noisy lazy something something
December 20, 2004 02:11 PM

I think I may actually want to have a kid. At some point. Not now, but at a vague hypothetical "later" time. This is a major shift in perspective for me, but it's not like I've come about this all of a sudden.

I've been meaning to get back to this conversation with myself for awhile (well, since the livejournal post that introduced it, or since the dinner conversation that sparked the post in the first place). You can obviously just go read that post, but it started from a conversation with some friends about their intention to raise their imaginary children with rules much more restrictive than those I grew up with. Like, "no earrings till you're 15" and such. And the Santa thing. That comes up a lot at this time of year.

I don't understand why so many parents perpetuate the Santa thing as a fiction they tell the kids. It's not just about Santa - there are many aspects of our dealings with children that involve belief in magic and imagination, but where the magic and imagination are proscribed. The Santa thing is one of these - why tell your children something you don't believe yourself? Talking about the spirit of giving or the magic of the holidays or something like that would be so much more fun - because it could be a shared belief, not a construct built around hiding stuff from kids. Surprises are fun and all, but I can't imagine feeling a burning need to pass off your surprise as coming from some fictional, if much beloved, character.

But so much of common parenting ideas seem to be about hiding stuff from kids "for their own good". About lying to them. About controlling them and fitting them into an idea. It establishes an adversarial relationship between child and guardian, where we beat kids into well-behaved adults like they're made of clay. Like a good adult is one who conforms and behaves well.

The comments after the LJ post helped solidify for me why the idea of parenting is so scary - it's not about kids' unpredictability; it's about parents' belief that you can control that. It's about educational philosophies that want the child to do all the bending, rather than allowing the philosophy bend to the child.

Some of my friends are very insightful parents, and the essence of their (mostly successful) strategy seems to be to have very little strategy to begin with. Not to prepare answers or construct fiction, but to engage with their kids and be guided by them.

Which is a pretty good philosophy for dealing with people in general, and one I could live with. At some long-distant future time, when the idea of bending around a smaller person seems more appealing.

Why do we think about kids this way? It seems so 19th century - about making good little cog-makers, not thinking citizens.

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your wicked thoughts

I've come to the same conclusions myself over the past couple of years. Seeing Roni with her Ella has cemented that there is a definite desire to have a small one in my life "someday." I don't feel the urge right now, but I could see how it would be a great experience.

But I especially like your like about engaging with kids and being guided by them. They have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them, and that's what many adults don't seem to realize. There is such an enjoyment from little things when you're with a child. A child's ecstatic giggle at their first sight of an inch-worm can be just as much fun as rockin' out at a concert. It's all about how we interact in each of those venues that causes our enjoyment.

I've also been reminded this year how hurt I was when I found out my mother had been lying to me "for my entire life" when I found out there was no Santa. I felt like one of my friends were taken from me. I got over it, but vowed to never lie to my own kids and I intend to uphold that promise to my seven-year-old self.

these are the thoughts of Cinnamon on December 30, 2004 01:35 PM

When someone tipped me off abt. Santa, I was upset--not that I'd lost Santa, who after all was someone else's idea, but that I had been lied to and that I had been dumb enough not to see thru it sooner.
I suspect some folks have kids just so they have someone around they can lie to, manipulate, take their problems out on... For this and many other reasons I decided never to have any. I also think some folks over-romanticize watching the kid grow, etc., because no matter how old you are there's always more stuff you can learn, and in fact for me it just gets better now I am old enough to have a little more control.
I wonder if being able to shoot one's mouth off right and left online will satisfy some folks' urges to influence or "bend" people, and take a little of the burden off their kids. Not enough, I fear.

these are the thoughts of KM on January 2, 2005 07:57 PM

Some of my friends are very insightful parents, and the essence of their (mostly successful) strategy seems to be to have very little strategy to begin with. Not to prepare answers or construct fiction, but to engage with their kids and be guided by them.

You know, everyone says this, but I'm going to say it again. Wait until you have a child. I didn't intend to, and now have a 3-year-old, who each and every day shocks and amazes me with her wonderful-ness. And having no preconceived notions (I never even babysat!), my parenting philosophy is more or less the above. BUT. Unless you live in more or less complete isolation, your child will be exposed to the concept of Santa, and I'm sure to various other things I haven't considered yet. And this applies to my Jewish, Muslim and atheist friends, too. We kept it low-key, and, yes, let her think Santa came. She was utterly delighted and it was worth whatever discomfort it caused me. I do wish it hadn't seemed so...necessary, and I do wish 'lying' wasn't involved, but by definition, young children are not rational people. Part of engaging them is dealing with their fantastic imaginations and all that comes with them. Ask my daughter what she did today and she's likely to say she rode a cat to the moon or something--and she will BELIEVE it.

these are the thoughts of Jenna on January 7, 2005 07:48 AM

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