Crazy Aunt Paige

Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead. → Aldous Huxley

I have talked about how my sister's husband is being transferred and they will be moving in late July to Dallas. The picture above is from the last trip home to the farm. The impending loss of my sister's girls has been really hard on me. I think that I have cried more in the past month than I have in the past 3 years combined. One of the things that I find most troubling is the lack of diverse influences the girls will have down there. My sister and her husband are extremely conservative. While the girls were here at least they would always have their crazy Aunt Paige, which is how my brother in law considers and often refers to me, to give them a healthy dose of other creative inspirations.

My sister and I got in an argument yesterday. The girls are currently in a parochial school. They are going down to Dallas this week to look at schools and neighborhoods that they are considering. It seems that the areas they are looking at have very good public schools and very few parochial options yet they are still leaning towards sending the girls to private schools. I just don't get it. With Jess I at least partially understand, she is pretty emotionally needy and they want a small school where she will get plenty of attention and experience less change with the transition. But Kate is extremely advanced and was literally being ignored in her current class. Private schools are great for students who fall somewhere in the middle but in my opinion they just don't meet the needs of students on either end of the extremes.

I know that is clearly not my decision but I feel very strongly about this. Angie's argument was that she felt that there was much more moral teaching in the private schools and that there is less exposure to media influences, whatever that means. I just see them being completely sheltered and having no exposure to differences which to me is a bad thing. I don't want them to get a spoiled rich girl mentality which is already starting to show a little in Jess. I don't want them to be surrounded by all privileged white people with no idea what it is like for the rest of the world and no exposure to other ideas and ways of thinking.

My sister said that if they could afford it and they thought it was the best thing for the girls than why wouldn't they do it. I couldn't really argue with that, since it is their decision and they have to do what they feel is best. My sister always fights dirty though and had to throw a punch at my weakness. She said that she thinks that Anh and Kai, my niece and nephew on my husband's side, are much more influenced by the "media" and are so much more worldly for their age. I spend a lot more time with them as they live just a few blocks from us and their mother has progressively worse health problems as well as other reasons. Ani actually goes to a Montessori school so there really wasn't an argument there to be made, she just wanted to get a dig in. Yes, Kai and Anh have a very unique style and are much more aware of the world but to me that is not a bad thing.

I'm afraid now that my arguments probably just strengthened Angie's convictions. When I said that they would have no exposure to any diversity I got nothing but condescension. What do you think, should I just keep my nose out of it? I know it's not my decision but I also know I will continue to fight for the girls and try to keep them from being completely sheltered from the world.


Mariposa Farm Alpacas said...

Don't underestimate the influence you've already had on the girls. When I was very young, probably 4 or 5, my aunt was the first woman in our family to get her degree. Also she joined the Peace Corp and traveled to the Dominican Republic. My grandparents were less than pleased and I remember it vividly.

My parents raised me to be a housewife and sent me to college to get my M.R.S. It was my aunt's example that taught me there were other options and that it was okay to have dreams of my own instead of spending my life trying to please others. I only got to see her a few times a year but she greatly influenced my life.

While you may not get to see the girls as much as you wish, there will still be family get togethers and I'm sure that you can arrange for the girls to come spend a week with Crazy Aunt Paige during summer break - something they definitely will remember with fondness when they get older.

Lin said...

Yep, stay out of it. They are gonna do what they're gonna do. I'm completely with you on this one. I find those that go to the parochial schools are mostly making themselves feel better by writing a check. They are brainwashed into thinking that the private schools are best--which they are not. The one here had 35 kids per class, one class per grade level and no aide. Oh yeah, sign me up. And yes, there is no accelerated for the smarter kids, no speech therapy or programs for the kids who need extra help--they are bussed after school over to the public school for that. Ugh. Don't get me started, I could go on and on. I watch the neighbor's kids sneak out and watch cable at their friends houses and download rock music instead of the required Christian music. She is happily naive, clueless to their sneaking behind her back. It takes more work to make sure your kids are good kids on your own and not leave it to the school. Hang in there--you have already made an influence on their lives. Maybe they'll turn to you in troubled times for guidance. Keep those lines open for them.....good luck!

Census (aka Cen aka June.S) said...

I think that diversity is always good whilst kids are growing up and can encounter them in the protected atmoshpere of school or family. Otherwise the world can come as a shock later in life!!
I have experience of both types of school within my extended family and I have to admit that I do tend to agree with you based on what you have said.
I am sure that you have been a wonderful influence on them and that you have helped widen their knowledge of life and make their minds a bit more curious about the world around them. You know what they say "No man is an island"...we might want to protect our kids but we also have to prepare them for the wider world out there.

Sinclair said...

I am a product of a combination of parochial and public education, and I have to say, I far prefer private education or homeschool to the public school system. It is funny that you say "kids in the middle" fare better than kids on the extremes, because I think the opposite is true. When I switched to public school, they didn't know what to do with me. I was a grade ahead in coursework than the grade I was in, and I was BORED. If one is a middle of the road, follow the rules, don't ask questions type who is not an individualist, then public school is the place to be. But if you are different, I believe you are far more likely to be allowed to flourish in a private school environment. Of course, there are variations to this, and it depends on the individual as much as on the private school's particular slant. Some are maybe much too conservative, but others are very encouraging to creative endeavors. Many private schools do have racial and economic diversity, so there is exposure to other lifestyles and cultures as well. My parents were not rich, or even considered "well off." They scraped and scrimped to provide the private school years, and I wholeheartedly thank them to this day. My teenage son has always been in public school (his father and I disagreed on the private/public argument and I could not finance private alone), but I believe he would have been one to benefit from a private school environment. He has always been told by public school officials that he should not be such an "iconoclast." Personally, I have always encouraged nonconformist tendencies. Just my thoughts on the matter...differences in opinion are the backbone of humanity, I think.

Anonymous said...

That's a tough one. It's not your battle, but at the same time, you are close enough to them that you feel an emotional pull to sway her in the direction you think is right.

I agree with you whole-heartedly. (Go figure-ha!) I don't know where you stand on a religious spectrum, but to me, whether you are religious or not, everyone needs exposure to the world (as we live in it) and diversity. Public education is actually more in the know than parochial schools in terms of special services for the gamut of learners GT-SP. ED. and art, music, etc. as it is mandated by law to be that way. I feel very strongly that children miss out when they attend private schools. Religion is very important to some, but shouldn't that be taught at home and church anyway? I don't think school is the place for that...plus, isn't Texas a red state after all? I'm sure the public school kids ideas won't be too far off from parochial school kids anyway. Furthermore, the "Catholic School Girl" stereotype is that way for a reason. The more you over-regulate your kids the more rules they are going to break later on. I'm just sayin....

Good luck fighting that battle.

Gray Eyed Scorpio said...

Take comfort (?) in knowing that I am a product of elementary parochial schooling.

We become who we will become.

Kristin at My Art and the Mom in Me said...

I think that they are lucky to have you in their life. And that you are an influence on them now as you will continue to be. I lived far away from a favorite uncle growing up, and I only saw him 2-3 times a year, some of the best memories I have...You will miss them so much, but there are many memories still to be made. Take Care.

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Paige, I think you did the most you could by stating your case. Angie and Mike will do what they want. You don't need to fight with Angie right before she moves away either. I know you're going to miss her.

And I can't argue one way or another for private vs. parochial. It totally depends on the school and the student.

One Creative Queen said...

{{{Paige}}} Wow. You've had a rough go lately. I totally understand where you are coming from - and I'm proud of your willingness to fight for the girls. I agree that children DO need diversity - or they end up sheltered, naive, and intolerant. They wind up finding out what they've been missing when they are teens - and then go crazy - a lot of times, with very bad consequences.

I am biased about this, though. I've had 3 kids - all on my own - and I'm the creative sort. There are times I've regretted allowing my children to know as much as they do. On the other hand, my brother (younger by 3 years) graduated from Baylor, is getting his masters, has a stay at home wife, and 3 kids. He's always made loads of money (working for his wife's family)...while I've been disabled (aka BROKE) for the last 15 years. He sees my children as "rambunctious" and "terrible influences" (especially my oldest, who has mental health issues)...and I see his children - who are not allowed to watch tv, only socialize with other affluent Christian children, and live very structured, constrained lives - as stuck up, sheltered, whiny kids. (Granted his kids are only something like 5, 3 and 1...I think. My kids are almost 16, 13 and 9.) He hasn't had to deal with the older ages yet. (Muwahaha I can't wait til he does!!)

You're right - it isn't your decision. However, you love them - and it DOES take more than 2 people to raise kids...it DOES take a village. If someone were as interested in my kids as you are in the girls, I would have to stop and think about what I was doing. You have a different perspective...and sometimes people don't see as clearly when they are right-smack in the situation. I have no doubt your sister and her husband want to do what's best for their daughters...but do they believe raising children to be intolerent of others? Or to shelter them so much that the kids are clueless when they grow up? Or rebel against them as soon as they are old enough?

I'm so sorry you're going through this. I have absolutely no doubt you are a positive influence on them...and that they are moving. Maybe they can spend vacations with you? Just don't give up. Who else is going to fight this battle for them?

And BTW, ignore her digs. I know it's extremely hard - I have to do that with my family all the time. Just pretend you didn't hear it and continue on with your point. Don't let her sidetrack you. You've got a valid point, so don't get deterred.

I think you're a wonderful person who has a heart of gold - and I would love for my kids to spend time with you. Then again, consider the source! ;)

Sending big hugs your way - you'll be in my thoughts and prayers.


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