A Kick In The Family Jewels

jewelsMost families have certain traditions and values they believe in. As parents with noble intentions, we often try to instill these important values – family “jewels” if you will – in our children.

At some point, our children inevitably do or say something that runs counter to or challenges those family beliefs. For unsuspecting and well-intentioned parents, these confrontations over values can be like a proverbially kick to the family jewels. For example, I remember the first time a child of mine lied to me.  With my values of honesty and open communication, I was devastated and convinced that I had failed as a parent.

Such were the thoughts that swirled in my head as I read the dilemma of Slate columnist Emily Bazelon: her elementary-aged sons were rebelling against their family tradition of hosting a birthday party book swap.  Early in their children’s lives, Bazelon and her husband decided to take a stand against the excess of material possessions which is true for so many American kids. So, for birthday parties, guests were asked to bring a wrapped book instead of a gift for the birthday boy; at the end of the party, each person left with a new book (plus a party favor).

Curious how my children (now teens) would react to the idea of party devoid of presents, I read Bazelon’s piece to Caitlin and Jackson. “That’s ridiculous,” Jackson sputtered, alternating between anger and sympathy over the lack of birthday presents. “It seems like the parents are trying too hard to make the point,” said a slightly chagrined Caitlin.

Bazelon received lots of feedback on Slate.com about her family tradition (much of it could have been written by my kids). A few offered alternatives on how to pass along the anti-consumption message to children.

As for me, I think the book swap party was a terrific idea whose time had passed. I salute the Bazelon parents in their efforts to teach their kids values and hope they come up with other nifty ideas that are a better fit for the kids’ stage in life.

I’d love to beg, borrow or steal others’ ideas about passing along values to our children. (And that last verb is NOT a family value in our house – really!)



  • Kathleen Says:
    3-4-2010 08:49:19

    Last night, I read aloud the news article about D.C. legalizing same-sex marriage to my girls, ages 9 and 11. Perhaps they’re a little young to be thinking about those kind of things, but if I can manage to raise children who are accepting of all people, regardless of their differences, then I’ll feel I’ve done my job as a parent. Even if they are the paragons of mass consumption and are caught in a lie every once in a while.

  • skippy Says:
    3-4-2010 17:09:19

    Values can’t be preached. Try to remember who you were watching and listening to when you were a kid. Where did you get your values?

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