There are a lot of things that irk me about the parenting advice world, but nothing quite ticks me off like the inane, complicated, Danny-Tanner-esque conversations all these multitudes of parents are apparently having with their children.
And never in these novel-length, concerned-but-kind talks, do the authors give any indication of the complete lack of fucks given by the children being spoken at.
I mean, you read this shit in a book, or hear it on audio, and you picture an ever diligent, soft-spoken mother, leaning over her heretofore tantrumming child (who now appears to be totally calm and involved in the conversation, listening, nodding, you name name), and spouting out joyous paragraphs of wisdom and light–about decency, humanity, love, apology.
We learn that these parents aren’t perfect. They have to atone for their lapses in judgement. We learn that even when they lose it, and yell, they come back to their corner of calm, and their kid is apparently totally down for listening to every drippingly caring word that comes next out of their faceholes.
We never are told that in reality, mom is shouting these words to be heard over a child rolling her eyes, stomping her feet and humming. That the kid immediately turns around to the television (which in parenting book land is never on, but come on) and ignores these frosting-coated life lessons. We never see the kid interrupt the grand gesture to explain her side of the story yet again. We never see that the parent could possibly be saying all these things (which they’re not), but the kid isn’t hearing it.
I cannot with this. Enough. When I pick up a parenting book, I need help. I already know how to wax parenting poetical on my children about how everything would be in an ideal world, I don’t need your made-up garbage dialogue. I need to know what you REALLY do.
With that in mind, here are my favorite pseudo-conversations, word for word, from a parenting book I just read.
In a situation where a child was rude and was not allowed to go to her friends party, this book says, no, let the child go to the party because it has nothing to do with the rudeness. Conversation:
“We would talk about it, addressing your rudeness right then and there.”
“You mean like the other day when I slammed my bedroom door because I was mad at you, and we talked about it, and I wrote about it in my journal?”
Yes. I’m sure that’s what happened. That’s always how those talks go in my house.
On lasagna a child refused to eat:
“You know, make you ____, mommy did try to make you something you would like.”
“I know you did, mommy. Thank you. But next time don’t try so hard. I like all my vegetable separate, not together in a lasagna.”
Yes, my children often tell me not to try so hard to please them. This is totally realistic.
During a penmanship lesson:
“That’s so mean, mommy. I was really trying my hardest. It hurts me that you don’t like my handwriting.”
“Thank you for sharing your feelings. You don’t have to change your handwriting if yo essence u don’t want to. The more important thing for you to realize is that your handwriting is not ____. Your hair is not ____. Your clothes are not _____. Your face is not _____. Your grades are not _____. None of these are ____. You are more than any of this, beyond all beautiful, which is your essence. This essence can never be ugly, stupid, or inferior. It’s always fine just as it is. So if I, or your teacher, or another kid tells you your hair is ugly, or your handwriting is sloppy, remember that since it’s not the real you, and only a temporary way of expressing yourself, it doesn’t define you. Perhaps then it won’t be so hurtful anymore if I suggest you might want to write in your usual neat way. But I leave that up to you.”
Kid is probably like…what the hell just happened? I fell asleep two sentences into that.
When a child doesn’t do the dishes or some other thing she’s been told to do:
“Is there some reason you can’t fulfill my request? I need you to honor what I’m asking and put the dishes away.”
What to say instead of “you can be anything you want to be”:
“If you are simply yourself, instead of copying another person or trying to be what someone else thinks you should be, you will find a way to express who you are in the world. By just being you, you will create a path for your life that’s not only realistic, but that honors who you are.”
Sigh. Okay. But that’s for books when the kids are old enough to absorb that information and actually seek it out. Right now, can we just stick with, ‘you can be anything you want to be?’
I’m just…these are only a very few of the long, convoluted conversations parents everywhere are supposedly having with their children. Just not me.