Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
We are writing this week from Prague in the Czech Republic and Krakow in Poland, where we have had the opportunity to meet and interact with hundreds of parents.
Once again we are reminded that despite highly contrasting political, economic and even religious situations and beliefs, the simple fact that we are all parents means that we have much more in common that unites us than we do differences that could divide us.
Listening to parents anywhere talking about their hopes and dreams for their kids, or about their fears and worries for them (even if we are listening through a translator) helps us understand how similar we all are when it comes to our love for our children.
It is the common thread that should unite the world. It is the similarity that should trump all other differences.
But the world is shrinking anyway. There is probably no spot on the planet that one could not get to in 24 hours if he put his mind to it. And when he gets there, no matter how far he has traveled, he is likely to see a lot of familiar things, from McDonald's to iPhones.
The diminishing differences and growing similarities are not completely good things. Globalization is diminishing the cultural uniqueness that used to make it so fun to travel.
When your Sherpa guide on Mount Kilimanjaro is wearing a LeBron James T-shirt, you realize that cultural blurs are everywhere, and there is something a little sad about that. And when you visit a 14th-century castle in Prague and find Burger King on one side of it and McDonald's across the street, you see a kind of "progress" that destroys some of the charm.
But maybe it is the shrinking, globalizing similarities that will finally unite the world and diminish prejudice and shrink suspicion and misunderstanding.
And maybe just realizing that Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians love their kids as much as Mormons do and that Muslims prioritize their families just like Southern Baptists will help us start breaking down the ignorance and prejudices that wall us off from each other.
We even use the same buzzwords and phrases, especially when we are talking about our families. We mentioned in an earlier column the dad in Indonesia who was describing his goal as a parent and said, "I want my children to be able to operate in the bigger world, but I don't want them to adopt the values of the world."
We told him that a cliché in our part of the world was the desire for our kids to be "in the world but not of the world."
And when it comes to their children, parents everywhere are remarkably values-oriented. As we write the finishing paragraphs of this column, we are on a train from Stockholm to Malmo in Sweden, where the economy and the politics are essentially socialist and the lifestyles and sexual mores are very liberal.
Yet when thinking about their kids, even liberal, anything-goes Swedes become amazingly values-driven. As one parent said to us, "A good definition of a conservative is a flaming liberal with a teenage daughter."
The problem, of course, is that without the guidance of a conservative church or community, their children will grow up to be just like them, only more so. We are not judging — we love Swedish people and the Swedish culture. We had better love it, because at least half of our ancestry and genetics are Scandinavian, but we are just saying that Swedish parents' hopes for their kids to grow up with more conservative values than they have are unlikely to be fulfilled.
At the end of our parenting lectures, regardless of what part of the world we are in, we often try to be blunt and to tell parents that in today's world, doing a good job of raising the child we want by oneself and without help from a larger support group is almost impossible.
We advise them to find a larger identity, whether it is a church or synagogue or a community organization or just a group of parents with similar hopes and goals for their children.
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