Sunday, May 29, 2011

Healing: Life is a Journey

"I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking

Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth making"
from "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack

Jessica at Teachable Moments wrote a post a couple of days ago entitled Coexist about her life journey, who she was ten years ago and who she is now.  This post has really resonated with me and I have found myself thinking about it quite a bit.

Ten years ago, we had literally just bought our second home (we closed the Friday of Memorial Day weekend).  We had bought our first home when we were both working full-time, so our mortgage was based on two full-time incomes.  When we decided that I would stay home with A, money was tight.  It was not impossible, but there were no extras.  Our second home, meant that we had moved from Connecticut back to New Jersey, 20 minutes from my in-laws and 40 minutes from my parents.  Our mortgage was based on just Jason's salary and at that, we had bought well below our approved amount.  There would be money left over for extras and savings, retirement and college funds, it was a huge relief. We lived in a town where strangers said hello in the grocery store parking lot and neighbors came over to chat when they saw you outside.  A was almost 2 and we were excited to get settled into our new home and start trying to have a second baby.  Happy doesn't begin to describe it.  Elated, overjoyed, top of the world...I could barely contain myself I was so happy.  I knew we were blessed.  We were close to family, we had a low mortgage, we had lots of stability, we had a healthy baby girl.  

I never read a parenting book.  Ever.  I had majored in psychology and sociology and minored in education in college.  I was the oldest kid in my neighborhood and had taken care of all of the younger kids.  I had babysat since I was 12; worked as a nanny in college and then as a pre-school teacher for several years before we had A.  I felt that the child development classes paired with my natural instincts were all that I needed to parent an infant.  I didn't follow my mom's advice with schedules and I could never let my baby cry it out.  I nursed when my children were hungry and both of my girls slept in our bed.  I followed my instincts.  I joined play groups and Music Together and we took Gymboree classes; I was the Treasurer of our local Mom's Club.  My girls knew that they were loved, their needs were met and their desires considered, this, I believe, translates into well-behaved, cooperative, happy, confident children.

Two years after we bought that house, Jason was transferred and we had to move again.  Closer to my parents, further from my in-laws.  Again, we bought well below our approved loan rate, so that we could save and have extras.  But this time we were almost sued for something we had not done by the new owners of the home we just sold, I have trouble with anxiety and I went into a terrible depression.  We had moved back to the area where I had grown up, a suburb of Manhattan which is much more competitive and much less friendly than anywhere I had or would ever choose to live; no one will even look at you in the supermarket parking lot and neighbors keep to themselves.

I allowed influences into our lives that I wish I had not allowed in.  I compromised myself and bent to peer pressure.  There was another mom who is now, not surprisingly, going through a nasty divorce.  She has some serious issues, but I did not realize this then.  I have learned a great deal from the experience.  Unfortunately, the experience left my confidence in myself as a parent wounded and my relationship with my girls scarred.  We are all still healing from it.  This mother's  children were and are prone to public tantrums when they don't get their way, but she felt that she had all of the parenting answers.  There are times when I hear her judgmental voice, I hear her telling my girls what I am doing wrong (as she did often), I hear her telling me what to do differently and I hear her yelling at my girls.   I regret so strongly that I was not stronger when this was going on, that I often sat there with my mouth hanging open, astonished that she would berate A because someone played with A instead of her daughter.  This is the very same woman who called to tell me each playdate her daughter was invited on and said that my problem was that I like to cook dinner and who started friending my facebook friends whom she didn't even know.  I realize now that she has serious issues, but they seeped into my life and my conscience like a disease.  It takes work on my part now to eradicate the seeds she planted.

When my girls were in school there was the must-watch TV shows and the must-have cell phones and clothes and the must-do activities and parties.  It is the most common criticism I hear about homeschooling: your kids won't understand the world, they won't know how to survive in a cut-throat, competitive, materialistic, consumer-driven society if they aren't exposed to it.   Sometimes I wonder if I should tell my girls to trample anyone that gets in their way, to take everything they can and not look back.  I wonder if I should tell them that it doesn't matter how nice you are, what matters is how much material stuff you acquire.  These are the skills you need to survive in our society.  If that is true, I find that sad.  Maybe I am crazy, but I reject the idea.  I don't want any part of it.  I don't like people who think that way.  Does that mean that I will have a harder time in our society?  Perhaps.   I want my girls to believe that being nice and kind and compassionate means a heck of a lot more than acquiring material stuff or impressing/buying friends.
A on her first day of kindergarten
Ten years ago, I was at peace with myself as a parent in ways that I no longer am, but I am trying really hard to heal from and to not let in the shoulds and coulds and woulds of society.  I want our family to do what is right for us.  That may mean letting in a lot of technology or a little, but it won't be because everyone else has it.  It may mean having friends that we enjoy being with, rather than just being friends with people because they live in our town or are in our class.  It may mean wearing the clothes that are comfortable, not what everyone else is wearing.  It may mean spending hours being creative rather than spending hours memorizing facts for a test.  It may mean planting our own organic garden rather than eating at the local pizza spot.  It may mean limited screen time instead of watching every TV show everyone else watches.  It may mean learning for mastery or it it may mean spiral learning, but because it is what is right for each girl not because it is the current trend in education.  It may mean going on a field trip by ourselves or with friends, but it won't mean feeling pressured to go because everyone else is.  It may mean a lot of things, but whatever it means, I want it to be because it is right for our family, not because we let external pressures in.
Mother of a kindergartener
Jessica said she is not at the place she wants to be, but she is well on her way there.  I don't know if anyone says, I want to follow the crowd and do whatever they do. I've never said or thought that.  I want to live authentically.  I am trying my best to do that.  And like Jessica, I am not exactly the person I want to be, but I am well on my way and I find working toward that goal to be exciting and fun and fulfilling.  

"...Time is a wheel in constant motion always...
Rolling us along...
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder...
Where those years have gone..."
from "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack

I am very excited to have been invited to participate in a new blogging venture, I can't tell you about it just yet, but's very exciting!