Friday, February 21, 2014

On Peer Independence, Part 3

I had gone out to dinner with some old friends, a handful of girls I don't see very often. I was late and came rushing into the restaurant, a small cyclone around the table of hello's and quick hugs.

I sat down and joined the conversation, dutifully playing my role in the customary How are you's? and the chronic Oh, sooooo busy's.

Then from the end of the table, one chirped, "Oh my gosh, I read your blog. I loved it! I loved the pictures of the kids!"

"Oh, thanks," I said awkwardly.

Confession: I never know how to respond when someone mentions that they've read my blog. I think it's because I really put myself out there in this little space. Things I might not have the opportunity or the guts to voice in everyday life seem to seep onto the screen in this corner of the world. It's my kids and my home and my thoughts and my dreams. It's intimate to me. So when someone says they've read it, in a weird way it's as if they've just glimpsed me through the window in my ugliest pajamas, the ones I can't bear to throw away but would die if someone saw me in. So I usually smile, and then change the subject.

"Blog? What blog?" said another. "I didn't know you had a blog!"

"Don't read it - whatever you do, don't read it!" said a third. "It will make you feel like the WORST MOTHER EVER."

I froze. Had I just heard that correctly? I looked over at the one who said it, trying to gauge her intention. She tore off a piece of bread, then reached for her wine glass, utterly unaware that she had just stunned me, and insulted me.

My mind went blank as I desperately tried to make it work overtime, scanning my memory for what I possibly could have written that would make someone feel like the WORST MOTHER EVER. Or, conversely, make me look like the BEST MOTHER EVER. After all, isn't that what was being implied? Flickers of recent blog posts flashed in my mind like the beginning of those old-time black and white movies.

The conversation forged on around me, my friends oblivious to the fact that I had been slayed.

Here's what I think the girl was talking about: I'd posted something a few days earlier about homeschooling, something about how much I loved being with my kids. I'd written it for them to read someday, and for me to read someday too. It was nothing monumental, just a handful of words expressing that even though the days were hard right then, what we were doing together as a family was worth it, and I loved them. It wouldn't win any blog awards, that's for sure. I can say with complete honesty that I was not trying to impress anyone. I was writing a letter to my kids. But somehow, somewhere on the other side of the blogosphere, this girl read what I wrote and allowed every latent insecurity about her motherhood to awaken and taunt her. The irony is that I'd always admired her as a mom. She'd made different choices than me; also, she had great kids who were kind and happy and obviously well-loved.

So a few days ago, I remembered this story. I remembered how bewildered I felt. Why had a simple choice I made and wrote about - to homeschool my kids, to find the joy in the hard days - made her feel like some sort of failure? And why had reading the blog about homeopathic remedies made me feel like some sort of failure? Lots of people might call it the evil of comparison, but for me, it's the evil of peer dependence. It's a lack of security in who I am. It's listening to someone else talk about their life and becoming suddenly unmoored, as if I should not be doing what I am doing, and should instead be doing what they are doing.

And I'll tell you what: it's time for me to grow up. I want to be confident enough in the choices I'm making to not question them when something else comes along. I don't want to hear myself saying, "That person is making me feel like a bad mother/wife/friend," because, let's be honest: no one makes us feel that way - we do that to ourselves.

My name is Laura Smith, and I'm a peer-dependent person.

The good news is, I'm in recovery.

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