Won’t someone think of the children?
I have two kids: they are nine and seven. I’ve been doing this parenting gig since I was in my early twenties, and I don’t know that I’ve always been good at it, but they seem to be turning out okay. Genetics played a big part – lucky kids have some really smart blood in the family – but, ultimately, I’m usually pretty clueless as to how they ended up the way they are. They’re both on the brilliant side, far smarter than I am, clever and curious and funny, kind and thoughtful.
I’ve always practiced, mostly on accident, a sort of benign neglect when it comes to raising them. I smother them with love, and have since they were born – they were the spoiled babies who nursed on demand and slept in our bed until they were nearly two – but, for the most part, have let them figure themselves out.
My daughter is the voracious reader, the one who comes up with an idea, a thought, and then researches it into the ground. Currently, she’s terrifically interested in the Gold Rush, and has read several historical fiction novels about it, done a presentation in class, and now wants to go to one of the old mining camps in the mountains and pan for gold. She is the kind of person who could easily teach herself anything, as evidenced by her piano skills and strange ability to say various things in several different languages.
My son is the thoughtful one, the builder, the observer. He likes to watch my husband play video games, and has a keen interest in anything that involves large amounts of parts: building sets, puzzles, models. He designs Lego playsets in his sketchbook and hands them out to family members, and keeps his room meticulously organized.
Recently, my daughter’s teacher drew me aside after school. They are having a poetry unit and she wanted me to know that K had written something quite dark, sad, and scary. It involved Slenderman, a creature with which my daughter had recently become obsessed (though she was told to cool it to stop scaring the crap out of her brother).
The teacher, a bright, funny woman in her late twenties, was not upset, but simply wanted me to know. I told her I knew about Slendy, and if the poem was inappropriate at all, I was happy to take the blame. She said it was not, just that she wanted me to know about the content.
I asked K about it, and she shrugged and said she just felt like writing it. K is big-eyed and sweet-faced, with a far-away expression on her face 99% of the time. She’s dreamy and silly and friendly, and has a passion for My Little Pony and any stuffed animal shaped like a dog. All in all: pretty normal nine year old.
I told her I didn’t mind her writing sad or scary things, and that that was one of the best ways to approach things that frightened you, or made you sad. I did, however, point out the consideration of audience, and that she might want to try a different direction in school.
I don’t believe in censoring thought, or the written word. This includes what comes out my kids. We have a loose rule about cursing in our house: Mommy doesn’t care, don’t say fuck around Daddy, for the love of God, don’t curse in front of your grandparents or at school.
Her stories are mostly sweet, silly, and short. She writes about unicorns, about zombies, about ghosts and cats. I would never dream of taking away her ability to express her thoughts, her imagination. Instead, I remind her, and her brother, that we use words purposefully, and thoughtfully. We think before we speak and write, and consider who we’re talking to, what we want to express, and the best way to express it.
Words mean things, words have weight, and power. If I give them to my kids, they have weight and power, too.