Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Water Cooler

The parenting question that plagues me today:  just how important is water cooler talk?

Not a real water cooler.  They don't have those in second grade.  I'm not sure they have them in most workplaces, but even without a water cooler we still have water cooler talk, or pop culture literacy.  For adults, it's sports, TV, movies, other celebrity news.  I'm not sure what it is for second grade boys.  Pokemon cards?  Legos?  Harry Potter?  Star Wars?

I have a second grade boy, so you'd think I'd know.  But I don't.  He's never been a flavor-of-the-month kind of kid.  Years of encyclopedic dinosaur study followed by years of snapping together Lego pieces, in both cases with exceptional research and a vast amount of other reading.  He can talk fairly intelligently about Greek mythology but doesn't know the basic rules of football.  His spatial ability is extraordinary, but his knowledge of the Disney Channel is nil.

I'm ok with that.  I'd much rather discuss Greek mythology and how it appears in the Percy Jackson series than discuss Pokeman cards, but I don't know that I'm my child's most important audience.  As a teacher helpfully pointed out to a similarly situated friend a few years ago, "All the other kids are trading Pokemon cards, while yours is discussing the Iraq war."  I'd much rather be around a dinner table with the Iraq kid, but I don't want him ostracized from the other kids.  While I want my child to be mature, intellectual, and able to relate to adults, it's critical that he relate to his peers.

Some of it is innate.  The kid just doesn't care about sports--watching them or playing them, although we've pushed him to do the latter.  But we aren't really helping either.  While my kids admittedly watch a lot of kid and family movies, they watch nearly no commercial television.  While my son likes to play his friends' Wii, we don't own a game console.  He's asked, but not often or with any passion, so I haven't yet felt the need.  Without sports, video games, or TV, are we just making it harder for him?  Is it worth the trade-off?


  1. Funny... just had a similar conversation with a friend tonight. Our only mutual conclusion, do your best and pray that it turns out alright. Of course that conclusion is flawed, but with all the shades of gray that factor into raising wee ones - all that you can do is your best. And clearly, you are.

  2. I think it's most important to allow your family's own culture and values to come first, while exposing your son to new things, which you are. My son. also a lego braniac and uninterested in sports, asked for cable tv in fifth grade. He was left out of all the conversations of what shows were on the night before. He always had limited screen time, but when we got cable he was allowed more. He didn't see as much tv as his peers, and if he didn't see last night's American Idol, he had at least seen it so as to be able to relate. He's also much happier when at the same time he was allowed to have junk food once in a while vs homemade cookies and the like. "Finally we're getting more American!" he exclaimed.