We are all individuals, even us parents

I found this article from Sunday on so-called PunkyMoms to be reasonably interesting, not so much because I know a few women who’d fit right in with them, but because of this little snippet:

Punkymoms encourage each other to be good moms yet maintain their individuality.

“We try to recognize that we had a life before kids,” [Becca] Rawson says.

It reminded me of something I drafted a few months ago but never got around to blogging about. Matt Yglesias flagged this article in The Atlantic about how marriage is being increasingly defined as a for-the-kids kind of activity. A sample:

At vacation time my husband and I don’t drag our little boys through the Louvre, as I was dragged at a tender age (because my parents wanted to see it, and it would never have occurred to them to consult their children about where to go on holiday). Rather, we check into hotels with elaborate children’s pools and nightly fireworks and huge duck ponds.

I never got taken to the Louvre by my parents because any exotic travel during my childhood was done by them sans rugrats (having two grandmothers within walking distance of our house who were willing to babysit undoubtedly helped with that). When we travelled as a family, we mostly went to the Jersey shore, like everyone else on Staten Island and thereabouts. It never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about them taking their own vacations, and even if we hadn’t had free accomodations down in Mays Landing, I’m sure it never would have occurred to them to seek out a hotel like the one described above. Well, maybe one with a pool, but then my dad liked to swim anyway, and mom was always happy enough reading a book in the sun.

So far, Olivia has travelled with us to visit family and on a business trip of Tiffany’s. We’ve talked about taking her to Italy – a friend of ours is the son of a former diplomat who speaks the language and who has invited us to co-rent a cottage with his wife and kids. The only reason we wouldn’t take Olivia to the Louvre is that Tiffany prefers the Musee d’Orsay. I’m not a hotel-with-fireworks kind of guy, and neither is Tiffany.

I knew going into parenthood that I’d have less time for myself, but I did not and do not believe that this means that everything we do from this point forward would be about our children. Maybe it’s easy for me to say that now, before Olivia becomes involved in all of the usual things that kids get involved in, and maybe it’s easy for me to say that now while we still only have one child. If I believe that it’s good and healthy for all of us if Tiffany and I not only maintain some of our individuality but also maintain the expectation that there will be times that Olivia will go along with what we want to do and may even enjoy it, then maybe it will continue to be easy for me to say those things later as well.

On the one hand, I do expect we’ll strive to make it to every T-ball game and recital/play/whatever Olivia is in. My folks were good about that, and I think that’s important to kids that their parents see those things. And there’s certainly much to be said for kid-friendliness in hotel accomodations and travel activities. On the other hand, I aim to take Olivia to Rice sporting events so she can see me play with the MOB, and I plan to teach her to play bridge so she can someday partner me in an ACBL event. She’s already accompanied me to a political event or two. And yes, some day I’ll help her start her own blog. I want her to know that her Dad was somebody before he was her dad, and that while he may have had to scale back on some of those things once she made the scene, he still is that person inside. Some of my best memories from my youth are about watching my dad play softball with his all-lawyer team The Barristers. I hope Olivia will be able to say something like that someday about an activity of mine that I took her to.

As Paul Simon put it, somewhat starkly:

That was your mother
And that was your father
Before you was born, kid
When life was great

You are the burden
On my generation
I sure do love you
But let’s get that straight

I think Olivia deserves the best of me as her father, and I don’t see how I can be that if I have to chop off or subsume parts of who I am to be her father. To tie things back to the original article, I think that recognizing one’s pre-kid life can still exist in some modified form is a good and healthy thing, and makes for a parent that’ll be more of a person some day to his or her children. Okay, maybe not while they’re teenagers, but a boy can hope, can’t he? And at least this way I’ll have something to do while she mocks my squareness. I call that a win-win.

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3 Responses to We are all individuals, even us parents

  1. Sue says:

    Let me preface this by saying this: I like kids. I really do. We don’t have any and we’re not going to have any, but it’s not because we don’t like them.

    Far too many parents today are taking their kids to places that used to be off-limits to kids, like posh restaurants and R-rated movies. And they’re taking little ones, like kids Olivia’s age. It’s entirely inappropriate. And it shouldn’t be any surprise that kids get noisy when they’re at such places. The problem then is that those parents seem to think that they’re entitled to stay, even if their kid is ruining an experience for everybody else.

    I’ve even read articles about kids rollerblading through 5-star restaurants.

    I’m the first to say that, if a kid can behave appropriately, they should have access to all the wonderful things their parents want to take them to, be they restaurants, museums, or whatever. But the burden is on the parents to make sure the kid is old enough to be well aware of how to behave and then make sure the kid behaves that way.

    As for the “I had a life before you were born” thing, I totally agree that’s necessary. We have a friend who spends so much time on stuff related to her daughter and her daughter’s activities, she’s lost her own identity. She’s her kid’s mom, not herself.

  2. Sue – I agree with you about age-appropriateness and ensuring proper behavior. I should have been more clear about that. There are times to bring your kid with you, and there are times to get a babysitter. It’s your responsibility as a parent to know which is which.

  3. Jeb says:

    My parents worked out compromises where we would do something that they wanted to do and then something that me &/or my brother wanted to do. The best example being trips to Dallas-Ft. Worth when we would spend one day at Six Flags and one day at a museum. On other trips, we would have propose and prioritize what we wanted to see. Taking turns, negotiation, compromise, all good things for kids to learn.

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