Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Dialogue

I met two new moms at the pool together last week and ended up talking with them for quite some time. They were clearly great friends and it came up in conversation that one mom home schooled her son and the other sent her kids to public school. In the course of our conversation, I loved how they obviously respected each other's choices and had no difficulty talking about schooling. The mom who home schooled her son said she did it because it was "right for her son," but she didn't know what choice she'd make with her baby. I talked to her about the reasons I want to send my daughter to preschool and school and she nodded with understanding. She then said something to the effect of, "You just have to do what's right for you and your child. It's not about one thing being right for everyone."
I was thrilled - and I hope I run into her again at the pool. So often, we get so defensive about our choices, especially when it comes to our kids. At times, I feel like talking about parenting is like stepping in quick sand with some moms. I trust myself as a mom, I respect other moms, I take in different ideas, and then at the end of the day I decide for myself. I wish we could just talk about our ideas and choices without worrying about convincing everyone else - where I have my baby, where my children are schooled, my religion, my political views, what my family eats - I wish we could just talk about these things without feeling that we have to convince everyone that our way is the only way or feeling that a dissenting opinion is a criticism.
I'm not sure where this came from today, but I've been reading different blogs and talking to people lately and it was on my mind. Sometimes I'm worried we've lost the art of real dialogue and finding it with these women was like discovering treasure.


Keely said...

This is so true and it's a good reminder to all of us that what's good for some kids might not be for others. We don't have to judge others for doing things their way when our way doesn't work for them. Thank you for posting this, it was a good reminder for me to be open minded and learn from others.

Rebecca said...

This is an interesting topic. I find that most people who choose the alternatives, or not the norm tend to be very respectful of people who pursue the norm. However, I find that those who go with the norm can be very "in your face" about how they don't approve of the non-norm choice. It doesn't surprise me at all that a homeschooling mom would have this ability, because she is constantly making sure she doesn't put people on the social defense. I'm guessing that if she were in a room with only homeschoolers, she'd have more of an open expression of the reasons why what she chose was right for her child, and they'd be likely to include some anti-public school sentiments. I'm exactly this way with my choices. I'd have a very limited social "pool" if I was in any way to make others feel as though I don't approve of their choices.

HOWEVER...people who follow mainstream choices ARE ALWAYS IN MY FACE about blatantly dispproving. I NEVER talk about my vaccine choices, but sometimes it will come up in conversation and someone will err on my side and I'll share a little bit about my choices, and have people rolling their eyes and telling me that because of me the masses are at risk. I had several OBs disrespect me up and down for choosing a natural, out of hospital birth, while my midwives entirely recognize the value of obstetrics and wish all women to choose for themselves. With homeschooling, it is hard to avoid. They say, "Ruby's going to kindergarten" and I simply say, "I'm going to homeschool her" and next thing you know they are telling me all the social concerns and blah blah blah. I politely tell them that I don't want my children to be remotely part of the social norms if norm is what is what is going on in the public schools...sometimes I just can't sit there and have insecure people dis my personal beliefs and not stand up for my position.

I've had a family friend who is also a family doctor tell me I was "lucky" to cure Alice's ear infection with garlic oil. I wasn't trying to threaten him or disrespect his practice, I just told him that I didn't need a prescription, and he was so rude about it.

I think abou this a lot because I fall into the category of your acquaintence and I know that I have no interest in making choices for other people or in assuming that what is right for me is right for everyone...however, I am tired of being this way when the mainstreamers are so contrary to the choices I make.

Another thing that baffles me is that most people choosing the mainstream are of the herd mentality and haven't researched their choice. They just do what the white coat or the public schools or their neighbors say they should. They are ignorant about their options and still spout off their ignorant statements about my choices...that I have intensely researched and can easily defend (if I were interested).

Recently, I was talking to a friend about how the chickenpox vaccine now had a kindergarten booster because they found that many schoolers were breaking out with the virus in spite of being vaccinated. She was like, "no, my son just got his shots and the only new one he got was for varicella." I gently let her know that varicella and the chickenpox are the same thing.

I don't think you are ignorant about your choices AT ALL...I know you better than that. But you hit a hot topic with me and I thought you'd be interested in my perspective.

All I have to say to the herd is "BACK OFF, do your thing, it doesn't bother us a bit!"

On the preschool topic...Ruby did two years in a co-op with my friends and then one year of formal preschool. I think in order to homeschool ruby, I'll have to send Alice...and I look very forward to it.

In case I missed this point...midwives, non-vaccinaters, homeschoolers, etc. definitely have anti-norm feelings, but they are socially able to filter their opinions when they are with people who subscribe to the norms. They really do believe that what is right for them is not necessarily right for everyone. Can't we all just get along and stay in our own business? LOL.

The Farmers said...

Thanks for your viewpoint Rebecca. I actually find that "mainstream" moms and those who choose alternatives tend to be "in your face." I guess I just find moms who tend to be into alternative stuff so defensive (probably for the reasons you describe) and, honestly, often "greater than thou" about their choices. It's often as if, by choosing mainstream medicine and supporting the school system, you must be uneducated and ignorant. I usually just don't bother to go into these topics because they're too darn sensitive. And, honestly, both of these moms were cool and open - not just the homeschooling mom. I guess I kind of sit in a strange place with the people I associate with - I'm not really into alternative meds or schooling (while lots of Tim's family is) and I'm also fairly politically liberal (which most of my friends and family are not). So, I'm close minded for not being into alternative stuff (although I do plenty of research) and too open to the world because of my political views (which I also consider informed). So, I get it from both directions and just shout for joy when I find someone who isn't in my face and so defensive that we can't even talk about things.