Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just like Jo March

...my mind is rumpled today. I had an argument (a Real Live (tm) Argument) with one of my best friends today, and walked away feeling like I am a Rotten Parent (tm) for daring to make choices that don't put my teenager's social needs first on my list of priorities. And not to mention that I'm blaming everyone else for my daughter's feelings and I should take full responsibility for them and go even further beyond the call of duty to make her social life perfect.

That's probably not exactly what she said, but mind, that's how I said I felt at the end of the conversation. Looking back on it honestly, she had some good feedback mixed in there, but (Karen, are you listening?), about 30 minutes into the conversation, in which I kept getting more and more frustrated because she wasn't getting what I was saying at all, for a variety of reason, I yelled, "I don't want to hear your solutions! I don't want to hear your scenarios! What I need from you as a friend is for you listen to my pain and to the fact that my kid is hurting and to just validate that!"

And then she didn't. She said some other things that really hurt my feelings even more and were totally off target IMO, and I hugged her and said I loved her, and we moved on. Man, I'm sorry for ever doing that to my own friends. It sucks. As I get better at really listening, it is really hard when I'm not listened to. Understandable, but harder.

This all has to do with inclusion, this argument. We move in a small homeschooling community, with small circles that often intersect and shift and move, and my daughter is in between circles right now, because there has been a shift from all-age activities that are family-inclusive, to "teen" activities with age cut-offs (that are a year older than she is) and she feeling intentionally excluded and is hurt. There are a bunch of reasons I can think of (that are all UNintentional) why this is happening, but it doesn't matter. It hurts.

And I'm in a place with big kids and little kids, where I stretch myself and my littles very thin at times in order to make sure my olders get to have fun and participate in enriching activities. I feel like my friend told me that I wasn't stretching enough and it hit every button for me in terms of how mothers of young children are not well supported. It also felt like she felt like we were being excluded because we choose to live 45 minutes away in order to be away from the city and work toward more sustainable living (the only other place we could afford to buy a house is IN the city, an environment that sucked the soul out of me).

It's like she was holding on to resentments about some of my choices about parenting, homeschooling, inclusion and lifestyle, and dumped them all on me in one fell swoop.

So my mind is rumpled. And my daughter is still hurting. I'm sad and don't understand why this shift has happened in the kids' friendships. What I really don't understand is that it seems to be spearheaded by the parents, not by the kids, who seem to be just fine with including everyone for most things. Everyone always raves about how likable, fun, sweet and polite my daughter is - so why can't the adults involved see how their hangups about ageism are hurting her (and others)?

At least E doesn't seem to think I'm the culprit ;). She loves where we live - and she loves her friends. She loves visiting - and she would love to have more visitors. She loves her siblings - and she loves some big kid time. She loves kids of all ages - and she loves adults of all ages. She is as stymied as I am.

Anyway, enough. I'm just trying to find some order in all these questions, but I think I'll just have to wait and think, and plan more one one one get togethers rather than the group events we usually attend (for family unity and sanity sake). I can't wait till summer. We're going to hunker down and garden and swim and read and be together. So there.

And I'm going to work really hard at being a better listener, and to forgive my friend for not getting me, and to try to understand her intentions, and to just try to be more inclusive myself and maybe it will be a fad that will catch on!


plaidshoes said...

I find parenting differences, especially between good friends, the hardest to navigate. I hope you both are able to work through this. Sometimes space is the best answer. It sounds like your, daughter, though, has a great family dynamic to fall back on.

Kelly KH said...

You're right - they are difficult, and I am lucky to usually be on the same page as the people in my circles. Thankfully my friend and I, although radically different in some ways, love each other very much, and have had much more difficult conversations that pushed us out of our comfort zones, challenged our preconceptions, and brought us closer together.

I'm also very lucky to have really awesome kids who love me even if I feel like a failure some days!

peripatos said...

keep plugging . . . my perspectives, as a grandparent, 65+ years and counting . . . are that parents need to know their children need space . . . and that children will learn from this that their parents need space . . . friends are as friends do and sometimes friends have their own issues to deal with . . . keep plugging.

Kari said...

For us it's been harder at some times that we are so intertwined with our homeschooling community--especially as these conflicts arise. It's not just one family member, we're all involved. I'm so glad you seemed to work it through with your friend.