Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Doing Just Fine, Thanks

At the pool this weekend, we reconnected with many of our "summer friends". We see them at the pool, we're close all summer, but in the fall and winter and spring, we lead our different lives and tend to lose touch. This weekend felt like a big reunion. We exclaimed over how big kids got, admired new haircuts, caught up on nine months of news. It was fun.

Except for one little thing. It was little, but it really got under my skin.

I was chatting with a woman about the girls, and after exchanging the expected updates and all that, she put her arm around me, turned her face into a very serious expression and asked,

And how are YOU doing, sweetie? You hanging in there?

I have to admit that I gave her the blankest of blank stares while I tried to compute this information and react appropriately. Did she have me mixed up with someone else? Someone fighting cancer, perhaps? Someone dealing with job loss? Or did she mean me? Did I look like someone going through some sort of trial that required sympathy and pity? I didn't want to embarrass her if she'd made a faux pas, but I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. Wait, maybe SHE was going through something that I was supposed to know about, and this was a prompt for me? Ack! I didn't know! I was truly confused. So I tried to respond as cheerfully and vaguely as I could, given that I'd only allowed myself a few seconds to process all that information.

I'm great, thanks! No complaints! And how are YOU?

Her response? An even bigger sympathetic face and a squeeze.

What the what?

This time I didn't try to mask my confusion with perky small talk.

Should I not be?

Turns out, she'd been concerned about me all year. 

All. Year.

She had spent nine months of her life, generally stressed about my well being, and the well being of my children...

Because we homeschooled Madison this past year when her preschool closed. And we plan to keep homeschooling her. And after Reagan has her preschool experience, she'll join us.

Homeschooling generally doesn't have the same stigma it used to. It's growing in popularity, it's not confined to extremist groups, there are plenty of resources and socialization options open. Most of the time, when people find out this fact about us, they react with mild surprise, and a comment that ranges from "good for you!" to "I don't think I could do that". Both comments are fine. I'm pretty easygoing. I don't go around waving a flag and saying that everyone should do what we're doing, and people generally react with some level of interest, maybe a question, and then we all move on with our lives. Madison is social and smart, and certainly doesn't seem like I keep her locked in a turret all day, so after some fairly benign questions or a low key reaction, we move on. You do you. The end. Online, people tend to have BIG OPINIONS and RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS and fight endlessly about it, but in person, people really don't really bat an eye. At least in my experience. The most eye batting I had this past year was when a current teacher wanted to know what curriculum I was using. I told her I was using a mix while I tried to see what style worked best for Madison (computer based, textbook/workbook style, unit study), and we chatted about the pros and cons of various textbooks. She was obviously knowledgeable, I had obviously done my research, and it was a fine conversation. I have one other mom who I see weekly, who does ask me, with genuine interest, every week, how things are going and what Madison is doing.

But I had never before received sympathy and pity. I had never had someone fret about the choices I was making, with my husband, for my family, and want to comfort me. Honestly, the only reason we'd discussed it at all last summer was that her son had attended the same preschool as Madison, and when it closed she wondered where we were planning to go. Other than that, I don't think it would have ever come up. Very rarely do I talk with summer friends about the nuances of our school year.

Even as I told her we'd had a great first year, that Madison was immersed in extra curriculars, that she'd become an avid reader, that she'd recently entered a phase where, because she can read the directions in her workbooks on her own, she prefers to self-direct all her workbook time, her face just kept getting more sympathetic. She lamented that I must "never get any time to just be ME". She worried why I was allowed Reagan to go to "real school" and letting myself be forced to "play school" with Madison. She was concerned that Madison's future teachers - because we certainly wouldn't keep doing this! - would automatically mark her as the odd child.

Two wackadoodles, that's for sure.

Now she's certainly entitled to her opinion. When her kids were young, homeschooling was seen as extremely radical and many of those kids she was aware of were probably isolated. That's fine. The strange part for me was that I wasn't getting an argument from her. She wasn't trying to change my mind. She was pitying me. Assuming I needed comfort and a shoulder to cry on. And for some reason, this bothers me so much more.

I'm not good at confrontation, but I did look right at her, smiled and said,

We're doing great! Thanks for being so interested in our lives!

 And kept walking.

I'm happy to talk with you about any topic under the sun. I'm happy to share my research. I'm even happy to get into a debate.

But save your pity. We're doing just fine, thanks, and there are people who need it more.

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