Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: How to suck at parenting. Effing badly.

11.29.2011

How to suck at parenting. Effing badly.

In the last few years, society has been introduced to the many uses of the word "FAIL." Many examples of this from the point of view of child-rearing have made it to websites such as http://parenting.failblog.org and spread among e-mail to those with a sense of humor. As funny as many of those are, demeaning a child and then continuing to belittle them into their adult years is a common practice many know all too well. I myself am a survivor of those issues, and like anyone that's lived through traumatic experiences, they've left their scars.

Bad parenting extends far beyond outright lack of thought that makes Internet fodder for discussion. In many cases, the little negative things, what is said and done with repetition throughout a lifetime, can make an impact on a child long into their adult years. Although some of these thoughts may be trivial to some, leaving youth like me with way too much time and advanced critical thinking skills for their age to fester in these issues for years is just plain wrong. So, in lieu of venting to a therapist, here's a few things I've learned as the child of emotionally abusive parents.


1. Never tell a child that Santa doesn't exist by the time they reach the age of four. Allow kids to imagine, dream, and find the happiness in the little things. Sure life is pretty much crap after the age of 20 (actually that's not true, but don't tell my parents that), but for goodness sake, let them wait until they're 20 to realize that, because it's something they'll have to deal with for the rest of their lives. By the time I was six, Santa was dead, the Easter bunny was a product of pagan marketing, boys are out to rape me and stick their fingers in my hooha, and I was expected to die of something by the time I was 50. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I feel better about my next birthday.

2. Never tell a child that they are incapable of accomplish feats by virtue of their gender. That is a lie. If I had to summarize this experience in my life, it would be the day my folks scolded me for carrying a 20lb. guitar amp three blocks from church back to school for my 8th grade teacher because nobody else stepped up to volunteer. The memorable quote was, "Why didn't you ask one of the boys to do it? You're not supposed carry heavy things. Girls don't do that." I then told them to screw themselves and, fast forward a few years, went on to play college-level hockey and ride large touring motorcycles all over the United States. Thanks to that "careless behavior" I have been labeled as a "liberal rebel" and a "failure" by those who have given birth to me. No worries, I'll share my accomplishments with people who actually care about me!

3. If you're wrong about something, take the higher road and just apologize already. Never in my life have I ever heard my parents apologize or admit fault for anything. And I mean everything, including missing my birthday multiple times and taking me out to dinner to what turned out to be a timeshare sales event. Don't hold back on admitting that, yes, even the almighty parent can be wrong once in a while. Your kid will appreciate your honesty and your strength of character. They seriously will. Who knows? They might even want to still speak to you when they're older, even if you boycotted my wedding ceremony and then continue to invalidate my marriage via e-mail because it wasn't officiated by a Catholic priest. Better a traffic court judge than a pedophile, I say.

4. Leave "stupid" and "ignorant" out of your list of descriptive words for your child. Keep your comments constructive.* My dad used to emphasize my apparent stupidity on a daily basis and my inherent inability to "find things in front of my nose" and punctuate his thoughts by throwing the closest object to his right hand at my face. I was very fortunate none of those objects were sharp or were related to firearms, although he would often times, verbally wish he could have used said items. Note to self, try to avoid the use of weapons on your children, unless it's a play sword fight where the kid wins. My brother wasn't so lucky in that one, and seriously, who the hell puts a gun in a sock?

*NOTE: Easiest way to get me reeling? Find me a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and I can give you a visual of how I want to shove this book down my parents' throats.

5. Empathize with and acknowledge a child's feelings. Believe it or not, children actually have them. I've stopped counting how many times I've heard the statement, "Shut up, I don't care how you feel." For many years, I've kept myself very emotionally quiet, which at times backfires into a lot of anger and resentment. It also has, for better or for worse, shaped my philosophy behind everything I do: I strive for perfection because I am fearful someone's going to continue to insult my ineptitude. The by-products of this, however, seem to work in other people's favor. So I guess I'll continue doing a good job.

6. If one parent is doing something abusive, physically or mentally to a child, stand up for the child. I will never forgive my mother for allowing my dad to belittle me and my brother for the years I stayed in that house. In many cases, she would side with him and try to convince us he was right. You're just as guilty by allowing the crime to happen as the perpetrator. She wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed by any means, but there's things that just require common sense and not a lot of intelligence.

7. It is okay to ask for help. I grew up with my parents always saying, "Never ask any questions. Never ask for help because it only makes you look weak." So you've basically told me that if I can't solve a problem that a panic attack is in order? This is the part where I am thankful for my extended, "adopted" family that yanked me out of that situation and gave me the space to figure myself out. I have since then come to the conclusion that "family" and "blood" don't mix for me. By all means I'm removing the biological factor out of any family relations; there's no mandatory obligation to obey anyone because of the similarity in red bodily fluids. Treat me badly and you're out of my life. 'Nuff said.

8. Be glad your kid didn't grow up to be a slutty, drugged-up alcoholic. I will do my own celebration in that avenue because I am very proud of that. I have to admit that I did have a cookies-and-cream milkshake after going to the gym to lift weights and playing a hockey game the night before indulging in my sweetened dairy product. Sorry. No really, I am.

9. Hypocrites have no place in a family setting. Kids are pretty smart at identifying a double standard. They want If you're an upstanding "Christian" that focuses on respect and serving "God," then don't tell me that "you beat up gay people," "Koreans are the devil," "and white people will badly influence you with their American ways." And you know what? I wanted to do that book report on Martin Luther King, Jr. because I thought he was alright. I'm also sorry he was an African-American to boot. Running a household under the mantra, "Do as I say, not as I do" only creates an unstable platform of mistrust that children will want to escape as soon as possible, assuming that they have the inner strength to do so. I am one of the lucky few.

10. Allow your kids to grow up and be proud of their success. So I survived my conception phase twenty-seven years ago. Guess what? I'm a lot more than a grouping of cells now! Please refer to the aforementioned first sentence on idea #8. And Mom, trying to ground me while I have a driver's license and while you don't know how operate a vehicle backfires very quickly. Please stop treating me like I'm still an egg and accept the fact that I'm an adult.

So if you're a parent and reading this, just remember - with enough luck and attention to detail, you are less likely to be one of those parents who has a child that "lives 2500 miles away and never calls." My parents on the other hand, have made the willful decision to walk out during the best parts of my life because I didn't turn out the way their blueprints said I should have been.

I place a very well-known quote on the bottom of my blog that my folks had actually said to me in "constructive" critique of my first self-published Internet pages: "This website makes you looks stoopid!" (That's how my dad would say 'that word,' accent and all.) Their insults have continued to fuel my desire to rise above my adversities. As blunt as it is, I've got better things to do than listening to you, like making myself a better person and improving the world around me.