Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Me. She.

I've been thinking about the discussion over at Bub and Pie's today. It links, I think, to something that I've been trying to work through in my head for a long time, namely the boundaries between me and she, The Mama and The Offspring, Mimi and Miss Baby.

Here we are in matching outfits -- not unlike the mocked mother/baby pair in the Time article B&P linked to. For the record, Pynchon dressed her that day, after I'd got ready. And for the record, I found it absolutely adorable. In some measure, procreation is about extending our own selves into the future: who will care for me when I'm old? who will carry on the family name? who will remember me? who will bring forth this prominent shnoz into the future so that our sinuses may honk out in perpetuity?

She, that is, is in some way a handcrafted extra me. This is why people name children after themselves. Miss Baby is a mini-mimi, as AlphaDogMa would have it (great phrase, btw). And so I can dress her the way that I like, send her to French school if I like, try to foster a left-wing perspective and a love of cottaging if I like. This is at once completely self-serving and, well, the job of parenting. If everyone is always lamenting about the lack of parenting in our culture, about television and the internet raising our children for us, what else is the alternative? To make an effort to raise our children in what can be seen as our own image is just another way of understanding what you might also call the active instilling of values. If I raise my baby to know all the lyrics to all The Cure back catalogue and to become a Fluevog afficionado and a chopstick-wielding vegetarian, how is this different, really from raising my baby to (say ...) go to church, be polite to her elders, and be seen but not heard? In both cases, values that are important to the parents are carefully instilled in the children. That's called active parenting no matter how you slice it. You may call my values shallow or inconsequential, but they are my values and it is my right to attempt to pass these on to my children. Maybe I want my little girl always to wear pants because I think they're more stylish and also practical. Call me a hipster doofus. Maybe my (ex) sister-in-law won't let her daughters wear pants at all, for religious reasons. I'm to be mocked because I'm an urban ideologue? And she's a 'traditional parent'? The differences are of content, not form, here.

The article's author may take issue with what he sees as hipster parenting. But it's parenting. And in any case, sooner or later, the kids will speak for themselves, and the negotiation of boundaries and beliefs will begin. Maybe Miss Baby will turn out not to be a jeans and black turtleneck kind of gal. Maybe she'll vote Tory and listen to Celine Dion. I can't help but try to raise her to believe the things I believe, to hold dear the things that I hold dear. Otherwise, what will she rebel against as a teenager and return to in her twenties? :-)

I'm being a little flip. But I think the basic point still holds. Making fun of stylish, affected, and opinionated parents is really to pick on the values that they are aiming to instill in their kids--but really, parenting is all about making these attempts. And unlike the author, I applaud the parenting energy and attention that goes into the attempt, even if I may disagree with some of the values transmitted.

14 comments:

NotSoSage said...

Yay for Fluevogs! Oh, wait, is there some other point I was supposed to get out of this post? I got distracted.

Good god. I know that I am setting myself up to raise a bullying, Top-40-listening, McDonalds-eating, you-name-it-I-reject-it kid. And yet I really couldn't do it any other way. Besides, I delude myself into thinking that after the teen years those values will emerge again, even if they don't express themselves exactly the way I might expect or like.

It's so cool to see a shot of you and Miss Baby. But can I ask, what's with all the good-looking mamas out there? Why aren't you all haggard, defeated looking, bag-under-the-eyes ladies like myself?

Jenifer G. said...

Love the photo! You know of my love for dressing the girls alike. If truth be told I like my look to "compliment" them as well. Yes, my misguided attempt to control my environment expands.

Love the argument too. Isn't any parenting better than the benign neglect? Even if you don't agree with the method or even content I still agree it is active parenting. I didn't see this side initially in B&P and Andrea's post.

We mold our children how we see fit, we take ourselves, our childhood and make a parenting pie we serve up big slices from. Why would be surprised that we want our children to be like us, or better versions of us? I want the girls to be the best parts of me, hubby, and more importantly themselves.

Mimi-me's that is fine by me for now. They will get older and figure out for themselves just how great us parents are...ok wishful thinking. But, if I have done my job well they will still be talking to me at and I will be listening.

Love this post.

Beck said...

I love dressing my children alike. They don't look much like each other, you see, and so it makes them look more like a family group. Besides. It's funny and parenting is hard so I need to get my laffs where I can.

I distinguish in my own life between tastes - things that I'd like my children to enjoy - and values - things that are in my mind essential for my children to also believe and live by. I don't deride other parents for having different tastes OR values, so long as the core vales - that we are kind people, that we will treat other people with dignity and respect - are intact.

You guys are so cute - I love seeing the mother and baby's faces echoing back at each other. And I LOVE that line about a "handcrafted extra me." Yes. Great post.

Beck said...

VALUES. Not vales.

bubandpie said...

Love that photo. What makes it so fascinating is the interplay between similarity and difference: the way Miss Baby's hair is starting to come down across her forehead, just like yours, and the way those chubby baby-cheeks contradict the resemblance.

Isn't that the incredible thrill of having biological children? We look for ourselves constantly, and yet we're equally delighted by the inevitable divergences, the reminders that these children are not us, exactly. (Not trying to exclude adoptive parents here, though...it's just that I don't really know how much that experience differs.)

Sometimes you do come across the idea that it's somehow better to leave children without values, so they can choose their own. Which is absurd - whatever vacuum we create we be filled instantly with whatever are the dominant values of our culture. And maybe there are those who feel that children have some kind of built-in right to be "normal," to be culturally typical. Hmmm. I wonder if I've got another post brewing up on this one.

Alpha DogMa said...

This was a great post. I read the original Time article yesterday and was put off by the author's smugness.

I want to expose my kids to a lot of influences so they know that somewhere out there is a niche, a career, or a partner who shares their passions and values.

So I expose the boys to the places and the people and the books that inspire me. So my kids watch Star Trek (yes, see they will not be cool), listen to the Chieftains, eat exotic foods, go ice fishing, & give to charity. (wow, what a random list)

Ultimately I'm trying to raise kids who will be adults I like.

(Glad you are amused by the Mini-Mimi label. I am amused by Mini-Mimi's cheeks. She is so cute. And you are too.)

Mad Hatter said...

My friend and yours--man with the initials TB who runs a little shop called the TLC--said to me just this past fall on the topic of parenting: "you can read all the books in the world but, in the end, you can really only ever be yourself as a parent." Amen.

ewe are here said...

Awwww! Love the pic!

And great post. Isn't it our job to try and instill some of our values into our kids (within reason) ???

Mimi said...

Mad -- what a great observation! and so true. and don't you mean 'tjb' of the tlc? ;-)

Beck -- you make an excellent point to distinguish between vales (i mean *values*) and tastes. must rethink.

Jen G -- yes, I was thinking of you when I posted me and Miss Baby in matching outfits.

B&P -- i've been thinking all day about this business of 'normal' and 'values free': doesn't that put us in Brave New World territory? Free from teh dreadful intimacy of viviparous birth and 'family' (shudder!)? Raised all together and all the same and all normal? Slippery slope that idea, but worth thinking about

And, everyone who is kind enough to say such complimentary things about this post's spokesmodels -- she always looks this good, and I, well, I rigorously edit the photographic record to show me to advantage :-)

Alpha DogMa said...

I'd also just like to request some more information about about your "(ex) sister-in-law won't let her daughters wear pants at all, for religious reasons."
I'm intrigued.

kittenpie said...

Oh, good point! Yes, I like it. We do need to try to teach our values and yes, I do hate the no-hands parenting that I see so often at work. And yes, I think as long as we allow them the room to go their own way when they want to, you're bang on. Snaps!

Mimi said...

AD -- Pynchon's brother's ex-wife is one of those rural alberta farm-dwelling fundamentalists. Has 7 children, and none of the girls can wear pants, because it's not properly modest. Modest, say, like have 7 children by several different men, in marriages the duration of which are measured in months ... I'm just saying.

Michelle said...

Hi there,
I'm a producer with CBC and I'm hoping to put together a debate on the hipster parenting thing. I read your post and think it's great, could I have a chat with you about it? Also, are you Canadian?

Thanks very much.
michelle_eliot@cbc.ca

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