It has finally happened: my nephew, who has just started high school, has found me on facebook and made a friend request. Sigh. This is terrible. Not that I wouldn't mind befriending him (although I usually post about how I am doing very little work and constantly procrastinating, which is hardly me being a good role model for him), but if I befriend him, I'll have to befriend his sister (that is, my niece) as well, and I don't want to. Is that petty or what? I'm not going to admit my horribleness to my family (only to the general world on my blog!), but I definitely have favorites ---- as evidenced by the fact that I've befriended my other niece for over a year now. *shrugs apologetically*
You see, my niece takes after my sister in law, her mom, in a way that is rather opposed to the philosophy of my family. She's very boy crazy and her mom encourages her in this. Even though her mom is an educator (2nd grade teacher), as my niece gets older, they've been more and more open about how "intelligence" is incompatible with "femininity" and "popularity." And my niece is not a brilliant person --- in fact, she has been diagnosed with several learning disabilities and I do see that she struggles with reading comprehension, and any form of paying attention. In order to make it in her classes she should be working extra hard and really struggling to overcome these problems ---- not that this if fair in any way, but when people really hold her nose to the grindstone and make sure she puts in extra work and studies extra and takes extra time and is forced to be very organized, she can actually pull off Bs ---- but instead her mom has lately been encouraging her to slack off and be completely unambitious. It's better to be liked than to pass your classes, it's better to have lots of dates with lots of different boys than worry about college or a career, and it's just too damn late to bother with learning any study habits or overcoming your limitations. Grrr!
I guess there are places in society for people who have no ambition, who want to just punch the clock and collect some money at the end of the week, but I for one am worried that this just isn't going to cut it in today's workplace. Especially if she wants to still live in California after graduation --- rent ain't cheap here, that's for sure. And the other part of the plan --- that she doesn't have to think too hard or work too hard because she will catch some husband who will do the heavy lifting for the family, economically speaking ---- doesn't even apply for her mom's generation; it's positively antediluvian. Seriously, my sis in law works and they really need her money --- and her state health insurance! --- to survive, and that's with my brother being an electrical engineer. For my niece to be a stay-at-home mom she's gonna need to marry a doctor. Or maybe a couple of them. (which brings up my radical, crazy-feminist-talk about how relying on somebody else for your financial security for life seems ... I dunno ... dumb? Oh, those feminists: such control freaks!)
My family philosophy, by contrast, is that Education Is The Way. My parents both pulled themselves up out of working class environments and went on to not just college but grad school, as well as permanently moved out of their rural hometown to the Big City and largely cut off ties to their extended families. Their ideology is completely about the meritocracy of hard work and the truth of the American Dream. (and damn! it is hard to argue politics with them, as they take their own personal success stories of hard work and education rewarded as justification for their conservative, libertarian beliefs. Well, maybe more old-school Republican than libertarian.) I joke that my family are honorary Asians --- we have the same belief in high standards and hard work and no academic challenge is so great that you shouldn't be able to overcome it and also make enough money to support your poor old parents in their old age. So obviously this "girly slackertude" philosophy does not sit well with my upbringing.
Anyway, I try to be a good role model for my nieces and nephews (when I remember); I've been giving them books and book cards for Christmas gifts, forwarding them academic info stuff, encouraging them in their hard work and study (though remembering to actually praise them when they succeed at something, as that was pretty rare in my family upbringing) and so on. So while I wouldn't mind more contact with my nephew and niece, I really don't want to be interacting with my niece on facebook, where she is constantly, flirting with boys and trash-talking about girls. I feel like I'd be reinforcing her worst tendencies.
Sigh. But what could be more cold than refusing a friend request from a relative who you are, in fact, speaking to regularly? This isn't going to be pretty.