Tracking the Lesser Spotted Parent
As we approach parenthood, James and I have been observing the parenting methods of our friends with greater interest. We’re mostly looking for positive things that we can take away and use for raising Abdul.
There’s one couple in particular whose methods we admire. They have two teenagers (a boy and a girl). Both are polite, well-mannered, smart and good at conversation. Neither grunts nor acts like adults carry the plague.
We asked our friends what their secret was. “Talking to them,” was the simple answer. When we asked what they meant by this, they replied, “We have always talked to them about everything and anything. They know they can come to us with any questions and we’d never let them get away with not talking to us if we knew something was going on with their friends or at school. We just talk.”
The other night they came over with their teenage boy and we saw their method in action. In our conversation, whenever we came to a topic that the teen might not understand, they’d pause the conversation and explain it. On this occasion, the topics included venture capitalism, socialism versus fascism and why blue cheese is bad for pregnant women, among others. And the explanations they gave weren’t simple, one-sentence answers; each response was thoughtful and informative – almost thesis-like in its thoroughness.
James and I were discussing this afterwards and here’s our concern: what if we don’t know enough about the topic? I couldn’t have given as good an explanation of any of the subjects we broached. I imagine that I’m going to end up making stuff up. My child is going to grow up thinking she knows what fascism is and she’s going to repeat it in school and get laughed at. She’ll never win a pub quiz. All because I’ve forgotten more than I’ve retained in my life.
Perhaps this is the true purpose of the iPhone and iPad: to help forget-it-all parents look facts up quickly. I read this piece in the Guardian yesterday about a mother who got completely blind-sided by the big S-E-X question. She knew how it was done and everything, but she hadn’t thought about how she was going to explain it when the time came. Kids’ minds are quick; their questions do go from toads to gay sex in the space of an hour. We parents have to stay on the ball. Constantly.
So what am I going to do? Should I start cramming encyclopaedias? I most likely will not because, frankly, I’m too busy. I’ll just have to muddle through an explanation to the best of my knowledge. But if, one day, you find yourself competing against my kid in a pub quiz, please be gentle.