I keep seeing these things on Facebook — a bunch of pictures of celebrities and and bunch of pictures of people who contributed greatly to science and you’re supposed to see which you recognize. I don’t have much use for celebrities. I have a favorite actor and actress, sure. If they put out a new movie, I might wish to see it. But generally they are my favorites because they consistently put out good movies. I do not confuse them with the characters they play. And if I idolize them to the point that I’m obsessed with who they are dating this week or whether or not they were seen partying with a boxer, I think that’s unhealthy. Note the word obsessed. That’s generally not a good word, folks.
If my children are going to admire someone, I’d prefer that it be someone who has done something positive for the human race. So while I don’t care if some actor dances all night long at a rave, I am interested in the actors who go to Tsunami ravaged countries and help pull survivors from the rubble. You won’t see me reading about the latest wedding of some actress who’s already been married six times, but you might see me read about an actress who decided to drive with someone on the hood of her car, and who was then copied by two or three idiots who idolize her. However you slice it, though, “What Not to Wear” doesn’t fall very high on my priority list. In fact most reality shows rate beneath the dust bunnies under my hutch (I’ve never cleaned under my hutch). Someone usually has to mention the latest reality show in a conversation before I even know it exists.
Values are an interesting thing. We always share our values with our children, no matter where they’re schooled. But since children are little sponges, their values are influenced by others as well as me. Lately, I kind of feel that world has it’s priorities mixed up. People will take off work and go support some fast food joint that wishes to fire people for being gay, but they’ll walk right past a man collecting for the homeless shelter without giving a tenth of what they’ll pay for that luke-warm chicken sandwich. Touting their religion, they’ll drive all over town to buy inflammatory bumper stickers, but they won’t give an hour to a soup kitchen. That’s just wrong.
The earliest signs many parents see of the blending of values pops up in a desire to have certain shoes or clothes. And we see that echoed in television commercials that suggest I’m supposed to break my budget and bend over backward to get my son “the” shoes or “the” jeans that all the other kids are wearing. Never mind whether money is so tight that most of my menus are beans and rice dishes. I’m sorry, fashion is also low on my priority list. Right down there with the dust bunnies. I want my child to have nice clothes, but nice is determined by the number of holes and stains. Most of Pumpkin’s clothes are second hand — some purchased in lots on Ebay and some from a generous friend whose son is just a little older. Pumpkin is thrilled when “new” clothes arrive because they are new to him and he’s enthusiastic about anything in a box. He hasn’t ever been disappointed that he didn’t get “the” shoes because he has no idea what “the” shoes are.
More importantly, though, my son has retained that precious ability to see everybody equally. To his eyes there is no difference in race, respectability or sexual orientation. The artist in him will note that some people have darker skin tones than others, but that’s all it is. However he does notice when other people treat someone shabbily and goes out of his way to be the opposite. At a store we frequent there is a woman who has a very large birthmark on her face. It takes up most of her cheek. He has noticed that people avert their eyes when they pass her — maybe because I went to such great lengths to teach him about eye contact (Pumpkin is a spectrum kid). He wanted to know why so many people wouldn’t look at Stacey*. I explained that many people see that as a deformity and it makes them uncomfortable, although it doesn’t mean that Stacey isn’t a wonderful person. Pumpkin calls out to her each time we see her, as if she is the most welcome sight in the world. You can almost see her light up. It would be hard, I think, to have so many people look away. And Stacey IS a wonderful person. She’s funny, friendly, and kind. I’m an introvert, I probably wouldn’t have come to know her if it weren’t for Pumpkin, although I never averted my eyes. I find that appalling. That value was absorbed by Pumpkin and reflected in his own way, and each time we encounter Stacey I’m very proud of him.
I think values might be the number one reason for homeschooling. A lot of people wish to pass on their religion; I’m not in that category, though I can respect others’ right to be. For many more, the value issue has to do with how our children are taught, because their values say that children should be taught how to think rather than what to think; I do fit this category. For a very few, though, peer pressure and the accompanying materialism can be what leads them to homeschooling. I can see that too. I would much prefer that my child have great compassion than great shoes. To my way of thinking, that is a priority.
*not her real name