Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just Working Out Some Angst

Sometimes I think I wasn't prepared for my children.  Oh, I wanted them.  I dreamed about being a mom ever since I can remember.  I always knew I wanted children.  I babysat in high school and was a nanny in college.  I worked as a pre-school teacher after Jason and I got married and ran a summer camp program in the summers.

I knew all about children.

What I didn't know about was the world.

I was not prepared for how fiercely you want to protect your child and the fear that never leaves you that something may one day happen to your child.

I read somewhere that having a child is like having your heart walk around outside your body.  I think that is so true.

What I was not prepared for was that the values I learned as a child, are no longer the values that many people in our society adhere to today.

On Tuesday one of my oldest and dearest friends, KOJ and her daughter spent the day with the girls and I.  We talked about high school and college.  We grew up in an affluent community, yet neither of our families were affluent.  We went to school with girls that got 3 or 4 carat diamond studs for their 16th birthday, Nissan Pathfinders, Corvettes or BMWs for their 17th birthday and Cartier watches for high school graduation.  KOJ and I had used cars and Timex watches.  But it didn't matter.  We were all friends.  Our friendships were based on common interests and likes and dislikes, not on what we had or how much money our family had.  KOJ and I both felt accepted.  We felt that we belonged.  We were not teased or ridiculed or mocked.  Our lives were not a living nightmare.  Our peers did not cause us stress.  We really did not even care that we didn't have the same things, we were happy to have a car that got us to our friends' houses.  Sure, we had the normal teen angst, but it was hormonal; it was about finding our own identity and separating from our parents.  It was not about our abilities or our possessions.

Clique-y Moms
When my girls were in school, I really thought it was just the town we lived in.  I used to think about moving back to the town where I grew up, because it was not like this when I was growing up.  I grew up in a big, rural bedroom community town.  Our parents only knew each other in passing, we made friends with the kids we liked in school and invited them over.  Jason and I now live in a small town.  Many of the people who live here now, grew up here and have known each other all of their lives.  I was not prepared for the moms who hang out together all day while their kids are in school.  I hung out with them for a while.  We walked, we went to the gym, we had coffee or lunch.  I know they plan afternoon playdates and weekend outings and their kids' birthday parties during this time.  But I am the kind of person that needs time alone to recharge and regroup and think.  So, sometimes I would say that I had to go grocery shopping or clean my house.  Eventually, I guess I declined their invitation so frequently that they stopped asking.  I didn't really care as these were the moms that told me that "my problem" was that I liked to cook dinner and my girls not wanting to do Pop Warner cheer was "social suicide".  What I was not prepared for was that since I was not there for the planning, my girls were not invited for the playdates or the outings or the birthday parties.  Even though they played with the kids in school, invited them to their parties and had them over for playdates, they were excluded {by the mothers}.  My girls did not understand.  These children played with my girls at school, in some cases they did not even like their mother's friends kids, yet those were the kids they hung out with after school.  How do you explain this to a child?  Do you suck it up and hang out with these moms even though you don't have anything in common, just so your child is not excluded?

Something else I was not prepared for was the competitive-ness of mothers.  I thought moms supported each other.  Yet, when I would talk about my girls weaknesses, these moms' kids seemed to excel at everything.  If I said that my kid was not fast with her math facts, but got them all correct, the other mom's child was both fast and accurate.  If I said that I loved that my girls were close, mothers that had a son and a daughter 5 years apart claimed they played together for hours every day.  How could these children do all of these things and be all of these things?  Are we really that shallow that we can't admit that all of our children have strengths and weaknesses?

I had a mom call me to tell me every time her daughter was invited on a playdate or to a birthday party.  Sometimes A was not invited and my feelings were hurt.  It was like we were in competition to see whose kindergartener was more popular.

I was not prepared for this.  In some ways, and I know this is wrong, but it took some of the joy out of parenthood for me.

It should not be that way, we should support each other, not compete with each other.

The other night I had an email conversation with Karen from Homeschool Girls about a book that I recommended.  A had read and loved Mother Daughter Book Club series and I loved that it exposed her to classic literature in a way that excited her and made her want to read/listen to Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.  Both Jessica and Karen were upset that bullying was a subplot.  (I've vowed to never recommend a book on my blog again!).  A was bullied in school, so I find that the bullying theme validates her experience, helps her to know she is not alone.  But I also understand Karen's point that by having bullying as a common theme, we are accepting or saying that it is part of childhood, a rite of passage, a given.  Just as we are validating the child who was bullied, we are giving other children a "bully" to emulate.  Bullying is completely unacceptable.

There is so much going on in our society right now that is so destructive.  Sometimes I don't even think we realize how we all perpetuate what is going on.  I think we all need to change our thinking and get back to the values we were taught as kids and the values our parents were taught.  I am not saying that kids bully because adults hold so much anger about politics, pressure about work and the economy.  I am not saying that kids bully because they are given everything they want and not taught respect.  I am not saying that clique-y moms always lead to clique-y kids and that our values are skewed and that is why there is bullying.  But I do believe that those are all qualities that trickle down to our children and factor into what is going on in our society.

While I was waiting for Karen's responses, I read Sarah's post at Memories on Clover Lane about how our girls are growing up too fast.  I like posts like that, because they make me feel as though it's not just me and Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" with these values.

I was really unprepared for the values in today's society.

When I was a kid, everyone's parents said no sometimes.  No you can't do that or have that or go there.  Kids were not given everything they wanted.  Yet, when A was in first grade a mom went around and asked all of the moms where they got their daughters' shoes, and then went out and bought her daughter 13 pairs of shoes so her daughter didn't feel left out.  What message is this sending?  I've had children come into the library and be VERY disruptive, when I ask them to stop, their mom comes to their defense and says, "He doesn't feel like it."  WHAT????  He needs to learn that there are acceptable and appropriate behaviors.

When I was a kid, my parents were interested in preparing me for the world, not being my friend.  My parents taught me values and morals.  They taught me to respect adults and to treat others with respect, even if our opinions differed.  I know some adults that could use this reminder, so it really makes you wonder what they are telling their children.

When I was a kid, hard work was respected, whether it was white collar or blue collar.  It seemed to me, at least in my family, that people only spent what they could afford.  We were not trying to "live like movie stars on a mechanic's salary" as one mom I know likes to say.  We made do with what we had.  We saved for things, we didn't use credit.

I may be a Democrat (an anomaly in the homeschool blog world, I know, I will probably lose readers for admitting it) but nothing gets me more angry than people who live above their means and expect others to pay the bill.  This goes for citizens, corporations AND the government.  At one time in our lives, we had a $3000 credit card balance and I could not sleep until it was paid off.  I vowed to never again have a credit card balance and I haven't.  I do use a credit card to get points, but I pay the balance at the end of the month.  Jason and I have bought three homes and we have always had a 30 year fixed rate mortgage (ARMs always seemed unpredictable and like a really bad idea to me) and we NEVER bought a house for as much as the mortgage company told us we could.  We didn't want to be "house poor".  I am sorry, but I really think that we all need to know our means and live within them.  We need to be responsible adults.

Since I am on it, I will just say, I know people who really believe that their life will be better if they buy this or do that.  If you can afford it and you want it, go for it.  But if you can't, then don't. Because, honestly, when has anything material made your life better?  Prayer, love, happiness, family, God, positive energy, being debt free...those things make your life better.  A new pair of jeans or shoes or a vacation?  It's temporary, especially if you can't afford it.  I know the marketing people tell you it will make your life better, but that is their job and you need to be smarter and think for yourself.

And if you buy your kids every thing they ask for, they are only going to grow up not understanding that they need to wait and make smart fiscally responsible choices.  They may dig themselves into a that really what you want for them?

Social Networking & 24 Hour Media & Politics
Our country is in a time of political and economic turmoil.  It is my belief that we need to come together to heal.  Social media and 24 hour news are bringing us further and further apart.  I go through phases with both.  When there is something devastating like what is going on in Japan, I find myself tuning in periodically throughout the day to see what is going on.  It just makes me more upset.  When I tune in, I also hear about this or that in the government and it makes me more upset, more angry.

I am not someone who will have a face to face confrontation.  But I have posted my political beliefs on facebook to let people know where I stand or that I disagree with them.  Does this make me feel better?  No, it makes me more agitated and angry.

The more we watch 24 hour media and the more we battle on facebook, the deeper our lines in the sand are drawn.  Unless it is a Civil War that we are after, this is not going to get us anywhere.  The extremes are not going to be able to solve these problems, we need to come together to heal.  We need to stop carrying around so much anger and open up our minds and hearts and realize that there are good ideas and bad ideas on both sides.  We need to realize that what looks good on paper, sometimes doesn't work in practice.  Human nature is a funny thing.  We get so angry, our adrenalin is pumping and we can't hear that really, we all want the same thing, we just disagree about how to get there.  But if we can all calm down, we can learn from each other.  If we stop being heated and stop bullying, we can grow from this.  Both sides need to be willing to compromise.  I remember classes in college where we were put into groups and each given a piece of paper with a statement on it and we needed to work together to come up with a solution where everyone benefitted.  That is how government should work.  I think we all agree that there is a LOT of corruption in government and that greed is an unfortunate component of human nature that needs to be considered and addressed.  I believe that if we eliminate some of that, we will be way better off.  But we can't do it alone.  We can't solve these problems alone, we need to work together and both social media and 24 hour media are pulling us apart.

Wow, it feels good to get all of that off of my chest!  I do hope that I didn't offend anyone.  Even if you disagree, please know that I may not agree with everything you say, but I do respect your right to say it and to have an opinion.