HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Eloah” is a pseudonym.
I promised a long time ago that I would write something for Homeschoolers Anonymous, but it has been hard to put these feelings to words to pixels.
I wanted so badly to contribute something positive, constructive, maybe even hopeful, to what I feared could well turn into a chaotic frenzy of confessions and self-justifications.
But I also wanted to tell the truth. Honesty, if I learned nothing else from my mistakes, is I believe the paramount virtue. I value it above—well, practically all else.
Honesty is what has brought miraculous healing to some very broken relationships, including those with my parents.
Relationships that were broken as a result of the culture fostered in the homeschooling circle I grew up in.
You see: My parents raised me to know good from bad, right from wrong, and to see things in black and white. And if there was ever confusion about which was which, the adults surrounding me had strong opinions about it that they forcefully fed to their young.
At a very early age, I learned to parrot what I heard, even if I didn’t understand or agree with it. I could passionately espouse a strong opinion in public that was either ill-formed with virtually little thought, or precisely the opposite of what I really felt.
Because I sensed that there was no room for error, I quickly became an expert liar. Even now looking back, I don’t think I realized I was doing it. My outward expressions I believe were genuine attempts to force myself to “be good” and to meet the judgmental approval of my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends.
I thought maybe if I said something long enough, and adopted a self-righteous attitude about it, I could come to believe it, accept it and maybe even agree with it.
Never, ever underestimate a child’s need for approval from adults, especially her parents.
Why would I strive so hard for approval from people who gossiped hours on end about others, their mistakes and their “sins”? (If you can call listening to rock music, going on dates with boys, wearing pants and going to college as a female “sins.”)
Because I knew they would eat me alive if I didn’t meet their expectations—in a figurative sense, of course. But the last thing I wanted was to be a topic of hypocritical and self-righteous conversation. I dreaded the punishments—the intense, oppressive groundings that were meant to treat the aforementioned sins.
This is why it’s remarkable that I did what I did, at that Master’s Conference in 2003. It was in Birmingham, my hometown, and a boy I flirted with sometimes was on guest staff with Communicators for Christ, which puts on the communications conference/tournament.
I was almost 18. I kissed him in a stairwell between rounds one day. Or he kissed me. Who ever knows? It was my first kiss, and I was giddy and excited and happy and all of those emotions that come with your first.
Except somebody saw or found out, as they inevitably do in those circles, and it got back to my parents. And before I knew it, the family staying with us that week had learned of it. And the mother called me a slut, in front of my family and hers, and said she would not trust me alone with her son (who happened to be quite a few years younger than I).
If I had committed murder, I might have met more sympathy.
I resigned from the Master’s worship team, not because I was forced to but because I knew I was expected to.
The emotional roller coaster after all of that doesn’t even need describing. You can imagine for yourselves.
On the one hand I felt liberated at last – “the adults” knew me for what I was: an imperfect human being. No need to go on pretending anymore. But on the other hand, I felt more trapped than ever. I remember one other girl—one considered among homeschoolers as “notorious,” if you know what I mean—reaching out to offer me sympathy and support. “We bad girls need to stick together,” she said.
I was horrified, because I realized I was now a “bad girl.”
I had been branded with the Scarlet A, and there was no living it down. Decent parents would never allow their sons and daughters around me again.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized she probably wasn’t all that bad. She probably wore a short skirt once, or talked back at a condescending parent. Or kissed a boy.
I can’t tell this story without sharing the redemption. Yes, it was ugly for many years, yes my relationships (romantic and otherwise) got progressively dysfunctional. I became a liar about everything—things that didn’t even matter. I hurt people just to hurt them. I rebelled just to rebel. I felt. Trapped.
Until I started speaking up about it.
Until I started talking to my parents, and sharing with them my feelings. Yes, we had many a loud argument with slamming of doors. Yes, they kicked me out, numerous times, but always let me come back. Yes, we disagreed, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but you know what?
We were hashing things out. We were challenging each other, and learning from one another. And eventually I realized they weren’t wrong about everything, they didn’t hate me and they genuinely did not realize the pressure their behaviors had put on me.
Because I never told them.
And I think maybe they realized that not everyone was formed from the same mold, and that regardless, people are entitled to learn from their own mistakes. And that maybe self-righteousness, judgment, hypocrisy and gossip are also sins.
It’s not always rainbows and roses now, but what I so love and appreciate about my parents (and I think many others from that circle have come to this place now, too) is that they love, respect and see me as a person now – not a parrot. I appreciate that they have been humble, teachable and eager to change their ways so as not to repeat the mistakes with my little brothers. There is a closeness we have now that we never experienced when I was simply walked through life agreeing with them on the outside but confused and trapped on the inside.
And who knows if we ever would have come to this place if I had not spoken up?
I only hope this story gives others the courage to speak up now, if they haven’t already.