What I hate about other parents.
Parenting is hard. It’s no secret. Kids ruin everything, and they can be really tough to keep alive sometimes. They’re dumb, and they do dumb shit, and you have to make sure that dumb shit doesn’t ruin their lives. At the same time, you have to deal with your own dumb shit. It’s like juggling turds.
I’m no expert. I’m just a dad. A reasonably good dad, but not a great dad. My kids are alive. They’re mostly good people. Honestly, that’s the only measure of success: have you killed them (no) and are they cool (usually)?
Having accepted that this is hard and I’m no expert, there are still things about other parents that bug the shit out of me. The list is long, but I’ve managed to collect the individual offenses under headings.
Here’s what I hate about other parents:
They treat it like a contest.
You’re not winning. There’s no prize. Don’t try to out-dad me. Feel free to offer advice; I’ll take it or I won’t. But you haven’t won if your kid has never had white flour or only eats organic. There’s no medal for limiting your kids’ screen time. It’s not a race against me, and it’s not a contest of wills against your kids’ teachers, daycare providers, or whatever. You do you, people. Parent how you see fit. Just don’t expect a cookie.
They deny their kids the same great stuff they had.
I grew up on Coco Puffs, Sesame Street, TVO cartoons, and rented VHS tapes. I read books and played outside. I had friends. I rode my bike (sans helmet). I broke my wrist falling off a skateboard. I ate Kraft Dinner and processed cheese. I didn’t eat a deliberately organic fruit or vegetable until adulthood. I had entire weeks of unstructured time. I explored my neighbourhood, the nearby woods, and, once I learned the transit system, most of the city. I got bullied. I bullied in turn. I watched PG movies, and before nipplegate, PG was much more badass. I played a lot of video games.
Despite all this, I’m a reasonably well-adjusted full grown person. Perhaps rather, because of it all, because I had to learn how to play with others, navigate and negotiate rules of play, a few leadership skills, how to rely on myself, how to understand geography, the joy of alone time, and what can happen when you’re bored. I caught snakes and bugs, I pet strange dogs, I said hello to strangers, I got hurt and I got up and I kept going.
Why in the actual fuck would you deny your kids the same joy?
Let them eat shitty cereal sometimes. Make them eat their vegetables. Let them watch bad cartoons. Let them watch educational TV. Let them learn about our shared cultural heritage. That cultural heritage includes stories with bad language and violence. It includes valuable lessons like “don’t be a dick”, and “pain sucks”, and “sometimes you suffer”. It also includes lessons about bravery and kindness. Make them read. Let them read whatever they want (be ready to answer questions). Kick them out of the house sometimes. Let them play in the street.
For Christ’s sake, let them be kids.
They lose their sense of themselves.
I’m a dad. But I’m much more interesting than that. I cook. I run sometimes. I read a lot. I’m a political junkie. I study karate. I like beer. I have a dog. I have opinions (on things besides parenting). I went to university. I’ve done a lot of jobs. I like roller coasters. I’m claustrophobic. I go to concerts. I act sometimes. I direct plays, too. I used to write. I should write more, and I’m trying.
Yeah, I’m a dad. But I was a person long before they came along, and I’m still a person.
I talk about stuff besides how I’m raising my kids. I tell stories about them, sure, because they’re cool people and I spend a lot of time with them. I talk about how I’m raising them, and the challenges I’m facing. But I also talk about Donald Trump, and music, and movies, and books, and karate, and all kinds of other things.
I have never (to the best of my recollection) referred to myself as “daddy” when talking to my kids. I think it’s dumb. They know who I am. They need to learn the appropriate use of first person pronouns. Saying “I” and “me” is just good parenting. I also don’t call my wife “mom” or “mommy”. She’s “your mom”. She also has a name; I use that sometimes. The kids know she has a name. They know what it is. They know who I’m talking about.
They want to be their kids’ best friend.
My kids have best friends. I’m not it. They don’t need me to be their best friend. They need me to be their dad. So that’s what I’m doing. My kids are cool people and I like them, but I’m not their friend. It’s not my job to do dumb kid shit with them. It’s my job to make sure dumb kid shit doesn’t kill them. That’s parenting. Sometimes they also need a kick in the ass. That’s also parenting. Your best friend can’t send you to your room for a time out. Your best friend can’t take away your tablet until your homework is finished or your room is clean. That’s a parent’s job. Be the parent. Your kids already have friends.
They do dumb things for the right reasons.
I know you love your kids and you want to protect them. However, unless your kid has some immune deficiency, you should vaccinate them. It doesn’t cause autism. Yes, there are chemicals in vaccines, but everything is chemicals. Unless they’re celiac, they can eat gluten. People have been eating grains for thousands of years. You should let them eat sugar, just not too much. Violence on TV or in video games won’t make them violent, so you don’t need to sanitize their viewing/playing. Society is actually less violent now than in the past. GMOs aren’t dangerous. So what if your yam now has genes from a banana? Sixty percent of your genome is the same as the banana’s. Get over it. Organic food is good, but don’t sweat it. Organic doesn’t mean healthy. A non-organic apple is better for you than an organic cheeseburger. Besides, you know what else is organic? Snake venom, and that’s not good for you.
This is a trip, and I know you’re doing the best you can. I just think that some of these things make this way harder than it needs to be. Relax a little. Let the kids have fun. Let a little joy in. You, and the kids, will be all right.