I’m kind of a big deal. But you already knew that. I mean, I’m regularly featured on the Huffington Post.
Of course, even if I weren’t a world-renowned blogger whose diatribes about how living with children is like being in prison have been translated into multiple languages and who has subsequently been hated-on by people on multiple continents, I’d still be pretty damn important. Because I’m a parent.
And if kids are our most valuable resource, then parents are priceless.
Except we’re not. Because parents are overrated.
Moms and dads are like the Kanye Wests of adulthood: we kiss our own asses a lot (probably because we’re insecure.)
Visit STFU Parents for an exhaustive collection of all the obnoxious, self-centered ways parents assert – and inappropriately trumpet – their significance. Or visit the childfree Reddit for a running account of all the reasons people without kids can’t stand us. Or read this.
Having children is nothing to sneeze at; it’s one of the most life-changing, (potentially) world-changing things anyone can do, whether they should do it or not. Bringing a new life into existence is momentous; it’s understandable that it often begets a little arrogance. Especially in the beginning, when the kid you’re raising still has the potential to make an impact.
But, judging by how few of us really end up changing anything except the number of page views on idiotic Buzzfeed articles, some of that arrogance is unfounded. Parents are overrated.
Yes, if you ditch your kid, or you hit your kid, or you do something equally repugnant to your kid, there’s a chance he’ll develop some negative characteristics, or, at the very least, need therapy. But the sad reality is, even if you do everything right (which is in itself impossible to measure), your kid might still be a fuck-up or an asshole or a nutcase. There are too many variables out there – genetics, their environment, their friends, their teachers, the media, the books they read, the music they listen to, the drugs they take, the music they listen to while they’re taking drugs, etc – to assume you’re the fountainhead from which your kid’s success or failure or kindness or douchebaggery flows. Only an Objectivist would be so egotistical.
There are a million different things that impact a young person while they’re developing, and a million more that determine the direction in which their life ultimately goes. On top of all the personal and cultural influences, there’s the general capriciousness of fate: accidents, chance, coincidence, serendipity, scheduling, even the weather. It all plays a part!
It’s the butterfly effect, except it’s impossible to know what the butterfly is.
Parents are undeniably important, but that’s mostly just because we’re there first. During the most crucial parts of our kids’ development, no one has more potential for screwing them up than we do. We set the groundwork, we lay the foundation, and conventional wisdom says that if you build a strong enough foundation, it can withstand just about anything. Unfortunately no one really knows if that’s true.
For every success story about a kid that grew up in a loving, stable family with caring and attentive parents, there’s an exception. For every terrible person who’s the result of a shitty environment and absent or neglectful parents, there’s one who escaped unscathed and well-adjusted. The inconvenient fact is that it’s a lot easier to track the consequences of our mistakes than it is to measure the benefits of simply doing what we’re supposed to do. So I say stop tracking. Because we don’t know. We can’t know.
The stuff you get right isn’t always what counts, so stop congratulating yourself. And the stuff you get wrong isn’t necessarily ruining anything, so get down off the cross. Sorry, but if you’re the average parent, odds are you’re neither the hero nor the villain in your kid’s life. And that’s okay.
Just so long as you’re in it.