Friday, September 26, 2014

Knowing when to engage

There was some comment on the post I wrote about our trip to the Chicago Historical Society and what I thought was my amusing account of being called a chaperone. I guess it wasn't quite amusing enough, since I didn't seem to communicate that I found the whole thing a little hilarious and wasn't really upset by it. Tone is hard to read.

When we are all out and about, we tend to receive comments. I can't blame people for this... there is so much scope for comment. Family size, twins, multi-ethnicity, facial differences, homeschooling. I sometimes wonder how anyone ever narrows down all their choices. You get used to it, though it is a relief when a trip is comment-free. I would say, that while do occasionally get the rude or ugly comment, the vast majority are positive, or if not out-right positive, more incredulous than anything. I think anyone who deals with a lot of public comment gets used to filtering what is worth expenditure of energy and what is not.

There are times when I will expend the energy to deal with the comment. Right up at the top of the list is if my children are present and something is said that could call into question their worth as a person or their place in our family. I will always deal with that because my children need to know I will stand up for them and because it is important to hear the truth in the face of untruth. The other instance where I will always engage in a discussion is if the comment will somehow affect others down the line. Has there been a misunderstanding as to the legality or standing of homeschoolers? I will not hesitate to share how the law defines and views homeschoolers. (In IL, for instance we have the exact same standing as every other private school and are to be treated as such.)

On the opposite end of the spectrum are comments that need no response. Those are the comments that are just thrown out there and don't really do any harm. Sure, they can be repetitive or annoying, but usually a smile and nod or a frown forward movement are all that are needed. I see it as background noise that can be filtered out and not worth expending any emotional energy. The, "Boy you have your hands full" comments definitely fall into this category.

In the middle are the type that we encountered at the museum last week. The employee was polite and trying to be helpful, so there was no need to become angry at her. Our children didn't feel as though anyone was questioning their place in their respective families. (I'm not sure they were even really paying attention.) There were no negative consequences that were going to happen. We were still going to get into the museum regardless of what entity the employee saw us as. The question then boils down to, "Is it worth my while to stop and educate this person about the misunderstanding?"

We didn't discuss it between us, but the collective decision between the three mothers seemed to be that it wasn't worth the effort. Sometimes you just want to go to a museum with your family and not have to be an advocate for whichever cause you happen to be representing at the time. Since the employee was happy to share with us that homeschoolers get in free if we call ahead even on paying days, there was no one who was going to be injured down the line. In fact, we were even happy to have that piece of information. Sometimes, though, for people who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, they haven't had the chance to think through all the ramifications and I believe this was one of those instances. By the end, it was just funny.

So I apologize if I didn't quite convey the humor of the situation and communicated irritation or anger instead. I will admit that when we were asked to enter another way that internal alarm bells started ringing... because you just never know. But good will was shown and thus we supplied good will of our own. Maybe I should tag what I believe to be my funny posts with a tag indicating they are supposed to be funny. Just in case I have left anyone unsure.


liz said...

This part sealed it for me that you were not amused

"In the meantime, children are starting to get antsy and ask questions, such as, "What are we doing?" "Why is she doing this?" "When do we get to go see the museum?"
This hardly sounded like the children "didn't even notice". The "why is she doing this" translated to scared and confused kids to me.

You ended the post with what I thought was humor/sarcasm. The body was read as a not so great experience.

liz said...

I guess I think of my own multi ethnic, adopted, homeschooling family of 7. I guess I am more sensitive in making sure people know we are family and not a school group or day care. My oldest is only 9 and at the park recently more kids his age ask how his brother can be his brother(they are african american,Indian..) so I always want to make sure they know we are claiming them as family.:)

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