Apple falling so close to tree


Sometimes I think about how parents’ careers affect their kids. I like to think that most people enjoy their jobs or at least are moving toward jobs they find fulfilling.

For me, journalism has always been a passion. Despite the low pay, long and unpredictable hours and constant criticism, journalism still fires me up and I have never regretted the decision I made at age 17 to pursue it.

My husband is also a former journalist. I have to think that some of that is rubbing off on our two kids — for better or worse and that this must be the case in most families.

It would be tough to be the kid of two reporters. There’s this old saw in journalism that I always tell my journalism students at Western, “If your mama says she loves you, check it out.” Basically, it means to question and verify everything.

So, while the meteorologist’s child might be told to make sure to take a raincoat on the way to school, the journalist’s child is told something else: “Take both your raincoat and your sun visor because you can’t really trust the forecast. Now show me in your backpack where you have packed both of those things.”

At the dinner table, a journalist’s children are not only told to eat their dinner because there are children starving in China, they are pelted with dates, details and possibly shown front-page stories about children who don’t have enough to eat.

Journalists are trained to get answers out of people who don’t want to answer questions. “So, when you say your day was ‘fine,’ do you really mean that it was not great? Can you give me some examples of things that happened today that you would describe as ‘fine?’ What, say, were you doing at lunchtime? If I call your friend and ask him, will he say your day was ‘fine?’”

You get the point.

As our kids, nearly 5 and nearly 8, are getting older, they are, with increasing frequency, saying things that make my husband and me share a look of, “Uh-oh, Mini Me strikes again.”

Our eldest, sweet as she is, thinks nothing of correcting others’ grammar and simply and without guile informing her parents of their errors of fact, sometimes with proof she finds from respectable Internet sources. Ouch. She doesn’t see it as being haughty, she simply finds it necessary to be accurate. And I have to say I respect her near-perfect record for showing us we are wrong.

Our youngest is getting so good at navigating around our queries that I think he is destined for a career in politics. I’ve interviewed many an elected official and I think he could stand up there with the best of ‘em. (Oh, don’t get all upset. Not all politicians are slippery, but I’ve known enough of them who fit the stereotype.)

So, I’ll file all this away in the part of my brain that is always fascinated with the nature versus nurture debate. Maybe a lawyer’s kid will want to argue with me about it.


Carolyn Nielsen is a Western Washington University journalism professor and The Bellingham Business Journal’s summer editor-in-residence.

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