A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with my eight year-old daughter downtown. We passed a store window full of fancy shoes and talked about the different styles. Then as we crossed the street to continue on our way to our library, a man began shouting at me. "Lady," he bellowed, "when I have kids I'm going to protect them from the sick culture you're inflicting on that girl. Bad! Bad! Bad!" He kept shouting until we were out of earshot.
My natural instinct was to push the guy out into on-coming traffic, but I just ignored him. I sort of wish I could have taken him out to coffee and told him just how dumb he was being--not just because he was wrong about me (or I think he's wrong; the reason we were downtown that day were to pick up a pair of shoes from the cobbler, thus instilling the value of repairing over replacing, and to visit the library and the history museum, which I think are pretty worthwhile cultural endeavors), but because he clearly doesn't understand what good parenting is all about.
A good parent knows that we can't protect our kids from our sick culture forever. We live in a country that bombards kids with messages about how to look and how to shop. If I simply kept my daughter under house arrest, or raised her in the wilderness without exposure to store fronts and advertising, I could expect her to enter the world as a very confused young adult. Or a very rebellious one.
Instead, we looked at those fancy-pants shoes together, and I pointed out the fur-lined heeled boots that I wouldn't wear because I can't stand the thought of adorable animals like foxes killed just for fashion. Even though I swooned over the gorgeous stiletto spectators, I had to explain that I'd never wear them because they'd hurt my back and worsen my foot problems, and that looking good isn't worth that kind of price to me. It was a worthwhile conversation about some of the real costs of fashion.
But that guy only saw two females talking about shoes. He didn't see the second-hand clothes or much-repaired clogs or bags full of library books. He didn't hear that thoughtful discussion about shopping or any of our later conversations about Oregon history or banned books. He let himself jump to conclusions.
Of course, if he knew more about us, he would have probably been horrified to know that we headed home to finish playing Resident Evil: Code Veronica.
Because a really good parent wants their kid to be ready for a zombie outbreak.