16 September 2012

Celebrating Womanhood

Today is the day!  "Celebrating Womanhood"  is an event created by some amazing blogging woman as a day to celebrate, well, women!  (Click on the link to read the other posts by other amazing women!)  . 

I have stewed about what to write on this day.  Many out there feel that women have been treated poorly lately.  Politicians have said things, the media have said things, etc.  I don't listen much to what other people say.  But I do know a lot about women's history and I do know where women have been and where they are today and all I can say is "We've come a long way baby"  (Yes, I know that's stolen ; ) 

With that said, I think I'll focus a little closer to home.  

There have been many women in my life that have influenced me in a myriad of ways.  I could talk about them all, my paternal grandmother who left England alone in the late 1920's to build a new life in New york City, or my maternal grandmother who survived growing up in poverty in tenement buildings in that same city, and survived an abusive alcoholic marriage, or my own mother, who survived terrible sexual and physical abuse as a child and battled her own demons as an adult, but still managed to raise three fairly decent human beings, of which I am one.  They each have their own inspiring stories, and looking back at their lives, I realize how much of each of them is in me.  

But in telling their story, Id really be telling my own.  I am a product of who they were.  The grandmother who took a risk to come to a foreign country to find a better life.  She met her husband on the boat coming over, and got pregnant our of wedlock too!  Quite a scandal in those days, but it made me aware that women have been the same for generations.  Impulsive, desirous, and willing to risk for love.  My other grandmother who finally left an abusive husband and moved in with a new man, way before such a thing was accepted.  She knew what she had to do and critics be damned.  Such scandalous behavior from my own grandmothers!  Later in life when I decided to move in with my now husband well before we married, and I actually conceived both of my children before we wed, I felt no shame in my actions.  It was my life and I felt free to live it as I saw fit.

Then there was my own mother, who spent her adult life recovering from her childhood, but did the best she could to teach her daughters to stand up for themselves and find their own passions.  My mother loved to tell us "Depend on no man, learn how to take care of yourself".  She made sure my sister and I were strong, independent and opinionated women. And before I met my husband, I had the chance to live on my own and take care of myself, and while I  now love having my husband in my life and love feeling cared for, I know that if I had to care for myself that I am more than capable of doing so.  

All three of those women found love in their lives,.  My parents in particular had an amazing love story.  They met when they were 14, married at 21.  They respected each other.  My father was evolved enough to know that women could work, have their own careers, and my mother did just that.  I was actually in daycare in NYC when I was 4 and 5.  Now some people might find that an odd thing to celebrate, but in 1972, not too many kids were in daycare.  I loved it actually and my mom loved her job.  And while I have chosen a different path in raising my children, I was empowered by my own mother to know that I could do anything and choose any path I wished.  . 

Actually my grandmothers were working women as well.  I guess that's a by-product of growing up in a city.  So in retrospect, knowing that all these women in my life worked, it's interesting that I became a stay at home mom.  And not even just a stay at home mom, but a homeschooling, stay at home mom. 

But what they gave me was freedom of choice.  I knew I could do anything I wanted to do.  I was never told I had to be something I wasn't.  I was never told I had to behave a certain way  or look a certain way or that certain things were only available to men. 

Freedom to be the woman and mother that I wanted to be, that was the gift given to me by the women in my life.  And I know it was much harder for them to do what they did than it ever was for me. 

Now it's my turn.  My own daughters are 15 and 17 now.  I have done my best to instill in them that they too can do and be anything they wish.  I have never put expectations or demands on them to be something they are not.  They do not have to grow up and be stay at home, homeschooling moms.  If they choose an entirely different path than the one I chose I will be happy for and with them, because they will be their own women with their own freedoms.  And I can thank the women who came before me for giving me the example that we can be who want to be. 

This is a great time to be a woman and we need to shut out the voices of negativity that we hear and listen to the only voice that matters, the one in our heart. 

25 November 2011

Happy Holidays?

I wrote this post "Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays ?"  2 years ago. 

Unfortunately Christians are still rabid and calling for boycotts.  So here's the re-run, I think it bears repeating : )

13 September 2011

Love Yourself Enough

I found a quote the other day:

"Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God." 
~Mary Manin Morrissey~

It brought back a memory from my childhood. When I was about 10 or 12 my grandmother bought me these great sheets.  I didn't know anything about thread counts back then, but they were beautiful sheets.  Pink and flowery and so, so soft.  I loved those sheets.  Seems weird for a 10 or 12 year old to love sheets, but I just thought these were the nicest sheets I had ever seen.  And I didn't want to use them, lest they get ruined.  I don't know what I needed to save them for, but I really thought they needed to be saved.  Until I was older, until a special time came along.  Whatever.  

So  I never put them on my bed.  I left them in the box in my closet.  And I'd look at them, and I'd touch them, but I never put them on my bed.  They were twin size sheets, because back then I had a twin sized bed. Over time they somehow got pushed to the back of my closet and I forgot about them.  

And then I moved out of my parents house when I was 19.  And I didn't take my twin sized bed, by then I had a full sized bed.  As I was cleaning out my closet while moving, I found those sheets.  And then I realized I would never use them because I no longer had a twin sized bed.  And it made me sad.  Really sad.  Why had I never used these sheets?  What did I think I needed to save them for? 

I realized I had learned the lesson that somehow some things were more special than others.  My mom had all kinds of special tableware.  Linens, silver, china, all things that we were not allowed to touch unless it was a holiday and we were having company.  We had special towels and soaps we put out for "company".  The subtle, unspoken message was that "company" was more special than we were.  I'm sure it was how my mother was raised as well, so she didn't give us that message intentionally, it's just what she knew.  What she had lived in her own childhood.  

But after seeing those sheets, I realized how stupid that is.  How sad it is.  To think that we subtly tell our children that they aren't as special as the "company", so they aren't good enough to waste the towels, or the china or the sheets on.  I decided I would not send that message to my children.   

None of us know when it is our last day, and what are we waiting for?  Put the sheets on the bed, burn the pretty candles, use the pretty soap, chip the good china.  It's just stuff.  And if you like it, don't save it, use it.  What are you saving it for?  You are worth the good stuff.  

"A healthy self-love means we have no compulsion to justify to ourselves or others why we take vacations, why we sleep late, why we buy new shoes, why we spoil ourselves from time to time. We feel comfortable doing things which add quality and beauty to life."
~Andrew Matthews~

12 August 2011

Were You Raised By Wolves?!?!

"On the beach, you can live in bliss." 
~ Dennis Wilson~ 

I like watching people.  Human behavior interests me.  But sometimes, I just want to sit in a chair on a beach and have humanity leave me alone.  Today was one of those days. 

So, today I went to the beach.  It seems today was tween/young teen day at the beach.  There were lots of what looked to be 12, 13, 14 year olds, wandering around, unattended by adults.  And were they ever rude and inconsiderate of the adults around them.  Lots of yelling, running, and just general rudeness going on. 

There was one group, three boys, three girls, that decided to park themselves right next to my blanket and chair.  They threw their things to the ground, began kicking sand and yelling at each other.  Joyfully yelling at each other, but yelling none the less.  And the sand.  Dust kicking up every where, I could feel the fine layer settling on my Coppertone greased skin.  Yea.  

Then the girls decided to run off to the bathroom.  I was in the way of the bathroom.  My blanket had blown over on itself thanks to the wind, and so, instead of walking around my blanket, what did one of the girls decide to do?  Yup, she jumped over my blanket.  Really.  With me sitting right there in a chair at the edge of my blanket.  I lowered my sunglasses and stared at her two friends who were getting ready to do the same.  I must have given them some look, one of the remaining two said "We'll go around".  Hahaha.  

Then there were the little ones.  All full of joy to be at the beach.  Running 50 miles per hour back and forth across the sands, spreading love wherever they go.  Or sand.  Lots of sand, wherever the go.  And the parents, who see them kicking great big billows of sand onto all those around them?  Nothing.  Not a peep.  Really?!?!

And then you have the screamers.  Sometimes that means kids, other times that means adults.  The moms who take their kids to the beach, for what one would think would be the intention of having a fun day and making memories and all that sweet, sugary stuff, but in reality, the moms are harried and tired of being moms so they just scream at their kids the whole time they are there.  That's fun to listen to.  

Then you have the kid screamers.  The ones who scream for fun, the ones who scream at people 100 yards away because they can't seem to walk there, and the ones who scream because their mom tells them no, for the 100th time.  

Yikes!  When did we stop caring how our actions affect others?  I was never one to let my children be rude and unruly in public.  I always made sure they realized that sometimes, our actions can upset other people and we should always try to be courteous of others.  My girls knew not to run by people on a beach because running kicks up sand.  The knew better than to scream at me or each other from the water to the sand.  They certainly knew not to jump over someone else's stuff.  

As a mom, I tried really, really hard to never yell at or shame my kids in public.  There are lots of moms out there who seem to never have learned that lesson.  

I have written about bad moms before here, and about the sad state of humanity here and here.  So I guess this is a running theme with me.  I'm just so easily annoyed about things that seem like common courtesy to me.  

Maybe it's aging.  Maybe I'm just less tolerant the older I get.  I actually sympathize with the people who want kid free restaurants and flights.

But I don't blame the kids, really.  Not the young ones anyway.  I blame the parents.  By teens, even though teens to be very self absorbed, one would think they should have the where with all to know when they are annoying people.  But little kids, they only know what they see or have been taught, and for that, the parents are at fault. 

Blame.  Someone has to be blamed, right?  They ruined my day at the beach.  But so did the sun, it chose not to shine.  But that's a sad story for another grumpy day.  

“When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have” 
~Stephen Hawking~   

28 July 2011

Changes and Choices

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.  
~William Blake~
 A strange thing has been happening to me lately.  I am constantly re-thinking all the choices I have made in my life thus far.  I think I will blog about these as the whim hits me. 

Todays' topic:  Choices I have made in regards to my children education. 

Oh how idealistic we can be when we are young, when we are new parents, when everything in our lives is fresh and new.  

When a person has a baby, at least this happened for me, education was the furthest thing from my mind.  But around the time my eldest turned 2 and I was heavy with my 2nd daughter, it occurred to me that one day this child is going to have to go to school.  Panic ensued, as I never wanted to be without my daughters.  

I did end up enrolling my 2 1/2 year old in a Montessori pre-school that I eventually ended up working for, (to pay for the tuition and because I did not like being away from my daughters).  My youngest daughter would end up going there as well.  

Now had I been independently wealthy, the story would end here.  I loved Montessori.  My eldest (Carley) moved on to a Montessori grade school while my youngest (Catherine) finished up at the pre-school where I worked (and bartered for tuition).  Once Catherine was out of the pre-school and my job was over, I just could not afford the tuition at the Montessori grade school.  A change had to be made.  Public School?  Egads no.  Catholic school?  I was no longer a practicing Catholic so that seemed hypocritical. Structured school in general was not a choice I wanted to make at all.  Homeschooling, that's what it had to be.  

At that time I knew very little about homeschooling.  So I went to the library and checked out every book on homeschooling I could find.  I read about school at home, unit studies, relaxed homeschooling, unschooling, etc., etc.  I talked with other homeschool moms and eventually came up with a philosophy I thought would fit our family.  

First philosophy:  School at home.  I bought a full curriculum.  We sat at the dining room table and did X number of pages of work per day.  Started in September, just like school.  By Christmas I wanted to kill myself.  This style wasn't for us.  

Then we went to a relaxed school at home.  Some days we worked in books, some days we went to the park and the library.  Some days we watched videos.  But I still led the day and tried to keep some structure.  I also added unit studies into this, KONOS, which my girls enjoyed but it required a lot of work and prep on my part. 

As time went on the girls wanted less and less to do with structure, and we drifted into unschooling.  I did continue to buy curriculum for a time, but only  curriculum that the girls wanted. If one wanted a science curriculum, I bought it, if one wanted English, I bought it.  But it was up to them to decide to work on it.  I wasn't going to push them anymore.  During this time we also did Sonlight.  My girls really enjoyed Sonlight, because frankly, there wasn't much for them to do.  They read some books and I read some books to them.  And then we'd discuss some vocabulary words.  Both girls really enjoy books and reading, so this wasn't a chore for them. 

As my girls got closer to those tween years, between 10 and 12, they wanted even less to do with anything structured and frankly so did I.  Hormones were swinging wildly, we were involved in a co-op, and everything I had read about unschooling made me think the girls would be just fine if I left them to their own devices.  So I did.  Of course I was always here, willing to take them here or there, willing to help them learn something or figure out a way to learn something, they knew they could count on me for anything, but the learning was left up to them.  

When my eldest was around 12 she started asking about going to school.  I had already pre-decided she was never going to Junior high, 1) because I hated junior high, 2) because I heard horrible things about what goes on in junior high (bullying and sex) and 3) I still wanted her home.   Looking back, only one of those is really a valid reason.  

So I told Carley we would re-visit the school issue with high school.  I was hoping she would decide she loved home and me so much she'd never want to go.  I was wrong.  She starts her junior year of high school next month.  

I thought school was going to be a nightmare.  I thought Carley would hate it, that she'd decide to quit and come home (an option she knew she had whenever she wanted it).  She didn't.  She loves it.  Ok, maybe love is a strong word, but she really, really likes it.  She likes to be taught.  By someone other than me.  She likes to learn, the kinds of things they teach in books and schools.  She is a perfect student. During her previous two years in high school she has made the honor roll each semester. Not bad for an unschooled homeschooler. 

Now Catherine, my youngest, the one who I thought really thrived in unschooling, has also decided she wants to try high school.  She wants to see what it's like, wants to see if she's missing something.  When everyone around you is doing something, it makes you want to maybe try it too.  Especially if you are a teen. (Ok, we aren't talking about sex, drugs and alcohol here!) 

  There are also classes at the high school that Catherine thinks sound interesting.  Fashion and World History being two of them.  And while we could have learned Fashion and World History at home, somehow it just seems more interesting doing it with other people who share the same interest as you.  Catherine has the same option as Carley, she is free to leave school at any time.  She has already decided that while she may decide not to go full time, she pretty much knows she wants to stay in at least part time.

So my (eventually) unschooled daughters, whom I taught had the world at their fingertips and the freedom to do as they please and learn what they please, have in the end, decided the structure of public school is what they want.  Hahahahahaha.  Jokes on me.

But after having had some time to process it, I am now surprisingly Ok with it.  I made choices for them when they were small based on my own life experiences and research.  That's all a parent can do.  We do what we think is best.  No one knows what is best, it's all speculation.  We are not our children, we are not in their heads, they are not our mini me's.  We have to be comfortable as a parent, eventually letting our children be who they are meant to be.  And if that is someone wholly different than who we are, we need to love them anyway.  That's what it means to be a parent. 

I know homeschoolers who would be upset if their children didn't grow up and homeschool their grandchildren.  They take it as some personal affront if their children want to do something different. I also know homeschoolers who think I must have done something wrong to make my children want to choose school. I think I must have actually done something right.  My children are making the choice they think is right for them.  I am giving them the right to make that choice.   How many other teens ever get to choose the direction of their lives?  Most kids live with their lives planned out for them.  They WILL do this, they WILL go there, etc, etc., ad nauseum until they move out.  Yes, I made some of those decisions for my children when they were young, but now as teenagers they have the freedom to choose for themselves.  And it is a different choice than I would have chosen for them at this stage in their lives, but that is part of letting go. 

So now, 16 years after the birth of my first born, I am kind of doing an about face.  The daughters that I swore would never go to school, will both be in school this fall.  My kids are exactly where I didn't want them to be.  Isn't that funny?  

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  
~Author Unknown~

04 July 2011


Happy 4th of July everyone.  Thought I'd share one of my favorite patriotic songs.  Neil Diamond, singing "America" from the movie "The Jazz Singer".  Love this song. 

02 July 2011

Old Age and Death and Dying

Ready for an uplifting post?  Then don't read this one ; )

"A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old.  It is easy to love children.  Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children.  But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture." 
~Abraham J. Heschel~

We've been dealing with some aging parent issues around my home. My mother-in-law will be 91 next month, and my father-in-law just turned 87.  My father in law has been having some dementia issues for a few years now, moodiness, anger issues, confusion. He's been in and out of hospital's and nursing homes, and it seems like it may finally be time for him to permanently leave his home. 

I have dealt with this before. Three of my grandparents ended up in nursing homes before they died. My maternal grandmother, (Nanny) had breast cancer that metastasized to her bones. She got to the point where she just couldn't be cared for in her home anymore. She went down hill pretty quickly after being moved into the nursing home. I suppose you lose your will to live a lot quicker when you realize you no longer have anything to live for. She was trapped in a bed, away from her family. We visited her, but how often can you really spend at the nursing home when you have a job and your own life to live? (and being 21, I felt my life was very important).  My mom was an only child and had big issues with her mom. My parents were on vacation in Florida when my grandmother died and my mom refused to come home. She said the service could wait until after her vacation. So my sister and I made all the arrangements. I had just turned 22 four days after her death, and my sister was 26. We arranged for her cremation, and arranged a service with the cemetery and the priest. Thankfully my grandmother already had a burial spot bought and paid for. But we still had to wait two weeks to have her service, because that is when my parents would be home.  Nanny died February 15, 1990.

My grandmother left behind her husband Harry, my step-grandfather, but really the only grandfather I had ever known. He fared pretty well for awhile, but then he too needed to go into a nursing home because he just couldn't live on his own anymore. My mom certainly wasn't going to move him in with her, she already had my paternal grandfather, Pa, living with her and my dad.  He had moved in when I was a sophomore in high school.  

In 1991, a year after my grandmother died, my parents moved from IL to TN. My mother decided she was not going to take my grandfathers with her, so they were both left behind, in IL, in nursing homes.  And then my mom pretty much never looked back. My dad was complicit in this too, he was just usually in the background of everything my mom did, which is why I keep putting this on her.

So it fell upon my sister and I to visit our grandfathers and make sure they had the things they needed. I tried to get out to see them weekly. The nursing home was about 1/2 an hour from me, but it was over an hour for my sister. It was rough going to the home every week. I was in my early twenties, when it seems you are the most alive. And every week I had to go and sit with those on deaths door. Pa was never overly happy to see us. I sensed he realized it was out of a sense of duty, not that we really wanted to be there. He was a pretty angry man, had a rough life and carried that with him.  I can't recall him ever being really happy.  But my sister and I would go anyway, we would sit with him and watch TV, or while he ate his lunch. Make sure he was being treated well, and then we'd leave. It was always so depressing. A lot of the people there never had anyone visit. They were just left there. My sister and I would talk to some of these other residents if we were in the community room. They seemed to appreciate having someone other than nurses aides to talk with.

A few times Pa needed to go to the hospital for a feeding tube because he started having trouble eating. The nursing home would transport him there and then call my sister to let her know. ( She being the oldest was the one left in charge).  They were never able to keep the tube in him, he always managed to pull it out. He had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on his chart, but a feeding tube isn't the same as not resuscitating. My mother also had a signed living will from Pa, and she had his medical power of attorney, so eventually she decided to just stop all means of nourishment. She was still in TN by the way, calling the shots. So even though my sister and I were there, actually caring for him, my mom got to have the final say in how he should die. 

Harry (my maternal step-grandfather) managed to hang on until 1995. He lived in that nursing home for 4 years. The first few years he did pretty well. He had a TV, he could watch the baseball games. He was asked to be on a major league team right after high school, but his father wouldn't let him go.  Harry never had any kids of his own, his only other relatives were his sister who was older than him and still lived back east. My Nanny was Harry's life. When my parents were transferred to IL with my dads job, Nanny and Harry moved out a year later. So our family was all Harry had. But Harry wasn't my moms real dad, and she didn't particularly care about him once she moved to TN. Harry had done a lot for me growing up. I was only 10 years old when Nanny and Harry moved to IL. He drove me places, I used to hang out at their apartment, and he taught me to drive. So I felt I owed it to Harry to visit him as much as I could. He died 3 weeks after my eldest daughter was born in 1995. My parents came back to IL and we had a small service for him at the cemetery and a small luncheon afterwards. All of that was at the insistence of my sister and I. Harry had a burial plot next to my grandmother (they both wanted to be cremated) and if it had been up to my mom, we would have just passed his ashes off to the cemetery and had him buried. But I remember that service and the luncheon. And I am glad we paid him the respect he deserved. My mom had a marker placed on her mothers grave after she died, but she never got one for Harry. She kept telling me she didn't have the money. In 1997 I received a settlement for a back injury. One of the first things I spent money on was a marker for Harry's grave.

So why I am writing all this down? Well, for one, grandchildren shouldn't have to deal with taking care of their grandparents when able bodied children are alive. My parents both completely shirked their duties as children. I realize both had crappy childhoods and had serious issues with their parents.  But they were never not on speaking terms with them, we always had them in our lives.  You just don't abandon your parents in the end.  It was really stressful for my sister and I to have to make sure our grandfathers were taken care of. We were just starting our own lives, by the time Harry died we both had small children.  It was a heavy burden. I don't regret all that we did , but I still think the responsibility should have been on my parents.

Back when all this was going on I often thought how it would be for my parents. Would I have to put them in a nursing home and watch them deteriorate too? As fate would have it, my dad died at 56 of pancreatic cancer and my mom would die 6 years later of internal bleeding at 62. Has it spared me the pain my husband now has to go through? I don't know. Death is death no matter when it happens. I was devastated when my mom died, it was quick and unexpected. I had 6 months from diagnosis to death with my dad. A little time to prepare and say goodbye, but it was still very, very hard. But my parents will be forever young in my memory. I didn't have to watch them lose their faculties and their minds. I didn't have to worry about the care they might be receiving by others in a home. Death is death, whether young or old and it is painful for children to watch their parents die.

I have a fear of death. I know I shouldn't as a Christian, but I do. So I want to live as long as possible. And I kind of hope my mind has gone when I go, so I am not aware of my death. But I certainly do not want to put the burden of my elderly care on my daughters. So it is a dilemma. Obviously I really have no say when I die. But if I had to choose early death to spare my children the pain of my care, or living to a ripe old age to hang on as long as possible, I choose the ripe old age. I just don't want to die, ever (yes, denial!)  I hope to make sure my old age needs are taken care of before I get there (if I get there) so that those decisions don't have to be made by my daughters. I'll also make sure they know that they don't have to come and sit by my bedside and entertain me. I'll have lived my life, and they should be living theirs. Not worrying about old mom in the home.

Life sucks and then you die.  Or your parents die, or are dying, or are losing their minds.  None of us expect or want this in our lives.  But it will come for all of us eventually.  C'est la Vie.  

“Parents, however old they and we may grow to be, serve among other things to shield us from a sense of our doom. As long as they are around, we can avoid the fact of our mortality; we can still be innocent children.” 

~Jane Howard~

28 June 2011


I love John Denver.  There, I said it.  I also like Barry Manilow and the Carpenters! It's not an aging thing, I've liked all kinds of music for most of my life.  I get the John Denver, Barry Manilow gene from my mom, I get a country gene from my dad (who knew a guy born and raised in NYC of Irish descent would be such a Country music fan?) and I probably get my love of hard rock and metal from my older brother who introduced me to it at a very young age. 

But on a day like today, in which the sun is shining, the sky is blue and there is just the slightest breeze, only one voice can evoke in me a feeling of what it means to be alive on such a perfect day, and that man is John Denver. 


24 June 2011

Sister Wives vs. Duggars

I hate to admit it, but I have a fascination with some weirdly religious reality shows.  While I can't stand the likes of Jersey Shore or any of those "Housewives", give me the weirdly religious and I am all over it. 

Sister Wives, if you haven't seen it, is about, well Sister Wives.  Four women married to one man. One man with four wives.  Plural marriage.  At first I was sure I would hate this show, I watched the first episode only out of morbid curiosity.  How could those women possibly share their man?  Sloppy seconds anyone, ewww!  

But after watching a few times, (it's kind of like a train wreck, hard to look away), I've actually come to like them.  And the most surprising development.....I no longer judge them. I had expected them to be overly religious, for the wives to be brain-washed, for the children to be controlled , etc, etc.  I was pleasantly surprised that none of that seems to be the case.  The wives all knew what they were getting into and chose this lifestyle for themselves.  The children, while not choosing this lifestyle but being born into it, certainly are free to speak their minds and have the freedom and ability to leave this lifestyle behind, should they choose to, as adults.  And they are surprisingly normal kids.  They dress normally, have cell phones, watch TV, and are, wow, just like normal kids.  Not like those cult polygamists, with their long dresses and weird hair, as seen on TV, being raided in Texas a few years back. They weren't like those people at all. 
Now I realize comparing the Duggar's and the Sister Wives is kind of like comparing apples to oranges, but since both claim to do what they do out of a religious conviction, I think the comparison is fair.  Plus they both chose to have reality shows, so they are fair game. 

The Duggar's TV show is called "19 Kids and Counting".  I think it was originally called "16 Kids and Counting", but that was 3 kids ago.......keep up! 

I have written about the Duggar's on several other occasions, here and here

If you have been living in a cave, the Duggar's show is about a conservative Christian family that believes one should continue to spawn until the woman's uterus falls out.  OK, to be fair, that was my description, not theirs.  I guess they would consider themselves, Quiverfull. (click on it if you don't know what it means). 

Jim Bob and Michelle  Duggar share their home with 18 of their 19 children.  Oldest Josh has married and just had baby #2 with wife Anna.  He was well prepared to move on and start his own quiverfull brood.  

My problem with the Duggar's is that the kids in this family are given no voice, and the actions of the parents do indeed affect the children.  In the Duggar family the older children are expected to help with the younger.  Jim Bob and Michelle just keep spittin' em out, and the older girls will just pick up the slack.  One Mother cannot mother 19 children.  So if she didn't employ these older children to help, (and not just with childcare, with cooking and cleaning and homeschooling, etc, ad nauseum) it just wouldn't get done.   The girls particularly in the Duggar home are at such a disadvantage.  They are being raised under Patriarchy, they cannot wear pants, or swimsuits, or think for themselves.  They will never have a career.  They are being raised to be breeders, because that's all they know.  If you read any of my older Duggar posts, you will learn all you need to know about why the Duggar lifestyle is not good for girls. 

So that bring me back to my comparison.  Two religious families, both living outside of what most of us consider "normal".  (I live outside of "normal" most of the time too, so that is not a judgment).  

Before I began watching either show, I presumed I would have disdain for both of them.  I planned to watch and judge and wonder "How can they live that way".  But now, I don't have judgment or disdain for either.  I am amazed at how accepting I feel of the Sister Wives.  It is their life, they are hurting no one, live and let live.  It certainly isn't a life for me (although at times the thought of another woman sharing my home and being here to pass off the dinner making or laundry pile is appealing.  But sorry, no husband sharing, that still brings out an "ewww" in me).  While I don't judge the Duggar's either, I do feel sadness for them.  Particularly the daughters.  They just won't ever get to appreciate all that life has to offer them.  Their roles have been decided for them since birth.  And none of them will ever get to fully understand what it means to have an attentive parent.  Two parents just cannot give to 19 children what they might have been able to give to 3 or 4.  If Jim Bob were to bring in a few more wives, maybe those daughters could get a break and those kids could get a little more mothering.  

Maybe it's time for a crossover episode.  Better put my call into TLC.  

"You have your way.  I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."  
~Friedrich Nietzsche~

05 January 2011

Perfect Childhood?

Is there such a thing as a "perfect childhood"?  Is it possible to raise children who don't look back as adults and wish they had been raised differently?  I don't think so.  

Maybe some think their childhood was ok, maybe some think it was great, but I have never known an adult who didn't wish maybe something was different growing up.  Maybe it's in our wiring to never be completely happy, maybe we are always looking for something better, but whatever it is, I think striving to give our kids the "perfect childhood" with the hope that they will look back with stars in their eyes and nothing but wonderment is a waste of time. 

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think we as parents should slack off and not care about how we raise our children.  I still think we should love them like crazy and do our best, but I do think some of us need to surrender the idea that our kids might not hate us when they grow up (if they don't already hate us now!)  Of course I don't mean hate in that they'll kill us while we sleep, I mean hate as in they wish we had done things differently. 

I know many will disagree with me, and a few years ago I would have disagreed with myself.  I thought, a few years back, that I was doing such a bang up job that there was no way I was going to turn out kids who had nothing bad to say about their upbringing, hahahahaha.  I was so delusional then! 

When I became a mom I looked back on my childhood before I decided how I wanted to raise my children.  Of course I wanted to raise my girls completely opposite of how I was raised, because I thought my childhood sucked.  Overall I think I had a crappier than normal childhood.  My parents were pretty dysfunctional, selfish, and didn't really seem to like having kids.  As I have gotten older, had kids of my own, spoken with other adults about their childhood, I have come to realize my parents did close to the best they could for the time.  (Notice I said "close", because I do think if they had actually put a little thought into the job, they could have done better).  Both of my parents' came from childhoods way worse than mine, so if anything, they did do better in that mine was better than theirs.  Plus, 40+ years ago, parents didn't really analyze their parenting like we do now.  They didn't put thought into it, they just did it.   

So with that as my background, I put a lot of thought into my parenting.  Everything I have done in regards to raising my girls was thought out beforehand.  I chose to attachment parent and co-sleep, I chose Montessori, I chose homeschooling and then unschooling.  And I chose religion.  Each one of those things was mulled over very carefully before proceeding.  I read a lot of books, I sought out what I thought was sage advice, and I tried to make decisions that I thought would be the best in the long term.  

And yet, now I have teens who look back on their childhoods and wonder "why"?  Why did I make them go to "that church", why didn't I let them go to school, why this, why that?  They aren't happy with a lot of the decisions I made, and looking back, I am not happy with a lot of the decisions I made.  

But what I have come to realize is that being a parent doesn't make us a god.  I was learning right along with my girls.  I had to learn to be a mom, I had to learn who these little beings were.  I could only do for them what I thought was best based on my own experiences.  But I soon learned they weren't little Me's, and what was best for me wasn't necessarily best for them.  And unfortunately a lot of those lessons were learned by trial and error.  I did a lot of things that I thought was good for them, that now in hindsight I realize wasn't. 

I can't change the past.  So I don't mourn it.  Because I know I did the best I knew how.  And I'm not done.  My girls are teens, we're still growing together.  I may be an adult, but I am still growing and learning too.  And I think they forgive me, because I think they know my intentions were pure.  But it still doesn't change the fact that in spite of my intentions, I think my girls still wish things had been different.  And even if they had been different, and I had chosen a completely different path in raising them, maybe they wouldn't have liked that one either.  I can only hope, that in the future, when they have children of their own, they'll realize being a parent isn't such an easy job and maybe they'll realize I did the best I knew how to do.  

"You know, the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children?  Those who've never had any." 
~ Bill Cosby~