Our Home Is Not Broken

Since this topic is back in the news again, I thought I’d weigh in. When things go awry, people tend to point fingers somewhere. Often times families like mine get pointed at.

My son lives with one parent (me) and hasn’t seen his other parent in seven years. Society would have me believe that this somehow means that our home is broken, and worse yet, that my son is “at risk.” Luckily I don’t believe this.

One of the arguments is that because single parents have to work full-time outside the home to support their family, that they have less time to devote to parenting. I suppose I’ve circumvented this by choosing work that allows me to homeschool and spend all day with my son. I work as a nanny so we’re together ALL THE TIME. I might make more if I chose another profession and sent B to school. However, I feel the quality of the time we spend together far outweighs a beefy bank account.

There are also plenty of beliefs about income levels and their contributions to risk that is likely to be a side effect of broken homes. In order to make ends meet, many single parents must work multiple jobs and long hours. It has been postulated that this leads to tired, neglectful and/or absent parenting. Although, from personal experience, I’ve seen very well off families be just as guilty of these. Your income doesn’t necessarily equal how present you are with your child, how well you truly know them or how loved they feel. Many wealthy families substitute things for time spent. They’re not equal and good parents, regardless of socioeconomic status, know this.

Two parent families aren’t some magical salve for turning out healthy, happy adults either. I was raised in one so I can attest from that point of view. My two parent household was often a place for fear and abuse. We were never well off, although both of my parents worked full-time. We weren’t neglected, had all our needs for food, shelter, medical attention, etc. met.

There was physical and mental abuse though. I grew up believing my mother’s mental illness was my doing, that I was inferior because I was born female, and that I was ugly. I listened to my parents fighting, verbally and sometimes physically, more often than I care to remember. I was watched like a hawk and seldom allowed to leave the house so I certainly never got into any “trouble.” (If you read that last sentence as a good thing, you’re doing it wrong.)

My childhood wasn’t some anomaly either. Households of all kinds can turn out fully functional adults or very disturbed/ dangerous people. Some of us do well in spite of our upbringing, others because of it. Each family and person is unique so lumping all low-income or single parent households together is just another way to pass judgement. It’s just a continuation of society’s way of demonizing those seen as less. Perhaps if the finger pointers turned those fingers back around toward themselves, then we’d get to some actual roots of the ills of civilization. Another soapbox for another day…

 

You Are Fabulous

Dear checker, Thank you for boldly being your unique self. My son needs to see as many people like you as he can.

I chose your line on purpose. It wasn’t because you had less people waiting. It was because you were you. You were a handsome young man wearing a stunning amount of makeup.

See, I have a son who asked for 50 pounds of makeup for Christmas. He’s already bought some and hesitantly worn it at times. But I see his face light up as he strolls past the makeup section in the stores.

Society, in it’s subtle and not-so-subtle ways, tells him everyday that makeup isn’t for him. That he shouldn’t be colorful or sparkly or beautiful. But you were all of those things. So thank you and your glittering red eyeshadow.

I saw my son stare at you as I paid for items. Hopefully, you weren’t offended. He wasn’t being rude. He was studying you and taking in all that you embody for him.

When you wished us a fabulous day, you couldn’t have possibly known what you’d just done for making that a reality. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing my son to see one person who’s not letting anyone dull their sparkle. You showed one little boy that he too can be uniquely and unabashedly himself.

I Won’t Discipline My Child

Not the way most people mean that anyway.

This past weekend I had an irate parent show up at my door. The outcome was that she forbade her son from playing with mine and screamed at me to “discipline your f@#%ing kid!”

I felt all of the emotions at once; doubt, sadness, anger, embarrassment, hurt, and heartbreak. It was hard to take in the situation without becoming reactive. I did my best. I talked with my son, I cried, I fumed and I called a friend whose parenting style is most like mine.

Once I was calmer, my brain could begin to break down the situation. I questioned my own parenting because of one angry person. But only for a while. What is hard about doing things differently than collective society is that you will be challenged. Ultimately, I’m at the point where I know that’s a good thing!

If my beliefs about how I’m raising my son were done with no more thought than following herd mentality, then maybe I should be swayed. But I’m not. I’m confident, even if that confidence was momentarily shaken, that what I’m doing is what’s best for my family.

The kind of discipline she would have me use requires physical punishments with a belt, grounding my son from play and instilling fear. Her goal is compliance. So no, I won’t “discipline” my son that way.

What I will do is spend time with him, listening to him and speaking to him as an equal. This is how respect and trust are gained, through relationship. If I see him doing something “wrong,” then I’ll talk to him and help him make it right. This is how he’ll learn consequences for his actions. If I see him acting out, I’ll find ways to build him up. This is how he’ll learn to better himself. This. Is. Discipline! Time consuming, thoughtful and often exhausting discipline.

Reflection after shaken faith led me to be even more steadfast in my goal of raising a good person. I have no doubt that he’ll turn out to be a good person. You know why? He already is!.

When Everything Falls Apart

I almost had to enroll my son in school. To most people, that’s not a big deal, it’s the norm. For us it would’ve been devastating. B has never been to school and thrives with an unschooling environment. He’s free to choose how he spends his time and what he wants to learn. That freedom is something I always want for him.

This summer was beyond challenging for me. My nanny job ended when the family moved, I tried to launch an Etsy shop, worked a couple of part-time babysitting jobs, but nothing was coming together the way I needed it to, financially.

I applied for full-time nanny position after another, only to be turned down because I wanted to bring my son. My qualifications and references are amazing but people get hung up on that one aspect. I guess it seems hard to believe that I could manage their children/ household as well as my own, while homeschooling. Funny, when I write it that way it does sound superhero-ish. It’s just the way it’s needed to be so that I can give my son what I believe is best for him.

So, we were broke this summer and muddled through with some help from dear friends. I kept applying for jobs, crying when I’d get turned down, and sometimes taking to my bed for a couple of days at a time. Depression is hard to stave off when you can’t provide for your family.

The part-time babysitting job I had for September, was for a single mom like me. She’s trying to work full-time and go to college full time. When she was suddenly laid off, we were both left floundering.

The little I was making, was now gone and desperation setting in, I had to give a lot of thought to enrolling B in school. It’s so painful that my child, in this society, could be an obstacle to gaining employment. So many feel forced to put children in school so they can work to support them.

Luckily, at the final hour, I got an email from a family who had originally turned me down. They had reconsidered the arrangement and wanted to give me a try. They have one baby who will be my only responsibility. While he naps, B and I can spend one on one time. Most importantly, my son gets to continue learning in the way that suits him best, while I earn a paycheck and support B in his self-directed days.

I start full-time on Monday and I’m looking forward to it. Some of the bills that I’ve gotten behind on can get caught up and I can reduce the weight that’s been on my shoulders.

Use this as a reminder to take nothing for granted. You never know how much worse your situation could be until you’re there.

Sorry, Son

Sometimes when I see the news, I feel ashamed that I brought a child into this world. I wonder with so much wrong, what does he have to look forward to? Especially, knowing how he feels things so deeply. Is it possible he’ll be able to lead a healthy, happy life?

You may think that since I feel that way, that parenting would be easier because I could just give up and coast. Like if the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, why bother trying? I wouldn’t be alone if I chose that route. Many people are throwing their hands up, shrugging their shoulders or turning their backs.

That would be too easy. That would also be like accepting the wrong in the world as just the way it is. When it seems as though an entire generation is on the verge of just that attitude, it becomes that much more important not to jump on board.

No, I’m not deluded enough to believe that if I help my son cling to his moral compass, that the world will be all rainbows and unicorns when he’s an adult. It may actually be worse. But I’ll do my best anyway. We all should. As long as there are still kids being raised to know right from wrong, then there’s still the possibility of change for the better.