Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unsolicited Advice

I guess everyone gets their share of unwelcome, unsolicited advice, and if you choose to do anything out of the realm of "normal," you'll probably get a lot of it.  The thing I wonder is why some people feel the need to tell other people what they are doing wrong in their lives, even when the other person didn't ask and was perfectly happy?

While shopping for  groceries recently, I ran into some people I had not seen in years and naturally, we began to catch up. Upon learning that I am still homeschooling my kids, one of them treated me to a lengthy lecture on what a bad idea she thinks it is.

It started with "You know, I don't agree with what what you're doing!" My first instinct was to laugh as I had not asked for her opinion or permission, but since I'm really working on being a nicer person, I managed to reply with something like "Oh... well we're pretty happy with it."

She went on to tell me that my children would never learn to solve problems if they didn't go to school. I tried explaining that they had opportunities to solve problems every day, like most people do, in or out of school. I tried to give examples, but she was on to telling me that without school, they wouldn't know how to deal with the real world.

I mentioned the many ways they were already involved in the "real world" with classes, friends and volunteering, and that in my experience, the "real world" of junior high is nothing like the outside real world of life. Even the world of college is not the same as high school.

She was fast on the fly with her criticisms, and barely let me get a word in our defense. In reality, no matter what I would've said, she wasn't going to listen. Her mind was made up, which is fine, but she went on and on about it. I can't figure out why she needed so badly to try to convince me that I was doing the wrong thing.

I just don't get people like that. I had absolutely no desire to get her to change her family or get her to homeschool. In fact, I wish her the best with whatever path they take. I may not think it's the right one for me, but who cares? I'm on my own path!

I tried to shift the subject, but she kept coming back.

It seems like the only thing that would have made her happy was for me to say "Why, you're right. I'm living my life in a completely wrong way and ruining my children! I'm leaving my shopping cart and running out now to go sign my kids up at school this instant!"

The thing is, she never even looked at my kids, or asked how they were doing. She totally reamed on us about what she assumed would be wrong, without even considering the evidence right in front of her face. She never considered that we were perfectly happy with our life and that it works well for us.

The whole situation  left me feeling sad, hurt and angry. Logically, these are the kinds of things you just brush off. I know I don't really need to take parenting advice from this person, especially when I'm well aware of the unpleasant details of her family dysfunctions. But, I'm not always logical, and it frustrates me to be so openly criticized, especially in front of my kids who are at an age when they notice differences and care about what others think.

Part of me wanted to go on a raging tangent about the absurdity of it, including a long list of things that were wrong with her family and how school had certainly not solved their problems. OK, part of me did mumble and grumble about it the whole way home but it didn't actually make me feel any better. Turning the ugly mirror just encouraged me in my meanness. Speaking of being mean, it's one thing I learned a lot about in school.

I finally managed to get away, but her words and attitude haunted me for quite a while. Unfortunately, I'm not the ultra forgiving and kind person I'd like to be, and situations like this really put my attempts at peaceful niceness to the test. Maybe running into people like her is a part of my zen mama training? To be honest, I felt more like pulling some kung-fu ninja moves on her for insulting my family and my kids, but I managed to be polite. Maybe it's just another way the universe is showing me the kind of person I don't want to be?

The thing is, life is full of challenges and tough decisions, and it's even harder when you're not on the mainstream path. It feels like you're being judged for your choices, and apparently, sometimes you are. I'm certainly open to wise counsel and ideas, but I'm not going to blindly follow along with the masses just because an outspoken person doesn't like that we do things differently. Thinking back on it, I'm rolling my eyes and thinking "What - Ever."

Since most people are probably trying to do what they think is best for their families, wouldn't life be a lot nicer if we could just be kind and respectful to each other? And another crazy idea- Instead of trying to fix everyone else's family, how about putting the energy into our own?


  1. It makes me terribly mad to picture this person talking to you in such disrespectful way. I have learn to look at people with my best smile and to literally walk away when it is obvious they have no intention to listen to what I have to say. I have also learn that you choose the feelings you feel. This person it is not worthy of your thoughts or your negative feelings. Peace and love to you my friend. Know that I admire your dedication to the education of your children, your bravery and your creativity :)

  2. To me, and I could be perfectly wrong, it seems as though somewhere inside she feels completely inadequate in the way she's raising her children. She may be jealous of you because she may not possess the patience or courage that it takes to home school children.

  3. Thanks for your positive thoughts ladies. Sometimes, it's harder than usual to let go (and to be nice in the mean time) but I know that situations like this, however annoying, are more about the attacker than me. It definitely gives me practice in my attempts at relaxing and breathing, that's for sure. :-)

  4. Those people who are compelled to tell you how terribly wrong you are, are truly trying to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. "Living well is the best revenge" is my philosophy. THough I re-write it as: "Enjoying my life and my kids is my reward."

    Enjoy. Let the sadness of others roll off.

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  6. Methinks she doth protest too much. :-)

    As others said, my experience is that this was not about you or your choice, but defending her own choice, which she must not be all that comfortable with. In situations like this, it is best to just hit your head against a brick wall, because it is more likely you will leave an impression on the wall than you will on your critic!

    Peace and Laughter!

  7. Pa-mela...when I first heard from you that you were going to home school your children...I remember thinking, 'what is wrong with her? These kids are going to be so behind, have no social skills, and just be awkward."..Here it is, years later, and my, what a fabulous job you have done. You're children are fabulous to be around, they are very intelligent and far surpass their "schooled" piers in their generosity, manners, and decision making. So now I know 10 or 15 (not sure how long, I wasn't home schooled so my educations is a little lacking) years later, I apologize for my quick judgement and am a complete advocate of home schooling. You did such a fabulous job and your children are destined for great things because now not only do they have the education to be all they can be but they also have the self esteem that television and media and all the other bad influences of this world have yet to rob them of. BRAVO!

  8. Lo Rettta- I love your honesty. I could tell you thought I was crazy, but at least you didn't lecture me about it. A lot of people were taken back by the idea and many still are, but this woman was just so stinkin' rude about it, going on and on about it and Right in front of my kids.
    The proof is in the pudding though, and so far, my kids are doing great. I guess it's hard for people to open their eyes when their mouth is going.
    Homeschooling isn't for everyone, but we're having fun with it, that's for sure


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