Nothing generates more unsolicited advice than children. Or, I should say “raising” children. “Raising” connotes that this is a relatively simple task similar to growing tomatoes. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes you know that they can turn out all kinds of different ways. Some are big and beautiful and you beam with pride when your neighbors see them. Others wither on the vine. The neighbors see those, too, but you’re not so proud of those. Most are just kind of average. You did your best. Oh, well.
I have children–three of them, in fact. All boys. I was present at their births. I’ve stayed up with them at night, fed them bottles, changed their diapers and read books to them. I’ve played with them outside. I’ve talked to them and paid great attention to them throughout their lives. I notice when they grow. I love them and I think they love me. All of this qualifies me to advise anyone on how to raise THEIR children. What? It doesn’t? Wait a second. People have given me all kinds of advice about school, discipline, good manners, sports, and all other aspects of parenting. You mean they are NOT experts? Good Lord, why would they feel so free to impose their views on me? It’s because they have children, and they know what to do. Or so they say.
I can understand why parents might seek advice. We all want to raise scholars, saints, athletes and world leaders. No one intends to end up with Levi Johnston or Snookie. Also, some children have such profound physical, mental and emotional problems that advice must be sought. It is those that offer advice that must be ignored, at least by me.
This post will tell you everything you need to know about parenting or, more accurately, parenting advice. It’s likely to be offensive, but so are my children on many occasions. What do I know? As much as you do, it turns out.
You have a child! It’s a miracle. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift from God. These and many other platitudes are sure to be thrown your way. We’re all happy for you. Really. Good job.
Here’s the deal. Procreation is not that impressive. Sorry, but that’s a fact. Take a look around, folks. All these people you see got here through roughly the same process. Oh, now some of us had to work at a little harder and spent time wondering why we had such difficulty doing something which countless teenagers accidentally accomplish everyday. But, by and large, it’s just biology. Dogs, cats, wolverines, chimps, etc., all reproduce. Maybe that’s miraculous, too. Possibly, it’s a miracle than anyone reproduced with ME. I’ll grant you that one. Overall, it’s just not that big a deal.
Octo-Mom has 14 children. FOURTEEN! I don’t call that a miracle. I call that science gone horribly wrong. Charles Manson’s parents reproduced. Good job. So did Charles Manson. Let’s don’t wear ourselves out patting ourselves on the back.
If you have kids, you know the thrill of a new baby. It’s just great. Really. They’re cute and funny and you just love them. At some point, though, the work starts. Usually, right after someone hands you the baby.
We took our first child home and laid him in the floor and just looked at him. What do we do now? It’s not a like a car. They don’t give you an owner’s manual or an 800 number to call if something goes wrong. They just say: “Here’s your baby! It’s a miracle! Good luck to you.”
One good thing is that babies are tough–a lot tougher than they look. You can drop them, although I don’t advise testing that theory. (The second day my oldest son was home I dropped him but caught him by the neck before he hit the floor. Tough little booger). You can, like we did, fail to realize that even wet diapers must be promptly changed. A horrible case of diaper rash will draw your attention to your negligence. They won’t starve quietly. So, you’re bound to feed them often. These basic maintenance issues are much like caring for a pet. You quickly learned just enough to keep the baby going. That’s a great first step.
This phase passes quickly. Baby isn’t an “it.” Baby is a him or her. Baby has a name. Baby has a personality. Baby is a little person. With a big personality. He can talk. He has opinions. He schemes. He manipulates. He charms. He lies. He’s a human. Now, the hard part starts…and never ends. This is also when the advice starts. Good luck with that.
“If I had a kid…” Say no more. You don’t have a kid. You don’t know what you’d do. Might as well say “If I owned a camel …” or “If I were an astronaut…” You don’t and you’re not. Shut the hell up.
Similar is “If he were my son…” This comes from someone who has a kid and presumes he knows what would help your son. Here’s the deal. He’s NOT your son. You haven’t seen his best and worst. Good days and bad days. You don’t know his strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, if he were YOUR son, he’d be like you and know everything. Plus, if he were your son, he’d be your problem, and I wouldn’t need to hear about it.
I love my kids. I also like them. They’re fun and funny. I like talking to them and hearing about what they’re up to. They often impress me, but they’re not perfect. They’re not angels nor do I expect them to be.
Some folks have kids who ARE little angels. They are perfect, at least that’s what their parents say. That may well be true. If so, you can’t help me. My kids are human. They are capable of great things. They can also disappoint me. They don’t take all my advice. They don’t listen. Their judgment is often very poor. In other words, they are like me.
I suppose some children never disappoint. That’s probably because their parents have no expectations of them and don’t give a damn about what they do. The rest of us get frequent reality checks.
Perfect kids don’t do things like back talk, lie, break things, drink alcohol, smoke, curse, have sex, take drugs or just generally annoy their parents. Their parents will tell you that. They are the ideal. They also have parents who apparently aren’t paying much attention to what they are doing. Lucky dogs.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Some folks want things the way they were. “Back in my day….” Things are better now. They just are.
If you are fond of social media as I am, you’ll see posts like this:
Growing up, I had only one toy, and it was a rock. I wasn’t allowed in the house and had to play outside all day. If I spoke at the dinner table, I had to eat with the dogs. I said “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.” I was hit in the face if I back talked. I didn’t make eye contact with adults. I grew up respectful of everyone and did no wrong ever. If you had great parents like mine, repost.
Wow. It sucks to be you. Oliver Twist had it better. These kinds of posts are based upon nostalgia. Webster’s Dictionary defines nostalgia as an “excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.” We all believe, on some level, that things were better in the past. In the parenting advice world, it translates into: “This is how things used to be. And they were just better. If we all acted like this, everything would be better.”
Boy, oh, boy. This is wrong in so many ways, I don’t know where to start. First, if all our parents were so good at raising kids, why have so many of us done so poorly? Didn’t we learn anything? With such great parents, why do we need any advice at all? Second, some people have horrible parents. Maybe you did. You probably don’t know that because they were the only parents you had. Third, how’d you turn out?
Folks of my generation largely live in a fantasy world where everyone was raised by Ward and June Cleaver. Hey, I knew people who had HORRIBLE parents. Awful people. These scumbags don’t deserve Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or even their next birthdays. Here’s some advice that might be helpful: Tell me how awful your parents were and how you learned from it. THAT would be impressive.
SPARE THE ROD, PLEASE
If you hit your kids, I guess it’s none of my business unless you hurt them. In that case, it’s everyone’s business. It wasn’t always that way, but it is now. That’s a good thing. If you hit your kids, just don’t tell me that I need to do that, too.
I’m not perfect. I’ve swatted my kids on the rear end. I’ve thought about strangling them…just a little bit. I think that’s why babies are so cute. Even when I’m enraged at my kids, I remember those little babies. I wouldn’t strangle them. I’ve just reached the point that I’m sure that hitting my kids will help my relationship with them as much as hitting my wife will help my marriage. Readers of this blog know that I have, in fact, fought a woman, but that wasn’t a domestic dispute.
The few times I’ve spanked my kids I was mad. This bothers me. Why? Because I was mad. I get mad at many adults and hitting them often seems like a good idea, but I won’t do it. One, I fear that I’ll be hit back. Two, I fear I’ll get in trouble. With kids, I don’t fear that. That’s nice. So, it’s okay to hit someone too small to defend himself and too much under my control to get me in trouble? This isn’t a lesson I want my kids to learn.
“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” That’s not a Bible verse. Sorry, but it’s not. It comes from a 17th century poem called Hudibras. The Bible actually says “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24. At best, it’s a metaphor. It doesn’t say to beat the crap out of your kid with a rod. Discipline your children. Simple stuff. By the way, the Bible also says that if your son is disrespectful you should have him stoned to death. Let’s take it easy on the ancient parenting suggestions.
We grew up with a kid who was raised by animals. One day he comes to the house, and his back is covered in bloody welts. He was beaten with a stick. I’ll never forget what it looked like. Now, would it be okay if it didn’t draw blood? I’d say not. I’d like to tell you that his story turned out okay, but it didn’t. You don’t get to choose your parents.
I got spankings and whippings with a belt and a switch. Why? Because that’s how my parents were raised, I guess. Never anything abusive, but it happened. I guess I don’t trust myself enough to come at a kid with a weapon. If you do, fine with me. Just don’t tell me that’s what I need to do.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
When I was a kid, here is what I thought of adults: Most of them seemed unhappy and bitter. They were overly critical and suspicious and wanted to put an end to any fun I might be having. Now that I’m 50 and my generation is now the ruling class, here is what I think of adults: Most of them seem unhappy and bitter. They are overly critical and suspicious and want to put an end to any fun I might be having. My friends and I vowed to never by like the adults, but we that’s exactly what happened.
Kids today. Whew. Listening that awful music. Look at their clothes! I wouldn’t have been allowed out of the house like that. They’re disrespectful, too. My parents wouldn’t have put with all that back talk. Irresponsible, too. We had chores and work to do. Look at how lazy they are! Does any of this sound familiar? Of course, it does. It’s what we all say now. It’s also what our parents said about us.
Here’s a little test. Did you, at any time before adulthood, do any of the following? Smoke; drink; have sex; curse; lie; cheat; steal; take drugs; skip school. If so, you were part of the problem. Consider, too, that you listened to terrible music, dressed like an idiot and were generally a pain in the ass to your parents. If you didn’t do any of that stuff, congratulations. I hope you enjoyed those years being chained in your parents’ basement.
Here’s the point. If any of your advice is founded upon a belief that kids today are so much worse than we were, you’re wrong. Even my generation, raised by superior parents in superior times did the same stupid things that kids are doing now. Lighten up.
If you really are a parenting expert, write a book. Better yet, write a book about my kids. I might even read that one. It could contain helpful advice. My sons are three different people with three different personalities. Different strengths and weaknesses. They were all raised the same but didn’t turn out the same. Chances are your book wouldn’t give me a different result.
Here’s MY parenting advice. Do the best you know how to do at the moment. Kids and their issues come at you at the speed of light. Just do something. Parents are great at acting put upon. “It’s the toughest job in the world.” I really doubt that. Crab fishing looks a lot worse than parenting. How about the guy who empties porta-potties? Those jobs would suck. Parenting is snap compared to that.
I think I had really good parents. They weren’t saints, but they did the best they knew how to do. My Dad once told me: “Forget all these father-son fantasies. Find out what your kids like and learn to like it yourself.” THAT was good advice.
What about my kids? They’re alright. The good has far, far outweighed the bad so far. They say I sound just like my Dad, which I guess is good. They can aggravate me and disappoint me sometimes. I’m sure I do the same to them.
So, everyone can (and will) continue to give parenting advice. I’ll just nod and go on. Gotta go now. I’m sure one of my kids is doing something I need to deal with. I’ll check back if I need any advice.