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"Behave, and You Get to Do Cool Things"

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:13am

When I was a kid, my parents dragged me all over the place as they went about their business, and it was expected that I would behave myself appropriately and lose myself in a daydream or drawing if I was bored. I was quite shy as a child (still am, actually), and I discovered ways to fade into the background as much as possible (which is probably why I write and shoot photos all the time now!). I have very fond memories of the hours I spent at civic meetings, lumber yards and hardware stores, my mother's sewing classes, and even on days off from school at my mother's job at a dentist's office where I would hole up in an empty examining room for up to six hours with nothing but paper, markers and perhaps a stuffed animal. You would never have known I was there.

And so it is the most natural thing in the world for me to include my children when I am on assignment for food system-related stories. I mean, c'mon, this is not corporate work. I can't imagine having some of the experiences I'm having without sharing them with them, and I want them to learn from these wonderful, inspiring people whose paths I am so fortunate to cross. They have joined me in touring goat dairies and juice processing plants, farms and farmers markets, and they have eaten at some very lovely restaurants. They know the rule: "Behave, and you get to do cool things." Yet, I am continually reminded that we live in a society that segments our children, considers their attention spans to be miniscule, and has low expectations for their ability to sustain any kind of activity that is not specifically geared to entertain them continually.

Case in point: they joined me at a short (1-hour) whole grains cooking demonstration last night at a supermarket cooking school (not some fancy, shmancy place). I signed us up two weeks earlier and paid the $10 for each of us. There was no age restriction. I didn't consider it a big deal to bring them since they both like quinoa, amaranth (which, yes, that's me harvesting in our garden!) and buckwheat and were looking forward to trying millet. They love to cook. And an hour-long class seemed perfect. I mean, even if it were horrible, who can't get lost in their imaginations for a simple hour? (For those who say, why not take them to a children's-only cooking class--I ask, how many times do they need to learn how to put shredded cheese and sauce on pizza dough?)

Yet, when we entered the large room, in which there were less than 10 other students, I overheard a woman asking the class administrator why there were children there. The administrator, to her credit, told her that they were welcome, just like anyone else, as long as they were not disruptive. FYI: I'm with everyone who doesn't like to be disturbed by rude behavior (whether from children or anyone). I am the first one to remove my family from any situation where I feel as if behavior is not appropriate. Yet, if we never even give children a chance, and we have such low expectations for them, what do we suppose the outcome is going to be?
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