Today it really struck me out of the blue how differently my children and I see the world. I was thinking about everything with our experiences with the church. It’s amazing how free my children are from negative thoughts. Try as I might, I can’t help but be tied down with negative feelings. I wish I had the freedom they do to be so positive, optimistic, and light.
Going to church for my children is friends and community above all else. They don’t care about religion. They listen and learn, but it’s not what they’re there for. They think church is all about making friends and finding people that make them happy.
My perspective isn’t nearly as positive. When we go to church on Wednesdays my mind is on the food. Dinner at church means one less meal we have to cook. That means one more meal we can stretch our food stamp budget over. If you break our food stamp budget down to $1 per person per meal, that’s $6 every week that we save, which totals to a whopping $24-30 per month depending on how many Wednesdays fall in that month. It might not look like much to you, but that affords us a little bit of wiggle room. Sundays come with donuts in the morning, which leads me wondering if that could change our budget to allow that money to be saved twice a week. Yes, the community is nice. The uplifting messages, music, and all of that is nice too. I love those aspects, but I can honestly say it would be easier not to find an excuse to skip, such as the baby not feeling well or just being too tired to walk if it wasn’t for the food. I know it might seem like doing it for the wrong reasons, but the truth is that temptation of food is enough to light a fire under my butt and make sure I actually make it out the door, no excuses.
My children see our neighbors going to church as part of the routine. They’re the ones that invited us, so they probably go because they’re religious people. Either that or maybe they really just want to learn about religion too. My children’s innocence prevents them for looking for ulterior motives.
When I see my neighbors at church I get the overwhelming feeling that they’re there for the wrong reasons. They haven’t lived here that long, but the first thing they did was seek out a local church, they didn’t seem to care which. Most of their furniture came from another church. She was bragging about knowing how to get hooked up with all the free resources, food banks, churches, everything. The first week we went to church with them she had to talk to the pastor about money. She can’t have been going there for more than a month and she was already begging the church to help her pay for her rent. They go for the free food and then don’t seem to be involved in the actual church experience at all. They sit in the back. When everyone is asked to stand, they don’t. I understand why she doesn’t. She’s supposed to be on bed rest. However, her significant other has no excuses. He could stand. Instead he’s usually sitting by her side or hiding out in the nursery. I have to admit, I don’t stand, but most of that’s because Luca’s on my lap and it’s easier not to have him in my arms after having him strapped to my body. It’s more than just standing or sitting. They don’t say any of the responses. They don’t sing the songs. They don’t even seem to enjoy the music. While I can admit that I’m usually in the back as well and I don’t open my mouth for any of the responses, I sing the songs I know. I rock with Luca to the beat or dance with him in my lap as best I can. When there’s someone talking I hang onto every word like it’s made of gold, not because I idolize these people, but because most of what they say is so uplifting and I need that right now. It’s hard for me to look over at my neighbors and not think poorly of them because it seems like the only thing they’re getting out of church is free food and money. The church has already given them gas money several times and is trying to help in any way possible.
My children aren’t embarrassed to be themselves, not ever. They can go into church and have no problems inserting the correct responses. They dance to the music. They’re completely free.
In contrast I’m very closed off. I hide away in the back. I refuse to speak if I can at all avoid it. I’ll dance with Luca in my lap or rock with him, even sing, but I’m completely self-conscious about it when my neighbors are sitting next to me. I don’t want to move and sit away from her because she’s the only person I know. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable because I don’t want to sit near her anymore, all because I feel awkward being more involved than she is. This leads to even more bitter feelings like she’s using the church and I don’t want to be associated with her. I don’t want people thinking I’m trying to use the church just like she is because I’m not there for the free meal or for help paying my bills that I can’t afford. I’m actually proud of how little assistance we need even though we’re cutting it pretty close on everything. Our neighbors are splurging and that’s why they can’t afford to pay their bills and need help from the church, but we’ve been on a very strict and tight budget. We’re not allowed to buy anything new, no matter how much we want it, not until we’re caught up on bills. Getting fed by the church, as I’ve said, isn’t the reason we’re there. It’s what lights a fire under our tails to get us moving. It’s added incentive. I’d still go otherwise, but I doubt I’d bother if it was just going to be me and all four kids on a day Oz is working. This just makes sure I’m more motivated not to have excuses, which is good because I really need it. I’m finding hope there. I don’t want to be associated with people who can so easily be perceived as just trying to use the church.
It’s striking how my children don’t see the neighbors as anything more than a part of the experience, yet I see the neighbors as holding me back. I see them as a negative influence I don’t want to be associated with. I can’t help it. I’ve grown pretty jaded. I’ve seen all too many people act as they have, going to church just for whatever they can get from the church, but otherwise they wouldn’t bother.
I really shouldn’t hold any negative feelings for the neighbors. They got us to go to church in the first place. They were the reason we even gave it a chance, not that they really invited us. Oz kind of invited himself along and volunteered all of us to go with him. I should just let go of these negative thoughts and take it for the positive underneath. I need to stop letting all of this negativity hold me back.
This is just one of the many joys of the unschooling experience. Not only do our kids learn from life, but we learn from our kids. I’m learning that a positive, uplifting experience that I kind of need right now because times are dark should be just that. I’m too jaded and hold on to too much negativity. I need to open myself up with the eyes my children have on everything. I need to stop looking through this gray and foggy lens. Life is so much brighter that way.
I can honestly say if it wasn’t for unschooling I don’t think I would have thought to let go. I would have been holding on to the baggage of the negative feelings I had for my neighbor for quite some time. It’s too easy to say that the kids just don’t get it because they’re too young, but the truth is I’m the one that hasn’t been getting it. It has nothing to do with the kids being too young. It has everything to do with me being too closed off.
Maybe through our unschooling experiences I can learn to view the world through their eyes, where everything is magical and beautiful. Maybe I can shake the jaded exterior, built from a need to function in the world, a need to protect myself. If they can do it, why can’t I? Sure, we see the world very differently, and it’s time for that to change.