Monday, February 12, 2007

Cool

We are so not cool. I don't think about it very often, but every once in a while I am reminded of this fact. The other afternoon the boys put on a CD that I had bought for Simeon when he was very small. With songs like London Bridge is Falling Down, Sur Le Pont D'Avignon, and Round and Round the Garden, I had used it to introduce him to melody, rhyme, and dance. I have fond memories of Dancing 'Round the Maypole, marching behind the Grand Ol' Duke of York, and Here We Go Looby Loo-ing with my first little preschooler. I think I used this CD with Alex and maybe Jacob as well, but the last two little ones haven't seen their mother dancing all that much.

Not to worry, though, because Simeon has been dancing with them and teaching them all the motions and steps that I taught him years ago. It warmed my heart the other day when I caught a glimpse of this through the scolding hole: five brothers spontaneously singing and dancing happily together to such simple tunes-- it was just the sweetest and most innocent scene.

When I walked around the corner to get a better view, Zachary took a spill. Simeon helped him up and, without missing a step, he was dancing again with the others. Simeon flashed me a knowing smile and said, "He is so gay, he doesn't feel the pain." I almost choked when I heard this word choice. We never use the word gay around this house for any reason. I can only think he heard or read it somewhere recently in its original meaning and thought it was a useful word. Why not? After all, he has never learned otherwise.

I thought a moment about how different I was at Simeon's age. While I have many good memories of my elementary school years in the public school system, it seems I remember being fully aware of what was cool and what was not cool. I remember, also, being aware of who was cool and who was not cool. The pressure to conform to these standards of coolness only grew stronger in later years, but it was already present in the third grade and beginning to shape my thoughts and desires.

Simeon does not know anything about this pressure. He's never learned to look down on children younger than himself (like I did) or despise the things that entertain them. Neither does he know the slang meanings of certain words (like I did) or that some people use these words to hurt others. In his world, the word gay means happy and I am happy it does. I am happy my boys have the freedom to express themselves freely and naturally. I'm happy that they do not feel pressure (like I did) to conform to standards that are not their family's.

It is good to be in touch with one's culture and to belong to a larger community, and I want that for my children. For now, however, I think our family, our large extended family, and very large pool of friends (both inside and outside the homeschooling crowd) is "larger community" enough for my young sons. And, unlike popular culture as it is most often found, our children really are loved and cared about by everyone in our larger community. They have every reason to feel that they will always belong and that they are unconditionally accepted here.

There will come a day when our community is no longer large enough for my children and they will need to find their way in the world. When that day comes, I hope we will have trained them well enough to know how to fit in without compromising what I hope will have become their own standards. It is with that day in mind that I will teach Simeon that gay, meaning happy, is no longer a word in common use and I will help him to find a few synonyms. Living a counter-cultural life of faith is difficult enough without adding unnecessary quirks that are bound to rub people the wrong way. I wouldn't be doing my children any favors by completely neglecting to instruct them in a sense of style, speech, and manner that is somewhat in keeping with the larger culture to which we all belong.

So, while I readily and happily admit that we are not cool-- as defined by many a third grader-- I like to think that we are developing in our children a naturalness, a confidence, a sense of taste, and a more classic, more perennial style that will serve them well in any place or decade.

And, quite frankly, I think that's pretty cool.

22 comments:

Cheryl said...

It looks like I'll be first to tell you that this is a very cool post.

Sheila said...

I had a similiar experience with my eldest daughter. When she was about seven, she had a piano recital in a large auditorium with many other children. Someone was delayed and one of the teachers began playing holiday music, and invited everyone to sing the familiar songs. And my daughter started singing along. Joyously. Happily. Unself-consciously. Blissfully unware that she was the only child "uncool" enough to be singing. I was genuinely moved by her "performance" because she had the freedom to be herself. I too think we as Catholics are called to be part of the larger culture. But in the middle of it all to have the confidence and self-awareness to be yourself: that's priceless. This was a great post that you wrote, Suzanne. Thank you of reminding me of why I homeschool: to give our children the gift of true leisure.

Goslyn said...

What a lovely post. It is wonderful that your children still have the freedom to be children in this world that encourages innocence to disappear so quickly.

Good for you, and good for your children. You make me want to homeschool.

Pete or Kathryn said...

Suzanne, don't let anonymous bother you, nothing in your post was derogatory. It was a good post about social conditioning changing words to mean other things. It would seem that when someone feels so strongly to chastise you they would feel strongly enough to use their own name. Keep up the good work your doing with your children, they will rise up and call you blessed! Nothing can take away or change what that means!

Kathryn

Jamie said...

Oh, Suzanne, I am going to have to read this every time I feel the stresses of "Why am I homeschooling?" Thank you for this look of innocence of our precious children!

J.C. said...

Enjoyed your post! We've had similar "archaic vocabulary" moments. For the longest time, my (then 6-year-old) daughter unflinchingly used the word "ass" for donkey without least suspecting that it had another meaning. And like you, we decided not to interfere.

Cheryl M. said...

Very good post, Suzanne. My two boys grew up very much like what you describe...going to Catholic high school has "educated" them in the ways of the world, but because of their very strong, traditional early teaching and surroundings they know how to stand for their beliefs and not succumb to the ways of their larger world now. I'm immensely proud of them!! I suspect when your boys are older you will feel much the same about them!!

Faith said...

Great post-- something I've thought od alot. My hubby (homeschooled) doesn't know even one top 40 song from growing up! He has such a freedom and innocence. Keep it up.

Kristen Laurence said...

Suzanne, this is a great post. It shows your desire to live "in" the world but not "of" it, while maintaining charity towards your bretheren, all of whom you love, as I have known your heart for many years. I will remember this post as my own girls grow.

Theresa said...

That is just lovely!

Anonymous said...

thank you!!!!!!!!!

Margaret in Minnesota said...

While your reaction to Simeon's blithe assessment of Zachary's tumble caused me to snort out loud (and a good laugh is always so welcome), the rest of the post left me nodding and murmuring in agreement.

I'm with you in welcoming every single day that I have in the presence of my children's innocence.

PS. "Blithe," by the way, might be a good replacement for the word "gay." ;)

Ian said...

We have been listening to the CDs of The Silver Chair in the car and the word "gay" is used multiple times by Puddleglum. Also, the word "ass" is used repeatedly throughout the whole Narnia series in reference to people who are jerks. None of my kids have used those words but I have no doubt that one of them will.

Suzanne Temple said...

Thank you, Cheryl.

I love your story, Sheila, so sweet!

Thank you, goslyn, it certainly is one of the benefits of homeschooling.

Thank you so much, kathryn, very well said.

You are quite welcome, jamie, I'm glad to encourage if I can.

I love your story, too, j.c. We have that word "problem", too!

Thank you, Cheryl M, what an encouraging example you are to me. How blessed you are to see your hard work pay off!

Thank you faith, kristen, theresa, and anon.

Margaret, "blithe" is wonderful word!

That's funny, Ian.

neuropoet3 said...

Suzanne, thanks for the reminder - on rough days it helps to remember that I have a bigger purpose in what I'm doing in our homeschooling adventure - I'm hoping my children will be able to think for themselves (while being able to be sensitive to the surrounding culture) - my goal is to have them be in the world - but definitely not of it! :)
Peace,
Jenny

Jane Ramsey said...

Thank you for this beautiful post, Suzanne. It brought tears to my eyes. I have experienced similar moments with my own children and those of my friends, and they are little foretastes of heaven!

Sarah said...

I am at a point where I have been researching homeschooling for two and a half years or so, on and off (and my daughter is only two). Reading your post, I once again had that feeling I get every so often, when I realize I can't escape or get away from something that's so important to me. Thanks for that moment of burning fluorescence. :)

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

This is a beautiful post, Suzanne.

Your family is just so precious. Thank you for the glimpse.

Clarissa said...

Couldn't have said it better myself...thank you for giving me hope for out future family...

Karen E. said...

This is a lovely post, Suzanne. With my oldest now being a teen, we have ventured into cultural territory that, at one time, I didn't have to deal with. You are so right that, for now, you can nurture and strengthen them, and help them to slowly ease into the culture, with a strong faith foundation.

One mom on 4Real, I think it was, called it "guided exposure." That phrase fit perfectly what I was doing, and the way I see it: a certain amount of sheltering, and a lot of guidance early on, paves the way for being "in the world, but not of it." I hope, anyway. :-)

melanie b said...

A very cool post. It captures something I've been trying to say. I hope you don't mind my quoting from it and linking to it on my blog.

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