Like many, I grew up in a strict home. The rules were clear. Girls stayed indoors. We learned how to cook, and we had our share of household chores. The boys were outside doing the yard work, and whatever job boys did outside.
There was one rule that applied to all us kids equally, and that was, as my father would say, “Children were to be seen, and not heard.”
Harsh, I know, but that is how it was.
We never spoke out of turn and we waited until we were addressed before attempting to express our joy in how the day went or what upcoming event was about to begin.
What about dinner? That same rule was applied and enforced with a firm punishment. There was no chatting, no laughter, and absolutely no complaints! We were poor, and sorry Mom, but we ate horrible meals. Meals that consisted of cow tongue, creamed peas on toast, liver and kidney stew, and whatever else my mom could make that would feed our large family within a tight budget.
Don’t get me wrong, there were good times. We had crabapple fights, picnics in the backyard, and I have fond memories of sitting in the living room singing songs by Queen and Abba with some of my siblings. Yikes! Now I feel old.
Some of my best memories were with the twins. We sat together, and they allowed me to read stories I had written. They were the inspiration for Hal and Gallagher, and they truly are barbarians with incredible hearts.
There were advantages and disadvantages to being the youngest of a large family. The biggest disadvantage (for me) was taking responsibility for someone else’s doing. When a certain brother of mine broke the front window … I took the blame and punishment. It was easier to take a single punishment over a multitude of reminders that I was the low man of our totem pole.
The advantage was much more valuable. I watched (in silence) everything, everyone in our house did. I made notes of what not to do, and wrote promises on how I would raise my children.
I kept those promises.
Dinner in our home is quite different from how I was raised. Once seated, it is a free for all, and there are no limits. For me, silence at the dinner table is a form of punishment. We joke, we share our innermost feelings, and if someone is struggling with a personal issue … they are welcome to put that on the table as well.
Judgment is an unwelcomed guest.
Judgment is an unwelcomed guest.
Recently, my eldest stopped by for dinner.
While cleaning up, he said, “Do you have any idea how hard it was to pretend to be normal while living in a retirement village with a Pagan mother?”
I laughed and replied, “About as hard as it is to hide your true beliefs while living in same retirement village. Would you rather I didn’t hide my beliefs?”
He smiled and replied, “Nice comeback, but I was joking, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Which brings me to today’s topic. Pretending to be normal in a crazy world.
I thought I was doing my children a favor. I never installed my beliefs onto them. Instead, I allowed them to experience different religions until they found what made them feel complete. When my youngest was twelve, he began asking questions.
At thirteen, he joined in on a cleansing ceremony. Once the cleansing was complete, he drilled me with many questions.
Towards the end of our conversation he asked, “What’s the difference between a pentacle and apentagram?” I answered him honestly and backed it with corresponding paperwork. He then asked, “So you wear your amulets because they make you feel safe?”
“Yes,” I replied with a firm nod.
“Then why hide them when you go out? If they make you feel safe and it’s who you are ... then why hide it?”
“I didn’t want to embarrass you guys or have you feel out of place.”
“Are you embarrassed about being Pagan?”
“Then be proud and stop hiding it.”
It is amazing what our children can teach us. There I was, trying my best to raise my boys without embarrassing them, and instead, I was teaching them to hide who they are from the world.
I no longer hide who I am, even when I go to my son’s school, whether I am there for a recital or to talk with a teacher. My amulets are proudly displayed.
Last year, he asked if we would enroll him in a Catholic school, we immediately agreed, and together, my youngest and I are learning about the bible. If my amulets are hidden under a shirt, he questions me, and reminds me that I should be proud of whom I am and the choices I have made.
Thanks to my amazing boys, I no longer pretend to be “normal” because I am just the right amount of crazy to blend in! :)