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Part IV in a Series
I'd labored for a long time to avoid the inevitable, but eventually the little bit of earth covering the surface of crevasse that developed between my parents and me. I did all I could to avoid it and pretend that it didn't really exist while I clung to the fantasy that age would temper all of us as love filled in the gaps.
The situation I faced and still face with my own parents reminds me so much of the struggles I observe between homeschooling pioneers and their adult children. The Dangerdust board notes that everyone believes they are right. I think that the primary problem surrounds the fact that everyone in the discussion is right and true, but some of the “Old Guard” parents deem the different perspective of their children to be false. We all must learn to embrace perspectives as “right but different” as we cooperate with one another.
Why I Identify
In the latter half of my thirties, that fantasy fell apart, and the crust of the earth fell way over the problems in my relationship with my parents. I was physically ill, struggling with two disorders that caused anxiety, as did the treatments for one of illnesses. Finances were tight, we'd just moved, my husband was ill... After a series of recent traumas that read like a Kafka novel, I was in full-blown PTSD – far worse than I'd experienced in the past. I was at the lowest point in my life, physically and emotionally. I had no energy for anything but daily survival.
My parents didn't understand any of this and were only thrilled that I'd moved back into the same quadrant of the country. In a moment of intense frustration when trying to get my family to understand how limited I was, I blurted out to my father that much of it was directly tied to being molested as a child because of the trauma I'd endured.
The very, very short version of the story? My parents couldn't process any of it, or they chose not to do so. For them, more specifically for my mother, it meant that they'd failed to be good parents. They could not accept that, and it was ultimately easier for them to reject me rather than face the grief and shame. All I wanted to do was give them some measure of how sick I was and why I was so debilitated emotionally so that they would either give me some distance or show me a little extra mercy because they'd failed to listen. Sadly, my crumbling relationship with them became my greatest trauma by far.
How can someone illustrate that their perspective may be different, yet just as valid and true? I took to writing letters as part of my journaling in my process of recovery from trauma and as I moved through my grief. I hope that some “Old Guard” homeschooling pioneer parents will happen across this post and will consider an example that I once wrote in an attempt to communicate with my parents. (I don't recall whether I actually sent it or not.)
I thought of visiting our favorite grocery store in my parents' town on a crisp, sunny, Fall afternoon – my favorite time of year. Outside of the doors on the sidewalk, they displayed all sorts of pumpkins and colorful root vegetables. Below it, there were several varieties of hearty mums on display, too. It was beautiful and inviting. I loved shopping there.
The store itself sat near the back of a corner lot. The road that we drove on as we approached the store had two entrances, but the first one we would pass was the service entrance. On rare occasion, I'd accidentally make the earlier turn and would end up behind the building. It was almost shocking to me because the back of the building looked entirely different than the front did. It was dark and dank and empty – with pallets and what looked like garage doors where the tractor trailers would back up to the store to deliver their wares. I didn't like to be back there at all. It felt desolate there, even just driving in there by mistake.
I wrote to my mother that we had different vantages on my life and what I had lived. She insisted that my perspective was untrue because it differed from hers, especially when it brought up anything that she found to be painful. I wrote about the analogy of the store. If I'd never seen the back side of a supermarket, I might find it to be “wrong” because it differs so much from what the front one generally looks like. If I had only ever seen the front, and someone described the scene in the back, I might argue that the description of the back was inaccurate. In the letter, I begged my mother to consider that perhaps we were both correct, truthful, and honest in our recollections, but our perspectives gave us very different vantages. She made a choice to insist on her own, more narrow perspective instead of accommodating a broader one. I thought of the man in Scripture with the withered hand and how painful it must have been to stretch it as Jesus asked (Mark 3:1-6). I needed her to stretch her perspective and scope. I believe that she was just too wounded to do so.
Message to First Generation Homeschool Pioneers
If you look at the photos displayed on the right side of this post, you will notice that with the exception of one artist's rendition in a lifelike model, each photo looks very different. Even the color of the stone looks different in each photo. One features a lake. Another shows mountains in the background. The arial view looks very different from the sharp angle looking up at the facade from the ground. Yet all but one of the photos are photos of the very same building. Each one is true and faithful, though they are very different.
Consider that your children have a valuable perspective, even though you might find it painfully different. In an article about healing rifts with adult children, author Erica Manfred addresses the problem of blame. She identifies self-justification as the worst mistake that the parent can make when discussing disagreements concerning perspective. “'I did the best I could' is how most people put it. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it’s not enough to say this to children. They often don’t get it—or don’t care—unless they hear a sincere apology first.”
The author also notes that, for the adult child, their concerns are more immediate and concern the present rather than the past. They're not offering critiques for the sake of complaining. They're trying to solve immediate problems. The parent needs to find a way to set their ideas about what their adult child should need to find out what they really need and want most from you. You need to find out what they need from you now, as adults, so that they can regain trust in you and your esteem for them. They need to be heard. They may need you to show more support, or perhaps back away.
You must give up on “being right.” You must be willing to negotiate with your adult children and then change the way that you relate to them. You have to be worthy of their trust in you – a trust between adults. You have to take responsibility for your own part in the relationship by being honest. Apologize and show contrition through action by respecting your child as the adult that they are with a valuable perspective.
Think again about the photos and the very different appearance in each one. Consider that we all believe that we are right, and from our perspective, we generally are. Consider also that is very likely that you are reaping the fruit of the ethical training that you gave your children, now adults. Evangelical homeschoolers teach their children to be responsible, kind, self-sacrificing, and to speak up for those with no voice. That's exactly what your “homeschool apostates” are doing.
In the last installment in the series,
review the concerns of the Second Generation Adults in homeschooling.
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For more information about the SGA and the bounded choice to which all people in a “totalist institution” suffer, read more about it in the series at Spiritual Sounding Board.
- Part II discusses bounded choice faced by all in a totalist group.
- Part III explores the additional constraints and limitations that the SGA faces when seeking to free themselves from both difficult situations and from a high demand group itself.
- When available, Part IV in the series will explore the specific constraints of SGAs within the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement.