In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not a girl who likes rocking boats. Controversy doesn't fire me up. I always try to believe the best of intentions.
But yesterday I was hit over the head a few times by some assumptions about me, and I'm having a hard time keeping my fingers quiet.
Now let's be fair. These assumptions weren't really about me. I, Meredith, obviously was not at the forefront of either writer's mind as they wrote. What these pieces were was a blanket statement about a group that I fit pretty solidly into, and a very negative blanket statement at that. Both authors felt, very securely, that they had enough personal experience to make these assumptions - via reality television shows and/or "a Facebook friend of mine".
Yes, as sources go, those are definitely credible ones. But these also weren't written for CNN. Opinion pieces are, as a general rule, full of opinion. I get that. You are entitled to have one, and to write about it.
I don't want to get too deeply into either article or why I felt slapped when I read both (which, unfortunately, was back to back). I will say that one was on "girl moms" and specifically "dance moms", of which I am now immersed in, and the other was about homeschooling. Both maintained a mocking tone about families who had chosen those roads. One was full of suggestions that the parents that chose that road were not intelligent enough to see how wrong they were, and the other writer quoted directly from a recital handbook, thanking God she wasn't "cursed with a daughter". Suggesting that a homeschooling mom should make sure to teach her children to recite "do you want fries with that" (since that's all they'll amount to) or that anyone who would dare to put dance attire or makeup on their daughter is basically readying her for the pole crosses the line between "opinion" and cruelty.
I can tell you that I've found both the homeschooling community and the dance mom community to be among the most supportive groups I've found. I can tell you that, despite my initial skepticism about both of these paths, I have found these stereotypes and assumptions that I used to have way off. I've written before about how thrilled I am to have stepped out in faith and into these worlds where I wouldn't have initially been comfortable.
If I'd gone on assumption, I would have avoided a dance world that was "full of drama" and "age inappropriate attire and dance". Instead, my daughter has found role models that I'm proud for her to look up to. She's seen what hard work can accomplish and she has become motivated - with no assistance from me - to stretch and practice and watch and strive to become just like those big girls. The sweet ones who have incredible bonds with each other, their teachers, and the younger girls who look up to them so much. There's so much good that I would have missed if I'd only heard about the "horrors" of stage makeup, or the abusive relationships shown on reality TV and had let my assumptions drive my behavior.
I don't think either writer is a bad person. I think they've found a topic that people are willing to play into. It's fun to make fun of the closeted homeschoolers up in their turret, learning solely about creationism and bigotry. It's fun to mock the little girl (or more often, her mother), who in a close up picture, does look a little silly in her stage make up meant to make her face visible under bright lights at a distance. People will agree with you. People will share your work. And honestly, if you don't know anyone in those worlds, what's the harm? If your panties are going to get all twisted, then you need to get a sense of humor. Or thicker skin. Or you read it wrong. Or you're a troll. Or crazy.
So here's what I'm trying to teach my girls, who right now have no idea that people may someday be making these assumptions about them, based on their - and my - choices.
You will never talk someone into believing that their assumptions are wrong. Arguing on the internet...has anyone ever really had their opinion changed?
Lead by example. Be kind. Be simple. Be sophisticated. By all means, speak up for yourself, but breathe and count to five before you type or speak. Pause. Gather your thoughts. Reply calmly, kindly, and simply, and then show your truth. Be the example you want a little girl to see. Show them how hard you work. Show them that you can be a role model. Be smart. Choose happiness, and let your contentment shine. Kindness matters, and kindness speaks volumes.
I hope that's how I present myself. I show that the decisions I'm choosing are right for us, because we're happy. We're proud. And we're kind. And that's what you can do with you assumptions about me.