If it gets me a week off, I guess I’ll take it

“Parenting is overrated. A secret for child-rearing success: do less http://theatln.tc/ifc4ae #longreads”

The Atlantic‘s tweet makes it sound as though we don’t have to parent, because nature takes care of most of it. In fact, if we try hard, we’re screwing them up. But the article says different. The article says if we do everything we’ll screw them up. If we are perfect, our kids will suffer.

No risk of that here. I’m not trying that hard. And I’m failing with a nice steady rhythm that would back a hot hiphop routine.

But I was all prepared to let up a little. Twitter promised me a parenting vacation, seeing as how all my attention was killing my children’s future potential. I had a lot of reading to catch up on, so I was willing to try lounging and reading and ignoring.

But all Lori Gottlieb argues, really, is that overprotecting children, carefully directing and managing their every moment makes for unhappy future adults. Duh. If you don’t let them feel disappointment, handle their own sorrow, wallow a bit in a stew of lonliness and marginalization, we rob them of coping skills.

Who are these parents who have so much time they can get them invited to every party and armwrestle teachers into better grades? I can barely get three meals and two snacks into them. I can barely get books back to the library within ten dollars of their due dates. I can’t even remember their jackets half the time. How the hell am I gonna micromanage their emotional lives to spare them disappointment? Please.

I’d be happy to back off more, except that if I back up much further I’ll need binoculars to see them grow up. My goal is not to make life perfect for these amazing, sweet, interesting, wonderful little boys. My goal is to give them every chance to figure out who they are and what’s important to them. To offer them what I can and have them make the rest for themselves.

So I felt betrayed by The Atlantic, whose tweet had promised a parenting vacation of novels and bonbons. But I couldn’t hold a grudge because an hour or so later I got really mad at Rolling Stone.

I saw in a Rolling Stone piece that Michele Bachmann was raised by two lifelong Democrats. Too much parenting? Not enough parenting? All I’m saying is that what keeps me up at night is that if we try really hard and parent in earnest, and then wind up with a borderline psychopath for our efforts, I’ll have to explain myself to Rolling Stone. In an issue with a reinvented, 80-year-old Madonna on the cover.

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10 thoughts on “If it gets me a week off, I guess I’ll take it

  1. NONONONO! THAT really is one of my biggest fears. Did they explain why? Too much tuna in her diet when young? Head trauma? Her parents are those that do not believe in teaching their kids right from wrong because children are their own people and they should be allowed to discover things on their own? She is an alien baby they found in a crater? From a giant peach? They went to hell and decided to reeducate Satan’s baby? They did an experiment on nature vs nurture so they deliberately screwed her up?

    Something. Anything. Sobs.

  2. You and SubWOW are cracking me up this morning. Especially since I spent the night sleeping next to a restless post-op 5-year old, getting her sips of water and medicine and walking her to the toilet every few hours. I am sure I’ve ruined her for life. I should have just put her in the bathtub with a water bottle. a bucket and a sippy cup of Oxycodone.

  3. *Sigh* But I love this: “My goal is not to make life perfect for these amazing, sweet, interesting, wonderful little boys. My goal is to give them every chance to figure out who they are and what’s important to them. To offer them what I can and have them make the rest for themselves.”

    Kitch, I hope she’s feeling better today!

    Hugs all around.

  4. “My goal is to give them every chance to figure out who they are and what’s important to them. To offer them what I can and have them make the rest for themselves.”
    I’m with you on this one.

  5. “I’d be happy to back off more, except that if I back up much further I’ll need binoculars to see them grow up.” <– And this is why I love you.

    I'm guessing my kids will be gloriously happy pillars of society at the rate I'm allowing them to accept disappointment. Disappointment in the fact that I'm always multi-tasking, the fact that I say "Just a minute" approximately every minute of the day, the fact that i tell them daily to stop fake crying.

    It wouldn't be good for me to back off more, because i'd have to move out of my house (and i really do like the layout of it! I finally have an office!).

    I'll just keep this little bit of distance so I can watch them learn their lessons, but be close enough to pick them up after their falls.

    (Good heavens, now I think I'm gonna end up writing about this, too. Which means I'll have to ignore my kids for a bit today. Again.)

  6. I completely agree with you. i would love the vacation, except that like you, it is all I can do to keep them fed, clothed, and from inflicting serious pain to one another.

    And yet, I find that it has worked. They are self sufficient. They are smart. They can problem solve. They are socially acceptable (Except when eating at home. Then, they just scarf. Whole other can of worms.) And most days, I really like them.

    It seems that a lot of people who micromange their children’s every move have some serious issues of their own, mainly control issues and major unresolved shit from their own childhood. Just saying…

  7. I was just chatting with someone else about this very topic. Our job as parents is teach them how to live life on their own and not need us. Our job is to direct not smother – sorry for your lack of time for reading though, that did sound grand :)

  8. I used to wish for some kind of non-life threatening disease that made me sick enough to require hospitalisation (our health-care is awesome in Australia) but not so sick I wouldn’t be able to read trashy magazines and eat chocolate. Preferable something contagious to deter visitors. It seemed that would be the only way to take a break from it all. And then one day you find yourself splonged out on a sofa, reading – while your kids are quiet, somewhere else in the house, playing happily. And you’ll be so gob-smacked that it’s finally happening you’ll have to read the same paragraph five times. And then a friend will come visiting with her two year old and you will never forgive her for fucking up that moment.

    Re all the other stuff, if a kid is never in a situation where he has to make a choice for himself, how does he learn to make good choices?

    My 16 year old just announced that he wants to be an artist. I have a paper bag and I’m breathing slowly and deeply.

  9. @subWOW It was too easy to parent by saying “What would Barbara Bush *not* do?” Now I have to figure out how to outsmart Nature.

    @Kitch Keep the sippy cup for yourself. The mom version of Hi-C is Oxy-C, right?

    @Ink Thanks, lady. I wish I could keep sight of it moment to moment, but I’ll take just posting it for you friends and hoping it’ll stick somewhere in my sub-c.

    @Karyn It’s a nice goal. I don’t know how to do it. When to give less and let them find more. I’m still doing an awful lot and it’s either age appropriate or totally disordered. Not sure which.

    @letmestart “the fact that i tell them daily to stop fake crying.” < “serious issues of their own, mainly control issues and major unresolved shit from their own childhood.” Can I start controlling them now? It might be easier than this whole “in it together” b.s. ;-)

    @B Welcome! Yeah, it’s disappointing to find that following the latest trend from an online magazine won’t actually get me free time. Or a better family. But I’ll chase the next mis-titled post in hopes of a week off as reward for little to no work.

    @Alpha Betti you read my diary. I hoped for a coma as a break, but then knew I would not *notice* the break, which ruined the whole solution. Most contagious stuff either hurts or itches, most hospitalization stuff hurts. No good solution, I’m afraid.

    Tell your artist to come paint my house. And refinish my furniture. And if he likes that he can sew the quilt I’ve been meaning to make. I have *tons* of stuff for him to…um…apprentice on. Send him over.

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