Guess I Forgot the Fried Chicken

There are moments when I feel as if I am raising my children in a foreign country.

We are fortunate enough to live in a large, diverse city where it is quite easy to find like-minded parents as long as one knows where to look:  the literature and writing magnet elementary school, the cooperative preschool on the far north side, fellow Macalester College alums, and the local Unitarian Universalist church are fine examples.

And yet of course, the “real world” is all around us, at all times.  There is nothing bad about this, in fact we value it pretty highly.  If everyone around us shared all of our values and our parenting style, I’d be unhappy.  After all, a large U.S. city can only handle so many candlelit dinners and family nights without television before falling apart at the seams.  We’re the freaking Whos down in Whoville, except taller and with more hair. Really, can you picture them all holding hands in a circle and singing on Christmas morning?  Yeah.

There are times, though, when my kids are exposed to something that really makes me aware of our differences in a more “Boy, we are awkward, aren’t we?” kind of way.  The cold January night when I attempted to expose Baxter to the Superbowl, for example.  That didn’t go so well, as you might remember.  And how about the time I took the boys to a McDonald’s drive-thru for the first time, just last summer?  That was also well-executed.  (Snort.)

Sometimes we’ve made the choice to open the door to certain aspects of mainstream culture we’d rather do without because the time seemed right – Pokemon books and cards when they became all the rage in first grade?  Fine.  The introduction to McDonald’s last year?  Sure, okay, but it’s only for rare occasions.  Until that day, Baxter used to point to a McDonald’s PlayLand and say, “Hey, look at that cool playground over there!” causing us to stare with wide-eyed disbelief, eyes asking, “Can you believe our luck?”

It happened again the other day.  This time it was fried chicken that brought our Who-ness to light.  A friend of Baxter’s started to tell us about the great fried chicken his family had bought to share with his grandparents, who were in town.  Fried chicken was decidedly not the main point of his story, but we shot that all to hell. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the confusion on Baxter’s face:  fried…chicken?  He’s never heard those words together, I realized.  Oh, shit, we’ve never had fried chicken.

“Umm, Baxter, do you know what fried chicken is?” I asked.  He said, “No,” so I described it to him.  I watched his friend’s eyes bug out and could hear his inner voice saying, “Good God!  First no cable TV and now this?”   All he said audibly was, “Innnteresting….”  Interesting, indeed.

Baxter doesn’t care that he’s not up on the latest and greatest of American culture.  He asked me what American Idol was the other day, and in a generous mood I offered to watch it with him later that night because I thought he’d probably find it entertaining and sometimes I just feel bad for the kid.  (I’ve never seen it, either.)  He declined, and said he’d rather read.   The short-term novelty of the TV watching idea had worn off rather quickly for me, so I was relieved. But he doesn’t feel left out or worried that he’s missing anything, so he doesn’t ask for things we don’t give him and he buys into the limitations we put on those little secrets we let him in on, like McDonald’s.

Quite often I feel proud of the fact that Baxter is being raised differently, with a certain fresh-faced, old fashioned quality about him, but at times I worry that he’s far too innocent, especially given that he’s a city kid.  Those are the moments when I wonder if we should be eating some fried chicken in front of American Idol once in a while, just so he knows what his friends here in America are talking about.


13 responses to “Guess I Forgot the Fried Chicken

  1. My 4yo never fails to point out every last bit of Hannah Montana everything she sees, despite never having actually ever watched the show. I guess that cultural literacy stuff is sort of a different kind of diversity. The American Idol watchers and the non-watchers. The fast food kids and the …. Food for thought!

  2. No fried chicken? Now that ain’t right!!!!! (I’m from Mississippi originally and still dream of my mom’s sometimes) We’re a very quirky family, too, but I gotta tell ya, we loves us some American Idol and fried chicken. : )

  3. I’m with you, Wonder Family from Whoville. Hang tough, and don’t let the chickens get you down!!

  4. I’m confused. Is it the chicken that you’re against, or the fried? I have a great baked “fried” chicken recipe using crushed cereal (corn flakes or Wheaties) on the outside. Haven’t made it in years; we eat almost no meat–but it’s tasty.

  5. No problem at all with chicken, folks. We eat baked chicken often enough, it just never occurs to Matt or me to fry it. I guess I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on fried chicken per se – I avoid fried food in general, and like chicken without it being fried, so I’ve never thought of it.

    It’s just the latest in a 7-year string of moments that made me feel a bit awkward with people and left me wondering if I should be more aware of acclimating my kids to more mainstream culture somehow, because fried chicken is about as American as apple pie. Or is the apple pie enough?

  6. Funny story, but don’t sweat it. I don’t think my kids have ever had fried chicken either. I’m certainly not opposed to it (I, in fact, love the stuff), we just haven’t gotten around to serving it for the…past decade.

  7. I love the whoville image!

  8. Wonderfamily from Whoville *snort*. You go about doing what you want, fried chicken or no, your kids will thank you in the end. I do have to ask, are you talking about all fried chicken, like they’ve never had any kind of chicken finger/nugget? Or are you just referring to the old-fashioned, KFC, bucket ‘o chicken type? Because my kids have never had the later either, not out of principal per se, but just because it isn’t as popular as it was when I was kid (and one of my food quirks is that I do not like on-the-bone chicken, yuck!).

    My kids hadn’t had hot dogs until recently which amazed their cousins and they don’t watch American Idol, but they watch all those Disney shows and I’ve even given in to Hannah Montana (I think it is kind of funny myself, shh, don’t tell anyone!).

  9. I’m with Lori—I simply CANNOT eat chicken off the bone. I can barely eat a baked boneless skinless chicken breast. My kids have never eaten fried chicken either, because we’re primarily vegetarians and we also tend to avoid fried food, but I don’t think of it as a cultural norm (eating it, I mean). Although my good friend Elise at Snarky Squab (who is from the South) would probably disagree, and she’s a FABULOUS cook. Lori, my kids have never eaten a “real” hotdog either (OR a chicken nugget/finger, or, come to think of it, a burger of any kind, McD’s or anyone else’s). But they adore Morningstar Farms Chik Patties (vegetarian, made with soy) as well as MF organic vegetarian “hotdogs”. Our whole family adores those.

    We’ve gotten away, so far, with pretty much never eating at fast food places–literally the only time we do is on our long road trips up north to my family’s for major holidays, when we stop at a McD’s for the hour’s break at a PlayLand, and where my husband is the only one who eats fast food! (Yes, I pack lunches for the girls and me.) But the biggest reason for this is that I do not like fast food at ALL, and my husband can take it or leave it. My girls hate fast-food meat (or, in the case of the baby, any meat), so that also limits fast food options. Not that I’m complaining. But in my circle of parent/family friends, no one really eats at McD’s or other fast food places. MAYBE a Subway turkey sub now and again, but that’s about it. KFC? Does it even still exist?

    I cannot believe I just wrote a comment this long about fried chicken. Don’t I have more important things I should be doing?! Yikes!

  10. Sorry about the typos, as in latter, not later and principle, not principal.

  11. I know what you mean about the cultural stuff that we who live in Whoville sometimes miss out on. With my kids, it’s Spiderman. Daniel is only five, and yet all of his schoolmates have seen the actual Spiderman movies (!), which I myself, at the ripe old age of 30-ahem-something think are scary as hell! When his classmate proudly told D-man that he was allowed to watch a “PG-13” movie, I was not sure what to say. Daniel gets freaked out by the Little Mermaid, and rightfully so, I think! That Ursula is one scary octopus!!! And I, too, wonder how the choices we make for our kids will alter how they perceive the world and how the world (specifically their classmates and friends) will perceive them. (We did find a nature program about the “real Spider Man” – an English man named Martin who travels the world to see what “super powers” real spiders have – and the boys love it. See, I am trying to be cool! 🙂 )

  12. Chiming in her to complement the perspective offered by Shan (my wife), I think that there’s no reason in the world to try to “acclimate” (in Jordan’s word) kids to pop culture, whether media, food, sports, or whatever. There’s no reason to (or gain in) try to prevent them from picking it up, though, either. Our society is so ridiculously saturated with pop culture, we can rest assured that the kids will pick up what’s important to them for whatever reason. I sure am not going out of my way to introduce Julia to any “pop” culture – but I am snobbishly proud that she requests certain jazz songs by name and band. On the other hand, she loves the “Disney Princesses,” even though she was surprised to learn the other day that there is an actual Snow White movie – which, after a moment’s consideration, she said she’d watch when she’s older because “it probably has some loud scenes, and I don’t like those.”

  13. Christopher, I am in agreement in theory. But, my parental perspective has shifted somewhat as Baxter has gotten older and I’ve had to sit by and watch as some other kids give him a really hard time about all that he doesn’t know. Rolled eyes, deep sighs, and rude dismissive gestures in his general direction are not so uncommon. We can’t protect our kids from that all of the time, but there are just moments when I wonder if we could be doing more to help him along, especially having a kid who misses a lot in the world because his nose is quite literally in a book much of the time. The fried chicken conversation was one of those moments. I never would have believed that I’d question such things when Baxter was younger.

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