Dealing With Criticism: The Amazing Crystal Ball Syndrome

“For if I home schooled my children, they would never have seen these others in need. They would not see the loneliness of the child who sits alone in the cafeteria or the sadness of a classmate who has endured a verbal attack; and therefore they would never have had the opportunity to reach out with a loving hand.”

This was a quote on a blog about why she made the right decision not to homeschool her children. Although I could go on about how her comments (and the entire blog post) are based on stereotypes, I’d rather touch on something else – her amazing crystal ball.

One of the kinds of criticism we can receive comes in the form of “I couldn’t do what you’re doing because then I would have missed out on all the stuff that I got to do.” In other words, the criticism comes from a place of being sure that they know exactly what would have happened had they made a different choice, and indirectly, that you, as the person who DID make that choice, didn’t get to experience what they did.

What I want to know is this: How do I find one of those crystal balls that they are using that lets them see into a reality that never existed?

Snark aside, this kind of “I’d hate to think what my life would have been like,” argument is a defense mechanism. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with me. And it has everything to do with how the other person is actually not very secure in their choices, and not very sure that they made the right one.

I’ve done it before. Here’s an example of what I’ve caught myself saying: “I’m glad that we didn’t send our son to school, because my son would have had a horrible time sitting still, not talking in class, and many of the other things that they expect little kids to do. He would probably also be diagnosed with a ADD or ADHD.”

How in the world do I know that? We didn’t live it. Who knows, maybe his experience would have been fantastic. Perhaps he would have caught on to the school “rules” quickly and seamlessly. He catches on to rules everywhere else pretty well. And maybe he’d be super happy. I have no idea. So what am I doing when I declare the truth about a reality that does not exist? It’s a self-defense mechanism to defend my choice to homeschool.

The crystal ball argument – it’s a cop out. Don’t let these arguments get to you. And think about the times you’ve used them. The crystal ball argument is a fear-based argument. It helps keep us stuck. What are we really saying when we bring out our amazing crystal ball?


8 Responses to “Dealing With Criticism: The Amazing Crystal Ball Syndrome”

  1. DesertRat Says:

    The Banshees have a park day every week with a pubic schooled friend. Every so often and with great trepidation (I think she’s afraid of hurting my feelings), his mother asks me if I think Littlest Banshee or Middle Banshee would benefit from being put back into public school. It’s been a difficult, thought-provoking question because there is really no one-size-fits-all pat answer. Would my 5-year-old be reading by now? Most likely. Would she *want* to read? Judging from what happened to her elder siblings, not likely. Would my 7-year-old benefit from a more structured environment? Maybe he would accept it more readily from strangers than he does from me. On the other hand, his kindergarten teacher thought that his inability to let go of something that really interested him was a major problem that needed urgent attention. The class needed to move on to the next 15 minutes’ worth of lesson and this was a disruption!

    I turned left instead of right. I looked up instead of down. What if I had like blue more than red? What would the difference have been then? Would my child be sitting all by themselves in the cafeteria, or would my child be the one who walked by without stopping?

    No one ever has it all. It isn’t possible. While I homeschool my children are going to miss that first-day-of-school feeling, but there’s no way of telling whether that feeling would be a positive one for them or not. They don’t get subjects that are clearly delineated or taught within certain time frames. They don’t have a demarcation line between recess and class time, or that difference between a school day and a weekend. If they decide later on that they want to go to junior high or high school they won’t have the ability to sleep in when they’re tired or study just one subject until not only they, but everybody around them is an expert through sheer osmosis. There are trade-offs — I miss my old line of work something awful, but if I still worked I couldn’t be a stay-at-home-mom, and right now that’s more important to me. Enjoli can fold itself until it’s all corners and stuff itself into a quantum anomaly as far as I’m concerned. Life is choice; make of it what you will.

    Let the crystal ball get dusty on somebody else’s shelf. Like the Mirror of Esired, it’s a one-way-ticket to crazy.

  2. sunniemom Says:

    “What if” questions are great for novel writing and day dreaming- “What if I looked like Claudia Schiffer?” or “What if there was a spider from outer space that lived in the sewer and could appear as a clown to eat little kids?”

    We make our decisions based on our experiences and the available evidence, and we take our chances on the result. What gripes me more than those with a crystal ball are those who give absolutely NO thought whatsoever to ANY alternative other than public school.

  3. zaynasgarden Says:

    All I can say is that quote is heartbreaking on so many levels.

    When we use crystal balls (reasoning present situations via potential alternatives) we are ignoring (hiding from, justifying and rationalizing) the reality of right now.

    What “is” matters so much more than what could be and what might be. We only know right now…we don’t know what could have been or what will be.

  4. Luke Holzmann Says:

    Excellent, thought-provoking post.


  5. rhicarian Says:

    Very good point! I’m glad I read it. Thanks.

  6. Tammy Takahashi Says:

    DesertRat – so true. Everything in life is a choice. We can’t do it all. Might as well enjoy the choices we do make, so we don’t miss out on those too!

  7. Tammy Takahashi Says:

    sunniemom – exactly. The crystal ball is an excuse, really, not to give other things true consideration.

    I also like your “what ifs” are for novel writing. That’s a great way to come up with a story idea!

  8. Tammy Takahashi Says:

    zayna – right. Live in the now, because that’s the only time. It’s hard to do, and nobody’s perfect at it. In Zen, there’s a saying, “that’s why meditation is called a practice.” It’s not something that suddenly we can do. It’s something we work on our entire lives, and without practice, it’s hard to be good at it.

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