Wanted: One authoritarian individual, chronologically (if not intellectually and emotionally) of an adult age, to set a bad example for their children and for other parents. Must be able to be verbally abusive, short-tempered, and rude to a variety of other people, with or without advanced notice. Interruptive communication style preferred, ability to outright ignore is a plus. Must be willing to have whatever reaction seems appropriate for the time, with no regard for others. The ability to set and maintain a double standard is required. Strong preference for those who are self-centered and too busy to care about anyone else's feelings. No previous experience or training is necessary, but knowledge of corporal punishment is a plus.
Would you ever hire such a person? Would you ever date them? Would you ever even talk to them? And would you, under any circumstances, and regardless of where you are on your own parenting journey, put that person in a position to actually be responsible for the well-being of anyone else, let alone a child? Of course you wouldn't. You would never tolerate it, would never even allow that kind of negativity into your life at all.
The irony is that these crappy parents wouldn't tolerate either; in fact ... they won't even tolerate such behavior from their children, let alone from another adult.
But [kids] don't have a choice.
But Oh, If They Did
If kids did have a choice, if they did have the ability to write a job description for an ideal parent, what might that look like?
Maybe like this:
Wanted: Someone to love me, to play with me, to listen to me, to help me, to comfort me, to believe in me, to read with me, to tuck me in at night, to be real with me, to partner with me, and to like me. No experience or prior training required, but must be willing to grow and have a strong desire to improve. Oh, and it helps if you like Vanilla Wafers and make good sundaes.
It's really just that simple, isn't it?
Kids, in my opinion, don't expect a lot from their parents. They see the world in simple terms: fun or not, good or bad, happy or sad, etc. And because they are so free in their thoughts, unencumbered by the "benefit of perspective and experience" that drives so much fear and caution in adults, they are free to explore the infinite details of their worlds. Their world involves newness, and wonder, and freedom, and possibility, and joy. And so many adults do the exact opposite to their children - they make them live in a world of experience and training, and realism, and restriction, and probability, and structure - mostly designed for the convenience of the parent, not for the benefit of the miraculous child.
So What's Next?
I am not the ideal parent all the time, and I know it. But there are so many kids out there who suffer at the hands of parents who simply suck, that it breaks my heart. Some of these parents suck because they just don't care - they are choosing to suck, and they don't want to do anything more. But some of these parents are simply struggling - they may want to do better, but don't see a way to do it any differently than they are. I want to do something for those people. Something big maybe, or something small; something that helps all of them or just one at a time. But something, anything, has got to give so that more parents have the tools and perspectives to treat their children with love and respect and dignity. Because, after all, that's all our children are really asking of us.
Editor's note: This article is excerpted from one that originally appeared on Jeff's blog. You can read the article in its entirety here.