Motherhood Unplugged –
Swimming Against The Tide of Normal.
Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel as though you are the only one swimming against the tide of normal?
Maybe you’re the mum who doesn’t let her children have sleepovers or the mum who wants her daughter to wear a dress that covers her shoulders as well as her tummy. Or you desire to simplify your days but feel pressured to say “yes” instead of “no”.
This was me a few years ago. I was swimming pretty hard against the undercurrent of normal and the following scenario was a day where the tide and swell were so strong I thought I may be swept downriver with the rest of the parents. All of whom seemed happy to stay together, as a group, collectively secure in the direction of that sloshing water.
All except me- it appeared.
I walked into the meeting room, full of mummy’s who were animatedly chatting in groups of three’s and four’s.
Most of the seats were taken, except for one random spot right at the back, squeezed between Debra (not real names here!) who chaired the school’s Parent’s and Children’s Association and Susan, whose child had sworn at mine a few weeks ago in the playground, calling her, amongst other things, the ugliest thing he had ever seen in his whole (short) existence.
Should I pole vault into the only available uncomfortable space or stand awkwardly to the side and not join in the fervently hushed chitter chatter?
I mean, I was late anyway, making a pretty ungracious entrance, my hopes of sneaking in obscurely not panning out quite how I would have liked. The door handle that I had concentrated on opening as quietly as possible, was stuck hard and I ended up shoving it open with my shoulder and muddy wellie boots.
More like stumbled into the meeting, caught the disapproving glance of the teacher in the middle of her intro, felt about 35 pairs of eyes upon me and tried to shush my two still-sleepy and rudely woken, napping twin’s grizzles.
I chose to stand against the wall with a twin on each hip, thinking how awesome my upper body strength must look, balancing two increasingly heavy dead-weight humans on my hips. Also contemplating how long I could hold that pose – before my trembling abs gave way.
I shoved a Chubba-Chub in each of their mouths, took a deep breath and attempted to look calm and composed. But of course, inside my swirling tummy, I was anything but.
We were here to discuss expectations. Homework expectations. For my 8-year-old daughter.
Her poor reading abilities had been highlighted a few weeks earlier. A concentrated/intensive programme of getting her ‘up to speed’ with the rest of the class, clearly outlined to me. In fact, on the first day of her attending Year 3, the Headteacher asked for “a word”. Then spent the next 30 minutes explaining to me why we needed to be vigilant and swift in our actions because “we didn’t want any lagging behind the rest of the pupils.”
And that was when that small nugget of, call it rebelliousness, or alternative thinking, or quite simply swimming against the tide of normal, began to form. But that day and for many days afterwards, I began the slow and steady strokes of moving against the tide of normal.
And you know what, it didn’t really bode well with others to swim in the opposite direction.
“Just because we appear to be swimming against the tide of normal,
normal isn’t a collective movement.
Normal is normal for me and normal is normal for you”.
The school didn’t much care for me quietly expressing my desires for my children to learn at their own pace, which I do understand when teachers have large groups of children to educate. It’s a difficult task anyway, without parents questioning other routes.
I, quietly but consistently enquired if we could possibly not have to complete “that amount of homework in the evenings” and instead spend it together as a family unit? Was it really necessary for my children to learn these spelling words when they struggled to read them first? No, I didn’t really think it was imperative that we keep a log of reading times and pages.
And heck no, I didn’t want to sell that book of fundraising tickets that Debra thrust into my full hands to enable the school to purchase new sets of play equipment in order to combat childhood obesity.
Walking is wonderful too. And free.
It took me about 18 months to realise that my swimming against the tide was ok. It was the right thing to do. For our family.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.
“For mothers are the ones who gently make room for fledging spirits to blossom.
Who tenderly nurture wandering souls and who offer the safest space
for hearts to dig roots and take flight”.
I slowly came to understand that learning for our family was going to look different from the next family. And that was ok.
It didn’t mean that we weren’t fully committed to the learning process.
It just meant that we were taking a different path. That path didn’t necessarily include signing reading books, completing homework or standardised tests.
That path for us was more of a gentle meander. An unfolding of learning journeys that took us to different places each week.
An individual approach to understanding how my children ticked and what came naturally for them to explore and understand in this world. That learning was learning outside of the classroom as well as in.
Mine just happened to be generally outside of four walls.
“And just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.
It just makes it different”.
I realised that society saw one thing and we saw another.
When my children were playing at the park in the middle of a school day, instead of learning, society saw kids that were bunking off. Wagging school.
What they didn’t see was how my children learn best. That last night they volunteered in a community event. We had music lessons an hour ago, my eldest twin has just joined a theatre group. Our rich learning environment was walking in nature, talking about tree canopies and discovering a baby deer feeding from its mother.
That we create a life-long love of learning, without the regulation of tests.
We are pressing into exploring basic life skills, how to socialise with all ages, how to cook a meal, what it means to keep to a budget. We regularly make trips to the library and come home with a bulging sack full of rich literature and living information.
Our minds alive with content spanning from the history of Britain to the amazing women who have forged a pathway of different from their own minds and unique steps.
Women like you and me.
That learning is more than being in a classroom. So much more.
“Give them a thumbs up and tell them that they are amazing.
Truly and utterly amazing”.
But beyond that, our learning journey is this way – and yours is another.
Only you know what suits your child or children best.
Yours may be via traditional school, which is completely right for you and your family. But mine isn’t that route.
And just because we appear to be swimming against the tide of normal, normal isn’t a collective movement. Normal is normal for me and normal is normal for you.
So whether you decide to world-school whilst living in an RV, send your child/children to boarding school because that is their heart’s desire to be in that environment. Whether you live inner city or country isolation, just know mama, that swimming against the tide of normal may well be just taking a different route towards your unique destination.
And just because its different doesn’t make it wrong.
It just makes it different.
So this week if you see a mama who has her children with her during school hours, or the mama who works and is juggling everything and everyone, or the ones that are fully committed to their own unique cause, don’t judge, just give them a thumbs up and tell them that they are amazing. Truly and utterly amazing.
Let’s be part of the movement of encouraging women who want to swim against the tide of normal and be the ones cheering them onwards.
For mothers are the ones who gently make room for fledging spirits to blossom. Who tenderly nurture wandering souls and who offer the safest space for hearts to dig roots and take flight.
In your weariness, shortcomings, doubts, misgivings, failures, struggles, loneliness and fears.
You are their home.