12 Things Every Parent Should Know

I know — you’re thinking, “how does she know what every parent should know,” right? Well,  I never said it was going to be anything profound or useful or that you had to believe it or even read it. These are just my observations from my many years of being a child;  combined with a few years of being a parent; mixed up with a lot of listening to and talking with other parents;  with an added sprinkling of with random stuff I pulled out of the clear blue sky.

Me & Em

  1. No matter how much and/or unconditionally you love your kids; how much love and affection you lavish on them; no matter how much you respect, adore, admire, encourage, praise and show you value them; you will stop being the most important thing in their lives as soon as they hit puberty.
  2. After your kids hit puberty, you become more and more stupid with every year they age. By the time your kid is in his/her late teens (at which point they have acquired all the wisdom of the ages) you, coincidentally, will have become a blithering moron not fit to be seen with in public. But take heart, when they become adults, they usually tend to become a bit more tolerant of your countless short-comings.
  3. No matter how much you devote yourself to parenting; no matter how committed you are; how careful you are about always trying to do what’s best for them; no matter how much you sacrifice for your kids; they will find something to Mommy/Daddy Dearest you with later on. And it’s usually the stuff you least expect would traumatize them for life. So, you might as well stop feeling guilty about whatever mistakes you think you’re making along the way.
  4. When you signed up to be a parent, there was no end-date in the contract. Parenting entails an authentic “till death do us part” clause.
  5. You are obligated to be there, waiting and eager whenever, and no matter at what age, your kids need you to be there with a shoulder to cry on; with an ear to vent into; with sage advice; with a hot meal; with lots of cash;  with somewhere to do their laundry;  with their old room ready for them to move into. You must also always be thrilled to be asked to babysit the grandkids. It’s a privilege.
  6. You are expected always to be over-the-moon with joy whenever your kids decide to spend time with you or call you. Any other reaction will brand you a self-centered, uncaring old bat/coot.
  7. When your kids give you a gift, you must always be over-the-moon with joy over whatever they have decided you should have. Any other reaction will  brand you an ungrateful old bat/coot.
  8. You are expected to occasionally say no to your kids, no matter what age – to disagree with them sometimes; to disapprove of something they’re doing or saying. This gives them a much needed frame of reference and tells them that you are actually still engaged in the whole parenting thing and not just filling up space in their lives. Also, it gives them a good excuse to feel superior to and/or exasperated with you. What else is a parent for, after all?
  9. Having said that, you have to make sure you reserve your awesome power of veto for the really important things and not just as a matter of course; or just because you can; or because you’re bigger than them; or because you still pay the bills; or because they’re living under your roof.
  10. If you could become invisible and follow your kids (no matter what age) around for a couple of days you would be shocked, amazed, horrified, delighted and totally discombobulated at the people they are when you’re not around. You would be surprised how little of their mind-space you occupy and how infrequently they talk about you, compared to how much of your mind-space they occupy and how often you talk about them.
  11. You can never talk to your kids too much or too often.  You might feel like a broken record blathering away to seemingly deaf ears.  They might roll their eyes at you at say, “Okaaaaay, we’ve had this conversation a million times!”  But carry on regardless. Plague them with questions every day. How are you? What’s new? Everything okay?  [i.e.: At the end of every day of my kid’s life I’ve try to asked her to tell me the best and the worst thing that happened that day. I learned that from Mr. Rogers. It’s interesting. It makes them say something.  And you never know what might crop up.] Your kids may respond only with grunts or mono-syllables to all the questions you ask, but it still officially counts as communication.
  12. And, finally, never ever appear needy. Don’t make them feel guilty for leaving you. Don’t make them feel guilty for loving someone more than you. Don’t make them feel guilty for never calling or visiting. And, no matter how old and frail and desperate you become don’t ever ask your kids to come over and bathe you. Please.  If things haven’t gone horribly wrong somewhere along the line, they’ll be there for you when you really need them anyway. And, hopefully, you or they will be well-off enough to be able to hire a kindly stranger to help you wash your smelly old bits. Meanwhile, you’re always the parent and they’re always the kid. And they need it to stay that way as long as possible.

If you don’t think any of this is relevant to you,  look at the relationship you have/had with your own parents. Sure, you’re doing everything you can with your own kids to correct the mistakes your parents made with you, but your parents said the same thing back in the day about their own parenting of you.



26 responses to “12 Things Every Parent Should Know

  1. at dinner time we play this game “best part worst part” and we all go around the table taking about, you guessed it, the best and worst part of our days. i had no idea fred rogers inspired that!
    maybe this should be your next calling xup – relationship consultant to parents with teens. for real!

  2. As the Evil Stepmother, I can safely disregard many of these tips. I never was the most important thing in their lives and I’m good with that. I’m not obligated to do jack shit except not beat them and occasionally allow them to invade my home; “over the moon” isn’t ever an emotion they could hope to inspire in me, and the only need I have is for them to grow up already and leave the house.

    That being said, I am growing adequately stupid as per point 2. The eldest seldom says anything that isn’t prefaced with “I can’t believe you/he/she/people do/like *that*”, with the inference that everyone but her is a moron because we do not conform to her narrow little 13-year old world views.

    Lord preserve my liver and I until they are out of the house. Amen.

    And Hannah? Don’t do it. Get a cat instead. You can sterilize them right out of the gate, and if they somehow get pregnant, you can simply give the kittens away.

    XUP – Thanks so much for the chance to vent so early in the morning. I feel… purged. 🙂

  3. We do the best thing/worst thing too, when I tuck them in at night.

    And I’ll weigh in on the opposite side to Susan. Hannah, it’s quite the rollercoaster ride, but I’m glad I did it. The procreation thing, I mean.

  4. Fairstar – Merci

    Meanie – I’m not sure if Mr. Rogers invented it, but I do believe he mentioned it. I wish Mr. Rogers had been my Dad. Of course it would have been embarrassing as hell when I was in school, but he seems so patient and kind AND he was a vegetarian.!!

    Hannah – Reproduction is certainly not something to be entered into lightly. It has to be something you really want and it helps if you have a partner who wants it as much as you do and will stick around to be there for you and the offspring.

    Lynn – Gosh, I’m honoured. Maybe it will save a bit of hair-tearing and angst somewhere down the line?

    Robin – discombobulated – confused, disoriented, don’t know if you’re coming or going, feeling like you’ve woken up in another dimension —- what parenting is all about.

    Susan – Hey, maybe you should do an Evil Stepmother post? I think it’s so important for people to know that they really want to be parents before they start reproducing. That they not just do it out of pressure from friends or family or spouses. That they not just do it because it’s the thing to do, or whatever other million reasons people have tor having kids they should probably never have had. Good for you for knowing your own mind. And good for us for giving the younguns some maybe new perspectives on the whole issue!!

    Jazz – Yes, life is definitely easier without all sorts of encumbrances – kids, pets, spouses, mortgages, debts, etc., etc. I guess we all have to choose the encumbrances that are important to us and avoid the rest.

    Alison – Ya, it’s difficult to say anything but that you’re happy you procreated once you’ve got the kids and have gotten used to them and once they’ve wormed their way into every fibre of your being. I would definitely do it again even knowing what I know now. I might do some things differently, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like without my kiddie. But again, like I said to Hannah – it’s something you really have to want.

  5. when when when is XUP junior going to reply to this post? Does she have a blog which we can follow for a response.
    Meanwhile couldn’t resist pasting these lines from Khalil Gibran. Have tried to induce guilt in my mother using them, but she called Gibran a bullshitter

    “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

  6. Nicely done, XUP.
    We started the good-thing / not-so-good thing with my 5 year old a little while ago… it’s fun to glimpse the world from their perspective.
    One thing I would add is, to put it simply, “Pick your battles”.
    Something I have found with my first 2 subunits (I have a 2, 5 and 16 year old) is that you can’t sweat the “small stuff”. “Small” changes according to the context.
    Save the battles for the things where he/she may make a choice that will harm themselves or others. Let minor things like piercings slide by (within reason). Save up the heavy handedness for stuff like drinking and driving, street smarts and the need to respect one’s body.

  7. Hah. None of this applies to me. I’ve never had the pleasure of having kids of my now.

    So it looks like I’ve dodged a bullet…

    ….SO far.

    Though whenever I feel lonely or yearning for kids of my own, I just visit with my screaming nephews.

    A weekend with them, and I’m good for another six months, being a happy single bachelor.

    In fact, after last visit, the little demon-spawn were so bad, I was half-tempted to stand in front of the microwave with the door open.

    To sterilize myself, just in case…

  8. Lost – XUP junior has less than no interest in my blog. Sometimes I’ll ask her to read something, but she is usually too preoccupied. That’s her in the photo above. She consented to have her lovely image used for the blog. That was quite a concession, let me tell you. I think Gibran is pretty much right on.

    Trashee – I think that’s what I was trying to say with #9 – pick your battles. When I think back on some of the stuff we came to loggerheads about back when she was younger. It seems so silly now – i.e.: eating some candy on the sly when I expressly told her she’d had enough. Those were the days. And one day I’ll look back at some of the stuff that gives me anxiety now and wonder why I stressed about “should she or shouldn’t she go to a sleepover when I know nothing about the parents or the kid she’s staying with?”

    Friar – I understand there is an actual surgical procedure now to ensure you don’t accidentally procreate! No longer any need to radiate yourself. Kids that aren’t your own are always way more horrible to be around than the ones you’ve been able to train up from puppyhood.

  9. Hmmmm. I just read the May 27th Pajama Diaries comic strip today (it’s a mommy strip) and it was IF ONLY PARENTING CAME WITH WARNING LABELS LIKE MEDICINE and the last part said, “And above all…not to parent past the expiration date.” It shows a mom saying “Are you sure he’s the right boy for you?” And the daughter says, “We’ve been together 12 years Mom. Give it a rest.” So this is the exact opposite of your #4. What’s the mom of a young adult daughter to do? My plan is to only parent when asked. The rest of the time we will just be buddies.

  10. This is a memorable, framable post. Love it a lot. Especially the be grateful to have the grandkid thrust into your life for a week bit. So true.
    I just got a retrospective on my parenting skills from one of my forty something daughters; ouch!
    Maybe the last, best rule is this; if they start to reminisce, head them off.
    Damn, you’re good!

  11. This is really good advice. I’m not a parent—just a step-parent—but a lot of this applies. Plus, it helps me understand my husband’s decisions a bit more.

  12. Great post. As a parent to a 16 year old – and you nailed it. Very insightful for being so close to the situation. Usually the wisdom side doesn’t come until way later (sometimes too late…) but you’re right on. I hope (hope hope hope) that my next 2 will still like us once they’re teens, but I’m not holding my breath 😉

  13. “You must also always be thrilled to be asked to babysit the grandkids. It’s a privilege.”

    Speedy has one grandmother that is too busy being controlled by her wife to babysit, if i need her to, its cant be on a weekend (interferes with her time at the trailer) and if its a week night she starts calling at 9 even tho i said i would be home by 930 saying she is tired and needs to go home and when will i be home.

    then her other grandmother is a gold digger that is too busy dating what she thinks are rich men on the internet only to find out they are players that end up sucking her out of her money.

    so all that being said, that line is wrong

  14. My question at supper time is usually, “So anything weird or interesting happen to you today?” Sometimes they made things up… me too.

  15. Geewits – Well, I’d never argue with comic strip advice, but it’s interesting that it’s the exact opposite of mine. I just know that my parents stopped parenting me as soon as the brood of other kids came along and I would have liked one of them to take an interest once in a while and not wait for me to ask them. But, I imagine every family works these things out for themselves. I’m going to parent the hell out of my daughter until she runs screaming for the hills. That should work out well, dontcha think?

    Mary – Ya, it’s never good to let the kids give you a performance report on your parenting the last 40 years. Having done it myself, I think it’s more about the kid and her issues at that particular time than about you or anything you did. Moms are a handy whipping post. All part of the fun.

    Mo – There’s no such thing as “just” a step-parent. You have a huge job, too and often without the benefits of the biological parents. You need a blog post all your own. You and Susan should do one together – except she doesn’t seem to like her step-kids much. It should be interesting.

    Ian – Well, they may not always like you and you may not always like them, but you’ll always love each other and that’ll get you through most stuff.

    Jobthingy – The line isn’t wrong; it’s the grandparents that are wrong. They’re not holding up their end of the parenting contract. Poor Speedy – except for you she really seems to be getting ripped off in the family department, eh?

    Helen – Why are you sad, Helen?

    Woodsy – That could work, too. I just find it usually not a good idea to ask a “yes” or “no” question because too often you just get a yes or no answer. Asking a question that demands some thought and at least a short sentence complete with verb and noun is much more enlightening.

    Charlene – Yup! I know I am. Also, I can’t dress myself, don’t know how to pronounce things properly; do not have the names and pedigrees of all her acquaintances memorized; am boring; and old. But deep down I know she kinda likes me.

  16. i love this list and i agree with it. when my niece and nephew began puberty i saw their descent into darkness, i remember being hurt by it b/c i’ve always been close them.

    it helped to prepare me for my own i guess. my life is forever changed by having the kids, and despite the really hard times it’s all been for the betterment of me. my kids have been excellent teachers for me.

  17. My only daughter just got married.
    12 things made me very sad.
    I feel as if I have lost part of myself.
    Like a limb is gone.

  18. Jobthingy – I’ll bet she becomes a much stronger and wiser woman as a result.

    Leah – Ah yes, mine has taught me soooo much, too. And helped me grow. It’s all worth it.

    Lisa – Don’t be sad. You haven’t lost your child. She’ll need you more than ever as she embarks on this new scary adult adventure. And maybe there’ll be grandkids for you to smooch. You should be proud and happy that you’ve done your job so well; that you’ve parented an infant into a mature, smart, loving woman. It wouldn’t be right if she was with you forever, now would it?