When I was 11 we came home one day to find someone we’d met at a homeless shelter/food kitchen/church thingy on our doorstep, with her infant. We’ll call her Missy.
I don’t know how she got our address, or why she was there.
But she was.
And I gave up my bedroom and moved in with my sisters and Missy stayed with us for a very long time.
She stayed with us through the aforementioned foreclosure, where my parents stopped paying their mortgage in lieu of paying someone else’s.
She stayed with us so she could get her two other kids (and nephew?) back in her custody.
Our house was foreclosed on and we were facing homelessness – not just for our family, but for Missy’s as well.
My parents traveled all over the city, and even a few hours north of where we lived, trying to find some place to live, but because we were being foreclosed on, no one was taking my parents + another family, because they didn’t trust they’d pay.
On the day we had to be out (the people who bought our house granted us an extra week or two on account of they were nice and we had a shit ton of people to move – although, Missy did most of the packing because….I think mom and dad were busy looking for houses and also hanging on to “god saving our home”) we had nowhere to go, we were looking at being homeless, and Missy was still going to follow us around.
The plan was for me and my siblings to stay at my grandparents while my parents continued to travel anywhere to find somewhere who’d let a two-family-one-income household rent from them. It was a really terrifying day. Not knowing where we were going to sleep, or live, or if I’d see the people in my homeschool group ever again…
But then my grandparents mentioned that the house next door just went up for rent, and so my parents went over and the guy who bought the place just wanted the land, so he didn’t ask questions and said as long as we’d paid the rent we could stay there. So we did.
And the house was a 3 bedroom + bonus room, and one of the bedrooms had it’s own private bathroom and entry, so that was where Missy stayed with her 9 year old and infant (the timeline is fuzzy, because it was around the time we moved there that she got partial custody of her kids, but I don’t know if it was simultaneously, or a little later), and I eventually shared a room with Missy’s 15 year old. My dad put up a false wall in the bonus room because it was connected to the master bedroom and my sisters slept there, and my brother literally slept in a closet.
When Missy’s nephew joined our party, he slept on a futon outside my bedroom, in the dining room.
When I was 12 mom got pregnant again, which meant that pubescent Kiery got to take over everything again, except this time….not only was my mom telling me what to do, and having me run the house, but Missy was too.
I was cooking and doing chores not just for my family, but hers as well.
Let me mention this again: I was 12 years old.
I was taking care of two families single handedly.
I was not okay.
Eventually my parents confronted Missy about using me as her slave too, and set up a chore list so other people had to also cook and clean and do laundry. Mostly, just that Missy had to take care of her family’s stuff, and we alternated cooking days. Zero introspection on the part of my parents regarding…I don’t know, placing too much responsibility on a twelve year old.
My parents got mad at me for my “attitudes” (because I was adolescent, exhausted, run ragged, burnt out, and barely keeping up with everything, including school), and blamed it on Missy’s 15 year old daughter’s influence (because I shared a room with her – even though we weren’t close). Very little came of this besides my trying extra hard to be totally happy all the time.
It was Missy’s older child who alerted me to the fact that my period had started when I was studying in a tree with my brother, her cousin, and some of the other kids. My brother was very concerned, and I panicked. Missy had then asked me, at random, if I was pregnant or not because I would sometimes wrap my arm around my abdomen (because cramps. and no meds.), and I was mortified. Half because I didn’t know what sex was or how to do it, and half because that’s not something you ask an isolated twelve year old who just started having periods.
My parents paid Missy $40 a week to stay with us and homeschool her kids. That way, she could say she had a job to the CPS people, while still fulfilling her god-ordained plan to be a stay at home mother and educator. I…don’t remember this going well. To be honest I’m not sure if she even did anything more to educate her kids than through books at them, like my mom did with me, but I don’t remember. I was otherwise occupied.
Missy was, however, a far superior cook than my mom, and fish and frog-legs aside, she made some really good food. This is the only pleasant memory I have of her. Graham cracker cake and home-made Chinese food.
Shortly before/after my 13th birthday, my parents discovered that Missy had been abusing pharmaceuticals and kicked her and her family out.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that I only had one mom around any more, and my own room. Also, my brother got to move out of the closet and into Missy’s alcove, which was nice…and I was maybe jealous.
The second stillborn happened two weeks before my 13th birthday.
After Missy, my parents decided not to let random families live with us again. Turns out my mom didn’t like having another lady in the house either.
My mom got pregnant almost instantly after the stillborn and I had to get my own rides to ballet (which meant asking my teacher to pick me up and coming home with my grandma). My ballet teacher was a wonderful adult to have in my life at the time. She made me feel valued and cared for at a time when I really needed it, because I wasn’t getting that from my mom.
In fact, that was often one of the things that hurt me so much as a child – I never had time with my mom, and I’d get upset and we’d have a mother-daughter day, but that would happen all of three times before she would get pregnant again and it would end and I just became an object. I tried to explain this to her once, but she never really understood it.
She spent so much time talking to and being there for other people, acting like she knew all the things about being a good wife (helpmeet), homeschooling, and parenting – but was never there for me, never there for her kids.
About a year ago some homeschool alumni and I got together and founded the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. When Homeschooler’s Anonymous started exposing the stories of abuse and neglect in the homeschool community I realized that I wasn’t alone. It encouraged me to keep writing my story and I’ve written a lot over the last several years.
Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) exists to do what we can to make homeschooling better for families like mine – families who use homeschooling to get away with giving their children a sub-par education, to cover for abuse, or as a thinly veiled attempt at isolation and indoctrination.
Here’s the thing: Homeschooling can be awesome, and most of my fellow board members had great home education experiences, but the fact that people like me, and many others, exist, means there’s a problem and we need to fix it.
Homeschooling should be a tool to give children the education that’s right for them, that equips them for the future, and gives them the tools they need to succeed at whatever they do - not whatever plans their parents determine for them.
Which is why I work for CRHE, and we advocate for the interests of homeschooled children – by doing research and creating resources. It’s an issue that’s close to my heart and it’s hard, grueling work, but we have ambition, passion, and big plans.
But here’s where you come in: It’s December and we have our 501c3 status which means any donations are tax deductible, and I would personally, really appreciate it if you donated what you can, get on our email list, and share this organization with anyone you know. Because what we’re doing is important, and what we’re doing has the potential to help so many homeschooled kids, now, and in the future.
**Also, if you donate at a higher gift level (and opt in) I’ll draw you something, because you’re awesome. <3
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been running myself ragged lately.
Sometimes it’s like, I don’t know how to not, you know?
I don’t know what a healthy balance is, and when the bulk of my work is creative it blurs the lines between shit I do for me and shit I do for other people/my job – because I would be making shit anyway.
I don’t know how to have projects and also not feel like I need to make up for something unless I’m doing so many things the day ends in exhaustion.
Like if I’m not doing all the things all the time then I’m not contributing and I hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me I’m lazy.
But then I’m running errands and have a mental breakdown in the car, and my calm is hard to get under control and I realize I’ve been doing a lot of putting-out, and not enough taking-in.
Even now, I’m fighting the urge to make more content – to film a KieryGeek episode or write a blog on KieryGeek.com because I haven’t touched it in ages, because gamergate is still on-going and I’ve been noticing all the sexism in my PS+ games. To add the text to the E.R.A. comic I drew over the weekend….or to delve deep into my psyche and figure out what the fuck is happening and what the trigger is that’s been poking me all week.
But I need to rest. And as guilty as I feel for not doing those things, a lot of them…..at this point, as much as I convince myself they’re for me, they’re really for other people, and that’s awesome and stuff…..but I don’t owe anyone my content right now. I owe myself a break.
And I needed to write that out so I could see it.
So I could maybe get back to minecraft or load WoW, or draw with pens because that is mine.
So I could convince myself not to work, and that the only person I owe things to right now is me.
Cynthia touched on it in the first part of her post “Freeing Self-Deceived Fundamentalists“. My family has glorified death for a really long time. I remember Columbine, like she was talking about – being something almost revered – not remotely tragic. When things were shitty(-er than normal) or if I was making a life choice my mom didn’t agree with she would say “well the end times are coming and we’ll be raptured soon [so we won’t have deal with XYZ]”. Going to heaven was all my parents really cared about, they instilled a sense of life being almost useless into me, unintentionally.
Why bother living here when life will be so much better after you die?
When parents neglect or kill their children because they think god told them to or that they’re saving them.
When parents talk about how brave Abraham was for almost murdering Isaac.
When I remember that my parents coped with my two still-born siblings by talking about how lucky they were that they got to be in heaven while we had to suffer on earth…
I used to be afraid, or worried sometimes……..that something like that would happen. That “god” would tell my parents to murder us, and they would. Or that I would be murdered (martyred) because I was a (true) christian in America, and I WOULD look down that gun barrel at columbine and say “Jesus will save me” or “Get behind me satan” or whatever clever bible phrase I could come up with before my imminent death.
And my parents wouldn’t mourn – they’d talk about how much better off I was dead than alive, how everyone needs to be a christian so they can wait out their miserable existence and go to paradise.
It’s really depressing thinking about it. But it explains a lot about why, I guess, I’ve rarely been afraid of dying and have always just been kinda nonchalant about it.
It’s not a good thing, because it adds intensity to depression: why bother living, anyway? Now that I don’t believe in god and don’t believe that suicide would nullify my non-existent salvation.
But when I was a child…
The emphasis my parents put on dying and going to heaven always bothered me.
It was like they were SO READY for our lives to be over.
They didn’t want to live.
They communicated that living was a waste of time. After all, we’re citizens of heaven, not earth, so why care about the world?
And that always fucked with me because I wanted to live, and I felt guilty for wanting to live, fully, and make the most of my time and help people while I was here, and even, (gasp) enjoy my life here. Because some part of me understood that being here mattered, even though I didn’t – and sometimes still don’t – know why.
I was so hurt when my mom would rather I die/be raptured than marry my spouse. She said, hopefully, that Jesus would probably come back before I even had that chance.
I can’t explain to you with words how much that messes with a person. When your parents whole life revolves around the end of their, yours, and everyone else’s life………when rapture is the answer to things that you don’t like…and pretend like everyone who wants to live and love now is silly because obviously they should just be working on getting into heaven.
Everything my parents do is motivated by being the best christians so they get all the heavenly kudos.
I think my parents were really really depressed.
And I think that messed with me in a lot of ways, too.