Liking Their Stuff — Even When They Hate Yours

She loves to play tennis. He's a total Trekkie. It's the ultimate parental dream: your kid is wildly enthusiastic about one of your hobbies. Let's face it — we all like it when people get into our stuff, especially people we love. That's why it shouldn't surprise us when our kids feel the same way.

But how far should we as parents go when it comes to enjoying our childrens' pasttimes? I can't seem to generate enthusiasm to play video games, for example, although I watch the on-screen action. I do enjoy some of their music; adding a new, upbeat song to my in-shower repertoire is always a boon. But here's the rub: they don't like it when I get too enthusiastic and actually commandeer a particular tune. I've wondered about this. They want me to like their stuff, and will happily share it, but don't want me to make it mine. Why not? I think it's because a co-opted cultural icon is no longer an expression of them versus me. My "I-love-it-too" undermines the valiant adolescent effort to carve out personhood — an especially difficult task when you've got a Mom with a BIG personality.

Some parents, like Catherine Mallette, get into whatever their kid loves. I admire such earthy, non-judgmental involvement — her kids are free to explore and discover what they enjoy under their own roof instead of in other venues. Others parents err more on the side of condemning the artifacts of youth culture, perhaps forcing kids out on secret, dangerous journeys of exploration. Of course, we're called to be discerning in our efforts to connect — a desperate longing to be close to our kids or to be thought of as "cool" can lead to the validation of trash. And yet we can't look down lofty growup noses, smirking or rolling our eyes at what kids enjoy. Even when they think our stuff is dull, and clearly let us know when they want no part of it. ("Turn off the country music, Mom!")

How do you walk the narrow road between condemning, co-opting, or caving in when it comes to their stuff? How do you deal with your kids rejecting your favorite things?

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