Family Connection: Can You Hear Me Now?

by Bailey on September 1, 2011 in Responsibility, Training Ground for Mature Adult Character

I knew better. But for some odd reason, I always pictured homeschooling my children to take place in a one-room-schoolhouse-like fashion, desks nailed to the floor and students sitting at attention with pencils poised to take in me and my blackboard.

How I ever got that from real life, I’ll never know. We have desks, the kind used to stack test papers, letters and knick-knacks that Mom’s told us to put away three times this week. Our blackboard’s downstairs, where the dog (or the baby) sometimes eats the chalk. My mother occasionally teaches us in group fashion, but we’re all sprawled on the couches with cups of OJ, blankets and a stray sibling or two playing trampoline on our stomachs.

Laura Ingalls would not approve.

I grew up taking tests amid discipline scenarios, screaming children, epic toy car chases and Badger barking at the mailman. I learned to read history with my baby sister balancing on my shoulder or with a little brother prattling on about his rock collection. My break time involved playing puzzles, switching laundry and perhaps, if I had a particularly pleasant day with math, emptying the dishwasher.

Welcome to my world. 

WARNING:

If you haven’t grown up with this, do not try this at home. It takes skill to fend off cute babes who want to play games when you’re studying college algebra.

There isn’t really a little box drawn around My Life separating me from Larger Family Life. And I like it that way. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a mere bulge in the conglomerate blob of family. I’m my own person. It’s merely that I’ve learned not only to live with my family but also to live in my family, like a hand in a glove, if you get my meaning: something distinct yet close, comfortable. Fitting.

But this didn’t just happen by accident. If we were talking what’s natural, I’d be the last person discussing this issue.

I write from a seventeen-year-old perspective. I graduate this spring; I’m tackling scholarships, college propaganda and CLEP tests. I can drive to my girlfriends’ house for an afternoon of chatting. I have more independence in that I’m sometimes in situations that my family has not experienced as a whole and that I sometimes befriend people my family has never met and will never meet. I could easily develop a whole life outside my immediate family that they would never be involved in.

Slowly, like it or not, my life begins to peel away from my family—or that’s the natural way of things.

My choice is whether I’m going to to plug all aspects of me into my family or to disconnect for independence’s sake.

Please don’t misunderstand: girls grow up. We mature. We gain independence. We’re not enslaved to the household or forbidden to meet people our parents haven’t approved of or experience places our family hasn’t set foot in. I’m not really arguing for the stay-at-home daughter position in this post, either.

I just want to redefine what it means to be independent—grown up—mature.

Independence is often marked by leaving—physically or emotionally. You go out. You leave. You ditch everything that was formerly you, like an old skin, like a bad taste, and step into the real you, the you you always were, deep down, when suppressed by family relationships. We’ve all seen the teenagers, heard the propaganda.

We all know—at least through so-and-so’s cousin’s grandmother’s niece—we all know at least one teenager who fell away from everything right and pure after leaving the house or getting the driver’s license or hitting the eighteen-year-old mark. Maybe we’ve been that teenager, in deed or thought.

Some people blame it on a lethal combination of young people and independence. I blame it on the surefire failure of maturity to sober the heady feeling of freedom.

This is wisdom: Independence is not the freedom to do whatever we want. In this stage of maturing, where we’re growing into the women we’re supposed to be and actively stepping into God’s will in matters of home and sundry decisions of life, we need to be on guard to use our independence wisely. We mustn’t become giddy with newfound independence to the point that we exclude those we were formerly dependent on.

I fall into this trap sometimes that I am so over the family thing. That was a phase of my elementary evolution: now that I’m SEVENTEEN I’m entitled to unlimited phone calls, shopping trips and days to just hang out with the gals.

So how does one counter independence thrown out of whack? We need to plug into wisdom, responsibility and purpose. For some people it’s a vision, a job, the pursuit of a degree. For the ordinary girls like us who aren’t legally independent (yet), if we’re looking for wisdom, responsibility and purpose, the short answer is family.

It’s so important that we’re digging into family life, coming up with ways to help and ways to take charge. That we’re truly investing in our families, investing in our siblings, supporting our parents.

That we’re actually part of our family and not just a guest passing through until college. If you could be gone for a weekend and nobody would know the difference (or they would run around the house five times in celebratory relief), something’s wrong.

“So that’s all very nice, Bailey,” you might say, “ but I don’t have a collection of younger siblings. We don’t home school. I’m the youngest. I’m an only child.”

But doing school silmutaneously with bouncing babies isn’t the only way to reach out to one’s family. How about curling up next to a sister and just talking? How about taking time to encourage each family member? How about finding out what’s going on in everyone else’s life and then sharing what’s going on in yours—including what your girlfriends did that day?

It’s not really about what you do but where your heart is.

Don’t settle for just living at home. Live in the home. Connected—to the family (and the dinner dishes).

Bailey

Bailey is a seventeen-year-old homeschooler in love with anything literary or theological. The second oldest of nine children, she finds joy in romping with her younger siblings, scribbling in her ever-expanding notebook and trying her hand at the home arts.

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{ 14 comments }

Genevieve September 1, 2011

If I had your wisdom and insight when I was 17 years old, a lot of disappointment and heartache could have been avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I believe everything happens for a reason, and I learned a lot out of those life experiences. It’s refreshing to see someone your age, in today’s world, who has these beliefs. You were raised well! I’m looking forward to reading about your journey as you move through the next few years of life.

Dianne September 1, 2011

Bailey, I’ve read other articles you’ve written and you write the best ones. I love your writing, love your perspective, love your maturity. Keep up the awesome work!

Becky September 1, 2011

Amazing and encouraging. So happy I read this. I sometimes feel like there are not positive role models for my little girl. I see that there are beautiful young ladies out there.

Debbie September 1, 2011

Bailey, wonderful article. I am a homeschooling mom of 9. My 6 oldest lived the same way you did. Wonderful and hard at the same time. My 3 youngest still t home do not have the pleasure of babies jumping on them…. You all must mature and move on, but also stay connected, which means different things as you move on. Have a good day.

Adele September 1, 2011

Love, love, *love* this! It is inspiring and touching and this message is so very important.

Adele

Bethany September 1, 2011

Wow. I can only hope that my daughter will have that kind of attitude when she is 17! Oh please oh please oh please oh please! :o) Wonderful post!!!

mary September 1, 2011

bailey – you have reached down into my life today and spoken a great, quiet word of encouragement. I will be thanking God for your words today – on a day that I was feeling out of control, out of balance and grasping at what on earth the purpose of this whole stupid homeschool thing is – you have given a breath of fresh air to my home….to live in a family, not with one – as a hand in a glove. Thank you.

Bailey September 1, 2011

Mary, I feel for you. No matter how acclimated to homeschooling, we all have bad days and rough starts. It took years for me to appreciate my homeschool journey and the opportunities at hand there — it wasn’t until I was a sophomore that I began loving learning and loving homeschooling. (We have a pretty, um, explosive video of me throwing a tantrum over language arts. I must have driven my mother insane…and yet we’re both living to talk about it.)

That’s just to say that when homeschooling, purpose is often obscured in the day-to-day, but when you look back, you’re so glad you pulled through the battlefield. Keep on keeping on! You do beautiful work in ministering to your family. God rewards the faithful and gives grace to the humble and strength to the weary.

I’ll pray for you, friend.

Amanda @ A Sweet Life Rocks September 1, 2011

Wow, what a great post! Thank you for having such a dynamic guest writer today. Bailey is very wise, and seems to be a fantastic young woman.
Bailey, thnx for taking the time to write such a great post!
-Amanda

Amy Doeun September 1, 2011

A little over 10 years ago I was in a similar situation though I did decide to go to college I chose one close to my home so I could live at home and commute and help my mother who was going through a particularly difficult time. My younger sister was also home (there are just 2 of us) but I failed in connecting with her and she chose her independence and friends. Now years later we are trying to reconnect. But I would say that I have learned the meaning of life–serving the Lord and his people, often this is our family. Even as a grown daughter raising my own homemakers I still feel called to serve my parents and in-laws when the need arises. In our city there is an area where rich young adults tend to go to “experience” the life of a homeless person. They choose to leave their homes and experience unneccessary difficulty trying to find the meaning of life. I feel for these young people. I am glad that there are young people out there willing to question the status quo that independence means separation rather than choosing to come together.

Bailey September 1, 2011

I love this! Your choices demonstrate perfectly what I was trying to say — maturity and a certain measure of independence while still being very much part of the family. You have a beautiful heart, Amy.

Be blessed,
Bailey

natasha September 2, 2011

“It’s so important that we’re digging into family life, coming up with ways to help and ways to take charge. That we’re truly investing in our families, investing in our siblings, supporting our parents.
That we’re actually part of our family and not just a guest passing through until college. If you could be gone for a weekend and nobody would know the difference (or they would run around the house five times in celebratory relief), something’s wrong.”

Beautiful. This was my life when I was in my teens and all through college. My family took care of each other, we were only a family of four but we worked together. I went to all my brothers football and hockey games, bought his clothes for the new school year, and I took him to visit colleges, often picked him up from school to take him out for lunch. We are very close, and it’s because we served each other.

I remember the first time my mom gave me her credit card to go grocery shopping for the weeks groceries. I felt total independence, and it felt good to contribute. I did the shopping from then on.

Alexxus September 2, 2011

Love this….thanks for posting! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to tend to a bawling sister. All I can make out is “stupid toy”, “yelling brother”, and….oh, she’s walking away. I guess it’s over now. 😛

Sorry for that rambling…. 🙂

Jenna September 3, 2011

I love this. I feel my parents did a pretty good job at teaching this independence. I hope I can teach it to my children.

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