My friend looked at me, eyes wide open, unsure if she should applaud my creativity or call social services on me.
"Well, what was I going to do?" I said. "I'd rather have her scared than dead."
I was referring to the fact that after several gun related incidents with a few of my daughters daycare classmates, a staggering look at the statistics of children and guns, the rising number of homes that have guns in them, a 20/20 special that proved the gun awareness programs that we have for kids are failing, and a very eye opening conversation with my six year old that alerted me to the fact that even after all the talks we have had about not playing with a gun you find at someones house and learning that she still was not absorbing the information, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I scared the crap out of her.
How you may ask? Well I made popcorn, I brought extra pillows and blankets to the couch, I let her stay up late, and we had a mommy daughter TV night.
We watched "Trauma Life In The ER: Gun Edition."
"Mommy!!! All his blood is coming out!!"
"Yep, it sure is dear child of mine! That's because a bullet when into him and made a hole! Look! The doctor is putting that big tube in his throat!"
After it was over we had a long talk and I think for the first time she understood the concept of "a gun really will hurt you." I believe this to be true because several days later I overheard her say to her little brother "don't pretend to shoot me! If you ever see a real gun you have to run and get a grown up as fast as you can! They can make all your blood come out if a kid touches them!"
Was it the most practical way to teach her about gun safety? No, I'll admit that. Some might call it cruel or heartless but quite frankly, I don't care.
You see, I've never been one to follow the parental norm. I thought I would be. I had worked with children for years before I had my own children, even working at a daycare throughout my pregnancy. I have parenting books up to the ceiling and a quick peek inside of them will show you just how very much I intended to be the perfect parent; highlighted paragraphs and all.
Then my daughter was born with medical problems and everything that I thought I knew went right out the window. She almost died in the hospital because of a missed diagnosis; a diagnosis that was only made after I stood up to her know-it-all doctor, telling him that he had better call for a hospital transfer or the police because he was about to kill my baby. Only THEN did they finally look at what I was showing them and realize that yes, something was VERY wrong with my baby and YES, I had been right all along.
I realized that day that sometimes you have to go with your parental gut and throw any pre planned idea's of how you were going to parent right out the window. If I wanted my daughter to thrive, I needed to be willing to go against the flow of life sometimes.
These days I would say that I definitely parent off the beaten path. The kids live an organic and holistic lifestyle that many people think is crazy. I follow my own vaccination beliefs and I tend to turn away much of modern medicine. I don't believe in homework or tests. I don't allow my kids to watch much of what most people would deem appropriate TV shows for children and yet I allow them to watch many things that most might find inappropriate for kids. They don't have access to a computer and we don't own any video game systems. I'm the strictest mom I know and yet I'm also the mom that allows them the freedom to pick out their own clothes; whatever crazy style that may be. We can routinely be found eating dinner inside of a makeshift fort, even if we are all eating quinoa and kale chips. They know that I don't take shit from them and they know that I say "shit." There is no yelling in our home and at the same time one sideways glance from me and they both go scurrying to safer grounds.
My point in all of this is that you have to do what's best for you. My daughter almost died because I spent so much time listening to what other people were telling me; listening to the advice of everyone except the opinion of the one person that mattered the most, mine.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because we talk a lot on this blog about being your own person. We talk a lot about finding the path that you are supposed to be walking. I think the most asked question that I get on here is "how did you become so comfortable being the
I became that way because I learned that my life works better when I am living it in a way that works for me and my kids. I learned that my life, my family, we all thrive when we are living in a situation that is best adapted to who we are as individuals.
Does my way of life work for everyone? Of course not. Does it cause people to look at the way I am living, the way I am raising my children, and judge me? Of course it does. People are quick to judge things that they don't understand; to shun things that are unfamiliar to them. Once I got over the fact that I didn't need the approval of someone else to live the way that worked the best for me, the rest just fell into place.
That moment for me, going head to head with the doctor in the way that I did, that was a big moment for me. My whole life I had been programmed to just do what I was told. Don't think, don't reason, just do what you are told to do. When I felt that I was losing my daughter, I did what I had to do and in the end I saved her life.
I wish I could say that a flip had switched for me at that moment, that from there on out I was my own person, living my life my way, but as you have seen in this blog, we all know that isn't true.
I still endured years of "programming" from my ex. I still hid my secrets away, ashamed at what the world would think of me, but that moment started something. From that moment on I started raising my daughter (and eventually my son) in a fashion that I feel works best for them, despite the judgmental glances that I get from society.
One night about a year and a half after my ex left, I just felt beaten down to my core. I was sitting with a friend and I was telling her how I just felt like a failure. "I just can't seem to do anything right. Every decision I make is wrong. I'm succeeding at nothing, I'm failing at everything, and I can't figure out what is going on here!"
My friend, being the sweetest person that I know, simply took my hand, led me upstairs, and opened the door of my sleeping son's room. Luckily he is a heavy sleeper because she reached down and rubbed his little head before saying "look at him. He is thriving in the therapy program you have him in. I've seen such a drastic change in him over the last few months, I just know that he is going to be completely healed."
At this point I thought I knew what she was getting at but I went along with it as she held tight to my hand and led me into my daughters room. We stood by her bed for a minute, not saying a word, and then she led me back downstairs.
As we both sunk into the couch she started talking. "Wasn't it you that told your daughter's teacher that you didn't believe in homework and that she wouldn't be doing it?"
I nodded my head yes.
"Yea, that was really weird" she said. "Not as weird as when you decided that they weren't allowed to watch Nickelodeon or the Disney channel anymore."
"Hey" I interrupted. "I don't like the fact that all the eleven year olds are dating, there is always a bully, the parents are always stupid, and there's always the slow kid that they make fun of."
"Yea," she said, "but it was pretty weird when you put them on those crazy diets and turned both the kids car seats rear facing again."
"I had my reason's" I said.
"I'd like to know the reason that you made a stand FOR swearing in front of your kids" she said.
Before I could answer though, she kept talking. "I thought you were nuts when I came over and you were neck deep in research and coming up with a modified vaccination proposal to counter your pediatrician's standard vaccination agreement contract."
"Yea, I don't really" was all I got out before she continued on.
"I've never really seen your kids throw a tantrum before and at the same time I've never seen you yell at them. I come over and they are painting each other on the front porch and you are totally fine with it. You climb in bed with them at night to talk about life values and morals and yet you have outlawed children's music and nursery rhymes in your home. Why are you so weird?"
I waited for a minute to see if she was actually done talking before I started, all defensive and ready to defend my 'parenting weirdness' as she called it.
"I'm not weird! I just feel like my kids are people, not robots. They didn't come with a manual, I don't have any instructions for them. I refuse to try and mold them into the people that society thinks they should be and because of that I can't parent them based on some predetermined set of rules that society has set as the standard. It's not being weird, it's me fighting against society for the right to let them live in a way that is conducive to them thriving."
"Well," she said. "It seems to be working. I mean your daughter is at the top of her class, they are are some of the best behaved kids I've ever seen, and your son has all but recovered from what the doctor said would 'catastrophically affect his life.' They are sweet, smart, they don't swear, and above all, they are happy. Your daughter had her father walk out on her and she is one of the most well adjusted kids I know.You broke the rules and allowed them to thrive. You aren't failing at everything because you haven't failed them."
Despite the point that my friend was trying to make, I suddenly seemed to grasp an even larger picture:
My kids are thriving because I've allowed them the opportunity to live outside of what society deems as "normal." They don't live by the pressure to be like everyone else and because of it they are becoming the amazing version's of who they were supposed to be.
If they are thriving because they have had the freedom to be their own person and I'm falling apart because I've only ever been allowed to be who I was told to be, what can we gather from this people?
I wasn't failing at being a success, I was failing at being someone I wasn't supposed to be. I was measuring my successes against a set of standards that were never meant to apply to me; a set of standards that has a good majority of us trying to be someone we aren't.
The entire time I was fighting to free my children from the pre-formed molds that society had set for them, I wasn't fighting to give myself the same freedom.
It was that night that I decided to throw "normal" out the window and let all my abnormal hang out.
How will you really ever know your true potential if you are aiming for the goals of someone else?
When you look back at the history of the world; Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, Maya Angelou, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, etc, do you know what the difference was between them and everyone else?
They were different.
They didn't conform to who people thought they should be, they stepped outside of the box. They stopped wasting their time and energy keeping up with everyone else, and instead they changed the world.
How can you make a difference in the world if you are doing exactly the same thing that everyone else is doing?
You can't, it's not possible.
So am I weird? Probably. Different? Absolutely. Original? Hell yes.
I'm done trying to be like everyone else. I don't want to accomplish what everyone else is accomplishing, I want to achieve something greater. I'm done wasting my time trying to be a someone that I'm never going to be; someone else. I'd rather spend my time and energy being who I am supposed to be.
When you love yourself for who you are, you can be proud of what you do. If you spend your life trying to be like everyone else, you will surely fail, because you were never meant to be them.
That is why you have your own brain, your own heart, and your own legs. You were meant to think what you think, feel what you feel, and walk your own path; individually and separate from any other person on this planet.
If you were supposed to be exactly like someone else, there would really be no reason for you to be here, am I right? Why are we trying so hard to cram ourselves into the same elevator as everyone else? Take the same ride; end up at the same place. For what purpose? So that we can all get off on the same floor and leave the rest of them untouched and undiscovered?
So that my friends, is where I learned to accept the person that I am, throw caution to the wind, and let my
I'm an original form of awesome and so are you.
You just have to be willing to get off the elevator; stop trying to get to the same place that everyone else is, at the same speed, at the same time.
You really should try it, the air is a lot fresher where everyone isn't all crammed into the same box.
You are the only one who can figure out your destiny, that I can assure you. No one else is going to live your life for you and no one else can tell you how to live it better than you can. This life, this is your mission. This is your fight, this is your battle, and the end result is yours alone.
Live your life so that when you look back one day you know that you lived YOUR life. Be able to look back and know that you reached YOUR goals. It would really be a shame to look back on a life full of failures and know that the mission's were never really yours to begin with.
Be different. Be you. There has never been and there never will be another edition of you, so be the best edition that you can be.
Be your own original form of awesome, because normal blends in, but awesome people change the world.