Saturday, 21 January 2012

Parents in a Dangerous Time

There's been much made of the cynical view taken of parenthood as portrayed in the media today.  Think Modern Family or the bestselling book, Go the F**k to Sleep (careful, this link contains adult content), not to mention the innumerable blogs dedicated to the gruelling task of rearing the leaders of tomorrow.  But are contemporary depictions of parenting gratuitously negative or simply more realistic than those of the Leave it to Beaver era?
I break out in a sweat just thinking about the tribulations caused by grandma's brood that she would have had to gloss over when all of the other neighbourhood moms came for coffee.  Little Lonnie quit kindergarten?  No, he just wasn't ready this year.  Donnie wrecked his sister's car, again?  The roads were icy (It's May, grandma).  Bonnie got pregnant out of wed-lock?  No, the baby was just premature.
It seems like there was so much pressure to keep up with the Joneses that any imperfections, big or small, had to be kept under lock and key.  Did my grandma have even one close friend she could confide in or seek advice from?  I hope so, but I'm not so sure.  And I bet you even if I tried to ask her today, she'd still say "What would I have needed to confide?  It was never that bad."  This kind of hear no, see no, speak no evil attitude is definitely a foreign concept in a world where one's every thought or action can be broadcast to the world through any number of social networking sites at a moment's notice.  Not to  mention that these thoughts and actions will be judged and commented upon just as quickly as they are posted.  
So which is better?  A world in which the trials and tribulations of life as a parent are never discussed, or a world in which nothing is off limits?  I guess the answer to this question should really be looked at in terms of what will make parents better able to raise their children.  Can a parent who suffers in silence be as effective as a parent who is open about their problems?  
In my opinion (which must be good, because you came here to read it) the parent who openly discusses their problems will only be more effective than the parent who is tight lipped if they are entering into the discussion with two purposes:
The first purpose being just to get it off of their chest, which can keep a person sane enough to do it all again tomorrow.  
The second purpose being to seek support and find alternative solutions for the problems they are facing.  
The trouble with this in today's Facebook world?  When someone posts a parenting issue in their status, most of the "advice" that Facebook friends offer isn't all that helpful, and sometimes doesn't even make sense.  I had a friend who posted a status about a difference of opinion she and her partner were having when it came to their one year old, and more than one commenter suggested she just leave him. How is that helpful?  It's a pretty hefty piece of advice to give, considering all that the commenter knows about the situation is wrapped up in two sentences or less. But everyone's an expert these days (me too, that's why I'm blathering on and on about this).
One thing's for sure though, the examples in the media today make it easier to feel like we're all in the same boat and definitely allow us to take ourselves less seriously.  The post that got me thinking about all of this in the first place is a perfect example.  Writer Drew Magary recently attended a class called "Why don't my Kids Listen to Me?" in an attempt to learn "how not to be a terrible father", and these are a sampling of the nine things he learned while in attendance:

Number One: Never repeat yourself.
The second you repeat yourself, you're dead. The kid will just be like, "Hey, I can just sit here and dad will say the same shit over and over again. COOL." Kids think this way because they're evil. Say it once. If the kids don't act, take them by the hand and guide them to their task. 
Number Four: Accept that your children are going to do annoying shit.
We were told there was a list out there that detailed typical behaviors for children based upon their age. Two-year-olds will throw things. Five-year-olds will break things. There are certain annoying facets of children that are simply the cost of doing business, and accepting that makes it a little bit easier to tolerate it when your kid is spitting in your goddamn ear.
Number Seven: Never get locked into a power struggle.

If you say to your kid, "Hey, eat your dinner," and the kid is like , "No," and you're like, "You're grounded if you don't," and the kid still says no, you've basically signed yourself up for a full night of SUCK. Because now you're in a power struggle with a kid, and you won't want to lose because you won't want them thinking you're a pussy, and they won't want to lose because, hey, what's an hour wasted to them? NOTHING. Kids were born to waste time. They have nothing better to do. May as well ruin your life while they're waiting to become drinking age. If the kid doesn't eat dinner, the kid doesn't eat.
The full post is worth a read, and definitely gave me some food for thought.  For now though, I'm just an ignorant parent-to-be pretending to know what I'm talking about on the inter-web.  And the nice thing is that I'm definitely not alone!  I'd love to hear what you think . . . comment away.


  1. I just read this AFTER sharing an article about 'motherhood' on my Facebook page. Might have added a disclaimer if I'd read this first! ;) Thanks, Shelby! I, too, am starting to check when your next post is up...

    1. Jill, I loved the article you posted - comparing parenthood to climbing Everest seems totally appropriate!

  2. Well. obviously my posts indicate that I am in the camp of share share share complain complain complain but I think something is to be said for holding your tongue ... it really isn't that bad ... those rules are great!!

    loved this post. food for thought for sure.

    1. I love that about your posts. I can't fathom how you do it with Simon's crazy work hours!