I read a blog post yesterday, written by a well-educated mother named Jessica Smock, who despite enjoying the television show Girls, found herself so "horrified" by the behaviors and flaws of the fictional characters portrayed that she viewed the program as a "valuable learning tool on how to parent."
The piece, entitled, "5 Parenting Vows I'm Sticking To After Watching HBO's Girls,"was featured at Blogher.com.
With respect, I find the whole idea of making parenting decisions based on how you don't want your kids to grow up to be a wasted and misguided effort. It's absurd, actually, and while I'm not accusing her of it, find it too closely tied to that fantasy of Polly Perfect Parenting (perpetrated by many a parenting blog) to not rebuke the thoughtful article that may have simply been written from a place of fear.
The truth is that all parents can try their best, even following all of Ms. Smock's good rules (giving authentic feedback, avoiding sarcasm and cynicism, letting the kid fail, teaching him that friends don't have to look just like he does, teaching a healthy respect for authority) and still... wind up with a kid who's totally screwed up.
It's the truth about parenting that no one wants to admit. Read The Glass Castle if you want proof that totally shitty parents can raise a real-life amazing person. Vice-versa is true, too; perfectly well-equipped, bright and loving parents can raise kids who horrify and disappoint by not living up to the standards of appropriate behavior.
The other day when I went to pick up my girls from my mother's house, they ran and hid, as they like to do when they have a visitor (it's a game).
They high-tailed it to the top of my mother's long set of stairs that leads to the never-played-in playroom. Listening, I gave them a good head start as I tip-toed through the front door.
I then began to play my part of the game; loud questioning about their whereabouts, adding mystery to the search.
"Mom!!!! WHERE CAN MY GIRLS BE?????"
When I approached the bottom of those endless stairs, the girls were whisper-giggling and holding tight to the top of the banister, eventually jumping up and down, delighted to have been found.
And between louder giggles and higher jumps, my five-year-old's innocent voice squealed this ...
"Heyyyyyy Mommmmmmm. We're Hiiiighhhhhhh!"
And like a lightening bolt through my very being, I saw images of young women with my daughters' faces getting caught sneaking out, having sex before they're ready, getting into cars that drive too fast, fighting with friends over boyfriend stealing, getting higgghhhhh ... all of this separate and apart from me, reminding me of the truth about how nothing I do or teach will change what they decide to do when faced with the realities of youth.
Some of the commenters in response to Ms. Smock's article claimed that they hadn't seen the show, but assured her that they certainly would not now. I find this the saddest part of all. The readers of the piece are missing out on an amazing, truth-based experience in glorious half-hour increments.
What are they really afraid of?
The girls on Girls are flawed. They're young and self-absorbed, make endless stupid decisions, date idiots, and have more sex than can be good for them.
Are we more worried by the behaviors we see, or by the judgements and fear that we (as parents) are to blame?
Were none of us twenty-something? Have we forgotten what it means to be young? Are we too self-absorbed ourselves to accept that no matter what we teach, in the end, the decisions don't belong to us?
In a way, it's a lot like Forest Gump's box of chocolates.
You never know what you're gonna get, but cross your fingers that your kids turn out to be butter-cream sweetness who makes perfect choices all their lives.
It's unlikely, I'm afraid, as life doesn't work that way. No matter how many loving and thoughtful decisions you make (no matter your parenting style), when it comes to the future of your most priceless and important possessions, only time will tell how it all works out and those secrets are hidden in the stars.
Agree or disagree? I can take it if you think I'm way off.
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