Posted by GIRL'S GONE CHILD | Monday, July 02, 2007
When I was three years old I refused to say I was sorry. I refused at four, five, and even six, my reasoning being, "Why should I say I'm sorry if I'm not sorry? I didn't do anything wrong." My mom fought me on this issue for years, until eventually I succumbed. Because whether I meant it or not was beside the point. People say they're sorry even when they're not. Because it's the right thing to do. Because it's kind.
I played the piano by ear for many years. But it was Bach, not Bech, so I quit. Because I couldn't read music as well as I could play by ear. Because I wanted to arrange everything myself. And I refused to practice any other way.
My way or the highway.
A pain in the ass? Maybe, but that was a risk I was willing to take. Because I knew what I wanted and I couldn't do something I didn't love. I didn't hesitate. I acted on impulse and always from a place of personal truth.
I disagreed with an assignment in school? I refused to do it, backing up my reasons with five pages essays, even if the assignment was to write a paragraph. Write a paragraph about what the truth means. I earned zeros on multiple occasions for some of my best work. I made up for low scores with extra credit to maintain my A average and keep my AP courses. Whatever it took. Compromise. Breaking rules to prove a point was always more important to me than following rules and having no point at all. What's the point... If there's no point?
Several years ago I was arrested for kidnapping a friend on his birthday. Some idiot drove by and saw us carrying our friend into our car with a sweatshirt over his face and the SWAT team showed up minutes later. Gun to my head, I managed to say two things to the officers who had cuffed me and flattened me against the asphalt in my party dress "fuck you."
I didn't even know I said it. It slipped out. I realize now this was very stupid of me and blame myself for having to endure 15 minutes with my face in the concrete. I like to think I learned a valuable lesson from the experience. "Shut the fuck up when an officer pulls his weapon."
I am horribly stubborn, have been since birth apparently. I am always right and always have been. This is my worst quality, I realize, but also my biggest asset. Because I can stand strong on my own. Because I am not a sheep. Because I stand by my ideas and my emotions and my people. I am a loyal friend and parent, daughter and sister.
Today was Archer's final evaluation with the developmental specialist, who explained to us that Archer had a severe case of "my-way-or-the-highway syndrome." In other words, he's a giant pain in the ass like me.
"He doesn't want to do what he is told. He's rebelling. Already."
Meanwhile, Archer placed the blue circle on the black square and the red triangle on the green rectangle and laughed uncontrollably at the specialist who said, "no, Archer. You have to do it THIS way."
But Archer said no. He didn't want to. He wasn't sorry. Or afraid. Or eager to impress. He had his own ideas. He wanted to write his own paper. He was telling her nicely to "fuck off."
At first I thought, "Come on, Archer. Just put the green triangle on the green triangle.... for Mommy. Please?"
But then she said something that changed my mind:
"Archer. I know you don't want to but you're going to have to learn how to conform if you want to get anywhere in this world, bud..."
Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt. Oh, no you didn't.
She turned to me. "He's going to eventually learn to do as he is told. I mean, that's the world we live in, unfortunately. That's the only way to succeed."
And then I got angry. Because she was wrong. And because that is what everyone is made to think. To get in line, to take a number, to do what you are told, even if and when you disagree. No. That is not the world we live in. That is how we are TOLD we must live in order to get by. That is why "the world we live in" is so fucked up. No one wants to speak up anymore. Conform! Conform! Conform!
"Actually, no. That is not the ONLY way to succeed."
Because "getting by" is not what life's about. Aspiring for mediocrity and doing what we are told is not what one should learn how to do. Conforming is not the answer to Archer's developmental "differences." Or anyone's for that matter. If our kids are the future for God's sake let's teach them well and LET THEM LEAD the way. Because following the leader has never been a way to make any positive change. So what the fuck is going on then? Why has everyone tricked themselves into thinking so? How can a woman say "the only way to get by is to conform" and BELIEVE it? That is NOT what we should be teaching our children. And you can be damned sure that is not what ANYONE will teach mine.
I know Archer is special. He beats to the rhythm of his own drum. He has an instinctual independence that has enabled him to create his own language, regardless of the fact no one can understand him. He knows what he wants. He does his own thing.
I understand. I can relate. And although my stubbornness has made me a giant pain on the ass on many occasions it has also done a tremendous amount of good. My parents were damn good at being parents. They enabled me to be me, and taught me how to compromise but never to conform.
I would have rebelled against them if they had. I would have run away. Just like I know Archer will do if I or anyone else tries to put him in a box.
After These Three Ists of Orient, I have agreed to put Archer in speech therapy because, he should probably know some English if he plans on doing anything extraordinary for America (or any English-speaking countries) and honestly, I have no idea what the Ists will come back at us with, recommendations for "green on green class" or whatever they offer these days to teach toddlers how to sit quietly with different color piles of shapes.
And if my kids should grow up pains in the asses like me? Let them. Let them believe in themselves instead of apologizing for all the things they aren't sorry for.
I am relieved to hear that Archer's only difference is that "he wants to be different" even though I knew it all along. I am grateful to the Ists and their tests and helping show me what advice I should take and what advice I should ignore. After all, parenting is about learning to compromise, something I wrestle with daily as I'm sure all parents do. Something Archer will wrestle with, too.
You have to know the rules before you break them and all of that, and Archer will certainly know rules. But he will also make his own. And I will stand by to make sure he knows that although conformity is a way to get by in this world, it has never been a way to excel. Ever.
And I won't be sorry for saying so.
(Cross-posted at Straight From the Bottle.)