I'm NOT picking on all retro-hippies; just the ones who are sanctimonious & holier-than-thou. They need a kick in the taco.
The older I get, the more I realize how many of us feel like we’re putting up a front, and we desperately hope we won’t get found out. As I said recently on our FB page, if Dr. Phil put cameras in anyone’s house for any length of time, he’d dig up some dirt. So here’s mine.
(Holy shit, this is long. I tried to break it up, but here goes.)
I live in a small, hippy-town in the Northwest. You know these places—we move here to “escape the rat race” because we want “a simpler, slower way of life,” in a place where “we feel safe raising our kids” and congregate at the Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Yup, all those clichés are true.
When we moved here 6 years ago, I REALLY wanted to fit in. I was younger and stupider, and I still cared what people thought. We enrolled 3-yr-old Faerie Child in the local hippy private school (pre-school through 8th grade), after we went through the “interview process.” (I found out later this was total bullshit, by the way; they were so desperate for students, they didn’t refuse anyone. They just wanted the appearance of discernment, apparently. Ass-hats.)
At the mandatory orientation where we were indoctrinated with the rules (which went on for 3 hours, and included a SKIT put on by the fucking teachers), my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “Did we just join a CULT?!” I agreed with him, but I honestly thought it was the best place for Faerie Child—a faerie school is the best fit for a faerie child, right?
WRONG. More on that later. But here are some of the rules:
1. Dress code—no pictures or characters on their clothes because it’s “distracting.”
Yeah, that's a sweet play kitchen. So is the PLASTIC one I got for 5 bucks at a garage sale. Suck it.
2. No sugar or juice in their lunches because… well, do you need a reason? What kind of parent would feed their children that kind of horrible thing? Don’t you love your child?!?
3. No TV or “technology usage” during the week. “When they watch TV,” it was condescendingly explained to us, “they get ‘stuck’ in the last story they watched, and can’t play creatively.” WHAT the FUCK?
4. They discouraged reading of books because it “stifled creativity.” (“TELL your child a story instead! Let them create their own pictures in their minds!”)
5. Please don’t “push” academics on your child. 3-yr-olds should be playing, not practicing letters! (Actually I agree with that one. They go a little far, though. They START teaching reading in 3rd grade.)
6. Dress your child warmly—we play outside a lot. (Uh, OK, but my idea of “warm enough” and theirs differed GREATLY. How many fucking layers does she need under a ski jacket for Christ’s sake? I don’t think sweating in the cold from heatstroke is healthy.)
7. We only have unpainted, wooden toys. Plastic is so artificial, you don’t want your children touching it, do you? Do YOU?!?!
As I got to know the other parents and teachers, I’d make excuses if people “caught” me letting my kids watch TV. I’d explain, “Oh, we hardly EVER let them eat that crap,” when exposed for feeding sugar or—oh the horror!—fast food to my kids. I explained that I enjoyed hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, and thrift store purchases because, even though they weren’t “organic cotton,” at least they were used clothes being “recycled.”
Have you puked yet? I want to puke just reading it. And I want to go back and shake the SHIT out of my 34-yr-old self. JAYsus. (I will point out that while I was trying to fit in, I was not joining in the Judgy McJudgerson club of moms. That’s just not my style.)
Then something really, REALLY horrible happened: my kid’s crazy flower-child wannabe teacher reported me for child abuse.
The Department of Welfare called and politely “requested” that we come in for a meeting. (This was 5 years ago, and just writing this, I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack all over again.) We showed up with Faerie Child, age 4 by then, and La Diva, 10 months old and still strapped to me in her sling. The social worker introduced us to the POLICE OFFICER who would also be joining us—and who was carrying a FINGERPRINT KIT. I was very, VERY hard-pressed to politely shake his hand. My husband, who is the least flappable human being I have ever met, reached out and gregariously pumped the cop’s maw.
Wait--are those pajamas ORGANIC cotton? 'Cause if not, we're reporting you to the Organic Mom Hotline
Here’s why I was reported: Faerie Child’s teacher had seen a “red mark” on her and asked her about it. She’s as pale as her dad and I are, so I’m guessing someone BUMPED her. My daughter responded, “My mommy hit me.” And I had. The day before she had thrown a rock at my face—while I was holding her sister—and I slapped her for it.
When I went to pick up Faerie Child, Crazy Flower-Child Wanna-Be Teacher asked me about it, and I explained what happened. By that time, the “red mark” was completely gone, by the way.
Next thing I knew, we’re being hauled in for an interrogation. NOTE: Never, EVER admit to a teacher that you have struck your child. Just don’t risk it. If asked, play DUMB: “She said WHAT? [LOL] Oh, kids say the craziest things!”
Only it wasn’t an interrogation. Within 90 seconds of sitting down, the social worker was apologizing to us, and was visibly upset. “I was told your child had a ‘dark bruise’ on her face from where you’d struck her. This child has no mark!” Again, I explained what happened. The police officer said, “Pff. If MY kid threw a rock at my face, I’d probably slap her, too.”
They both assured us that there had obviously been a huge mistake, and there would be nothing “on file” about our family. “This is clearly a false report, and this will NOT follow you around the rest of your life. I just want to assure you of that,” the social worker told us.
We went home from the meeting with the social worker and the cop with the fingerprint kit… and collapsed. At dinner that night, I looked at my husband and said, “I guess the lesson here is that we just went through a parental nightmare, and we’re fine. We’re OK. Our family is safe, and we’re OK.”
That was ONE lesson, but there’s a bigger one: don’t try to be something you’re not. I am not Hippy Mom Extraordinaire. I let my kids watch TV. They’re allowed to have sugar and fast food sometimes. I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on organic wool and cotton clothing. I use foul language around them. I am honest about the horrors of the world (put into words and a context they can comprehend). And I do. not. do. crafts. EVER.
Also, and here’s the kicker: I will never, EVER fucking explain myself to anyone again. My kids are happy and healthy and thriving. They’re weird and irreverent and inappropriate. They’re funny and mouthy and they are fucking BEAUTIFUL. And if you don’t like how I do things, there’s the fucking door.
When I embraced that truth—that I am doing the best I can and I don’t owe ANYONE an explanation—when I really, truly embraced it, something magic happened in my family: I relaxed. Consequently, we ALL relaxed. (Remember: if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.)
And we yanked our kid out of that school. Not before slapping some people around on the way out, though.
So next time some uptight, pearl-clutching bitch tries to tell you how you’re fucking up your kids, just look her dead in the eye and say, “I think I’m going to kick you in the taco.”
Nah, I’m kidding. Don’t bother saying it. Just think it REALLY hard, and walk away. You don’t need that shit. And you’re not alone. We’re all just doing the best we can.
Happy kids are things of beauty. Now stop telling me what I'm doing wrong, or I'll have to waste the last bit of my wine by smashing the bottle over your head.
If you’re curious about the aftermath, read on:
First of all, Faerie Child’s behavior improved immeasurably after leaving that school. It hadn’t occurred to me that stupid hairy flower-child wanna-be could have been DAMAGING my kid, but their inane philosophy of “always being happy” was in direct contrast with our family culture of being honest about your feelings—however unpleasant they may be. The hypocrisy was too much for our insightful little kid.
Second, we asked for a meeting with the school administrator (whom I refer to as Der Fuhrer) and the crazy bitch teacher. They brought another teacher in on it, too (for moral support, I assume). On the way into the room, the other teacher said, “Isn’t this weather beautiful?” I was flabbergasted. I snapped, “I haven’t really noticed. I’ve been a little pre-occupied.” Stupid bitch. (I have since learned that THAT teacher is widely disliked in our little town. SHOCKING.)
My kid’s teacher refused to admit any wrong-doing. When I asked about the non-existent “dark bruise” that she’d reported, she said—wait for it—“NO! I said a ‘deep-bruise’ and it looked like [she then proceeded to describe an imaginary mark, in great detail, that had never, ever been on our kid’s face].” I just stared at her. I realized I was never going to get what I wanted: an apology. She was so divorced from reality in her crazy little hippy world, she had obviously convinced herself that my kid had been bruised and pummeled. Psycho much? She moved away that summer. GOOD riddance.
A few years later, the school administrator ran into my husband somewhere in town. She looked at him quizzically and said, “Don’t I know you?” He told her his name, and he said he thoroughly enjoyed it when: he saw it click in her brain, watched her go pale, and she said, “OH. Uhhh… I’m really sorry about all that.” My husband just nodded and walked away.