Kids will be Kids…and that’s Okay
I have been thinking about homeschooling and ‘image’ again. The other day, we had a couple of moms over and about 11 children ranging in age from 13-ish to 3 running in and out, and apparently ‘something’ happened between some of the boys. My first reaction in that situation is a raised eyebrow. That’s about it. Whatever happened wasn’t enough for any child to come running in crying and/or bleeding, which usually indicates that it wasn’t a major ‘thing’. But both of the moms whose boys were involved left, inexplicably. There was no discussion, there was no intervention to find out what happened and attempt to resolve the issue… they just packed up and left.
At first, I had no clue that anything was amiss. There were 11 kids running around, and since some kids (and moms) are of the sensitive variety, I can see how that much action in our small house might throw some people’s inner workings off. I figured that was what happened. I only found out about the apparent ‘thing’ later on, with the thought being that there was embarrassment on the moms’ part because of how the kids were acting at a homeschool group function. To put some perspective on this, both of the moms in question are or were very active in a local faith-based co-op. Overall, my impression of such groups is that image is of prime concern; how the children act is a direct reflection on how the mothers are perceived by the group and I’m sure to some degree, cast doubt on how good of an influence these children are on the others. There are several aspects to this scenario that bother me.
1. Mom gets so wrapped up in ‘image’ that she willingly accepts this conditional acceptance by her peers.
Why, oh, why do moms do this? Please repeat after me: ‘If my friends don’t like or understand my kids, then they’re NOT MY FRIENDS.’ Your children, in some ways, are a reflection of you. They aren’t mirror images, and their own personalities and thoughts and experiences will shape them differently than you, but on some levels, your kids reflect what you think is important. Presumably, you’re doing the best you can, instilling into your children the values and virtues that you think are important. If your friends don’t like or understand or accept your kids, then guess what. They don’t really like or understand or accept YOU, either. That’s really all there is to this point.
If the people who you are currently hangin’ out with are passing judgement on you, your lifestyle or your ability as a mother, then they don’t like you. Stop hanging out with them. You’re not learning anything from them. They are not enriching your life in any way. You’re setting a bad example for your children by putting up with that kind of crap. They’re making your life worse. Find new friends. Even if you can’t find new friends, being by yourself is less harmful to you than hanging out with those h8rs. Ditch ’em.
2. The children learn NOTHING when ‘retreat and regroup’ is your primary coping mechanism.
Children argue. That’s a given. It’s normal. They’re emotionally and mentally immature people who lack essential communication tools to effectively handle a confrontation without loosing a grip on their emotions. That’s why they have parents – to help pack their tool box ‘on the fly’. As a parent, you hope that these teaching moments won’t come in public, but they so often do, and when the opportunity presents itself, you can either teach or run. I’m no paragon of perfection – I’ve lost my temper in public on more than one occasion with my kids (usually due to neglecting or not recognizing my own needs at the time), which generally necessitates running to the car or other neutral environment to assess the situation. But the kids don’t really learn anything about communication through ‘retreat and regroup’.
As homeschoolers, our kids aren’t subjected to playground wars or bullies – and thank goodness for that. Unfortunately, kids are kids pretty much everywhere, and conflict resolution is an essential tool that I don’t think is ever perfected. I think that letting our personal embarrassment get in the way of equipping our kids for healthy communication cripples them. And this ties back into the first point – why would you want to be a part of a group that does not respect the needs of the child, and that values the importance of a parent taking advantage of a teaching opportunity?
I have a great deal of respect for a mom who sees something that needs addressing – and not the ‘Hey stop that!’ kind of addressing – but really digs into it with her kid, looking behind the obvious and dealing with the issues behind an action that motivate the child. It takes effort and balls to stay calm in the face of a meltdown and communicate with your child when everyone around you is looking on with a keen and critical eye. It’s hard enough with strangers; I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be when you know that your ‘friends’ will be even more judgmental.
I’m not perfect, but for the most part, I’m content to give my boys enough space to work out their own troubles. I try to stay out of it, but with an open ear so that if I need to step in and help facilitate communication, I can. As difficult as this has been, now that they’re 8 and 7, I am starting to see real results from this method (yay!). That is to say, they can often work out issues with their friends with a few words, rather than it being a big blow-up thing. Factors like hormones, amount of rest, hunger, growing pains, ‘muchness’ – all of this plays a role in how our kids FEEL and ACT in any give day or situation. For that matter, all of those things also play a significant role in how WE feel and act – and respond to our kids. But as parents, we do our best to monitor and take into consideration what our kids NEED at the time and do our best to provide it so that they have a level playing field to work from.
That’s not always going to happen of course; my kids both require – REQUIRE – food every couple of hours. But I’m human and sometimes forget that – or get the notion that they ‘should’ be able to be okay without food for a little longer (which usually ends with a spectacular fail on my part), forgetting momentarily that children usually are doing the very best that they can right now… I believe that expecting more out of my kids than they’re able to provide is detrimental to the kids and to the structure of our family, so we try not to do that. Same goes for my friends and their kids. I expect them to do what they can. Sometimes leaving is the only option, but I sincerely hope that when you must have one of those ‘teaching moments’ with your kid, you can feel the vibes of support that I’m sending in your direction.