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Parenting from the Dark Ages

It seems like no matter what happens, parents never change. Attributes of people’s parents include:

  • Being woefully out of touch with current trends.
  • Somehow having no recollection at all of what being young is like.
  • The belief that marriage is still of utmost relevance.
  • Misogyny (especially the self-loathing internalized-inferiority mother).
  • Inexplicable racism that only seems to appear when all the Arabs are out of the room.

Obviously not everyone’s parents are like that, but certainly most people’s seem to be. I actually have a cousin who recently became a parent and the change is startling; in a scant few years she went from a partying sorority chick stereotype to a doting, paranoid carbon copy of everyone’s mom. Unfortunately she was off-screen (and out of town) for most of this transformation, so the details are still a bit sketchy; presumably a cocoon was involved at some point.

My point here is that no matter how enlightened people think we are, we still have godawful parents. It’s just a fact of life. Parents are human; they’re always going to be really bad at something. They’re going to make mistakes over the years that will eventually result in a fucked-up kid — like you. Nobody is ever properly prepared to raise a child. Everyone just kind of wings it. And hell, if your parents broke up when you were younger, there’s a good chance that it was your fault, no matter what your therapist said. Kids are stressful, and stress ruins relationships.

But in the end, this is the best we’ve got, and how bad could it be? Parents are human, after all; they’ve got to be good at something. I wouldn’t want to trust the government with educating parents on proper parenting, anyway, given how much they’ve managed to ruin the school system.

There is one thing I’d like to bitch about, however: expectations.

Fact: Your kid is not going to be an astronaut. Your kid is almost certainly going to be part of the 99% of people who are utterly worthless and will be forgotten by history. Hardly anyone will ever give as much of a shit about your kid as you do. That doesn’t give you an excuse to “try harder” and motivate your kid to be the most incredible person ever born, because of yet another annoying fact: kids are human. They’re going to fail. A lot.

It’s really been getting to me recently just how much these expectations can hurt the child, though. And I’m not just talking about careers and moral values, but basic issues of self-identity as well. This post about circumcision ties directly into this: parents get unnecessary and potentially harmful non-consensual surgeries performed on children because they think the kid will thank them later.

Repeat: Cosmetic surgery is performed on infants based on a fucking hunch. A case could be made for parents as psychopathic maniacs, stitching their kids into whatever shape they please because the voices in their heads say so. Now obviously that’s not what the intention is, but that’s what actually happens.

It applies just as much to other facets of parenting. Parents deck their kids out in pink or blue depending on their sex; buy them trucks or dolls and act shocked if they don’t like what they’re “supposed” to like; get them to play with other kids of the same class and social group; and teach them, firmly, consciously or not, that the world doesn’t want them for who they are, but for who they should be. I’m talking about sexism, mostly, though there’s that streak of homophobia in there too. The idea is for kids to be normal above all else; even if they’re also pressured to be incredible superhuman astronauts, they should do it in a conventional way.

How many people have parents who honestly explained why things were? For most people, their parents would come up with rules that should be followed “just because”. This blind adherence to authority may be helpful in the short term, but I dare you to find any legitimately successful people who got where they are by blindly deferring to others. If you want your kids to be independent, you have to teach them to think for themselves.

I’m trying not to bring my own parents into this post, since I do love them dearly and wouldn’t want to slander them on the internet. But draw your own conclusions and I won’t bother arguing.

Parents fucking suck.

Written by Likes to Ramble

1 Comment

  1. Jay · January 31, 2011

    There’s a problem with the fact that having children has nothing to do with the act of conceiving children, or relationships in general. Sex and marriage are inherently self-interested acts, and then bam! babies show up and the parents have no idea how to think of someone besides themselves for a change.

    I agree that parents are rarely prepared for being parents, especially not by society, but really, the onus is on them to prepare themselves. Usually this results in misdirected efforts: finances (GO TO COLLEGE) and health (GET CIRCUMCISED) and not much else. Heaven forbid people develop self-awareness or emotional diligence.

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