When did parenting get so serious?
Every where you look these days, parents are up in arms about the ways other people raise their kids. Don’t Cry It Out! Don’t spank! No TV! No fast food! No smoking!
And yet, despite all these precautions, the ultimate result – the person your kid ends up being, regardless of how strictly or loosely he is raised – is still a mystery. So why can’t we all lighten up a bit?
Why so serious?
Parenting is trial and error.
There were millions of kids born before parents suddenly realized letting them sleep on their stomachs was dangerous, and most of those kids survived. There were millions of kids born before parents suddenly realized that using formula instead of breastfeeding is the work of the devil, and most of them survived. There were millions of kids born before we even had electricity or vaccines or opposable thumbs, and most of them survived too! And I guarantee you parenting was a lot more fun back then, because, as the saying goes: ignorance is bliss.
How many of the countless new reports related to raising kids are actually about doing something constructive rather than NOT doing something? Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do what Donnie Don’t does. What happened to good old trial and error? It’s how I learned not to press my thumb against the cigarette lighter in the car, it’s how I learned not to try and take a bone away from the dog, it’s how I learned to always – ALWAYS – knock before opening my parents bedroom door on a Sunday morning.
Not only are we becoming a nation of wusses, repressing our instincts in favor of never-ending analysis of all the possible consequences, but we are already a nation of buzz-killers and wet blankets. I’m not exactly Evil Kneivel myself, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regret taking more risks in my childhood. I don’t blame my parents for that – they weren’t helicopters – but I bet a lot of kids growing up these days will have good reason to blame theirs. Not every foray into the ocean ends with a shark attack or a riptide. Not every taste of fast food or glimpse of an R-rated movie results in juvenile diabetes or violent tendencies. Not every puff of a joint results in PCP binges and halfway houses.
And not every spank of your kid’s tush escalates to full-on child abuse or creates a maladjusted child. Besides, who ISN’T a little maladjusted? Once we start to fallback on some ephemeral notion of ‘normal’ we start to restrict and target the outlying behaviors that we deem deviant. And then we vote against gay marriage.
We could all use a little lightening up, especially the lady on CNN who somehow doesn’t find “Go the Fuck to Sleep” funny and even more inexplicably brings child murder into the discussion. (Quick note to the Dr. Arredondo quoted in the article: the irony you noticed is the whole effing POINT.)
I get it. Kids are precious. The children are our future. Soylent Green is people.
Obviously parenting is important, difficult work. It’s not exactly carefree, and I’m not pretending it is. But why make it more difficult than it has to be? A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down; having a kid can be, should be, IS a lot of fun. Mistakes are going to be made, no matter what rules you follow – Dr. Ferber’s, Dr. Spock’s, the Tiger Mom’s, the mad scientists who created The Boys From Brazil – nothing is going to turn out as planned. Can’t we all just accept that, and accept that everyone sees and does things a little differently, and – provided we’re not feeding our kids meth and forcing them to watch the Saw movies with his eyes pinned open – give each other a little leeway?
I’m not about to let my kid eat Big Macs at will or watch bukkake videos online or join the Hitler Youth, but part of growing up is making your own mistakes. The latest trends in parenting change so quickly, who the hell knows what hurts and what doesn’t? What we think works now might end up being discounted as child abuse later. I think I’ll do my best pass on all the latest hysteria and go with what worked for me, and for my parents. I’ve been spanked, I watched R-rated flicks before I was 17, I ate fast food once in a while. I made it through.
And you know why? I have a sense of humor, and so did my parents. Maybe you should get one. Your kids will be better off for it.