when my kids are playing out in my yard, I stand there and stare at them
laughing and giggling, running around, all hopped up on Popsicle sugar
rushing through their veins, and I just smile to myself.
lasts a moment or two though. I count my lucky stars for a sec, watching my own
spawn having a blast out in the sunshine of the day, and then, more often than
not, the creepy shit comes crawling out of the mid-'70s wood paneling that
surrounds my feeble mind.
I stand there in the shadows of my own home and imagine some sick child
molester come rolling slow down the alley behind my yard. He pulls up in his
beat-up old van (it's always an old van on TV and in the movies) and gets out,
a grizzled pot-bellied freak of nature with the scent of a prison steaming off
his snakeskin arms, his warm and easy smile the surest sign that you're
dealing with an absolute devil.
skip the part where he slips one of my own kids into the van. It's just too
much. Instead, I simply fast-forward a moment or two to when the dude pulls
away without any racket, without any bank robbery tire screeches or anything
like that. The van turns the back corner by the church, rolls up the side
alley, and disappears forever into the ether of an overly concerned daddy's
eternal suicide. Because, let's face it: If that happened to one of my kids,
I'd kill myself over and over again, every damn day, until there was nothing
left to kill anymore. Until even the possibility of a memory of me or my name
or the fact that I once existed was erased from all time and space. Then I snap
out of it and watch my kids flinging dirt around with the plastic shovels I
gave them last spring.
What a drag
it is, this parenting thing.
it wrong. I'm doing it wrong. Living in fear, waiting around for the worst to
come slipping down the alleys of our world, even when there's a better chance of
fucking Bigfoot doing a running jump out of a standing cornfield and crashing
down through your windshield at 75 mph.
I don't want
to be that dad anymore.
We're going to raise a neurotic generation. And with that, our own kids will probably end up
being the ones who finally bring the whole world crashing down once and for
Jennifer Senior's recent Science of Us article, "We
Live in an Age of Irrational Parenting," was a brilliant little piece of work. If you haven't
seen it by now, well, that's just evidence that we are mostly
being exposed to a heap of terror and warnings on the Internet and in the media
anymore, and that the more rational/thoughtful stuff just isn't trickling down
like it ought to.
Senior shines a concise beam on the fact that parenting in the 21st century—and quite frankly BECAUSE of the 21st century—has gotten downright
ridiculous. Inspired by the story of a couple in Maryland who were recently
turned in by other parents and cited by police for letting their 10- and
6-year-old kids walk alone to a park, the article moves us through a seriously
alarming trend—oh hell, "trend" isn't even the right word. "Lifestyle phenomenon" is more apt. A phenomenon in which modern first-world
parents are overextending the traditional roles of parenting to include
treating our own kids like rare and priceless jewels that need to be kept under
strict and unflappable watch.
words, even as parents with good intentions, we're actually turning into
overbearing freaks. The radical protection of our children from the ghouls
and goblins of a world brainwashed and mortified by the easy-flowing,
never-ending stream of cyber reports about kidnapping and child abuse and
breastfeeding mistakes and bullying and allergies and organic baby food has
kind of turned this parenting generation of ours into a martial land of moms
and dads whose idea of preserving their children's purity, health, intellect and even their life has come to define the parent's actual identity, their
reason for existing.
A lot of
this modern parenting has a lot less to do with children than it does with the
people in charge of raising them. That's where
the trouble starts. That's where
the shit hits the proverbial fan.
and I don't really even know how it happened. I'm not what you would call a
helicopter parent, I don't think, although my ex-wife, the mother of my three
kids and current girlfriend (all the same person!) sometimes says I am. But I
will admit that I'm a guy who felt moved to spiritual heights by the births of
my kids and took it very very seriously. Looking back now, I had just left 15
years of touring in a rock band and transitioned directly into being a dad. I
think that has a lot to do with it. I think most parents these days tend to
view becoming a mom or dad as something that also demands of them that they give
up or sacrifice a huge part of their younger selves in order to live their
lives in the name of love. And that's cool. That's noble and sounds good on
But as I
take a look back over my shoulder at these past six years, I can honestly say
that it was also one of the worst goddamn things I ever promised myself—this
idea that I was going to live my life for parenting and never ever fail my
precious babies in any way, shape or form.
What a bunch
of bull. That's inhuman and unnatural. We take ourselves so seriously,
thinking for whatever reasons that we simply MUST do better than our parents
did for us. We can't possibly feed our kids the tumor-causing TV dinners they
fed us or let our precious angels ride a bike with training wheels without
being decked out in a helmet and pad set—a set that used to be reserved for one man
and one man alone, and that man's name was Evel Knievel.
insult to our parents, though. Most of us were raised without the cloud of
over-parenting hanging over our heads and most of us turned out fine. Hey, I
know I did. I'm wildly handsome; I make enough money to survive; I enjoy a
variety of activities including fishing and reading; I am a loyal if somewhat
cantankerous lover; I have a liberal heart and medieval peasant's work ethic; and
I can cook/clean/fix things without complaint. I can also drive a
motor vehicle and have no police record at 43 years of age.
what, y'all? I came from
a kingdom of divorce and spanking and roast beef fat-eating and a dad who was
MIA for 25 years and teenage weed experimentation and rock 'n' roll songs about
sex and Satan and I started drinking soda when I was like 3 and I drank it
hardcore for a long time after that and I was around a lot of older smokers and
they died and so did most of the older people who didn't smoke, too, and so
what does all of that say about me and my single mom?
sucked at life? That we
weren't good enough for this world? I don't know
I had such a
wonderful youth. I was out of the house on summer mornings and my days were
filled with penny candy and sugary drinks and hoagies with 790,000 grams of fat
and crayfish hunting and baseball games and bike riding and cursing and hanging
with my friends and our lives were insanely good even though we'd end up miles
away from our homes and our yards every single day.
My mom still
loved me as much as you love your kid, as much as I love mine. She just wasn't
brainwashed by a world that had come to define itself by selling itself the
fear of failure as a very real possibility when it comes to parenting. She
wasn't a parent who defined herself by showing off or constantly trying to
outdo the next mom down the block.
raised two boys on her own by just being there for them, without pretension and
without even thinking about if she was doing the right thing for us. She
just did what she felt in her heart and her gut. She just acted like a parent,
pure and simple.
something we are losing now. When it comes to parenthood today, way too many
adults are making it all about themselves. And there is
something seriously whack about that, don't you think?