How To Raise Your Children…or Not

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.

CONGRATULATIONS!

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.

NOW WHAT?

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.

IMAGINARY CHILDREN

“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.

LITTLE ANGELS

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.

WHAT NOW?

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.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

5 Steps to Success

I know many people.  Some are successful, but most aren’t.  They come from many walks of life.  They all share two things in common:  (1) they know me; and (2) they are oddly disinterested in my opinions.  The only exception to this latter point would the occasional mundane inquiry about something like how to get gum off a shoe or my view on the gold standard–neither of which, by the way, I know anything about.  Nevertheless, I now offer the world my secrets of success.  More accurately, my secrets of the appearance of success.  Let’s face it, most of us are not great successes nor do we stand the chance of being one.  I  have found that appearing to be successful is close to actual success, albeit without the financial windfall or fame which typically accompanies actual success.

As an initial matter, a very few of you don’t need to read this.  Drive, passion, intelligence and perseverance are the keys to success.  If you possess even one of those attributes, you likely are a success yourself and need no advice.  Also, an inexhaustible trust fund is the core of many a success.  If you have one of these, stop reading now.  Your bizarre and even repugnant behavior was long ago dismissed as the eccentricities of the rich.  You need no advice from me.  Finally, if you have married into money or a person with any of the above-mentioned attributes, hang on for dear life.  You have succeeded.  The rest of you should continue reading.

Below is my simple 5 Steps to Success Program.  I offer it free of charge as a service to the public.  Hang on for the ride of your life.  Remember: The only thing that stands between you and the top is all that stuff in the middle!

No. 1 AIM LOW

You have likely heard advice such as “surround yourself with winners” or “hang with the winners.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  Winners associate with winners.  If they would voluntarily associate with you, you would in fact already be a winner.  It’s not going to happen.  Besides, if you surround yourself with people far superior to you, how will you look?  Like a loser, that’s what.  Do you have a sibling that is far more successful than you?  How has that worked out for you?  The same applies in the real world

The first step toward the appearance of success is to surround yourself with people who appear to be vastly inferior to you.  Now, I realize that may be difficult to do.   In my case, it’s close to impossible.  Close.  We all know people who through a series of unfortunate choices or circumstances (or a combination) have failed to rise above mediocrity.  Seek these people out and embrace them.  Your meager accomplishments will shine in comparison.  For example, if you are a student, your 2.4 grade point average will impress compared to students who have been placed on probation or outright expelled from school.  If your parents berate you over your grades, you can point to the academic failings of your colleagues as proof that your junior college is a stern task master.

Similarly, in the employment arena, you will have many co-workers who are just as pathetic as you are.  Look for those who nap periodically, arrive late and are constantly in turmoil.  Perhaps, you have a co-worker with a drinking problem.  Avoid anyone with the appearance of being a “go-getter” or “self-starter.”  These folks will only drag you down.

You may be tempted to aggressively seek out losers.  Be careful.  Like many a good thing, this can be taken too far.  For example, did you know that every state in the Union has an on-line sex offender registry?  It’s true.  With a few clicks of the mouse, you can find numerous undesirables in your own zip code.  You may view this as a ready-made pool of potential colleagues.  True, but I must strongly advise against this approach.  First, such an approach is far too aggressive for someone of your ilk.  Second, while you certainly will shine in comparison to this pool of flotsam and jetsam, you may find yourself drawn into a lifestyle rife with its own complications.

No. 2 Talk Like the Winners

Successful people have a lingo all their own.  These words and phrases are a veritable gold mine of potential for you.  I offer some of the more important ones for your consideration.

Think Outside The Box: No one really knows what this means, but the successful say it and do it.  You must too.  The box is closed and confined, while outside the box the world is wide open.  Go out there and think.  That’s what the successful are doing.  Most importantly, remind people that you are outside the box and encourage them to join you.  Then, think.

Shift a Paradigm: Man, oh, man, successful people do this all the time.  They take a paradigm and just shift it.  Shift the hell out of it.  Find a paradigm and shift!  Again, tell people you’ve done it or, better yet, tell them to do it.  It’s always good.  Have at it.

Be Pro-Active:  This is just like being active, except you’re more pro at it.  Successful people LOVE proactivity.  Practice saying:  “I am proactive” and “You need to be proactive.”  Outside the Box is a world of proactivity waiting for you.

Take One for The Team:  Successful people want you to do this.  What does it mean?  Do something that a successful person would never do, regardless of the harm it will cause you.  Offer to take one.  Suggest that others do so, too.

Be a Self Starter:  This means do a bunch of stuff without being told to do so.  Now, you may be wholly incompetent at what you do.  In this case, being a self-starter is quite dangerous.  You are likely to commit all manner of foolhardy and dangerous acts.  So be it.  You are a self-starter

You’ve probably figured out that saying these things is far more important than doing them.  Remember:  Appearances are everything.

3. High Hobnobbery

The one exception to hanging with losers is when one of your loser friends inexplicably becomes a success.  It can happen.  Unexpected inheritances, lottery winnings, and large personal injury settlements are just a few of the ways that one of your friends may achieve great success overnight.  Take advantage of this.  After all, you’ve all been in the same boat.

Your newly successful friend has, in all likelihood, associated solely with people of your unfortunate ilk.  He or she will not have made any substantial friendships or associations.  This is where you come in.  Attach yourself like a stubborn barnacle to the hull of a luxury yacht.  Offer to tag along to cocktail parties, fundraisers and other important events.  Your friend, uncomfortable with his or her new financial largesse, will almost certainly take you up on your offer.

At this point, you may want to refer to my earlier blog on the art of small talk.  You’re in now.  You’re walking the walk.   Time to talk the talk.

I also suggest investing in a cell phone with an excellent camera. Why?  Nothing impresses more than photographic proof of your “success.”  I live in Kentucky, where there is nothing more impressive than to associate with the University of Kentucky’s basketball team.  You will have truly arrived when you move in these circles.  Of course, it’s laughable to imagine that you will ever do so.  BUT, with the resourceful use of a cell phone camera, you can appear to have “made the scene.”  I offer two examples of my own experience.

Below is a photo I took of Chuck Hayes, beloved former U.K. basketball star and current NBA player.  I surreptitiously took this photo at a football game where I had insinuated myself into the suite level of the stadium (by the way, it was at no personal cost!):

Chuck Hayes unwittingly becomes part of my world.

I immediately uploaded this to various social networks with the caption:  I keep texting Chuck to distract him from the game.  Here he is firing one back at me!  Now, everyone thinks I know Chuck Hayes.  I have his phone number.  We text!  I have arrived.

Below is another example.  I happened to find myself at a luncheon where the speaker was none other than U.K. Basketball Coach John Calipari.  Someone asked me to take her photo  with him.  I did so, but kept a copy for myself.  Note how I skillfully cropped the offending bystander while keeping Coach Cal properly centered.  With a little computer magic, I deftly doctored the photo to remove all traces of the other person.

Little does John Calipari know that we’ve just become life-long friends.

Now, people think I know Coach Cal.  We’re friends.  We hang out with Chuck Hayes.  I am someone YOU want to know.  See how easy it is.

You can do the same in your world.  Wherever you live there are prominent people who lack sophisticated security.  You can get close to them and claim them as your own.  Try it.  You won’t regret it.  NOTE: Please consult law enforcement in your area regarding your state and local stalking laws.

4. Make a Name for Yourself

If you have followed my earlier steps, all that is left is to make your name known.  You could do something like invent the iPod or Post-it Notes.  Be serious.  You’re not going to do anything like that.  All the good stuff has been invented.  Don’t despair.  You are not defeated.

Letters to the editor and radio call-in shows are fertile ground to get your name “out there.”  Now, you’re thinking:  “Wait a second.  A lot of people do that, and I don’t know them.”  You’re inside the box, my friend.  Venture outside it with me.

You must choose controversial causes to champion.  Such “hot” topics as gay marriage, arcane zoning laws and war have been beaten to death.  Do you really have anything of substance to add?  Of course not.  How about bestiality?  Whether you support it or oppose it, you’ll get attention.  Legalizing child labor?  No one is offering anything of value on that subject. What if you became known as the person who opposes heterosexual marriage?  These are just a few ideas that quickly come to mind.  You can think of many, many more.

You may be tempted to try to educate yourself on a variety of subjects.  I must warn you that such a course of action requires a lot of reading, mostly books.  Some books are as long as 300 pages and very complicated.  There is no need to burden yourself.  The Internet is a vast canyon of knowledge.  Just do a quick Google search.  You’ll be conversant on your topic in no time.

One thing you should consider is quoting other, more intelligent people.  Again, the Internet is your friend.  Just search “Quotes about……” and you’ll find everything you need.  Now, many people quote so-called experts such as Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein and George “Goober” Lindsey.  In keeping with your new controversial image, quote incendiary figures.  Try Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan.  How about Benito Mussolini?  Serial killers also have insights on a variety of topics.  These and many others are a font of information.

Many years ago, I read a valuable suggestion from writer Michael O’Donoghue.  When quoting someone, freely use the Latin word sic to signify any word which is misspelled or the least bit odd.  Let’s say you’ve found a quote from famed Scottish poet Robert Burns.  Look what you can do to him:

“The best laid plans o’ [sic] mice an’ [sic] men gang [sic] aft [sic] agley [sic].”

You have butchered one of the most famous quotes in history by questioning the intelligence of the author.  You appear to be profoundly intelligent, while Burns has been discredited and rendered unreadable.

Regardless of how you approach your subject, just be sure to keep after it.  You may even find yourself writing missives, pamphlets, leaflets and whatnot about your subject.  Soon, they’ll know your name, and that’s all that matters.

5. SELF-HELPLESS

Keep your nose to the grindstone.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Put your shoulder to the wheel.  These old saws have been around for centuries and all mean one thing:  Help yourself.  Okay, let me ask you a few questions.  What will you get if you put your nose to a grindstone?  My guess is a ground up nose.  What the hell are bootstraps?  I guess boots used to have straps on them.  Imagine pulling on them. What?  Now, you’re wearing a freakin’ pair of boots.  Congratulations.  Exactly what kind of wheel do you put your shoulder to? A spinning wheel, like for making thread?  Hey, welcome to Loserville where we can’t afford to buy thread.

Forget all this well-meaning bilge.  While you’re at it, if you have any self-help books, pile them up and burn them.  Why?  Simple:  If you could help yourself, you wouldn’t need useless advice from self-help gurus.  Take Tony Robbins, the infomercial guy with the gigantic head and Chicklet teeth.  Do you really think he wants you to succeed?  Oh really?  The man sits on a throne of money.  He knows you can’t do what he’s done, because he wrote the books and made the DVDs telling people how to do these things that none of them can do.  From Dale Carnegie to Zig Zigler to Ho Chi Minh, charismatic snake oil salesmen have fooled you into believing that you can follow a few simple suggestions and–PRESTO!–you’ve made it!  We know this isn’t case at all. But all is not lost.

You can appear to be a the winner you have no business of thinking about being. If you follow my suggestions, you will soon seem to be the man or woman you want to be.  And isn’t that what life is really all about?

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012