A few little rays of sunshine on parenting….

Following on from here, part of the front runner for most linked blog of ’05, a few thoughts on parenting, and on advice for parents behind the .

Firstly, no one knows what to do.

Because even the most fucked up parents can have cool, functional kids. And the most functional parents can have fucked up kids.

Notice that functional folks thank their parents, dysfunctional folks blame their parents, but it doesn’t matter what the parents did? Anyway.

Not only does no-one know what to do, I don’t think they can know what to do.

Partly because you while you may look at a dysfunctional person’s background and say “Well, when the parents did X, Y and Z, that’s what did it.” But it’s non- causal, because you can find someone who doesn’t juggle kittens for kicks whose parents did X, Y and Z.

Similarly, how the hell can you isolate good parenting of functional people? Is it only by default, do you parent well by just avoiding bad behaviours?

But the real kicker is, to find out The Secret of Good Parenting, you’d have to find someone with a completely un-fucked up personality.

I don’t know any, I don’t think I know anyone who knows any.

You know, someone who’s not only okay with themselves, but is demonstrably so to a jury of their peers.

Call me if you see one. I’ll whack the smug bastard.

And one other thing: the most useless advice on parenting ever can always be spotted due to the use of the phrase “It never did me any harm.”

How the hell do you know, who the hell are you to judge?

I can imagine them now. Charles Manson: “My mother beat me repeatedly with the flat iron. Never did me any harm!”

Harold Shipman; “I was forced to spend weekends alone with my senile grandmother who smelt of wee and made me wipe her arse for her. Never did me any harm!”

Rupert Murdoch; “My father taught me the value of money. Never did me any harm!”

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7 thoughts on “A few little rays of sunshine on parenting….

  1. Yeah, my Grandma was a great one for the “never did me/him/her/them any harm” philosophy. Well, I can vouch wholeheartedly that it DID do me harm, all of it. Doesn’t have to be physical to cause harm. And just because it isn’t harmful to A, doesn’t mean it isn’t highly emotionally toxic to B. She was the woman who thought it completely normal that her class teacher would hit primary school kids over the head with a cricket bat if they lost their place in the group read-out-loud session. When my kids play up, I can hear myself shouting some of the things she shouted at me . Yes, it did do me harm.

  2. No one knows the One True Secret of Good Parenting, true, but you don’t have to throw up your hands. You can learn things, make educated guesses. You can look at damaged people (including, if applicable, yourself), and the things their parents did, and you can draw reasonable conclusions. You can point to behaviors and say, “Dragging your 5-year-old daughter to bars so you can hang with your buddies, while never engaging with her as a child, is probably a bad idea. I can try not to do that.” Were there other factors in that child’s dysfunction? Almost certainly. Might another child have been affected less adversely? Maybe. But that’s not an excuse to assume that nothing you do matters. That’s just another version of the “never did me any harm” excuse. The main thing is to not fall into the trap of overcompensating, of fearing that any trivial mistake will utterly derail your child’s development. That leads to paralysis and/or smothering. It’s a balancing act between acknowledging that you do have a profound affect on your children (and acting accordingly), and acknowledging that some things will always be out of your control.

      1. Yeah, but, for the main part, most of the advice you’ll be given won’t be about the big stuff (don’t hit your children, teach them how to read, write and do math, never let them balance your household budget unsupervised), it’s about breast vs bottle (which, in the long term, doesn’t matter as much as, say, talking to your children, frex*) or thumb sucking, or, heaven forbid, letting a three year old have a happy meal occasionally. Or else it will be value judgments of parenting “choices” that aren’t really choices at all (“Why thank you, we didn’t stop at two because we want a small family, but because the last pregnancy nearly killed my girlfriend, thanks.”) I stayed at home with my first child when his mother went back to work because the alternative was trying to live on £350 a month, not because it was trendy, modern or anything but necessary. And yes, I’m glad I had that first year with my boy at home. But it wasn’t exactly a choice. Fact is, though, that as a father, you still get praised like a clever dog by everyone except your partner for making through a day when neither of your kids ends up in emergency. Any time you look after your kids when their mother is out is automatically “Babysitting.” What the frick? If I’m babysitting, where’s my ten quid an hour and uncomfortable lift home then? Anyway, I’ve descended into incoherent rambling when I should be working… * before we get further into that snafu, yes, I think breast is best, but you can still be an excellent parent who uses formula, you can be a lousy parent who breast feeds. It’s good, but not that important, in the long run. IMVOO, people who react violently to bottle feeders need to rearrange their priorities.

  3. Call me if you see one. I’ll whack the smug bastard. Sadly, such people (when you find them) demonstrably and obviously deserve not to be smacked, and so one is left with no choice but to smack oneself instead, or simply stand in a corner and whimper a bit. I suspect that Pterry’s characterization of Corporal/Captain Carrot is based on someone he knows personally…

    1. actually, I often say that of people: so perfect, you don’t even mind that he’s perfect. I hate him, because I can’t hate him for anything. So, yeah, I’d hate myself for smacking them in the chops, but hey, I’m fucked up.

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