Earlier this year we had a really awesome profile piece on Lifehacker about “How I Parent” as a Roadschooling mom. I knew it was coming because I’d been interviewed for it, though I, admittedly, didn’t realize how big that platform was when I was quickly and not that thoughtfully typing out the answers to my questions. When people started congratulating me for the feature the day it went live, and remarking how cool it was, I got so excited to go read it. I noticed there were already 36 comments, which is pretty impressive in 2018 because nobody comments on blog posts anymore.
(It appears some of the other comments that originally appeared have been deleted or hidden.)
Listen, I’ve been blogging for over 11 years, and I totally know how the internet can be. I knew not to expect all sunshine and rainbows in the comments, but figured there would be some people who were excited to hear about our adventure, maybe even wondering if they could do something similar.
As we were driving down the highway, making our way toward Yellowstone, I read comment after comment and my stomach sank. Every single one was negative. Not just in the “Ew, I’d never do this” way. Again, I expect that. This isn’t for everyone. This life is many people’s literal idea of hell. I get it.
And, it wasn’t the comments like this that upset me the most:
“My main concern is really that these kids will grow up believing that ‘influencer’ is a real vocation,” and “Basically, they are dragging their kids all over the place so that they can create internet content.”
I’ve been called a shill and a sell-out, and told to “get a real job” more times than I can count. This is a family business, and my kids are very involved in making decisions. I check with the ones old enough to have opinions before I post any video or picture. That’s why there are less of those with my older kids in them.
What completely caught me off guard were the comments like:
“Children need opportunities to grow away from their parents and siblings. This is a highly inappropriate way to raise children who you hope to be fully functional in our society.
Children who move around a lot growing up have been found to have a poorer quality of life as they try to settle as adults and often perform worse academically once they have to re-enter the real world’s education system.
IMO, homeschooling is a form of child abuse. It may seem fun while the children are small but will leave them emotionally and socially stunted.”
“Yeah, this is f-ed up. They’re completely denying their children the chance to have friends, let alone be socialized normally. I can’t imagine how devastating this would’ve been to me as a kid.”
It’s rare for internet comments to make me cry. I mostly keep my houses (my blogs and social platforms) troll free spaces, and I welcome constructive feedback and productive dialogue, but I don’t needlessly expose myself to the opinions other people have about me. I don’t seek out gossip sites or click through on incoming links I think will take me to a place where I will read what people would never say to my face.
But there I was, as we pulled into a truck stop in Montana, fighting to keep back the tears, not wanting my kids to see me cry over a bunch of dumb comments on the internet.
And then the absolute craziest thing happened in the bathroom of this truck stop. I went to pee, shut my stall door, sat down, and looked up to see this.
In case you can’t read that, it’s a speech by Teddy Roosevelt “The Man In The Arena”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
This came at a time when I was not only faced with these ridiculous opinions about how we were damaging our children while doing this trip, but when I was personally struggling with what “success” on this trip would look like. We were half-way through the year, and nothing seemed “fixed.” It felt like we’d been holding our breath for everything to settle and fall into place in terms of routines and work-life balance. And it was becoming clear that that just wasn’t going to happen at all. Redefining that idea of success was beginning to be ok with me, but I worried a lot about others judging us for doing this and not doing it “right.” Whatever that even means. (Sometimes my brain is a real jerk to me like that.)
So I’m just sitting there, peeing and crying in Montana. I’m having like a weird God/Universe moment in a truck stop bathroom. I feel like I was supposed to read that right then and there. I mean, you guys, I went and checked all 6 stalls, and this was only hanging in 2 of them. The stall I used, and the one Leyna used. I know, right? What. Why is this EVEN IN A BATHROOM STALL??
Anyway, when I got back in the truck, I told Scott about it, and then Kendall wanted me to read it to him, so I began to read it to everyone… and then I totally broke down. And I cried those tears in front of my kids that I had been trying to hide from them. And I didn’t apologize or down play them. I talked to them about how hard and scary it can be to take big risks, and how people may try to tear you down when they don’t understand the choices you make, but that doesn’t make your choices wrong or dumb, even if you fail.
But, I guess we’ll have to see if my kids will be able to function in society after being raised in such an inappropriate way. What a shame they aren’t learning anything on the road.