When you choose to parent differently than the majority of people nearby, you can’t help but notice the raised eyebrows. And over the years, I’ve seen and heard a lot more than that. I’ve been called “overprotective,” “too involved,” and even the infamous “helicopter parent.” I’d love to tell you that when these slams came my way, they just rolled off my back. They didn’t. They stung. They made me question myself. They made me wonder if maybe they were right. But it didn’t deflect my course. I was going to be THAT mom. It was inevitable. It was as if it were in my DNA. Often, I didn’t have the reasoning or the research to back it up. But I had a gut feeling… and that gut feeling was that I was going to love my kids as if that was the only day I’d have with them. I was going to fill their lives with fun and adventure and opportunities – because you really really don’t know how long you have. We’ve all seen young lives cut short. And it’s even sadder to me that many of them were waiting for their life to start at age 18. It may be a bit morbid, but I kept thinking, if that were my child, would I be happy with how they spent their short life?
So, yes. I am THAT mom.
I am THAT mom whose family bed concept did not end at any particular age. Each child slept differently and some stayed with us longer than others. The Open Sign hung on the door long past when they needed it. Although, when they were teens, if they got sick, they’d often crawl into our bed. Since they were no longer “little kid sized,” Ron would often roll out the other side and head to the guest room or a nearby couch. Because when you’re sick, who doesn’t wish their mommy would take care of them?
I am THAT mom who takes the kids to the store in the middle of the night to get snacks that we don’t have on hand…knowing fully well that these pre-teens just want to be out late and see who else is out late.
I am THAT mom who when there weren’t enough adult volunteers, stepped up to lead Girl Scout troops to make sure my daughters had that experience.
I am THAT mom who cringed when parents talked about how happy they were that their kids were going back to school in August (with their child standing right beside them!), or when parents would say, “I’m not your friend, I’m your mom!” I understand what they’re aiming for, but I think it completely misses the point. For me, “friend” and “mom” are not mutually exclusive.
I am THAT mom who at one point in time said yes to: 1 Red-eared slider, 2 parakeets, 2 cockatiels, 2 dogs, 3 cats, a guinea pig, 3 pygmy goats, 3 horses, and a donkey. Loving our pets was a great gateway to learning about following our passions.
I am THAT mom who, when my family started to be interested in horses, worked at a ranch, took riding lessons, I said, “Sure, let’s buy that 16 acre ranch outside of town on our (what we thought was) our final move!”
And then, when the interests faded and the situation wasn’t best for my teenagers to be stuck outside of a small redneck Texas town, I watched months of HGTV, “staged” the house, sold it in 3 weeks, packed up the family and moved to Austin. Yes, I am THAT mom.
I am THAT mom who, when my son was wishing he had a brother (he had only 2 sisters), agreed to host a Japanese exchange student… and our lives were forever changed.
I am THAT mom, who later, let her 16 year old son go to Japan for 3 months, because he had an interest in other cultures and travel.
I am THAT mom who served raspberries and cream puffs for one daughter’s birthday breakfast in bed, homemade chocolate pie for my son who prefers it over cake, and IHOP breakfast for my other daughter. And I’m no stranger to throwing wild elaborate birthday parties either!
I am THAT mom who, when we didn’t have support groups that met our needs, I grabbed a few friends and we simply started one up: Homeschoolers Unlimited, The Chart & Compass, Alaska Homeschool Network, and the National Home Education Network.
I am THAT mom who, when my daughter wanted to act out scenes from a show, I watched her do it over and over and OVER! I even pulled out the video camera and followed her around or set up the tripod so she could film it herself. And then when that progressed to community theatre, I am THAT mom that sat in the seats for every rehearsal and show, sometimes volunteering to do whatever job needed doing (stage crew, costume cutter, light person, Tinkerbell sparkle light).
I am THAT mom who let my kids find their own way with make-up, clothing and piercings. They are so much more confident about who they are and how they want to portray themselves to the world, because they have had the time and the space to figure that out.
I am THAT mom who let my kids set their own sleep schedules. Sometimes they’d be up all night, and sleep all day. Often, I would crash before they would. But it all worked out. Yes, they were able to set their alarms and get up for the early shift at work.
I am THAT mom, who when my daughter and her friends wanted to go to a Rave and I thought they were a little too young, I took them myself. I walked with them to the front area, paid for them to get in and then picked them up when they called. They enjoyed it, but had no desire to go again.
I am THAT mom, who when my 17 year old became engaged to her 19 year old boyfriend, I trusted her like I always have. (Yes, I encouraged a long engagement – they’re 18 & 20 now…the wedding will be when they’re 19 & 21). But it’s ALL about trust…little decisions and big decisions.
I am THAT mom, who let my daughter’s boyfriend (now fiancé) move in to our house so they could save money for their future.
I am THAT mom who had my kids’ Facebook & Myspace passwords, and spoke regularly with my kids about what I saw. I didn’t prevent them from writing or posting or even being friends with some “questionable characters,” but instead discussed and suggested but mainly listened without judgement. By not TELLING them how things were going to be done, they often came around to the idea on their own. My Hands On Approach to Parenting applied when they were young, but also when they were teens.
I am THAT mom who spent years combing newspapers, surfing the internet, and picking people’s brains to find out what cool activity might interest one or more of my kids. I was on a mission to find interesting places to explore and fascinating experiences for them to have in every place we lived. Some were flops, some hit the mark, lots fell in between. But every place offered adventures we simply had to uncover, and one thing really DOES lead to another.
I am THAT mom, who when my daughter told me she thought she was not smart enough to go to high school, after 15 years of unschooling, I asked her if she wanted to go. I told her that maybe she should go see, because I KNEW she was smart enough. But I knew it was way more important that SHE know. We mulled over the possibilities, and she did go. For a year and half. And that was all she needed.
I am THAT mom, who drove wherever we needed to go to meet fun people and/or have great experiences. We traveled up and down the state of California for HSC campouts or conferences. We trekked across Alaska to speak with people at homeschool events – we drove through mountain ranges and slept on ferries. From Texas, we ventured to Live and Learn conferences in St. Louis, Albuquerque, and North Carolina. We drove weekly to Dallas to be part of a homeschool film crew at the PBS station. We visited friends all over the country. And whenever we moved (and we did that lot with the military), we took the long scenic routes. There was always something interesting to check out along the way. And, yes, we put a lot of miles on our cars!
These are just a few of things that come to mind. And some of you might STILL be raising your eyebrows about some of these decisions. I’m sharing them anyway, because parenting decisions can sometimes look complicated and scary. Sometimes they are. But when you have a basic philosophy about what you’re doing, it’s more of a natural (less complicated) way of living with your children. It’s about developing a relationship of trust and love, more than anything else.
I think most importantly, I am THAT mom that “held the container” – what my dad used to call the Sanctuary. I made sure that my kids had a place to grow and explore and try whatever they wanted to try. I did protect them a great deal because the world DOES want children to play small. Society is not crazy about children who “don’t know their place” or are “too big for their britches.” Kids in school often had to shape their interests, and actually their personalities, so that they either could gain the attention of others or keep out of the limelight. SOO much energy is often put into that struggle. I wanted my kids’ energy to be used somewhere else. I wanted them to feel free to be as creative as they wanted as they set out on their own adventure of self-discovery. I simply wanted them to unfold more naturally – without unnecessary peer pressure or authoritarian squashing.
So, yeah. I guess that makes me THAT mom. I’m okay with it. And my kids are doing okay too.
A little history…
Back in 2010, a lot of blogging unschooling moms shared their own “I’m THAT Mom” posts. It started with Flo Gascon, who has a new website and a fabulous book. Then the Blog of the Zombie Princess became the place to find links to all these wonderfully fun and loving moms.