How Not to be a Shitty Parent

“Guess who I saw on the bus,” my mom started as we enjoyed our regular phone chat.

“I don’t know,” I cleverly replied.

“Your father.”

Awkward silence.

I listened closely as my mother gave me all the details on her brief interaction with my father on the Metro.  She swears that I would recognize him if I saw him on the street; apparently we I have inherited several of his most iconic affects.  Lucky him.

It is somewhat weird, though not ironic (looking at you, Alanis Morissette) that the last time I actually saw my father was at a bus stop in the fourth grade.  I didn’t recognize him then, but I do remember that face.  “Damn, this asshole is handsome,” I think I thought.  Maybe here’s the irony: a man perpetually on the bus looking for a free ride.

I’m super grateful for the life that I live and the friends and family who fill it.  I don’t think I really missed out because had I not been raised the way I was, I definitely wouldn’t be as resilient or independent as I am.  My mother did a great job of bridging the gap and I was supported by strong adult figures throughout my life.  That said, let’s address the parents out there, shall we?

Mom of the century.
Mom of the century.

For the simple sake of argument, I am going to assume that every one of you who has children loves them.  (If you’ve chosen to abandon your children, you’ve already lost and this post may not be for you.  So if you’re still reading, you’re starting ahead of my dad’s curve).  You didn’t just have them for the tax break and you have no immediate plans of dropping them off at the police station or entrusting them into the care of a pack of wolves.  Still, parents, there is so much more that your kid needs than love.  Here are a few simple things you can do to be a little less shitty to your kids starting today:

  • Tell them “no” more often.  Let’s practice it altogether now. “No.” “No.” “No.”  Doesn’t that feel good?  It should.  I work with so many teenagers who have their parents wrapped so tightly around their finger it’s starting to cut off the circulation.  From moms who make multiple trips to the store to keep their kid stocked with Sunny D (yeah that’s real) to the ones who let their kids go out and do whatever whenever with whomever, you all are sacrificing discipline for friendship.  It’s actually a good thing if your kids don’t think you’re their best friend.  A little thing called respect forms.  And then when I have to deal with them, it’s not a complete shock to their system when I refuse to let them get their way.
  • Act your damn age. Moms, it’s called the juniors section – not the wrinkly cougars section.  Stop shopping in the same department as your kids.  No one thinks you’re sisters.  We all just think you’re sad.  By that same token, if you didn’t make your dreams happen, stop pushing them on your kids.  Nothing is more sad than a pageant mom or the dad at the baseball game living and dying on every pitch.  If you want more time to pursue your dreams, consider a vasectomy.
  • Don’t resort to stereotypes. If you’ve been to a comedy show, you’ve heard someone make a joke about black people beating their kids half to death and white people letting them do or say whatever.  Having had my fair share of ass whoopins, I know that many of us believe in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality.  But let’s not take it too far!  I bet if you take the time to really get to know your kid, you can find out what he or she really likes and then devise a method of psychological warfare to incentivize them to behave.  My mom, for example, used to take all the TV privileges away from me except for public broadcasting and the gardening channel, so then I had a choice between seeing nothing or going crazy.  (I was almost grown before I realized what most people meant by “ho-ing”).  Needless to say, I learned to behave.  Speaking of stereotypes, if you name your kid anything weird you better teach him a useful skill like martial arts, telling self-deprecating jokes, curling in the fetal position, or drinking straight from the bottle.
Mom, this is your fault for allowing this....
Mom, this is your fault for allowing this….

It’s entirely possible that at some point in my next 80+ years of life that I’ll have children of my own.  It is also entirely possible that the ghost of Michael Jackson will be the grand marshal at the next Million Man March.  If parenting is for you, though, please try your best not to ruin your kids.  Not only do they reflect on you and your poor choices but they lower the curve for the rest of us.  And if your parents were less than ideal, it’s up to work harder to close the idiot gap we have in society.  Beyond a certain age (I’m going to suggest 16.5) you have to start taking responsibility for yourself.  So what papa was a rolling stone.  So what mom is a desperate housewife.   Just get your stuff together and maybe one day your children won’t feel compelled to write weird blog posts about you.

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