We were at a restaurant last night, which had paper over their table cloths, so kids could draw all over it (brilliant, if you ask me). We were making geometric patterns inside circles and my daughter spontaneously made the symbol for yin and yang.
I asked my kids if they knew what yin and yang meant. My son, 10, said, “It means good and bad.” Well, I was super glad I brought it up, because it does not mean that, and that he thought it did, I think, is significant. I told them that yin and yang is the feminine and the masculine. Yang is the masculine and it means forward action. Yin is the feminine and it means nurturing. I gave my favorite example: the wave is yang and the water is yin.
I was glad to tell my children exactly what yin and yang mean. That my son thought it meant “good” and “bad” didn’t surprise me. Although I homeschool my children and actively teach them my values, it’s been stunning to watch them pick up on the culture around us so efficiently, somewhat to my dismay. Our culture does exactly this: it makes part of life out to be good and others parts out to be bad. Science, industry, thinking, and forward progress–yang activities–are seen as good. Emotions, especially negative ones, nurturing, slowing down, and more–yin activities–are seen as bad. We are all “light” and no darkness–all yang with no yin–all movement with no rest–we push forward and plow through, despite what our very real and very wise emotions are telling us. That I could tell my children the simple definition of yin and yang, that it means balance, and they do a dance, was important to me.
We got to go over many other things that are yin or yang. Somehow we talked about how our family has a mom and a dad and dad makes money while mom takes care of the children, which is yang and yin respectively. However, sometimes dad cares of me or I do things for the family, switching roles. There is always a dance and a complexity with yin and yang. We talked about how the soil is the yin and the flower the grows out of it is yang. However, the flower has many yin qualities to it, as well. But, one way or another, I was glad to be able to explain to my children that it means balance and harmony, not dueling forces of good and bad.
I document the age-related stages children go through. It is those times children “act up” but on the other side is growth. This is, perhaps, yin and yang! My book series on these stages is Misbehavior is Growth. Please send your friends and family to The Observant Mom.