So last week, I mentioned how I believe that most parents try to do the best they can.
And now this week I’d like to have a word with the ones for which Child Protection Services was created.
If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than a minute, you know that I have never suffered from so-called baby fever. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not because I “hate” children. Yet, I will admit to having campaigned (unsuccessfully) to include dogs and cats on “bring your kid to work” day because I’d rather meet your puppy than your seven year old.
I think the difference between the kids I kind of like, and the kids that are advertisements for birth control is definitely the parents. More than the schools, more than their friends, and almost more than the media, nearly everything the parent does shapes the child’s personality and influences their life choices.
Some little kids were outside playing the other day when I came in from work using language that I had only seen in adult books when I was their age. I eyed them suspiciously.
“That lady heard you.” one of them said.
“I don’t care!” he responded loudly. “I don’t give a f—k!”
I just shook my head. I bet his parents say the same thing about him all the time.
I’m open about my issues with kids. I’m aware of my shortcomings and since some of my eccentricity might be genetic, I choose not have any children.
But if you have decided to try and replicate your own DNA code with some other sucker who doesn’t know any better, let me remind you of your responsibilities as parents. These are real people we’re talking about. You can’t just toss them in a corner of the basement and forget about them. Well you could, but they might turn feral and kill you in your sleep so I wouldn’t recommend it.
I figure there are five critical responsibilities of parenting. They’re very similar and intertwine a bit, but they’re just different enough to cause a problem if you don’t keep up with any one of them. These concepts are universal because I actually came up with them a few years back, and they all still apply today. The first four aren’t in any particular order. The last one is the big bopper. It’s multidimensional and failure to comply will cost you in ways no one can afford.
Your parental responsibilities:
1) To teach.
I am one of those weirdos who believes that we know everything we need to know to navigate life before we are born but the “trauma” of being born makes us forget it. I’m also one of those weirdos who believes that being older doesn’t necessarily make you wiser but experience is, or at least, should be, a good teacher. It’s your job to share your experience.
Oh sure, I understand that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but I also understand that some of you refuse to even grasp the reins. Don’t let your resentment about your own misguided choices spill over into the lives of your children. Some of you are keeping silent and letting your kids foul up just because you want them to have a life as miserable as yours. That’s just wrong. They’re your children, not your competition. It’s your job to be the grown up.
2) To protect.
I know you can’t be everywhere at once, but do the best you can which I know for (nearly) a fact is a hell of a lot better than you’re doing right now. And if you can’t keep them safe from certain things, certain people, certain elements then I guess, as a very nice woman recently shared with me, the next best thing is to teach them how to be resilient.
3) To nurture
Make them feel good about themselves. And I don’t mean blow smoke up their butts like they can do no wrong or treat them like you’re going to bag up their doodoo and give it to friends as potpourri, but show a little encouragement.
I hate to say this but my sister and I did crazy amazing stuff when were kids and our parents never really responded like it was anything special. My parents were the original “what do you want? A cookie?” people. If you did exceptionally well in school all the time (which we did), if you built stages, and lighting, and produced major song and dance numbers involving wardrobe changes, extensive hair and makeup and homemade fog (which we did), if you found the cure for cancer (which, okay, we didn’t do), our parents always responded like you were supposed to do those things. Now, everything falls into two categories for me: ordinary and subpar. I’m working on it, but I’m an adult and I don’t have a time machine. Start now with your own kids so they don’t have to work backwards to undo what you did.
4) To love.
I know this isn’t always easy. My sister does things all the time that make me ask my mom, “what on earth made you think you wanted a second child?” Surprisingly, she has a whole list of reasons. Even if you only had one reason for yourself, try to remember that reason the next time they do something so severely stupid, you think about getting cosmetic surgery, changing your name and leaving town. Try to remember that your kids are only here because of you.
And now the most important responsibility ever of parenthood (because it covers almost everything)/first and last rule of mother- and fatherhood, Parental commandments, 1through10:
5) STOP TURNING YOUR HEAD TO EVERYTHING.
I keep reading that when your kid starts screaming and flopping around they just want attention, and you shouldn’t give it to them.
Well, yeah, you should. You should let them know you see what they’re doing, it’s not right, and they need to stop or else they’ll get a whole other kind of attention they didn’t want.
Mom’s technique: get in real close, and pinch a small sliver of skin on the neck and with a loving smile whisper in their ear about how they need to straighten up really fast or you will give them a reason scream and flop.
Dad’s technique: Look at them real hard over the top of your glasses (glasses are optional, of course) and say their name very firmly in a very low tone. I promise you with the right tone, you’ll only have to say it once. For added effect, you can follow the name with a medium pause and then something like, “That’s one” but you have to mean that. Don’t get to three, and then start over, or otherwise sit there trying to negotiate. You’re supposed to be wiser than the kid. How stupid would you be to try and instigate a bargaining agreement in the middle of all that mayhem?
Get up and get on that kid’s butt and make them fear the number 3 for all of their formative years. If you aren’t much for the number warning system, just snatch them up by the collar. It won’t hurt, but it will make them stop acting a damn fool. You see how those wild cats carry their young around by that spot on the neck? Kids have that same spot, and it works the same way.
Now, if your kid is bad, stupid or any kind of useless sack of substance, just be real with yourself about that.
In the same box: watch for animals.
Once you decide that you are unwilling to keep your legs closed and too lazy or stupid to use birth control and you have a child, you are responsible for the child. It’s yours. You have to feed it, water it, and make sure it gets a little sunlight every once in a while. (and if it’s a cactus, add orange juice and really watch is grow. Seriously, try that. It works.) You can’t just hand it off to any ol’ person because that person might be a bigger dipstick than you are. And I can assume you’re a pretty big dipstick to go handing off your kid whenever, wherever like that.
If there is someone your kid runs from, if the mere mention of Uncle Bob sends your kid into hysterics, if every time Aunt Susie tries to hug your kid, your kid starts screaming, yelling, fighting, scratching, crying, bucking, rearing or reaching for weapons STOP TAKING YOUR KIDS AROUND THAT PERSON.
Remember, kids are kind of dumb, and even the smart ones can be without the ability to really express certain things. They don’t have words for it, so they can’t say exactly what needs to be said and it’s up to you to pay attention, pick up on the clues and do the right thing by your kid.
I read a story once about a girl who kept telling her parents that every time she was alone with her grandfather he would try to force feed her a mushroom. According to her they never did figure out she was trying to tell them he was forcing her to perform oral sex. I know some of you got that before I even told you what she meant. The rest of you made the connection pretty quickly. But even if you didn’t, if the kid is obviously upset or seriously freaking out about encounters with certain people, get a clue, and do something about it. Stop trying to excuse yourself from the responsibility of taking care of the kid. Even if you really are a loser and you suck, you don’t have to excel at it so much.
Likewise, if your spouse is doing inappropriate things (and you know the difference between discipline and domestic abuse), please pretend you have a spine and step in and protect the defenseless kid. I’ve had lots of friends tell me stories about how they were 7 or 8 years old, even 4 or 5, and jumped on their dad’s back because he was hitting the mom, or swung on the mother because she was tossing crap at the dad. How is it that the kid would instinctively know to jump in and save you, even at the risk of personal injury, but you will sit there and twiddle your thumbs while your child is being beaten like a black dude pulled over by the police on the wrong side of town?
I’m not suggesting you take a hatchet to the head of your significant other, but sitting idly on the side not saying anything is really good way to reserve your seat in hell.
By no means am I suggesting perfection when it comes to taking care of your kids, just some participation.
The important thing is that you do the best you can and know that some effort beats no effort every time.
Post- nose job Amerie reminds me of a chocolate Kourtney Kardashian, and this video made me want to get on stairmaster
Amerie – 1 Thing
Pre-nose job Amerie. For maximum effectiveness and fun, sing this song after sucking up a little helium – Talking to me