Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Cupcake Piñata

I want to share a very simple little story about something that was a precious moment for me.

When I was a child, we didn't really have birthday parties, although my mother did make an effort most years to cook a favourite meal for the birthday child. When I was really young, we did have a party or two with a few friends invited and a special meal, but eventually as we became more isolated by the homeschooling, there weren't really friends to invite, and there was no money for extras like birthday meals when my father was just not working. So in my last few years before I left home, all our birthdays were barely noticed, much less celebrated, except by my mom quietly making a preferred meal from pre-set options and often no cake, or a very plain one with no icing. Birthdays could be a cause for concern for us, since we also were fair game to be confronted about whether we had matured into more godly children in the past year or not, and there was no safe way to answer that question. We were also sometimes taunted by the chance of a birthday party or a coveted gift if we behaved well enough. This was never really a possibility, and we would always lose that privilege no matter how good we were, since the money literally did not exist for it.

I became a little resentful about birthdays and birthday parties as I became an adult, because not only were birthdays not special, they represented a loss. I had been to a few normal birthday parties as a child and just couldn't be happy for those kids when I would never get that myself. Seeing someone have a nice birthday party became a difficult thing for me. I explained this my non-fundamentalist husband, who along with millions of North American children, apparently had birthday parties. He was a little surprised by this, and decided to do something about it.

My husband threw me a kid's party for my 24th birthday, because I never got one. He invited friends over, and ordered a very pink cake that said happy birthday on it. He stuck a ton of candles in it and lit them all. He set up our kitchen and living room with pink and white streamers all over, and blew up balloons and hung them from ribbons all over the downstairs area of our house. He made some kind of supper, I can't even remember what it was, the party was so exciting. And the best part of my party was the cupcake piñata. It was huge, at least two feet in diameter. It had a colourful "wrapper" base, and "icing" on top covered in sprinkles. He filled it with candy rockets and jolly ranchers and suckers and Hershey's chocolates and little plastic dinosaurs. We hung it in the doorway between the dining room and the living room and he videotaped us hitting it until it cracked open, and then we had little goodie bags and gathered up all the loot.

I didn't really eat a lot of the smashed piñata candy, but being given that experience at 24 years old was such a healing day for me. I still don't like it that I missed that part of childhood, but I am not hurt by that any more because the thing that I had lost was given to me. He gave me a piñata for my birthday last year too, I am coming up on my 26th birthday this year. Who knows, maybe I will get another one.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Navigating the Justice System Part II: When my Parents Went to Court

See also: Navigating the Justice System Part I

This part of Navigating the Justice System deals with a time in my life when my parents went to court and I didn't, but I am including it in the middle of a three part series since it hinges them together. Here is what happened when my parents went to court:

    When I was about 11, we were living in Ontario, where we had moved to get away from the court proceedings in Nova Scotia. However, my parents had been ordered to appear back in court in Nova Scotia. We had been going a conservative church in Ontario, for about a few months to a year. My parents talked to some of their friends in the church, and the decision was made to "farm out" the kids to various families

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Navigating the Justice System Part I: Alone at 9 Years Old

Trigger Warning: please click away from this page if you will be triggered by content that deals with child maltreatment and its consequences.

If this is the first Feminist in Spite of Them post you have read, please consider reading this either before or after.

When I was about 9, my parents were investigated by Children's Aid. Social workers came out to talk to us. They met with us and found out that my parents spanked as punishment - which made sense since my parents had posted "The 21 Rules of This House" next to the dining room table. They came back a few times and spoke to each of us children. My parents homeschooled and they questioned whether we were getting an adequate education

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Call for Inclusion in the Survivor Community

There has been a bit of a ripple this weekend regarding a post that was published on Homeschoolers Anonymous. This post is written by someone who was homeschooled in a positive way, and has attained a higher level of education. He gave some recommendations for how survivors should be writing their stories. His main points are not false, he gives a solid explanation of the difference between narratives, philosophical statements, and empirical evidence. From a casual reading, his content is solid. However he goes on to explain that these claims need to be kept separate, or the movement will suffer.

We need to recognize

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Two Messages that Children Internalize that Contribute to Bullying in Patriarchal Church and Homeschool Groups

Homeschooled children sometimes experience bullying from peers. Part of this stems from the messages that children absorb about themselves.

1. Children respond to the tiered authority by owning the message that they are the not as good as other people and exist to serve people who appear to be more powerful than they are;

2. Children respond to the opposite message that they are the best and brightest and most privileged and enact that power on others. 

I have mentioned the issue of bullying in homeschool groups in passing in a previous post, but bullying in homeschooling families and homeschool groups is a serious issue. In a well-meaning homeschooling family from a conservative background, there are several patterns, such as adherence to patriarchal family systems and the sense of responsibility held by the parents to teach their children to succeed in life and grow up to be adults with the same mindset and goals as the parents. There is also often a commitment to having a large family. This creates

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Trailer

Let me tell you about the trailer. My family got the trailer from another family, I remember them, but I don't know why we got the trailer. I was very young - a few years old probably.

The trailer was a little camper trailer - it used to be white - with a table in the middle that became a bed, a bed on each end, and a little kitchen set up across from the table and a little bathroom. It was fun at first to go camping, it had a green awning but it broke. It had two little steps that pulled out. We went camping in the trailer in Ontario, it was near my fifth birthday and I think we were travelling to Nova Scotia but I'm not sure. There were four kids then.

When we moved to Nova Scotia we lived in the camper in a camp ground at first. Then we lived in a rented house and my started homeschooling, I think with something called ace or a beka. Then we lived in the trailer in a little sandlot for a summer

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

An Open Letter to My Former Highschool Teachers

Dear Teachers,                                                                                            October 15, 2013

When I came to the high school at age 17, I had absolutely no idea how to be a student.  Many of you know by now that I had didn't know what a teacher-student dynamic was. I hope you understand that up to that point I had been around adults who mostly made stuff up as they went along, and expected respect from authority that was derived simply from being bigger and older, not from legitimate accomplishment. To a scared 17 year old, it looked the same at first, because of the authority aspect. In the three years I went to high school, I learned to respect you for the knowledge and expertise you represent. I think I was supposed to respect you simply for being teachers, adults, and authority figures, but instead I respected the time and effort it took to become teachers, and the skill and patience that kept you there.

    I remember sitting in my first class, which was a grade nine math class. That was a difficult thing for me, to enter a class with people three years younger than I was. But to the teacher who taught that class, and the