Dad and Buried - Always going further than most fathers
The parenting blog for parents who love their kids but hate parenting. Laugh at my mistakes, judge the judgers, and learn why being a parent is the best thing that's ever happened to you that you'll occasionally wish had never happened to you. Especially when you have a hangover.
Parenting makes you feel a lot of things: happiness, frustration, surprise, boredom, anger, joy, exhaustion. (Is exhaustion an emotion?)
But no one really talks about how sad it can make you.
Last fall, Mom and Buried and I took our first child-less vacation since before our seven-year-old was born. We had a blast, even while we were missing our little guys, and after seven nights away – and an entire final day spent on airplanes and in airports, we couldn’t have been more excited to get home that Saturday night.
It was 9pm, so The Hammer was in bed, but Detective Munch was still up to greet us at the door with hugs and kisses. It was a joyful reunion for all! For about an hour. Then things went south, fast.
I’m not going to throw my son under the bus. Yes, when he opened the door he cried out “Mommy!” and barely acknowledged me, but I’m used to being #2 but he’d had a long week of fun with his aunt and uncle and their kids, he was up late, hyper and excited to see us, and he’s only a little kid. Their moods are fluid.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise that it didn’t take him long to go from “I missed you!” to “I hate you!”, which he yelled at me when I told him it was time for bed.
The “I hate you!” didn’t make me sad – every decent parent learns to wear discipline-based resentment as a badge of honor. It was the entire ordeal: the long, frustrating attempts to get him to cooperate, the long, frustrating attempts to get him to say good night to his aunt and uncle and thank them for everything they did for and with him all week before they left in the morning, the long, frustrating attempts to get him to get into his PJs and go to bed.
By the end – despite not having seen him for a week, despite (presumably) having a bounty of goodwill stored up, despite understanding the mitigating circumstances that had his little 7-year-old brain overheating, and despite doing my best not to lose my temper – I was spent. I was frustrated and overwhelmed and disappointed – in him, and in myself. But most of all, I was just sad.
I don’t want to be the parent that blows up at his kids, especially when I haven’t seen them for a week. But despite my efforts to hold my frustration at bay, I ultimately couldn’t help myself. I’d had a very long day, and kids are maddening and overwhelming and exhausting and confounding, and it’s okay to lose it sometimes. It’s pretty much impossible not to.
Eventually I *had* lost my temper and yelled at him and taken away his iPad privileges and threatened to take away even more. It’s not that he didn’t deserve discipline in that instance – he definitely did – it’s just that it didn’t need to get that far. Not ever, but especially not on that night.
A situation that should have been nothing but happiness and affection instead brought out the worst in the two of us, not for the first time and not for the last.
That’s what makes me sad. He’s only seven and it’s bound to get even more challenging as he gets older; our communication (or lack thereof) is only going to get worse the more he realizes his dad has no idea what he’s doing! And I really don’t. I’ve always been honest about how hard this gig is, but just because I acknowledge that doesn’t mean I have any clue how to do it, or how to fix things after I’ve done it wrong.
I just know that I have to try.
Because I don’t like being sad. And I definitely don’t like being the reason my children are sad.
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader– Sorry, we have to go, it’s his nap time.
Mind-altering practices are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s) – What are sleep deprivation and constant screaming if not mind-altering practices?
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members – Sanctimommies, anyone? Parenting one-upman-ship, anyone? A.P.P. anyone?
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society – We think we’re the best, but we’re really the worst.
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. – Oh, you co-sleep? You’re still breastfeeding? You circumsized him?!
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group – Half the reason I started this blog was to prevent this from happening to me., to prevent myself from losing my identity and forgetting my friends. But it happens to all of us, to some degree, at least at first. You have to fight it! You need to be deprogrammed!
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members – “Have you started trying yet?” “When are you gonna pull the goalie?” You’re not getting any younger!” ONE OF US! ONE OF US!
The group is preoccupied with making money – If only because kids drain it all!
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities – Oh my god, the birthday parties. The play-dates. The Mommy and Me groups. The parenting blogs. IT NEVER ENDS.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members – How many non-parent friends do you have? Be honest.
The most loyal members (the true believers) believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group – The difference is that for parents, there IS no way to leave. Believe me, I’ve tried!
Sound familiar? Of course it does. Every single one of those things applies to parenting!
It breaks you down, it isolates you, it forces you to engage in bizarre new rituals (swaddling, bedtime, peekaboo) and adopt strange new terminology (“potty,” “binky,” baby talk). It drains your finances, makes you unrecognizable to friends and family, and fundamentally alters your priorities, all while limiting your interaction with anyone outside the cult and putting you in thrall to people who control your every thought and action.
There is no getting around it: Parenthood is a cult, and you’re a member.
Don’t feel bad. There are millions of us. And don’t fight it, just drink the Kool-Aid. (It was actually Flavor Aid, FYI.)
I’m not saying I’m a hero (I do replace the toilet paper a fair amount), but I do have some heroic qualities. All parents do.
Parenting requires superpowers. The same way emergencies case adrenaline to kick in and unlock heretofore unknown abilities when one is in danger, parenting reveals unknown reserves of strength, stamina, and, as my 7-year-old points out, invincibility.
He didn’t actually say that – he didn’t say anything, really, he just yelled “You’re the worst, I wish you weren’t my father!” but I survived that, and just a few minutes later, we were snuggling on the couch, watching a movie together.
So yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m invincible.
Every parent you know has some incredible skill. It’s part of the job. (It goes with the constant messes!)
Moms are hardcore multi-taskers, dads are stellar fixer-uppers, moms swoop in to help with homework math problems despite not having used geometry in 300 years, dads put together a mean Taco Tuesday even if it’s the only thing they know how to cook (hey, I can make chili too!), and when it comes to kid-related cleaning, it’s all hands-on deck.
Every parent is forced to lean on their special powers – and, often, a little Clorox – to survive the daily grind of child-raising. Those superpowers are needed to get past the grimy parts of parenting (i.e., when your kid says he can’t stand you, dirty diapers, spills at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, etc.), and make your way into the good stuff (i.e. movie snuggles, laughs, and making family memories): clean comes first, what comes next is incredible.
Especially if what comes next is a Pixar movie.
In order to celebrate the upcoming release of Incredibles 2 – the sequel to the Pixar classic, in which Mr. Incredible’s powers are pushed to the limit when he stays home to face his greatest challenge: surviving his toddler! – Clorox is teaming up with Disney to reveal parents’ superpowers. I was planning to ask Detective Munch what he thought my parenting superpower was, but before I could, he threw an epic fit.
I had told him he couldn’t play Nintendo or have a beer or sell his little brother to the circus (I can’t remember exactly what he wanted). He yelled his little lungs out but I stood my ground, weathered the storm, and survived, until we were on the couch for family movie night. It was then, when I was sitting on the couch, snuggling with my 7 year-old, that it occurred to me that I have superpowers.
I’m impervious to my son’s whining and tantrums, I’m invulnerable to his insults; he can’t defeat me! I’m too powerful! At least, that’s what I need him to believe.
Because I’m only as strong as my kids believe I am, which means I have to keep powering through these different phases, keep calling my kids’ bluffs, keep letting the fits and the insults and the lying and the whining bounce off me like Mr. Incredible. At least until they’re teenagers and they know better, at which point I only have to last until they leave for college…
The fact is, super powers or not, parenting is all about survival – as Mr. Incredible is about to learn. And to help you get through it, this summer, Disney and Clorox or offering some super prizes!
Visit Disney.com/bigcitysweeps to enter a Disney Pixar and Clorox sweepstakes to win a trip to NYC to see the coolest sights in the city and go on a super shopping spree at The Disney Store in Times Square. 25 first prize winners will receive an Incredibles 2 Clorox prize pack. You can enter online every day or text the word “BIGCITY” to 347639! Message and data charges may apply.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Clorox® but all opinions are mine alone.
This morning, I asked Detective Munch what he wanted for breakfast. He didn’t answer me.
You see, he was already whining about the fact that I’d asked him to get dressed before eating, because that’s not the way he usually does things, so it was perfectly understandable that he also collapsed to the ground as if he’d just gotten shot and was therefore ignoring my request for his breakfast order.
Parenting is fun!
We had a deadline – we have to get to the bus stop on time or everyone’s day is severely effed – so I had no choice but to move forward without him.
I proceeded to the kitchen to prepare a mini-bagel for my still-engaged-in-excessive-histrionics five-year-old, a breakfast choice to which he is typically quite amenable (not that recent history is a reliable indication of future behavior when it comes to a five-year-old, but I digress). I sliced, toasted, and buttered his breakfast, grabbed his milk, and deposited it at the table.
As I walked past him on my way to the shower, I let him know that his mini-bagel was ready, and then I closed – and locked – the bathroom door, because I could already hear a new round of protests beginning behind me and AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
A few minutes later, upon completion of my own morning routine, I exited the bathroom and was pleasantly surprised to find that Detective Munch had finally acquiesced to my unreasonable (despite the fact that I make the same exact one every single morning) request to change into his school clothes. I was also pleased, based on his aforementioned insistence on tackling his own morning routine in the proper sequence, that his bagel was gone.
I assumed that he’d eaten his breakfast prior to making his wardrobe change – so as to satisfy his burgeoning OCD – and naively attempted to verify this assumption.
“Did you finish your mini-bagel, bud?”
He replied, with acid on his tongue, “I threw it in the garbage.” THE BALLS ON THIS KID.
Without betraying my own frustrations (don’t believe Mom and Buried when she tells you that I was ‘laughably unsuccessful’ in not betraying my frustrations, or when she tells you that I ‘punched a wall and screamed “Good, because the garbage is where I’m going to put your favorite toys!”‘, Mom and Buried is a known liar), I calmly walked to the kitchen to confirm my son’s spiteful statement.
And confirm it I did, because he wasn’t joking.
There his mini-bagel sat – immaculate, uneaten, still moist from the butter I’d applied – atop the trash bin. Right next to any illusions I’d had about enjoying fatherhood.
Despite my strong desire to force him to go to school without any breakfast, I gave him a piece of cinnamon-raisin bread – NO, I WILL *NOT* TOAST IT, THE TIME FOR REQUESTS IS OVER! GET WHAT YOU GET AND YOU DON’T GET UPSET, MOTHERFUCKER! – and walked him (“sprinted with him” is more like it) to the bus stop.
By the time we arrived, we’d both already forgotten that apocalyptic breakfast, and any lingering resentment was either washed away in our daily ritual of multiple hugs and adorable hand gestures through the school bus window or had stealthily taken up residence in my growing ulcer.
At least it *was* washed away, until I got home and saw the bagel still sitting there on the top of the trash bin. Mocking me. Taunting me. No longer moist from the butter…
Last summer, on Facebook, I saw a photo of a sign some new parents made after having a baby, in which they demanded help around the house in return for time with their newborn. I wrote a post about it. I shared it on Instagram. People were divided.
Some, myself included, felt the sign was presumptuous, pretentious, obnoxious, and at the very least, tacky. Others felt that in a world of overbearing in-laws, rude guests, and oblivious people with no awareness of how to behave around new parents, the sign was necessary.
Maybe we’re both right. Because people don’t know how to act around new parents.
People love babies.
I don’t know why; I certainly don’t. Sure, they’re cute, but in a uniform way, and they don’t evince much by way of personality for at least three months. I’m always excited when a friend or loved one has a new kid – provided that person is not my wife! – and I’m happy to give the child a quick look-see, maybe even let her hold my finger for a second, but other than that, I’m good.
It seems I am an outlier. Many people react to the birth of a new baby like a shark reacts to blood. They get a sniff and they swarm. They must see the baby, they must smell the baby, they must hold the baby. Unfortunately, they mustn’t actually help with the baby because hey, that ain’t their baby, they’re just tourists! But they demand an audience with the baby.
Hence the need for the aforementioned sign.
Are there better ways to go about letting people know you are sick of them dropping by and expecting to be treated as honored guests when you just tore your nether regions and are now tasked with keeping the human equivalent of a Faberge egg alive by letting it chew on your nipples and steal your life-force than a sign that demands they do your housework and genuflect in your child’s direction? Yes, yes there are. But I get it.
People suck and they seem to lose all sense of decorum when there’s fresh new human around. Maybe you’re one of them? Maybe you see a birth announcement and can’t help yourself from sprinting to your friend’s house, lost in a fog of baby fever that robs you of all social skills, causes you to become an oblivious nuisance, and results in your friends resenting you?
Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
How To Help New Parents
Don’t advise.Unsolicited advice is the literal worst, especially when it comes to parenting. Unless you are the pediatrician, they’ve probably heard it before, or read about it already, or googled it last night. If they ask you something, answer, but don’t offer your pro tips, because more often than not, it’s obnoxious. Every baby is different, but no baby is more different than someone’s first baby because that baby is the world’s greatest baby and yours was trash you don’t get it, you can’t tell me nothing!
Don’t threaten. No parent wants to hear how things are going to get worse, least of all brand new parents for whom every day is a new challenge. During those first few months, the development comes some fast, the dreaded phases that you eventually associate with years (terrible twos, threenagers, etc.) move much more quickly than that. The last thing a new mom needs to hear is how much worse it’s going to be when the kid can walk, or talk, or drive, or drink. They are dealing with enough crap already (literally), save your horror stories.
Bring food. Even if it’s just for yourself; you best not be crashing some new parents’ house and expecting to be fed!
Reassure but don’t dismiss. There’s no way around the anxiety and uncertainty and second-guessing and general all-consuming fear that having a newborn brings. Is that sound normal? Is that smell normal? Of course it’s normal, almost everything – no matter how freaky or bizarre or scary it seems – is normal, including overreacting to all of it. Part of becoming a parent is internalizing that anxiety, using it as a tool, learning to filter out the noise and recognize the real issues. But that’s not something that can be taught; it can only be experienced. You can’t lecture or coach new parents into becoming veterans, they need the reps! So reassure them, but don’t dismiss their fears or patronize them for worrying about something small; nothing is small when you have your first baby to care for! It gets easier as it goes on, and for parents who have more than one kid, each one becomes less and less fragile. In fact, it can sometimes even be hard to remember those early days when everything was a potential crisis. And that’s how they get you have another one!
Bring booze. Trust me. It’s been a while. And they’re gonna need it.
Leave. Not immediately, because we love you and appreciate you and we treasure your presence in our lives. We want you to have a relationship with our child. But please don’t make us tell you to leave. Figure that shit out. If you feel like it’s been too long, it’s been too long. If you see us yawning or the conversation lulls or you’re suddenly left alone while we change the baby, or we drop any number of other hints that we need want to be alone, please don’t make us be the bad guys. Get out. Come back soon, but get TF out right now! And next time bring booze.
Everyone has grand plans for how they’ll parent. They’re going to do everything right, and be the perfect mom or dad, and raise the world’s best kid. Becoming a parent forces you to make sacrifices.
And then you have kids. And suddenly you’re in the shit. And when you’re in the shit, things change.
Instead of doing everything right, you start doing plenty of things wrong, making boneheaded parenting mistakes that are probably bad for them, and are definitely bad for you.
I do stuff for my kids that is just plain idiotic, merely because they sprang from my loins and I love them unconditionally. It’s really annoying.
Some of the stuff I do wrong is bad for them, and if we’re being honest, I’d have to say that’s probably the bigger deal. After all, they’re going to be living their entire lives lugging around whatever baggage I’ve laid on them, whereas I’m already halfway out the door.
But this blog is about me, not them. They can write their own when they’re older! (Besides, I’ve already laid out all the ways I’m failing them.) So let’s talk about the mistakes I’m making that are negatively affecting my life!
Here’s a woefully incomplete list of my boneheaded parenting mistakes, the stuff I do for my kids that I shouldn’t be doing, for my sake, and that I could easily not do if I loved my kids a little less, loved myself a little more, and, frankly, was just a little bit smarter.
Boneheaded Parenting Mistakes
Letting them co-sleep – Literally no good comes from this. Once they start, they can’t stop, and the soft glow of toddler snuggles quickly fades into the harsh glare of kindergartener groin kicks. You let your scared two-year-old into your bed during one thunderstorm and suddenly you’re hanging halfway off the mattress the night before your son’s driving test. Serves you right, moron.
Showing them your favorite movies – It seems like a great idea to introduce your kids to Star Wars and The Karate Kid and superhero movies, until suddenly you’re forced to sit through Attack of the fucking Clones 300 times and your 7-year-old starts crane-kicking your toddler and decides with his undeveloped brain inexplicably that Batman is better than Superman. WHAT HAVE I DONE?!
Providing batteries – Every toy that needs batteries is a terrible toy that will ruin your life. And yet I can’t help loading up on AAs and Cs and AAAs and even the gargantuan Ds so my toddler can bang away on the world’s most annoying keyboard or my 7-year-old can drive a remote control car into my feet. I’m such an idiot.
Sharing your favorite snacks – I know potato chips aren’t good for me. But I’ve lived 41 agonizing years in this hell-hole, several of them with far too much awareness of Donald Trump. I’ve earned my indulgences. My kids haven’t earned a single goddamn thing in their lives. But I had to go and let them try some of my favorite snacks and now every time I open a bag of Tyrell’s Sweet Chili & Red Pepper chips they come running to steal the one sliver of joy I have left? I’m living in a hell of my own making.
Laughing at them – Pretty much the stupidest thing a parent can do is laugh at one of their kids’ jokes. Maybe your kid is the next John Mulaney. More likely he’s the next Dane Cook, by which I mean he makes stupid sound effects and isn’t actually funny. All your laughter does is ensure you’re going to get a lot more hackery coming your way, which, if your kids are anything like mine, means a perpetual loop of fart jokes. Do yourself and everyone else a favor by making your kids earn the laugh, and even then, try not to give them the satisfaction. Trust me. I chuckled at “Mr. Barfhands” and now I hear that phrase 5000 times a day. I hate myself.
Sigh. Not only is this list incomplete, I won’t even learn from it. I’m going to keep making these parenting mistakes, momentarily losing my mind every time I see an opportunity to make my kids happy, not realizing until it’s too late that I’m shooting myself in the foot.
We all do it.
One of the worst, most understandable things we parents do is put our kids’ happiness in front of our own. I could be scraping together rent money but if I see my toddler smile at a $200 stuffed dog, we’ll be using that thing as a pillow when we move into our cardboard box. I know better, and yet I continue to blow it.
Kids may be blissfully ignorant, but it’s pretty obvious we’re the dumb ones.
What are some of the boneheaded parenting mistakes you find yourself falling prey to? Let me know on my Facebook page!
Society is consistently underrating fathers, lowering the bar and making it easy for us to look like superheroes merely for changing diapers and not screwing up the grocery shopping. But it does the exact opposite to moms.
Everyone keeps expecting more from the mothers of our children. We keep adding things to their plate, holding them to higher standards, and attacking them when they don’t live up to absurd expectations. What’s crazy about women like Mom and Buried is that they keep exceeding those expectations.
Mom and Buried doesn’t have it easy. She has two kids, she has multiple sclerosis, she’s married to me. (I may write a big game, but I have many flaws: I’m a firm believer in the “some dishes need to soak” philosophy, I primarily speak in movie quotes, I hate being the big spoon, etc.) She has it pretty rough!
Not that you’d know. *I* know, because she tells me (usually right when I’m about to fall asleep), but you wouldn’t know. Because Mom and Buried, like so many other mothers out there, who should by all rights be drowning from the mental load of being a woman in the 21st century, she keeps crushing it without much in the way of complaining, no matter how much she deserves to.
This is why movies like Bad Moms do so well at the box office (despite being rather terrible).
Moms are desperate for the freedom to loosen up, desperate for the leeway to care a little less in a society that condemns them for even the slightest miscue while simultaneously undervaluing the work they do. And many of them perform this thankless job on top of an actual paid job that, while hopefully not thankless is definitely not thanksASMUCHASMEN because of wage discrepancies. (And based on the steady trickle of #metoo stories, is probably beset with criminal levels of groping and harassment.)
Last year, when I turned 40, I wrote a depressing post about how I could no longer pretend to be cool. When dads are young-ish (i.e., 25-40), we have a certain cachet. Because when it comes to being a dad, being cool is better than being competent.
Moms are valued for other things. Society wants mothers with superhuman multitasking skills, family based omniscience, and general hyper-competence.
We put an insane amount of pressure on the women in our lives, and it’s been happening for so long they’ve stopped resisting the pressure and accepted it as part of the job description. The crazy thing is, they deliver!
My wife is a perfect example of all of this. She questions and pushes herself way too much for someone who does so much so well. And I know she’s not alone. No matter how much today’s mothers do, it’s never enough, not even for them. (No wonder they like their wine.)
I know, because I live with one of those supermoms.
Last fall, to celebrate Mom and Buried’s birthday, we spent the weekend with friends (and without the kids!) visiting some wineries. As usual, she planned and organized much of the trip herself. I tell myself it’s because she’s better at that stuff, and that’s definitely true (I’m not one for logistics and/or forethought), but it’s also because we’re both used to her managing these kinds of things, even for her birthday. That sucks, and that’s on me.
So I’m writing this to let Mom and Buried know that I know how amazing she is, and to acknowledge how much she does as a wife and a mother (two words that do a really poor job of indicating the vastness of both of those roles); how much so many women – our wives and our moms and more – do and deal with that we men (dads and husbands and more) often get a pass on.
I’m also writing it to acknowledge that I’m part of the problem, and to force myself to try harder and to be better.
I may never be able to reach my wife’s lofty bar, but if I raise mine a little higher, maybe she’ll stop having to.
A version of this post originally appeared on Facebook.
We all want to raise our kids with the right values, free from any of society’s toxic baggage, aware of the systemic inequalities and inherent biases that are afforded to certain people for no reasons besides genetic makeup and the circumstances of their birth.
We all want to raise individuals. But what if our kids are stereotypes?
I’ve written a bunch of posts about gender inequality and feminism and how I want to raise my sons to not only respect and accept women and LGBTQ people as their equals, but also to avoid falling into the unnecessary gender-oriented boxes and lanes society has mapped out for them.
I want them to like pink if they like pink, and to play dress up and wear makeup if they want to. I truly don’t care, so long as it makes them happy and they’re not harming anyone else. But so far my 7-year-old is thwarting my plans. So far, he’s definitely a boy’s boy. And that’s fine.
When kids are young, they are influenced by a variety of factors. Their home environment and the dominant presence of their parents are probably the strongest initial elements; they live with us, and they can’t help but mirror the things we do and absorb the things we expose them to. My oldest is seven and I still have a large impact on the way he speaks – sarcasm city! – and the pop culture he has access to.
But soon enough, their world expands. They start watching TV and have favorite movies and TV shows and music of their own, and when they start going to school, their peers start to have a role in the things they like and don’t like. Peer pressure is a thing, whether it’s just a passive awareness of what everyone else is into or actual judgment from other kids for not liking the same stuff, and that influence from their demographic only grows as they do, and as they spend more time with their peers and less time with their parents.
All that said, sometimes it can be easy to minimize the role their natural personalities and proclivities play in the name of awareness and tolerance.
I’m trying not to influence my son one way or the other. As I said in an old post: “It’s not our job as parents to decide who our son will be; it’s our job to help him become the best version of that person.” I’m not going to force him to do things he doesn’t want to do. But I do want to expose him to those things, and help him understand that he needn’t obey arbitrary rules about who interests and activities belong to. He can like the color pink, he can enjoy dancing.
Nothing is only for girls or only for boys; he’s free to explore anything he wants! And if he honestly doesn’t like those things, that’s fine too.
No matter in which direction his identity evolves, I want him to keep an open mind. I want him to understand that the colors you like, or the activities enjoy, don’t define your masculinity or lack thereof. There are myriad ways to be a man, and to be a boy, but there is only one way for him to be himself, and that’s by being true to his own identity, society’s expectations be damned!
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to grow up to be a guy who likes cross-stitching and My Little Pony and ballet. It might mean he loves football and mosh pits and tough mudder runs. It probably lies somewhere in the middle – in reality, it lies somewhere in the middle for almost everyone – but the point is neither for Mom and Buried and I to make my son into a man’s man nor to force him to subvert those stereotypes in the other direction, no matter how good our intentions.
The point is for him to discover who he is, and if that person ends up embodying macho stereotypes, so be it. Just so long as he understands that no one can dictate his or anyone else’s identity, and to accept other people for who they are, no matter how far afield from – or exactly in line with – gender stereotypes they may be.
It’s all well and good to strive to be enlightened and accepting and “woke,” but we have to be careful that in our aggressive efforts to escape discrimination and intolerance we don’t end up imposing limitations of our own.
Let’s let our kids be themselves, whether they love Star Wars and the color pink or prefer Disney’s The Descendants and poop jokes. Sometimes forcing someone outside of a box can be just as confining.
Taking celebrity advice is idiotic. Taking celebrity parenting advice is even worse.
I’m not gonna tell anyone to “shut up and dribble” or to stick to rapping, no matter how ridiculous their comments might be. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and if we’re gonna get mad that a famous person uses their platform to spout theirs, then maybe we shouldn’t have made that person famous to begin with. The fact is, getting parenting advice from almost anyone – other parents, your parents, non-parents, coworkers, that close-minded anti-Trumper with a dad blog – is one of the small tortures of this lifestyle.
But there’s something worse about celebrity parenting advice.
There are two things worse about celebrity parenting advice, actually: its ubiquity and its irrelevance.
Because these people are famous, whether through talent or looks or happenstance, they have access to more people than most, whether those people actively grant it to them or not. I couldn’t care less about reality stars or television chefs or the royal family or the guy that holds P. Diddy’s umbrella, and yet because they’ve been granted fame, and because so many people do inexplicably care about them, their messages are amplified and spread into every nook and cranny. You’d have to live completely off the grid to avoid much of this stuff, and that’s not a luxury many of us can afford these days.
At the same time, their lifestyles are so far afield from what most of us experience, they way they live and the way they parent – no matter how often they go to Starbucks or take their kids to the park and struggle with the car seat – has no bearing on our lives at all.
But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
Sometimes a celebrity talks out of school about something on which they have no expertise; think Robert DeNiro or Jenny McCarthy on vaccinations. Sometimes it’s celebrities crowing about work-life balance when they live a lavish lifestyle full of nannies and personal trainers and personal chefs; see Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie. And then there are the ones everybody actually likes, who seem like regular people who got lucky, like Chrissy Teigan or Kristen Bell or Ryan Reynolds. They make jokes and they complain about the same stuff and they’re down-to-earth and they’re just like us!
And then – maybe because the media lionizes them through no fault of their own, or maybe because they, like most of us, occasionally forget themselves on social media, and maybe because when you have people recording everything you say, you’re bound to make a misstep or two – they are presented as having cracked the code with their celebrity parenting advice.
I like all of those people. In some ways, I envy all of those people. But I don’t care one whit about how they parent their kids, anymore than I care how you parent yours. (And I bet many of them would agree with me.) It’s none of my business, and their lifestyles, no matter how “relatable” their personalities, have almost zero relevance to mine, or, I’m guessing, to yours. I don’t care how they do it. Maybe if they were parenting experts I would care (except there is no such thing), and maybe if I was a rich celebrity juggling movie shoots and dodging paparazzi while my nanny picks my kids up from daycare I’d be more interested. But I doubt it.
I’m not interested in hearing how they’re killing parenting anymore than I’m interested in hearing them get shamed for what they name their kids (or for anything else they do).
The fact that they’re famous doesn’t make them special or better. It just makes them different. If I’m going to take advice from anyone on anything, it’s most likely to be someone with who I share more than a superficial, practically universal trait with. There are parents of every demographic. Listening to a wealthy celebrity’s advice on raising their kids is the same thing as listening to an Alaskan Inuk or a Creationist from Las Vegas. We may both have kids but that ain’t exactly rare. I’m gonna need more overlap than that before I start enacting your parenting hacks.
Of course, these celebrities are not to blame for any of this. We are.
They set out to be actors or singers or artists, not to be parenting role models. It’s not their fault that we can’t afford or have access to many of the perks their lifestyles provide; they earned it, good for them. And it’s not their fault they have millions of people willing to listen to them expound upon Trump or co-sleeping or screen-time or eating organic or whatever they want to talk about. They “earned” that platform, and I’m sure it’s not all sunshine and lollipops (I don’t think anyone envies Kate Middleton’s obligation to get out of bed and face the press mere hours after giving birth!).
But it’s their prerogative to discuss the things they’re passionate about, and pass along their parenting tips and philosophies to anyone who wants to hear it. Far be it from me to stop them from speaking their minds. God knows I don’t enjoy when other people tell me to shut up.
But we don’t need to assign significance to the things they say, or to agree with them, or even to listen. I sure don’t; I’m too busy raising my kids to bother worrying how anyone else, famous or not, is raising theirs.
Over the weekend, Mom and Buried and I went to the movies. We were visiting my family in Connecticut and we took advantage of the free babysitting to see A Quiet Place.
I enjoyed the movie but I had some issues with it. Particularly with the parenting.
First things first: if you live in a world ravaged by monsters that rely on sound to find you, DON’T GET PREGNANT!
Nonstop spoilers ahead. DON’T CONTINUE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE.
A Quiet Place is a good movie and I enjoyed it.
It’s clever, well put-together, wastes zero time getting started, and it’s scary. The genius of the flick is the way it legitimizes the cheapest horror movie tactic there is – the jump-scare – and bakes it into the premise of the story. This movie is almost entirely made of jump-scares and you can’t even get mad about it! Against a mostly silent backdrop, every stray sound is enough to give you a heart attack. (Mom and Buried pretty much lived on my lap all movie. Note to singletons: BRING A DATE!)
The movie ratchets up the tension and heightens the stakes by under-girding the supernatural horror of the situation – seemingly indestructible Demogorgon-looking creatures that hunt via an extreme sense of hearing have decimated the planet – with the familiar everyday horrors of parenting, which is already about the most terrifying thing there is, even before literal monsters enter the equation. But once they do? Every moment becomes a living nightmare.
Of course, the parents in the movie being grade-A morons, they don’t help matters much…
The family in A Quiet Place – headed by the film’s director, “The Office” star John Krasinski, and real-life wife/one of my Five Celebrity Hall Passes, Emily Blunt – consists of two teenage kids and a toddler. At least, it does when the movie begins. Because it immediately becomes clear that not everyone is going to survive. No, the couple’s idiot children will make sure of that. Especially the toddler. Because if there’s one thing toddlers do, it’s make noise (other things they make: messes, you crazy), and noise attracts the monsters.
To be fair, it’s hard to blame the toddler, especially after his parents inexplicably let him wander around a store by himself and then inexplicably let him walk behind them on their way home through a forest that’s presumably full of monsters (not to mention inexplicably trusting any of their kids to not be dumb kids). Toddlers gonna toddler, what can you do?
Anyway, the inevitable happens – won’t be seeing that toddler no more! – and the movie jumps ahead a year. Whereupon it’s quickly revealed that, despite seemingly having learned from their previous mistakes and somehow surviving for months, they’ve actually learned nothing, because the family of five four is now awaiting a new baby!
These are not smart people. You’d think they’d understand that, despite the tragic circumstances, their odds of survival greatly increased without a toddler gumming up the works. You’d think they’d understand that having more than two kids in today’s world, let alone in a world full of terrifying monsters, is completely insane! But no, they decided to up the stakes by adding a baby to the mix!
In the world of A Quiet Place, making noise is literally the stupidest, most dangerous thing you can do, and babies are kind of known for it! To quote the late, great R. Lee Ermey: What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?
There are all sorts of other problems with the parenting in this movie, and millions of nits to pick. (I’m sorry, but ain’t nobody surviving for hundreds of days without making a sound, especially children. As someone commented on my FB page: “My kid literally never shuts up (even in his sleep). At this very moment he’s blowing a whistle.”) Emily Blunt delivers her own baby, by herself, screaming only once so as to avoid attracting the monsters. John Krasinski’s “shh” finger always seems unnecessarily smushed against his mouth. They live on a farm in upstate New York but somehow have access to plenty of pristine sand. The most egregious thing? The baby barely makes a peep the entire movie! As if.
(Also, the family discovers the monsters’ weakness when the deaf daughter’s hearing aid is set to a frequency that debilitates the monsters – the government/scientists couldn’t figure out that a possible way to attack monsters with enormous “ears” is to target those ears? At least they weren’t killed by water!)
To be fair, there is some parenting to admire, e.g., the couple’s dedication to (if not exactly roaring success at) protecting their kids, the father’s heroic self-sacrifice, and his final declaration of love to his guilt-stricken daughter. And there was one truly innovative childcare technique: the couple crafts a wooden box in which to store the baby, which itself is housed inside a sound-proof room (that for someone reason they don’t all live inside of at all times). What I wouldn’t give to have a reason to shut my kids away in a box! For their own safety, of course!
All in all, A Quiet Place is a fun, supremely intense movie-going experience that makes for an especially tough watch for parents with young kids. Mom and Buried basically got whiplash going back and forth from tears to fears as she couldn’t help imagining a terrifying world in which The Hammer and Detective Munch were forced to survive by keeping their fool mouths shut.
As for me, I’d trade places with this family in a second. Sure, the monsters are a drawback, but all the children are silent!