I hate talking about parenting. I mean, I REALLY hate talking about parenting*. Talking about parenting is bar none the worst thing about parenting, because EVERYONE has an opinion.
Think for a second about the worst person you met in the last say, six months. The person you met who was most devoid of curiousity, character, skepticism and common sense. A person who has not been around a child since they dropped out of elementary school. That person will tell you in the most condescending way possible how you are a fuck-up of a parent, if given the chance.
And what would they be basing this supreme knowledge on? Observing themselves being raised. Seriously, if I had never driven a car, but had spent years riding in taxis watching the driver- would you ask me for driving lessons?
Before I was a parent I taught English to elementary school kids in Japan for 5 years. I read several books about raising children (and not just books about how to change diapers). I still do read books about raising children. When I found out I would be a father, I picked out several kids who I thought were well-raised and I asked their parents how they did it. And I listened to their answers.
I’m not saying I’m an expert- not by a longshot. Probably a day doesn’t go by that I don’t profoundly disappoint my son. I’m just trying to say that I’m making a real effort to do a good job.
It’s actually really hard to ruin kids.
That’s one thing that I learned from being a teacher. Now you might say “well yeah, but they’re Japanese kids, they’re always so polite” to which I say:
What Encyclopedia of Ethnic Stereotypes did you get that out of?
Kids are kids no matter where you are. They might get the fun beat out of them by high school, but in elementary school they are all pretty much the same.
I did meet some kids who I thought- this kid has a dark future ahead of him/her. Out of around 500 kids I probably taught, less than 5 fit this category. You might think that because I only met 3-4 kids who are most certainly doomed, that means I only met 3-4 lousy sets of parents. Nope. I met tons of parents who were screw ups in some way or another. Most of them actually.
So how did so many lousy parents produce well adjusted kids? Because of the simple fact that children are resilient. They’re forward looking. They want people to like them. It’s hard, mind-blowingly hard to really ruin a child. Those select parents that manage it are fucking scarily committed to doing so. Most of us can’t be bothered.
So I wouldn’t tell you how to raise your kids because truth is, as long as you’re not psychotic, you’re probably not doing any lasting harm.
But that’s not really the point is it? When I hear people yakking about “helicopter parents” and “entitled children” and “XBOXES AND FLAT SCREEN TV’s” and how kids today are pussies because they didn’t break their necks on trampolines, it’s not substantive criticism, it’s BLAH BLAH BLAH I AM AN IMPORTANT HUMAN AND WHAT YOU DO IS WRONG.
I get that. I want to be important too. That’s why I am typing this. But let’s be reasonable.
You can’t jump on people who pay a ton of attention to their kids one minute, and then turn around and complain about the parents that have their eyes glued to their I-phones while their kid kicks sand in your kid’s eyes the next.
You can’t say “kids today don’t learn to avoid pain because their playground equipment is safely constructed” and then say “stop crying about getting hit son, get back on the field.”
No one knows where that middle line is that will please everyone.
Some of us are starting to think that it doesn’t exist.
*But I’m going to, because it’s on my mind and for this blog I turn off my internal dialog