Raising a cultured child?

Posted Wednesday, April 25th 2012 at 11:25am

By Holly Carrington
When I received my monthly parenting magazine this week, I nearly spit out my lunch in disgust.
The glossy cover showed a smiling (if not snide), impeccably dressed, perfectly coifed 7-year-old, and the tagline read something like “She's smart, she's well-traveled and she loves sushi.” The article that follows is all about raising a "cultured" child.
Take a moment to absorb that.
Now, in order to to not seriously offend open-minded, adventurous and "cultured" parents out there, I actually don't have a problem with the sushi part, per se. I try to get my daughter to eat interesting and healthy foods whenever I can, though most of it ends up in a pile on her highchair. I think what bothers me is during these tough economic times, when faced with the harsh realities of everything from credit card debt to our national debt, should we really be raising our children to desire such luxuries?
The fondest memories of my childhood didn't involve how posh my food was or the sleekness of my wardrobe. In sixth grade, I shot rubber bands out of my braces and dressed up as an old lady for Halloween. Cultured? No. Ridiculous? Yes. Exhibited age-appropriate ridiculousness? Hopefully...
Maybe the subtext of the article isn't as dangerous as it appeared, but it made me take notice of how much our children are being portrayed as mini-adults in mainstream magazines and catalogs. Does a 5-year-old really need personalized luggage? Will your son wax poetic about a meal consisting of raw fish, seaweed and rice? It's doubtful. He's going to remember how dirty his clothes got when he played outside after a rainstorm or being a part of a team with all his friends cheering him on. Not for one second will he wish his friends would hand him a monogrammed, Egyptian-cotton towel to dry his grubby, dirt-stained face.
I also don't have a problem with their stance on traveling with your children. Of course it's great to have them experience a different city, state or country and discover the magic of being away from home. But to make it seem like you need to spend your nest egg on the most exotic and expensive vacations also seems out of touch and elitist.
To raise well-rounded children, I think we all could do our future generation a favor by ditching über materialistic and snobbish ideals. To me, cultured means being adventurous, not wasteful; helpful and kind, not condescending; confident, not boastful.
Maybe we should just spent less time trying so hard to raise the perfect child and more time enjoying their imperfect childhood. After all, those rubber bands won't fling themselves at unsuspecting classmates.


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