Thursday, November 26, 2015

Finally, Somebody Gets It.

In the waning hours of this Thanksgiving day I have found something new to be thankful for. Finally, somebody somewhere "gets it".  The article, from

College Students Call Police, Seek Counseling After Seeing Mouse

The quote that gives me hope:
"We have to give our children the freedom, which children have always enjoyed in the past, to get away from adults so they can practice being adults, that is, practice taking responsibility for themselves."
Well, YEAH. That's exactly what every sane parent has said for the entirety of human history, both written and forgotten.

Look folks. As a parent I've always been very open about this; and I'll take as an example that cute little rodent in the photo.  We've kept a variety of pets, including his kind. A lot of parents will tell you that a pet is a "family member". That may be so, but if they stop there, then they have next to no idea whatsoever what a pet is for. Likewise if they stop at saying, "It's to teach our kids responsibility". That's a partial answer. There are many more effective ways of doing that.

You know the overriding reason we gave pets to our children? 

It's because they die.

Of course, that's not why we as adults keep pets. We don't need to be taught responsibility, and we're well-acquainted with death, but we continue to have cats or dogs because we want them. We enjoy their emotional attachments (if any, depending on the pet), and we enjoy the responsibility of caring for others. Pets, to an adult, are often surrogate children.

But those reasons aren't why we give them to children. It's because children need practice being adults; and the most adult thing you will ever face in your entire life is the funeral of your parents. This is something for which you need practice. Unless you're adopting a young Galapagos tortoise, elephant, or parrot, the chances are almost certain that a pet acquired for a toddler will not survive the child's adolescence. It's going to die, and that child is going to have to suffer a loss. It is your job as a parent to make sure that they can weather that loss properly... because if they can't deal with the death of the family mutt, then they will be absolutely useless when you die.

That's your One Big Job as a parent. You can name anything you want, and it's all shit compared to this ONE parental task. Your children must be equipped to survive YOU.

Pets are practice.

That's not all they are, surely; but it is certain that unless your dog is Rin Tin Tin rescuing little Billy from the oncoming train, the most important thing that pet will do is establish a strong emotional connection to your child, then die.

Run that through your head a few times. Then realize that the rest of childhood is the same. Everything your kids do, every game they play, is practice for adulthood. And they're not going to get it from helicopter parents who hover and supervise and structure, and treat them like little Lego boys and girls in a little Lego city, being posed and moved at the parents' whims.

When children are told, they never decide. And if they never are allowed to make poor decisions, they never learn how to deal with them, or recover from them, or how to deal with a setback. Today we have sports with no winners. That's a sad, sad thing, because the people who love this idea don't seem to understand the most important thing about sports. Think about it: in a tournament, there's a winner... and then there's everybody else. If there are 20 participants, there will be 19 non-winners. Everybody who plays sports loses. Not everybody wins. So what do you think might be more important, hmmm? Learning to win? Or learning how to lose? And how do you expect your children to deal with anything that doesn't go their way if you've never put them in a situation where they must learn how to lose?  Grantland Rice once said, “It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.” He wasn't wrong, but his quote misses the bigger truth: It's about how you deal with the win or loss.

Back off. Seriously. We have colleges and universities that are now filled with the product of completely well-intentioned, but idiotic, brain-dead, and thoroughly incompetent parenting. I really don't think it can be described differently. Give your kids chores and responsibilities and consequences for failing to meet them; but otherwise, just back off. Let kids be kids, give them unstructured time for which they are responsible; and let them fight the little battles and endure the little hurts and suffer the little losses that they need to fight, endure, and suffer in order to grow into proper men and women. Don't let your kids grow up to be like this batch. Just don't.

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