Before we married our respective wives, Steve and I were bosom buddies. We were single Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with lots of points of view and friends in common. Today, we both have young boys, so we still share lots in common in our everyday lives.
However, as it turns out, we’re the Mars and Venus of parenting.
Steve’s boys swim on a club team and have numerous ribbons from competitions. My boys haven’t had a whiff of organized sports and don’t know how to swim. On the other hand, I make sure they play vigorously outside in our neighborhood every day.Steve is sending his six and four year-old boys to month-long foreign language immersion camps this summer. The only camp my five and 1-1/2 year-old boys are going to this summer is the neighborhood summer camp I ran in June, “Camp Yale.” Also, my boys have never attended one day of an academic class or camp. Ever.
These differences make for some awkward conversations. I like Steve a lot – I always have and I always will. However, what do I say when I hear about his boys’ swimming ribbons or their foreign language camps? “Great!” is about all I can say. Can I offer any similar accomplishments from my boys? Nope. Nada.
Should I explain that my boys don’t participate in these activities? No, because I would end up sounding preachy. I’d be saying, in effect, “My wife and I don’t believe that participating in activities like these is good for kids at this age.” In other words, I’d be saying, “We don’t think your parenting approach is best for kids.”
Saying that would alienate Steve, so I keep my mouth shut and smile.
I realize now that my wife’s and my choice of parenting style – centered around neighborhood play rather than organized activities outside the house or screen activities inside – has divided us from most of our friends who have kids. It’s akin to a profound religious difference. We can still be friends, but there’s no denying that we’re a bit more distant because we fundamentally disagree on an issue that is central to how we live our lives.