Szyperski: Perspective anyone?Written by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There seems to be a whole lot of grumbling going on lately (and by “lately” I mean likely since the beginning of time). If popular opinion is to be believed, woe is the child who is growing up in a world so electronically connected. As a society we have chosen to accept life with the Internet and smartphones and managed by computers, yet, for some reason, we have also chosen to simultaneously lament it. Technology is this wonderful, horrible thing.
Living in the Information Age is just one of the many things my generation can’t quite decide if we like or not. There are constantly at least two sides of any coin being discussed, but somehow it’s not so much of a debate as it is a case of mutually exclusive ideals running around bumping into one another. If nothing else, our current culture is strongly committed to producing mixed signals.
My children are growing up in a society that presents them with Disney princesses as pop culture, books proclaiming the travesty Disney princess pop culture imparts on our young daughters and blog after blog proclaiming that we should fight for our sons’ right to dress up as and enjoy Disney princesses. To borrow a line from Taylor Swift’s emotionally-charged “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” I say “What?!” If I find it all very confusing, I can’t imagine how confused my children would be if they actually took an interest in what adults say.
Although I can recognize the reasoning behind both the “Princesses Are Bad for Girls” and “Princesses are Good for Boys” arguments when considering them each independently, I really just think of princesses as something anyone can take or leave as they personally see fit. Telling a girl she shouldn’t be playing with Barbies and princesses isn’t liberating; it’s the same as telling her she can’t play sports and the same as telling a boy he shouldn’t wear pink. The unwritten rule in our house is basically “Figure out what you like and the rest of us will learn about it, take an interest in it and all live happily ever after.”
I am also confused by the dichotomy that is the push for our kids, especially girls, to thrive in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational areas while concurrently telling them to turn off their iPads and stop playing video games. My kids have been able to work a TV, DVD, computer, etc. since they were toddlers and I don’t apologize for it. The translation is that they have been exposed to and given hands on experience with science, technology, engineering and math since they were toddlers and they will most likely be the better for it.
The hypocrisy doesn’t stop at electronics. “Send them outside!” “Kids don’t run around enough anymore!”
I have a kid who plays outside as many hours all summer as he does inside, which is probably a vast understatement. When fall rolls around he spends at least four dedicated hours per week outside on a soccer field after school running and socializing and learning all kinds of strategies that he will use now in his games and forever in his life. Yet, as he gets older I am hearing a little word whispered here and there within a negative context – “jock.” The word is not coming from his fellow classmates, but rather from my fellow parents. “I don’t want my kid hanging around jocks. I want him hanging around nice kids.”
My heart hurts to hear such things from otherwise courteous and reasonable adults. As someone who spends a lot of time around dedicated young athletes, most “jocks” are nice kids. They are as kind and as smart and as fun as any other kids. They’re just kids. In fact, they’re kids who spend many hours per week living the ideals our culture believes in for children, like spending time outside, exercising, socializing face to face with peers and listening attentively to adult mentors.
We are quick to say that racism is taught at home, but we often fail to notice that all kinds of stereotyping are taught at home. All kinds of mixed signals are being sent to kids from parental satellites each and every day.
What it seems to boil down to is putting our own pasts on our children’s futures. Maybe dolls were a negative symbol to our feminist generation. Maybe we did just fine without a computer in our hand. Maybe an athlete in our school gave us a hard time. Or maybe we just saw so much negativity toward these things in movies and on TV and from our own parents that we think it’s reality. We can’t change our own past preconceptions, but we can at least open our minds to the idea that we shouldn’t pass them along to and demand unfair expectations of the next generation.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.