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?