I’ve been trying for the past few months to make plans with a couple homeschooling families we’ve recently met. It’s hard. It’s not that we don’t have time in our schedules to get together, it’s trying to figure out what to do to accommodate all the rules and restrictions of their families. I never really thought of myself as a free-wheeling hippie until August through now. I’m wild and crazy, y’all…did you know?
One family that we met this past summer has sons my older boys’ ages (15 &16). It’s hard to find homeschooled boys once they get older. I was elated. The mom seemed normal. The kids weren’t too odd. Then I asked if the boys wanted to come over and I got an email of her list of must-nots. Her boys aren’t allowed to watch television. They can’t watch any movie with a higher rating than PG. They are not allowed to play video games. Period.
No, we couldn’t go to the neighborhood pool and swim because there might be girls there in bikinis. (For the record, we go swimming at such an early hour that the girls in bikinis are still at home blow drying and straightening their hair.) I would have said “send them outside to play”, but when it’s over 100 degrees my boys didn’t want to be outside. Summer ended and we tried again. We kept striking out. He sons aren’t allowed anything violent – which included football, my sons’ bows and arrows that they shoot at targets in the back yard, and rough horseplay. They were allowed board games, but mom preferred we keep it to chess or checkers. Add on top of that all of their food restrictions – no grains, sugars of any kind including honey, food color, or dairy – and I was at a loss for what to do with them. We ended up not getting together.
The other family has children the same ages as my #’s 2-5. I was again thrilled to have found them. Until I called her to set up a play-date/get-together. The library has an amazing pre-teen program. Last week they had a woman come in to teach the kids to do stage make-up. I thought the older kids would love that and the littler kids could play and hang out in the children’s library. “We don’t go to the library. Ever.” I was told.”They have objectionable materials right out there where the kids can get them.” I was a little confused because our librarian is crazy conservative and doesn’t care what you think about it. Anything racy with nude-y pictures is kept behind her desk and you have to ask for it. Come to find out that she meant Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Since my children have read and loved both of those series and loved them, I knew from the get-go that this wasn’t going to work out. Plus, I just can’t have the Harry Potter discussion again. … but seriously, to not go to the library because of it?
This has all had me thinking about raising kids in bubbles. We all do to one extent or another. My kids can’t watch slasher movies, shows with any nudity, sex scenes, or…other stuff I’m sure that I’m forgetting. We make sure to meet their friends, keep an eye on what they’re up to, and have strict rules about who’s allowed to hang out at our house.
I wonder how much these super strict moms (myself included there) are hindering the development of their/our children. The traditional school proponents who talk about how our children are losing out because their worlds are too homogeneous might just have a point. There is a value in getting to know people who are different from the people who live in your own house. There are life skills to be learned from going places like the library where there are things that may not be strictly kosher for your family, and educating your children about avoiding temptation. I just keep thinking about how real life doesn’t look like the perfect bubbles of safety inside our homes.
I worry that we might be raising a crop of what my grandma calls hot-house flowers. If you grow plants in perfect conditions inside a greenhouse, you will get a crop of the most amazing plants you ever saw, but if you take those same gorgeous plants outside in the wind, hot, cold, and rain – those plants will quickly die. They snap right off even in a gentle breeze because their stems never grew strong enough to withstand the real world. Their “perfect environment” ended up making them weal.
While I am certainly not advocating putting children (especially young children) in questionable circumstances….I also know that I want to raise children who are strong enough to withstand whatever storms blow their way.
In almost 20 years of parenting, I’ve learned the hard way that the world will find its way in, and that your haven of “perfect safety” is an illusion you have created within your own mind. The best way to teach your children to stand against the storms of the world is to take them out there into it, with you as their captain and guide. Encourage them to meet different people from differing viewpoints, and don’t pretend that other opinions don’t exist. Set the example of what it looks like to live a life not of the world, but in it and unafraid.
You can try to keep your children safe within a perfect bubble that you’ve created, but bubbles only hold so much air. If you spend too much time in one, it stops being protective, and becomes suffocating.
Photo credit: By Alina Zienowicz Ala z (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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