Here is what I learned: your kids always seem bad until you spend time with a friend’s children. Your first carpool or play date is one of the most reassuring events of parenthood.
Parents have to accept that they are indispensable to their kids one moment and an embarrassment the next. Kids roll their eyes in disgust, and then can be super sweet to you, usually right before they ask you for money.
My dad was sent (he would say “sentenced”) to military school. Back then, you could tell a kid what to do and not buy him a car at age 16 without being arrested for cruelty by agents of Child Protective Services. On more than one occasion, I threatened my son with military school. I said it would not be one of them fancy ones, but one with a checkered record that had to advertise in the back of Southern Living.
Every time my son left the house, I reminded him he could be tried as an adult.
Raising girls is different, and much easier. All a dad has to do is be willing, each month, to go watch a new movie set against the backdrop of competitive cheerleading with them. If you just do that, they will think it is the nicest thing one person has done for another since the Underground Railroad.
Buying each other gifts is also an important part of bonding. Kids are pretty easy to buy for, but I can prove challenging. My kids grapple each year with the question of what to get for a man who only leaves the house to go to the liquor store.
The nightmare for a father is having a daughter who is a strippernot the Buckhead, “working my way through law school” kind with a reasonable intellect, but the out-near-the-airport kind who has openly given up on life and harbors resentment toward her dad.
You do not want to instill resentment; that never ends. I enjoy reading the female same-sex marriage announcements in the New York Times and trying to determine which set of parents they are trying to get back at the most.
Parents have to treat all their kids equally. I have two beautiful kids. My wife reminds me that we have three total, but I like to keep one of them guessing. Though we “love all our kids the same,” we all know we just would not call 911 quite as quickly if a certain one of them went missing.
Parenting kids is very different today in this era of social media. Some twenty percent of parents punish their kids by keeping them off Facebook. I punished mine by “friending” them on Facebook. That worked better.
To complicate matters, studies show that increasing Facebook use results in kids smoking and drinking more. We grew up before the personal computer, when we just hung out in a friend’s basement when his parents were gone and smoked and drank. It was a simpler time. Kids do not want to work at things anymore; they play hide-and-go-seek using Google Earth.
The good news is that a study found that fathers spend twice as much time with their kids as they did in the 1960's. The bad news is that they do so because they are at home, unemployed.
I had my kids watch the excellent documentary film on our education system’s decline, “Waiting for Superman,” while they were home for the holidays. In explaining to them what Superman did, I had to explain what a phone booth was and how Superman dashed into one to change into his tights to go out and save the world. Then my kids explained to me that no single man in tights of that age in New York would have a romantic interest in Lois Lane. So I guess parents and kids can learn from each other.
Since schools do not seem to teach facts much anymore, preferring to indoctrinate their students, many of our kids are not hirable. They have been shielded from reality by being taught in envy-based courses that if anyone else works for something, it is their lawful right to try to take it. If you aren’t vigilant, they will come out of college with a degree in bitterness and $100,000 in student loan debtor worse, a degree in Women’s Studies.
Blame starts early if you allow it. Teachers are even using dolls in first grade classrooms to help the kids point to the spot where Republicans touched the economy and ruined it.
Two things are sure in this world: the earth rotates around the sun and kids will take the easy way out if you let them. And I am not so sure about the earth rotating around the sun thing.
The best thing we can do for our kids is to instill in them a work ethic, not a sense of entitlement, and then let the chips fall where they may. Since kids are a perpetual personification of parenting, we all should do our best. And when in doubt, do what your parents did.
Ron Hart, a libertarian syndicated op-ed humorist, award-winning author & TV/radio commentator can be reached at Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit www.RonaldHart.com.
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