“We can have animus and not be enemies,” sayeth Jon Stewart. I can’t say I’m there yet, but it gives me something to aim for.
Missouri: Hi Carolyn,
I guess my husband and I are what the liberal East Coast would call conservative bigots. My question isn’t about that, so I won’t get into it. We are raising two kids our way, while being constantly told by the liberal media that it’s the wrong way. Sorry, but we just don’t agree, and neither do most of the people in our community.
The issue is that my husband’s job is taking him to a liberal East Coast city, and we’re now faced with the question of whether to uproot everyone and follow him there. If we go, I worry my kids will be exposed to a lot of hooey I have worked hard to keep out of their lives. If we don’t, we’re looking at at least two years’ separation during which my husband will miss the last of his daughters’ little kid years. It’s well-established around here that you can’t bubble-wrap kids, so basically I’m looking for suggestions on how to keep our values strong in our kids even if we choose to move them out east.
Carolyn Hax: You’re right to worry–we liberal East Coast dwellers have two heads, learn a secret language at Ivy League schools so we can mock real hard-working Americans, make our preschoolers watch gay porn, and scream like pod people when we see someone going to church.
The exposure-to-a-lot-of-hooey ship has already sailed, I’m afraid–you’ve bought wholesale the whole idea that there’s an “Us” and a “Them” in this country.
Here’s a little welcome brochure for you in the form of my daily life, in case you decide to tough it out in the Eastern time zone:
I’m married, and we have three little boys.
We love them, work hard to teach them manners, values, civic responsibility, respect for adults, respect for themselves.
We care about the schooling they get, the food they eat, the bedtimes they keep, the community that surrounds them, the families that take them in for play dates. We care about setting an example of strong partnership in our marriage.
We have a hard time containing our frustration when we see even the slightest glimmer of entitlement in them, even though we know intellectually that all small kids see themselves as the center of the earth. We also know that it’s up to us to teach them the value of hard work, of delayed gratification, of gratitude, of giving back as much as they take, if not more.
We also give them as much room as we can to be themselves, which means, at various times, letting them explore in stick and rocks and mud, and make play weapons, and fall off their bikes, and they’ve done target shooting and archery. (I hear a lot about attempts to “feminize” boys, and all I can say is, good luck. If it’s in them to be house kids, then they’ll gravitate that way whether they’re pushed to or not, and if it’s not in them, then they won’t. Cultural norming works better in theory than in practice.)
We encourage them to play with neighborhood kids; these neighbors include four families with their kids in faith-based schools–one believes firmly in single-sex education–and four others with kids in public schools. (My kids go private because the classes are small, much better for their temperaments.)
Have you read anything yet that makes you tremble in fear for your children?
To be fair, I’ll also say that I worship no higher power. However, I am also never in anyone’s face about that, not even when someone of faith gets into mine, which does happen. I not only respect people’s right to live as they see fit, but I also hope my kids will look to others as an example, compare other parents’ choices to ours, and choose a path based on that exploration.
Which brings me to the point I could have opened with and quit (but then I wouldn’t have been able to bring in the Pod People): If you are as assured as you suggest in the correctness–and righteousness–of the way you’ve chosen to raise your children, then there should be no reason it couldn’t withstand the challenge of other points of view. Truth likes light, doesn’t it?
Trust your choices, and trust your neighbors to be human–really, I swear they will bear an uncanny resemblance to you.
As as for Us vs. Them, may I please humbly ask of you to declare with me that enough is enough is enough?
Staying ovation for Carolyn! Full points.
Then of course there’s the adorable five-year-old child whose mother allowed him to dress up as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” and defended everything from his neon wig to his go-go boots to judgmental mommies IRL and on the web in a post called “My Son is Gay.”
SPOILER ALERT: The child in question is not actually gay. The writer is employing a rhetorical device to make the point that it wouldn’t matter to her if he becomes gay at some point but that letting him dress up as a girl if he wants on a costume-oriented holiday will not affect his sexual preferences later in life. (As she puts it, brilliantly, “I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.”)
In case Mrs. Missouri is wondering, this gender-bending Halloween is brought to you by a Stay At Home Mom who calls herself “Cop’s Wife,” sends her kids to church pre-school, and lives in the Midwest. Teh gays! Teh cross-dressers! They are EVERYWHERE. If you think you can avoid their pernicious influence by staying where you are, Mrs. Missouri, you’ve got another think coming.
Missouri, meet Cop’s Wife. Bring the kids! I think you will get along smashingly, at least until / unless Mrs. Missouri does have to transplant to some godforsaken eastern urban hellhole. (“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.” —Alvy Singer)
But: breathe deeply, Ester. Abide. (“Calmer than you are.” —Walter Sobchak) I don’t need to resort to snark just because Mrs. Missouri did in her letter. Perhaps she is an open-minded person waiting to happen! After all, how Jesus Camp-y could Mrs. Missouri really be if she’s writing into my favorite (and East Coast based) advice columnist? Perhaps there is hope for her yet.