to pass the baton to
the next generation.

What if someone in Cascadia harms a child? 

One of the most common shortcomings of communities is to get so caught up
in our efforts to make the world a better place that we fail to put enough
attention and energy into our children. 

It's the community's responsibility to encourage its member parents. 

Children are worthy of respect.

Single parents take a lot of energy and can't give much to the community. 

Our group has always had a policy of paying for childcare.  Everyone
contributes the same amount regardless of whether they have children in
childcare for general meetings.  That way, it's not a burden for people
with children to attend.  We felt that this was absolutely necessary for
community building and avoiding resentment.  Committee meetings generally
take place when people can leave their children with somebody, and it's up
to individuals to get childcare.  Workshops and big meetings have
childcare as a general rule.

Kids in community know that there is something odd and unusual going on
and I think that they can take that in stride and realize that they too
are participating in something very new, that they, too, are pioneers. 

I was impressed by the approach to parenting at Zendik Farm, where
children are fully engaged in the daily life of the community.  Zendik
kids come to all the community's daily planning meetings, spend a few
hours doing "classroom" work, pitch in with all the community work areas,
and participate in discussions about philosophy, creativity, group
dynamics, and even parenting.  By the time children are 10, they know how
to tend the animals, do basic carpentry and auto mechanics, plan and cook
meals, and hold their own in conversations with adults.

Adorable children are considered to be the general property of the human
race.  (Rude children belong to their mothers.) 

How can expectations of non-parenting members be most easily heard by
parents, and vice versa?  How will we cope with different values and
standards (of, say, cleanliness) in childrearing? 

It is non-negotiable for me that all adult members of Cascadia be
completely aware of and committed to children's safety. 

What are the kid boundaries?  Who will enforce those?  Think about traffic
between kid space and the Common House entry.  Do you want kids running
through the dining room?  Parents won't watch their kids as much in
cohousing as usual (that's the whole idea, isn't it?).  Do we need a
monitor for the common house?  Are there areas where kids are not allowed?
Should meal times be staggered for people who don't want to eat with kids?
(This would be hard on cooks.)

What its children become, that will the community become. 

When I took my baby to meetings with me, I was chastised by another man in
the community for my "noisy" child.  There's really not much you can do
about the noise an infant makes, as this man found out several years
later.  He didn't even realize that his baby was making noise!  (Parents
get used to the constant babble.)

What happens if children don't respect the boundaries and rules of the
community, and their parents aren't around to correct them? 

Children disrupt meetings. 

Although members of intentional communities frequently profess a desire to
insulate their children from what they perceive as the destructive aspects
of the outside world, the barriers between inside and out are generally
quite thin. 

Parents of young children do not have as much energy or attention to put
into sustaining the community. 

Our community pays top dollar for -- and expects top quality -- childcare.
It is too important to have parents present and not distracted by,
concerned about, or unequally burdened by childcare.  Full participation
in meetings is a community benefit, not a personal benefit to the family
as if the parents were simply going out to a movie.

Will I, as a parent, always have to ask the community specifically to keep
my needs (early bedtimes, shorter meetings, less flexibility in
scheduling, etc.) in mind? 

Why have so few families with children become full members of Cascadia? 

When many adults assume personal responsibility for raising and
disciplining children, the multitude of personal theories about everything
from diaper changing to the budding sexuality of adolescents can turn
parenting into a real circus. 

        There are such different philosophies about how to take care of
children.  Some want the children to be very independent and have minimal
supervision, and then there's the opposite extreme who think that a young
child's day should be totally structured, totally supervised with
entertaining and interesting activities planned throughout, and then
there's tremendous variation in how much the child has to conform to adult
expectations of peace and quiet.  It goes on and on. 
        These differences may be even more evident in the early years of a
community's existence when adults first notice disparities between their
ideals and visions of community life and what is really happening within
their community. 

Parenting styles change from generation to generation.  There is often
more tension and judgment about different childrearing practices between
generations than among peers.

Parents and children are sensitive enough to not impose themselves or ask
for much from people who are not interested in spending time with

Children should be seen and not heard. 

To what extent does it become a group issue to deal with childcare (what
aspects, what level)? 

What commitments do we need to make to children in order for Cascadia to
be appealing to families with young children? 

It seems that childcare is an ongoing struggle for parents.  Maybe the
help they're wanting from the community is not the help we're best
equipped to give.

To what extent will children be included and excluded from Cascadia
activities (such as group activities, meetings, meals viz. different
dietary interests and needs)?

                Another Night on the Farm

Wind blows a cone loose from a fir
        the door swings open another heartache enters
        playing then wrestling he nearly chokes a young girl

        silently we watch as another TV violence scene
        suddenly becomes real the girl cries
        the boy wonders why is it any wonder that compassionless boys
        grow up playing with Star Wars toys

I reach out to encourage an apology
        the boy's mother rebukes me "let him work it out on his own" she
        without guidance, the lesson is missed no apology, no reprimand,
                no lesson learned

Are these the families who will guide our world to Peace?

What do parents expect and how can they communicate it clearly to the rest
of the community?

How will we handle different parenting styles?

What happens if there is a "difficult" kid whose parents are not present
for the child, and this child is disruptive enough to make things
unpleasant for the other kids, parents, and any caregivers?  (Heck, what
if we have a "difficult" person of any age?)

How childproof will the Common House be?  What are the safety issues
around an ever-so-explorable wetland?  How vigilant are adults willing to
be around young children in their not-necessarily-childproofed home?

        The following guidelines are offered as a starting point for
discussion about values and expectations regarding children in community.

                        Guidelines for Adults

        If a child in our community behaves in my presence in a way that I
perceive as inappropriate or dangerous and I lovingly intervene, our
community family is strengthened.  I, therefore, strive to demonstrate
personal responsibility for the children in my community by:

        * my own positive example,
        * upholding the following children's guidelines with justice and
        * but without violence or verbal abuse, and by
        * empowering others to do the same.

        In addition, I agree to supportively inform parents (and other
individuals when appropriate) when I have been involved in or have
witnessed a disturbing (or inspiring) incident with a child of theirs.

                        Guidelines for Children

        Children are held accountable to:

        * respect others' property
        * abstain from intentional physical or emotional cruelty to
                others, and
        * be sensitive of their own and other's personal boundaries and

The stars exploded and made all that is Heaven and Earth.  We are all star dust.

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