September 2010 Archives

            Lisa Belkin recently wrote (NYT Magazine, 9/12/10) of the time when "parent" was something you were, not something you did. That was also a time when the culture left the economic innocence of children alone and didn't target them as potential buyers. Sure, it was the 50's: the Cold War, unbridled patriotism, and Levittown utopia. Somehow the culture seemed in line with "family values" - even when those values included racism, sexism, xenophobia, and a healthy fear of nuclear annihilation. But here Belkin was right: my parents didn't pay much attention to what they did with us, we just lived out our middle-class lives and became middle-class ourselves. It wasn't until my Ivy League freshman year (where I had more in common with the Italian groundskeepers than with my roommates) did I realize there was any other American dream or way of life out there.
            I have often told parents that if they did not actively raise their kids the culture would gladly do it for them. The media is ready and willing to shape children's lives to become good consumers: every other moral/social issue is up for grabs, and consumerism rules the day. Having things will make us happy and fulfilled, and we'd better get rich quick to be able to do that.
            Indeed, how do we insert our values and goals and beliefs into our children's busy lives? Where do compassion, social consciousness, and right living come from? What can we do to avoid raising self-centered hoarders? Simple - we parent.
              To parent doesn't mean to pamper our kids - in fact, just the opposite. By providing opportunities to develop independence and resilience we act like guides, reinforcing our own family values by what we say and do and buy and share. By engaging as a family in community service, right sharing of resources, and active political and spiritual awareness of the world around us, we live out our own lives and beliefs and bring our children along for the ride. Yes, it is active - like "love" is active in any relationship - but it's for the best. You don't want to wake up and say with horror, "Whose kids are these anyway?" 
            So here's to "parenting" (and "loving") as a daily practice. Like exercise or meditation or playing the violin, it is an active choice, a part of our lives that enriches us as well. Just do it and you will be the parent you wish to be.

John Scardina

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