Yes, I’m a Dad. I’m also a weird dude.

Keep washing. Always washing. Must be clean. Be pure. Because we all know that germs are from the devil.As I was avoiding some of my work the other day, I came across this post over at Scary Mommy. The gist of it was a mother (a guest post) explaining why she wasn’t OK with her child’s 4th grade teacher being “openly” gay. (As opposed to being “closed” which means…????). I left a long-winded comment, but it got my mind thinking.

How am I raising my child?

As some of you might already be aware, my wife and I are in the process of an amicable divorce. No fighting, nothing bitter or whatnot. (We actually get along great. Just wasn’t meant to be married anymore I guess.) But as littleman grows up, we will be faced with a lot of choices and issues surrounding him. As it stands now, Mamma and I are pretty much on the same page. But he’s only 3, so there haven’t been many things to really deal with. But they’ll come soon enough.

The author of that post said something that just struck a chord with me: “As I raise my children, I want to surround them with people who are like-minded with us.” Am I in the minority of people who DON’T want that for their children? After all, it’s his life to live, not mine. I believe that it’s my responsibility as a parent to instill values, a sense of right and wrong. But I’m also aware that what I think is right and wrong may not be correct, or appropriate for everyone else. (If that weren’t the case, we’d all be pretty messed up.). But in the end, I want my son to have his own experience, his own live, his own story. Not one I made up for him.

I know the day will come when I need to have the talk with him about drugs and alcohol. This is one of those things that Mamma and I will probably disagree on, to some point. After all, I’m the drunkard, not her. So we clearly have different views. And while I won’t allow him to drink underage in the home (or “allow” him to do it outside), I’m also not stupid and know it’ll happen, so I plan on making sure he knows that if he’s drunk, he either needs to sleep it off there or call me and I’ll come get him, no questions asked. Buy beyond that, I don’t see much in the way of issues that I have a firm stance on that I feel he “must” follow. I’m not religious. I’m liberal, but not a zealot. I’m a nerd, and I’m pretty sure that’ll rub off on him. But after that? Sky’s the limit.

What say you?

{ 15 comments }

Tyler Hurst November 6, 2010 at 1:11 am

Though I don’t have nor do I ever plan on having children, I very much like being around my friend’s kids. I also hope that some of my better qualities rub off on them, and very specifically my lack of separation, need for tolerance or even need to treat different any other lifestyle, culture or difference.

I’m a better person because of all the gay, minority and religious people I meet. Most of them are fantastic and I wouldn’t trade them to get rid of the bad ones any day.

Openly gay? Does he have sex with other men in front of the kids? If not, then who cares?

Norcross November 6, 2010 at 1:17 am

Yeah, that woman’s post seemed to scream “my kids have to be just like me!” which I think is pretty fucked up. I think I am pretty rad and all, but I also don’t wanna live his life for him.

Jeremy Orr November 6, 2010 at 1:13 am

I agree, but you and I are pretty like minded, liberal guys. I don’t have a kid, but if I did, I would want them to be exposed to ideas and views that were different from my own. It’s one of the things that I really like about the girl I am dating; she and I don’t see eye to eye on many things. All the time I get asked how it could work between us, but it’s like I told her when we were discussing whether or not she and I could work out: I just want my kid to be loved.

Norcross November 6, 2010 at 1:18 am

Bingo. Littleman is a very loved child. And he knows it.

Jessica November 6, 2010 at 1:52 am

I agree. Years ago, a friend said our children aren’t bit players in our lives but stars in their own, and it truly struck a chord with me. As much as I want our children to share many of my values & morals, I know forcing them won’t ever produce that. Just as I know forcing children to make choices, with threats of punishment, won’t help them to truly make good choices in situations.

I’m a firm believer in exposing children to different people & ideas and having open lines of communication. Twelve years into parenting, and I’m happy with the results.

Logan Zanelli November 6, 2010 at 1:56 am

As someone who’s parents weren’t satisfied with instilling values, teaching right and wrong, and “pointing the way,” but also felt the need to force their will and lifestyle onto their children (and continue to do so even though I’m in my 30s), I find your approach to parenting refreshing. Just make sure he’s loved, insist he give things his best effort, and keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure you’ll have every reason to be proud of the adult he turns into.

David Zemens November 6, 2010 at 5:08 am

You know, it’s really kind of strange. I consider myself quite conservative and I agree with your approach completely. To me it’s not a liberal/conservative issue at all. It’s an issue of reasonableness & understanding.

I don’t understand why anyone is afraid to expose their child to what life has to offer. To be sure it has to be done within the context of their age group and their ability to understand, but I am perplexed why anyone would want their child to be a mirror image of themselves. And almost any adult should realize (having lived through it) that their own parents were probably quite unsuccessful in forcing viewpoints or ideas on them.

I say (within their age context, as noted earlier) expose your child to *all* that life has to offer. Provide them with your guidance and viewpoint regarding things that are important, then hold your breath and let them go when the time is right. Their decisions – which will not always be good – will be their own and they will learn from them and grow into the *individual* they were intended to be.

You’re on the right track. Good work!

Norcross November 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

Thank you. I never really thought of it as a liberal / conservative split, so I’m glad you confirmed that. I clearly want to guide him and make sure he isn’t into things he shouldn’t be, but beyond that there is too big a world to try and shelter him from.

Elisa November 6, 2010 at 8:29 am

Your way of raising Littleman will only work if you want to have a mature and intelligent son who is capable of forming his own decisions and opinions and doesn’t still live with you when he is 37.

Lindsey November 7, 2010 at 7:27 am

On one hand I get what she’s saying to a point. Like she and her husband have specific beliefs as a family (however narrow minded they may be) and she wants her kid to have that same belief system. Ok…maybe as a youngster that’s ok. But for me, I kind of think that you instill your values into your child but I would also want him/her to go out into the world and experience different people, different cultures…i want them to be well rounded individuals and not narrow minded. And I hope that my core values that I tried to instill (being a good, honest person) are still there at the end of the day if I did my job right.

Melissa Breau November 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm

My parents raised me very much in the mindset you mention – and I think I turned out alright. My parents are fairly conservative – my dad would have said he was anti-gay until (maybe) recently, when my brother came out of the closet (he’s since resigned himself to that truth and I think is “coming around”).

The truth is that there are different people in the world, and no matter what you can’t control every person they will ever be exposed to. If your family’s belief system holds up to the realities of the world, you should have faith that your child will eventually follow it – but you have to be willing to let them make those decisions for themselves or you’ll be stunting their growth into a whole and complete person.

That said, the post you mentioned seems fairly reasonable – I can understand her perspective – but I certainly remember my straight teachers talking about their husbands or children and one middle school teacher made fun of his ex-wife almost everyday in class. None of this interfered with learning. If it happens to come up, the teacher should be mature enough to state the facts (she is interested in women) and refer children to their own parents for questions. If anything, this type of situation opens the door for a parent to discuss their beliefs and the reasons for them with their children; and children ask the darnest questions – might even make you consider / reevaluate your own beliefs a bit, eh?

Ruth November 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I think I’d differ from how my parents raised me. They were a bit close-minded like that when I was younger, though they didn’t have a problem with my associating with a whole group of gay dancers. I don’t know what they’d have done about a teacher. They also preferred I didn’t read much about things they considered wrong.

Fortunately for me, I turned out ok in my opinion even if different from what they would’ve wanted. Once I was in my teens, they didn’t limit my reading or associations and I’m grateful for that. In my case, specifically, my difference of opinion with my parents about homosexuality turned out to be a very good thing for our family since my younger sister is a lesbian. By the time she came out, my parents were able to come around more to the idea then they’d been when she was a kid. But I had been able to let her know years earlier how I felt and that I was there for her, so she came out to be long before the rest of the world.

In general terms, I think it’s important to remember that your kid will have to deal with people who think differently (liberal or conservative) and who are just plain different. Cutting them off from that entirely just handicaps them.

Jeanne January 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Sure, you’re cool. Are you going to be ok, when your little man is raised by your ex-wifes new husband, boy-friend or significant other? You seem to be giving up on your littleman without a fight.

That kind of sucks.

Norcross January 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I’m struggling to see the correlation between what I’ve written and what you said here. While I don’t see it happening any time soon, obviously there will come a time when there is someone else in either my or my wife’s life. In fact, my wife’s parents divorced when she was young and each remarried. Both step-parents had an active role in her childhood in addition to her parents. The benefit is now our son has 6 grandparents who love him instead of 4.

James M January 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

A lot of these same questions have been running through my mind as my daughter grows older (she just turned one so I still have some time to figure it out). Her mother and I differ in a lot of ways, like when it comes to drugs/alcohol, and I worry about having a confused child who won’t know what to do when presented with a situation where they are offered to her. I do want to expose her to many different opinions and cultures so she is comfortable with other groups and will eventually discover herself. I don’t want to create another me, I want to help mold a new woman.