There are times when parenting, to me, feels like a very lonely road. Today is one of those days.
Every once in a while I get rocked to my core and all my fears and insecurities come out and say hello and it's a scary, scary place inside my head. The good news is that reaching out to a few key friends and supporters really helps. The bad news is that I am exhausted in a way that is hard to describe. Emotional exhaustion is a doozy.
Two things happened today which cracked me open and set the floodgates a runnin'. The first, was when another parent let me know that she doesn't agree with my style. Now, admittedly, this is no biggie, right? Strong opinions lend themselves quite easily to criticism and debate. I've known that for a long, long time. Our unschooling life doesn't sit well with all kinds of people. This is not news to me. It's just that in this particular instance, I was being accused of negligence. Some days I can smile and agree to disagree. Today was harder. Some days are like that.
The second thing that happened is that my twelve year old told me she wants to move in with her dad. Ouch. Now, there really is a whole lot more to the story and it's actually not as dramatic as it sounds. Her declaration has inspired some very cool conversations between her dad and I, and we've been able to support her mutually as we navigate this new phase in our co-parenting. But it is a bit of a jolt. Her things are all packed. The boxes are sitting by the door.
I've learned, thankfully, that I have no business taking anything that anyone (irritating criticizers and hormonal pre-teens included) says personally. But I am human, and some days it's harder to remember. As a twelve year old, Janey is simply differentiating. It is her job to push up against me as a mother and find her own way. I'm grateful that she has a dad who loves her and wants to be with her as well. It's nice to have options, I suppose.
The critical parent, let's see. I suppose, I can be grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm my beliefs about parenting. The choices I have made in the way I interact with my children are shockingly intentional. There is very little that I say or do in relation to them that I haven't thought-out, hashed-out, fleshed-out, rationalized, chewed on, and otherwise researched ad naseum. Negligent, I am not. Brave and determined to treat my children with respect? Absolutely.
Raising kids unconventionally rocks the boat. Unschooling makes loads of people uncomfortable. A good friend reminded me that the fact that I treat my children with the very same respect with which I treat any other person, makes some folks uneasy. "Because I said so" doesn't work. "I'm the adult, that's why" means nothing to a child who has been empowered to think and feel and be the person they want to be. Awesome for the kid who gets to experience life on their terms much of the time. Tougher for those of us struggling to navigate the world around us that isn't always able to see the value in our choices.
And so, at the end of the day, I am reminded that it is not my responsibilty to please those around me. It is my responsibilty to be the best parent I can be, and to understand why.