Anyone can become a parent. And of course in our society we’re suppose to respect how other people parent except in cases of societally recognized parenting faux pas such as teaching one’s child to roll joints or obvious physical abuse. Floridian headlines notwithstanding. We all have our threshold.
I think letting kids watch endless Disney movies and letting them eat fast food is child abuse. Making them conform to gender stereotypes is abusive. Letting them listen to mainstream crap is just as bad as feeding them transfats. So I preface this whole thing with saying, I realize my standards are a bit higher. But in my favor, my method of parenting has yielded intelligent inquisitive children who have great critical thinking skills, big hearts, and cultivated talents. I’m not the tiger mom. Nor am I bringing up bebe but I will say that the favorite buzz phrase is “Mommy doesn’t allow entitled American children in this house, so just stop it now.”
Which is why, of course, sending them to school was always going to be problematic. I’ve often marveled at the comments of complete strangers and other parents who’ve observed my children. Invariably I am told by people things like this:
“Normally, I hate children and hate being around them but yours are wonderful. If I knew they could be this way I would have had a child.”
Strangers on public transportation and restaurants:
“I just want to tell you , your kids are so well behaved. You should be proud.”
Friends and family:
“Your kids are so smart! I bet that’s because you’re a teacher. How do you get them to join into regular conversation.”
Once the soon to be moronic wife of an old friend said:
“You’re kids are so respectful and smart –what parenting books did you read? What methods do you follow?”
At the time, I had to be nice to wife to be so I held my tongue and played hostess. But I wanted to say, I’ve never read any book on parenting. I just followed a simple belief: If you’re going to bother to have children (and I’m staunchly pro-choice so I definitely CHOSE to have children when I did and not a moment before), then fucking be there and be present, idiot. Granted the obtuse bride to be was excessively white in upbringing and values and her own kid was bouncing off my walls like my house was a trampoline. She’d brought two parenting guides with her for her 48 hour stay at my house. By hour three I was wishing both her and her smugly non-vaccinated child whooping cough or at the very least measles. She’d just dragged her poor child across the country with inconsistent bedtimes or itinerary or potential replacement fathers. He seemed a bit tired and confused and I didn’t need a book to make that assessment.
Honestly. Parenting is not rocket science. Here’s my secret too small to make an ebook guide: You have to remember that your children are people. You have to remember that what you do with them now will follow them later. Children take a long time to get over things. They need consistency and security–however you envision that. They need nutritious meals and an 8 pm bedtime. They need the TV to be on less than one hour a day. They need to be okay with solitude and not feel the need for constant entertainment. They need to have electronic games kept to less than a half hour a day. They need a lust for learning. They need to feel they excel and/or are passionate about at least a couple things. Don’t let them watch R rated movies at the age of 2 or anything with a shitty script. Don’t give kids 10,000 choices and expect it all to go well. Don’t treat them like they’re your best friend or the center of your universe unless you want them to not respect you and walk all over you. They need not to be dragged through serial month long relationships whereupon they meet a new potential dad and lose him before the next full moon. And they should never have parents on meth. Follow those rules and they’ll at least read at grade level and even be able to do Common Core math.
There it is. That’s my ebook. You’re welcome. Some people say we are strict. I don’t think we are. I mean, we’re both Mexican American. We were once Catholic with Jewishness in there. We understand the functions of both guilt and shame. I lived in both Japan and Germany for goodness sake—I know discipline, honor, and shame and what well-behaved children look like.
People used to ask me ‘what do you do when you’re kids throw a tantrum’? To which I’d answer, “they aren’t allowed to throw tantrums so they don’t do it. We just don’t do that. I look at them and say , ‘Hey! Garcias don’t do that.’ And they stop immediately. They have witnessed many other children throwing down shitty behavior and are equally appalled by it. They get why we raised them the way we did.
But part of that’s a lie. Because you cannot keep your child from being exposed to other people’s bad parenting.
My community is plagued—as I’m sure most communities with an over abundance of parenting manuals and parents pretending their kids shit gold– with kids no one ever said no to. And normally when my kids and I witness such behavior, we just whisper to each other their future: medium security prison inmate, bad cop, Republican party operative, etc. But sometimes it’s impossible to ignore because that kid is trying to hit my daughter, or pinch her, or tell on her when she uses self-defense. It becomes a bit much at times. And there’s no recourse other than homeschooling in the middle of the forest far away from predatory entitled brats whose parents give them iPads in their Easter Baskets while my kids get eggs and chocolate from the Easter Bunny. We of the mild mannered child cannot win this battle.
As long as we live in a culture that prizes frat boy behavior my daughter will continue to be harassed by this little urchin whose parents once told me that they were not willing to reprimand him because ‘children need to explore their whole personalities’ and that my wish for civility ‘attempts to squelch his personality.’
My only breath of clarity is this child is universally hated by rational kids and adults a like for his rotten behavior. No one has ever told me that my kids can’t accompany me anywhere. Sometimes people pull me aside and say “the party is for adults and your kids–your kids know how to behave.” Well of course they do.
My only recourse is the future. HIs parents have money. I imagine the kid flunking out of a good school, finishing up at a shitty private one. He’ll be the kid in the dorms that sells the good drugs. Until he’s caught and grandparents have to bail his ass out. He’ll be the boy who claims it was consensual when it wasn’t. They’ll settle out of court with the girl’s parents. And he’s adventurous and dangerous. With any luck he’ll climb El Capitan in flip flops and fall.