Five Parenting Myths–or Lies (According to Me)

I’ve been a parent for over 20 years now.  I’ve also been a child for 51 years.  So, I know a thing or two about parents and children.  Experience is, after all, the best teacher.

I don’t listen to parenting advice, because most of it is useless.  I also haven’t done any research on parenting, except for my own hands-on research with three sons.  As a result, anything you read here should be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s unlikely that I know any more than you do, unless you don’t have children.  In that case, I know more about parenting than you will EVER know, unless you end up having kids.  As an aside, if you have dogs, I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t count unless you have to send your dog to college or it learns to drive a car.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stuff about parenting.  Most of it is wrong, at least for me.  As a service to my fellow parents and future members of the club, here are the Five Myths of Parenting:


I guess this is possible, depending on what kind of job you have.  I’m a lawyer, and it’s a pretty hard job.  I’ve worked long hours under tremendous stress.  Parenting isn’t nearly that stressful.

Have you ever heard of a “belt mucker?”  That’s a job in a coal mine where you clean up coal spills on the conveyor belt line.  You use a shovel.  Often, you work bent over or on your knees because there isn’t room to stand up.  Sometimes, the mine floor is so wet that you have to use buckets to clean up the coal and muck.  It’s a hard, hard job–much harder than being a lawyer and a hell of a lot harder than taking care of children.

Watch the film The Hurt Locker.  Think about being on a bomb squad in Iraq.  Helping Johnny with his homework doesn’t seem so tough, does it?

I saw a guy pumping out a port-a-potty the other day.   I bet he wouldn’t mind doing your kid’s laundry.

None of this means being a parent is easy.  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Nevertheless, there’s a huge gulf between easy and the most difficult thing on Earth.  If parenting is the hardest job you’ve ever done, chances are you’re doing it all wrong.


We all like to think we’re doing our very best in raising our children.  That’s a lofty goal, but it’s not true nor is it necessary.  Is there anything you do that you always do the best you know how to do?  How about your job?  C’mon.  Everyone slacks off at work.  You take vacations don’t you?

The thing about parenting is that you’re always on the clock.  We all take breaks on occasion, and that’s okay.  Ever park your kid in front of the television?  I have.  My oldest son used to be hypnotized by Barney.  We need that sometimes.  Who among hasn’t sent one of the kids to a neighbor’s house just for some peace and quiet?  Again, it’s okay.

Here’s what we should do all the time:  Stuff. Something. Anything (assuming it’s not harmful).  Make your kids dinner, even if it’s crappy.  Ask them about school, even if you really don’t give a damn at the moment.  Feign interest in what they’re doing, even when you are much more concerned about yourself.    Go to their ball games despite them being poorly played or your kid not being any good.  Act like you’re interested.  Maybe this is the best we can do, but that’s doubtful.

Just do stuff.  Half-ass is okay.  Often, you’ll be totally on your parenting game and fully engaged.  When you’re not, just do stuff.


This is a double-edged lie–that you are responsible for the success of your children and the converse that you are to blame for their failures.  Although you can make substantial contributions to either outcome, you can’t truthfully claim credit.

Your kids are people–human beings even.  They make decisions.  They don’t listen well.  Some of them, despite being otherwise fine children, rebel against your advice.  I was like that.  If told to do something, I spent all my energy on finding another way to do it.  The older they get, the worse it gets, too.  Have you ever tried to force someone to do something?  It’s not easy.

Maybe your kid does well, because you’re the greatest parent on Earth.  Then again, maybe your kid has certain natural strengths and exploits them.  I have two sons who are excellent athletes.  Why?  They were born that way.  Another of my sons is as smart as anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s just how he is.  I didn’t train him to be that way.

Let’s say you send your kid to only the best schools.  Here’s a little secret that your kid probably hasn’t shared with you.  Kids at the best schools drink, take drugs and have sex with each other.  They do. If your kid wants to find a bad crowd, it’s right there.  You can provide opportunities for your son or daughter, but if he or she does well, give credit where credit is due–and it ain’t to you!

If you are fortunate enough to be able to provide the best for your kids–schools, clothes, houses, etc.–consider that your kids have many advantages.  In fact, they should do well under those conditions.  If you’re born on third base, you didn’t hit a triple.

The other side is that your kid may do very poorly.  Do you want the blame for that?  I sure wouldn’t.  The good news is that it’s probably not your fault.  Oh, you may play a part, just like with the successes.  You may be one of those despicable parents who do nothing for their kids.  If so, you’ve laid the groundwork.  Ultimately, though, your kid gets to own his or her failures.

Another reminder–here’s what you can do:  Something.  Just do something.  Try.  Give them some direction.  Set a good example.  Help them when they need help.  Be sure they go to the doctor.  Feed them.  Clothe them.  Just put forth a little effort.  Something is better than nothing.


I’m not suggesting that you ignore your children.  Of course, we all should try to shield our children from harm and do no harm to them ourselves.  That’s not the same as insulating them from the world.  That just can’t be done.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with terrifying scenarios:  drug abuse, pedophiles, bullies, Internet stalkers, ungodly schools and general evil.  It would be nice to just spare our kids all of this.  You can’t.  I can’t.  We can’t.  The world has a lot of rough edges.  And that is where we all have to live.  Sorry, but that’s how it is.  If your kid gets bullied or just does something disappointing, it’s not because of bad parenting.  It’s what happens in the world.  Deal with the consequences, but don’t delude yourself into thinking you can smooth off all those rough edges.

We can’t hide our kids.  Bad things can happen to kids, just like adults.  Illness, accidents–even death befall kids.  Everyone who dies is someone’s child, you know.  Now, I realize this will step on toes, but even God won’t protect your kids from the world.  What makes you think you can?

If something bad befalls your kids, it’s not your fault–unless you did it.  The world is a tough place.

Again, do stuff.  You won’t always do the best you can, but do stuff.  Every little bit helps.


This is another lofty goal, but unrealistic for all but the truly deranged.  Think about it.  If your kids really are your Number 1 priority, that means they rank ahead of you; your spouse,  faith and job; and everything else.  If you have more than one child, you have to spread this maniacal devotion among multiple targets.  That’s a tall order.

I’ve heard many people say “My children come first.”  I doubt that’s true or even should be.  For example, I have a job and need it to feed, clothe and shelter my kids.  If I always put them before my job, I’ll soon be unemployed and spending ALL my time with them.

Are you married?  If so, you might think about making your spouse a top priority.  Here’s a radical thought for many:  Sometimes, your spouse should be your top priority.  If your kids rank ahead of your spouse, you probably have a fairly toxic relationship going on there.  Good luck.

There’s also a fine line between prioritizing your kids and making them think they are the most important people on Earth.  The latter is not good.  Kids are already self-centered ego maniacs.  They believe that the world exists for their entertainment.  Reinforce that for them, and pretty soon you’ll have little monsters.

Try this for a more realistic ideal.  Your kids should be a top priority.  Keep them in mind.  Just don’t let them choose the dinner menu or decide what time they go to bed or what the family watches on TV.  Just pay some attention to them.  My kids want my time–not all my time.  Just some of it.

So, I can sum up all I know about parenting with this:  Do stuff.  Some of it will be really good and pay off.  Some of it won’t.  One day, your kids will have kids and know just as little you do.  Then, they’ll think you’re a genius and may even seek your advice.  Do stuff.

© 2013

Of Dogs and Men

I’ve been thinking about dogs lately.  This is odd, since I don’t own a dog and have no plans to do so.  As any devotee of social media knows, you can’t escape the world of dogs.  Facebook, in particular, is a dog cult.  Regardless of how diverse one’s friends may be, you will see posts every day about dogs.  They transcend religious and political differences, age, race and sex.  From the most staunch right-winger to the wildest-eyed liberal, dogs are beloved.

None of God’s creatures enjoys such good PR as dogs.  Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Old Yeller–beloved.  Even when dogs are bad, it’s not their fault.  Cujo was a good dog until that damn rabid bat bit him.  Even Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell was demon-possessed.  I’m sure he was a good boy, yes he was.

People don’t hesitate to say they hate cats.  In fact, if people love dogs, they usually hate cats.  Snakes are universally hated.  No one will admit to hating dogs.  Even Michael Vick–the most notorious dog abuser on Earth–says he likes dogs.  Go figure.

People will post pictures of their dogs on Facebook.  They will post pictures of other people’s dogs.  They will post funny photos, sad photos, sentimental photos.  The captions will range from the humorous to heart-rending.  There are posts about soldiers loving dogs, dogs loving soldiers, rescue dogs, abused dogs, dogs who dress like people–you name it, you’ll see it.  If alien life forms are monitoring our computer usage, they are likely to be surprised when they arrive here to find that the dogs are not in charge.

Anyone with a negative comment about this photo would immediately be placed on the Terrorist Watch List

You have to be careful, though. This humorous photo may draw the ire of both dog lovers and smoking haters.

I’m not a dog owner, but I like dogs, generally speaking.  Dogs are loyal to their owners and seem to be good companions.  They can’t talk (seriously, they can’t.  If you think they can, you may have a problem), which is good.  A mute companion is ideal.  I like the way they understand commands and respond to their names.  I like to see them do tricks, too.

My Granny had a chihuahua named Mousie.  He lived to be 19.  I really liked him.  When I was a kid my next door neighbor had a German Shepherd named Shirley.  We taught her to fetch our baseballs when they went over the fence.  I had a friend with a mutt named Sparky.  Sparky was good dog.  So, I’m not unfamiliar with dogs.

Much like my relations with humans, there are some dogs I don’t like.  I don’t like barking dogs.  I don’t like vicious dogs. I don’t like dogs that bite.  Out of fairness, I should note that I’ve been bitten by more humans than I have dogs, and I don’t like that, either.  Like their human counterparts, drooling dogs are kind of annoying.  I don’t particularly care for being licked by dogs.  Okay, now, I know what you’re thinking:  A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, by God!  I don’t where that comes from, and it may well be true.  But, I’ve seen dogs eat feces–and not just their own, either.  Plus, except under very limited circumstances, I’ve never enjoyed having a human lick my face, either.  If this ever becomes the accepted form of greeting, I’m not leaving the house.

Here’s a quick story about a dog–two in fact–that I didn’t like.  I once lived behind a house where there were two dogs.  A young couple owned them and clearly knew nothing about caring for them.  The couple would go out of town and leave the dogs in the back yard.  The dogs would bark…and bark…and bark, non-stop.  At first, it made me a bit sad, but that soon passed over into anger.  When the couple was home, the dogs ran in and out of their walk-out basement.  They (the dogs, that is) spent most of their time digging holes.  They dug around the utility transformer until they chewing through my TV cable–twice.

After the second destruction of my television reception (if you know anything about me, you know that is intolerable), I looked at the hole by the transformer.  They had dug down 2 to 3 feet, chewed through the cable and were working on the electrical cable.  I decided to pay Dog Boy and Dog Girl a visit to explain about the barking and the hole.  They steadfastly refused to do anything about their dogs telling me that the dogs were their “children.”  I kindly pointed out that if the dogs gnawed through the insulated cable, 12,000 volts would silence them.  Then, Dog Girl fairly screeched at me:  “We can’t make them stop barking!  That would be mean!  If you think you’re so smart, you get them to stop!”  In true Harlan County fashion, I kindly responded:  “Think about that.  Do you REALLY want me to shut up those damn dogs?  I will.”  We had no more problems after that.

I offer that tale only so you know that I’ve had my differences with dogs.  Rest assured, however, that I’ve never hurt a dog.  Okay, I did hit a dog with my car once.  I was driving through a neighborhood and this little lap dog ran in front of my car.  People came screaming, calling me names and saying I was driving too fast.  I probably was but–you know–the dog ran in front of my car.  Anyway, it was an accident.

A sad, tough truth that every dog owner should know is that not everyone loves your dog.  Dog owners reading this are now choking back bile, ready to attack–just like a dog.  Slow down, there.  If you have kids, think about this:  You probably love your kids.  You might even like them.  Not everyone feels the same way about them, though.  Some people don’t like your kids and almost no one else loves them.  That’s just how it is.

Why wouldn’t someone like a dog?  Well, I don’t know all the reasons.  Maybe they don’t like animals.  That doesn’t necessarily make one a serial killer, although it doesn’t eliminate one from suspicion either.  What if they don’t like “dog smell?”  Dogs do have a smell, you know.  It’s okay with some folks, but not with others.  Before you scream:  MY DOG DOESN’T SMELL!!” consider that I didn’t say they smell bad.  My Granny’s house smelled like snuff and mothballs.  I’m sure she didn’t notice, but I did.Some people are scared of dogs.  That’s true.  They are.  I’m not saying that’s right or can’t be overcome, but it’s a fact.  So, if someone doesn’t like your dog, they may have legitimate reasons, just like if they don’t like your kids.

Most dog lovers consider dogs to be vastly superior to humans.   Maybe they are.   They love the dogs, and the dogs love them.  The dogs won’t stopping loving them, either.  They won’t get bored with the relationship or go find new, younger masters.  Of course, one could point out that these are just the traits of any pack animal, but that would be unkind plus it would fall on deaf ears anyway.

Although they may be superior creatures, dogs are not people.  They’re dogs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If your dog looks like this, consider getting professional help or maybe a human companion of some type.

Even though dogs are dogs, they share certain characteristics with humans.  There are good humans and bad humans, just like good dogs and bad dogs.  Both are products of their environment or maybe their breeding.  Some humans are vicious and attack without provocation.  Some dogs do, too.  If dogs had opposable thumbs (or thumbs, at all), they’d use guns and knives, I’m sure.  The big difference is that we don’t blame dogs for their actions like we do humans.  A bad dog is caused by bad humans.  Bad humans are just bad.

I have a rule I try to follow at all times:  Don’t surround myself with creatures willingly and able to kill me.  That applies to both humans and dogs.  I’m told that Rottweilers, for instance, make great pets.  I’ve known folks that had them as pets. A Rottweiler could easily kill me, and there’s nothing I could do to stop it.  Not a good pet for me.  All he’d have to do is want to kill me, and I’m a goner.  A Maltese, on the other hand, couldn’t take me out regardless of its bad intentions.  I’d beat his ass.

Same thing with humans.  Some people are dangerous.  I don’t like being around them.  They could easily kill me on a whim.  I do my best to stay in the company of only those people unwillingly or unable to do me harm.  Admittedly, it’s much tougher to tell with humans.

I briefly touched on the topic of dog smell above.  Of course, humans smell, too.  Some good, some bad.  If a human is really funky, you don’t want that person around.  Maybe his or her family is okay with it, but you’re not.  Same with the dogs.  I don’t like touching smelly people, and I certainly don’t want them touching me.  Same with dogs.  I’ll pet just about any dog, but if you ever see me pet one, notice something.  I’ll quickly sneak a whiff of my hand.  Of course, I do the same thing after shaking hands with a human.

Dogs and human babies bring out the best in people.  The roughest, toughest people will often melt at the sight of a dog or baby.  People will smile at them, talk to them, touch them.  They’ll baby-talk to them.   Dogs and babies are the keys to peace on Earth.  When I was kid, the principal of my elementary school, Nick Brewer, was the most fearsome person I knew.  He terrified our entire school.  Once, I went to his house.  When he walked in the door, a gigantic Saint Bernard came running to him and jumped up on Mr. Brewer, licking and drooling all over him.  Mr. Brewer hugged him and said:  “Daddy is home! Yes, he is!  Daddy wuvs his baby boy, yes he does!”  Mr. Brewer never scared me after that.

Of course, dogs aren’t perfect.  Let’s say you live alone–except for your dog.  You’re happy together.  Like most dog owners, you fully expect to outlive your dog, but you don’t think about that.  One night, while sleeping, you die quite expectedly.  Being a bit of a recluse, no one checks up on you.  Your dog wonders why you won’t get out of bed and take him for a walk.  After awhile, he says “Oh, what the Hell!” and does his business inside.  He’s still got some food and water.  Eventually, the water runs out, but he remembers the toilet and partakes.  Pretty good.

After a couple of days, he’s out of food and pretty hungry.  He’s given up on you getting out of bed but decides to lick your hand a couple of more times to see if you’ll rouse.  Nope.  Hey….that hand is pretty tasty.  Yep, he eats you.  This won’t bother a true dog lover, of course.  He or she would relish being eaten by their dog, so that they and the dog could become one.

Now, let’s say the same thing happens, except your companion is a human.  After a few seconds to figure out that you’re dead, he or she calls 911 (there’s that thumb thing again).  Of course, there are the rare occasions when your human companion may eat your corpse, too, but we’ll leave that for another blog post.

In some cultures, humans turn the tables and actually eat dogs.  This is unthinkable in our society, but it happens.  Let’s be glad that we have plenty of other sources of protein.  Honestly, I would expect us to resort to cannibalism before we even get to dogs.

Finally, you dog lovers, be patient with those who aren’t or are just dog likers.  If we don’t want your dog jumping on us and licking all over us, imagine if one of my teenage sons treated you like that.  Oh, you might like it at first, but it would quickly grow old.  If we don’t comment on all your dog photos and posts, it doesn’t mean we don’t like them.  Now, go to bed and cuddle up with your dog.

One more thing, I guess dogs had it bad at one time, what with sayings like “talked to like a dog”, “treated like a dog”, etc.  No more.  We should all aspire to a dog’s life.

© 2012