You Seemed So Close

“You always seemed so close.”

Reading stories from other homeschool grads via Homeschoolers Anonymous and associated blogs has has helped me tremendously with making sense of my experiences growing up in a less-than-ideal homeschool environment. I’ve wanted to anonymously add my voice for a while, but I’m always too afraid. I figure this handle is obscure enough that I can write (relatively) freely.

The other thing that has always held me back is I have a lot of anxiety about speaking my story at all. I always minimize and mostly try to forget. I don’t think that’s healthy though. Stuffing emotions isn’t good, and it comes back as depression, nausea, panic.

Anyway, I have trouble knowing where to begin. How can you explain why you aren’t talking to people who were once your entire life?

I chose the title “You always seemed so close” because someone said that to me recently upon hearing I don’t currently talk to my parents or siblings. We seemed so close for two reasons: one, because we were! And two, because we weren’t allowed to be close to anyone else.

Like a lot of homeschoolers, especially conservative ones, family was first. Now, I don’t disagree at all that family is important! But family was important to the degree that siblings were kind of presented as the only friends we would need, hanging out ahead especially going out with friends without a sibling waw frowned upon, and friends were something we cycled through quickly– our parents could write them off for the smallest transgression.

When I say the “smallest transgression,” I am not trying to cover up for having genuinely bad or dangerous friends! If you are a parent reading this, I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t care who your kids’ friends are. What I’m saying is my parents’ standards for my friends were so high it was at least a little crippling socially. For example, my dad told me not to be friends with my neighbor because I invited her over more than she invited me over. I was a teenager and didn’t mind making more of the effort, so all this did was limit me from seeing a very nice girl friend of mine.

While I was seldom outright forbidden from seeing friends, my parents did everything they could to make it too difficult to be worth the bother. Spending too much time (in their opinion) with friends? You must not like your family very much. Don’t you care about your siblings? Stayed late after your college class to have dinner with a friend? You should have been home helping with the chores. Biking with your neighbor most days? You must not care very much about your sister.

The fact is, I lived with my family. I loved my siblings, but it was important for me to build relationships with other people. Especially peers. Humans are social, and while it is a common quip from homeschoolers that “In the real world, you won’t be sitting in a room with people within a few years of your age all day!” you WILL want to have a network of friends in the real world. It’s also normal to want to be around people who are developmentally similar to you, to have girlfriends who are having the same life changes, to meet potential significant others.

So yes. My family and I were very close. But I never got to show them I could be close to them by choice. When I finally made a friend who was as close and now closer to me (the friend who is now my spouse and father of our child!), he was dismissed, just like every other close friend of mine eventually had been…and I went with him. Sometimes I feel like the underlying issue my parents had with many, many acquaintances of mine (because to be honest… We didn’t really stand a chance of becoming close friends) was simply that it would have meant sharing me. I hope someday they can realize I have enough room for many loving relationships in my life. Until then (for many reasons [my mental health not least among them], which I’ll address in future posts), no contact is the current state of affairs.