I’ll Be The Squeaky Wheel.

28 October 2013

My first grader, he likes to fit in.  He is very bright and typically well mannered, he has a cute sense of humor, an older soul than his six years, and is a very people pleasing kid.  Instead of feeling slighted, he is the first to say, “that’s OK,” when something doesn’t go his way… except with his sister, of course.

I, at thirty-seven, on the other hand, am at peace with not being liked by everyone.  Do I like it when someone can’t stand me, or want to be disliked?  Uh, no.  But let’s face it, sometimes it happens.  I realize that life is way too short to spend much time worried about someone not liking me, there are people who just won’t.  I pretty much say what is on my mind whether that makes me popular or not.  If you’ve been reading So Wonderful, So Marvelous for any length of time, you probably already know this.  My outspoken self is probably a direct result of being raised by someone who has always taught her daughters to be themselves and to open your mouth when something isn’t right. 

You don’t participate in something that you think is wrong, whatever ‘right or wrong’ might be in your eyes.  You don’t sit idly by and let someone get belittled or harmed.  You stick up for yourself and for others.  You open your mouth and say that it’s not alright to make racist, misogynistic, or bigoted comments or to put someone down when it happens in front of you.  You say out loud when something is hurtful or just bullshit.

Even when it seems like everyone else thinks it’s fine.

I would venture a guess that a lot of people struggle with times when their moral compass is facing a different direction than others.  It’s hard to do sometimes.  You are afraid of repercussion, of retaliation, of being the oddball, of being disliked, of being the pejorative complainer.

So instead, you shut up.  You go ahead and ignore that knot in your stomach signaling that maybe something isn’t OK.  Maybe you kick yourself later, wishing you had said something.

I get it because I’ve done it. 

It is sometimes harder for me to be the outspoken one as a parent.  I find myself checking my comments when I think someone is behaving like an idiot.  I put little things aside because in the grand scheme, they aren’t worth rocking the boat.  I weigh the fallout on my kids for voicing my opinion.  But I also know in my head where that limit is.  Some things are just not OK, even if it seems like everyone else is going along with it. 

And then you have to explain to them that, yes, Johnny’s parents think it’s ok to do that and it’s their prerogative for their family, but no, your mom and dad don’t think it is ok.  You have to teach them because you are the parent, it’s your job. 

I have no doubt that this is only going to get harder as they get older.

My friend just did this when two of her boys were asked to play in an exhibition football game at an NFL stadium.  It was a special thing, their teammates were excited and she wanted to say yes.  The only caveat, she and her husband decided a long time ago as a family there are no sports, work, or other activities on Sunday.  For them, it’s church time and a family day with no exception.  When we were talking a little later, she said that sometimes it’s hard feeling like the weird ones for sticking with it, but that she knows it’s the right decision for their family.  She doesn’t at all feel like other families are wrong for choosing something different, yet it’s still difficult when other people don’t afford them the same understanding. 

She and I are very different, yet as parents, we both identify with what that moment is like to be the dissenting opinion and do what you think is best for your child.

Last year, they announced that if the school met their fundraising goal, the top fundraiser in each class would be able to silly string some administrators.  Administrators who would be duct taped to the flagpole in front of the school.   Which?  Was NOT at all ok with Dave or with me.  Finn was the third highest fundraiser in the school, so he was picked for his class.  The silly string was fine, the ushering of an entire school outside to crowd around to watch two people get duct taped to a flagpole while the kids took turns with the silly string, wasn’t.  Not even a little bit.  It didn’t matter that they were adults or that they were doing it willingly.  It didn’t matter that other parents had come up with this reward and thought it was fun.  So, as a very new kindergarten parent, I marched my happy ass into the school and talked to someone about it.   I was told that they would just ‘downplay’ the duct taping by using brightly colored tape, but that they wouldn’t take it out completely.  “It’s fun because it’s pink!”  At that moment, my head wanted to explode and I even contemplated pulling those funds he had raised until someone gently reminded me about what a difference that money makes for the kids at his school.  Instead, with his teacher and his principal’s ok, I picked him up early.   I also got the added bonus of explaining to my five year old why it is never ok to use duct tape on another human being EVER and why his mom and dad did not want him to participate.

Hey guess what?  I’m also the parent that thinks these dumbasses who duct tape a kid and post it on Facebook in the name of a joke should be in trouble.  I’ll just be the person over here thinking you all have lost your damn minds and you can think I’m over-reacting.  I’m good with that.

Recently, we had something else come up that Dave and I both felt as strongly about.  He is my measure, that husband of mine, his calm balances my loudness and liberal compulsion to right the world’s injustices.  We talked about how to handle it, I talked to other parents who were also understandably upset, some who felt that there would likely be problems if they said something, and decided that ultimately this was one of those cases that fell under the ‘this is really not OK’ umbrella.  The situation was clarified and taken care of, but I’m sure the person involved is pissed that we said anything at all.  I have to be alright with that and so does our son, whether he completely understands why or not.

Until he does, I’ll be his squeaky wheel.


Anonymous said...

Good for you on being the squeaky wheel. Someone has to stand up to the stupid.

Jill said...

I feel for you. My husband and I know we have an uphill battle with some things that will come our way when our daughter gets older. We're already fighting it at daycare with food, which sounds stupid in the grand scheme of things but to us? IT IS IMPORTANT. Good for you for standing up for what you believe in. It must have sucked to explain to Finn why you pulled him early that day but I'm so glad you did. I'm so glad there are other parents out there who follow up on their beliefs. I'm so glad to internet-know you.

Bunny @ 86n It said...

I'm like you and get baffled by people who don't stand up for themselves. I understand now more as I get older that it comes naturally to me. It's important for you to show that to your kids!

Anonymous said...

Great post! Conformity vs. diversity, give yourself credit, because it takes courage to stand out from the crowd, especially when it involves disappointing your child. I like what author Ruth Rendell said, "Selfishness is not living as you wish to live. It is asking others to live as you wish to live." And for what it's worth, duct-taping anyone to a flagpole seems like a mean-spirited kind of fun to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are THAT voice that stand for what is right for your family ...but more so that you don't try to shove your beliefs down everyone else's throat, but just parent to the best you can.....(holy CRAP, you WERE listening while you were growing up)
love you

Nita said...

I knew there was a reason we connected. Go get 'em mama.

Kelly said...

My school just did the flagpole thing as a reward for a fundraiser but with SARAN WRAP, not duct tape. I can't imagine that those who were going to be duct taped didn't think hard to come up with a less painful idea like that!

Jen said...

Good God, I am terrified of this whole mom thing (mom to my 9 month old, Finneas btw)! My husband, Dave (right!) and I are both people please-ers and talk often about how to teach Finneas to be his own person and to stand up for himself and others. So thankful for momma bloggers like you who can talk honestly about these issues! I'm going to read this to my hubby tonight (with a bottle of wine dammit!) Thanks for the great post!

Just A Normal Mom said...

All I could think reading about the duct tape was that is the exact kind of thing that someone posts on social media, it goes viral, and gets picked up in the media for being the dumbest idea ever. And that doesn't begin to address all the actual issues with the stunt in the first place. I absolutely admire your willingness to stand up for what you believe. It's not always easy, at least for me. I spent a lot of years going with the flow so I didn't rock the boat, silently admiring those willing to speak up. Being a squeaky wheel is something I've had to work at being okay with, but it's a better place to be, at least for me.

Angela said...

Michelle I love today's article. It gets tougher as they get older, but then when you notice them sticking up for themselves and speaking their minds as you showed them how to do you know in your heart that you did it right. At the end of the day I do what I think is right, try to be a better person and set a good example.
BTW when my youngest was in first grade they did the fundraiser thing too, the reward for kids that sold the most was a pizza and bounce house party during school. I questioned how kids who didn't have family/friends to sell to or parents that couldn't afford to buy stuff were at a disadvantage to no avail. I wrote a check to the PTA and my daughter didn't sell anything.

Sarah said...

Yep. To all of it.
I hate being "that" mom, but it won't stop me from doing it. I also tell my kids that it is really hard for me. I don't want them to think that it is easy. When they are put in a similar situation, I want them to know that just because it is difficult to overcome yourself, you still have to do the right thing.
And can we all just STOP with rewards for fundraisers. Give what you can. Understand that there are some who can't give at all. And stop making those kids feel like crap because they will never "win" for getting the most.

Casey Pogan said...

Keep squeaking - the world needs it!

Cyndia said...

Standing!!! Clapping!!! Keep on squeaking! I was that lone mom often when my kids were small. It was HARD.
Whoever thought that duct tape was ok has lost their ever loving mind!

katie@tulsadetails said...

This is something I think about all the time - how my values and action (or inaction) sends a message to my child. I'm not as gutsy as you (wish I was!!!), but this is a good reminder to stand up for our beliefs in our own way.

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