Monday, January 25, 2010

Making Memories at the Market

Amy and I talk a lot about what our motivations are for choosing the activities we choose for our kids. We have been entrusted with precious lives and a precious responsibility, and heck if we dare shirk that; and yet the temptation to use that to justify a classist, "keeping up with the Joneses" drivenness is ever present.

In theory, what we aim for is to acknowledge that we have been blessed - with material resources, intellectual opportunity, and solid upper-middle-class upbringings - and so should not be ashamed to leverage those advantages for the edification of our kids. And yet, we want to reject what this generation values - materialism, the idolatry of excellence, caring more about how we are perceived by others - in pursuit instead of a Kingdom whose values may appear upside-down to this world - downward mobility for the sake of associated with the poorer and marginalized among us, not stepping on others to benefit oneself, caring more about timeless values than worldly success.

We are unwilling to sacrifice our kids for our values; but neither are we willing to allow our kids to presume that the things this generation values are necessarily consistent with what is right to value. And so we find ourselves examining our motives often when it comes to our kids, what activities we want them to be in, and who we hope they will interact with and be influenced by.

One thing that is important for me is that our kids have happy memories from their childhood, of things that are good clean fun, that connect them to bigger narratives, and that involve healthy interactions with us. Which is why I think I take such delight in bringing them to Reading Terminal Market. One of Philadelphia's greatest jewels, the Market bustles on the Saturday mornings when I bring them there. There they can see people of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life rubbing elbows and having a good time. They can see and smell and taste some of the finest cuisine from a variety of places. They can have the experience of riding the subway to get there, absorbing the urban landscape as we ride and walk to our destination. They can even learn a thing or two about giving: we're always mindful to give them a couple of pennies to put in the piggy bank in the middle of the Market, which is used to raise money for homelessness services.

And they can do it all with us. For me, it's as if the experience is being experienced in the present, but also as a future memory: I imagine our kids thinking back to their childhood, and calling to mind the very sights, sounds, and smells that we are experiencing at the moment. And smiling, because those sensory fragments evoked happy memories, of an urban childhood, a Philadelphia childhood, a childhood in which their parents loved them very much and tried their best to raise them in a way that they had what they needed to excel but didn't give in to this generation's relentless pursuit of status and possessions and elitism.
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