Trying Very, Very Hard Not To Suck

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

My earliest memories of my parents are of vast, wise, immeasurably strong beings in whom perfect trust could be placed.  Since then I have come to realize that they almost certainly did not plant this idea in my head intentionally, so I am going to operate under the assumption that it’s just how babies default to seeing their parents.  In less than a year, there will be a being on the planet that relates to me this way, and that scares the CRAP out of me.  I’d like to be worthy of at least the tiniest sliver of that regard, though I know I will fall far short of its ideal.  To that end I’ve been thinking a lot about both the how of being a good example to my kid and the underlying whys – because I know full well that the barrage of whys is coming.

I’ve been an iconoclast since about five minutes after I began to assert my individuality.  I was encouraged from a very, very early age to lead the examined life.  One blowby of this is that I have never felt strongly drawn to traditions.  Too often, traditions come with the explanation that “we’ve always done it this way” and that has left me cold every time.  I’m all for doing something that has a good reason behind it; when no better reason can be proffered for a course of action than sheer inertia, I find myself suspecting mental laziness at work on an epic scale.  So I find myself today a person who tends more often than not (though certainly not always, ha-ha) to deeply understand his actions, the reasons behind them, and the expected/designed outcome – and also a person who feels wholly unconnected to any sense of cultural belonging.  Oops.  I have a toe in many, many different spheres, but I am of none of them.

I’d like to find a way to provide my kid with a sense of cultural background, and an understanding of and appreciation for their roots, while making sure they don’t fall into the trap of insular tribalism.  I want them to feel that their forebears represent a fascinating, special, unique part of the human story, which is exactly as (and not one iota more) deserving of honor and respect as all others.  How do we do that?  That subtle point of love-of-self-implying-namaste is something that can be easily lost in the din, so I suppose it will bear a lot of repetition.  What’s tough about it is that I don’t feel especially anchored in my traditions (and have found a lot to dislike in there…) so it is not a comfortable, well-known thing to me.  S and I have batted around questions about what we’ll do surrounding holidays, particularly in the winter months, when many homes tend to be decorated, songs tend to be sung, religious observances are observed… and it’s something we have never once done in the home we have made together.  I remember being a small child at a Unitarian Universalist church and being exposed to the comparative-religion thing very early on.  That was done quite respectfully and without a sense of cultural appropriation, which makes me think it’d be worth looking into again as the sprout sprouts.

Related to this but separate from it is the question of moral-ethical foundations.  I have never particularly liked “because I said so” as a primary justification for a course of action; the respect due another human being compels me to try to approach from a place of reason.  The problems here are twofold, though.  First, I’ll have an interval during which the rational-cognitive faculties of my progeny will be exceeded by the depth of the questioning, which will make me have to be overly simplistic in my explanations.  Second, and much scarier, is when that time is over.  Then, the mind behind the questioning will be sharp enough to place me in a position that I will need to have my logic and philosophy in its best working order – likely concurrent with my having been sleep deprived for several years (because that’s certainly good for mental acuity).  And, for all that I feel personally morally obligated to have a deep and defensible understanding of the strictures I place on my child, and more broadly, those placed on us all by society, I also must remember that when I don’t actually know something, I have to cop to that.

Ultimately, this is all in the service of wanting to help my child be a good person, and providing them with all the tools I possibly can to help make the world a better, more just place.  It seems the more important to aim high and try hard when and how I can when I consider how thoroughly I can fall down, and how with-it I am not on occasion.

  1. Hel says:

    We talked a lot before having kids about how we would approach the holiday season, as well as discipline. And a lot of what we planned actually came to fruition pretty easily. The holidays – and since we come from disparate religious upbringings (me- Jew-ISH, and dave – episcopal, but not regular church goers), so far we have compromised on December, celebrated everything, discuss the sharing of joy and family associated with the time of year, etc…

    As far as discipline, I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the phrase “because I said so” since I’ve been inordinately aware that things I want them to do actually DO need a reason. That reason can be very basic (as they usually are) like “because it’s dangerous” or “because we are running late” or whatever. We also talk, OFTEN, about how mommy and daddy don’t know everything, and no one is perfect, and we even point out occasions when we make mistakes or did something wrong.

    I think you have a great outlook and thinking about this in advance will actually serve you well when parenthood begins. I am always conscious of what I say in front of the kids, including when I yell, or even, although rarely, swear – it certainly gets across a strong point that I am upset beyond the point of reasonableness.

  2. Sasha says:

    Here’s a lovely article on kindness from Alpha Mom:

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