I am taking my own advice and turning frustration and negative energy into something positive and creative in the only way I really know how to: I am writing again, at last.
The title of this post is from the movie of the same name. A movie that I can’t recommend enough. I think that most people will watch it and take something away from it, regardless of what kind of person you are.
I’m a mom, and when my son was small, I decided that he would be homeschooled. This did not go over well with some people. I had a family member that actually stopped speaking to me when it was discovered that I would not be sending my child to school. One of the things I have made a point of never doing to anyone is offering up advice that wasn’t asked for; even if my opinion strongly differed, I kept it to myself because it wasn’t my business to tell anyone else how to live, or how to raise their children. It’s a very individual thing, being a parent; Of course, there’s basic rights and wrongs, but beyond those basics, it becomes a unique, individual situation, and there’s a lot of choices you make that you really need to feel with not only your mind but with your heart and your gut. My instincts were my guide, and despite being told that if I didn’t send my child to school, he would not ‘learn how to interact with other people’, I continued to do what I felt was right for him. I was also told that he needed ‘structure’, because it wasn’t healthy for him to have ice cream in the middle of the night, or to spend time rigorously hiking (often to his dismay) up the steep hills of one of the biggest cemeteries in the country, or being read Goosebumps books to amongst the century-old graves (for added spooky ambience, of course). He HAD structure. Actually an amazing amount of structure. Just not the norm’s idea of structure.
He suffered from an early age with ADHD, and I was forever trying to find ways to reach him and to interest him in the alphabet or learning to read as much as he was interested in Pokemon or Star Wars; I bought Star Wars themed workbooks, and allowed him to hold Star Wars action figures as I began teaching him the basics of math; I invested myself wholly into giving him the best life that I could give him, and I allowed him to have a voice…to rage or protests the things he felt were wrong or unfair, and to discuss and debate them with me until we came to a conclusion that was beneficial to both of us. One of the most important things I learned very early on was to never stand above your child and look down at them when you are speaking to them about something; Bend down, eye to eye and talk to them. I promise you it will make a huge difference in the way they accept and understand what you are saying and to their own vital self-worth.
He spent half of his life in the middle of the city, surrounded by a diverse community and the other half in the country, surrounded by rich green woods, and the open sky. While others were judging me for the ‘terrible’ choice I had made and convinced that I was surely destroying my poor child’s future, we were discovering nature, and I was teaching him things like the anatomy of insects, making clocks out of paper plates or telling him stories about Ganesh, the birth of Buddha, or about the multi-faceted layers of Egyptology. My intention was to make learning interesting; to make sure that he would forever be on the quest to learn and to acquire an endless wealth of knowledge. Before long, I discovered that he enjoyed sharing the stories I had taught him with others. By the time he was 7, he could tell others all about Ganesh and how he came to look like he is depicted in art, or the dramatic story of Isis and Osiris. I can’t even begin to express how proud I was when listening to him precisely recount the things I had taught him.
It wasn’t all easy, though; as he grew older, he began to question, as every child does, (and should do) if he was missing out if there were greener pastures on the ‘normal’ side. He began to resent the fact that he was homeschooled and I suspect that he also picked up on the vibes of others around us that still believed our way of life was ‘damaging’ him somehow. But as he grew older, he came to realize and understand my efforts and the choices I made for both of us.
I’m not criticizing or telling others that my way is the only way, or that you should all allow your children the freedoms I allowed mine. Every choice is very individual, just as every parent and child and the relationship they share is very individual. But for the two of us, I feel that the choices I made were the right ones. I’m not a very kind person to myself. I spend a lot of time punishing myself for things that I have or have not done (ie, not saving a lot of money when I should have, not moving to upper state Washington when he was an infant, not moving to England when he was older to find that tiny pink house that I often had dreams about, as well as the goat I told him we would have with that pink house, etc.) But other than wishing I had somehow managed to make Algebra seem interesting (for the both of us), and for not pushing cursive writing harder, I do not regret trusting my instincts and giving him the childhood he had, whether it was spending time running in the rain barefoot by the crumbling farmhouse we moved into when he was 7 years-old, or allowing him to completely fill a shopping cart with as many Star Wars toys as he wanted for his 10th birthday. (I was sometimes criticized for ‘spoiling’ him and giving him ‘too many toys’ too)
And finally, I should tell you about where my son is today; He’s in college, (though most people I meet have a hard time imagining me as having a college-aged child, I most certainly do. That’s one of the perks of having a baby when you are very young.) with nearly a perfect 4.0 GPA, and he is planning to become a History Professor one day, to spend his life teaching…and sparking the interest in others to learn. I’m proud to say that he is everything my instincts told me he would be; A beautiful, sensible, loyal, compassionate person, with an amazing understanding of what family really means, quite capable of dealing with the ‘real world’, though also very mindful of its flaws, and a companion of mine on the eternal quest to answer the endless ‘Why’. So, if you have the chance to watch this movie, do so. Regardless of who you are and what you believe, your views might be challenged just a bit and having your view challenged sometimes is necessary for learning who you really are.