Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Aren't you afraid your kids will be wierd?"

Last week I was invited to a party with some of the moms of kids that my girls knew in school.  I have remained in touch with several of the mothers and my girls have remained in touch with several of the kids they knew in school.  I have to say, for the most part, the families we know in town have been supportive and encouraging of our homeschooling.  I know several read my blog.  Several have been inquisitive and have even shown an interest in possibly homeschooling their own children.

But there is this one group of moms...  isn't there always one in every crowd?

The more distance we get from school the more I realize it is this one group of people, not everyone in our town, just a select few.  I used to be one of them.  I used to go to the gym every morning after drop off.  I used to get my nails done.  I used to grab a Starbucks and powerwalk in the park while complaining about my husband.  I used to wear the sweatsuits.  I used to dress the part, look the part and act the part.  Mostly because I wanted my girls to fit in and feel comfortable.  This was not who I was in high school.  This was not who I was in college.  This was not even who I was in grade school.  I had always done my own thing.  And while that seemed just fine when it was just me, now when you added my two beautiful girls to the equation, I wanted them to fit in and have friends.

We live in a teeny tiny town.  Everyone knows everyone and this group is the power-group, the group that has parties and hangs out and does things.  If you go to the gym with them, they will tell you that if you are not in their social circle you are a nobody.  If you don't hang with them,  they will make fun of you.

Eventually it got old.  It wasn't my thing.  I was bored.  I am an introvert, I needed alone time to re-charge and this group doesn't get that.  I got a part-time job at the library and they dropped me like a bad habit.  It was bad enough that my kids didn't want to do Pop Warner, but now getting a job...that was UN-FORGIVABLE!  Their kids dropped my girls like a bad habit.  No more birthday party invitations.  No more sleepover invitations.  No more movies or bowling on a school holiday.  No more 16 kids crowded together around the Hibachi table for dinner.  My girls didn't get it.  As soon as I broke from the pack, I realized how superficial my relationship with these women had been.

But we found other friends.  Friends who liked us just for ourselves.  Friends who didn't do Pop-Warner.  Friends whose moms had part-time jobs.   Friends we still keep in touch with.

Last week I was invited to a party at the home of one of the friends we still keep in touch with.  Only these other moms were there too.  They were thrilled to see me.  They asked all about the girls.  One said that she had seen my girls with Jason somewhere and they looked beautiful!  One even said she admired what I was doing.  They mentioned two of our friends who have since moved because of dissatisfaction with the school system.

I thought I was safe.  I was feeling pretty good.  I thought I had certainly mis-read these women.  I was thinking maybe it was me.  Maybe I was too sensitive.  Maybe I took things too personally.  Maybe I had been wrong.

Then one of them said, "What about socialization?"

"Oh, you know the [other family in our neighborhood that homeschools]? Allie and Piper get together with them several times a week.  They practically live in each other's houses."  These moms wanted the juicy details of the homeschool neighbor parents' divorce.  They told me what they had heard, hoping for confirmation or denial.  Maybe I went wrong when I said that was their business, not my place to talk about it.  Maybe this group felt slighted, but I wasn't comfortable talking about someone else's problems.

The next question was, "Do they have any other friends?"

Thankfully one of my friends piped in that her girls still see Allie and Piper and they had a sleep-over a few weeks ago.  Another friend piped in something, too.

"But I mean do they have other friends that they see regularly? I am only saying this because I care about your girls, it's important that kids do things with other kids their age regularly."

Like I don't care about my kids?  Like I am going to hide them in a closet?  As if I am going to not allow them to talk to other kids?  Like I don't freaking realize that it's important for kids to have friends?

"We are part of a homeschool group and we get together all the time.  At least once a week.  Actually it's not a good idea that they only have friends their same age, it's better that they can interact comfortably with kids and people of all ages."  By this time, I am thinking that I don't have to answer to these women.  I look around for my exit.  More food?  Another glass of wine?  Someone I can talk to?

"Aren't you worried that they are going to grow up to be weird?"  Another of these moms asks.  "I mean, c'mon, you have to admit that these homeschool kids are weird."

I am so grateful that at that moment, the right words came to me:
"I used to be concerned about that, but then I decided that I would rather they be themselves than be just like everyone else, obsessed with fitting in and left high and dry if they don't want to do what everyone else is doing,"  I took a breath.  "And, no, most of the homeschool kids we know are not weird.  We've met just as many weird homeschool kids as we met weird kids that go to school.  But we are raising our girls to look beyond appearances."

Eyebrow raising.  Wine sipping.

I made my exit.

I doubt that I changed these women's minds about homeschool kids, but it sure felt good to get that off my chest!