Fighting with my mom

On Sunday, I went home for Father’s Day. (I’m still at that transitional phase of life where I have two homes. When does that end?) And Bear couldn’t come because he had to work. It was the first time in a long time that I’d gone home without him. It felt kind of nice, if I’m being perfectly honest. Not because it’s better without him, but because it felt like being a kid again. Unpartnered, with my family, sitting around the long wooden table like any other evening over the course of the last twelve or so years.

Within five minutes of sitting down at the long wooden table, I was fighting with Mom. It was a stupid, unnecessary fight. As most of them are. She was passionately warning me to be careful with my thinking, to hold my tongue. I was arguing vehemently for my right to speak honestly with my own family. MY OWN FAMILY. I MEAN, REALLY. As usual, my brother Gabe was laughing and refereeing gleefully, and Dad was alternating between serious interjections and a helpless smile at the absurdity of the exchange.  I was cracking up with Gabe and then getting offended by Mom, and Mom was dead, dead serious.

At one point she glared across the table at me and said coldly, “You don’t know anything.”

“Anything?” I said.

Gabe howled with laughter. “BURNED! You’re the dumbest kid she has, and that’s saying something! How’s it feel, MRS COLUMBIA?!” (He likes to point out the Ivy League bit of my education whenever I do something stupid or, apparently, am accused of being hopelessly ignorant.)

“Gabe…” warned Dad, smiling.

“OK,” Mom conceded, “I mean, you don’t know anything about this.”

Gabe is eighteen and a force of nature. He is dangerously quick-witted (much more so than I can capture in writing, because I’m not even close to as clever as him), and stubborn, and is always laughing at the world.

He left to pick Jake up from the train.

“Can I speak with you alone?” Mom asked me in the stiff, weary tone of one whose own authority has become a burden.

“Oooh….” said Dad. “You’re in trouble!” He departed in the direction of the pool.

“Dad,” I pleaded, mostly for dramatic effect, “Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”

And then we were alone. She repeated all of her previous points. “You already said all of that,” I said belligerently.

“No, I didn’t,” she said.

“Yes, you didn’t,” I said.

“No,” she said, furious, “I didn’t!”

“Why are you so angry?” I said.

“I’m not angry, Kate,” she said.

“You sound really angry.”

“I don’t sound angry.”

“Clearly, we have a disagreement concerning tone,” I said, snottily.

In short, it was a mess.

And it felt just like old times. These days my mom and I get along really, really well. And for the most part, we’ve always gotten along. But that hasn’t prevented us from having a lot of fights. She is incredibly opinionated and tends to think she’s right. I am like that too. I mean, I’m her daughter.

(my mom and I, wearing the same earrings and necklaces)

I married a man who never crosses that line. He almost never raises his voice. He has somehow learned how to assert himself without insulting other people, and he likes to debate, without it ever being personal. I married a man who is nothing like my family. And I haven’t fought in a long time, as a result. It’s been nice. Strange, but nice.

Coming home without Bear, I suddenly remembered how volatile I am. How quick to retort (even when it’s not a good one). I had forgotten how fighting worked. How rapidly it escalates, how enjoyable and infuriating it feels.

And this is the stuff that I always feel like I can’t write about. Like I can’t mention. Because of homeschooling.

Because when I talk about being homeschooled, I don’t want people to think that there is anything wrong with my family. It gets too complicated.

But the (totally obvious) truth is, my family is just a family. Full of flawed, stubborn people. Fabulous, brilliant people, of course. But people. And we fight. And the fighting is stupid. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. And afterwards, we forget almost instantaneously and laugh hysterically over dinner, and go for a swim. But the fighting is still there.

“Your family must be really different from mine,” a friend said to me the other day. “My mom would’ve driven me crazy if I was homeschooled. We would’ve fought all the time. You’re lucky your family wasn’t like that.”

“Well,” I said, “I am lucky, but…”

“No, really,” she was saying, “Not everyone can homeschool. Not everyone has the right family for it.”

My family is probably not the “right family for it.” Or maybe many more families than would describe themselves that way are the right families for it.

In order to homeschool, you don’t have to be perfect. And when you’re doing something really different from everyone else, a little stubborn opinionatedness might just go a long way. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little fight in you   :-)

15 comments to Fighting with my mom

  • […] Post over on Skipping School about fighting with my mom. And how I’m not supposed to, because I was […]

  • Fighting with each other and with me has been our ONE snag in homeschooling.

    My husband was not working for a few months, so he got to see our routines (or lack thereof) for the first time. When there was a conflict or whining or protest, he took it as proof that the kids were “spoiled” and “not working hard enough.” (He also went to old-time Catholic school where brutality and hours of homework each night were the norm).

    So I asked our uber-goodie goodie neighbors, whose children are like Little House on the Prairie-wholesome, if their kids fight. The mom said, “Every day.”

  • Kelly

    Love this post. This is one of the things I think about when considering homeschooling my kids. My 4-year-old and I have identical personalities and we already clash nonstop. I always think “maybe it would be better for her to be learning from someone totally different from me.” Or maybe not.

    Oh, and the home you grew up in will stop feeling like home once you have kids. It’s still home, but it’s not where blankies and stuffed animals and all the precious moments of your new life are. For me, it was 8 years after moving out of my parents’ house.

  • I love that you admit your family fights. Everyone fights. We fight for what we believe in, what we believe is truth or what we think is right. It may not always be so but what we believe is important for our own growth. The key is learning to fight constructively and doing it with respect. That is not always easy. Name calling is out in my home but I encourage my children to disagree, debate and “fight” it out.

  • I really hate how families that go against the norm are expected to be perfect. I had a friend comment that the homeschoolers at her local gym are so out of control, as if the simple fact that they homeschool must be the reason they behave poorly. I never hear anyone equate going to public school with such social ills.

    Because of society’s attitudes, I remind my boys that they are ‘ambassadors of homeschooling to the world’ whenever we are out. I shouldn’t have to do that…

  • What a great post! Reminds me of the way my mom and I used to argue when I was home-schooled : ) I loved her to death, and she loved me, but we were just too stubborn and argumentative sometimes! We get along really well now except for the occasional feuds when I visit without my peace-loving husband with me ; )

  • I grew up in a family of fighters, married a fighter, and am now the mother to a brood of fighters. (I was homeschooled and I’m currently homeschooling my children.)

    One positive view of fighting: it’s a sign of engagement.

    And boy, do we ever do a heck of a lot of engaging around here!

    • kate

      LOL! It’s so interesting, seeing which traits people’s spouses share with their parents. Interesting that you chose a fighter!

  • Eric

    This was great! There is not much fighting in my house, as it has a 2-year old and wife in it with me. But when my parents or brother comes over to visit for fun or for home improvements, the game is a-foot. I know that I enjoy it, the watching of the brother and father go at, and injecting my points to calm the waters when it gets rough, then letting it boil up again.

    But when I start in as it’s my turn to play devil’s advocate, I usual hear from my wife or mother to settle down or not to flame the fires. And since I can tell that the men in the family enjoy this “heavy, argumentative, debating, disagreement” activity, I usually end up defending the act with one statement, “now ladies, if you don’t let us (the men) do this with each other, it’s going to be one of you (the ladies) that has to debate with us at some other time, and I know you don’t want that activity on your plate”.

    My family loves each other a lot, so much that I can’t image life with out them, but I thrive in the moment when we have the chance to get our debating engagement “ON”. I truly believe that it is health.

  • Val

    So true–all kinds of families can homeschool, and fighting doesn’t have to be dysfunctional and cruel.

    Homeschool doesn’t make a family either perfect OR weird.

    Perfectly weird, maybe.

    Just kidding.

    Thanks for the honesty and the fun. love, Val

  • Norlin

    Hi Kate, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I especially needed to hear that homeschooling families can be normal. Cos I think my family is, despite us homeschooling (which makes us abnormal to some). We (usually me and kids cos my hubby’s like Bear — always calm and hardly ever raises his voice) argue and need our own space too. Your post makes me realise homeschooling doesn’t require me to change the way I live or do things. I CAN continue to be normal. What a relieve that is!

  • Bethany

    My mom led a homeschool co-op and frequently talks about how homeschool moms are hard to work with sometimes because you have to be somewhat stubborn to not go with the rest of society on how you raise/educate your kids.

    On the other hand, being stubborn and knowing what you value can be the stuff of success if you use it right.

  • Sue

    I had to laugh reading your account of that exchange with your mom! It sounded just like me and my daughter. Boy, am I going to miss “engaging” with her when she heads off to art school in the U.S. next year (we live in Japan, and have always homeschooled our 4 kids, except for Japanese kindergarten for the two eldest). Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspective. I think my daughter will identify with you a lot – I can’t wait to have her read your blog.

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