I'm a proud girl. Pride is a family trait- sometimes an ugly one and sometimes the fuel we need to survive. As much as I dislike it sometimes, pride is a large part of who I am. It has saved me from bad situations, bad relationships and has fueled me to be the best self I can muster.
But lately, I found that my pride was taking me somewhere I should never be... keeping up with those around me. We live in a fairly affluent suburb and, especially with our eldest child in school, I felt an increasing need to appear as "one of them." It was for our children, I thought to myself. I have to do this to make life easier for them... why let our children be slowly ostracized because we don't look or act like everyone else? The Quirkiness runs strong in me... I shouldn't be so open with our lives and feelings, not laugh so freely and loudly, not share my ways to be frugal, not talk about how doing without is a freeing way to live. As this past fall went on, I felt less and less like my content self. I mean, how could I with that as a goal? It is never enough. It is never satisfying... my natural pride was being henpecked to death, by not letting it out in my own way. I wasn't proud of being like everyone else... being like everyone else was draining my psyche of all the joy it once had.
A friend brought up the issue of homeschooling. That thought had been simmering under the surface but I hadn't really yanked it out until she brought it up. It FELT like the right thing to do but DAMN- it was quite a leap to take. Our daughter is very like me- proud. She naturally takes offense *at herself* for doing something incorrectly. She'd come home from school terribly upset that she'd made a mistake. Yes- we have to work on that... but in the meantime, she felt separated from her classmates because they didn't care if they made mistakes. They, and her teacher, didn't know why she was so upset - to the point of her eyes filling up with tears - because she didn't understand something. I felt the same way in school... and no teacher had the ability (probably not even the inclination) to soothe the worries out of my mind. I knew that she'd go on, just as I had, and cry right through high school. It wasn't until I was homeschooled, starting in the 7th grade, that I had the TIME to deal with my feelings. I *could* be allowed to cry, sob even, that I just couldn't understand what was being taught. Yet. There's no time to deal with that in school but at home? I had all the time in the world. It wasn't until I stopped BEING TAUGHT and started reading the lesson plans for myself, that I came to really handle the fact it was okay to not get it right at first. That I had time to learn without being left behind... the only person I had to keep up with was me. That it wasn't about school... but about LEARNING. It took me nearly two years to finish 7th grade but I had so adjusted that I was able to do all of 8th grade in 2.5 months and start high school - and the daunting challenge of instituting and maintaining an excellent GPA - on schedule.
Because of all those memories flooding back, I decided that homeschooling our daughter (and subsequently, our other children) would be best for her.
As the weeks go on, I find myself releasing all the silly expectations that had been building since school first started. Other people's expectations of what a mother and children and family should be have a weakening hold on me. No one has the ability to ostracize my children in school, for their own behavior or the choices we have made as a family, because they aren't there. They can gleefully walk into any setting and just be their joyful, open selves without the feeling of judgement coming back onto them... the younger two don't even know what that feeling is like. Our eldest is starting to forget the judgement she felt in not having/doing the IT things. I like it that way. They're free to be themselves. They can freely enjoy the adventure of new experiences for what they are, instead of what others may perceive them to be.
And I can do the same- again. I feel more like myself than I have in months. I am focusing on my health, our family, our home and our goals again. I no longer worry what other people think of my big, jiggly backside and belly when I run at the gym- I'm hauling ass and it feels good to ME. I don't have to find/muster up trendy things to wear while out and about- I can wear my paint-splattered jeans to the store, if I've been doing a project. I can take pride in doing dirty projects myself again. I can ram through the snow in the driveway instead of shoveling it down to the asphalt and salting the bejeezus out of it... because I didn't do that out of needing to but because I wanted to avoid wisecracks at the school bus stop.
This feeling is freeing... having my pride be MY OWN again, and not distorting it to fulfill others' expectations of me and my family. I was much happier, my husband was much happer, our children were much happier and our home was much brighter and warmer when I was free to be me. To allow my family to be themselves. To allow our home to be what it is. To let the joy fly, wildly and proudly, in all the moments in which it was inspired. And there were many.
Every day, I see more of that joy flooding back in- I know I made the right choice. Even if I stumble, the freedom of this pride in our family and home will pull me back in. Those joys have always been irresistable... and now that I've given us permission to freely live in it again, I can't wait to see where it takes us. I look forward to feeling like a proud woman instead.
I'm a little late but... here's to a happy, healthy, bright and wondrous 2011- Joy will not get away from me this year!