When I was a little girl, I loved all the princess movies. Indeed, I wanted to be a princess, just as did most the other little girls I knew. I must have spent hours daydreaming myself into a princess. Most of the time, in my daydreams, I was a princess like Cinderella; not a princess until someone else discovered me. I was sometimes an orphan who found out about my royal heritage accidentally, and sometimes I knew my royal heritage but no one believed me at first. I somehow identified with the Cinderella princess stories the most; the girl who had nothing and then gained everything.
I enjoyed very much watching all the Cinderella movies, particularly that one with Whitney Houston and Brandy, and the “in my own little corner in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be” song. I loved that song.
Now that I’m 34, I’m still partial to Cinderella movies, with Ever After being probably one of my top ten favorite films of all time. But, maturity and feminism and beliefs and society and experience have tainted, even politicized, my view of the story in general. When I was a young girl, I never thought of Disney’s Cinderella character as weak and submissive. I never saw her as a poor example. I never thought of her falling in love with someone she doesn’t even know as something to be scoffed at. I certainly saw all those things as I grew older. I saw the story as a seriously flawed story. I even began to resent it. She could have stood up to her evil stepmother! She should have loved and respected herself enough to do so! She should never have fallen for a prince she never even knew! She should have loved and respected herself enough to avoid that! What a terrible example she is to our daughters. Right? I don’t know about you, but I want my daughter to be a strong and courageous woman. I want her to be willing to say no when she wants to say no, and to not fall for every “Prince Charming,” because few Prince Charmings are princes, though many are charming indeed. Right?
Well, today I saw the new Cinderella with an old friend. I brought little-girl-Stephanie along with me, and I’m glad I did. Because, as I watched with the eyes of my former, more innocent self, I remembered what I saw in those previous Cinderellas and other princess movies all those years ago. I saw worth. I saw my own worth. I fancied myself deserving of Happily Ever After, and when I watched those princess movies, I believed, with all my heart, that I was. And, sure, she didn’t know the prince, but, come on. We all know – we know – that the prince was good and kind and would treat Cinderella well. And as a young girl, I had every reason to believe they really did live happily ever after. You know what else I believed? Every time I watched those movies, I believed that I, too, was worthy and deserving of my very own happily ever after.
Today, when I watched this new version of the same story, I let my little-girl-self convince me that I’m still worthy and deserving of a good and kind prince, and a palace even, and happily ever after for my own self. I’m worth being treated like royalty. I’m worth a crown! Yes, it’s make-believe. No, I will not meet my prince in a forest and win his heart instantly. But, I am worthy of it. I am worthy of all the good things a princess has. I am worthy of frilly, poofy dresses, and a place to live where I am counted and served, and I am worthy of true love, and I am worthy of happiness forever after.
That is the true story of Cinderella. Looking beyond the silliness of the love-at-first-sight; looking beyond the painfully unrealistic rags-to-riches aspect; looking beyond all the scoffable details that never could happen in real life, I can see the true story tonight as clearly as I could when I was an innocent, believing child: that I am worthy of Happily Ever After. The attainability of Happily Ever After is not the thing in question, here! It is the truth that every little girl- yes, even me, even you- is worthy of it.
I don’t know about you, but I want my daughter to believe every second of her life that she is worthy of the best of this life. I never want her to question her worth in any situation. Can she marry a prince and live in a castle when she grows up? Probably not. But is she worthy of it? Oh, yes, my girl is worthy of every happiness! I hope she remembers always that she is just as worthy as Cinderella of a Happily Ever After, and that when things get very hard, and very dark, and very confusing, and not at all happy, that she will know, that, at the very least, she is worthy of happy.
What a good thing to know.
Several months ago, I experienced my first total crisis of faith. I say “total” because I have had moments of doubt about specific issues or pieces of doctrine before, sure. But, this time was different. This time, I was questioning almost everything about my religion.
I was born and raised LDS. I can think of maybe two times in all my growing up years when we didn’t go to church as a family. There was this underlying, unspoken, “go to church or die” rule in our house. My parents were really quite faithful in the details that seem to make Mormons Mormons; they never drank alcohol or caffeinated sodas or coffee– we never shopped or watched TV on the Sabbath– we had Family Home Evening every week, and family scriptures and prayers every day– perhaps five total cuss words (and I mean incidents of cussing) were ever uttered by my parents (dad) in my presence. No tattoos, no excess meat, tons of food storage, homemade bread, and even six kids. Attending midweek youth activities was of paramount importance, as much as I may have dreaded them. We were just so Mormon. Despite that, I managed to attain my own testimony over the years of the truthfulness of the gospel, which testimony I cherished with all my heart.
I never considered, not for a moment, that my testimony would falter and become so thin that I could see through it.
On the other side of my testimony, stuff seemed clearer. It seemed to make so much more sense. Stuff in church simply stopped making sense. Oh, now, it didn’t happen all at once of course, but I think I sorta became aware of it all at once. Almost like laundry. You have it all done and then suddenly there’s an enormous pile to do. It doesn’t happen suddenly, even though awareness may come on suddenly.
So, I suddenly became aware that I didn’t get why a temple sealing was important. Surely God wasn’t a separator of families after death? Surely we didn’t need some words in an exclusive building to actually be a forever family?
I suddenly became aware that I didn’t get why being a member in the Church was so important. Actually, LDS doctrine is quite liberal in matters of the afterlife. We don’t really think anyone’s going to hell, save for the darkest of souls- and it takes a lot of work to be that dark. Even murderers and liars and rapists have a place in heaven. So why, then, did it matter if I was baptized? I was going to heaven anyway.
I suddenly became aware that some apparent discrepancies made me sad and uncomfortable. I suddenly became aware that I felt the Priesthood made little sense. I suddenly became aware that the Bible is full of ridiculous stuff that I couldn’t really stand behind. (Was Paul drunk when he wrote some of his stuff???) I suddenly became aware that almost everything just stopped making sense. Everything that the Church says is monumentally, eternally important seemed entirely unimportant. Beliefs that I once held dear now seemed frivolous.
But my point isn’t to talk about what I stopped believing/understanding. I would like to suggest how to treat someone who confides in you that he/she is considering leaving the Church. Well, no, more accurately, I’d like to explain how I was treated and how I wish I was treated when I confided in others, meaning other LDS people.
I was determined to first find my answers within the Church. I had made a commitment to the Church and I was going to keep that commitment for as long as I could, for as long as my integrity would enforce it. I reached out to some trusted LDS friends, hoping for understanding and encouragement, but was honestly surprised at many of the reactions I received.
Some called me names. Some called my questions names. Some accused me of dabbling in evil things. Some told me I was just like some crazy person who’d recently been news. Some told me they were worried for me.
Many times I thought, “whoa, if I was LDS for social reasons, I’d be out right now.” But I never did attend church for the friends, so, luckily, I could withstand some unkindness.
I admit, I probably asked the wrong people in the wrong way. I consciously tried to word my questions in ways that would not seem to be an attack on those who fully believed, but I think I failed. I must have failed because the responses were highly defensive.
I kept talking though. Surely, I’d find someone kind and understanding. You know who was kind and understanding? People outside the Church. People who thought the Church had brainwashed me. People who thought I was finally seeing the light rather than becoming farther from it.
However, I did find some dear friends, finally, who were faithful in the Church and who didn’t berate me for questioning. I remember one such friend picked me up to go exercise one morning. On the drive home, I basically dominated the conversation and talked about me and my struggle with belief. For whatever reason, most people around me didn’t understand that I desperately wanted to believe as I once had. I was looking so hard for reasons to keep believing. But, when I reached out, I mostly got reasons to run away. The messages I received were undertones of exclusion. I would not be welcome in the groups I was once a part of with the questions I had. BUT! This one friend– when she pulled into my driveway, I was still talking, and I was getting a little emotional, and I was saying my feelings just like I had with others, and she didn’t call me names or tell me I was doing bad things. I’ll never forget her body language, and I hope to one day replicate it for a friend who just needs a friend. She put her car in park (and I’m trying to hurry and make my point so she can get on with her day), deliberately turned to face me, and folded her hands on her leg. Like she was there. And she was going to be there even if I decided to go another way.
And that’s the biggest thing, I think. I couldn’t believe some of the reactions, mostly because I thought my friends were my friends because of me, not because of my religion. I had no clue that our shared religious beliefs were such a key to our relationships. It truly surprised me.
Oh, I had other dear friends, of course, who loved me through it, who made it clear to me that no matter what I chose, they’d still by my friends. I thank God for those friends. Actually, I can only think of three. But thank goodness I had three.
My family was particularly interesting during this time. They were silent in their desperation for me to not make a decision that would change everything. Maybe it was “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” Maybe they feared they would say something that would offend me, so even though they hoped for my soul, they stayed silent. However, they treated me the same. They treated me like nothing was different, like they loved me the same, and I honestly felt like they would be heartbroken if I left the church, but that they’d never stop accepting me. And that was, frankly, perfect.
After time, I learned to ask the right questions to the right people. Well, mostly, to God. I still got my answers through other people, but at least I was asking Someone who wouldn’t turn His back on me for doubting His Church.
I’ll tell you what finally brought me back to the Church side of things. I was hoping and praying forever, and receiving no answers forever, it seemed. If God didn’t find it important enough to answer me whether I should stay, then why was it important enough to stay? But I wasn’t about to leave without being sure it was wrong, because in the meantime, it wasn’t doing any harm. Well, one day, I asked for a blessing from my now-Home Teacher. He wasn’t then. He was a friend and a mentor with an affliction similar to mine. And I needed help; strength to overcome a particular trial. And I prayed. I told my Heavenly Father that I was doing this because I trusted Him, and because I was rather desperate for a calmness of my heart. I wasn’t expecting a renewal/restoral of faith, but that’s what I got, my friends. The Priesthood blessing I received essentially blew my socks off. My friend spoke of things that were in the depths of my heart that I had only ever shared with God. Very specific things. Verbatim, private thoughts. And as he spoke, with his hands on my head, I could feel the power. I mean, I could feel it. I hadn’t felt anything so spiritually strong in months. I could feel God’s love and awareness for me, and I knew that the Priesthood was His power on earth, and that I was being blessed by God Himself, and, well, guess what? If the Priesthood is real (and it is), then there’s something right and true about the Church.
As I regained faith bit by bit, to a point where it is stronger now than before, I also regained most of those friends who seemed to be against me. Now, I look back and I can see that they weren’t against me, but against me leaving the Church. They love the Church and they believe it, and so they believed that my eternal destiny was at risk. They were worried for my soul. And that’s sweet. But, I’d have loved for them to have trusted me. I’d have loved for them to have been ready to accept and love me no matter my choice, no matter my religion.
After my dance with doubt, I understand when people leave the Church. I mean, it really ceased to make sense to me. If I had no answers for one more month, I don’t think I’d still be as devout a member. I wasn’t doing bad stuff. I never stopped attending church or reading scriptures or praying or attending the temple, even. I never started doing things that were against the LDS religion. I never changed any bit of my lifestyle- do you get it? I kept doing all the “right” things that I’d done since birth, and I kept hoping and trying so hard to believe- but it just stopped making sense. And I can’t really hold it against anyone who leaves the church now. I can’t because I have almost been there. I get it. I get why people leave. I respect it, even.
And that’s what I’m asking y’all for. Some respect. Less judgement. Just because someone leaves the church doesn’t mean they’re trying to hide some great sin. It doesn’t mean they seek a lifestyle that’s not in line with Church standards. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or wrong. Maybe things just stopped making sense. Maybe they got an answer to their prayers that felt like “it’s okay if you leave.” I can’t tell you how many times I felt that in my own prayers. I didn’t leave because I needed a “yes, you need to leave.” But I don’t think I would have needed something so concrete if my doubts continued.
Anyway. My real point is, now that I have a better understanding of coming to the point of leaving the Church, I hope I will never tell someone they’re wrong or bad or any implication of wrong or bad, just for having questions. I hope I will never make any of my friends feel excluded just because they don’t believe as I do. I love the Church with all my heart, and recognize that its people, even its leaders, are imperfect always. I love all my friends who were a part of my faith-finding journey, even the ones who said unkind things, because I know they were simply worried. I hope I will never lose faith again, because, I’m telling you, that was a dark and confusing and cold place. I feel safe here in the sanctuary of belief. I feel joy here in the light of belief. If I have a friend reach out to me, telling me of doubts, I hope I will respond with encouragement and presence. Because that’s how I would have liked to have been responded to. “Stephanie, it must be so hard in the place you are. I know you’ll end up doing the right thing for you and your family. I’ll support whatever you choose.” “Stephanie, I’m honored you would trust me with your doubts. I have had doubts, too. Hang in there- light is coming.” “Stephanie, I’m here for you.” “Stephanie, I think you’re wrong about ____, and here’s my experience.”
That would have been nice. BUT! My testimony is not now, nor was it ever, based on my peers’ acceptance of me. I do hope that anyone else considering leaving the Church will experience more love from those within than I felt. It’s a little ironic that the very people who wanted me to stay the most were often the people who seemed to be pushing me away.
I’m not saying this to tattle or to vindicate myself. I only hope to give some insight into my experience and maybe give some alternative reactions if something like this happens to one of your friends. Basically, if you want someone to stay in the Church, maybe don’t tell them they’re bad or crazy.
The doctrine of the Church is true! I believe that now more than ever. I love it and I’m so grateful to be a part of it, and I’m glad, so glad, that I found my faith again.
I’m upset. I’m bummed because I didn’t get to vote today. Voting is so important to me! I planned to vote. I made time to vote. Know why I couldn’t vote? I can’t find my driver’s license. I’ve misplaced it, again. You need ID to vote. (I think.) I’ve looked everywhere I can think I might have left it. I have no recollection of where I last had it. I don’t remember taking it out of my purse. But I must have, because it’s not there.
My belongings are constantly disappearing and reappearing. I found a 2010 W2 in my purse today. What? Why? When did I put there? Why did I put that there? So weird that it’s there. I may find a pen in my pillowcase. My keys make their rounds all over the house. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t lose something. It’s just a part of my every-day life. Sometimes, I am patient with myself. But, sometimes, it’s so, so frustrating to have lost my keys yet again, or my phone, or my coat, or my W2, or my driver’s license.
You may think it’s a laziness issue. You may think it’s an easy-to-fix issue. I assure you, it’s neither. It’s ADHD, and it’s a bloody plague.
I’m not here to prove the existence of ADHD. If you don’t think it’s real, you probably won’t want to read this, and I probably won’t want to spend time convincing you. Basically every “condition” is made-up, okay? Each condition that has a name is based on a list or lists of commonalities among a group of people, and someone made up the name for the condition. If you fit the list, or a good portion of it, it’s likely you have that condition. Let’s see, you have a long-lasting, mucusy cough? Mild fever? Fatigue? Okay, these symptoms are common bronchitis. You probably have bronchitis. Someone made up bronchitis. You know? Bronchitis isn’t fake. But, if you think ADHD is fake, that’s fine.
That said, there’s no such thing as ADD anymore, as I understand it. It’s all ADHD. I don’t feel like finding links, but you can verify that on your own, if you’d like. I only mention it because someone can have a diagnosis of ADHD but not be “hyperactive.”
Take me, for example. I’m only slightly hyperactive. I always feel like I’m in a hurry, and I almost always have some part of my body moving (or shaking wildly under the desk, often without my acknowledgment), but I can sit in one spot for quite awhile without getting up. I like to be home. I don’t have a constant urge to “get out.” So, my “hyperactivity” behaviors aren’t what lump me into the commonalities of ADHD.
That’s because my ADHD is mostly due to my inability to pay attention for more than a short period of time. And other things. Here are some common characteristics of adults with ADHD. The characteristics that pertain to me are bold:
- “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation
- extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track
- difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others
- struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple
- tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work
- poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions
- poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
- tendency to procrastinate
- trouble starting and finishing project
- chronic lateness
- frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
- constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
- underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks
- frequently interrupt others or talk over them
- have poor self-control
- blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
- have addictive tendencies
- act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
- have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long meeting)
- sense of underachievement
- doesn’t deal well with frustration
- easily flustered and stressed out
- irritability or mood swings
- trouble staying motivated
- hypersensitivity to criticism
- short, often explosive, temper
- low self-esteem and sense of insecurity
- feelings of inner restlessness, agitation
- tendency to take risks
- getting bored easily
- racing thoughts
- trouble sitting still; constant fidgeting
- craving for excitement
- talking excessively (sometimes)
- doing a million things at once
(all of these symptoms found here.)
I know that it’s easy to look at ADHD as an excuse to be irresponsible. But, it’s not. It’s pretty horrible. I remember the first time my sister suggested I have ADHD, I immediately blew it off. No way. I’m just forgetful, I thought. But then I began looking it up online. I began reading about adult men and women who have ADHD. And for the first time, I began to wonder if there was something different about the way my brain functions. Wait, is it possible that there’s a reason for my constant forgetfulness and inability to focus, and that it’s not just all totally my fault? You mean, I’m not a freaking idiot?
I decided I had ADHD. Soon after, I received an official diagnosis. It was a huge relief! My brain has worked this way my whole life! When I was a child, I would go to a friend’s house on my bike, wearing shoes, and I’d come home barefoot and on foot, having forgotten that I’d worn shoes and rode my bike. This is a true story. And it was a frequent story. And it’s a never ending story! Okay, I never forget my shoes, anymore, but I forget everything else that isn’t ON my body.
It’s not an excuse. I forget to pay bills. I forget to be to appointments. I forget to put the laundry to the dryer. For four days. It’s not fun when you remember the water bill the second you realize it’s been shut off again. It’s not fun when you remember the library books were due four weeks ago when you get a threatening letter from the library (which was probably the third notice, but you forgot to open the others before they disappeared into the great, deep ADHD pit of forever-lost). It’s not fun at all, and it’s not an excuse.
I don’t know how many years I have spent telling myself, “I’ll remember next time.” “I’ll listen better next time.” “I won’t say something without thinking next time.” “I’ll keep this room clean this time.” “I’ll be on time next time.” “I won’t let this food go bad next time.” And etc. My intentions are grand! I really mean it! Next time, I’m not going to forget! Next time, I’m going to concentrate so I’ll do it right! Next time, I’ll really be on time!
But then, my brain loses it. The information slips away forever. It’s maddening, frankly. It’s not an excuse. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It’s embarrassing when I’ve missed yet another appointment. It’s embarrassing to say “I forgot.” No one believes that! Especially when you say the same thing over and over again. I use a calendar on my phone now, which helps a great deal, but I have to remember to put it into my calendar! I am constantly double-booking myself because I forget I already made some commitment. And then, if I am lucky enough to realize what I’ve done beforehand, I have to chose which commitment to flake out on. I make promises and then I don’t keep them because I forget them. That makes me feel like a pretty lame human being sometimes.
Often, I start talking and distract my own self, get way off track, and completely fail to make my original point. I stay up nights thinking about those times, thinking the person I was speaking to must have wondered what the heck I was talking about. Also, I often repeat myself, forgetting that I already said that thing.
I am a slow reader, and I used to think it was because I read slowly, but it’s actually because I have re-read so frequently, because my mind begins to wander at some point during the paragraph, and I lose track of what I was reading. That happens every time I read.
Cleaning my house takes forever because of 2 reasons. 1. I begin in one room, and put something away that belongs in another room, and while I’m in that other room, I see something I need to clean there, and so on through the house. So, I feel like I do a ton of work, but each individual room doesn’t look much better for a long time, and then I get frustrated and give up. 2. I find some old mail, old letters, old poetry, old pictures my kids drew, old whatever, and I just have to go through it. I get distracted and before I know it, 2 hours have passed and I haven’t done anything but reminisce. Oh, I guess 3 reasons– I also simply lack organization skills. My brain is not organized. I can’t think of how to organize my external surroundings, because my brain can’t show me a picture of what organized would look like. I simply cannot conjure up an idea of what should go where, and I just have no idea where stuff goes, in my own house.
Excuse? No way. Monumentally frustrating? You bet.
I’m thankful to have been blessed with a fast-learning mind. Perhaps to compensate for my lack of normal functioning skills, it is easy for me to adapt from situation to situation. I can learn a new skill so quickly (I have to, because if I have to focus too long, forget it- I won’t be able to learn it). I wonder if that is common for adults with ADHD- the ability to quickly learn a new skill or procedure or job. And, know what? ADHD isn’t all bad. It comes with crazy good multitasking skills.
About that, I have recently seen some articles floating around Facebook which say multitasking is unhealthy, and even some which say multitasking is impossible. I’m here to tell you that is not the case for me, and probably isn’t the case for many adults with ADHD. I need to multitask. I have to have more than one thing to do, or I won’t do the one thing. I am much, much, much more efficient and productive when I have several tasks to complete. I can’t stand doing only one thing. Also, to whoever said you can only entertain one thought in your head at a time, I call BS. Right now, as I type, I am singing “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas,” while typing these words you see right now. At the same time. I’m thinking of the lyrics, and singing the lyrics, and I’m thinking of what I’m writing here. At the same time. Don’t tell me I can’t think of more than one thing at a time! I can, and I do. Sometimes, it’s a problem. Sometimes, it’s awesome.
Additionally, adults with ADHD are commonly quite creative. Heaven knows we need some sort of outlet! Also, because I can think quickly, I can come up with several possible solutions to a problem quickly. This is why I’m so good at call-center jobs, and why my call time has always been among the lowest in the site, but why I still always achieved among the highest customer satisfaction scores. I can swiftly find a dozen solutions, pick the probably-best one, present it, implement it, and boom- happy client. Also, my daydreams can turn into pretty great poems or stories. Also, adults with ADHD commonly feel deeply. Happy, sad, every emotion is a deep emotion. This gives us the powerful tool of empathy, and I don’t think I have to tell you why that’s awesome. Also, because my mind is always moving, change isn’t scary for me. Adults with ADHD are often very flexible, adaptable, easy going, take-it-as-it-comes folk. That’s pretty good. (for more info, check this out.)
Some aspects of having ADHD as an adult are extremely annoying, frustrating and maddening. I know the people around me who have to bear the burden of my forgetfulness and flakiness aren’t thrilled about it. I wish I didn’t burden as many people as I do. I wish I didn’t break so many promises. I wish I didn’t forget so many appointments. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I do that to my good friends and people in my community. I am so lucky to have a core group of friends who love me anyway, who know my faults and accept me as I am. But, I still wish I was better at following through. As frustrating as it must be for those around me, it’s just as frustrating- if not more so- for myself. I hate it. Every day, I hate it.
On the other hand, I don’t hate myself. I find myself interesting and delightful, frankly, ADHD and all. It’s a part of me. I’m trying so hard to make it work better. I’m trying so hard to remember. I’m trying so hard to follow through. It’s hard when my brain is wired to forget. But even so, I’m a good person, and pretty fun if I do say so myself. 🙂
Again, normally, I’m mostly patient with myself and my ADHD. But, when it means I don’t get to do something important like vote, I get really mad, and I cry, and I write a blog post.
As most of my friends and family know, I am homeschooling my children from now on. I have always wanted to homeschool, since long before I had kids. I hadn’t planned on a divorce when my kids were 2 and 3, and when I wasn’t remarried when they became school-age, I figured, sadly, that homeschooling was not an option. I had to make a living. I hoped I would marry someone who would be supportive of homsechool, and that I would be able to homeschool after remarriage. Well, from January to May 2012, I was blessed to make my work schedule work out so that I was home when my kids were home. It was amazing. After years of having to hire babysitters and day cares before and after school, I was able to avoid all that, and be with my kids when they were home. The difference in the home was noticeable. My son’s behavior at school improved drastically and immediately, just by getting to see me more.
In the summer of 2012, I was still working about 6 hours a day. I paid a friend to watch the kids, but I still got to be with them most of the day. But, it became apparent that I would need to switch to full time again, and I did, with great, great regret and sadness. I hated being away from my kids that long. I hated that they had to be partially raised by someone who wasn’t their mother. While I had always hated leaving them every day, the months between January and July had truly spoiled me, and reminded me how important it is for a mother to be home with her children.
Shortly after I went back to full time, however, I began looking (and praying) for a way that I would be able to be with my kids more, and looking for a job with meaning. I felt neither important nor necessary at my work, and I certainly didn’t feel like I was doing anything good in the world. If I had to be away from my kids, I at least wanted to do something meaningful. Shortly after I began looking for something different, I got the job at Marsing Elementary, which is to date the most meaningful and enjoyable and difficult job of my life. Additionally, I got to take my kids to work with me every day. I was home when they were home. It was, again, amazing.
I originally planned to stay at Marsing for many years to come. I loved my sweet students. I really liked most of the teachers. But, the longer I worked there, the more I realized I could not send my kids to a public school ever again, after that year. It became increasingly apparent that I would be homeschooling before I was married, because I was not getting married any time soon, but I was also not going to allow my kids to attend a public school. Ever. Again.
People homeschool for a variety of reasons. Many homeschooling parents don’t have anything against the public school system. I am not one of those parents.
Here are some of the reason I’m homeschooling.
I Was Homeschooled
My parents took me out of school after I finished the 1st Grade at Bennion Elementary. I have vivid memories of the school and some of my classmates and my teachers. Some memories are positive (like winning an award for writing a song in an all-school creativity contest when I was in 1st Grade), and some are negative (like when Mrs. Blair, kindergarten teacher, told me I had to color my Halloween picture the way she wanted it, not the way I wanted it. It crushed me).
I don’t remember negative or positive feelings about transitioning to homeschool, but my parents made it pretty cool. They converted the huge playroom in the basement to a school room. There was an enormous white board, a huge US map on the wall, a flag, and a bunch of books. I had my own desk, and so did my younger siblings. AND, we still got to go school clothes shopping.
I don’t yet have those resources for my own kids, but I do have memories of homeschool to inspire me. I wasn’t taught what to learn, I was taught how to learn. We did schoolwork for maybe 4 hours a day. I admit, I did always wonder where I stood against my peers. Was I as smart as they were? I never really knew (and this is something that I intend to remedy with my own kids, so they’ll always know they’re smart enough), but when I got to college after being homeschooled most my life, I earned a 3.9 GPA my first semester, so my parents did something right! And what they did right was taught me how to learn.
My positive homeschool experience is one main reason I want to give that gift to my own children.
Protection From Gangs, Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Pressure
I can already hear the arguments to this one. “If your kids aren’t exposed to this crap, they’ll never learn how to handle it!” I suppose I can see some logic to this view, but I completely disagree with it. I was never exposed to drugs at school. I never saw gangs, and I never wanted to be in one. And by the time I was in college, I had learned enough about drugs sans the pressure to know I never wanted a thing to do with them. I knew I never wanted to drink. I was strong enough to avoid those things willingly and gladly, because I knew all about them- even the reasons they were appealing- and I simply had no interest. I believe the reason I had no interest is because I wasn’t exposed to or pressured to try them, but I learned about them anyway, in a way my parents directed.
So, by keeping my kids home, I can teach them about gangs and drugs and sex and alcohol. I can teach them why they’re appealing, and when they’re good (if applicable), and why they’re horrible (when applicable). Is it a guarantee they won’t ever try these things in inappropriate ways? No, and I know that. But I feel they will have a chance to learn about the dangers and understand them before they have the opportunity to try it. It worked for me.
Now, I know plenty of people who were public schooled who never tried these things, so I also acknowledge that homeschool isn’t the only way for kids to avoid that kind of stuff. But I definitely think it’s one way. I also know my kids will be exposed to all of that stuff in some degree, even being homeschooled. I know that I cannot protect them 100%, and that’s okay. That’s good. I am hopeful that with my constant involvement, those exposures will be fewer and farther between, and they will have a clearer understanding of the consequences.
Federal Government Involvement
I recognize that this section may make me sound like I am a right-wing extremist. When it comes to politics, I’m mostly conservative, but I don’t really identify with Republicans. However, I do like the idea of a smaller government, and I highly dislike the idea of the Federal Government running the education system. My children a more than a number. My children do not belong to the government. My children do not belong to any school. With the Federal Government as involved as it is, teachers have little room for creativity in teaching. Their hands are tied by ridiculous rules and regulations which do not benefit students on an individual basis, or at all. And it’s getting worse (e.g Common Core).
I am a rebel in many ways, particularly in social expectations that make no sense to me. It’s no surprise, then, that one main reason I want to homsechool my kids is to protect them from the conformity of public schools. Everyone must conform! The teachers must conform! The students must conform! There is no out-of-the box. The box is tight and small and locked. Students must learn in one way. Teachers must teach in one way. The students who learn differently than the prescribed method are labeled. Reminds me of this image:
Obviously, the monkey is going to be the star student in the above example. Our schools are meant to teach one type of student- that monkey. So when kids who are not monkeys go to school, they get lost in the cracks, labeled, in trouble, unliked, invisible. They feel stupid when they may be, in fact, very intelligent. It’s tragic. Elephants and penguins are told to be like the monkeys. They try to be like the monkeys, and when they fail, because they are not monkeys, because they cannot conform to Monkeys’ ways, they are, in essence, discarded. Conform or else, is what I see.
My dad describes public education as factory education. Students go through on a conveyor belt, complete with Pavlovic bells and whistles to dictate when the students must begin or end something. Don’t you dare get off the conveyor belt! Don’t you dare look anywhere but straight ahead as various achievements of reading and writing are being doled out systemically, and don’t you dare go faster than the other kids! Don’t you dare move slower! You stay seated on that conveyor belt, in your assigned place.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten, she was reading better than many 2nd graders. She was excelling in all subjects. Her teacher praised her during a parent teacher conference, and it was going well till she said, “We don’t want her too far ahead, though.” Wait, what? No, no, we want her exactly where she is! Her teacher told me she wouldn’t have friends if she was too far ahead academically. Obviously, she didn’t know Anna. Anna will have friends all the time, wherever she is. She is delightful and social and even if she knows math better than some of her peers, she’s going to be friendly with everyone. And, even if that wasn’t the case, I had no interest in putting her social life over her academic life. What kind of precedent does that set?
I understand the plight of teachers. Teachers have to somehow teach 25+ different kids. They have to figure out a way to keep order in their classrooms when kids are so different. That’s easier to do when the students are forced to be the same, think the same, see the same, behave the same.
Conformity. It can be a dangerous thing. Especially when it’s government conformity.
This goes with the above reason. Because of the necessary conformity, it’s easy for the precious imagination and natural creativity of children to be squashed. Children are told to sit still, keep their hands still, keep their eyes on the teachers, DON’T MAKE ANY NOISE, do the homework in the exact way the teacher wants it, etc. I got in trouble once because I color coded my homework sheet in 1st grade. Nowhere did the instructions say to color on the sheet. So my teacher said I wasn’t allowed to do that. Why the heck did it matter? I got all the answers right, still. I just wanted to have fun with it. I learned quickly and early that school wasn’t about learning for myself, but about following the directions of my teachers.
I forgot about that until I went to college. Then, because I’d learned how to learn, I understood that impressing the teachers was far more important than learning. So, I studied my professors more than I studied the material, and I was very successful in college (until I tried college with 2 jobs and 2 kids and no husband, but that’s for another post). However, if I enjoyed the class, or felt it relevant to my future, then I also studied and learned the material.
Sadly, creativity is also not so welcome in college, in my experience. It’s more welcome, though, much, much more welcome, than in primary schools. Imagination is being squashed and punished in elementary schools all over. “No Cowboys and Indians!” “You made your fingers look like a gun- you’re suspended!” “Stay on topic!” Don’t pretend, don’t daydream, don’t do things differently, don’t color on your homework, stay in the lines.
Our kids learn that they are not in charge of themsevles in public schools. They have to ask permission to do everything. They have to learn at a pace determined by adults. They can’t even so much as get up to go to the bathroom without raising their hands. Then, to add to their humiliation, they are not always believed when they have to use the bathroom. They are denied a most basic need by a person who is not acquainted with their body. I get this, too. I taught music at a school last year, and it was annoying and distracting when kids raised their hands every five minutes to go to the bathroom. It was easier to think NO! Can’t you just stay put for 40 minutes and learn about Beethoven? You’re going to miss out on this amazing information that you’ll forget in two weeks anyway! No! Stay in class! Believe me, I get it. I was there. I saw the class as a body, sometimes, and not as a collection of individuals. I failed to see the need of the individual, many times. It was hard. I just wanted order in the classroom. Now, I think of the students I asked to wait till class was over, and I think of them thinking of needing to pee instead of listening to me. And I think of my children, as individuals, being denied the need to relieve themselves, and it angers me.
Our children are told where to go, what to do, what to learn, what to ignore, whom to socialize with (kids of their age, of course!), when to eat, what to eat. Everything. Right down to when to use the bathroom. I get it- I did it- but it’s wrong. I want my kids to know they are in charge of their own bodies, and their own decisions, because they are.
Student and Teacher Bullying
Most teachers, in my experience, are outstanding. Some teachers are not. Some are impatient and unkind. My son has had such a teacher, and it was miserable. It seemed like because she was against my son, the entire school was against my son. When kids made fun of him, she didn’t stop it. When he complained about kids making fun of him, she told him to toughen up. It was a difficult year. Thankfully, most teachers are patient and kind, and most teachers are miracle workers, really. I loved most of the teachers I worked with last year. They were incredible! They loved their students genuinely, and wanted the best for their students. My beef with the public school system does not carry over onto the teachers. I have a high respect for teachers, especially when they find a way to teach creatively even with all the restrictions they must work around. My kids missing out on outstanding teachers is the only thing I can think of that I consider a homeschooling “con.”
I know that when my kids are homeschooled, though, that they will not have to be bullied by teachers or students. Some have told me that kids who are bullied learn how to handle conflict. I disagree. Kids who are bullied learn they don’t matter. They lose confidence. They lose self-esteem. And that stays with them for years. If I can protect my kids from bullying, and help them with self confidence, they’ll be better able to handle conflict as they grow. We’re going to have plenty of conflict as a family, and I will be here to guide the kids through proper conflict resolution. No violence. No destruction of confidence. No bullies.
I have certainly encountered bullies in the workplace, and my kids likely will, as well, but I’m nearly certain that they will be able to handle those situations better having not been bullied in their school years. Because that makes sense to me.
I have actually done a great deal of research on homeschool. I know I haven’t included any of it here. I know I don’t have any sites you can refer to see if my opinions have any base. I assure you, these are my opinions, and they are my educated opinions. They are opinions I’ve gleaned from experience, observation, and research. I’m not trying to convince anyone to educate their children differently, so please take no offense if my opinions differ from yours. I am simply explaining a few of my reasons for homeschooling. Thanks for reading!
At last, my promised “opinion post.”
I will begin with a story. Back when I was exceedingly thin, my hourglass shape was more visible. I never noticed it. I had this great flat stomach, too. I never dressed to show it off. I never cared about it, really. Mom and Dad had always insisted I dress modestly and doing so never bothered me. Then, in my late teens and early twenties, I found out how much power the female body has, and suddenly, dressing less modestly was appealing. By that time, I knew what was right and wrong and believed that God wanted us to dress in modest styles, so for the most part, I still dressed very conservatively. But, at college, I began wearing skimpy pajamas. I justified it because my roommates were girls and they didn’t care anyway, plus, they wore skimpy PJs, too. What I found out was that it was fun to have that much skin showing.
If my boyfriend was going to come over, I would put something else on… at first. But, I found out that the less I wore, the more attention he gave me. His kisses were more passionate. He would smile all cute at me. He would compliment various body parts, particularly my belly. “It’s so flat,” he would say. “It’s so sexy.”
I loved it! I loved getting attention from a guy like that. I felt liked. I felt important. I became less and less concerned about what he saw me wearing– or not wearing. As you may imagine, this contributed to some situations that I now regret.
I realized that dressing less and showing more was a way that I, as a woman, could gain power. It was exhilarating! What I failed to realize at the time was that I was creating an object of myself. I was using myself as an object, and giving men the opportunity to use me as an object. And instead of the power that I thought I was gaining, I was losing power. Humans have power. Objects don’t.
I wanted to share that because I wanted to illustrate that I get the appeal of objectifying one’s self. I get the appeal of using a little cleavage to get out of parking ticket and a bared torso to attract a good lookin’ fellow. I get it. I’ve felt it.
That said, now that I’ve grown up a bit and understand the sacredness of the human body more, I cannot stand when men fall for those tricks. If men didn’t drool over a female’s body parts, women would be far less inclined to get men to drool over them. If men didn’t treat women like objects, women would be far less likely to behave like objects. I’m speaking in very general terms, here. Of course I know that not every man is that way and that not every woman is that way. And when I say “objects,” I mean sexual objects. Men use women’s body parts as objects to meet a lustful desire. And women like it– to a certain extent. Men tend to take the objectification game further than women do, and that’s when women get hurt and men get mad. Or arrested.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not implying that women are ever to blame for men going too far. I’m not in the camp that women should dress modestly in order to avoid being raped- puh-lease! I feel like I should be able to walk into the trashiest bar, wearing highly revealing clothing, and expect not to be raped! If I’m dressed like a sex ad, that does not give anyone the right to rape me. Just to clear that up.
Anyway, men do tend to view women as vehicles to fulfill their sexual lusts. That’s why porn is about women and what men get to do with them. That’s why there are FB pages dedicated to breasts and butts. It makes me so sad because behind these breasts and butts are women. Women who have lives, worries, concerns, parents, children, and souls. I don’t care if they volunteer to exploit their bodies- that doesn’t give anyone else the right to use their bodies. Just like the bar scenario. Just because a woman is putting herself out there doesn’t give anyone else the right to use her as if she doesn’t matter except to satisfy a sexual lust.
I remember one time I asked my husband what he loved about me. He would often say “I love you,” but never told me anything he loved or liked about me. So one time, he said “I love you.” and I said “Why?” and he laughed it off and could honestly think of nothing. So I prodded, “What do you love about me?” “Your boobs,” was his reply. I can’t even explain how that hurt. Through the next few weeks, I would ask the same question. “What do you love about me?” or “what’s your favorite thing about me?” and the answer was always the same. All I was to him was a body part? Suddenly, I wanted to cover up at all times. Later, when our marriage was falling apart, we went to marriage counseling and the counselor actually asked us both the same question. “What do you love about your spouse?” I spouted off a list of his positive attributes, and at his turn, he said, “Her boobs.”
After the initial thrill of attention, being objectified really, really hurts. It is not empowering. It is not exhilarating. It is not fun.
And when you think of all the dehumanizing going on in the porn world, don’t you just get sick? How can that many humans be objects? They are women! Just think if your daughter was exploiting herself like that, getting into the porn scene. I know it’s hard to imagine, and maybe don’t imagine it too much, but just imagine that your daughter had made those choices. Yes, that would be devastating, but I personally think that even if my daughter made that choice, I would be furious at anyone who chose to view her as a toy for their enjoyment, only for her to then be discarded and totally forgotten. It wouldn’t even have to be pornography, but even as a model of bikinis or Victoria Secret underwear. I’d be so livid to think that men were using her images to laugh at, mock, pass around, and make crude jokes about. I would think, Don’t you dare use my daughter like that! Because she’s so much more. So much more than a collection of body parts put together for your selfish use.
All those models, all those “porn stars,” are women who are so much more than a collection of body parts put together.
But, wait, what about the men? In debates about objectification, we always seem to talk about only women. But, men are objectified, too. I see the objectification of men on my FB feed far more frequently than I do the objectification of women. I see pictures of buff, shirtless firemen with some objectifying quote, like, “I’ll set my house on fire if you show up,” or something lame like that. I see pictures of attractive male movie stars with similar quotes. And do you know who is posting these? My good, Mormon girlfriends! Some are married, some are single. And I could almost guarantee that if their guy friends were to share images and memes of similarly dressed women, they’d give a lecture or unfriend them, especially if the guy was LDS. Why the double standard? Why do we think that it’s okay to share pictures of men who are barely dressed, and share them for the sole purpose of sexual pleasure? Perhaps it’s because women don’t think of it as sexual pleasure. But it is. Perhaps it’s because we women just look, enjoy, and then move on. We don’t really fixate. We don’t all react the same way men do when they see a nearly nude, attractive woman. We’re able to focus on something else almost immediately after. So maybe that’s why we think it’s okay?
I say it’s not. It’s not okay at all. Looking at those men in those photos is making those men objects. Some of the comments I see from my friends are “Yummy!” or “I wouldn’t mind waking up to this every day!” This. I wouldn’t mind waking up to this. Not him, but this. This object. This non-human. This mindless, soulless piece of well-formed flesh. And then “Yummy.” Something you would say about something that is delicious to consume. You don’t consume human beings.
Ladies, it is not okay to look at men and enjoy them as if they are their bodies. Most of my religious friends understand that it’s not okay for men to look at women and enjoy them as if the women were simply bodies, but so many of them fail to understand that using men in the same way is the exact same thing. Sure, the men in the photos probably want to be lusted after, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to do so. If I wanted someone to kill me, that wouldn’t give anyone the right to do so. Yeah, that’s a different scale, but, really, when we make a person into an object, we kill them a little.
I am uncomfortable with the firemen pictures just as I am with pictures of barely dressed women. And do you know what else? It doesn’t have to be attractive people who are objectified. What about the pictures of extremely obese or otherwise unattractive people that are shared for the sole purpose of making fun? Laughter at the expense of another human being is also objectification. It’s mean. It’s cruel. It needs to stop. Let’s start treating people like people.
Today, I told my boss, the principal of the school, that I won’t be returning next year. I told her it’s because I want to homeschool my kids. This is true, of course.
Working at a school has really opened my eyes. I won’t go into all the details here (not yet, anyway), but everything my parents have said about public education certainly appears to be true. I feel like I need to protect my children from so much. I want to give them the best education possible. Both my kids will benefit from one on one instruction, more hands-on learning, more learning at their own pace,and more unstructured learning (not only unstructured learning, of course).
Also I have seen how cruel kids can be. I honestly think that none of them really mean it, not at this age. I think if they knew how they were hurting other kids with their words, that they wouldn’t say the things they say. Not only do I feel the need to protect my kids from being treated so cruelly, I also want to protect them from treating kids so cruelly. Now, you might say, that’s how kids learn to be tough, or how they learn about the real world. For now, let it suffice to say that I completely disagree with that. In fact, I think that public schools are quite unlike the real world.
And it’s only going to get worse. I want to rescue my kids, if you will, before the older grades, where they will witness so much disrespect, incredibly foul language, worse bullying, etc. I want to protect them from seeing teen pregnancies and having conversations with their peers about orgies and other vile immoralities. I want to keep them safe from exposure to drugs, gangs, and etc. I know I can’t shield them or shelter them from all this stuff, but I tell you what, I’m so glad I didn’t see or hear what I would have seen and heard had I been a public school student. Yes, in some ways I feel I was sheltered, but when I think about it now, I didn’t need to know what I didn’t know, for the most part. But, more than that, I want to be the one to teach my kids about the world. I don’t want them to learn these things from another kid.
“But your kids need to have social exposure!” you might cry out. I agree. And they will. Just like I did. I admit, I wish my parents had arranged more encounters with kids my age because I never had any real friends after we moved to Idaho. But, because I know what I wish I’d had, I will provide my kids with plenty of social opportunities. There are homeschool co-ops and groups all over around here. Even without many friends in high school (which also sometimes happens to kids in public high schools, by the way), I am still perfectly able to manage social situations. And now, I have plenty of friends. So, my parents didn’t ruin me, by any means.
I feel like my homeschool background is a gift, and it’s a gift I want to give my children.
My heart breaks at the prospect of leaving the kids I have grown to love at the school. I had planned to be with them over the next several years and watch them grow. It’s been a rocky first year, and I feel like I just now have the hang of teaching music, now that I’m leaving. I’m just now becoming sufficiently organized, and just now getting more comfortable with classroom management. Next year would have been amazing! I would love to prove to the staff that I can do it.
But, alas, it’s not meant to be. I’m meant to be home with my children. I believe that with all my heart. While I have never had a more fulfilling hourly job than this one, I know that being a SAHM will be even more fulfilling. I can’t wait.
You know that phrase that is popular in the church, something like “The Lord won’t give you more than you can handle?” There are other variations- “The Lord won’t give you heavier burdens than what you can bear.” “We aren’t given anything we can’t bear.” “The Lord won’t give you more trials than you’re able to handle.” I don’t know if this is from a scripture or not. I know the scripture about always being given a way out of a temptation, which is similar. You know, this one:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13
But that, while important, is different than the idiom of not having trials too big to bear. And I have taken issue with it. I have been in the midst of trials that seem much too big for me, and I have cried out “I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE! I cannot bear this burden. It is too heavy.” and I really believed that at the time, and I tell you what, if anyone told me “Don’t worry, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” in such moments, I would have had to resist urges of violence. It implies that every trial I encounter, I encounter because I am strong enough for it, so if I feel too weak, then there must be something terribly wrong with me.
After some thought, I have decided that I disagree. Before my ex left me for another woman, I did not have the strength to bear the pain of that betrayal. Before I was a single mom, I did not have the strength to be one. No, strength came through God’s grace, and because of the circumstances at hand. For two years, sometime following my divorce, I faced extreme financial hardships. For two years straight. I also faced other extreme hardships in that timeframe, including a very expensive and exhausting custody battle of sorts. This was the entire two years I lived in Rexburg. It was a most trying time and I did not endure it well, and I was not strong enough to endure it at all. I succumbed to a dark depression and it’s possible that the antidepressants I finally surrendered to saved my life. Every morning, I woke to thoughts of ways to end my life. Like the thoughts were there, just waiting for me to wake up so I would think them. And I was not strong enough.
However. I did survive. I did make it through. Is that what it means, that if you make it through this trial alive, you’re strong enough to bear it? So what people really mean is “If you don’t die in this trial, it’s because God kept His word and didn’t give you more than you can handle?” So, does “more than you can handle” really mean “unto death?” Don’t worry, God won’t try you unto death. Yeah, that’s comforting. And I don’t think that’s what people mean when they say it anyway. They mean that we’re strong enough to happily bear all things that come our way. And even though I wasn’t strong enough to bear some of my trials with cheer or any degree of relief or more than just a little bit of dim hope, I did make it through. The trials ended. And I now look back on them with great fondness. I cherish those horrible experiences!
I thank God now for those trials because of how they broke me down and humbled me and taught me that He will take care of me no matter what. They taught me that I can trust Him. But, though I am grateful for the trials, for all trials of my past and present, though I see reason and wisdom in them, I still think that I wasn’t strong enough to bear them . . . alone. Indeed, without God, I would not have made it through them with my faith intact.
And so, I think the phrase begs for modification. The Lord will not permit any trial to overcome us that we cannot bear without Him.
Trust. Surrender. Faith and hope. That two-year trial I had taught me to trust. I still have trust issues, particularly with a current trial. But now when a trial of circumstance comes upon me, I remind myself that God sees me, knows me, hears me, and will carry me through if I let Him. And so I hand over the controls and believe with all my heart that this trial won’t last forever, that it, too, will pass, and that I needn’t worry or fear, not even for a moment.
I am reminding myself to apply these lessons to a current difficult trial. This doesn’t have to be a life sentence. I can trust God and conquer! I made some very specific promises to my Father today during the Sacrament and I intend to keep them. It’s strange because I know I can’t keep them without His help. I need Him to help me keep the promises I made Him! It doesn’t seem very fair, but I know that He knows I need Him, and that He is standing by waiting for me to ask.
I’m telling you, this trial is too big for me. It is more than I can handle. Way more. I cannot bear it alone, but I don’t have to. And I won’t.
D&C 58:4- For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.
“While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” Joseph B Wirthlin
“Every man and woman who serves the Lord, no matter how faithful they may be, have their dark hours; but if they have lived faithfully, light will burst upon them and relief will be furnished.” Lorenzo Snow
On January 9, I posted this update on my Facebook page:
“I know that some kids absolutely need medication, and I condemn no parent who decides to medicate their children. Indeed, there are cases where medication is the BEST option for the child.That said, I’m not medicating my son. I believe he will learn to control his behaviors before he reaches adulthood, but not if he’s medicated. His brain is young and growing. I expect him to manage himself but he won’t be able to do that if he’s on medication. I think what he has is a weakness, not a disease.
I understand his teachers’ frustrations but if I have to go to another meeting about my son where I’m told I should really consider medication, I might say something harsh.
Sigh. I need to figure out a way that I can homeschool him. He had a really bad day today.”
Well, sometimes, things change. I remember just after I posted the update, I had this kinda dark feeling. Like a feeling that I was doing something wrong. It kept pestering me the rest of the day, insomuch that by the time I went to bed that night, I was wondering if I needed to consider medication for my son. Maybe I was wrong. I thought that maybe I was just being stubborn. So I had a nice sit-down talk with myself and asked myself a few questions.
Why am I so sure medication isn’t best for my child?
Why is it that I’m so against getting him on medication, exactly?
Why do I feel so horrible about what I said on Facebook?
I began to think, what if medication will help my son? What if it will make him happier? I took a few days to think about it. I prayed about it. I researched about it. And the next Friday after my stubborn post, I talked to Matthias’ counselor about it. He can’t advise about medicines because that’s not his position, but he did take the time to validate my concerns, and he indicated that since nothing else had really worked to change Matthias’ behavior (counseling, PSR, etc.), then medication is probably the next step. I love his counselor. He is wonderful! He would never (and did never) push or suggest medications. We had talked about it before, but I’m sure it was just me telling him medication is not an option.
I had several concerns. My son is so young- only 8 (still 7 at the time of all this). His brain is still developing! I didn’t want to hinder or change his development with pills! I didn’t want his brain to be a laboratory of experimentation. I didn’t want to go through trying a medication, getting it way wrong, trying another medication, getting it way wrong, and messing him up just to find the right one. I didn’t want to change my son at all. I loved him exactly the way he was and I wasn’t willing to lose any part of his delightful personality in order to calm him. Also, of course I’ve heard of horrible side effects that kids have with medications, particularly ADHD meds. Additionally, my family is sooooo against medication! I was fearful of their disapproval.
But, I came to realize that the chief reasons I didn’t want to medicate my child were selfish reasons.
1. I didn’t want to be wrong. I had been anti-meds for my son all this time! I’ve been saying “I refuse to medicate him” since he was 3! I didn’t want him to need medication because then, I’d be wrong. This woman doesn’t like to be wrong, especially after crazy rants like my FB post above.
2. I felt like, as his mother, I should be able to make him happy. I should be able to fix all his problems. I should be the one to find out what’s exactly wrong at any given moment, and find a way to fix it, at any given moment! I’m his MOTHER! If he’s on meds, then that means I failed. I am learning now that my thinking was totally wrong. And it hit me that I didn’t want my own stubborn pride to get in the way of my son’s progression and peace. Because, if medication can really help him, then my refusal to get him on it would be totally selfish.
3. I didn’t want to be seen as a wimp. All the time, people are saying that we’re an over-medicated nation. Every other kid has an ADHD diagnosis, it seems, and every other kid with ADHD is on drugs. And we all know someone or know of someone who is that parent who wants medication for her kid so he’ll be out of her hair. Right? I didn’t want to be seen as that mom, the mom who cops out on her responsibilities. I didn’t want to be that mom.
So, as you see, I had some legitimate concerns, of course. But mostly, I was thinking about me more than my boy.
I talked to the school resource counselor, who seems to be Matthias’ only advocate there, and she was wonderful. She told me that if I did get him on medication, it wouldn’t have to be permanent. I guess I hadn’t considered that before, but of course she was right. Somehow the “it’s not a life-sentence” idea made it a much more acceptable option in my mind. She told me that his happiness was the most important thing, and never made me feel like I should medicate him, never made me feel like Matthias was a burden, and always made me feel like Matthias was the one who mattered; not anyone there. I’m so grateful for her!
Matthias’ counselor helped me set up an appointment with one of the facility’s medication specialists just so I could express some of my concerns with her. I didn’t have to get a prescription, but just ask questions.
Matthias and I went to the medication appointment at the end of January, and the woman was very patient and understanding with my questions. She said it was absolutely unacceptable to have children be made into zombies. I was so glad she said that! She wrote Matthias a prescription for Prozac, choosing to treat his anxiety instead of his ADHD, based on the information I gave her. I liked that idea. The dose is very low, she said.
I took the information home and thought about it some more, and prayed about it some more. Two days later, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my son’s medication. He and I talked about it, and he willingly took his first pill and did a great job.
The results were almost immediate. The next day at school (about two days after his first pill), he had an amazing day. His teachers were stopping me in the hall to tell me how great he was doing. The whole week was like that! And at home, his screaming meltdowns had disappeared! I would ask him how he was feeling every few days and he would say he’s feeling great. He can manage his frustrations so much better with this medication. I can’t believe how much happier and easier-going he is. The best part is I have noticed absolutely no side effects. He is sleeping the same, eating the same, being the same exact Matthias as before, only without screaming meltdowns. He’s still exceedingly bright, and hilarious, and sweet. He has never been happier.
I admit, I told his teachers with my tail between my legs that he was on medication now. I felt a little that they had won. They’ve been telling me all these months how medication has changed so many kids in the school for the better… It was a difficult admission, but now the teachers are singing his praises. I’m sad that they couldn’t see past his behaviors before, but I’m glad their classrooms are easier to manage now.
Of course, Matthias isn’t a perfect child. He still has small tantrums. He still gets frustrated. But, I can redirect him much more easily now, and he’s so much quicker to see where he’s wrong.
I am so, so thankful that the first med we tried worked! What a blessing. I’m so thankful that he is doing so much better at school. I’m so thankful I don’t have to worry about him kicking holes in the wall anymore.
Nobody is meant to do life alone. Guess what? I need help raising my kids. I can’t do everything! And it’s nice to have the help of modern medicine to make our home a little more peaceful.
I’m not saying that everyone should try medicating their kids. I’m saying that sometimes, what you think you know is the best and right and only way to do something is not, in fact, the best and right and only way to do something. I still wish that I didn’t have to resort to medication, but, honestly, what if he’d been diagnosed with childhood diabetes and nothing else I tried worked? Would I refuse to medicate him? Of course not.
I’m pleased with the results, and I’m thankful for that little voice that told me my Facebook post was wrong.
Matthias decided to try a little experiment Wednesday night. He doesn’t like doing things over and over. For example, getting dressed every day is annoying to him. He hates it because he has to do it every day. He hates brushing his teeth and washing his hands because he has to do it every day, and he says “it’s boring!” I think he got tired of taking his pills every day, and on Wednesday night, he told me he took his pill, but he didn’t. Thursday at school was a rough day for him. He screamed in the cafeteria because he was so frustrated that someone was moving the table. At home, he was angry and defiant, and then he had a screaming meltdown when I asked him to get his pajamas on. I hadn’t seen that level of frustration from him since the first day he took the medication, and I began to suspect that he had not taken his pill. I asked him again and he screamed that yes, he had taken the pill. But, it was a brand new refill, so I counted the pills, and he had not taken one the night before. I told him I knew that he hadn’t taken one, and he finally admitted the truth. I asked him why not, and he said he wanted to see what it would be like without it, and to see if it really did help. I asked him how that went, and he said “not so well.” I asked him if he liked to feel frustrated like this and of course he said no. I was concerned, of course, that the reason he didn’t take his pill was because he didn’t like how it made him feel; like maybe there was an invisible-to-me side effect. But, after some interrogation, I really think he just got tired of it, like he gets tired of getting dressed in the morning.
Last night, he made sure to take the med, and today was a wonderful day for him. No huge issues.
It’s a huge difference!
It was a good lesson for us both, though, I think. It reminded me that even on my best days, I don’t have superpowers. I can’t fix everything for my children. It made me think that perhaps all these years of him being unable to manage his anger and anxiety haven’t been my fault after all. And it helped him realize that he would rather spend five seconds to swallow a pill than 20 minutes in his bedroom to calm down and regroup.
I’m not necessarily sorry that I waited this long to consider the medication route. I was doing the best I knew how. Just like now. I’m doing the best I know how, and it’s better now. I’m so happy to see my son happy. Instead of several meltdowns a day, he has a few little moments of frustration that rarely escalate into anything more than grumbling and whining, and never last longer than a minute or two, which sure beats the sometimes 30-minutes screaming/kicking/throwing sessions we’d see before. Poor kid.
I know some who read this will be tempted to tell me all the horrible things about Prozac. I know some will be tempted to tell me that I’m doing it wrong now, and give me “natural” solutions. Please don’t. This is what is best for us right now. It may not always be best for us, but I’ll figure that out if that time comes. As for right now, Prozac has eased my sweet boy’s anxieties a great deal, while not robbing any joyful part of him, and I’m a grateful fan.
Thanks for reading!
I have a dream. I will tell you my dream and its three parts.
1. First, I want to homeschool my children. I do not want to wait till I’m married to do this. I have been thinking all these years that in order to be a single mom, I must work outside the home. But, there must be other options. I want to find one. This one:
2. I want to make money off my writing.
3. I want to open up a music house, of sorts.
This is how I see this working: I’m going to work very hard to finish the novel I’m currently writing by the end of May. This is a tall, tall order, but if I stay focused, I can do it. Then I will self-publish for e-readers. By a miracle, I will make enough money to support my family through the next year, so I can homeschool my sweet kids.
THEN, since I love the school children I work with now, and I desperately want to see them grow and help them along in their music goals, I will buy or rent a place in or near Marsing and call it something like Ms. Martin’s House of Music. Oh, the visions I have for this place! It won’t be terribly fancy. But it will be a joyous place filled to the brim with music and children. There, I will give private and group piano lessons, teach a children’s choir or two or three, have general music classes for kids from 3-18. Maybe my brother, who is amazing on the fiddle, will give of his time as well. Maybe my mother, who is amazing on the flute, will also share her talents.
It will be open all summer and maybe it will be where I educate my children if I don’t get a bigger home. A bigger home is also part of my dream, but really the space to homeschool is what I seek.
Anyway, it will also be open on Fridays during the school year and probably weekday afternoons, too. Maybe it will be a hangout place for kids right after school.
The lessons I offer will be incredibly affordable. I will also have a few scholarships for kids who simply can’t afford a monthly fee at all. It will be such a cool place. I’ll have a few pianos, some other fun kid-friendly instruments, and fun decorations that will teach about music. Maybe there will be a stage, and maybe I’ll do plays, too.
Does this place sound amazing, or what? It’s what I want to do. And then, by night, I’ll write my next great novel to support me through another year of music and children.
I know this is . . . ambitious. I know that I don’t know anything about setting something like this up. I know that it seems impossible. But if that’s what you think, I don’t want to hear it. Seriously. Please only comment if you have something positive to say, because I am not interested in the possibilities of failure. Everything I’ve here written it completely possible. And I think about it all the time.
Maybe I’ll remarry sometime, and maybe my husband will want to be a part of my house of music. If not, he’ll be very supportive of it. Because why would I marry someone who didn’t believe in my dreams?
Thanks for sharing my dreams with me. Now go forth and dream your own dreams!
When I’m a successful writer, so successful that it provides for my family sufficiently and then some, maybe people will talk about me like this:
Stephanie Martin spent years in and out of college. She had to drop out repeatedly because she couldn’t afford the cost. She spent most of her working days in call centers, just barely paying the bills. As a single mom, working while attending school was a significant challenge, but she wanted more for her kids. She wanted to take them on vacations like her own parents had done with her. She wanted to home school them, as her parents had done for her. She wanted them to grow up in a nice home in a safe neighborhood. She hated so much worrying about how the electricity bill would be paid.
Stephanie had dreams, though, dreams that she’d entertained since early childhood. She had dreamed of being an author since grade school. When she was a child, she knew it would be that way. She knew, doubtlessly, that she would be a successful writer. However, as she grew, life’s realities obstructed her vision.
Until, that is, she finally got a break in 2012. Stephanie had graduated with a technical certificate in Medical Administrative Support that May, hoping to find a job in the medical field that would increase her income so she could support her family more comfortably until her kids were older, when she planned to return to school and earn her degree. She’d also always kept her author dream semi-active in her brain. One day it would happen, she thought.
But graduation wasn’t her break. After she graduated, she applied to dozens of jobs that fit her new qualifications. She had several interviews, but there was always someone with more experience who would win the job. While she deeply appreciated her job at the call center, she desperately longed to spend more time with her children, to have all weekends off, and to have a job with meaning. She didn’t feel like she was making a positive impact in the world, and she left work each day unfulfilled.
Then an acquaintance notified her of an available position at an elementary school as the Music Educational Assistant. As a lifelong lover of music, Stephanie eagerly applied and was offered the job. She transferred her kids to the school. She loved being with or near her kids all the time, and enjoyed much more time to spend with them. She loved her job; never had she been so satisfied in her field. Every day she left feeling fulfilled and enriched.
But, the job wages were less than satisfactory, and she faced financial crisis nearly every month. Besides that, working at a school reminded her with great force that she wanted to home school her children. She knew she could never go back to a job that left her empty and took her away from her children, but she also needed a more solid income. So she revived her dream and decided to make it a reality. It took much hard work and perseverance, but the journey was worth it for Stephanie.
Now, only two years later, Stephanie is a successful writer. She left her beloved job at the elementary school, but she still works with the children of that community by teaching affordable music lessons. She has been home schooling her children since last year and they are excelling in education. You can find her fiction on Amazon, and her children’s books wherever books are sold. She is also returning to school next year, as education is very important to her. She hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a year and half.
Dreams do come true!