10 Sep 2012

Parenting: Red State Style versus Blue State Style

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Oklahoma Legislator Rebecca Hamilton remembers being corrected by her working-class red state father.

I had been caught red-handed, abusing my horse. I had no idea what Daddy was going to do, but I expected something massive. What he did instead was much more effective.

“Becky Ann, you know better than that.” he said. That was all. He didn’t yell or threaten. He didn’t even ground me from riding; just, “you know better than that.” But it was enough. I have never abused an animal again.

Years before that, when I was a pre-schooler, I stole a pack of chewing gum from a store and got caught. Daddy didn’t yell at me. He took me back to the store and made me hand the gum to the clerk and say “I stole this.” That was a long time ago, but I can still feel the humiliation of that moment. Then, to add insult to injury, he bought the gum and gave it to me.

Another lesson learned. The temptation to steal left me that day and has never returned.

Daddy was teaching more than how to ride and care for a horse, more even than not to steal. He was teaching me a whole set of values. He was also, though neither of us was aware of it, teaching me about men. There wasn’t a plan in this. I feel confident that my daddy never read a single book on how to raise kids. He didn’t make dates to “have a talk” with me or attempt to manipulate me. He just talked to me as part of our daily interactions. Like I was a person. He spent time with me. That’s how he caught me with the stolen gum, how he saw me shoot water into Shorty’s ear; he was there.


Robin Hustle,” in the course of a Jezebel feature titled “How to Tell Your Parents You’re a Prostitute,” describes her blue state parenting experiences.

I was a typical pink-diaper baby: I sat in on my mom’s feminist book clubs, we had family outings to protest U.S. imperialism in El Salvador, and I was into Joan Armatrading while my classmates were obsessed with New Kids on the Block. Fortunately, my crushing unpopularity was alleviated by a wonderful home life. All told, I can safely say I am a product of good parenting. I was encouraged, not coddled. I learned to be responsible at an early age by being given, within limits, a great deal of independence. My appreciation for my family goes well beyond their parenting skills. They aren’t guilty liberals who stir into action when an election or a war rolls around; they have always been fully engaged in living and working in radical ways. They never imposed their politics on me — my own politics mirror theirs because they taught me to think critically and set a powerful example of how to live. I’d be embarrassed by my uncanny similarity to my parents if I didn’t think they’re, well, totally amazing.

We rarely talked about sex, and lord knows I didn’t mind. When my kindergarten teacher called home in a huff to report that Marco Torres and I were having a horizontal make-out session in gym class, my parents sat me down and told me I could do whatever I wanted with kids my own age, so long as I didn’t do it at school. When I came out as queer in junior high, it was a blip on the family radar, though a few years later my parents felt obligated to ask if I was having safe sex, and then ask me to educate them on how lesbians have safe sex. While discussing non-monogamy a few years ago, my mom casually said “Well, I’ve never really cared about sex anyway,” which raised a host of disquieting questions that will forever go unasked. To each her own, I guess.

So, tell me, which culture do you think ought to win the culture war?

Hat tips (1) and (2) to Glenn Reynolds.

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Maggie's Farm

Tuesday morning links…

Eleven years on The Dogs of 9/11 A pal took this pic of the USS Saratoga in Newport, RI last weekend. Some people want to use her for a new Naval museum. Parenting: Red State vs Blue State A letter to a future daughter-in-law, possibly my own Th…


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