There are child management strategies I employ simply because my parents used them — it’s what I know! And they seemed logical and harmless enough.
But as I’ve carried out some of these nuggets over the last eleven years, sometimes I stop and really listen to the words I speak to my daughter. And often this thought will come: “What the fuck did I just say?”
My parents made decisions I swore I wouldn’t repeat once I became a parent. I mean, I was twelve and I knew they were doing it wrong. Like when they’d send me downstairs to the cold room to fetch potatoes for supper — can’t you see I’m busy reading? Or they’d have me vacuum twice a week — this suntan doesn’t brown itself!
So, obviously I’ve broken ties with those highly damaging practices, but there are others it took me longer to find the cracks in.
1. What will the neighbours think?
I heard this phrase after doing things like sitting out front of our house in my new boyfriend’s parked car having a heart-to-heart. And I swear to god talking is all we did. But even if they neighbours assumed we were making out… OH WELL? Help me understand why we care?
Actually, don’t. I don’t care.
And who cares what the neighbours think when I wear my favourite smelly-marker-stained T-shirt four days in a row? Let’s focus on how that T-shirt makes me feel and sure we can have conversation about hygiene. BUT SMELL THIS LIGHT GREEN SPOT FIRST. Tropical punch, mmm!
Parents should worry less about what the neighbours think and more about what’s up with their kid.
2. Respect your elders.
Older does not equal better.
The entire nine years of my teaching career I wished my students could call me Shannon instead of Mrs. Fisher. Because who the fuck is Mrs. Fisher? I like being called Mrs. Fisher about as much as I like being… called… on my phone. (Text me.) And how does creating a hierarchy of respect foster the kind of trust and vulnerability a classroom thrives on?
HINT: It doesn’t.
We should absolutely teach kids to treat others respectfully. But why? Because a person has more life experience, education, candles on the cake, money in the bank, societal status?
We should should teach our kids to respect other people BECA– USE THEY ARE PEOPLE. Period.
3. The most important thing you can be is polite.
Fuck that noise, man! Polite can kiss my ass. In my own words:
“I want to be a safe place. I want to say what I mean and worry less about hurt feelings. I want to be okay with being hurt and hurting for for the sake of authenticity. I want to surround myself with people I trust do the same.”
If you love your haircut — say so!
If you don’t want to watch that movie — say no!
If you don’t think that joke is funny — say woah!
I want to teach Emma kindness, authenticity, pluck, and vulnerability. Polite is about appearances and insecurity. I refuse to pass down that bullshit.
My husband and I decided while our Emma was still baking in my belly that we wouldn’t spank. My mom used to give me a good whack on the back when she became too angry to speak. She regretted it every time.
I knew I’d be the same — hitting from a place of my own rage, and I didn’t want to feel the way I grew up watching her feel. And I didn’t want to watch my kid to flinch during a heated argument.
My parents spanked. Your parents spanked. Everyone spanked and we got through it and turned out fine, right? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s right or makes one lick of sense to hit.
Louis CK nailed it:
“I really think it’s crazy that we hit our kids. Here’s the crazy thing about it: kids are the only people in the world that you’re allowed to hit. Do you realize that? They’re the most vulnerable and the most destroyed by being hit, but it’s totally okay to hit them. If you hit a dog, they fucking will put you in jail for that shit. You can’t hit an adult unless you can prove they were trying to kill you, but a little tiny person with a head this big that trusts you implicitly? Fuck them, who gives a shit?”
I got in trouble at the dinner table once and as I shoved a forkful of peas in my mouth, my dad announced, “After supper you’ll be getting a spanking.”
OH SO I ONLY HAVE TO SIT THROUGH THIS WHOLE MEAL ANTICIPATING A BUTT BEATING WHILE TRYING TO ENJOY YOUR COMPANY? Perf. See you in the hallway at say… 7:30 PST — that work for you, Papa?
5. Ask before you make plans with friends.
This became such an issue that I recently threatened to outright say no next time my daughter came to me last. “Is it okay if Sophia sleeps over, because it’s okay with her mom?”
I heard myself saying, “If you and your pal have talked it out and everyone is on board, then I have to be the one to say no and… I look like… the bad guy and…”
And what? What terrible thing will happen? People will realize my kid is a KID and she gets excited about stuff and makes plans before checking in? And when it doesn’t work out, involved parties will be enraged at my gall to… know more about our schedule than my 11-year-old?
Plan away, my little gremlin. Plan away. We’ll take it as it comes.
As a parent, I spend approximately 187% of my time doing the most frantic version of the doggy paddle, flailing about for the nearest flotation device. BECA– USE WHO THOUGHT I WOULD KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SPAWNING A HUMAN CHILD? Goldfish would have made more sense.
Parenting is hard, you guys. And the life preserver that ends up in my hands comes mostly in the form of “how my parents did it.” AKA: the bullshit other equally lost and overwhelmed humans fabricated. And I mean, they did their best, yanno? Just like you and I are doing our best. And someday, if my kid becomes a parent, she might reach for the buoys of her childhood, only to realize some of them are filled with fear and well-meaning, misguided logic.
And so, as I’ve had to do, she’ll learn to perfect her doggy paddle to stay afloat long enough to find something more thoughtful, compassionate, and rooted in logic.
What total bullshit parenting gems have you caught yourself parroting?