Free to Choose Buddha or Barbie

Morning and afternoon school runs are some of the most satisfying times I spend with my kids, and not just because they're strapped into their seats and can't hit each other. Leo sits in the back, creating atmosphere by happily bopping to whatever music is on (or he's making). The girls consider it Forum with Mommy Rosenberg time; it's when we have some of our best discussions.

This morning, as we were halfway down our hill, NPR announced that David Souter would be stepping down from the Supreme Court. "Woo-hoo!" I yelled, not because of any antipathy towards Souter, but because of President Obama's pre-election declaration about what he would look for in future justices:
"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom," Obama said. "The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criterion by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."
"Yeah, baby!" I crowed, "Let's put some liberal moxie back into that court!"

Which of course led to a discussion of what is liberal and what is conservative, and no, eldest daughter, belonging to a Unitarian congregation in town does make our town liberal. We live in a mixed town, one with representation from various classes, cultures, countries, and political creeds, and that's the way we like it.

I told her that while it's nice to be around people who think just like we do and hold the same values, we don't learn as much that way, and we can also feel pressured into behaving a certain way. She said, "But we're liberals! Liberals don't do that!"

I told her that liberals are supposed to believe in personal freedom, but that liberals can be every bit as conservative as conservatives when it comes to herd-think.

I told her that in certain liberal strongholds, I might not feel entirely comfortable sending her little sister to a party dressed in her favorite Dora the Explorer gown, clutching a Barbie doll. I would both feel -- and fight -- the need to explain that the gown was a gift from her grandmother, the doll was a hand-me-down and oh my god surely you don't think I participate in mindless consumer culture because we don't even let our kid watch commercials!

I told her -- with the loaded, anxious sincerity of a mother to a blossoming tween girl -- that it can be really hard to be yourself, without apologies or explanations.

And then we were cut off by another driver in front of her school, saving her from some truly maudlin preaching on The Value of You.

I remained in Role Model mode, reined in my impulse to shriek at the other car, and told Iz, "We all have impatient days. Well, everyone except Buddha!"

"Even he had impatient days before he reached Enlightenment," she chirped back, and bounced out of the car.

We are reaching a tipping point, the two of us. My ten-year-old daughter and me. There is still respect and love and wisdom (and occasional irritation) flowing from both sides. Does it have to end? Do we have to become victims of stereotypical tweenhood polarity?

I hope not. I am hoping for our own versions of liberalism and Enlightenment, instead.


  1. good luck with that.

    but never mind; she'll be back in less than a decade, anyway :)

  2. Well, not necessarily-I raised three kids-including two girls-and honestly for the most part I continued to have good relationships with all of them with the exception of a few rocky years with the youngest. Now that she is married with a kid I have gotten exponentially more brilliant. ;-)

  3. Personally, I am a total Souter fan, and think he has all the liberal moxie that I could want. I am doubtful we could get better than him. But good points about all the rest.

  4. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Sure. Let's convey to young girls the empathy we should have for being a teenage mom. Give me a break. Yeah, let's send the message that being a teenage mom is a good thing. You speak out of both sides of your mouth. I assume you don't like Palin but how about her loser daughter? She's OK because she's a teeenage mom? Not only a teenage mom but breaks up with the boyfriend/father of the child and they feud all over TV. Such immature kids should not be given "empathy" for being so stupid as to have a child so young.

  5. @anonymous. I do indeed empathize with those who do not understand the repercussions that can result from impetuous acts. I wish more people exercised empathy instead of righteousness.

    The only issue I have with Bristol, and it's not really with her, is that the popular media canonized her right after they crucified Jamie Lynn Spears. Big double-standard WTF.

  6. I tried to comment earlier, but had some sort of postig fail.

    As a not-yet-parent, I really appreciate the perspective you put out there. You present great ways for imparting the kind of wisdom that I hope to be able to share with my kids.

  7. I'll email this to Iz but I thought you might like it, and you might need to be the one to install it!


    Protein folding game, results possibly become useful to ... Science!

    Moomin is halfway through the tutorials. I think the real puzzles might take teamwork.

  8. Anonymous9:34 PM

    I love this tale, but my fave Iz take on Buddhism is still the Christmas lights incident (my mother still cracks up when I mention it).

    Hugs, Roo

  9. heh heh. For those who aren't in the know:

    Iz went to the same multi-culti preschool that Mali currently attends, and learned all about different religions.

    When the holiday season arrived, she noticed all the Xmas lights on various houses. Then we drove by a house without lights. Iz told me, "They must be Buddhist!"


Respectful disagreement encouraged.