succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Parents, Questions, and Safety Net

(I'm a little drunk, so this post may not be as coherent as I would like)

It's hardly news, to people who know me, that I think my parents are awesome. Also, that I'm well versed in their own personal histories, and that makes me cut them even more slack, and in fact, leads me to be impressed that they even get out of bed each morning, much less that they turned out to be totally capable parents*.

But the thing about their parenting, and the family that they created, that's really been crystallizing for me lately, is the fact that they created this space where it was completely safe to question virtually anything. One of the quintessential stories from my pseudo-Catholic upbringing is that I still believed in Santa Claus at a time when I knew that the date for Christmas was chosen to cover up the pagan holiday of solstice (Dad, in the back of the church, during midnight mass, whispering in my ear: think about it Megan. why would the shepherds be out with their flock in the dead of winter? they only slept with their flock during birthing season, and that was in the spring. and what leader would order a census in the middle of winter?). And the thing is, that didn't detract from faith. The stories in the Bible could be depicted as allegories, as symbolic, without lessoning the power of religious beliefs.

When we were much younger, deemed too young to behave ourselves in church, Dad would read to us from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We were encouraged to interrupt with questions. No question too dumb or weird or arbitrary or threatening. Questioning was a good thing. It strengthened belief and ideas.

That same philosophy was applied to everything. I can't imagine a scenario where asking questions was inappropriate or dangerous or stupid. Challenging ideas, poking around their edges, articulating their strengths and weaknesses, that was the whole point, wasn't it? Wondering about things, being confused by things, questioning the logic of certain paradigms. All were encouraged. If an idea, a belief, couldn't stand up to such challenges, then why cling to it in the first place?

It's taken me a couple of decades to realize, but that's an incredibly rare, incredibly safe, space in which to be raised.

*that's not to say they didn't make mistakes, because hi, we're all fucked up in our own special ways. but all things considered, they did a pretty bang up job, if I do say so myself.


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