Catering to Bullshit

We used to have conversations about how we would raise children.

Husband tended to view the goal of parenting as teaching the kids how to get by in an imperfect world. He was very concerned with how to ensure the kids would fit in at school, given the cruel and flawed world of school cliques, and how to best prepare them for future dating, given the cruel and flawed world of dating.

I saw things differently. I felt that we should give our kids the space to be themselves, even if “themselves” were not socially desirable.

It wasn’t that I was opposed to buying my kids the cool trendy things or that I didn’t want them to be dating or something. I’d be happy to buy things the kids want (within reason, not raising them to be spoiled, encouraging age-appropriate saving and budgeting, etc.) and happy to have the kids socialize and date (in safe and age-appropriate ways). And of course it was important to teach manners and how to treat others with kindness and dignity and how to behave properly in different situations. And of course it was important to prioritize education and ensure the kids would grow up capable and ready to earn an honest living.

But if our kids had interests that were “uncool”, say playing with dolls or playing the banjo, or if our kids had no interest in dating, I didn’t see why we should push them out of something they were interested in, or into something they were not interested in, just to satisfy a cruel, broken, flawed world.

***

In my view, it was one thing to accept a certain amount of bullshit as an inevitable given that we just have to deal with. That we live in a world of broken systems. But it was another thing to actively cater to bullshit. And worse, to keep perpetuating the bullshit broken systems that we all knew didn’t work but that we were seemingly stuck with.

Bull (well African buffalo – stock photo searches are interesting) with WTF expression. Image by Nel Botha from Pixabay

I actually hate the mentality of “I’m having children so they’ll make the world better” because it sounds like a cop-out. (Why is that burden on their shoulders? Why couldn’t you do it yourself?)

The world would most likely remain broken, but I preferred the idea of parenting with the possibility that the world could be better. And I wanted to parent not only so that our kids could thrive in this world, but also so that in unlikely event of a better world, our kids would be prepared to thrive in that one too.

[I can hear you, Parents of WordPress, laughing at me.]

***

Not that any of this would matter. For reasons that are too personal and complicated to get into here, I don’t have children and likely never will. I am not happy about this. I woke up this morning feeling even more pissed off than usual about this.

Sorry for the rant. I’m in a mood.

40 comments

  1. I’m feeling your mood! Your post reminded me of a time when my second son (who is an athlete and played basketball and high jumped) was asked to play Pee Wee football. He didn’t want to play, even though all his friends were playing. A dad asked me if I was going to make him play. I said no. He just looked at me like I was crazy. We tried never to “tell” our kids what to do. If they started something they had to finish it. We also try to give them lots of different opportunities, so they can discover they things they enjoy.
    My oldest son was an actor in HS.
    My second son was an athlete, but also a photographer.
    My oldest daughter is an artist.
    My three next daughters are finding their own likes, but tennis and soccer are on the list.
    Parenting is hard. Society has an incredible influence, too much of it is BS. Or worse belittling to all of our sense of self.
    Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 3 people

      • I’ve come around to the idea that DNA is about 95% of what and how we are. I think the environment is important, of course, but will be dealt with in the individual ways. As a parent myself, this lets me off the hook in some ways, but in other (good) ways I have to say I can’t really take full credit.
        But the problem with all this stuff, I think, lies in the fact that there actually is no optimal way to be a parent, or a child, or anything. Everything is a big jumbled mess and that’s pretty much the norm and always has been. The key is in recognizing and appreciating those magic moments when everything seems to fall into place. (About two minutes each day, on average.)
        Sometimes I would think that if we all knew ahead of time what being a parent involved, no one would ever have children. But we do anyway, and those few minutes scattered here and there throughout time are our reward.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I completely agree with you parenting philosophy. Both my wife and I allowed our daughter to follow whatever interest she had, and she is definitely a weird kid (now weird adult) from weird parents. We were more concerned about providing her with an enriched environment that included lots of playtime, animals to love and take care of, art, dance, music and academics, instead of worrying about her fitting within prescribed social boundaries. We home schooled our daughter mostly so she could get a bilingual education, but also because she didn’t always fit in with kids her age in public school’s pigeon hole mentality. She was always a head taller than most of the other kids, and not interested in most things kids her age were interested in. One day not too long ago she thanked us for allowing her to grow up weird and pursue whatever she her interested in. She said she was discovering a lot of people in her cohort were all fucked up because they were forced to be other than what they wanted to be by their parents and the public school system.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My parents also gave me the gift of pursuing my interests without judgment and growing into societal milestones at my own pace. There’s a part of me that wonders in retrospect if maybe they should have pushed me a little harder on the milestones piece, although I take most of the responsibility for that one. Overall, I’m grateful that they let me have a childhood of imagination and totally free of judgment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It sounds like they figured out out that pushing the milestones probably would not have gotten very far. Somethings you just have to let kids figure out as they grow. You had a good upbringing. I think we all share a common sense of being on upbringing and parenting.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘it was another thing to actively cater to bullshit. And worse, to keep perpetuating the bullshit broken systems that we all knew didn’t work but that we were seemingly stuck with.’

    I’m with you on this!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I read your article with interest. Given that children are by nature egotistical, I think the hardest thing to instill in their characters is empathy for others. I have small grandkids and their parents have a tough job ahead of them. With hard work, it can be done, and will ultimately make the world a better place.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “I didn’t see why we should push them out of something they were interested in, or into something they were not interested in, just to satisfy a cruel, broken, flawed world.”

    Thank you.

    And thank you for not copping out, nor catering to the bs. I was just called “selfish” yesterday, at the age of 52, of all times, for refusing to bring a new life into this world, arguing for adopting one of the many kids in need! “Selfish!” People are cruel, broken, and flawed, and they make this world in their own image.

    At least until we agree to adopt a 60 year plan to help make it otherwise…

    Shira

    Liked by 2 people

    • Man, people are awful. I would be overjoyed to adopt, but not sure that will be in the cards either.
      The 60 year plan was my blind spot. I wanted (and if I ever get the chance, still want) to parent to the possibility of a better world as I am unwilling to accept the inevitability of the perpetually broken one, and yet I had not actually considered any mechanism by which the broken systems would actually change. Hence, I find your work so interesting

      Liked by 1 person

      • Coolness, thank you, JYP!
        Yes, people can be awful, and rather too frequently are, but they can also be taught to be “better than we are” (sorry, B5 has so many spot-on quotes to offer!!), if only we decide as a society to encourage our better selves by building systems that reward empathy and altruism rather than punishing it. No human system is inevitable, no matter what Lt. Commander Ivanova says that Russians understand about these things, because we human beings are capable of building good systems, too. We just have to decide that creating and building each other up is better than destroying each other: which will happen once we all understand that destroying each other destroys us all.

        Simple.

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d like to think I’d lean toward your approach as a parent, but I’ve often worried that I’d end up with sort of the opposite situation to your husband’s, where I’d be trying (consciously or not) to make my children into weird little outcasts and would struggle a lot if they turned out to be the normal/cool/popular kids.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My probably unpopular opinion: I think traditional dichotomy of normal/cool/popular vs. weird outcast is outdated. I’m convinced that “coolness” is far more situation-specific vs. universally enduring than people typically conceive it. I’ve been in many social situations where I’m the oddball because I have no interest in traditional geek culture things (science fiction, fantasy, anything Marvel related, Star Wars, video games, Doctor Who, etc.) and no one else likes the non-geek-culture things I’m into (shopping, makeup, music, Zumba, karaoke, etc.) Also, comic book tropes and video games are like, cool now, in a way.

      Like

  7. That’s true, although I do think there’s a certain awkwardness and lack of presence that can mark someone out as a weirdo regardless. In no situation could I ever have been considered cool as a kid, largely for that reason. But as I’ve gotten older, since growing a social skill or two, there’ve been a few times in very niche situations when I’ve had to step back and be like, “Whoa, am *I* the Queen Bee here?” Which, probably not, but the fact that that thought has even crossed my mind is pretty wild.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fair point about the social skill building.
      I had that experience too at a wedding when I was at a table where no one knew each other and I was like, how is it that the tables have turn and I’m the one keeping the conversation flowing and being the social butterfly? What universe is this?

      Like

  8. “Why is that burden on their shoulders? Why couldn’t you do it yourself?”

    Such strong words. I like this. Anyway, you should lead your children by example, and not by telling them what to do without you doing it yourself. You’ll be a great parents. Thanks so much for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, kids have very well-tuned bullshit detectors. (Well, I didn’t as a kid. I was a gullible and naive child. But most kids are extremely good at detecting hypocrisy and bullshit).
      Thank you! I hope to have the opportunity to parent (sadly, not at all likely) and I hope to live up to the task of being a great parent!

      Like

  9. My parents let me do whatever I wanted, while overprotecting me at the same time. I could pursue whatever interests or hobbies I desired, as long as I stayed home. So now at thirty-three, I can’t do anything for myself. My life situation is terribly complicated and for various reasons I’m stuck right now. I don’t really yearn for children, but I want the option to decide, and time is dwindling for that, which is depressing. Sorry I’m not uplifting. Just commiserating, I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There seems to be no perfect way to parent and infinitely many ways to mess up in some way. My parents let me do anything I wanted, and also were more than happy to care of anything I was too incompetent to manage (until I got married and the role of dealing with my incompetence shifted to my husband). I’m 35 and while I’m upset that I don’t have children and likely won’t because the window is closing, I’m also upset because I know I’d make a terrible parent because I never learned how to do anything.
      Your situation seems non-ideal. Are there any small steps you can take? Even like looking for another job and a more competent boss? (as much as I love your retail horror stories). Sorry if I am overstepping.

      Liked by 1 person

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