I’m a hipster parent and I’m not afraid to say it. While I would have been loath to call myself one in the past, these days it’s hard to deny it.
The word hipster carries a lot of baggage; it’s somehow transformed into an antonym of itself. While it once meant someone who only liked things ironically, it’s somehow morphed into meaning someone who likes things a little too much and too sincerely. We’ve gone from unengaged Brooklynites who mock silly t-shirts by wearing them to hands-on politically active West Coasters who show their love for silly t-shirts by wearing them. (And still others just use it as short-hand for a person of the Millenial Generation.) While some of the outward signs of hipstersdom – like “quirky” old-fashioned names for your kids – hasn’t changed much, the fundamental attitude has. While I hated the old version that involved “punching down” by making fun of off-beat folks, I fully support embracing your own brand of weird.
So what led me to embrace my hipstersdom? The show Portlandia. From the Battlestar Galatica obsession to the free-range chicken to the parenting books fiasco, I’ve shook my head, laughing, “That is so true” an absurd number of times. I grow my own vegetables, advocate for bicycle rights, read feminist blogs, spend Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market, patronize local businesses, diaper my kid in cloth diapers, buy second-hand clothing, and own multiple pieces of jewelry featuring birds. While the show’s characters are over the top, I know in person or have at least read online some lesser version of almost every one of those characters, including the dumpster divers. (We once bought a carton of eggs from Dumpster Diving Guy before we realized what was going on.) My friends do things like bake donuts shaped like mustaches and talk about throwing out the entire monetary system and replacing it with a system of their own making. While Portlandia is gently poking fun at this lifestyle, I like it because it’s ultimately a love letter to my type of people.
Even though I don’t live in Portland, I think it’s especially worth embracing off-beat sincerity as a parent. If there are two absolutely necessary skills for being a parent, it’s sincerity and the ability to love people for who they really are, no matter how odd. You can’t ironically love a kid – it’s just an oxymoron. Similarly, you can’t really love someone if you don’t accept their quirks. And if there’s a group of people in the world who are full of quirks, it’s kids. Even people who grow up to be the most normal, boring, well-adjusted people are weird as kids, simply because they have a perspective that’s so different from adults. Some of the funniest mom bloggers chronicle these “special moments” – My Four Year Old is Weirder than Your Corgi and Horrifying Conversations with Mini on Rants from Mommyland are two of my favorites – and they are definitely worth celebrating.
I also like that hipster parents live out their values. While this can get overly self-righteous or judgmental towards others, knowing what you value and teaching those values to your kids through your relationship with them is something that’s too often left out of discussions on parenting. Kids see enough sarcasm and irony in society; knowing their parents actually believe in certain ideas like justice, respectful dialogue, and good music is rather reassuring.
While hipster as a term and culture have changed over time, the need for parents to love their kids sincerely never will. To paraphrase Austin’s famous slogan: “Keep parenting weird.”