Parental musings, English
Consider, if you will: children. Oh, come now… You’ve heard of them! The tiny humans we make in that delightful act of procreation. The reasons behind making them differ; some plan their parenthood, some have it thrust upon them – with varying degrees of success. There are many different opinions out there when it comes to children and the raising of them, at least as many as there are parents… probably a few more. But one thing at least most parents can agree upon: The responsibility for these oddly scaled carbon copys of ourselves that we’ve made lies on us. As parents, as family and as a society. I’m a parent myself these days, my son is fast asleep in the next room as I type this.
Being faced with the role of being a father, I was forced to re-think a lot of things I had previously held as certainties, and while most of them remained the same some things inevitably changed. Luckily, I’ve always been one of those people who don’t enjoy the party-scene all that much; had I been one of those, my whole existence would have shifted (or so my friends tell me). When I was younger having a child was never something I dreamed about; certainly nothing I ever planned on. Hell, when I was young I never even expected to live past 25. My dreams back then circled more around having lots of sex with my girlfriend, periodically getting wasted and hoping to be run over by a truck. Let’s just sum it up as a not very healthy existence. Then, when I actually managed to not only achieve my 25th year in existence and have it pass, I suppose I shouldn’t be overly surprised when I also managed to land myself a wife, who later became pregnant.
Achievement unlocked: Adulthood.
After the news of “our” pregnancy spread through our network of friends and family, I quickly learned to fear a few lines of conversation. Nothing that started off with the words “You don’t understand this yet, but..” could never ever end well. Also, dialog that ended with “…You’ll see when the kid comes. That’ll change things” usually merited more than just the normal cursory examination. Mothers and fathers from across the world it seemed to flock at my doorstep to tell me how things would change with the baby, how my life would suddenly be filled with these massive blocks of pure love and awesome and how I would change as a person. Now, even then I was more than a little bit skeptical about all this; I’ve never been much like most people, and why would this be any different? I usually said as much, and got shot down with a look of amusement and a glimmer in the eye that seemed to say “He’ll learn”. Not many of my friends could avoid these kinds of arguments, not even those who weren’t parents themselves. I learned to appreciate those friends who never tried a whole lot more than before. You know who you are. Nine months of this in combination with my wife and her delightful mood during her pregnancy became very frustrating very quickly and when our son finally arrived, the biggest thought in my head was one of “fucking finally”. The second one was one that for quite a while I felt ashamed of. “Where are the big blocks of love? Where are all those emotions I’m supposed to feel?”. For more or less the entire first year of my sons existence, that love wasn’t there. Everyone had told me for such a long time that it would come and when it didn’t I felt like a poor excuse for a human being, even though I had prepared for being different from other people. I felt a profound affection for that little meat-bag, but nothing even remotely close to what had been described to me. It wasn’t until he actually stopped being a baby and developed a proper personality that the love came calling, and even then it wasn’t anything like that instant wow-feeling people talked about. During that year, I also figured out that my life wouldn’t be all that much different from before. I still came home after work, I read my books, I wrote my stories and I played the same games. The biggest difference was that I also changed a few diapers and fed the messiest piece of offspring ever to crawl across this beautiful blue planet of ours. Granted my wife did most of the work relating to the lil’ bugger the first year, seeing as she was at home with him the first few months, but even after she went back to work and later started school, my life remained pretty much the same as it had been before. In all honesty, the pregnancy changed my life more than the actual parenting did. All this led me to believe that I really wasn’t like most parents, and that all of those things they had said were flat out wrong. But they weren’t. For them. For me, they fit like a square peg in a round hole.
With those experiences still firmly in my mind, I shall try to examine a few behaviors I’ve noticed in parents today. As I said in the beginning of this text there are at least one theory on how to raise children per parent, and a lot of people who don’t have kinds certainly won’t hesitate to chime in. Anything from beating your kids with sticks and belts to not even telling them not to do something bad seems to exist out there – and that’s just between those people who actually acknowledge their responsibilities. I thought I’d explain how I deal with my own kid before I venture into the more murky waters.
My thoughts are actually quite simple: Support and assist if needed, always give second chances but do not hesitate to say no and put a stop to things when I have to. Set examples on how to behave by acting like a decent person, and not by saying how to act. And never EVER give an empty threat. If you say you’ll take his toys away if he misbehaves again, DO IT. And always forgive rather than pass judgment if possible. I think that’s about it, in very generalized terms. I’ve learned that this is in many eyes considered a very “harsh” and “unjust” way of doing things. But it isn’t to me.
I’ve known (and still know) a few parents out there that firmly believe that you should never really fight with your children, and keeping them happy all the time is the meaning of their existence. They never draw the proverbial line in the sand for their children, and in so doing the kids learn that they can do whatever they please. They get what they want when they want it, they get help with all kinds of things that they can bloody well do themselves. Hell, one mom I know even did her kids homework for them… all the way up to their classes at the local university. I mean, what the fuck? Are you really aiming to raise your child to not know the least bit of hardship? What on earth do you think will happen when said child grows up and steps into the world of adults? Do you think they’ll thrive and find the world full of unicorns and puppies, or can you possibly consider the fact that they might cave under the sudden pressures of reality? Do you think they’ll thank you for it? I doubt it. The real challenge isn’t to keep all obstacles out of the way of your child, but rather that of giving them a decent view of the world without letting the weight of all that cynicism crush them. That’s a balance act that I still wonder how I’ll manage. I’ve had a tendency to let the world get the better of me sometimes to the great annoyance of my wife. But I can just be myself and do the best I can and hope for the best. The goal for me isn’t to raise a perfect human being, but if my son ends up a better person than I am – I’ll be a very happy man. That inevitably leads me into my next major annoyance.
Have you ever run in to the kind of parent that when they were a child really wanted to be a famous hockey player, or a ballerina, or a doctor or a physicist or astronaut, but… didn’t quite have what it took to make it? And to try to compensate for this they spawn a child, and proceeds to live through them. They push them and prod them into being whatever they wanted to be when they were kids themselves, and don’t really take into consideration what the kid actually wants to do. A pressure to succeed is placed on the children for the sake of the parents. Is this really anything else than a socially accepted for of child abuse? Wouldn’t the world be a better place not just for children but for adults if this behavior stopped? Moms and dads out there, over-scheduling their kids for the sake of their personal fulfillment. Robbing kids of their childhood, making them into tiny adults before they are really ready for it. And let’s not even get in to the whole argument about entering your children into beauty pageants and dressing them up in clothing that fit better at the local nightclub rather than daycare.
Anyway, I’ll wrap this up quickly with a question: Am I wrong in my thoughts about this? Am I really wrong?
“Music’s the only thing that makes sense anymore, man… play loud enough, maybe you’ll keep the demons at bay.”