Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Extremely disturbed

I don't have a lot of time right now, because I need to find a FedEx office and get something in the mail for one of my ATC swap participants. But I'm extremely disturbed, and I find I need to get this off my chest before my head explodes.

I live in a very small town -- so small, in fact, that we don't even have a traffic light. We've lived here for just a smidge over 12 years.

When we moved in, a lovely family lived next door -- the Davises. Their son Clint was 14 when we arrived; their daughter Sunny was 12. Bill and Nancy were two of the loveliest human beings I've ever known. Clint, who tinkered with cars and played the drums but hardly ever spoke, grew up and turned into such a wonderful human being himself that my husband counts him as one of his closest friends in life despite the near-20 year age difference. Sunny was such a silent, intense person that we don't know her very well, but she grew up, too, and has gone on to live a life of quiet responsibility and maturity. Sadly -- very sadly -- Bill died of brain cancer a few years ago, and Nancy moved out of the house to a condo in West Knoxville.

The house was empty for a while, then it was for sale. It wasn't on the market very long.

Some people moved in the week before Cosmo went missing, and all the time that I was walking and calling -- specifically in the trees and bushes closest to home -- I would see the new neighbors at odd hours.

I really shouldn't say "odd hours." I'm a night owl myself, and I know my neighbors think of me as the resident crazy lady. But they weren't the hours that *most* people think of as normal hours.

I would sort of wave to the new people, but I had trouble distinguishing who actually lived in the house and who didn't. Wesley opined that perhaps a fraternity had bought the house. That explanation didn't really ring true, because there weren't *enough* boys to make a fraternity. But the people we saw most were (and are) young men, with a couple of young ladies around to justify the assumption that it *might* be a fraternity.

Now I'm struggling -- *struggling* -- not to jump to unpleasant conclusions, and I'm waging a battle with the judgmental snob in my soul that wants to complain violently about the noisy engines that pull in and out of the driveway at all hours of the night. There was a particularly noisy motorcycle for a few days, and I can't tell you how much I wanted to complain about that. The terrible irony is that Wesley owned a noisy motorcycle himself for years and loved that thing. I know I'm not allowed to be judgmental about *that*. But, oh, I wanted to be.

I'm still not to the really, extremely disturbing part of this situation. Bear with me.

My children are 17 and 12. (Emily is the elder; Woodrow is the younger.) And we homeschool them. I know a lot of people think that homeschoolers keep their children at home to *protect* them from the world, but we are the opposite of that sort of homeschoolers. In point of fact, my children were learning to be homophobic, judgmental, racist, sexist, ultra-conservative snobs of the worst sort at public school. They came home saying and thinking some of the unkindest things I've ever heard, and I couldn't stand it. Homeschooling allows us to gently guide our children to a greater understanding and empathy with their fellow man, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political philosophy.

As an added bonus, homeschooling helps us to ward off the self-esteem problems that often lead to premature sexual experience and drug experimentation.

Last night, my daughter was outside on the porch, talking to a friend of hers on the house phone while I was inside watching a movie. My sister called my cell phone, and I was talking to her when Emily came inside and said happily, "I made new friends!" Em is an extrovert and *loves* meeting new people. She has never met a new person who wasn't automatically a friend. I smiled and waved, but didn't have time to get the necessary info.

Today, just before Emily went to the library for her daily allotment of shelving books and hanging out with the town kids, she told me about her new friends. The new friends are the girlfriends of the two men who live next door. They are -- I am not kidding -- 14 and 16 years old. The girls are. Not the men. The men are adults.

And the conversation that Emily had with her new friends revolved a great deal around the sex that these underage girls are having with their legal-adult boyfriends.

I have always -- *always* -- been open with Emily about sex. The moment she asked where babies came from, I was armed with illustrated books and educational videos to demystify human sexuality. I was raised in a very cloistered, old-fashioned environment, and I grew up with certain misconceptions about it all that I was determined not to raise my children that way -- mostly because I felt cheated of the truth.

I can understand why my mother was uncomfortable talking about sex -- she was of a very different generation, having been raised in a very conservative time and culture. I don't think the way she raised me was *bad* or *wrong*, I just thought the truth -- the *whole* truth -- is much better for people's psyches in general. At least when it comes to sex. I felt as if a nasty trick had been played on me not to have the whole truth. Maybe my kids won't feel that way, and that's their right. But I'm the mama, and I get to make these decisions, and I'm raising my children to know the all the pertinent facts.

Emily is saddened that these girls are sleeping with their boyfriends. She's afraid that their home life is so awful that they don't feel they have any alternative to growing up too fast. She's worried -- because of our previous discussions on the subject -- that they're going to be sad adults as a result. She's worried that I won't let her be friends with these girls.

I'm reeling with worry, myself -- worry about what's going on next door, concerns about how Emily's going to handle all this information from a new source, fear that she'll decide having sex now is cool.... The list goes on and on. I can't process all this information myself. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say to Emily. I don't know how to meet the eyes of my new neighbors with this unbidden knowledge already in me to color my conceptions of who they might really be.

The very truth that I sought for my children may be my undoing. My attempts to be a better, less judgmental person cause too much uncertainty today. I have to get it out of my head so I can figure out where I stand. I'm just ... extremely disturbed.


At 1/7/05 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow.

That is so sad and disturbing. Your daughter must be a great strong girlwoman to have the opinions she does. Where are those girls' parents?

(Of course my mother met my father when she was 16 and he was 24 and her parents condoned their relationship.)

At 1/7/05 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would be extremely disturbed to have this happening next door too but I think you are doing the best thing you possibly can.

I applaud you for teaching your kids about the reality of things and giving them the information - i think too many parents go through life avoiding having to share the information hoping they will somehow pick it up elsewhere.

there is this verse in the bible that goes something like "train your children the way in which they should go and they will not depart from it"

i think that you are doing outstanding in that department - i feel for the girls though because it seems they lack acceptance and guidance at home and somehow have filled the void of their parents with these relationships

At 2/7/05 12:51 PM, Blogger Ally said...

Bay, having a 14 yo daughter myself my heart was racing as I read your post. I too am disturbed. I have no pearls of wisdom other than it sounds like you have armed your children with the knowledge and soul they need to do what is right. Of course, being ADD impulsivity type, my gut reaction is to inform the police. And finally, being non-judgmental does not mean being naive or observant with blinders. There is suspicious activity going on next door and I might be more than disturbed at this point.

At 2/7/05 3:39 PM, Blogger Bay in TN said...

Ally, I confess, part of me wishes I could call the cops. But first I'd like to meet all the people in discussion, talk to them, and try to get a feel for what's really going on. The girls haven't once stumbled around drunkenly in the street, nor have they been bound and handcuffed. The young men seem to be very busy working to earn the money that pays their mortgage and vehicle payments. In short, they all seem fairly responsible. Perhaps Emily misunderstood the girls' ages. Perhaps they misled her on purpose, because an exaggeration is more interesting than the truth. Until I speak to them myself -- which I intend to do today as soon as I see them -- I'm trying to reserve judgment and not jump to hasty conclusions.

In a way, of course, I already did that on this blog -- but as I said, I just needed to get the info out of my head so I could better sift through to see what I *really* think. And what I *really* think is -- I need to meet these people before I make any decisions that involve the authorities. :)

At 3/7/05 10:11 PM, Blogger Ally said...

ahhhh Bay - see, you are such a rational, intelligent human being who obviously does NOT have ADD LOL! Me? I'm just all about the impulse (and the lack to control it) - the inherent difference between those of us with and without "filters." Yours is well in tact apparently! I applaud your thoughtfulness regarding this issue.


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