I wanted to share some lessons I’ve learned throughout my nine years of being a parent. Now this might become painfully obvious here in a little bit but, I’m no expert. I’m just a dude who thinks some of the ways our generation was raised were a little fucked up and maybe we, as a people, are about ready for some changes.
The first lesson is this: Your children may look similar to you but guess what, THEY’RE NOT YOU! Odds are relatively strong that they don’t honestly care what your hobbies are, how you entertained yourself as a kid, or what brings you joy. They will probably listen and take some enjoyment in hearing stories about their parents’ past, but times change, interests/hobbies evolve, society moves forward (and not always for the better), what was fun for you as a kid could be dangerous today. I’m speaking for myself here but if you feel similar then I say thank you. Allow your children to safely explore their worlds even if the discoveries lead them to reasonably safe and sane interests you may not personally agree with because of misguided or uninformed beliefs. The only outcomes from relentlessly pressing your personal beliefs and ideals on them is push back, possibly misery and frustration on both parts and, in extreme cases, total shutdown. I understand this isn’t always the case. Sometimes children follow effortlessly in their parents’ footsteps but the ones that don’t, and don’t care to, will struggle tirelessly against ideals they don’t feel comfortable with. This is where the saying of leading a horse to the water comes into play. You can, by all means, impress upon them WHY you believe what you believe, teach them what you believe and have them “test drive” things, but at a certain point they have to be allowed to discover for themselves. Encourage them to explore those things in which they show interest. I don’t understand or comprehend the fun of half of the things my son wants to do on a regular basis but I’m willing to learn about those things and help him explore those areas. They’re not dangerous or illegal, just weird from my point of view, but I can also guarantee my parents thought some of the stuff I wanted to do at that age was absolutely bizarre. If a time comes at which they’re no longer interested in that particular thing, let it go, regardless of the time or money you’ve put into it. Children’s interests can be fickle, but do you know what? So can an adults. I’ve picked up and dropped at least three different hobbies so far this year. I wanted to learn programming code for instance. I bought a book, downloaded a program, paid for a course and stopped four weeks later because I found it to be relatively boring. I’m strong enough to recognize that if I can fall victim to stuff like that, so can my kids.
This one’s both a difficult and touchy subject but, for fuck’s sake, let your sons cry, if for no other reason than at most times they’re crying because they’re attempting to process complex emotions that they possibly don’t even understand. A boy crying shouldn’t be a sign that he’s weak and will spend his life getting his ass kicked because he’s “a touchy-feely little bitch” (and if you don’t believe some parents are like that, I can introduce you to several). I heard a guy today talking about getting mad at his son for crying because another little boy pushed him. Instead of helping him understand why he was upset, the man essentially berated him and asked him sarcastic questions like: “Are you dying?” “Stop acting like a little girl” (insert frustration and rage here)……..Put your ego and hardheadedness aside for a minute and change the response from “Stop Crying” to “What can I do to help?” At no point here am I saying coddle your children. But before you rocket off to the universe of purposeful shame and directed embarrassment, make sure they’re okay and they actually understand why they’re crying. When adults get confused or upset about something, we pry into the matter so we can understand what we’re feeling but when it comes to children most of us just tell them to deal with it. The end result is, from my perspective, a bottling of carbonated emotions which eventually blows a top and then we get mad when kids have emotional outbursts. Try this experiment for me: Shake up a bottle of coke/soda/pop (however you say it from wherever you hail), then open it. What happens? It explodes, right? Now, are you mad at the bottle for exploding or are you sane enough to understand that internal forces and pressures built up causing that rupture and if the situation was handled differently maybe the bottle wouldn’t have exploded. We can understand that because we’ve learned that lesson, sometimes forged in the fires of our own internal conflicts and possibly turbulent upbringings; so then why can we not teach our kids early on that expression of emotion is a wonderful thing. How can we, as parents, get so mad at children (boys particularly in this case) for crying when we’re potentially part of the reason they’re shaken up?
While they’re exploring their worlds, explain things to them. Help them understand what they’re discovering instead of shaming them. I’ve seen many instances in which children mess something up or do something unintentionally silly and the parents reaction is mockery. That’s not to say don’t laugh at all. Sometimes our children’s missteps are hilarious and the natural reaction is humorous. Laugh. But watch their reaction. You can see on most kids faces if they’re feeling ashamed or embarrassed, read your child and help them. Once again their reaction could be complete shutdown and disinterest in something they might have previously been becoming passionate about. It doesn’t really take much to destroy a kids fragile confidence.
Here’s where I’ll catch quite a few heat rounds but this is also something about which I’m quite passionate. I frequently see people on Facebook sharing memes that sing a song to the tune of “I survived belts and whoopings as a child and i turned out fine”. I’m happy for those people who can say that but I definitely can’t and I really question those people’s definition of the word “fine”. I wrestle daily with self esteem issues and a previously unchecked rage problem. I never struck a person but I’ve punched holes in walls, thrown phone books through drywall and obliterated personal property in the name of frustration. Why have i done this you may ask? Because i was taught from an early age that violence is the key to solving problems and believe me, that shit is hard to deprogram. So stop teaching your kids to assault their problems. Also I feel this necessary to add, they’re a fraction of your size. Louis C.K. had a great bit about hitting children in one of his stand ups. The gist of the story was this: They’re tiny and you’re a giant. They trust you implicitly and you destroy them when you hit them. Children are the only beings on this planet we encourage hitting against. You can’t hit or kick a dog in public without possibly getting a citation, but you can smack a kid and people will damn near cheer. Seriously man, what the fuck?
Children aren’t accessories. Children aren’t designer pets whom we can put in kennels when we don’t feel like interacting with them. Play with them. Even if you don’t feel like it, get over yourself and do something with your kids. They crave attention, they need certain interaction other kids can’t provide them.
Look at your kid right now. Right in this moment, take in everything your kid(s) is(are). Beautiful right? Mine are 8 and 4 years old but when I look at them I can still see babies. But you know what? They’re not and they never will be again. One minute I was changing my son’s diapers, I reached over to grab a wipe and all of a sudden, he’s in third grade, I can’t bounce him on my knee anymore and I miss the baby he was. Not because he’s a difficult child or anything. I love my son more than ever, but they only grow up once. So every time they want to be picked up, carried, thrown in the air, piggy backed or whatever, do it. Odds are if you don’t you will come to regret it. I always heard that time flew when raising kids but rarely believed it until I experienced it myself.
This is a fun one: When you know for a fact you and your partner, or just you, are alone, then by all means, talk shit about your kid(s). It’s weirdly therapeutic. When Alex and I know for sure the kids have fallen asleep and it has been a trying parenting day, we look at each other and, without any sort of prompt, in unison, say: “Fuckin jerks”. Now we don’t really think our kids are “fuckin jerks” but it’s nice to know you’re each on the same page and can comfortably express how stressed the kids may make you. Like a couple of little assholes. Understanding of course that asshole is a relative term and kids being annoying is all a part of them growing up, learning, exploring. Annoying is also a relative term in this aspect. To the kids, they’re learning all the time, pushing boundaries to understand their left and right limits as people, where they fit in society, how far they can push before blow back occurs. To you they’re annoying as all hell and you kinda wish they’d just shut up.
Set up boundaries with your kids; but don’t just set arbitrary boundaries that you are not willing to explain and justify. Some parents get the thought in their heads that because they are the parents, they are the absolute authority and are infallible when it comes to laying down the law. This has led to hypocrisy for me in the past. I think I should adhere to a lot of the same rules I apply to my kids yet when they point out something I’ve done wrong, I get all pissy and act like the shit doesn’t apply to me. What kind of lesson does that teach them? Also, I had to admit roughly six years ago that I don’t know everything and sometimes my son will correct me on shit I’ve gotten wrong. Children are curious humans who want structure but don’t like being jerked around. Not only does this set up the basis for confusion for the children, it also teaches them to blindly accept boundaries placed before them even when those boundaries may make no sense whatsoever. So set your rules, but tell your kids why you are setting them. They can learn early on that in order to exist in a society, you do have to subscribe to certain foundations of behavior, but if those behaviors make them uncomfortable or don’t seem right, they can and should question it.
My work is a collaborative effort. Alex reads and edits/contributes to almost everything I put on here. Here’s one she brought to my attention. Apologize to your children. I said it before, we’re not infallible. I’ve fucked up so many times when it comes to raising these little people but one thing I can say for sure is they know exactly when I’ve done so. I feel as though, if you show your kids that you can rise above your own occasional muddled bullshit long enough to realize you’ve made a mistake, AND not only tell them so but include an I’m sorry in there…..man; the cornucopia of lessons wrapped up in those single moments alone is almost too beautiful to behold.
Now some canned advice which has been given for many generations I’m sure. No matter how prepared you are for this job, how many books you’ve read, documentaries you’ve watched, classes you’ve taken and consultants you’ve spoken to, you’re going to fuck this up, catastrophically sometimes, but people are resilient, children especially. As long as you can recognize and learn from your mistakes, you’ll be alright. There are numerous books, websites, articles, etc. offered to assist us in the daunting task of raising and shaping tiny humans, but none of them are the ultimate authority within themselves. Lacking a compendium of these resources, we are all simply doing what we can to assure the next generation survives their childhoods and does so in a manner in which they can function to the best of their abilities. So have fun, relish the cuts and bruises, cry like a motherfucker when your children get hurt or when they hurt you, laugh with them in times of joy, accept the ups and downs, the hectic schedules, the fights, the sickness, the birthdays, the new discoveries, the somehow deep conversations and unintentional sage wisdom of childhood. All in all, enjoy those little people because they’re not little for long and I can guarantee if you raise them like shit, if you treat them like second class citizens just because of your inflated misinterpretations of what a parent should be, then be prepared to not see or hear from them very much when they spread their wings. Some of the hardest wounds to heal are those which are inflicted at an early age.
Maybe one day i’ll stop saying thank you for reading but……..ahhh screw it. Thanks for sticking around. It honestly humbles me that anyone besides my wife would be interested in reading what I commit to text here.