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by: Tiffani Michele

Have you ever noticed how good kids are at deviating? They naturally deviate from everything…the plan, what’s expected, what you want, a schedule, and anything close to a societal norm. The younger they are, the crazier they act. I attribute this to the lack of conditioning. Really young kids just do shit without a thought in the world about if other people agree or not. Like it or not. If it’s safe or not. If it’s a good idea or not. In fact, all ideas are good to a kid. This is what makes it tough to be a mom to a kid in that phase of childhood…if all ideas are good to them (which they are) then you have to be ready and anticipating any kind of potentially dangerous deviation.

Once, when I was a kid, I opened the car door in our Vanagon while we were speeding down the highway. I remember wondering what it would be like. I cranked on the door handle, it swung open and yanked my arm/body with it. I was saved by the pull of my seatbelt and my father’s quick reaction time. He was a high strung kind of guy, prone to loud lectures (read: yelling) and red faces. This time, though, all he could do (once he pulled the car over and steadied his shaking hands) was look at me and stutter, “What? Whaaaaat? Why? WHY?????!” I didn’t know. I just wondered. This is the same thinking that led me to put my pinky finger in the mixer while I was mixing the cookies. It hurt like hell, fyi.

I personally think schools exist because tired mom’s everywhere started begging and pleading for some place they could send their wild kids so they (the moms) could finally get a little peace and quiet while they (their kids) were taught how to be as normal and not deviant as possible. School is the place for learning about good and bad ideas…for dealing with other people, and thinking through if something is safe or not, and being taught what’s acceptable normal behavior and what is unacceptable.

Except…I didn’t want that for my kids. So, I started homeschooling. It’s not like I didn’t try school. My 15 year old daughter went from K to 4th. My 12 year old son went to Kindergarten. We, collectively, were always getting into trouble for not towing the line. If we were having a slow morning, I would rather take our time and get to school late than push and hurry and rush and be mean to get everyone out the door. If homework at the end of the day was creating tears and drama, I’d rather them not do it…after all, they were in school all the damn day. Home time should be play time! When the 3rd grade teacher was concerned that my daughter still played with imaginary friends I was as appalled at her thinking this was deviant as she was that I wasn’t as appalled as she was. My then 6 year old son started getting stomacheaches from trying to be so good for the entire day, lest he get his paperclip moved from the green circle to the yellow circle, so I’d encourage him to live a little and that I didn’t even care if he acted up and got put on the red circle of shame. Then he came home with a band around his head and a star stapled on it. On every corner and in the middle of the star was a sticker. “What are these stickers for, Carter?” I asked. “I get a sticker every time I’m good. And then when I get 6 stickers I’m a superstar and I get to wear it on my head to show everyone how good I am!” And OMG I thought my head was going to explode. Aw hell naaaw! That construction paper star was the straw that broke the camels back. I didn’t want a good, obedient son that based his worth on an external source of affirmation. I reacted not unlike Jack Black’s character in School of Rock (best movie EVER) when he learned about the demerits and gold stars chart on the wall…”What kind of sick school IS this?!”

I pulled all my kids out of school. This was a Big Deal in the middle of the suburbs, and not all of my friends understood why I would do such a thing as ostracize my kids from such a big source of socialization.

When we were all officially out of school and homeschooling at home, the first deviant act we did was stay in our PJ’s all day. We’d wake up just in time to make ourselves some hot chocolate and sit drinking it in our footy pajamas while watching the schoolbus drive by. Sometimes one of us would snicker, “Suckers!”

From there it was a quick slide into absofucking anarchy at home, and I love it.

We wear mustaches and top hats all day and construct cloaks out of black velvet and silver fabric. We eat whatever we want whenever we want it. We learn whatever we want whenever we want to. There’s no official bedtime, so usually some pretty philosophically nerdily academic conversations happen at midnight. We cut, dye, and redye our hair as the mood fits. We paint our faces and bodies on a regular basis, regardless of where we have to go during the day. Lately, my 8 year old daughter is rocking a rainbow mohawk.

In short, we make up our own rules as we go. I’m more interested in watching my kids develop their own code of conduct instead of doing things because someone else has told them what is right or wrong for them. I mean, I do draw the line on some things. Like when my 8 year old wanted to tattoo a rainbow across her face. And if they are being assholes, I let them know it isn’t cool. We dialogue our choices and the short and long term effects of those decisions. We’re normal a lot of the time, too. It’s just, that’s not really the gold standard. I really celebrate expressive, self directed, self thinking, deviant kids who understand and embrace all of themselves. In our home, deviant isn’t a word any more than normal is. We’ve blended the two into a crazy mix of radical acceptance.

Tell me, do you think that you and/or your kids may not be necessarily…ahem…normal? Is this OK with you? Do you try to pretend otherwise, or have you radically accepeted it?

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  1. Chris #
    May 15, 2012

    Us? Natural…yes. Normal…..ummmm….

  2. May 15, 2012

    Love your thinking on so many things!!!!

  3. May 15, 2012

    When I was pregnant with our first my husband and I would constantly joke “With parents like us this child has absolutly zero chance of turning out normal. We need to come to terms with the fact that we’re going to have a little weirdo on our hands now.

    And they are. Even though they’re little yet it’s blaringly obvious that they’re weird and only getting weirder by the day. We knew it would happen, but the thing I didn’t realize until I had kids of my own was that ALL kids are weird. They’re all bizarre by nature… the only thing different about ours is that we’ve embraced it instead of trying to change them. And in the process we’ve been getting weirder too, and even though we were pretty damn weird to begin with I’m still seeing it as a good thing.

    P.S. My daughter has an imaginary friend named Mogli she’s always playing with. He is a giraffe who lives in the vents and has a phobia of all forms of transportation except the bus (when we go out to eat he has to meet us there since he won’t get in the car). If he’s riding the bus to meet her at college when she goes I’ll be 100% ok with that. 🙂

    • kate #
      May 15, 2012

      your kid sounds freakin’ awesome!

  4. kate #
    May 15, 2012

    I worry about this. A lot. My 2 year old (I know, they’re nuts, don’t put too much stock in where she might be headed based on what she does now…but anyway) is not like other 2 year olds. She’s quiet, not inclined to talk unless she has something important to say, not crazy about running around with other kids. Seems completely baffled by the “mine” phenomenon and is stunned when other kids shove/grab/hit/etc. She’s just really reserved, and putters around doing her own thing. Loves hats and dinosaurs. Really loves the moon and plans to go there someday on a “yocketship”. All good. We LOVE our quirky kid. BUT, we live in redneck-crapsville, where if you don’t drill oil, work rigs, vote conservative or drive a fucking monster pickup truck, you’re already a freak. And our girl is an adoptee, with athiest, vegetarian, lesbo moms…and no TV in the house. And has absolutely no awareness that girls “should” wear/do/like some things and boys others. So our short-haired dinosaur-clad non-TV watching, non-princess/barbie-wearing kid is almost always mistaken for a boy (long hair is a declaration of girlhood – anything else and you’re a boy – even apparently on a day when you happen to be rocking the pink, head to toe). I’m so worried about this line you walk where you want your kid to be 100% who she is, unfettered by societal bullshit….and wanting your kid to be accepted without having to always be the different one. How much different is too much for a kid to have to handle? How do you instill total ownership and self-confidence in difference? Do I throw a flowery barrette in her hair so that the old bitch at IKEA doesn’t insist that “the little boy” stop playing with the play kitchen and move onto the train set (happened this morning, still a wee bit pissed about this)? Where the fuck am I going to find other parents who share our values and give our kid some peers who also don’t conform to the princess culture (not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not for us)?

    So yeah, we’re different. We’ve accepted it, but I just don’t want our girl to be hurt by it. Your 8 year old is beautiful, btw.

    • May 16, 2012

      I feel your pain, I grew up in redneck-crapsville as the weird kid with a gay dad no less… so maybe I should say I can feel your daughter’s pain. I guess what I’m saying is A) Weird kids in weird families in redneck-crapsville can grow up ok, and B) I feel like our weirdo two year olds might be bffs. Mine is crazy into anything outer space, she’d love your daughter’s yocketship. 🙂

      • kate #
        May 16, 2012

        Here’s to weird kids!!! Thanks for that, I like to think she’ll be okay, but it’s good to hear from someone who’s been there, done that.

    • May 16, 2012

      >>>>Where the fuck am I going to find other parents who share our values and give our kid some peers who also don’t conform to the princess culture (not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not for us)?>>>>>

      In an unschooling community, which Tiff can tell you all about!

      I am/was super hard-ass about which people got to be inner circle in our lives, especially when it came to the kids. Sure, we interacted with all sorts of folks, both awesome and horrid, but the folks who got to be on the inside, and have intimate interaction with (and therefore influence upon) my kids were only folks of the finest integrity. I was once accused of being selective – “fucking-A-right I’m selective, now back off because you don’t make the cut.” <—-true story.

      Then when you encounter the assholes at IKEA (and with all due respect, um, it's IKEA – apply an extra layer of asshole-repellent before going there), you can unabashedly use those interactions as opportunities to provide commentary on why that lady's admonishment to play with trains instead of kitchens was eye-rollingly ridiculous. When you're expecting your kids to deal with those sorts of people all the time because you're not selective enough to limit them to the fringes of your life, it's harder for them to flesh out healthy and acceptable behaviors from bullshit. I mean, if you continue inviting that one ingratiating mom to Wednesday playdate and THEN bitch about her behavior afterward, the question the kids have (but might not be able to articulate) is "then why do we hang out with her every Wednesday?!?" And that's a damn good question!

      So I never entirely buffered those experiences – how can you, they just happen – but those people weren't invited over for Sunday Supper. It took a while, but we eventually created a community of amazing people; "second (and third, and fourth) sets of parents" for our kids, people we fully trust and love, people who celebrate our kids in all their successes and foibles, and all our kids are so much better for it. They have that solid foundation from which to evaluate all other behavior and bullshit. All our kids are now teens and young adults, and they've straight-out told us how much they appreciate that we worked to find such amazing people to surround and support them during their childhoods. And boy, are they grounded and quick to spot unhealthy behaviors in others.

      So guard the gate. And don't apologize. Precious resources you're protecting there!

      • kate #
        May 16, 2012

        Thanks. I popped over to your blog for a noodle around. Funny, this morning we were just talking about connecting with a local Waldorf home-schooling group to meet some of the parents and see what things look like (Waldorf is a bit foreign to us, but seems on some fronts to align with what we’re hoping for). I still need to learn more about options in our local schools versus traditional homeschooling versus unschooling (my wife, the teacher, btw, feels strongly that schools haven’t evolved in forever and the homeschooling/unschooling movements are spot on with their proactive approach to what many kids really need). You nailed it – selectivity!

  5. AmeliaJade #
    May 15, 2012

    I love this!!! I swear we’ve done the exact same thing when the school bus goes by. We laugh because we’re still in our jammies and enjoying a leisurely morning. I’ve actually said, “Suckers!” as the bus has driven by. 😀

  6. May 15, 2012

    Becoming a parent has helped me accept my own eccentricities because I don’t want my son to go through the years of crap and soul-searching that I went through trying to “fit in”. I figure I have to set him an example of being oneself which gives me a good excuse. My own eccentricities are rather quiet, bland ones. I don’t like modern womens’ clothes so I wear men’s ones, or those tending towards the Edwardian – long skirts, shirts, baggy cardies, big hats, boots – I don’t wear make up or a bra, I don’t drink. I’m covered in piercings and tattoos and have very long, greying hair which is just in a plait not a “do”. I look odd. I like war films and science fiction, but also the Bloomsbury group and period dramas of that era. I like to do cross-stitch and I like to work out with weights. People don’t like these “inconsistencies”. I find they want you to be either one thing or the other.

    As parents we deviate form the mainstream by having family bed, long term breastfeeding and homeschooling, but I deviate from most of my homeschooling, baby wearing peers by allowing unlimited video games and tv (Tal regulates himself by becoming bored lol) and an arsenal of toy weaponry. I sometimes feel like we deviate from every social group there is. This used to bother me because popularity and social acceptance was everything to my parents. SInce I had Tally I’ve come to realise that life’s just too fucking short. “Enjoy yourself” has become my motto in the true sense of the phrase: enjoy being *you*.

    Incidentally we have the opposite problem to Kate (above). Our boy idolises Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and has grown his hair into a long bob to be like him (he wants to dye it pink but at nearly 5 I think that might be a step too far so he has to wait until he’s 8 and recognised as competent in the eyes of the law lol). Everyone thinks he’s a girl, even when he’s in camouflage and grey and carrying a fake shotgun.

  7. kathy #
    May 17, 2012

    Had a really bad day…needed to read this. My girl is somethin’ special and I needed to be reminded, not everyone is going to see her the same way I do. She has a HUGE personality, that doesn’t always sit well with others, and unfortunately today it bit her in the ass. I’m going to have a broken hearted girl on my hands next week when she realizes that all her friends advanced in gymnastics but her…and its mainly due to her overwhelming personality. Guess you can’t have that in gymnastics. Gotta be a good little girl who doesn’t giggle and crack jokes on the beam. Nevermind that the girl can run/skip across it, leap into the air with hands held high, land and laugh the entire time while we all stare in shock. Forget that, the girl can’t stay in a line quietly and I guess thats what matters most. I’m a little bitter.

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