Loving What Our Children Love

advice/correction Aug 07, 2022

When I was a teenager, I absolutely LOVED junk fiction. When I was younger I used to frequently read classics but once I got older, me and my friends were obsessed with these books.

Sweet Valley Twins/High/University

Judith McKnaught

Sidney Sheldon

Danielle Steele

I fantasized about having a library filled with every Sweet Valley book ever written!

My father would lightly say to me every now and then, “I don’t know why you read this stuff...”

Though, to his credit, he never snatched a book away from me or censored what I read. Never. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that now, as an adult.

There were even times when he said something like, “It’s normal to be a teenager and be interested in romance… just as long as you know this stuff isn’t real.”

I would nod vigorously at this treasured validation.

Fast forward some 15-20 years, I couldn’t read one of those books if you paid me. In fact, the vast majority of the books I read now are non-fiction.

My father played a huge role in fostering my love for reading even if he didn’t necessarily approve of everything I read. He got me a membership in the library, he paid attention to what I was reading, we often talked about the great classics and historic authors. We discussed poetry and memorized verses from Ghalib together. Despite the fact that my father’s love for my interest was far from perfect, it was one of the strongest things that connected us, and continues to connect us.

Loving what our children love, or at least letting THEM love it without guilt or shame is one of the best things we can do for our relationship.

At the least we can bite back all those unhelpful comments that come to our minds, like:

“Why are you always wasting time with xyz?”

“Why can’t you do something more productive with your time?”

“What’s the point of this?” (“Ye kiya bekar kaam hai..”)

“Why do you read trash all the time?” (“Ye kia bakwas parhti rehti ho tum?”)

Try hard to look for the positive in everything they’re doing. Even video games.

It’s fine to regulate the use of electronics, but not ok to shame them over it. (Use the win/win conflict resolution method in the Units’ tab).

I know the whole electronics thing drives us parents nuts! We think ruefully of our own time when we didn’t have electronics and played outside a lot or came up with other random stuff to do at home. Our frustration with our kids’ use of electronics goes deeper- it’s almost like we grieve for them that joy we had of endless hours of outdoor fun.

But this has been true for every generation. Every generation mourns the loss of their own childhood as if it was the best one. I remember my mom used to fondly remember her communal bedroom where she and her sisters slept and hung out together. She didn’t understand my obsession with having my own room.

“Why won’t you just share your bedroom with your sister?” She would ask me ruefully. At the time her comments made me so frustrated. I just wanted my “pesky” little sister out of my room! Now I know what that tone was. It said, “I’m worried you’ll miss out on a great relationship with your sister.” From her perspective, her worries make perfect sense.

But she need not have worried because I now have a great relationship with my sweet sister, she’s the light of my life. I’m so so grateful for her... especially on days when no one seems to get me, she does.

This is what I remind myself... that beneath my fear and rejection of video games, are my fears. That my kids won’t know what real friendship is, what outdoor fun is, what joyful reading is. Why is everything on electronics? And I’ve had to help myself understand that my kids’ childhood isn’t my childhood. It’s different. They’ve never known what I have known so they don’t really miss it. Just like I’d never known my mom’s childhood and had no clue what she’s on about.

And so... I’m learning to embrace my kids’ childhood for what it is and I joked with my 8yo that maybe he’ll be yelling at his kids one day for spending too much time in their year 2050 game simulators and he laughs.

At the end of the day, it’s important to, at the best, love the things our children love, and at the least, accept the things they love, without judgement. And allow ourselves to grieve the passing of our own times and learn to embrace new times and new things. It’s the circle of life (did I just quote Lion King? )

About the picture: Some books I’m currently reading.