Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Coat of Many Colors

There has been an interesting debate boiling over in our house. Actually, it's not a debate, it's more like the kids looking for answers while I try to remain neutral and somewhat politically correct while making my own stance remind them that I'm human, of course. It began not too long ago, in the usual spot (the kitchen island) at the usual time (butt crack of dawn, before the school drop off). My daughter was sipping her chai -- not homemade this time -- and shaking her head. I tried to look busy packing lunches, pretending I didn't see her chagrin.

"I gotta say, Mom, I'm not a fan of Steiner moms."

WTF? Where was this conversation going? Certainly we've chatted about education in the past. All the cousins go to different schools. Some public, some private, each parent trying to navigate the best way through the whole education thing.

I slug back my coffee, which I've treated with standard bleached sugar, having run out of the raw stuff...and money to purchase said raw stuff. Agave is now way out of my financial league.

"Why do you say that," I asked. This is leading somewhere. There is an anecdote in here. I know this child too well.

"They're so, just, perfect. Or they think they're perfect, and that their kids are perfect. It's a sham."

"OK, so what happened?"

As my 12-year-old tells it, with her hormonal flair for drama, she was at a "Steiner gathering" with her dad. She's hot and cold about these gatherings because she is always the oldest child and usually the only girl, and is pretty removed from the younger set. We've all been there. All the kids were playing, her brother in the mix (he's the 'badass' public school kid, apparently, because he is allowed to play video games on Saturday mornings) and Anna pulled out her iPod to kill some time. A "Steiner mom" at the gathering rolled her eyes and made a snide comment about 'electronics, Anna, really?' And huffed off.

"So what did you do?" I asked, nervous.
"Don't worry, I didn't sass her or anything." Phew
"Did you say anything to her at all?"
"She came back and apologized to me for giving me an attitude about the iPod. I'm still not sure what the big deal is. It was my weekend, too. Sorry I can't dance around a May pole and sing Kumbaya in German."

I stifled a laugh. Then went on a mini-schpeel about how everyone has different rules in their homes and you need to respect those rules, etc. Anna just shook her head.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that their rules or their lives are better than everybody else's."

True that, kid. Just a few week's prior to the iPod incident my son was beaten with a curtain rod. By a 'Steiner kid.' He had the marks on his back to prove it. I was enraged.

"Did you tell an adult? Why didn't you beat his ass?! That's ridiculous."

"Mom, he's little. And his parents wouldn't have done anything anyway."
Anna piped in, "They're snobs. I think. They don't believe in video games. Or hot dogs. Or disciplining their kids. But they can drink beer and sneak cigarettes like bikers."

"Well, if I had ever had the money, I would've put you both in Steiner school," I said. Worried about the backlash. "It was a toss up between that or saving for college."

"I'm glad you didn't," she said. "Otherwise I'd still be crying like a baby and have no math skills. And by the time middle school rolled around, I'd be screwed. Public school made us tough."

"Yeah," said her brother, chomping on a homemade granola bar. Yes, I make granola bars on a weekly basis. So you can see my angst. I am always on the teasing end of my mothering habits; no lunch meats (nitrates), no T.V. (except for movie nights and the occasional Myth Busters episode), no desserts, no commercial-brand cereals, organic milk, no store-bought's kind of exhausting actually. I wish I had the mental freedom to just say 'fuck it' and take them to Pizza Hut twice a week--throw a Lunchable in their backpacks and be done with the whole thing. But cartoon bubble thoughts like 'cancer' and 'obesity' and 'depression' loom over my taxed momma head.

I thought I was doing well, but, there's always going to be someone sitting over in a lawn chair, at a function, judging me, my kids, my 'way of life.' Just as I tsk and shake my head when I see GoGurt commercials and some of Anna's classmates wearing make-up and spaghetti straps at a band concert, another parent is tsking and shaking his/her head at my more-than-occasional use of cuss words and the fact that I let my kids shoot air rifles and listen to K'naan. Or that I don't let them eat Lucky Charms, or drink Coke, or let them go to sleepovers at 'questionable' houses.

I just sigh, suck air through my teeth, and repeat a million times, "To each his own. To each his own. To each his own..." while I wait for a good moment to sneak a cigarette while they've gone off to bed after their grass-fed, farm-raised meal. And try not to choke on my own irony.


  1. Public school was tough for me too Nichole. Thanks for sharing this story as it brought back some fond (and not so fond) memories of me growing up.


    Jon Swartz

  2. Fun, thoughtful, truthful piece about life in the not-always-so-idyllic Berkshires. My kids will love it.