Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Like You

It has been a while since I’ve written anything new. Partly because time has been scarce with a newborn, but partly because I didn’t want to write about what kept popping into my head. I didn’t (and still don’t) want this to be about advice to parents or judgement of how other people parent, and I really don’t want this to be political. However, it is inescapable right now and something I saw on a trip to the store compelled me to say something.

First, let me say I am not starting an argument about wearing a mask. At this point, you either understand and trust the science and the need to put the common good above your perceived freedoms, or you don’t. It is what it is. Due to some emergency plumbing repairs I had to make a few trips to Lowe’s last weekend. I have to say, compared to the demographic of the grocery store the Lowe’s shoppers are much more likely to fall into the anti-mask camp. Mask compliance in the grocery store I usually go to is 99%, if not 100%. Mask use at Lowe’s was maybe 50%. Apparently there is some kind of correlation between the need for home repair equipment and a desire not to be treaded on.

For the most part the people without masks were 25-45 year old men, either they’re alone or with another guy without a mask. Almost all women were masked, and there were almost no children in the store. There were a few though. I don’t know everybody’s child care situation, I’m not in a position to say they should have left their kid at home. I will say, if you can’t leave your kid at home then maybe don’t go to the store – but hey, maybe they had a plumbing emergency too and weren’t just looking at lighting fixtures or paint swatches. At least the kids I saw had their little masks on. Until I saw one that didn’t. A father and his son, who was maybe 8 or 9, were walking around both without masks.

My first thought was this guy is terrible dad. But the more I thought about it, that felt harsh. Maybe this guy was a great dad to his son, I can’t really make that judgement in 10 seconds. What is more accurate to say, is this guy is a terrible teacher.

Politics and understanding (or lack thereof) of science aside, what is this guy teaching his son here? That the rules don’t apply to you? That’s a great message to send.

That it doesn’t matter what happens to other people, you do what you want? Good luck getting that kid to put on a condom.

That you should trust your gut over science and facts? I wonder if that applies to school? If this kid brings home a D in science, will the dad let it slide because who needs that bullshit anyway, amiright? Nerds.

That the government can’t tell him what to do? Oh, you mean like the laws that create an orderly society? Those pesky things?

Might seem like I’m taking this down a slippery slope, but kids learn from their parent’s behavior and if we teach our kids to be like us we are doing them a disservice. We need to teach them to be better than us.

I get that there is a bit of a conundrum there. If I knew how to be better, then wouldn’t I be better myself? If not, then how can I teach my kid something I don’t know? You do some learning yourself, that’s how. Examine yourself. Learn about yourself. Develop your sense of self-awareness and find the shortcomings that you’d rather not pass on. Being a parent means being an adult, and being an adult means contenting to learn and mature.

The world any of us were raised to live in no longer exists. Change is constant and inevitable. We can’t teach our kids the same things we were taught, and sure as hell can’t teach them things our grandparents or older generations were taught. Yes, some lessons are timeless – respect, work ethic, honesty, compassion. But there are things that our kids will need to learn to thrive in the world they’ll help shape – social justice, environmental consciousness, emotional intelligence, the connectedness of a global community.

Never in the history of the world have things gone back to the way they used to be decades or even years ago. (Unless you’re Amish. I guess you could raise your kids to be Amish and you can be as stuck in your ways as you want.) Not only do we owe it to our kids to set them up for success, but we owe it to society to create people who will help in its advancement. There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow out there, please prepare your kids for it. Let’s start by putting on the damn mask.

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