Monday, November 16, 2009

Southern and Parents

As Dave and I ate this amazing gumbo that a friend brought by tonight, he decided that there are four groups of Southern food:

1) Cook the hooey out of it (i.e., any vegetable made in the south)
2) Add Bacon
3) Fried
4) Gravy

All I can say to that is: YUMMMMY!

In case you are wondering, the parents in our neighborhood whose children are starting kindergarten this year are obsessed with where their children are going to school. The vast majority of the conversations Dave and I have right now are where to send Conor to school. To give you some perspective, the debates are like CIO vs AP parenting....only worse.

Actually, I take that back. For my friends at least, we seem to be supportive of each other's kindergarten choices. And just before I started this blog entry, Dave and I realized that NONE of our friends are making the same choice! Not a single one. So from our perspective: none of our friends have looked at the same schools and all agreed on the same school.

What I appreciate the most about our friends is that we all seem to be supportive of each other. This weekend, a good friend and I had a cleaning party at the new house and could truly support that a school we didn't choose was indeed a good school and a good choice for each other's family. Dave and my impression thus far is that all the schools we've seen are "over the bar" in that they would be good educational choices. I don't think any of the magnet schools we've seen are bad.

NONETHELESS, today a friend explained to me how "parents she knew, parents whose parenting styles she respected, had chosen a particular school (<--the school she mistakenly thought we are choosing), but it simply was not a good fit for her child." Now, being the psychologist interested in communication that I am, let's parse that statement. If that statement had been "That's a good school, but not a good fit for my child or my family", I would think that was a fine, non-judgmental statement. Indeed, I think all of our choices are based our family's beliefs about what makes good education (pedagogy or pedagogical philosophy if you want to sound fancy; I have had to submit my personal pedagogy at every job appointment or review I've had as a professor). Some are more traditional than others. Some are less traditional than others. There you go. That's fine.

But that's not what this woman said. She had to justify her statement by talking about the families who have chosen this particular school by saying she "still" thought they were good parents. Implying, of course, that they had chosen the WRONG school, but she wanted me to think she respected their (clearly poor?) parenting style. Let me translate, "GOOD Lord, they don't seem like wackadoodle parents but that school sucks!!!" She even continued on trying to convince me that this school had poor resources and weak parental involvement until I finally got her to understand we were talking about another school--although, ironically, I know people who go to the school she was referring to and they love it. Good parents, too.

Have we not been through all this before? here's a clue: see CIO vs. AP above. I'm over it.

It recently occurred to me that we don't tell each other how to be married, do we? We don't say to each other: in order to have a good marriage, you must have sex X amount of times in Y amount of ways; you must split (or not) your finances in this way; you much divide house chores this way; you must live in this house with this many children and this many pets; you must do everything I've done exactly the way I've done it or your marriage is bad and wrong.

Somebody might try to tell you (or me) that, but my response is simply: Bite me. Marriages and other long term relationships are unique. No one expects that all marriages are the same. Why then do we expect other family choices, like um, parenting, should be the same, too? Insecurity is the answer. And I am too dadgummed tired to be insecure about that.

I think it's time for me to go fix me some fried bacon gravy and cook the hooey out of it.


MMC said...

Very interesting post. Being pregnant with my first child, I can honestly say I had no idea, till the last few months, that people were so judgmental on child related topics. Such divisive issues that were completely new to me (and now I've heard about ad nauseum) include (but are not limited to!): CIO vs AP; nursing vs formula feeding; SAHM vs 'career mother'; Vaginal vs cesarean birth; etc.

It honestly never occurred to me before this experience that so many people would feel compelled to pass judgment on so many topics as they affect my life, and thus, should be absolutely none of their business.

You're probably right, that insecurity is the cause, and people are looking to have their own parenting choices validated. But it definitely irritates the crap out of me. :)

Blaine said...

Anita - I have no idea what CIO vs. AP means. Clearly, I am not a parent.

Zoe Hanes said...

I think it feels like these choices will permanently impact the lives of our children so that they get blown out of proportion. We're trying to juggle too many things and end up obsessing about breastfeeding or CIO or what schools to send our children to. We somehow think if we make the right decision it will insure our children are safe and well adjusted. But really these things don't matter. When I look at my own life I see that. I dropped out of high school in the 9th grade. Now I'm a lawyer. What matters is how and what we teach our children over a lifetime.

Anita said...

I'm so glad I know you, Zoe. Can't wait to be back on your side of the street!!