Little Oil is Not a Little Me!
Warning: This post is embarrassingly self-conscious. I debated just throwing it out, but then thought, “Heck, if you can’t over-think things and fight against straw-people arguments on the internet, where can you?” AmIright?
Twinsies! Photo by Russ Roca, of Path Less Pedaled
Cute! She’s Like a “Little You!”
On Twitter and in real life, I sometimes get comments about how Little Oil supposedly has exactly the same interests as me. Even though usually delivered as a compliment, I tend to recoil from such remarks. I hear it implied that I am “programming” her to be just like me. I am defensive about this and I’d like to explore it a bit here.
There are two types of preferences that Little shares with me and her Mama that others comment on. Or don’t and I just react like they did. Because I am almost cripplingly self-aware. (Hence, blogging.)
Let’s call those two preferences-types “Tastes” and “Values.”
Look, People! I don’t pretend that Little Oil is sooo cooool as to have discovered Talking Heads or Seattle Bike Polo on her own, I’m just reporting on some of the Darndest Things she says. If it happens to be the case that she really only likes Talking Heads, and especially their coolest album, Fear of Music, that’s just the way it is! She’s a cool person!
At home, she is mostly exposed to what Mama Oil and I like. That’s the cultural landscape that she currently finds herself in. She chooses from stuff we like, that’s most of what is on the menu.
The important Parenting Philosophical Point here is that we aren’t programming a little “Us” (blog nickname aside), we just like enjoying music and art and books together and it seems like if you expose your kid to stuff you genuinely like rather than prepackaged, “Baby Genius” brand garbage, you are more likely to share enjoyment and make a connection with one another. I know this will be challenged the first time she get’s a hit of Elmo or something, but so far so good.
Good news, I’m a big nerd and most of the stuff I like is already designed for children, so I have a better chance of making it through kid culture with my eyes ungouged and ears unbleeding than Mama Oil, but we’ll just have to see.
Also, she’s a toddler. If she likes something, she becomes obsessed. So us happening to enjoy making her dolls and bear dance to Life During Wartime one morning blows up into a full scale David Byrne and Talking Heads binge that has been going on for weeks and shows no sign of slowing. This single-mindedness makes her preferences seem maybe a bit more significant than they perhaps are. Also, cuter.
Not A Clone, Anyway.
She’s even into some stuff that is within our cultural bubble but not among our favorite things. Like Bike Polo. If I’m riding solo and I happen upon some folks playing a game of polo I’ll stop and watch for a second, but Little Oil is like a fiend. Whenever we are within a one block radius of any place she’s ever seen a game played she insists that we go check out the polo. Once there, she is hypnotized, watching the ball and explaining to me what’s happening, like the cutest commentator possible.
Polo, Papa! She hit the ball. Ooh, he’s riding!
He hit the ball!
…and she doesn’t even like everything we like anyway!
Talking Heads, Kimya Dawson and They Might Be Giants? Approved.
Punk music of any kind (except New Wave), or reggae or Psych or British Invasion (even the Kinks!)? Denied. (and by the way, she wants to know, “Where David Byrne go?”)
This taste thing goes beyond music, of course.
Bikes, robots and food are all hits. Mama and Papa sleeping in has not yet caught on.
And Then There’s Values.
We really have gotten this from soooo many people after mentioning attending a protest with Little Oil, or when someone realizes that she doesn’t eat meat or that we actually bike almost everywhere together:
Oh, cute! You are indoctrinating her with your vegetarian, low-car, anti-authoritarian worldview! Like inducting her into a cute little cult!
I think that’s… interesting! I’D rather let my child make their OWN choices regarding such things, when they are ready.
Until then, we’ll just be living like NORMAL PEOPLE.
I’ve only got one thing to say:
The kid is raised in a household with particular, reasoned, progressive values!
Yougottaproblemwiththat? Photo by Russ Roca, of Path Less Pedaled
The Oil Family:
Not perfect. Maybe not normal. Definitely not ashamed.
UGH, you ARE normal people. EVERYONE is normal people. Nobody has a monopoly on being a normal person!
(shouty because guess what, I get asked why I don’t behave like a normal person all the time, and it’s not like I just woke up someday and decided to be a fucking weirdo, it’s just that I made a series of choices, and tried a series of things, all of which were COMPLETELY REASONABLE at the time, and somehow I ended up here, and no I don’t have a car, and yes, I brought this violin here on a bicycle and WHY IS THAT SO WEIRD CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER NOW FOR ONCE THIS IS MY NORMAL LIFE JUST STOP IT.)
I mean, not that I never want to talk about it, but nobody lives the same exact way as everyone else. It’s just that some people do it more obviously than others, and there are days when I just want to go about my normal business and not be some kind of spectacle.
Preach it, buddy! The Main Tanks are with you.
It made a big difference to my son when another vegetarian joined his school in 1st grade (and by agreement of the teachers and both sets of parents, they’ll likely stay in the same class throughout his time at school). But even before she arrived, he never felt any doubt about not eating meat. He calls bacon “pig butt” which never fails to make me laugh.
But we’re all normal because there are all kinds of normal. Go you! Tell the haterz to check out life outside their own little cults every once in a while. When I told some Chinese-American and Indian-American friends that we’d sold our car, they said, “Mazel tov!” Because they’re Jewish. And then, because we were attending the potluck at our kids’ Japanese-bilingual public school, we all skipped the musubi together. And yet everybody still had a good time!
I like this story, Hum.
and why do folks who raise their kids in a meat loving, car driving, whatever get to be the judge? They too are indoctrinating their kids into a particular cult. Just so happens their cult is currently a bit larger. I got this a lot growing up vegetarian. Parents of friends telling my parents “Oh, don’t you think that should be your daughter’s choice?” Well did they give their kids any “choice” about the various foods in front of him/her? Choice is learned as we get older and if you raise your child in an open, loving way, one hopes that when they get to the questioning point of the teen years they’ll rebel, embrace, choose the pieces they love from the world around them and in the end hopefully be loving, generous human beings. That’s really all we can hope for with our children, right? Being the brown, vegetarian girl with braids in a school and city full of folks who saw me as the “other” didn’t always mean that I had a huge group of friends, but it all still worked out pretty well for me…or so I like to think Okay. Done with soapbox. You guys are awesome and so is baby oil! (I saw you riding your bike at a protest recently and it made me smile.)
And finally, I’ll leave you with this -one of my favorites from Kahlil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Thanks for the perspective, Dancingbird! I agree that status quo is still a perspective, although I think I am finding Little more opinionated and exercising “choice” a bit more than you credit to kids younger than teens.
I love this poem, thank you so much for sharing it with us! “They come through you but not from you,” Indeed!
Next time you spot us in the world, come say Hi!
man, don’t mean to pass judgement, but you are a damned good writer. no kids here, but really enjoyed the reading.
Awww, thanks! It means a lot to know that you are reading!
I agree with dancingbird–you’re not indoctrinating your child any more than anyone else is. Taking a child to church or not going at all, eating meat or being vegan, choosing to watch certain movies or getting rid of your TV: these are all ways of ‘indoctrination’, though I wouldn’t normally use that word to describe them.
Protests are definitely a place for children, just as restaurants, libraries & other public spaces are. Why shouldn’t children see their community coming together to question something & raise their voices against it? Maybe if more kids learned the power of collective action like that, the issue of bullying in schools might be solved.
All parents raise their kids within the lifestyle and value system that is unique to them, whether it’s sharing a passion for baseball or keeping kosher or giving kids allowances. No one should ever be accused of “indoctrinating” kids because their lifestyle or values are not mainstream.
On a funny note, my friend and her husband raised their daughter in a vegetarian household. When she was about 2nd grade, her class at school was having a discussion about ethnicity and her classmates were identifying as Chinese or Indian or Mexican. When they came to her, she offered up that she was “Vegetarian.” To her, type of food = ethnicity.
I agree with all above. Really liked the poem by Kahlil Gibran. I was somewhat curious about what you were “protesting,’ (since it was mentioned several times). Protesting, btw, imo, is not as good as achieving power, i.e. becoming the decision makers, and/or electing better leaders — although that’s now near impossible in the current straightjacket of Tweedledeedee and Tweedledumdum USA global wars politics — some sort of AV (Alternative Voting) system needed…although Tweedledeedee and Tweedledumdum are not about to give up their control.
P.S. – We only get the ‘experience’ of kids. They they become their own selves, perhaps flavored by their upbringing but will develop their own opinions, even in contradiction to yours (There are lots of life stories that point this out). So…it’s just a temporary ‘experience,’ for yourself to learn from and/or enjoy (or not).