Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids in the Oven

No...not a "bun" in the oven!

I am reading Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, and here is a quote that I just love:

When you bake a cake, you have ingredients: sugar, flour, butter, baking soda, eggs, milk. You put them in a bowl and mix them up, but that does not make a cake. This makes goop. You have to put them in the oven and add heat or energy to transform it into a cake, and the cake looks nothing like its original ingredients. It's a lot like parent unable to claim their hippie kids as their own in the sixties. Milk and eggs look at their pound cake and say, "Not ours." Not egg, not milk, but Ph.D. daughter of refugee parents - a foreigner in her own home.

How often, as parents, do we feel like this with our kids? How often do we look at them and marvel at who they are becoming, but at the same time recognize that they in fact bear little resemblance to us, or who we thought they would be, or who we tried to make them?

I think this issue is especially difficult for humane parents. We are so committed to our values, and we so strongly want our children to grow up to share them, to fight for social justice and sustainability. Many of us struggle with the impact that simply having a child will have on the planet and our shared resources, and commit to raising our children to have as little impact as possible.

But the truth is, of course, that just as many of us rejected our parents' values and chose our own, so too can our children easily grow up and choose to become, say, the CEO of BP or a researcher for Monsanto. How do we reconcile ourselves with the fact that, in the end, we have no control over who our children will become as they grow?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website

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