....Oh no - wait a minute - they're here.
I had my monthly meeting with Julia’s IEP team last week. (An IEP is an Individual Education Plan for children with disabilities). In case you aren’t aware, Julia has a medical condition called hydrocephalus often commonly known as “water on the brain.” She functions quite normally but has many learning complications that our public school system is trying to help her with. Everyone is very happy with how she is progressing, most of all her Mom and Dad.
But last week, her team suggested that Julia’s wardrobe were more like the rest of the kids...... That she wears jeans instead of the comfy, warm knit pants that she likes and can easily get up and down independently in the bathroom...... That she wears cotton sweatshirts instead of the handknit and wool sweaters she wears for warmth and because she likes them...... That she have her hair in pigtails instead of down straight. I’m still trying to digest all of this advice. I know that the teachers only want her to fit in – to be just like everyone else.
Frankly, I am quite astounded that they find Julia’s clothes to be a problem. She's ten for goodness sake. She is in fourth grade - she's not in middle school. For me, this was a sad statement about how “same same” America seems to be – even here in the supposed countryside where you would think people would be more willing to accept different kinds of people. I went to school for textiles and clothing and took several classes about the psychological and social implications of what one wears. I've heard it all and I guess I'm just not willing to cave in to what most people think you be doing. When Julia is ready to want to try to fit in, she'll figure it out for herself.
Julia is a quirky little, fun kid. Yes, she's a bit odd and maybe her disability sets her apart. But as Mum (my mom) says, Julia would be odd and quirky even if she didn't have hydrocephalus. She just is. And then there's her mom (that would be me writing this) and dad (The Farmer) -- they aren't exactly "fit into the mold" types either - never have been, never will be. We're odd too. And we found each other and we like our quirky ways. We're not a family like everyone else - nor do we want to be. Every family has their kinks and quirks - some just a little different than others. That's what makes life interesting - differences.
I’m finding that the longer I live here in what most people consider the country, the more it is the same as everywhere else in America. We are one of a handful of families in town who raise livestock. There is one surviving dairy farm and our sheep farm that are what I consider real livestock operations (both The Farmer and I do other things to make money besides our farm). There is a handful of old-time farmers still going strong - practicing the old country ways - but many of them have gotten rid of their livestock. The other people who live here all commute to other towns to work. Most of them have all moved here from somewhere else and have brought their American suburban expectations with them.
I find this frightening. I was at the school the other day and another mother asked me if our sheep had ever been attacked by a coyote. She didn’t think it was possible. I just looked at her in disbelief that anyone could be so ignorant. Was she living in the same town as me? How could anyone live in the middle of woods and farmland not know about the all the stuff that happens within the natural ecosystem? How could she not know that those howling animals out there in her backyard need to eat? What do these people think they eat? Canned dog food. Oh my goodness. I left shaking my head in disbelief.....
There’s a national magazine called Real Simple. It is full of pretty pictures – just the pictures that I should like - me being the visual person I am. I subscribed to it the first year it came out. I found it the silliest, most irrelevant publication for my life. Honestly – a whole article devoted to keychains and which is the best one to buy. Tell me, how is that simple? What’s the matter with a free key ring.
Our life here is not simple. Everything is complicated. Walking out the door going to the car, it’s a challenge to get there without being spattered with mud. Just the daily chores and expense of the farm animals is enough to make my head spin. But we choose to live this way. I cook from scratch, mostly. I haven’t made a cake mix since I was a kid. I have never bought a pre-cut butternut squash or cabbage in my life. And thank goodness, I found a magazine I really had no need for, given my magazine fetish.
I like my life this way. Don’t ask me to change. Don’t ask me to put my kids hair in pigtails. Don’t ask me to move the pile of mulch because you don’t like where it got dumped. Honestly, just leave us alone to do our own thing. That’s why we live here, practicing our country ways, whether they like it or not.