Everybody knows the I Hope you Dance song and the Pick More Daisies poem and even a good number of people know Paul Harvey’s I wish for you speech. I’m a sucker for a “good old days” number. So I guess it’s no shocker, I’ve got my own thoughts on the matter. I feel kinda like Sue on Glee. Yes, I’m aware I don’t have children and yes, I’m aware that it’s none of my business, but has that ever stopped me? Hell, no. And so this is how Sue/Bolton sees it:
I ask you if you’re lucky enough to have a normal, healthy child: please teach your children to tie their shoes. No, really, I swear I know a million 13 year olds who can’t tie a bow. Break out the bunny ears, my friends. I also want you to read books to your son or daughter like Dr. Seuss, Twas the Night before Christmas, Sandra Boyington, and Mercer Mayer. Sneak in some Judy Blume and Gary Paulson when they’re older. And while you’re at it, make them do flashcards with you in the car on the way to grandma’s until they have their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts memorized. An old fashioned sing-a-long with the iPod sans headphones might be good, too, especially if you can teach your kid the words to the Star Spangled Banner or Born in the USA. And yes, they need to visit grandma and grandpa because they need to learn where they got their smartass personality and big thighs from and they might just learn a little about ancient history like TVs before remote control and cars with AM radios, let alone the fact that it might be good to respect your elders and help out old people with household chores. It’s called responsibility and it’s not a bad thing. Perhaps they could even learn how to set the table and eat at it occasionally. You know with the fork on the left side and the knife and spoon married together on the right with the knife facing in so nobody gets cut? Yeah, I half worry you don’t remember that either.
You can say I’m harsh, but I’m not. I’m nice to people I’d rather not be nice to because my mom and dad taught me that killing someone with kindness is the best way to handle it and if they get a deathly virus because I had to be that kind to overcompensate for their assholism then so be it, but learning the golden rule is pretty important. Taking them to church sure wouldn’t hurt, but I’m not forcing a lifestyle on you. I’m just suggesting you do it my way because it’s the right way. Have realistic, high expectations for them because that’s what they need.
And listen, I get that you want to give your kids all the things you didn’t have like the real Barbie corvette, a cabbage patch doll, or the beebee gun from Christmas Story. Believe me, I can understand the concept, but don’t forget to give them what you did have, too. Give them love, laugh at them good-naturedly, and buy them notebooks, new pencils, and cool pens for school, maybe even a computer, but don’t give them everything. Every time they want something that you’re tempted to give them because your parents didn’t buy, or couldn’t afford to buy, for you, say, “Honey, I love you so much and want you to have the best in life and because I love you, I’m not buying this for you. If you want it, you can earn the money yourself or save up for it, but I will put that exact amount of money in your college fund today.” After you’ve said that 500 bajillion times, they will say it for you while rolling their eyes in the back of their heads, but they’ll know 2 things – my parents aren’t planning on killing me off when I’m mouthy and horrible in my teenage years because they’re planning for my college and my parents want me to get a good education so I’m not living in their house for the rest of their lives. Mmm… what a concept.
Teach them to do what you’re doing whenever you’re doing it (minus doing “it” of course) – whether it’s cooking, scooping crap, laundry, or suduko. That’s how they learn to be well-rounded human beings. And please, I beg of you, take them places besides the soccer field and the baseball diamond. I’m all for you taking them to sporting events, but don’t forget to go to the free stuff in your area like the kool-aid festival and the ice sculpture competition in the park. It’s called culture – even redneck Olympic game events are cultural – they count, they may scar your child for life like you were when you saw JR get shot on Dallas, but that’s okay. Some experiences in life teach us what we want to be and some teach us what we don’t want. Both are important.
Here’s the thing: life ain’t always gonna be sunshine and lollipops. Your kids are going to figure that out pretty quick if they live with you. The goal is to teach them that life sucks but you make the best of it and handle it without vices like drugs, abuse, or taxidermy (lol). Even though they may never be rich and famous, they will live a good life respected by their peers and you.
And maybe somewhere along the way, you’ll introduce them to Paul Harvey, sing them I hope you dance, and take them to pick more daisies, or maybe you’ll throw snowballs at them so they learn to duck, hike up a mountain with them, or eat cookie dough batter from the bowl with them. I’ll leave that up to you. After all, it’s really your problem, not mine.
But when they’re successful adults, feel free to say, “I told you so” and walk away with a smile on your face, as will I.