We were riding home in the car the other night and out of the blue Jacob (the 3-year-old) said from the back seat, “Aww, darn it!” It caught Michelle and me completely by surprise, so, of course, we both laughed a little. Huge mistake. Sufficiently emboldened, he went on to repeat his new phrase 57 times in a row. We completely ignored him and didn’t react in any way to the subsequent 56 repeats, but he still kept it up. 57 times. With the same little laugh after each iteration.
I tell you, one little slip and you are doomed for life. On the bright side, it could have been a lot worse. At least he picked a relatively benign phrase. Really, it was more about the repetitiveness that got to us. That’s often the way it is with 3-year-olds, they can suck the life out of you with their uncanny ability to enjoy extremely banal things for hours at a time. You might remember I ran up against this issue several weeks back with the whole falling off the cardboard box situation? So, here I was again, reprising my starring role as Easily Amused Person.
I’m pretty sure most parents, regardless of background, can relate to these little 3-year-old-isms that form the core of most of my recent writing/blogging. To the extent that these stories are entertaining and/or comforting, it is likely because of their familiarity. However, we must be careful that we do not let these shared experiences of parenting cover up the important and sometimes overlooked differences. When it comes to raising children, each parent brings to the table a different set of experiences and life histories. These differences engender differences in parenting styles and approaches, and at times most poignantly, differences in worries, fears, and realities that inform these stylistic variations. Here are a couple links that highlight such differences…
As any of you that follow me on Twitter know (and I can only assume that is all of you), I have been on a bit of a Ta-Nehisi Coates kick lately. As always, I am extremely late to the party, but if you’re not familiar with his work, I highly recommend you check out the writing of the person some have called the new standard-bearer of James Baldwin’s literary legacy. This piece, an adapted excerpt from his new book Between the World and Me, is extremely enlightening and moving. And most importantly for our purposes here, it provides a window into the experiences and fears that inform the parenting of black parents in America. And going one step further, it takes us inside the world of a very specific and underrepresented (as far as I know, at least) demographic: African-American, non-religious parents. Anyway, read it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Yes, it is quite long, but just take your time; it’s good stuff.
“I am sorry that I cannot make it okay. I am sorry that I cannot save you—but not that sorry. Part of me thinks that very vulnerability brings you closer to the meaning of life, just as for others, the quest to believe oneself white divides them from it.”
Also, here is a recent interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air in which he discusses, among other things, parenting and discipline.
And for the sake of a very different perspective, here is an article in which a mother describes her struggles with self, feminism, and motherhood. It’s not a new article, but I just came across it. Actually just came across this magazine, Aeon. Anyway, I didn’t really pair these two articles together for any reason other than I read them at around the same time and liked both of them. The only connection I will attempt to make is that these two different perspectives on life and parenting exemplify how disparate our perspectives, priorities, and worries can be because of our different birth circumstances. Not better or worse or more or less valuable, but simply different.
“From my son’s earliest days, I knew that I couldn’t give him religious certainty. And existential security was beyond me, too. Instead, from that time, and for the hundreds of weeks that followed, I gave him myself. And maybe, by the time he works out that that isn’t enough, he’ll be old enough to find his own sources of meaning and certainty.”se,
And here's a picture of me on the 17th green of the Old Course at St. Andrew's, because, well, British Open week...