This one is going to come back to bite me in the butt, I just know it. I’m trying to decide if I should just post it quietly or share it on Facebook as usual. In any case it’s just a matter of time before I end up shunned in the school parking lot.
A few days ago I attended the sweetest, dearest, most delightful May Day festival at my kid’s school. It was a heartwarming day, our spritely children dancing around the may pole while we gathered together as a community of like-minded families. So heartwarming in fact that it made me want to stab myself in the eye. A slight exaggeration, but it definitely raised questions about my goodness as a human being and where I belong.
I love a lot of things about the little Waldorf school that Felix has attended for the last two years. I love how they make the everyday world magical for the kids, I love the dedication of the staff, the beautiful wooden toys, the way that the innocence of childhood is protected there. These things are important. These things are good. But I’m a sucky person, and sometimes I just can’t stand the earnestness of it all.
The night before the event I got myself worked into an unflattering state knowing that we were supposed to dress in festive spring garb and pack a picnic lunch. You’d think that would be right up my alley – I LOVE picnics, I LOVE spring garb. But I also love sarcasm and snarky humor, neither of which are welcome at the May Day celebration. All the floppy hats and picnic blankets in the world can’t make up for a lack of bad attitude. When I realized that I had spent more time thinking about how my picnic would be looked on by others than I did about what we might actually want to eat I started feeling pretty pissy. The little spark of rebellion inside me was being fanned.
I behave appropriately in most situations, I’m never looking to rock the boat. But unspoken rules about how one is supposed to live give me a case of the red ass, as my friend T would say. The pressure to conform to being non-conformist pushes my buttons. I wanted so badly to show up at this nouveau hippy gathering wearing hot pants and unpack a picnic of Lunchables, Doritos and Diet Pepsi. Maybe light up a smoke and offer my neighbor a wine cooler to go with her hummus and kale chips. I managed to keep myself in line, wear a flowery blouse and not swear but it was hard, so hard. My picnic was passable – we had sandwiches on real bread (bad) but the bread had lots of seeds in it (good). There were vegetables and fruit slices for dessert. I even remembered an extra sweater for my kid. But of course, I’m me, and I had to forget something so we ended up in the hot sun with no sunblock or hats. Felix wanted to enjoy the party in the nude and made a stink about it but I insisted he keep his pants on. In the midst of all that non-conformity, my kid was the only one trying to strip, and just about the only one without a sunhat. We weren’t kicked out but I’m sure a few eyebrows were raised in our direction.
Most of the Waldorf philosophy resonates with me, but the rigidity does not. That part feels contrived and formulaic. When kids are all wearing the same counter-culture clothes and everyone has similar eating habits and toys and modern pioneer lifestyles it starts to smell cultish. I want the best, most magical childhood possible for my kids, we all do, but sometimes, a lot of times, just making it through the day unscathed is the best I can do. In theory it would be awesome if I could be outside with my children felting gnome houses and gardening with mindfulness everyday, but my reality is that sometimes I’m precariously close to cracking up. Putting on a movie to shut the little twits up for a few minutes while I make a dinner of frozen chicken strips isn’t ideal, but it has been known to happen because a mom who runs away from home is even less ideal. I don’t feel like I could ever admit that at a school function without truly upsetting some people and that raises red flags and hackles all over the place for me. There is a balance to strike with all things, especially with parenting, and we do each other a disservice when we don’t acknowledge the struggle and imperfection that comes with the job.
Truly, this is my problem, and I fully realize that. I’m a jerk and shouldn’t be allowed around nice people. I have reached the conclusion that it just isn’t the right community for me, though I adore a number of the people who are involved there. There are many gentle souls raising good, kind children and I have the utmost respect for that. But my life is full of chaos and compromise and small failures. It’s entirely possible that everyone else has their act together more than I do, and they never run out of stories to tell about fairies or succumb to the allure of frozen pizza. Maybe they never fear that their ears will start to bleed if their child doesn’t stop talking. If it’s fake or if it’s real, it doesn’t matter, that is not my tribe. Purity is not attractive to me. I’m still trying to find more of my people, I guess. They are the ones trying their best in a less angelic, more irreverent way. They are doing well and then messing up, over and over again, and being honest about it. They love their babies fiercely and still feel okay about calling them assholes from time to time. Behind their backs of course, I’m not a monster.