Friday, November 18, 2005

Counterculture and Kids

I'm trying to figure out how I ended up being so counterculture.

If I am raising my kids counter to the culture, is that a good thing for them?

Am I hurting their future if I don't position them on the fast track to success...American style?

You see in the suburbs, counterculture is when your kids aren't in soccer, don't each have their own cellphone, x-box, and have their scholarships to top-notch colleges lined up by the time they are a junior in high school.

Many Christians also embrace the cultural values of popularity, vanity, and success.

In the race for the newest, biggest house, it is countercultural to only have three bedrooms. When did it become abnormal to say, "that's OK, we have enough"?

We are counterculture to the homeschool culture also. No, we don't want to boycott Disney, Starbucks, or Levis. No, we don't want to take up the cause of homeschooling as a moral choice. We don't see it that way.

Most parents want what is best for their kids and are the ones best equipped to make those parenting decisions. We do what we do because we believe it is what God has led us to do personally. I have no desire to apply that conviction to anyone else's choices.

Before I mislead you about what I mean by counterculture, let me just say that I am not talking about the "world is scary and evil, protect your kids at all costs mentality." I don't want my kids sheltered from the world. That is not my goal.

I want to provide my kids an environment where they can be themselves and grow up grounded in love and acceptance. In a culture, where even most adults suffer from a socially-generated identity, I want my kids secure in their identity in Christ and their worth through Him.

"Mom, did you know Mandy at dance class already had nine boyfriends?"
"No, how old is Mandy, fifteen?"
"No, she's twelve."
"Why do you suppose Mandy's had nine boyfriends already?"

I want so much better for my girls. At this point, they want better for themselves also.

I'm afraid we don't fit the standard church culture either. The last thing I want is for my kids to be religious and cloistered. I don't want them living out of an identity of moral superiority and exclusivity.

It seems like I started down the path of normal, and the rest of the world took a sharp turn.

Or maybe it's just me.

Is it fair to raise kids who don't fit into the world or religion?


Ben said...

I hear you on not fitting in with the "homeschool" crowd. We recently stopped homeschooling and sent our two eldest to public school this year, for a number of reasons. But with the confused looks we got from some people when we told them, you'd have thought we were abusing them or sending them to hell or something.

Bob said...

I'm with you, Grace. If I can teach my kids a life that is Truly life, I'll think I'm a success. The sequestered life of religiosity and the empty life of the world aren't my first choices.

"That man is richest whose pleasures are simplest..."

WideBody said...

Well said Grace. Our kids being "weird" is a concern for us, but when it is all said and done, you do what you think is best and God makes it all work together for good. It is a scary thing to think you are setting your kids up to be a "social/spiritual failure", but I think you are right on with the focus on Christ and love and acceptance in Him. Good food for thought. Thanks.


Robbymac said...

Hey Grace,

You look really cute in that picture. How long ago was that taken? :)

My parents decided, going against the grain big time in the church culture of the town I was raised in, that none of us would go to a Christian school. My dad's thinking was "they have to learn how to be a Christian in the 'real world' someday, so why not while they're still at home under our influence?"

It was really hard being an outspoken Christian in a "regular" high school in Toronto during the late 70's/early 80's, but I've always been thankful that my parents made that decision.

And trust me, I was counter-cultural in both school and youth group circles -- I lay the blame for my current involvement in the emerging church conversation at my father's feet, with thanks.

bobbie said...

want to start a co-op grace? this is exactly what liam and i have chosen for pink and buck too.

i can't stand either the 'saved' mentality of the christian cloister or the desperation of the must have it all's. when did simple, centered lives become so counter-cultural? it's hard to imagine, but i guess it's true. i hope my kids don't have to become materialistic hedonists to rebel! :)

great post, thanks for putting into words so much of what i've been thinking lately!

Cindy said...

Grace- I only have a second- we're in Ga. visiting my family- but I wanted to say 'hear hear'.

Our reasons for homeschooling are multi-faceted, but not because we're cloistering our daughter. Primarily, we think we can help her identify and develop her strengths better than anyone else can. The public schools around here aren't good,and the private schools foster an attitude of exclusivism and vanity that we don't want to have to fight against. Anyway- I mainly just wanted to say good post.

grace said...

It seems so condescending for others to assume you would do something "wrong" for your kids, doesn't it, when perhaps you are wise and loving enough to actually know what is best for them.

Well said Bob, neither are good choices.

I suppose our kids won't be any weirder than we are. :)
(I saw the picture of your mother.)
I've also seen the pictures of your kids, they look adorable.

The picture was just taken, hubby is such a hottie, eh?
It seems like you turned our pretty well. I would say your parents did a great job.

Hopefully, when you move you'll find a culture more fitting for your family. I often wish I could pull the friends I've found on the internet into my area for face-to-face relationships.

Have fun with your parents. Your daughter sounds very interesting and well-rounded. I have no doubt you guys will do a wonderful job in raising her.

Robbymac said...

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not suggesting that because my parents made that decision, that it's the only "right" decision!

While we're not generally big fans of Christian schools either, we have at different times chosen to put our kids there anyway. Usually because the level of education at the public schools was in the toilet. It's all part of our journey as a family, together.

Just wanted to make it clear that I'm in favour of parents schooling their kids however they choose to -- regardless of whether homeschooling, Christian schools, or public schools, I'd just be happy to see parents really concerned and involved in the rearing of their kids.

My apologies if I came across as pushing an insensitive response to the issues of homeschooling.

David Cho said...

I can echo everything you are saying, grace.

Here in Orange County, California, which is a hotbed of conservative evangelicalism, everything you say is so on target. And I guess it is prevalent elsewhere, even though I think it is more amplified here than most places.

No kids here, but this is a very insightful post.

grace said...

Robby, no apologies necessary. I don't think you came off as insensitive. My main point was that parents are in the best position to make these decisions for their children, whatever they turn out to be.

David, I would guess that Orange County typifies the values of materialism and consumerism.

fr'nklin said...

Wow. I have 5 kids (4 boys and a girl) and all of my kids are in public school. My kids don't fit the Christian sub-culture. My kids are all different: I have a skater, a rocker, a basketball player, and a reader, and one who is all of the above. We don't do Christian sports leagues and we don't play every sport. We don't stress over B's in school and we don't have a clue where they'll go to college. We are very normal, which makes us so not-normal.

I resonate SO MUCH with your post. My kids show me more than anybody I know what it means to really genuinely love unbelievers (agendaless love).

I'm often scared that I've made a bad choice in getting my kids out from behind the walls...but it's a choice I made for them, and I'm too far in to turn back...and I wouldn't wanna turn back nyway.

Great post...peace.

Kelly said...

grace--i so identified with these sentiments! recently i was listening to a pastor of one of the huge churches here in atlanta talk about how his son loves coming to church. and having recently moved into the inner city and working in that ministry, i wonder about that. we are years from having kids, but i do want mine to have a different feeling about church than i did growing up.

the whole discipline of simplicity is something i have really started researching lately even though i share an obsession with good decorating. and it really is going against the culture to choose to not have a tank of a car or a smaller, but perfectly comfortable house.

these were good thoughts, much of what has been crossing my mind as of late.

grace said...

From what I have seen, how the children do is mostly based on the love and security in their home. I'm sure you and your wife do a great job of that.

Hi kelly, it's nice meeting you!
I'll be over to visit sometime. :)

Pam Hogeweide said...

i guess you could call this thread the emerging parenting thread!

Yeah, I'm with you Grace. We seem like a misfit family. Not quite religious enough to fit in most church circles, and definitely not keeping up with the Jones's either. My kids are in public school and I deliberately try not to shelter them from families who are not like mine. I've had many, many conversations with other moms about this. If I will only allow my kids to mingle with kids who are from families who hold values and morals like ours than that pretty much eliminates many of the families in my neighborhood. I don't pressure my kids to be little evangelists or anything, but I do strive to teach them to expect to mingle with people who believe differently and live differently.

But you know what? I have discovered the hard way that when I let church and ministry become the center of my world than it creadted an insulated existence for my whole family. All our socializing was with other believers. All our energy went into maintaining church activities. Whether I wanted to admit it or not my kids and I had become immersed in the Christian sub-culture. This realization made me most uncomfortable.

The culture of the kingdom of God is what I long to model to my kids. That's the legacy I hope to give them.

I remember a young lady from a youth group that I was involved with several years ago. She was on a street outreach, the kind where you try to get people to stop and take your survey and then you tell them about Jesus at some point. She was in downtown Portland, being brave, going for it. She's been in a Christian home and private Christian school her entire life. She doesn't even know anyone who is not a Christian except for some distant cousins she never sees. On the outreach she began to talk to a college-aged couple. They figured out really fast what she was up to and declined to talk further. They weren't interested and began to walk away. Then the young woman turned around and came back. She told my teenage friend, "You know, you're a Christian. You've grown up Christian, and I'll bet all your friends are Christians too. One day you'll meet a guy, he'll be Christian too, and you'll get married. Then you'll have kids and raise them Christian. It's all you know. That's your world. It's not mine."

My friend was shaken up by this conversation. It was true. The woman had completely nailed her. She wondered for a while if she should withdraw from private education and finish it up in public school. For different reasons she decided not to. The moral of the story being is that her witness was held as suspect because of the sheltered life she has lived. It was as if there was an unspoken message of fear, that faith in Christ is weak and shaky if confronted by naysayers or hostility, that to be a good Christian one must withdraw from society and those who are unabashedly unchristian.

I've gone on too long. Sorry Grace. I guess since I dismantled my blog I'm psuedo-blogging on yours. Apologies!

Love how you provoke me.

grace said...

Hi Pam,
It's great to hear from you.
Blog away. I miss your writing. Interesting what you said. I didn't read it until after I posted today, continuing on those same thoughts.