Have you ever had a friend or family member that you just have to bite your tongue around? How about the ones that are always “fishing” for information or trying to catch you in a mistake? I have one. As much as I love her, sometimes I just have to shut my mouth and walk away and this past week she has really been pushing my buttons.
I am a charmingly deadly combination of an old-fashioned Southern sweetheart and a good Christian girl. Some of you ladies know exactly what I mean. Us Southern girls can charm the pants off just about anyone when it suits us, but we can also turn on you like a pit viper and really put you in your place. The Christian in me is trying really hard to hold my tongue and control my anger, but sometimes, it’s just tough. My mother and grandmamas taught me well: if you want anything, talk real slow and sweet and bat your eyes and ALWAYS say please, thank you, yes mam, or yes sir. Understand: that’s not meant to be manipulative, just sweet and well mannered, and shoot, it doesn’t hurt! Most times, I am totally that way.
Well, last week, my handsome hubby and I had a date. Not a real date sadly, a work/business type thing, but we made the best of it. I love hanging out with him and with 4 kids, we don’t have much couple time. I arranged for the kids to stay with Papa and Nana for the evening. We went downtown, did the business thing and then stopped for a quick dinner and had fun. After 13 years together, it’s great to know you married your best friend and that you have someone that could probably read your mind, and sometimes does. Anyways, we had a great time, and the kids seemed to have a nice evening with Papa, so all was well. Or so I thought.
The next morning, I was making breakfast and talking to Matthew and Sarah about their evening. They inform me that Nana started asking how school was going. Innocent enough, right? Wrong. You see, we home school, and Nana is a huge fan of public schools. Most of her friends are teachers, and in her younger years, Nana was Miss Popular Homecoming Queen, so to her, we are obviously total nutjob freaks. She took this opportunity to start grilling my 10 and 8 year old about their curriculum and reading habits, and inform them that they were not doing enough work.
My children, being the well mannered, respectful kids they are, did not talk back or disagree and tried to change the subject, but she didn’t let it go. I was so angry when I heard all this I just started crying. I have worked so hard with my kids and make sure they are well educated. We pinch pennies to get them the absolute best materials, and I go above and beyond basic curriculum requirements. Matthew is a huge reader and has finished so many classic novels, poems, and short stories that I lost count. He is also a fantastic artist that sketches constantly. I could not ask for a better student.
My Sarah Belle is a little different. She is extremely intelligent and witty, but she’s on the lazy side. You really have to challenge and push her to see results. She wasn’t fond of reading until recently when she started “Aesop’s Fables”. She took to that book like a fish to water and has been reading everything she can get her hands on ever since. She also loves Math and numbers. I’ve never seen anything like it.
That being said, I always try to encourage my kids and let them know how well they are doing and how very proud I am of them. For my step-mother to sew seeds of doubt in their minds infuriated me! How dare she? She has never once asked me about our curriculum, school work or progress. She just automatically thinks I’m not qualified to teach my children! I just wanted to yell and scream and give her a piece of my mind.
I sat down and typed a lengthy email, complete with links on homeschooling, articles about exceptional students, and news stories about how truly dangerous public schools can be. I poured my heart out, telling her how much I loved her and respected her opinion, but how upset and disappointed I was that she chose to take this up with children who can not defend our educational choices and not me. I was just about to hit send, when my husband stopped me. He told me to wait an hour, think about it and then decide whether or not to send it. That was probably the best advice I’ve had in a long time.
I thought about the problem and tried to step outside of the situation for a while. Would she understand my point of view or see my email as an attack? I realize her children are grown, and she doesn’t have to make the choices I do. She was in school over 30 years ago, and had a wonderful experience. Things are very different now. She is also in a very tough place right now emotionally. My Dad, the usual bread winner, has been out of work for over a 18 months, and my step-mother has been covering all the bills and working hard. She’s stressed out and on edge. I decided not to send my email.
I thought, while I might see this as trying to defend my kids, I guess it would just come off as biting her head off. I love my step-mom, she’s been great to me since I was 11. We had a great family, and I have her to thank for that. I don’t agree with some of her choices, but they are hers to make. Maybe she doesn’t agree with me, and maybe her comments were out of honest concern. It wasn’t worth starting a fight that would only strain our relationship. The Christian in me decided to turn the other cheek., and I’m glad I did. I know I’m making the right decision for my family, and that’s all that really matters.
In the end, Southern manners and my husband’s good advice won. Sometimes you have to fight tooth and nail and be a real pain, other times it’s good to just keep the peace and not stir up trouble. I just hope she comes around one day