the root of all evil

When we decided to send my son to an alternate school in the neighborhood, the reactions from my friends ranged from "All the schools are the same anyway" to "I heard some really LOOSE girls go to that school."  One person actually went out of her way to openly insult my decision.

It was the rare friend who actually acknowledged that I might have made a valid choice for my family, and if they did, it was generally coupled with regret over their own decision. Those conversations re-focused on them with no small relief from me. Rarer still was the friend who congratulated me. Not that I expect or need congratulations, but I found it worrisome that overall, people seem to take it as a personal affront that I selected a different school than where their precious iddy-biddy goes. (fyi, about 30/124 kids chose different schools so it's not an unusual phenomenon in the neighborhood.)

Unilaterally, people did not take into consideration my son's issues, learning style, and needs; my feelings about schools in general; or that I might have made a valid, thoughtful, educated choice based on experience (I worked in dozens of schools with literally hundreds of kids as an educator in my 20s and I'm only a few hours short of a masters in K-8 education--had to stop cuz I ran out of money. From that I'm oddly well-trained in sizing up schools, at least for my own purposes). I rarely volunteer those details of my decision and frankly, other people don't want to hear it. It might cause them to doubt themselves. After all, it's much easier for them to consider my choosing another school an insult, to just reckon that I'm wrong.  Cuz, weirdly enough, if I'm right, they must be wrong. There's a line, and I crossed it. Aberrations will not be tolerated. Cuz we're all the same, right? Whew! No differences. Nothing to see here. Move along!

I don't often admit my sleepless nights since my kid started school, wondering if I did the right thing. When I have, I invariably experience a weird brand of happiness from the other person, a "whew, she was wrong after all!" And it's worse than that, cuz people do desperate, mean, horrible, hateful things to bury their insecurities.
Because of that, I don't share easily. I don't trust easily. I've been told I'm laid back, I'm confident and friendly, I tend to let things flow. It's not that I don't have my opinions and insecurities--enough that I wonder how I hide them well enough to be considered laid back, confident, even. But apparently hide them, I do.

After years of fighting others' insecurities, like a disease, I try hard not to let my insecurity run my life. I've seen the horrible effect it has on ordinarily nice people. It's like a demon inside, insidious and hateful. A cancer that destroys kindness. And it's catching.

Insecurity. The root of all evil.

I still don't emotionally understand how tearing someone else down builds you up. I never will. Oh, I know it, I can preach against it, I can point it out when it happens. But I don't understand it on anything but an academic level. It doesn't even make sense to me.I mean, it clearly doesn't work that well, not for any longer than a bandaid on a leaky dam. Otherwise it wouldn't happen over and over again. The issue, such as it is, would close.

People have been talking a lot about accepting differences lately. I certainly am focused on it this week. There's a lot of talk of Us and Them, of political and social polarization, of hatred. And it's all built on a foundation of insecurity. Insecurity runs so deep, and we are so loathe to admit it--as conditioned by our culture--that we have lost the ability to express it.

Wanna see insecurity at work? Express your own insecurity.

Homey don't like that. Reminds him too much of his own. So many adults today, in the US culture, will go righteous* on your ass.

For instance, I think righteousness is so prevalent in Christianity because of the elusive, insecure nature of faith. I mean, salvation rests on belief? That's ALL you have to do? Nah. There's a catch somewhere. And it's just kind of stupid, right? Fairies at the bottom of the garden stupid. But frankly, I think it taps so deeply into our insecurities that most of us are terrified. Hell, doubt is even spelled out in the word:


I don't know of a religion that taps into insecurity more deeply than Christianity--and I mean the kind of Christianity that actually rests on Christ and the true nature of faith as it was meant from the beginning. (Faith as salvation, I mean. Look it up.) No wonder Christianity is so screwed up. No matter we're all so screwed up. Cuz what do people do when reminded of their insecurity? All together now: 

They go all righteous on your ass.

I always beware the person, Christian or Atheist or scientist or parent, whoever they are in that moment, who seem utterly sure. Because the big thing we don't admit, the secret many of us do desperate, mean, horrible, hateful things to hide, is that insecurities are supposed to plague us. Without insecurity to balance out our natural survivalist egos, we would be assholes.


*I don't prefer the term "self-righteous" because it's a loaded, hateful term. So I use "righteous" instead. I think it works because the definitions often employ the word "moral" which is, admittedly, up to the individual to judge. So by "righteous" I  mean "sure."  


Travis Erwin said...

Trying to guide your children and teach them is damn tough. I applaud any and all parents that take the time and effort to weight the decisions rather than plod along with the masses.

Erica Orloff said...

I have more people try to tell me how to parent Dynamo Boy. That all he needs is a good swat, is some sort of rigid parenting system, all he needs is this, is that. I KNOW how to mother him. I am his mother. And I think he is trying to navigate the world as a unique person, as a little person with some issues--but hey, don't we ALL have issues? ANYWAY, I lose sleep. I lose sleep over my kids all the time, but I don't need righteousness. I need someone to be my friend.

Last week, I went to dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. I burst into tears telling her all the crap going on with my illness, trying to parent in pain all the time, 24/7, even when I sleep. That my parents are coming for two- to three months to live with me, that my shoulders need to be forty-feet wide for all of THEIR issues too . . . And my friend held my hand and simply said, "Can I take Dynamo Boy off your hands one afternoon so you can take a nap?" She didn't get all righteous. She was just my friend.

But too often, people think their way is the only way and there is no room for doubt, and there sure is no room for imperfection.

Good for you. Truly. I hope he is happy there.

Natasha Fondren said...

You're totally right that it's insecurity. If you choose an alternative school, then it opens up the possibility that they chose the wrong school. Really, when they make negative comments, they're defending their choice. They're just not emotionally mature or self-aware enough to realize that.

I get the same thing when I say I'll most likely homeschool my kids (naturally, I'm not locked into anything before I know them personally). There were two public school systems and three private schools that I got to see the results of intimately. I didn't just see a student for a year and then say bye: I got to watch the results of each student spending five, ten years in a school system. After hundreds of students, it's impossible not to draw conclusions. Not to mention my own experience of teaching kids for five to ten years, AS they grow up--not just for one year, which provides a limited scope.

I don't think those schools were a failure or a wrong choice at all: they were actually among the best schools in the nation. I have my educated reasons, which I generally don't share. Like you said, people feel threatened when you make a different choice.

Dominique said...

My parents sent my brother to a different school than the kids in our neighborhood went to, because it was the right place for him to be. People aren't all the same, so not every school is an effective environment for every kid. The things that work for one person don't always work for another, and people shouldn't try to live as if they're all the same. It won't help. Such things are personal decisions, because they vary from person to person.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Thanks guys for the support. I really meant the school thing as more of an example, but it did tend to take over the whole post!

Mary McDonald said...

I homeschooled my sons for a few years each because I didn't like the middle school. It was the right decision, but every seemed to have an opinion on it.

... said...

Bets, I fucking love you. I love this post & I love how you choose your words so carefully as to not pit everyone in the same group as a stereotype. Because I think that is the worst fucking thing we can do for ourselves as community of human beings. Beautiful post.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

awww. right back atcha rachel!

Todd Bradley said...

I heard some really loose girls go to that school? Since when does that have anything to do with the school's teaching qualifications?

I think you're probably right about the insecurity thing.

siebendach said...

Looking at the world's worst dictators from today and the 20th century, very few of them are religious people (though some, like Khomeini, hold religious rank, and others like Hitler and Kim Jong Il just make their won religions)

They all sure seem to show signs of insecurity, though. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?" Not this bunch.

Beth Partin said...

I don't have kids, so I don't understand the whole getting mad about changing schools thing. I suppose if those people are from your neighborhood, they may feel you've left them in some way. I'm sorry you caught such grief about it.

Did you ever watch Northern Exposure in the 1990s? There was a brilliant episode about people's demons, and Ed, the adopted Indian boy, was diagnosed with low self-esteem. Everyone was horrified. "That's the worst demon of all!" It's so true.

When I was in Kansas City for a couple weeks, I felt regularly assaulted by my siblings' and my own insecurities. It is rough when people bring their own emotions into the conversation. We should just focus on the issue at hand, but I suppose that's impossible.

I understand about the "confidence" thing. People are always telling me I'm serene, and I think, "Then why do I feel so anxious so often?"

Looking forward to hearing about Alex's adventures at school. Maybe he should do a guest post?

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

You DO seem serene. I've never thought of you as anxious at all. But you're a writer, so you're a liar, like me. :)

Peter Dudley said...

I don't often admit my sleepless nights since my kid started school, wondering if I did the right thing.

I feel really, really bad for kids whose parents don't agonize constantly about whether they've done the right thing.

On the other hand, kids will grow up whether you home-school, public-school, private-school, or just let them run around naked in the woods their whole childhood.

We all just want to give our kids the best chance to succeed when they go out on their own. The question that reasonable parents are worried about is, "Am I screwing up my kid?" The answer is almost always "no, he'll be fine." The question that unreasonable parents are worried about is, "Will my kid win?" The answer is almost always, "Yes, you're screwing up your kid."