A couple of interesting (in my mind) things happened yesterday to prompt this third installment of the ABC’s of Parenting. First, with The Boy’s growth spurt we were forced to hit the nearest mall and American Eagle Outfitters for 30×34 jeans – the only place that stocks them. I truly hate going to the mall, but my disgust is nothing compared to my son’s. He muttered with derision from the moment we walked through the door. Loud music. Glitzy, over-the-top window displays. WAY too many girls with the mistaken impression that leggings are a legitimate substitute for pants. WAY to many guys showing off the lovely plaid boxer shorts beneath their pants. After the jeans purchase, he was humiliated to be seen carrying the American Eagle shopping bag.
It being Monday, I was prepared for an evening of Antiques Roadshow and crocheting. Instead, The Boy talked me into watching the first two episodes of the new Cosmos series. He’d already seen the first one and wanted to share it with me. How could I turn down that offer? Cerebral, thought-provoking, and multi-disciplinary, we were both fascinated. We shared knowing glances and eye-rolls every time Neil Degrasse Tyson touched on a subject that would start a shouting match if said in the presence of religious conservatives. Which was pretty much once per minute. I would guess there aren’t too many 19-year-olds watching science documentaries with their moms over spring break.
And so that brings us (Finally! It’s about time she stopped babbling!) to today’s “C” of Parenting:
I’m don’t think The Husband and I ever made a conscience decision to be all counter-cultural in raising our three kids, but that’s how it ended up. TV and any other screen time was closely monitored (PBS and some Nick Jr. only) and mostly done together. Pop music was never included in our listening, though pretty much every other genre was. Nights out often included outdoor concerts and theater – they learned concert behavior very early on.
In contrast to most of their friends, our kids were limited to one extracurricular at a time. After sampling a few sports here and there, all three of them finally settled on music as their special activity. Viola and piano for Oldest. Classical voice for Middle Sister and The Boy. So that meant even more concerts, and intense focus on the history of music and classical music listening.
We ate dinner together pretty much every night of the week. That meant time together as a family, time to explore big ideas in politics, history, science, geography. The dinner table was often where frustrations about the school day came out…which often led to trying to understand where other people (who often were behind those frustrations) were coming from and how we might understand them better.
In short, our kids were nerds. Still are. Being counter-cultural was the cause. I truly know many parents who would be horrified at the thought of their children not being just like everyone else. The Husband and I loved it. We ended up with kids who have always been able – and interested in – having substantive conversation with adults. We have kids who are very dedicated to their learning (and their school work, which is often a very different thing entirely). Kids who care about social justice, who recognize the needs of “the other guy.”
I don’t say this stuff to brag or to imply that The Husband and I were super-parents. We flew by the seat of our pants at all times, and we made tons of mistakes. Sometimes our kids’ behavior totally threw us for a loop and we resorted to raised voices.
In the end, being counter-cultural was a happy accident, probably because The Husband and I are, ourselves, pretty nerdy. Most certainly there are other positive ways to parent. But creating a counter-cultural family worked out well for us.