As I watched Sally at her preschool’s winter program recently, something struck me in the gut, hard. Sally’s upbringing will be so different from mine that it will in some ways be like we are from different cultures. I have talked before about growing up in the Christian homeschooling subculture being like being raised as a “third culture kid.” I’ve talked about how our parents, raised in normal mainstream homes, could not understand the experience of growing up like we did, out of sync and in a subculture of our own. They grew up with their main age cohort; we grew up in a cohort of our own, away from our main age cohort.
But what I hadn’t thought about was the ways my raising Sally and Bobby in mainstream society, with their main age cohort, will mean that they and I have completely different first cultures.
On the one hand, I’m extremely glad that my children will have different experiences from mine. They will grow up in a world where they never learn the fear of the rod in their parent’s hand, where girls having careers is not foreign, where young people have their own lives separate from their parents. They will grow up in a world where they are never taught that they must cover their bodies lest they incite lust in another, never told that sex before marriage is sin, never taught disgust at the thought of LGBTQ individuals or immodest women. And finally, they will grow up within the popular culture of their generation, not on the outside looking in.
But while I am glad for this, I sometimes feel a bit torn. There are things about me and my culture of origin that they may never understand. There are words that mean so much to me that will mean nothing to them. When I get together with others raised in my same subculture, we talk about AWANA and skirts only and purity rings. We talk about head coverings and daily Bible reading and fear of stepping foot in a public school. None of these things will mean anything to my children—none of these things will be a part of their experiences.
Sally knows what homeschooling is, because a number of her aunts and uncles are still being homeschooled today. But she is also quick to point out that she will not be homeschooled, and that she will ride to kindergarten on a school bus next year, and that she has her own teachers at preschool. The other day when I was talking to her about not hitting people when she is angry, and asking her how I could help her learn and remember that, she said “I am learning that in school, mommy. I want to learn it there.” I am glad school is an important part of her life, but it’s so . . . different. So foreign, even.
Sometimes I wonder—when Sally is in middle school doing normal middle school things, will I still be able to connect with her? Or will there be a culture gap so wide I cannot understand her? Yes, I know that there is a gap of some sort with every generation, but this is different. It’s more, somehow.
But when Sally throws her arms around my neck and says “I call you mommy, because you are my mommy and I love you,” I find it difficult to truly worry. I wonder what the future will hold for us, but I know that in the end it will work out. Still, when I look at how very differently Sally is growing up, something twists slightly inside of me. Mostly I’m happy that I hope to help her avoid some of my own struggles growing up, but I also feel a tug of something else.
It’s bittersweet, I suppose.