About ten years ago, my entire family was sure I’d lost my mind—even more! They never really thought I was a “normal” one to begin with, but when I told them how I planned to homeschool my son, that was all the confirmation they needed to be finally and unequivocally sure! “Kisha is crazy as hell!” was their lingering sentiment, which sometimes grew arms and reached my ears; but by then, well into my thirties, I was already used to the way they felt; from the time I was little, I seemed to have possessed this uncanny ability to make my family’s necks snap back in confused misunderstanding– so their shock at this revelation was just more of the same!
I can’t say their attitude toward me wasn’t warranted, but rather, manifested out of the fact that, to their chagrin, I always did my own thing. I remember in fifth grade, my teacher saying to me once, “You, my dear, dance to the beat of your own drum.” I was too young to know then if her words were a compliment or a dig, but, what I did know, was that Mrs. Hagelbarger was absolutely right, and I’d know this fact for quite a long time!
When I grew up, I was a product of the, “because I said so,”style of parenting, light years away from today’s culture, where kids are encouraged to talk openly and express how they feel. In my home, children weren’t supposed to think, they were supposed to do, but, that modus of operandi was especially vexing to me. I was that little girl—the one who always needed to know the why’s behind people’s words and the reasons for their actions as well. If that were’t enough, in an environment where kids’ voices were more appreciated on mute, I dared to question things I felt made no sense and became isolated inside my own house.
Even still, I didn’t change, because I didn’t know how! For me to be any other way would have been like trying to turn water into fire, or make night be day—impossible! So, I learned to expect the disgusted head shakes, bewildered looks, and disingenuous questions from my family, and later on, from friends. Their puzzlement simply became par for the course– especially their proverbial queries of, “So, what are you doing now?” Over the years I’ve probably heard it a thousand times.
Like when I moved across the country after high school to live with my best friend and again when I left from there to chase University dreams; of course it was asked when I got suspended from college (long story– another day) and with damaged pride had to return back home. When I stopped wearing a perm and cut off all my hair off, they posed that question, and also, when I made the choice to “all of a sudden” just stop eating meat. They shouted it upon hearing of my mission to become a “real” writer, when I took off on a solo voyage straight to New York—and they screamed it when I married who to them was “a stranger”, and then proceeded to start having “too many damn kids!”
Not coincidentally, though, all of those experiences both prepared me for and calloused me in a way that spilled over to my kids. I chose to breastfeed, not caring that my family considered it taboo. I spoke openly with our kids about everything, despite protests that my teachings were too advanced. I gave my children educational games and books, while everyone else gave their little ones electronics and toys; and by the time I landed on the option to homeschool, it was without one single concern for what anyone would think!
It’s been over thirty years since I listened to my teacher’s adage about me, and to this day I’m still dancing to my own personal drum—the only difference is that now, I’m teaching my own kids to dance to theirs as well. That’s precisely why it wouldn’t be unusual to come to my house and witness us eating pizza for breakfast or pancakes for lunch; to see us celebrating holidays on random days, just because, or to observe our kids reading the newspaper for just for fun.
Best of all, though, unlike the way I was raised, you’ll hear us talking, about all things major and every random thing in between; it’s how I keep up with what’s on the tip of their minds and the things laying at the center of their hearts. It also helps me gauge whether they’ve gotten my many lessons, and how I also gain wisdom from them. That’s why I don’t regret anything about my childhood, nor do I harness any negativity towards my family for all the times they didn’t “get” me, understand my choices, or feel they could support one of my outlandish ideas. I’d be a fool to feel that way, when what came of it was so much better– it helped me develop my own understanding and self -awareness, made me a freethinker and non-conformist, and best of all, it gave me a brilliant perspective to pass down to our kids. It turned me from a black sheep to a unicorn!