If you have kids, let’s save you and me both some time and aggravation right now: please go to Facebook and see what your friends are up to. Come back in a couple days when I’ve posted something else. Anything else.
No, really. I’m not joking. You’re just going to make both of us very unhappy if you don’t leave right now.
Okay, either they left or they completely ignored me the same way they’re busy ignoring their children right now, and either way I refuse to take responsibility for their bad decisions. The reason I told them (you) to leave is because I’ve decided it’s time I call them (you) out on some of the horrible, reprehensible, idiotic behavior that used to be considered inappropriate in bachelors and now passes for modern parenting. This is not to say all parents do these things, or that all parents who do some of these things do all of these things; but the fact is that any of these things make me wonder (a) why people are allowed to even have children and (b) how our species has managed to evolve past the level of flinging poo at each other (which is one of the behaviors I have been observing of late, so….)
The first thing I need to call out is the new parents who come into work acting bewildered at how tired they are. They come in looking like soldiers straight out of a really bad WWI film, shell-shocked look and all, and if you dare even so much as a “How you doin’?” you get treated to the vacant stare and “The baby kept me up… ALL… NIGHT. AGAIN.” They say this as if it comes as a shock to them, like nobody ever prepared them for this eventuality. Really? That’s funny. Because ever since I was, oh, nine years old stand-up comics have been pretty much giving me a preview of the sorts of things I can expect from fatherhood, and I’m pretty sure it involves not sleeping from the day the baby is born until his or her fifth birthday. This is also the sort of parent who acts like the baby just happened to them, and there’s nothing they could have done about it. No, no, it’s cool, I can understand that. Nothing you could have done. You had no power in this situation. It’s not like you brought it on yourself by HAVING SEX OR ANYTHING.
Contrast this with the stolid parent, the one who more closely resembles the sergeant in my WWI analogy. This is the one who comes in, maybe looking a bit haggard, a little rough around the edges, but still functional. They grab a cup of coffee, and if you ask how they are, they may give you a bit of a look, but the worst answer you get will be a curt “fine.” Dig a little deeper at your own risk, but that’s the same with anyone. If you do, you might hear “the baby kept me up last night.” Usually in a monotone. Not as a complaint, but a simple statement of fact.
The next one I need to rip on is parents who make excuses for their kids. I know I’m jumping on a bandwagon here, but I just have to get it out there. I’m not talking about parents who say things like “Junior is very sweet, he’s just a little slow” when their kid has serious neurological problems. I’m talking about parents who say “Junior is just very exuberant” when he’s busy setting fire to the curtains. I’m not saying you need to grab a switch and beat his ass, but maybe taking the lighter out of his hand would be a good place to start. Scold him a little. Sit him down and explain the difference between right and wrong. Then when he’s not looking, grab a switch and beat his ass. It’ll do him a world of good.
How about parents who take their kids’ word over, well, ANYONE else? I don’t even need Bill Cosby to explain to me that kids lie, although he does do a very humorous job of it. Know why I don’t need The King of Coke to lay this one out for me? Because faster than you can say “Pudding Pop”, I remember being a kid. That’s right, just one little flashback and suddenly I’m fully aware of the fact that “scrupulous veracity” wasn’t only beyond me as a spelling challenge as a child, it was beyond me as an ethical challenge as well, and the truth is (if you’ll pardon the egregious pun) most kids have the same problem. And yet most parents will believe their own children not only in a case of “he said, she said” over another child, but over an adult and even over a crowd. Some will even stand next to their own kids in the face of physical evidence to the contrary. That’s not loyalty; that’s insanity.
And hey, speaking of insanity, when did people start growing their own friends? Parents who want to be “buddies” with their kids at any age, whether it is as little kids or (even worse) teenagers, make me want to spray them down with a hose. When did it become acceptable to stop raising children and start treating them as equals? The parents I respect are the ones who are tough but fair, they love their kids but make it clear that the relationship goes one way, and you can have all the autonomy you want when you’re eighteen and you get a job, join the military, or get your ass in college. You want something cuddly you can alternate between cleaning up after and treating like your best friend for the next ten years? Get a dog. That’s what I did.
Finally, I need to get serious for a moment and talk about an issue close to my own heart. Lots of people are coming out against bullying these days. It’s all the rage, and everyone is against it. Kind of hard not to be, right? Being “for” bullying is like being in favor of kicking puppies. But the kids who are doing the bullying aren’t orphans, they’re not robots, and they weren’t grown in a vat somewhere. Every one of them has a parent or even two who have either ignored or, even worse, encouraged the very behavior they publically denounce. Whether you realize it or not, your kids see everything you do and say, and they pick up on things you didn’t even know they were paying attention to. More to the point, it’s not up to the school, the teachers, the police, or someone else to stop your kid from being a bully. It’s up to you. When you see them picking on another kid, step up. Be a parent. You might save another kid’s life. You might save your own kid’s life.