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paul wheaton
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When I was thinking about the project, I didn't think of kids. I don't know why. All of my plans seemed to be focused on just adults. And then there seemed to be kids popping into the equation a lot.

Seven years ago I did a community living experiment. 11 people under one roof. This included two toddlers. My thought was that it was always great to have some children around. And then it morphed to be that "some" was a value that you cannot control - especially when you are not the parent. Screaming from discomfort or screaming from joy was part of the package. And the parent's perspective was that everybody else needed to do a little more cleaning and be a little more tolerant of mess because that's just the deal when kids are present. And speaking of kids - in that same experiment I had one teenager in the mix (mine) - and that ended up being a discomfort of sorts to others. At one point one of the mothers of the toddlers said that the food bill should be divided in such a way that the kids were not counted because they ate so much less. My response was that when you add in the amount of food they waste, it works out to about the same.

I moved into basecamp in early june. I've been gone a fair amount for travel. I think it is fair to say I have now racked up about six weeks here. We have seen kids of many ages during this time. Including toddlers.

I usually work about 12 hours a day on the empire. Sometimes more. My passion for what I do is so strong, that I have not sat down to actually read a paper book in many years. Nor have I taken a proper "vacation". I used to enjoy going to movies and plays and geocaching. I am perpetually behind and have gotten to the point that I organize my time into things I can do that only I can do, that will have the largest possible impact. I am trying to be better at delegating.

And then a crying toddler appears in the office. My first thought is "where is your mother?" (and then I realize this is horribly sexist and try to correct myself: "where are your parents?") So I stop my work and put some effort into finding a parental unit. Sometimes I try to calm the child and make them comfortable in the office and continue to work.

Jocelyn is trying to complete her day job stuff, plus get caught up on empire stuff, and she has had the same happen to her.

In the last week we have probably had eight hours consumed (collectively) by toddlers with missing parents. Each situation has its own story. And we are working on optimizing things so that this will be reduced by 90% or more in the future.

Part of me is scolding myself: what sort of callous fucker are you? These are children in need of a little help! A few hours of your time can bring great comfort/joy! Plus, don't you LIKE kids?

So I like kids and I have fun with them. I find great comedy in teaching them things that their parents probably don't want them to ever learn. At the same time, my innards are getting mighty twisted trying to fit in my own things and suddenly I find my things on hold because a child needs supervision and now I have babysitter duty.

Then I find toys and messes. And Jocelyn likes things a state of clean/tidy that seems to be beyond my level of eyesight/observation/comprehension, so for everything I see, I suspect Jocelyn is actually picking-up/cleaning ten times more.

Then there are older kids. And teenagers. We have had some teenagers who come, throw their shoulder in, and really seem to get what we are doing. They help with the cooking and they wash their own plate and help with cleanup. They will even keep an eye on the toddlers and tidy up after them. And then there are teenagers that think they are helping, but have managed to not even wash their own plate. And their parents seem to not notice. And somebody has to clean up after them.

And then somebody was setting up some electric fence on the laboratory and said "what if some child ..." and my response was: this is the laboratory. This is where we will be conducting a LOT of dangerous experiments in an effort to make a better world. If a child is left unattended here, then the parent has effectively said "I am okay with my child being killed and eaten by mountain lions or hogs or bears or electric fence or piles of logs or whatever." Unattended children are NOT allowed on the laboratory - we cannot guarantee any level of safety on the land. All experiments should be designed with safety for adults - and with the thought that there are no children present. Parents should all be aware that there are experiments in progress and should keep their children off the land.

We are constantly optimizing our approach to everything. And having kids here at all is something I am very unprepared for. But kids are a fact of life.

Things are so complicated.

The purpose of this post is a feeble attempt to optimize things for the future. If you have kids at basecamp - keep them with you and clean up after them. This is not a posh hotel with daycare and tidy services. Plus, while other people might be comfortable with allowing children to add a level of funk to the house/office that is within their comfort zone, the level of clean required here is much higher.

Our mission here is important. We have dramatically changed our lives to prove certain things in a very short amount of time. The presence of children gums up the works. Children nearly always take precedence over anything else going on. So a large part of me thinks that the policy should be NO CHILDREN. EVER. NONE. ZIP. NADA. At the same time, some parents have pleaded to get exceptions and we've talked and worked things out. And then other parents have shown up and we thought everything would be okay and ..... well, it has become clear that I need to say something.

There is a very specific mission here. Anybody coming here MUST be pushing that mission forward in one way or another. Things CAN work to push things forward with children - but I think most parents would impede our mission because of their children, and they would errantly think that they are helping.

In 99% of the world, the safety of children outranks innovation. In 1% of the world, steel is being poured, delicate chemistry is being conducted, engineering is being done, homes are under construction, ponds are being dug, etc. In that 1% of the world, if you are not part of the work team you should not be there - and this goes double for children. This project is about innovation.

Ten years into the future, the story will probably be different. Right now, there is an enormous amount of construction to be done and consideration for children just slows our progress.
 
John Polk
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Personally, I feel that if there are children on site they should be witnessing some of the infrastructure work going on.

Perhaps the parents could pool their resources, and take turns. "Today is my day to be the chaperone. I will take the group of children to watch the pond being built (from a safe distance)." Tomorrow, it is somebody else's turn to escort them to [insert project here].

This way, they are learning about the importance of the projects, rather than just seeing the results of fresh veggies on their plate every day.
An overall picture of the 'system' instead of just the bounty of the harvest. A true permaculture education. Better than any PDC course.

If there are enough parents on site to share a communal responsibility, it could become 'communal day care'.
If parents are not comfortable with such an arrangement, they shouldn't come with their children.

 
Julia Winter
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I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that small children are continually supervised. Folks with small children need to plan out who is going to mind the kids and who is going to do other things. I'm glad you are laying this out here--I hope that somebody is pointing the parents at this thread! Direct confrontation is so difficult and prickly.

Supervision of small children is something that can be done by the less muscled among us. So--if you were considering helping out at Paul's Farm, but were concerned that you are unable to lift logs and split shakes--there is something you can do to help! Traditionally kid wrangling is done by older children (with some secondary supervision), mothers so occupied with infants that they can't do other things, or grandparent aged folks.

I know it's a cliche, but it really does take a village. . .
 
Jessica Gorton
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I agree that pooling the resources of all the parents (and maybe the teenagers too? It's good for teens to take responsibility for the youngins once in a while) is a good idea. And as a parent of a toddler, I know how hard it is, and how you can feel that your usefulness as a human being (and permaculturist) can be subjugated by this little monster who usurps all your time and energy...I mean, beautiful spirit who teaches me great lessons everyday.

About food consumption: the community I lived in had a rising scale as to how much kids were counted when splitting up the food bills. Nothing till they started eating solids, of course, and then rising every year till they were teenagers and eating as much (or more!) as the adults. And, my kid doesn't waste that much food, mostly because I don't give him more than I think he can eat.

And now, I'm off to play with blocks, and maybe convince him to play outside so I can do some mulching. Maybe. I'm just happy I got the green beans harvested today, and I kept him from trampling the onions in the process.
 
Chris Kott
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I think it really does take a village, and that's why most folks are messed up nowadays.

But look at the issue from a permaculture perspective; what you have isn't too many children. What you have is a lack of organised constructive work detail on the level of toddlers to teens and all in between. Okay, there are practical limits, but how old do kids have to be to make seed balls, make holes and plant potatoes, seed hugelbeets, that sort of thing. Weren't shepherds usually children? Just fit them into the framework.

I think it would be helpful to make it clear that every mouth comes with a pair of hands, and everybody works. Just like adults with health issues, figure out what capabilities are, and then try to pair them with needs and interests, and later, everybody will drift towards natural talents and inclinations.

-CK
 
David Livingston
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I agree with Chris
I often wonder if we let kids be kids for too long . It does many of them no favours .
My grandmother and father left school at 13 , my father and mother at 16 and my daughter has just finished her education at 23.
I remember many who I went to school with basically marking time being taught stuff of no relevence or use .
So start them working young call it play if you want . I think it makes for happier adults and teenagers

David
 
mick mclaughlin
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As a single dad of two boys i absolutely understand the challenges. Nature knows they certainly change one's perspective.

But

Without kids, we are not very permie, are we?

Unless ya'll have made huge innovations, that i am not aware of!
 
Fred Walter
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Location: Near Beaver Valley, Ontario, Canada
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I have a 5.5 yo son and a 4 yo son.

Even with supervision, BOOM, stuff happens. You turn your back for one second, and if the the older one isn't doing something, its the younger one. Sometimes they are being difficult on purpose I think, but most of the time they are just curious and either exploring their environment or testing their environment (and our patience). For example, I'm using part of my barn as a wood-working workshop. Yesterday, my younger son took a bunch of nice pine boards (that were going to be used to make something), and as part of 'tidying up', threw them into the bottom of the barn. All that lumber needs to come back up, etc.

We have a fenced in area 'play' area in front of the house, the idea being that they would have a safe play area in which to contain them while we got work done. That lasted until the older son figured out how to open the gates.
 
kadence blevins
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i think this is where several things come into play.

~it takes a village- if people take shifts each day of being "nanny" and taking the kids "playing" that is actually doing something. like go on walks and map the rest of the property. note where animal dens are, dry creek beds, wet areas, edible plants are,.... they are amused and helping at the same time.
my dad a few times got stuck watchin us three girls plus seven kids my mom had been babysitting for extra money. she got called into her real job and they needed the money so dad ended up babysitter. he took string and marked off squares in our city yard and we all laid in front of our square and explored. we pulled out so many nails and broken glass and found bugs and picking clover. another time we just all went out for hours searching for 4leaf clovers.

~there is a darn good reason all the stories were the way they were that they told kids. goldilocks got eaten by the bears, hansel and Gretel one of em got eaten by the witch, red riding hood and the wolf,.... the old storied were teaching kids to be careful and be safe fearful. not like teach them to be scared of everything, but teach them to have a good a darn healthy fear of things that they need.
this in turn keeps them from doing many things that would get them in the way or possibly hurt as paul said about originally.
in our house growing up the guns hung on the wall on an old rack. we never once EVER EVER thought about doing anything with them. never once. we knew they were there and not to touch them. and we knew that dad killed deer and all with them. they were guns, end story. four girls ages 2, 4, and 8 who knew that and darn well we didn't touch em and if we would have then we would have been spanked and disciplined for it.

~kids need to be kids and play. and that's all very good and well. but they also need to know that when mom or dad, etc tells them to do something/help out with things/etc that they do it.

 
Chris Kott
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That's exactly what I'm saying. You might have to be able to introduce play and fun into the work, but what if kids were taught about chores and responsibility again? They would inject the fun themselves. And what if they were taught that screen time (internet, tv, movies, whatever) were privileges earned through hard work, and what if books were a lower-hanging entertainment apple, or one that older children could do whilst shepherding?

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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I like the idea that there is a part of the first section of the laboratory that is loaded with kids. And there is a clear line. Kids on one side and experiments on the other.

I have reached a point in my life where I am trying to get things done. If I take two hours off I would like to read a book - not do babysitter duty. I raised kids, I've been in community with kids, I'm done. I do feel I have a blood obligation to watch my nieces and nephews at times, so I do. Plus whenever they see me they yell out "uncle paul! uncle paul!" which is fun.

I feel like I am already sacrificing my personal comfort to accomplish a lot of stuff. And when a kid shows up, that sacrifice and my mission are sacrificed for somebody else.

Let's face it: when children are around, children come first. Have you noticed that most professional environments do not have children in them?

I think this can be done with kids. And I think it can also be impaired with kids.

When there are no kids around, it is clear that I'm in charge. When there are kids around, then the parents of those children are, in a way, in charge.

I think it is possible to get this all to work out with the right parents.

Did I mention the part where I watched a 3-year old with jam on his face wipe his face on my couch?

I like the idea that there will, someday, be three or four families with homes and the parents will help each other. And there will be several people that love children and will spend time with the children. And then there will be a dozen more families that don't have children and they never see children. And some of the folks in kid-ville come and throw a shoulder in to projects. And some of teens come help too.

I think this can all work out, but it starts with the idea of respecting others. When I get babysitter duty thrust upon me without being asked, I feel disrespected. Naturally if I complain the response would be something like "what, you don't like kids? What sort of monster are you?"

I think it is fair to say that some people will come here and seek a life of meditation, contemplation and attempting to grok some of the greater problems the world faces. And they can do this better in a quiet, kid-free environment. My desire to facilitate that is greater than my desire to facilitate kids. Further, when we facilitate kids, I wish to eventually set up boundaries so that the folks seeking quiet can have their quiet. Kidville is on that six acres over there, and Grokville is on the 200 acres over here.


 
R Scott
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It takes a village, BUT...

There are definite PARENTS. They need to take responsibility for their kids and all they do.

There is a definite homeowner (Paul). Everyone is a GUEST (or employee) of Paul and needs to respect the house rules.

Being on a farm has definite RULES--lots of stuff will kill you if you don't respect it. But same is true in the city, just different stuff. Wrong color mushroom vs. wrong colors. Kids only touch the electric fence once.

Keep the rules simple. Really they are the same rules for the adults. NO WHINING, No workie-No eatie, Clean up your own messes, etc. Don't coddle them and you will be amazed how they respond.

The biggest problem is de-programming them (and their parents) from the mainline disposable consumerism teacup culture.

Let the kids WORK. Yes they will slow you down sometimes (most of the time) but it is worth it to see a 5 YO drag a bucket of compost around while giggling, even when they aren't yours. Keep them a safe distance from the trac hoe, but keep them in the action.

I have done this with my foster kids over the years and it works amazingly well (not 100%, but way better than average). My biggest problem was any work or chores was considered abuse by some social workers--but that is another story.

In the end, you have to teach the kids or all the ideas will die with our generation. We have worked too hard to re-learn all this stuff that was lost in previous generations to just throw it away again.

 
Chris Kott
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I hear what you're saying, Paul. To the extent that 1) childless adults need to not have children thrust upon them, and 2) potentially dangerous or sensitive experimentation and/or food production is being undertaken, and can't be messed with by children, I agree completely.

But I think that your empire will expire within a generation if that is anything but a short-term approach.

To put it plainly, you could indoctrinate whole generations just by educating them as opposed to segregation.

Why not have an understanding amongst the parents that sitting and supervisory duties are to be handled only by parents and not unencumbered adults? If you think about it as a labour exchange economy, the Kid Commander could be paid by all parents not doing worktime child minding.

I don't know if you've taken schooling into account, but let's just say that the whole group was being homeschooled. Kid Commander and Teacher wouldn't necessarily be the same person, but they might, and the situation would be similar.

I think kids will be a problem in this space until they are integrated into the system, instead of being treated as baggage.

-CK
 
Julia Winter
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Um, has the parent of the jam-faced toddler been directed towards this thread? It's one thing to establish rules and standards in theory and another thing entirely to work things out in meatspace. Were the parents in the kitchen washing dishes (less than 20 feet away, just as a theoretical) when the jam event happened, or were there no parental units in the building at the time?

Because my personal response is far different to the first hypothetical than the second. If parents are leaving their kids unattended, that is unacceptable. Full stop. However, a three year old could get jam-faced and solve the jam-face issue in his own inimitable way rather quickly, before even a fairly responsible adult could intervene, if that adult is trying to multi-task. A really experienced parent (like a grandparent) might realize that any toddler given access to jam subsequently needs extra close supervision, but this could fall into the "rookie error" category.
 
Jay Green
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I agree with Chris! Set boundaries, implement a system that accounts for children, delegate authority over supervision of said children and come to viable solutions that account for the fact of children. Nearly every homestead in America was worked with the presence and, eventually, the help of children. If doing it better means that children are eliminated, then it's a very short term homestead...they are the next generation that will carry on the work being done.
 
Julia Winter
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Oh, and I think establishing kid-free and kid-friendly areas is a fine idea.

Above and beyond that, however, no matter where they are, little ones need supervision. All the time, without fail. When you've got a non-verbal toddler, you have to just assume that the kid is actively suicidal, because they seem to find the lethality in any environment. The plethora of kids with televisions in their bedrooms (as a pediatrician, one of my personal bugaboos--makes me CRAZY, but I'm not allowed to yell at my patients' parents) is the result of parents attempting to get away from the "constant supervision" aspect of parenting. This is actually one of the areas where community living improves on the typical American experience.
 
Chris Kott
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Let's look at it for a moment as though it were a colony looking forward to future expansion. You could group children into, say, threes, with the eldest in the group responsible for it, just keeping them together, with the group, and paying attention. For larger activities, three groups together are lead by the eldest leader. Or another upwardly mobile hierarchy where, in addition to constant older-sibling-like attention and supervision which can be constantly monitored by a single adult, the kids that know only a little can teach, in game form, those that know nothing (can you visualise a game or contest featuring seedball making?), and that can be used to teach all practical technical and applied aspects of Paul Wheaton Permaculture.

Honestly, I think a Kid Commander running a summer camp tailored to work with this approach would not only turn kids from problems into resources, you could be talking about the seeds of an army of sincere, enthusiastic, and very brown permaculturists (as in, technical, nuts-and-bolts brown permaculture, as opposed to the touchy-feely, singing, dancing, don't-get-anything-done-and-celebrate-it purple permaculture).

Isn't the permaculture approach to start from seed anyway?

-CK
 
Kelly Kitchens
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Sounds like it's not "if" kids are going to be there, but a discussion on "how" they're going to be there. I love kids. Have some of my own, that are finally off top dead center and ready to move forward and maybe produce some grandkids for me to shamelessly spoil ("teach them things their parents would prefer they not learn") and then send them home as revenge for all the stuff of mine my boys destroyed growing up. I'm glad to see this discussion happening, especially the emphasis on parental responsibility to keep children wrangled in a way that will promote community harmony, or at least limit community annoyance. The safety issues probably will eventually need their own thread, won't they?

I think it's better to have a vigorous discussion about this now, especially since moving people together in a healthy, low-toxin, high-nutrition environment is statistically proven to spontaneously create MORE children as their incipient parents' fertility rises from sheer vibrant health.

(edited for spelling, as always)
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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There will be differences in parenting styles and levels of supervision - and in levels of tidy, as in whether jam-covered faces wiped on a couch is acceptable.

The point is that since Paul and I are overwhelmed with a high volume of tasks right now, we do not have the bandwidth to teach a child how to help while we're doing a chore. That takes more time. It's a lovely thing to do, I agree. Though when I have dozens of people waiting for me to get to other things (sometimes hundreds; or in Paul's case, thousands or millions - literally!), and it's not my kids (who are grown and out of the nest), I don't feel I should stop for that poetic teachable moment. Maybe once in a while - that's fun - but not on a daily basis. Not yet.

We have had parents out of eyesight or earshot of their kids, so we've responded to their tears - we're not ogres! But to have that thrust on us without our consent, is disrespectful; let alone rather disconcerting for the child!

There are many parents who don't notice their kids painted the couch with jam, or spattered the seat cushion and floor with their breakfast, left their mugs on the porch, or left dirty hand prints all over the walls. They either don't see it, or they'd rather get back to the outdoors, visiting with the other adults, or to the other tasks at hand. I see these things and I want them cleaned, so I clean them. Different opinions on what's tidy, lots of guests who are here temporarily, plus many other factors feed into why I would clean it and not ask the parent or child to clean it. Though when I take the time to clean what others don't see, I end up with even more people waiting for me to do things - including Paul. Urgh.

So yes...discussing how to have a community or village help raise a child is idyllic and wonderful and all. Right now, however, we are running a household for many, many guests and don't have enough household help, and we are behind on our projects. Children require supervision, time and cleaning up after - even if they are learning how to work and help. (As do most visiting adults, actually; children just require a whole lot more.)

It's a bandwidth issue. There is just not enough bandwidth yet.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I would gladly come by to run a sort of boot camp / child labor sweat shop. We'll put them at something simple like picking rocks or yanking weeds. Give them a break every few hours. Wailing and gnashing of teeth aren't a problem at all. I'm pretty much deaf to complaints of any kind.

I have plenty of experience, having dealt with over 500 difficult to employ men over the years. When the parents collect them at night, they'll eat and sleep.

Later when you get them home, explain that if they fail to develop useful skills while they're young, they could end up working for a guy like Dale. They will remember this and thank you for it when they are more mature. (: An apple just fell out of my basket. I wonder if this innocent idea has drawn the wrath of the all seeing overlords.
 
Jay Green
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From that description it sounds less of a kid issue and more of a parent issue, so the screening of the type of people included in the project might be a more efficient criteria, and not so much as if they have kids or do not have kids. Any mother who goes off and lets her kids wander around creating messes and getting into trouble is the issue...not the mere presence of the children. Teaching and supervision belongs to the parents and should not be considered a community problem unless it's going to be approached with a community solution of daycare, with different people taking turns on child care.

Not the kid's fault but the character of the parents at that point....ground rules and consequences are a good place to start, as it's entirely unreasonable and irrational to expect that your community have only people who do not currently have children and will commit to never having children for the duration of the project. Maybe this part of the experiment should be developed along with the land and other aspects~ proper social etiquette and structure within a planned community, with learning and instruction towards building it into your project as well. One simply cannot have a community with any level of success without rules of how each are to conduct their behaviors that affect the whole community.
 
Julia Winter
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Right now what you need is for every guest (and if you are not Paul, you are a guest on his property) to understand that they are responsible for their own kids and their own messes. I wouldn't be surprised if the same people aren't doing so great at cleaning up their personal messes as well. Can you point some of them at the screen right now? I've got something to say:

"Yo parents! You are not visiting the grandparents (where if you are lucky you get a break from constant kid supervision). You are at a permaculture laboratory. Watch your own kids, or clearly arrange for someone else to do this, establishing start and stop times and such. Look around and if you find a kid-made mess, assume it is yours and clean it the hell up. If this is too much for you to manage then it's time to move on. Perhaps the grandparents are yearning for a visit from their little darlings."

Look, there's got to be somebody reading this thread who knows which adults are the current source of this particular stress in Paul & Jocelyn's life. Please figure out how to break through to the people who need to be participating in this discussion, because those of us who aren't there can discuss all we want but it won't help. Try this: "Have you seen this discussion about kids at Base Camp? Do you think they're talking about Johnny? Check this out:"

Some people are just blissfully unaware of the trouble they are causing. Some of those people will make a genuine effort to improve once their faulty assumptions ("Johnny is adorable! Everybody loves Johnny--how could you not?") are pointed out to them in a relatively gentle and non-confrontational way. Some people do what they want until forcefully confronted. I have no idea which camp these people (this person??) fall(s) into.
 
Renate Howard
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It takes kids awhile to learn new rules in new places and one problem with people coming and going with kids is you have to start over again with each new kid, teaching the rules and enforcing them until the kid remembers them. In a real (more permanent?) community the rules have been there since the kid was a baby and are learned along the way, not all at once. This makes it really hard to have kids in that kind of environment.

If you want to let people come to work/learn and bring kids then I think a good idea is to have a "playground/playhouse" area and let parents know that they have to find a way to be sure the kids are supervised 24 hours a day, either by combining labor with other parents or doing it themselves, but putting a group of kids in someone's care is easier if there is built-in entertainment and things for them to do.

It can be really frustrating being a parent of kids who need a lot of supervision and having those kids prevent you from doing so much "grown-up stuff" that you really want to do! Kudos to those parents who are trying to do it anyways, because by the time their kids are big enough for the adults to really dive into permaculture, the kids will be leaving home before a lot of it bears fruit (and nuts, LOL).

As for the jam on the couch - people's cleanliness standards can get lower the more they are attempting to do, so I think a lot of busy parent's standards are lower than the standards of those who no longer have little ones or never did. Jam on the couch is never a good idea, but I can see how kids can make other messes the parents have become rather immune to that would bother other people.
 
kadence blevins
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paul wheaton wrote:
Did I mention the part where I watched a 3-year old with jam on his face wipe his face on my couch? {...}

I think this can all work out, but it starts with the idea of respecting others. When I get babysitter duty thrust upon me without being asked, I feel disrespected. Naturally if I complain the response would be something like "what, you don't like kids? What sort of monster are you?"


this is the part where if it were me this is the same situation as leash laws. its that persons child and darnnit they are gonne take care of it or GTFO my property. they are children and parents are parents, the children should not be the in charge ones of that! which is what I see all too much of. to me these types of parents would almost immediately see themselves driving away from my property.


paul wheaton wrote:
I think it is fair to say that some people will come here and seek a life of meditation, contemplation and attempting to grok some of the greater problems the world faces. And they can do this better in a quiet, kid-free environment. My desire to facilitate that is greater than my desire to facilitate kids. Further, when we facilitate kids, I wish to eventually set up boundaries so that the folks seeking quiet can have their quiet. Kidville is on that six acres over there, and Grokville is on the 200 acres over here.


sounds good to me.
 
kadence blevins
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R Scott wrote:It takes a village, BUT...

There are definite PARENTS. They need to take responsibility for their kids and all they do.

There is a definite homeowner (Paul). Everyone is a GUEST (or employee) of Paul and needs to respect the house rules.

Being on a farm has definite RULES--lots of stuff will kill you if you don't respect it. But same is true in the city, just different stuff. Wrong color mushroom vs. wrong colors. Kids only touch the electric fence once.

Keep the rules simple. Really they are the same rules for the adults. NO WHINING, No workie-No eatie, Clean up your own messes, etc. Don't coddle them and you will be amazed how they respond.

The biggest problem is de-programming them (and their parents) from the mainline disposable consumerism teacup culture.

Let the kids WORK. Yes they will slow you down sometimes (most of the time) but it is worth it to see a 5 YO drag a bucket of compost around while giggling, even when they aren't yours. Keep them a safe distance from the trac hoe, but keep them in the action.

I have done this with my foster kids over the years and it works amazingly well (not 100%, but way better than average). My biggest problem was any work or chores was considered abuse by some social workers--but that is another story.

In the end, you have to teach the kids or all the ideas will die with our generation. We have worked too hard to re-learn all this stuff that was lost in previous generations to just throw it away again.



love this post.
 
kadence blevins
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Chris Kott wrote:I hear what you're saying, Paul. To the extent that 1) childless adults need to not have children thrust upon them, and 2) potentially dangerous or sensitive experimentation and/or food production is being undertaken, and can't be messed with by children, I agree completely.

But I think that your empire will expire within a generation if that is anything but a short-term approach.


this made me think of the shakers... yanno, the pretty much nonexistent religion where they adopted in all kinds of kids from everywhere because part of the religion is abstinence...

Jocelyn wrote:
The point is that since Paul and I are overwhelmed with a high volume of tasks right now, we do not have the bandwidth to teach a child how to help while we're doing a chore. That takes more time. It's a lovely thing to do, I agree. Though when I have dozens of people waiting for me to get to other things (sometimes hundreds; or in Paul's case, thousands or millions - literally!), and it's not my kids (who are grown and out of the nest), I don't feel I should stop for that poetic teachable moment. Maybe once in a while - that's fun - but not on a daily basis. Not yet.


just my opinion but this is where it comes into play that anyone coming to the lab and all needs to honestly look at themselves and figure out if they are capable of raising their family and keeping track of the kids while building and experimenting and all at once. it wouldn't be easy I know. but really this is something that I think comes down to, parents being parents and learning to parent while accomplishing goals. instead of, like paul pointed out, at a workplace with no one to worry about but themselves.
this is the point of view my posts are coming from anyways.

Julia Winter wrote:
"Yo parents! You are not visiting the grandparents (where if you are lucky you get a break from constant kid supervision). You are at a permaculture laboratory. Watch your own kids, or clearly arrange for someone else to do this, establishing start and stop times and such. Look around and if you find a kid-made mess, assume it is yours and clean it the hell up. If this is too much for you to manage then it's time to move on. Perhaps the grandparents are yearning for a visit from their little darlings."

Look, there's got to be somebody reading this thread who knows which adults are the current source of this particular stress in Paul & Jocelyn's life. Please figure out how to break through to the people who need to be participating in this discussion, because those of us who aren't there can discuss all we want but it won't help. Try this: "Have you seen this discussion about kids at Base Camp? Do you think they're talking about Johnny? Check this out:"

Some people are just blissfully unaware of the trouble they are causing. Some of those people will make a genuine effort to improve once their faulty assumptions ("Johnny is adorable! Everybody loves Johnny--how could you not?") are pointed out to them in a relatively gentle and non-confrontational way. Some people do what they want until forcefully confronted. I have no idea which camp these people (this person??) fall(s) into.


love this post as well.
 
kadence blevins
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stole this from kristies pic thread....

Kristie Wheaton wrote:Nah...he loves helping his momma...in fact we had races seeing who got the most posts!


this is what more parents there need to figure out it sounds like.
 
rowan james
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here's an opinion slightly different to most of the posts here, heartfelt nonetheless.

there are people in the world who, for whatever reasons, have chosen to not have children, and instead devote their lives towards a greater focus on Self, and what creative vision might arise from this focus. this does not necessarily mean they are the popular definition of selfish, but perhaps Self-ish is a kind of descriptive. a person who may not choose long term partnerships, or careers, or whatever acceptable stability over time normalcy rules define lives as, but who experience fulfilling lives by their own definitions.

perhaps these folks fall into the more contemplative types, who value their time, and their alone time, and their alone time thoughts. not everyone is drawn to the family roles, whether they are extended or immediate.

it's been my experience that this is an under-appreciated part played in this culture, the outlier, non-conformist, loner - whatever tag applied - and there is often unnecessary pity, and attempts to "socialise" or "include" people who are quite sane and content on their own, contributing to groups / community, but also retreating to their own mental space, their own thoughts, a sort of oasis within the larger picture.

it's often difficult to explain this to people who spend their lives in extended family groups, or partnerships, and especially to people with children. because culturally family groups are the norm, the solo human can be viewed as someone who needs "fixing" or whatever, as if their choices are less valid than others choices.

I say all this from experience. I hear what Paul and Jocelyn are saying, that they want to be inclusive, but cannot be imposed upon as they take on the enormous task of realising a long held dream, from the very beginning stages, with the pressure of a weather deadline, and feeling the responsibility of having set this vision in motion. it has to feel both exciting and overwhelming all balled into one - adding others, some new others, to the mix, not easy. and adding children that they are not responsible for, yet are there, in the same space - that's another stress they should not have to take on. herding adults isn't always easy, adding little ones, running about - I can't imagine this could continue for very long without some drama developing.

parents need to understand their full responsibility for their own children, at all times, particularly in the busy, creative environment that is Paul's Farm. parents need to accept that not everyone wants to share their family, nor look after them, etc. it is not up to Paul, Jocelyn or any others to be alert for someone else's children, ever. if children are being brought to Paul's Farm, out of respect for what is being created, full responsibility needs to be taken for the children, round the clock. if the parent(s) want to be a part of the work / creativity, then consider leaving children with relatives and/or friends.

again, out of respect for Paul and Jocelyn, and the enormous efforts they are putting into creating a new living space, and a new paradigm, for themselves and all others there, I would hope that each take responsibility for their own families.
 
Marianne Cicala
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have kids (grown and gone) love kids; HOWEVER, the adage of "a time and a place" seems appropriate. The list of to-dos and the need of completing tasks in short order aka before winter sets in, not to mention housing for children during your winter weather, it seems to me this is NOT the time for small children as the danger, distraction and time management appears to be little more than a situation that can and will cause frustration and resent. Seems to me that next summer, when the foundations of the Lab are more established, would make sense. Our son was 10 when we bought this land, he was very capable of truly lending a hand and needing little supervision - can't imagine a 5 year old during that period. it would have drastically slowed progress not to mention the dangers that could happen literally in the blink of an eye.
 
Lyvia Dequincey
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Paul and Jocelyn, I feel for you. I'm more of an engineering type. I need my quiet time, and some control of my environment. With kids, it seems like noise, mess and chaos in varying amounts are the rule. I had one very well-behaved daughter, but I could never get anything done because I stopped to answer all her questions. She went to day care and learned a different style from a talented teacher/manager and tumble of kids, and she is more balanced for having both types of care.

I quit a religious circle that lost its utility for me by adults dumbing things down for the kids. Yes some kids can meditate somewhat, but the adults no longer get an enriching experience, except for the parents who are a little less overwhelmed with somebody else entertaining their kids. A visit behind a fence is good exposure, but don't try to make the lab kid safe. You will cripple it. The whole point of experiment is not knowing what will happen; that means not-kid safe.

I am against asking everyone to take a share of watching kids. Some people are good at this, and some are not. Many people have no idea of the differences in care needed between an active three year old and a ten year old. At the very least, you would need to run background checks on your babysitters. I would think people in this day and age know better than to leave a child with strangers. Teens can watch children they know in environments they know, but they are not slave labor either. Many children in a strange place eating strange food become demanding, if not slightly ill, and that's a burden on anybody who is not a professional or just talented/experienced with children. Dump such a kid on a teen and you get resentment, which will not come out the same as an adult who can say, hey I need break from this kid. It always seems like the quiet people understand that other people might want lots of voices and laughter and people everywhere, but there are many crowd-people who don't get how a quiet person's sanity depends on ample quiet. A systems analyst type whose thought pattern tries to fit things into regular working systems can be driven crazy by the changing needs and focus of children.

What you might do is ask people who bring children to pay for a collective babysitter. It might discourage children, except in negotiated circumstances, but it underscores the parental responsibility.

It is the responsibility of the village to find those who are talented with kids, and manage the growth and education of children, but it is no less the responsibility of the village, and no less critical to its survival, to find those who are talented at science and experiment, and allow them their best environment to manage the growth and development of resources, tools and solutions.
 
Lynn Chase
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I have two kids, 5 and 3 and no way in heck would i even consider going to a homestead in its early stages unless it was geared specifically toward families. I know someone who started their own sustainable homestead years back and it was challenging enough delegating responsibilities to the adults especially adults that were new to the permaculture scene and needed lots of coaching. i was there to witness the first two years of its start up. There were times when people thought the dude who started it was a jerk because he was so focused on the end result. Over time, the interpersonal skills improved and projects were completed and in hindsight, all that happened was a necessary part of the process.

There will be people who will feel excluded until its more operational and the perameters have been set. You have stated all of your reasons for not having kids on the farm and they are all valid reasons. Some may argue that the next generation should be a part of the project and in time, maybe they will be...when things are up and running and the kinks are worked out...and if you decide you want kids there. No one likes confrontation but when it comes to your hopes and dreams, you have to Know your bottom line and stick to it.





 
Lynn Jacobs
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My husband and I were at Paul's just last month for a long weekend. I was the Kitchen Boss (which I thoroughly enjoyed, BTW). We brought our 3yo son (whom we will refer to as "Bubba" on the internet).

I sincerely hope that it wasn't Bubba who smeared jam on the couch. But if it was, I wonder why someone didn't say, "Hey, your son just made a mess! Can you clean it up, please?"

I know he wasn't under constant supervision, because his dad was out at The Lab as much as possible, whilst I was in the kitchen an average of 10 hours a day. To keep him inside all that time would have been torture on everyone. I know he most likely popped into The Office with Paul, Jocelyn, and whomever else more than once, but if he was in the way or needed parental attention, all that would be required for him would be to tell him to go inside to his mom. (For the record, I am sorry if he did bother you!)

I think most serious issues that develop amongst people are because of a severe lack of communication (raising hand of "guilty" here). One person gets bothered by something but doesn't feel it's their place to complain and so they try to just "get over it" on their own. Sometimes that works, because after reflection you realize that you were part of the problem and so you work to fix it. Sometimes it doesn't work because the irritation festers and just gets worse until someone explodes. Other times someone has a right to say something and then doesn't and again you get the eventual explosion. There's a whole lot of "passive-aggressive" behavior that goes on in every "community" we've been a part of.

It is a good idea for Paul to be bringing up the issue, instead of staying quiet. I would hope that he feels comfortable enough to speak to the specific parents as well. And if that is us, then let's have it!

We are in our mid-40s and have raised older children. This little blessing in our lives is getting raised a bit differently. We are more laid-back about a lot of things that would have bothered us in our younger years, as well as being more uptight about some things that would have rolled off our backs previously. We all change as we get older. I also realize that not everyone else feels the same way about things.

This child has been raised pretty much as a gypsy, travelling to different homes, farms, and ranches. He took his first steps barefoot in the barn while I was mucking it out. He has shared apples with the pigs and goats. He has watched us pull grass and weeds and helped shake the dirt off them, as well as watch us plant seeds and water them and is now taking great delight in his seeds that he planted "g'owing". I refer to him as a "free range child". This doesn't mean that he is completely unsupervised and has no fences and can do whatever he likes all the time. But it does mean that he has a lot of time on his own to wander (w/in range of sight or hearing) and explore, but he honestly prefers to be right by our side and be actively participating as much as possible in whatever task we are doing at the time.

Perhaps allowing him to play outside mostly under/around the front deck w/ the toys at Paul's wouldn't work long-term, but it did seem to be the best choice at the time for the few days we were there. I would naturally expect things to be different if we were there long-term.

As to waiting for our son to be older before we establish our own permaculture farm or participate in the growing of someone else's farm...well, that is ridiculous. Yes, things will be slower and more difficult to accomplish at times, but it is important for us and for him to learn how to do these things together as a family. That might not fit into someone's ideals at their place, and so we continue looking for somewhere we fit in. Wherever we go we always seek to improve the environment and working conditions and put in more effort than is necessary, but our family and our son will ultimately take priority.

Paul's Farm might be a good fit for us at some point (short or long term) and it might not. Nobody should expect people to change THEIR ideals for THEIR land to match ours, but we do expect some considerations for family life in any place where we do settle to work for a time. That's why knowing IN ADVANCE what the expectations are is so important. I think they should even be in writing. Sadly we are terrible about that step...
 
Julia Winter
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I think most serious issues that develop amongst people are because of a severe lack of communication (raising hand of "guilty" here). One person gets bothered by something but doesn't feel it's their place to complain and so they try to just "get over it" on their own. Sometimes that works, because after reflection you realize that you were part of the problem and so you work to fix it. Sometimes it doesn't work because the irritation festers and just gets worse until someone explodes. Other times someone has a right to say something and then doesn't and again you get the eventual explosion. There's a whole lot of "passive-aggressive" behavior that goes on in every "community" we've been a part of.

It is a good idea for Paul to be bringing up the issue, instead of staying quiet. I would hope that he feels comfortable enough to speak to the specific parents as well. And if that is us, then let's have it!


This.

Thanks so much for joining the discussion! I'm afraid I personally have no idea if Bubba was Mr. Jam-faced, because I wasn't there! (I hope to visit in a couple of weeks, though, with my own kids, who are 7 & 10 and perfectly capable of being annoying in their own special ways.)

You are SO right about the difficulties of open and honest communication, especially in the moment. Humor helps a lot, for me, but it can be hard to come up with a funny way to complain about something.

What we need is a way for some basic house rules to be set at Paul's place, so he isn't forced to stick up for himself in these sorts of interpersonal conflicts. I get the feeling that conflict with those who probably shouldn't be cursed at is one of Mr. Wheaton's least favorite things. And, it's his place and we all want to see what he can accomplish when not sidetracked by community issues that are tricky to navigate.

How about a sign that says:
Unaccompanied children will be given a piglet and a latte'. Please arrange a supervisor for your child at all times.

(I saw a sign in a store threatening a puppy and an espresso, but there will be more piglets handy than puppies, and one of my favorite lines in Curious George is "You don't give a monkey a latte'!!!") Then when someone observes a free-range child ranging a bit far from acceptable behavior or location, they can make a joke about either espresso or swine to the child's parents.
 
John Polk
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Humor helps a lot, for me, but it can be hard to come up with a funny way to complain about something.


For messy eaters, one of my favorites is
"Look out! Some of that might get in your mouth!"

 
Ken Peavey
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I've been quite fortunate so far...I have no kids.

My brother and sister have kids, and some of them kids now have their own kids (payback?). For the most part, I like the kids, although I may never understand why the boys had to take all the clothespins and put them in a bucket full of worms. When I play with them I get to express the fact that I never grew up. And when I'm done with them, THEY GO HOME.

A few years ago I was putting together a Pick Your Own Vegetable operation. When the crops were producing, people would come by, kids in tow, and head to the beds. The kids trampled, ran, picked, ate, threw, and stomped, caused general mayhem, distress to the plants, and a great deal of consternation. WHAT TO DO?

Banning kids was not the answer. Part of the reason they are there is because the parents wanted the young'uns to see where their food came from. A noble ideal, and I think a vital one. These kids are the future. When I'm so old I can only eat applesauce, it is these kids that will be growing the apples. While it is true they will eat the strawberries without paying, are they really going to put me out of business? If that's the case, I'd say the problem is me not growing enough strawberries.

Absolutely, bring the kids.

From a marketing standpoint, if I put together a place where the kids want to come back to, they'll have to bring their parents. In the little town I'm in now, there is not a lot out there to which to take the kids. The kids will learn...hopefully. Where else are they going to learn about their food-Burger King? The Supercenter? The school cafeteria? Our society is moving away from the land. If I can help get a kid exposed to naturally growing food, I'll seize on that opportunity. Maybe it will stick. It might be a couple of decades, but there's a chance that a little exposure now will be the seed that develops later on into something more-a chance for that young adult to continue developing the ideals towards which I'm striving.

---
A little story before I move on...

I once went to an Amish barnraising.
While there was some degree of oganized chaos, it was a beautifully orchestrated event. Everyone had a job to do. The old men directed different projects, the experienced craftsmen did the detail work, young men did the lifting, swinging and lugging. The ladies prepared the food while the young ladies carried water to their favorite fellow. As I recall, off to the side was a tent that had a bunch of toddlers.

---
The present situation calls for practical action.

The young people can make a contribution and keep themselves mostly out of trouble. There is opportunity to learn a skill and further the ideals of the community. Whether or not this will be their grand ambition, I can't say, but at least they have the exposure. For some of the older kids raised in a more traditional setting, this whole thing will be just a nuisance to get through until they can get out on their own and get things back into 'normal.' It may well be best to make them as comfortable as possible and let them go when the time comes.

For the younger kids with limited experience in the xbox world, I can't think of a better learning environment. It may be prudent to establish some sort of learning program, not just reading/writing/rithmatic, but encouraged exploration about specific aspects of the operation. Surely the lady in the kitchen can use some help making bread.

For the toddlers, a day care would be justifiable to keep the kids out of harms way. Rope an area around a tent to keep them out of construction areas. The adults in families with kids can take turns keeping a watchful eye. Some of the older kids can help here.
I'm getting older, my back is getting sore, I'm not as fast as some (most) of these little fellers. They would get away from me in a heartbeat. There are places kids just don't need to be-the kitchen, the tool room, the utility room, around the mean bull. Marking these areas can be done simply-a bright red circle at knee level, combined with teaching the kids not to enter unless they are with an adult. Mark the tool boxes, medicine cabinets, computers.
Hey man, I don't have kids, all I can do is offer a couple of lame ideas. How many are there?




 
paul wheaton
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Communication. Yes, with the jam-on-the-couch scenario, I suppose I could say something. Like I said five things earlier that were also ignored. I suppose I could have a 60-hour-long discussion spread out over a week about different parenting styles and my comfort zone.

Some parents see my home as a container for their unsupervised children: a place to contain children while they pursue something other than parenting for a bit. If the kids destroy things, then, well, they think my house should have been better protected against kids.

At the same time, these kids are bored, in a container that is not designed to contain children.

I guess the key is that I need to focus on non-kid things. And some kids+parents scenarios turn out to totally work. And most don't.

With the jam-on-the-couch thing: clearly the kid was not ready to be unsupervised; and the kid was entirely unsupervised. I suppose in some houses you could say whoever owns the couch could slap that child silly. But I don't want to smack a kid. And I don't want jam on my couch. And I don't even want some parent yelling at their kid in my house. I want the kid to have heaps of fun without any harm coming to my stuff or distracting me from my work.

I like to see seven year olds wash their own plates and the plates of others. Maybe help in the kitchen. Help with the tidy. Four year olds will have a parent keeping a sharp eye on them to make sure they don't do anything like wipe jam on my couch.

No. I don't want communication. I want better parents so I don't need communication. Parents that understand the idea of respecting my stuff. Respecting my couch. Respecting me.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> communication...

The most helpful communication would be making clear _beforehand_ how the System works and the part/role a person must play to avoid causing trouble - for themselves, others or the whole project. AND explicitly _how_ they can act to fit in nicely.

To accomplish this communication I venture to suggest that there must always be some explicit and formal written rules to handle this and other things about which people might have differing styles - because for better or worse we are not all brought up to think, know, act and understand things the same way - hence the need to communicate and to do it ahead of time.

Once "ground rules" get established it doesn't seem like Paul would be involved in the slightest - at least on a regular (ever?) basis.

All the posts seem really smart and right on. But from a nasty mind here's a final thought that I haven't seen mentioned:

Children are "shoot to kill" issues for most parents. The location of the red button, what triggers the bomb, all that will vary. But the willingness to go ballistic when they perceive wrong and badness coming down on their children exists pretty much across the board. (Oh. There is no badness in Missoula? Well what do you call that stick the little beggar stuck in his eye while gathering fire wood AS HE WAS INSTRUCTED TO DO?) So just possibly it might be good to work on some legal documents that guests sign when coming onto the property. When I was working plumbing service, company policy (and grounds for firing) was that we NEVER EVER touched a door handle, much less entered a home, until we saw with our own eyes an adult clearly well over 18 years of age - and if that adult left the premises we did so also, immediately. Way too much legal exposure and I can only think that entertaining children on your property would involve at least as much.

Children are likely part of the life of some of the most valuable people - how not? But a good legal and policy framework seems very important.

Rufus
 
R Scott
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Maybe you need penalty cards, like in soccer. Three yellow cards and they are gone.

Or just tell the parents they are not compatible with your community, so bah-bye.

Feral kids are not helpful. And tells you a LOT about the parents.

 
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