My wife and I had kids in our late thirties/early forties. The pros: we were more financially secure than the fresh college grads we met at preschool drop off. The cons: we’d had incredibly fun lives involving international travel, intellectual conversations with stimulating adult friends, and enjoying things entirely on our terms, so we had a sense of what we would sacrifice at the outset. Daddy’s back also wasn’t what it used to be.
Like all new parents, we spent many hours deliberating over what values we wanted to impart to our children. We committed to several priorities in raising the kids that we’ve adhered to over the years.
No TV, lots of books
When it comes to pop culture, our kids have more in common with Amish children than their friends. They don’t play video games, they don’t watch TV in our home, and their electronic device of choice is a Kindle Fire (bought on sale for ~$40 with tax) set to permit reading of ebooks from the library and not much else. When they were little, we played a game called Equilibrio to develop their spatial skills. Now that they are older, we play mostly strategy games: Cuban-style team dominoes, Othello, and chess.
Reading has been a nightly activity since they were preverbal, and our local public libraries are part of our weekend routine. A couple of years ago, we got into series books with the Chronicles of Narnia. Now my wife is in the process of finishing the Harry Potter series while I am on book 12 in the original Wizard of Oz series. We read to them from 30-45 minutes a night, ideally in front of a cozy fire in the winter months. Then the kids head to bed, where they can read more on their own until they get sleepy.
Cultivate Outsider Identity
My wife and I both grew up feeling like outsiders, albeit socially adept ones who were able to pass among different sets of friends. As a result, we were able to focus on academics when peers focused on social acceptance, and we remained (relatively) inoculated against the more nefarious peer influences (alcohol, drugs, etc.). It’s important to us that our kids not be mean; stick up for underdogs; and learn to navigate by their internal moral compass. If they can comfortable in their own skins, we’ll be happy.
Prioritize slow travel time together to create shared family memories
My wife and I both loved international travel before we had kids, and we are taking incremental trips abroad to help them develop a love for it. I view the window of time we have together where they are not in the throes of adolescence as closing rapidly, and I want to make the most of it. Sharing slow travel experiences will create memories that I hope to treasure once they are old enough to want to have little to do with us. We are also prioritizing time with grandparents while their health permits, since that window will be limited as well. I was raised in a loud and loving latin family where everyone was a cousin or uncle of some sort, and I hope that the kids retain this same sense of ambiguous relatedness to those we hold dear in our family orbit.
We considered taking a family gap year abroad, but the logistics favored traveling in the summer and accommodating the school calendar. Additionally, I have concerns (possibly ill-founded) about our ability to home-school the kids. My mother was a teacher for 35+ years, and she was terrific at her profession. Expecting that I could perform at her level seems akin to expecting that she could teach herself rapid sequence intubation. Not impossible, but there is a steep learning curve, and each parent has to determine if the kids are likely to suffer disproportionate impact while the parent learns to teach.
Our running joke is that our kids will have no shortage of complaints about our parenting; they’ll just be completely different than what we thought they’d be.
How do you plan to screw up your own kids?