In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to our readers for insight.
I nearly choked on my coffee when one of my favorite non-tiger parenting writers, Wendy Mogel, author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee, said she wanted young girls to pal around with "slutty girlfriends."
On the surface, it sounded like just about the last thing I wanted for my daughter. I never thought of myself as one of those shotgun wielding crazy dads, camping out on the front porch and keeping the boys at bay. But I also don't want her doing too much too soon.
So I'm sitting there during Mogel's lecture, thinking, "What the hell is she talking about?"
And then it all started to make sense.
Mogel wasn't advocating that young girls — she was talking about middle-schoolers — go out and screw anything that moves. Rather, she was advising parents to chill out when it comes to the friends their kids hang out with, that kids will learn just as many important life lessons from questionable alliances as they will from parental lectures. After all, parents won't always be there to put a salve on every relationship problem in the lives of their teenagers and young adults. Kids need to learn to navigate their social circles on their own, she argued, and having slutty girlfriends or "sketchy" friends won't necessarily put them on a bad road but will help them become wiser and ultimately help them make better choices after some potential mistakes. The whole idea of her philosophy is to raise kids to eventually be on their own, away from their crazy yuppie helicopter parents.
I've been thinking about Mogel's recent lecture a lot this week in light of the Chinese Tiger Mother controversy, the one about a mom who yells at her kids and calls them "garbage" and "pathetic" to make them better people. (No, wait, sorry. Not to make them better people. To make them perform better. So their mother feels like a better person.) On the one hand, here's someone telling me to stand, arms-crossed, behind my children, forcing them to continue piano, homework or whatever under threats and abuse. On the other, I've got someone whispering in my ear to back off a little, to let the kids learn from their own mistakes.
Now, this isn't an either-or situation, but I found myself this week siding with Mogel (whose latest book, Blessings of a B Minus, would probably send Tiger Mother into fainting spells over her grand piano). Looking back, I learned more about life and relationships from "sketchy" friends on the periphery of my social circle than I probably did from my parents, and I hope when the time comes that I can relax and let my daughter do the same.
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! It strikes me now that I was the "sketchy" friend other parents feared.
Image by Lauri Apple.