My Opinion On: Bad Parenting… Apparently

*Disclaimer: This is an opinion article. If you do not share the same opinion I kindly ask that you remain respectable in the comments. My style of writing is sarcastic in nature, involves swearing, and is generally highly critical. If you find that style and those traits to be unappealing then kindly hit the back page to save yourself the stress. Your respect and maturity are appreciated. All reference points are clickable links and will direct you to a new page.

Recently there was an incident at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA. An endangered gorilla, a Silverback Gorilla, named Harambe was shot and killed for the protection of a child that had gotten into the exhibit. Instead of resounding support for the executive decision that was made to to save the life of a three-year-old little boy, criticisms flew at the parents for their failure to monitor the child involved.

Firstly, articles across the board keep referring to the young boy as having parents & family – you can see it here on CNN and here at Reuters just for a couple references – but I am not seeing any mention of a father. I see mention of multiple children but nothing of a father, or even a second mother! There is absolutely no mention of an actual second parent  (regardless of gender) being there which makes me ponder how parents are perceived.

Your criticisms are of a dual parent setting when it appears it may actually be a single parent situation. Even if isn’t a single parent – maybe only a single parent was present. Would you honestly tell a parent they he/she/ze shouldn’t be allowed to venture into a public setting simply because they have no second guardian to assist? To those of you that would support such an idea – I say ‘fuck off’ because you are no better than Hitler for suggesting such a concept. I’m willing to bet your very own parents ventured out solo with you on their hip or your hand in their grip. Please kindly get over your superiority complex.

Secondly, almost every article I find on this matter talk about how the mother should be charged criminally for the events that transpired. This woman is an employee of the state government as a part of the child welfare services. She is responsible for hundreds of young children’s lives anually who are actually in the hands of incapable parents – and yet she is being accused of just as much for doing what a good many parents can’t be bothered to do with their own children. Nobody is going to praise this woman for actively trying to enrich her children’s lives by taking them to the zoo to enjoy a day out together. Making memories with her family is now little more than an act against animals due to her inability, apparently, to keep track of her children.

I saw an article that is an opinion piece on Huffington Post which suggests that inaction is the act of allowing a terrible thing to happen. Those who did not help the mother are equally to blame for not trying to save the life of the child and the gorilla. Another Huffington Post article argues the opposite – stating that the endangered gorilla holds more value than a single child that is easily replaced in the population. Both articles have their points, I can’t lie, but it is hard as a parent to think that watching hundreds of people watch my child potentially die at the hands of an animal in a zoo would be acceptable.

Maybe that is truly the elitist human in me speaking, maybe it’s my mother heart spewing selfish words, and maybe I’m just a dick for thinking as much. Logically, I can see the reasoning behind everyone’s disappointment and frustration. Logically and theoretically, I can see why people would say the endangered gorilla should not have been killed. Emotionally, though, I think of a mother and her children dealing with the loss of a child and a sibling. Humans don’t want their loved ones to die anymore than animals do – we all experience grief once losing someone close to us. Why would you wish as much upon another person whose story you do not even know?

For those of my readers that would wish death upon another person’s child – shame on you. What if people you knew wished as much upon you as a child? What if people you thought cared about you pranced up to you and said that they had wished you dead as a child because it would have been better for someone else, or for the betterment of an animal. That would make you feel bad. If he didn’t – then I pity you. I hope that you seek the medical attention that you need because you are suffering greatly to the point where you’ve allowed such callousness to become your norm.

Lastly, I came across a different article that actually exhibits bad parenting. It made me wonder if the internet just assumes all terrible incidents involving children constitutes bad parenting. This incident at the Cincinnati zoo is clearly an accident. There’s no child negligence on the mother’s part from the information that can be found in any of the published articles. This other story involving a 7-year-old boy intentionally left in a forest as punishment is astoundingly horrifying in a way the Cincinnati Zoo incident could never be in a million years. I first found the article on Mashable here – but you can read variations of the story on CNN and on The Guardian.

There aren’t nearly as many comments about the badgering of the parents, although it is certainly present. The articles surrounding the gorilla incident badger this mother for her mistake. Internet users attack her ability to parent and suggest that she deserved to lose her child as punishment for tending to all of her children. Yet in these articles about the 7-year-old boy being intentionally left in the forest/woods/mountains as punishment – a story in which the FATHER is the central point of a confirmed dual-parent scenario – people are sympathetic to the young boy and merely slapping the father on the hand.

Is this a sign of patriarchy at work? A father is stern with his child, his son no less, and people are actually concerned for the child. There are talks of bears but I don’t hear people calling that the boy once abandoned (intentionally!) because prey for the animals in their natural habitat. Nobody is damning these parents (two are confirmed to be present, mind you) the way they damned the mother whom was seemingly caring for her children at the zoo alone. It is disgusting to see how the stories differ in literally every way imaginable except for one – a child in danger.

For me, the Cincinnati Zoo doesn’t require an in depth investigation. If you’ve ever been to zoo you know that the gorilla exhibits aren’t protected in a big way. They’re not behind glass walls but rather behind ropes and slopes with motes – they are protected by an intuitionally tumultuous landscape rather than a solidified barrier. It seems a miracle that this isn’t a constant issue in the zoos across the world. Schools go on field trips all the time – assigning on adult to groups of four and five children at a time. I’ve chaperoned trips to zoos where two adults had only four kids – and even that was difficult to keep track of because while you’re dusting the dirt off of a fallen child the second is wandering away to check out another exhibit. All of the energy in the world cannot make you capable of being in two places at once. I’m sorry, but we’re not The Flash, or Zoom. We are simply never going to be speedsters.

Unless Science has created a definitive process to make that a real thing – then I would gladly sign the fuck up for that because – why the hell wouldn’t you want to sign up for that? Do you know how easily that 3-year-old could have been saved with a speedster around? This wouldn’t even be an article because nobody/nothing would be dead.

The article that should have parents charged criminally are these heathens purposely leaving their son in the middle of the mother fucking woods as punishment for throwing stones. When your child is throwing stones at people and cars – you can take other actions. I personally would handcuff my child or tie hands behind his back. Tell them that such activity as an adult gets them arrested – assure them what it will feel like when they’ve throw their freedoms away with the stones. If you don’t like a forward approach like that – take shit away from your kid. Not every child is the same and not every child responds to the same punishment but no child should be abandoned in the woods. This causes permanent psychological damage or worse. In this instance, the child has been missing for four whole days. There’s a decent chance this child is dead – possibly mauled by a fucking bear – and it’s because these parents were pissed off that they child was throwing rocks and not listening to their commands to stop.

To me it is perfectly clear which set of parents were actually horrible. Here’s a hint – it’s the one’s that lied about their child missing for fear of domestic violence charges against their seven-year-old son.

A Bold Move

Walking into a quiet home at the end of the day is long forgotten memory of his, and when he does it today it sets off all sorts of alarms. His wife is reading a piece of paper at the table, sipping a glass of tea while shaking her head. As for his youngest daughter, she appears to be sitting in the living room doing her homework. It is uncharacteristic of her to be listening to her mother so plainly.

“How was everyone’s day?’ He shouts into the house excitedly. Perhaps it was just a long day for everyone and they’re tired? The routine he’s become accustomed to over the last few years comes easily. Hang up his coat on the hook, drop his keys into a wicker basket, and kick his shoes off underneath the cabinet so that they don’t get lost in the closet.

The youngest runs away from the coffee table with a smile, as she generally does, and greets him pure joy; “Can I have my after school snack now?” This alerts him that something must have happened that was serious. It must have been something that disrupted the schedule.

“Sure thing, Louisa, but let me talk to mommy really fast, okay?” Poor girl is only seven years old so she doesn’t have as much awareness as her older sisters. Louisa crosses her arms and sticks her tongue out, agreeing to wait just a little bit longer ‘since he asked nicely.’ Back to her homework she goes just before his wife calls him into the kitchen.

“One of us needs to take a vacation, apparently.”

In a predictable fashion he starts listing anything he may have done to upset his wife… (forgot to take the trash out, didn’t fold the laundry, stepped one of the Lego sets… it could be any number of things he brushed off!) Having been cheated on by his last wife, well, he simply couldn’t help but wonder if he’d done something to put Dana off? Marriages fall apart in less time than they’ve been together these days. A second divorce would break him entirely and his daughter, Cassie, probably couldn’t handle it either. She has only just started really bonding with her stepsisters.

“What makes you say that?” Before responding she hollers for Louisa to take her homework into the family room downstairs. There’s a bit of a tantrum. The family room downstairs has a much smaller television because it’s supposed to be a “social” and, or, “activity” room. Louisa hates being down there alone because there aren’t enough distractions from her homework – and how will she stay up later if she finishes her homework right after school? She tries so hard to be a con artist but her mother has the whole heist on lock.

Kissing his wife on the cheek before getting his own drink, which happens to be a small glass of scotch, he tries to stop himself from listing. Lazily trying to bustle through the kitchen forces him to slow down and try to listen for Dana’s explanation. A few minutes of silence do pass, and it drives him nearly mad, but when Dana does begin sharing the afternoon events? He’s actually surprised – one hundred percent shocked.

About three hours ago Dana received a call from Gemma’s school principal. It wasn’t just an office aide contacting her but the principal himself. A young woman was being asked to remove her hijab in front of the entire eighth grade class during lunch. Gemma was less than impressed and went to the young lady’s defense. It ended in a shouting match about prejudice and freedom of expression.

“Gemma says that she calmly told him that he was not at liberty to restrict her wardrobe, especially when fitting within the parameters of the school handbook regarding apparel. A parent was watching from the office, though, and must have wanted immediate results. The principal told her that she had no business to speak on the matter because it was between the young woman, her parents, and the school staff. She had no patience for him after that, I guess, and she’s gotten herself suspended for the entirety of next week, effective immediately.” As he listens to the secondhand recollection there are similarities in the incident to another he faced. Cassie once had a confrontation with a pastor that came to the house after Cassie and he decided to stop attending church. It was his misfortunate that Cassie answered the door – and even worse than that that he had the audacity to imply to an angry teenager that the Church is all forgiving. That man learned a valuable lesson that night, and is hopefully prepared for his own teenagers.

Now with her own confrontation on social issues under her belt, it would appear that Cassie and Gemma will make perfect sisters in the future. Even if Cassie’s spectacle wasn’t nearly as public, Gemma proves by standing up for another person’s rights that she is every bit as conscious about the world as his biological daughter. They’ve both made him very proud.

“Cassie seems to have rubbed off on her, huh?” He says it as a joke. It doesn’t seem to sit well with his wife, though, and he corrects himself; “I’m sorry, Dana. I know that Gemma will have to explain at her college interviews. At least it’s for a good reason and not something that is actually bad. Getting in trouble fighting for justice is not the same as being locked up for assalt.” If he was being honest, he could both see what rules were broken and not understand which rules were violated. In his mind the only question was in regard to the other staff members who chose to let this entire scene play out as it did without stepping in to protect the children who needed it. Plain discrimination such as this deserved to be opposed.

“I’m not worried about Gemma’s permanent record. I’m worried about how she’s going to be treated because of this incident. If the principal is willing to openly demand a young lady to remove her hijab then I can’t see him being unafraid to single out Gemma either. Every toe she puts out of line – or even on the line! – is going to be punished twice as hard now that she’s made a public scene of herself.” Dana drones on and on about all of the issues that come with standing up in a conservative community. Cassie had been ostracized after her abandonment of faith. People who claimed to be her friends whispered of her so called “sinful” lifestyle. It was not at all out of the question that Gemma would face the same passive judgment for her decision to stand up against the principal.

It makes sense to him why one of them needs to take a vacation. They could both technically work from home comfortably. It would just depend on which person has more flexibility in the next week’s schedule. Gemma could technically stay home by herself, but it would be unwise to leave a fourteen year old alone for eight hours for five days in a row.

“Maybe we could get Cassie to come back next week and sit with her. They get along really well and I think that Cassie could coach her through what happens next.” Dana laughs at the proposition initially, but does agree that Cassie may be what exactly the person Gemma needs right now. As parents they both agree with their daughter’s choice in defending the other girl’s right to honor and practice her faith in school. Unfortunately, they have to navigate these waters carefully now. Social consequences are always worse than the school administered punishment.

“Well, Todd, you’ll have to talk to her about it. Her suspension is effective immediately so she can’t go to class tomorrow. She’ll get a jump-start on her assignments since they’re still letting her get credit for her work. If we can get Cassie up here tonight then neither of us has to miss work tomorrow. Although, I left today, so it’ll be your day tomorrow if she can’t.” Dana stands up, admitting that she needs to get Louisa her snack before she explodes with rage. Before his wife even makes it out of the kitchen he’s sent a message to his daughter. Thankfully, she calls rather than texts back – stating that she’ll do anything to help with Gemma – just say the word.

Blended family or not, Todd knows that his girls are each fantastic women. Each person fits perfectly with the others. Looking back at his life he sometimes wonders how the five of them ever functioned without one another. This may not be the life he thought he’d live a few decades ago, but this life was so much better than he could have imagined. Everything was worth getting to this day, and every single day to come.

Two Mothers & A Nightmare

Disclaimer: This work makes references to suicidal feelings in a young child. There are also references to physical bullying between young children. Understand that these ‘triggers’ are present and exercise caution while reading this story. If you begin to feel anxiety, please discontinue reading and enjoy some of my other happier works. Thank you for considering your emotional health first, and thank you in advance to anyone reading.


Clarissa’s teacher called the mother’s earlier this morning. She expressed concern for the child and wanted to have an urgent lunch meeting with the school principal and guidance counselor. When Linda got the voice message she called her wife in a fluster. What could it possibly be? Clarissa hadn’t shown any signs of misbehaving at home.

Barbara thought it was something relatively insignificant that the school was unnecessarily upset about; so many schools are pretentious these days. Barbara had to remind her wife on the drive over that in pre-school the teacher called home concerned that Clarissa had deep rooted anger issues over a crayon she broke in half on purpose. Kids do stupid things sometimes, and as long as nobody is getting hurt – Barbara believes a note would suffice.

Unfortunately, Miss Claymoore slides a couple of pieces of paper across the table for the mothers to examine while the principal and the counselor make their way to the classroom. Linda leans in first. Between the two women, she is far more dramatic and emotional. As soon as she pulls away and covers her mouth, Barbara can only assume that the papers hold something horrific.

She decides not to look at them until the other people arrive, and only out of necessity. In the meantime, though, Miss Claymoore decides to make small talk; “How are you guys enjoying the new house? The landscaping was looking lovely when I passed through the neighborhood.”

Linda looks offended so her wife speaks in her place.

“It is far from finished but that’s all we can get done with cooler weather on the horizon. We are trying to find our Halloween decorations because we’re still living out of the boxes. Can’t figure out which box is the right box, it seems.” Barbara works in a collection agency as an office manager and emotionlessness comes naturally to her. When emotions are high – as they always seem to be – she can keep her composure. That’s how she nabbed the position in the first place.

Miss Claymoore helps her mother sell homes, and that’s originally how Linda and Barbara knew her. She was the one who actually showed this home to them. In actuality, she’s the one that sold the property because she was a close friend of the couple. The young lady was able to tell them all sorts of things that her mother probably wouldn’t have known about the property. Things that made the space special…

“I can’t wait to see you keep up the holiday spirit! Tim and Joy will be happy to hear that you guys are contributing to the excitement on the block!” Thankfully Barbara doesn’t have to concoct a response because a few soft knocks turn all of their heads. In the doorway are two tall men. One is stocky and sports a three-piece suit. The other is lanky. His nose also seems too big for his face.

Everyone introduces himself and herself. Barbara and Linda Lindley, Clarissa’s mothers. Mr. Jordan is the principal and Mr. Benson is the counselor. Linda signals for Barbara to look at the papers before everyone broaches the urgent topic about what is happening. Barbara grabs the paperwork and sports her best poker face.

The first page is a picture of a tree with orange and brown leaves falling off of it like rain. Underneath it is a stick figure with a blue triangle dress and ‘X’s for eyeballs. There are three very upsetting sentences beneath it: Sometimes I have dreams about not waking up. I want to die by a tree so that the leaves will hide me. I don’t want to get cold.

            “So, I want you to know what we were doing that this came up. Last night I was grading papers for the exercise we did in class. On Monday I asked the kids to write about their dreams. Plenty of kids wrote about dreams they have when sleeping so I didn’t count Clarissa’s work as wrong, but this was disturbing. Then on Tuesday I asked the kids to tell me what they want to be when they grow up…” She gestures for Barbara to look at the second page. Obviously she complies with the eyes of everyone else in the room boring through her very being.

I don’t want to grow up. Kids are mean. Adults are meaner. Beneath it are some notes by Miss Claymoore. She asked Clarissa if kids were being mean to her, but she replied that people don’t have to be mean to her in order to be mean. Miss Claymoore then asked what she meant, but Clarissa said sometimes people look at her like she’s a full trashcan.

Barbara knows why she chose those exact words, and Linda probably picks up on it too. A few sets of parents two blocks away heard about Barbara and Linda and were not pleased, to say the least. Lesbians – it was apparently “just wrong” for such a religious group of families. That is to say, they were “full trashcans on the curb with no place but a landfill.” Linda fears each morning might be the morning their neighbors find out the truth. How would they react when they found out that neither lady had always been a lady.

They would lose their minds if they ever knew that the two women had undergone sexual reassignment surgery together. The two of them met in a support group and just fell in love. It was brilliant but sometimes Barbara believed that they had yet to be pushed to their limits – to see if their love could stand the trials of time.

Maybe this would be the first trial… A trial of pain… a test of morals… a test of strength… But most importantly: a test of parenting.

“This morning Clarissa came to school with leaves stuck in her hair and dirt all over her face. I sent her to the nurse and when once cleaned up there were evident welts and bruises on her shoulders. Clarissa said that kids are mad at her and tell her that she belongs in the fiery pits of Hell. She said those exact words.” Mr. Benson is the one addressing the group while Miss Claymoore covers her face in pity. Linda is shaking her head and full on sobbing now. This is how she expressed herself for pretty much all emotions. And who wouldn’t be distraught by the things the wives had been told? The only reason Barbara is keeping it together pretty well is because she’s heard sad stories at work. Stories that people only recognize from their nightmares.

Mr. Jordan says that he’s preparing a letter for parents and that it should be disbursed by Friday. He’s also holding a meeting with the school board to incorporate a more effective Anti-Bullying campaign in the district. Barbara shakes her head, shrugs her shoulders, and finally decides to speak again…

…”I don’t think this is just a bullying problem, sir. I think that there’s a deeper issue than just kids being mean and adults being mean. There is inherent discrimination happening. The lack of knowledge perpetuates hateful practices starting in parents and passing down through generations.”

Miss Claymoore knows exactly to what Barbara is referring. Linda had shared with her why the type of neighborhood was important to them – why they were looking for a more liberally affiliated area of town…

Mr. Jordan lets his guard down and rubs his face. Clearly he expected this and hoped to avoid it. Miss Claymoore can’t make eye contact. Fortunately, Mr. Benson maintains his composure and pushes forward through the meeting; “We understand that you have frustrations with the school curriculum. There’s only so much individuality awarded to the schools. As such, we cannot do much to inform the children about different life choices available to them, but we will do everything it is within our power to control this situation from the school. In the meantime, we want to get you the resources you need in order to help Clarissa as her loving her parents.”

The meeting goes on for another half an hour but when the ladies get home in time to get Clarissa off of the bus, they realize that the meeting wasn’t over exactly. They might not be with the school staff discussing the issue at hand, but they have a folder full of materials they need to review. Therapists, psychologists, pediatric specialists, support groups, and so on.

Linda says what they’re both thinking first, though. It makes all of the paperwork and brochures seem irrelevant. Even if she sounds a little broken her brilliance is undiminished; “I suppose it is time to reach out to Franklin. He did wonders for us.”

Your Age is Showing

Another Flash Fiction Friday, and another week of struggling to find something inspiring. However, I did find something at this particular Tumblr blog, Nightlight Writing.

Prompt: The icepack might help more if it was on the right side.

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My sister, Sally, and I are sitting inside of my bay window. We both have severe allergies, so in the early Spring we have to stay inside while the kids play football outside. Connor is always energetic, the perfect father and uncle for a bunch athletic little buggers. Sally’s boys are both on their junior varsity football teams at the high school, and our son is on his eighth grade team as the starting quarterback. Of course, our daughter is a cheerleader on top of that, so even she plays with them. Connor pretends that he doesn’t treat her any different when they play, but Sally always points out that he tackles her less often.

“She is just so damn flippy,” He proclaims, asserting that she can pull off crazy saves. He’s such a good dad.

I offer to grab some tea. We love raspberry tea, and have been drinking it since we were just little girls playing dress up in momma’s pretty work shoes. Once she accepts I saunter out to the kitchen, having already brewed some before she came to town for a visit. I start pulling glasses from the cupboard when I hear the front door open. There doesn’t seem to be much commotion so I keep going about my business.

It’s probably just one of the kids coming in for a pee, they always have to pee.

“Kay!” My sister’s voice is so soft that I almost don’t even hear her. When I return to the living room with two cups of delicious raspberry tea, chilled is the best way to drink it, I see that Connor is sitting awkwardly in the recliner. Asking seems a waste of my breath but I know I have to ask.

“Throw your back out?” Connor has had this happen a couple of other times over the last year or so, but he apparently ‘forgets’ to tell his doctor about it. Instead, he just visits a chiropractor every six weeks. He’s going to regret his cheap fixes, we all will, but he’s a grown man and I can only make him do so much when he’s being stubborn.

Sally nods for him because he can’t stop hissing. Glasses are placed delicately on the window sill, careful to tilt them slight outwards against the screen in case they get knocked over. Immediately I drag myself back into the kitchen to retrieve and icepack. It won’t do much good for him but he’s in a lot of pain so it’s better than nothing.

The kids start filing in to check on Connor, the eldest boys offering to help him get to the bedroom. His response is in the early stages of protest, assuring that he can still play, but I intervene – “Please, if you could.”

Nearly fifteen minutes later, the “Connor Squad” gets my husband up the stairs and into bed. Everyone complained through the whole process, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it was slightly amusing. With the football activities being put at a standstill, Sally offers to take all the kids out for lunch. Immediately everyone scatters to get shoes and change shirts leaving me to quietly thank her for taking everyone out.

“The benefits of having a doctor for a husband. You can always afford to take the kids out for a surprise lunch.” After a quick cheek kiss I jog up the stairs with the icepack still firmly in hand. As I round the corner I see that my husband is trying desperately to reach for the phone, rocking side-to-side desperately. The volume of my chuckle gives away my presence.

He doesn’t want me bothering him or pampering him, he just wants to call his chiropractor to see if she’d be willing to drive by the house after work. I shake my head at him before taking a seat near his feet. Per the usual, I’m lecturing him about his decisions – reminding him that he’s thirty-eight now and not as sturdy as he used was ten years ago. Connor hates being reminded that he’s an “old” dad. He wasn’t an “old” dad for Kendra, but she was a girl and it wouldn’t have mattered.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you take care of yourself then you can do what good dads do all the time.” I comfort him this way quite often. Good dads are dads that are there for their kids when they are needed. Damon could care less if his dad plays football with him everyday Saturday afternoon, as long as his dad was there to support him and encourage him. The love is what matters.

I place the icepack over his shirt right beneath his hand. Connor gurgles in response, wiggles, and then shoves it off of him. Before I can place it on him again, he bites at me: “The icepack might help more if it’s on the right side, yeah?” He uses his left hand to point to the spot that hurts most. The whole scene was misleading because he was holding onto his right hip, but apparently that was because the left side hurt too much to touch. As I roll my eyes I rest the icepack exactly where he’s instructed before leaving the room.

“I won’t give up football. If I give up football I’m admitting that I can’t physically play anymore.” He concludes as I go, shouting so that he knows I heard him. Whatever he has to say to make himself feel better. I know the truth, though. He is stressed that his age is showing. It is all a part of getting older. Connor will have to come to terms with it soon enough. Hopefully his midlife crises is something productive, like coaching or something.

When I pick up the glasses of tea left in the windows, I pivot again to retrace the path I just took back to the bedroom. Thankfully, Connor loves raspberry tea just as much as my sister.

You are invalidating your children… and pretty much everyone else too…

Disclaimer:     The only things that you need to know about this article this week are that 1) I am a parent; 2) I am still young enough to be a considered “child” to to most parents; 3) I’ve had a decent amount of academic exposure to sociology and psychology; and 4) I’m hyperaware of social issues. These particular issues have been gaining a lot of momentum – especially online – and are things I feel need addressed more straightforwardly. As always, be reminded that this is an opinion article. Although, if you ask me, I will tell everyone to take these things into consideration when, you know, being a human. Also be aware that there is course language in a few paragraphs of this article.

* terrible parent voice*      You made yourself mad…

This is a post that set me off about a month ago. I replied (on my own blog without any tags) with a slew of swear words and insults. As a parent, it’s hard for me to watch younger children talk poorly about their parents without considering what actually makes a good or a bad parent. As you can see… this post had no context. If you’re a parent you know that sometimes – yeah – your kids piss themselves off and that’s just the reality of the situation! I was having bad anxiety that week and I wish I wouldn’t have said anything because afterwards I got a message from the original poster telling me I was a shitty parent and that I was an asshole for replying to his or her post.

Furthermore, his or her friends started messaging me to kill myself. They don’t know me, but I’ve had a long struggle with self-harm and depression on top of my severe anxiety. This experience just heightened the slew of attacks I’d already been having at the time. I spent hours evaluating why I was so upset, evaluating if I was in the wrong, if I was a bad parent, and if having a blog was even worth it anymore because this one incident would ruin my reputation as an open-minded person – something you can rarely come back from on the internet.

But that’s when I realized – no. I wasn’t wrong because everything I posted in the reply was right. This person wasn’t a parent. This person didn’t explain why he or she felt that this was a terrible parent thing to say to a child. This person didn’t think before they posted. The last realization is what hit me hardest, though, because neither had I! It made me wonder more about how people discredit each other all time. I had easily done it to this person who eventually revealed that he or she had a terribly manipulative parent and reacted in the same way his or her parent would to any kind of criticism.

I never replied to the message from the original poster because I realized that with my anxiety I was bound to follow in the footsteps of my mother. I would reply until I was red in the face with a tear stained cheeks. Just as she has severe anxiety, so do I, and recognizing the pattern in her has saved me a world of trouble. Being at odds with her through my childhood has shown me how easily an argument with someone can turn dark and hateful, even when it’s not even sincere. Once it happens it cannot be undone so I just kept my curiosity self-contained. Until now.

All of this has inspired me to write this article. Parenting is something that the Internet has a fascination with – are you doing it right; are you doing it wrong? So, today I want to talk about some things parents do that discredit their children – and consequently, other people too.

(1)      It’s just a phase; you’ll grow out it someday. You might change your mind when you’re older. There will come a time when you don’t want/ won’t like that anymore. You’ll regret that someday. Everyone goes through it. This is normal but it won’t last forever.

            I’ll admit that I’m guilty of telling my 7-year-old that he might change his mind about things. As parents we don’t think of the implications that this imposes on our children, though. The reality is that this is a form of invalidation. When you tell your child that he or she is just going through a phase and that he or she will regret something in the future – you are basically telling them that their opinions and feelings don’t matter right now. Remember that saying? “Kids are sponges,” yeah – that is real. Kids remember everything. Truth be told, it is harder for them to remember things if the child hasn’t developed language, but that’s a completely different matter.

Sounds made up, right? Invalidation – that cannot possibly be an actual thing, right? Unfortunately, there is psychological relevance to invalidation. It’s not called “invalidation,” but it is based upon the premise of devaluing your child. There is a quote from this article that I simply cannot summarize, so allow me to copy it word-for-word for you right here:

“Invalidating someone else is not merely disagreeing with something that the other person said. It is a process in which individuals communicate to another that the opinions and emotions of the target are invalid, selfish, uncaring, stupid, most likely insane, and wrong, wrong, wrong. Invalidators let it be known directly or indirectly that their target’s views and feelings do not count for anything to anybody at any time or in any way.”

(Allen)

Is it really fair to play games in front of your sister when you know she isn’t old enough yet? You don’t know what you’re talking about, sweetheart. Can you share your cookies with your cousin, please, since he doesn’t have his own? That’s too hard for you; why don’t you try something you already know how to do. You can’t do that unless you do it the way I showed you.

            None of these things sound very bad. We want our children to be generous and compassionate, and we want them to be fair. We want them to be happy and to listen to directions. What we don’t consider is that we do this so often while our children are growing up that it transitions into somewhat harsher actions of invalidation – because certainly they should know better by now, right?

You can’t do that because I said so. I’m the adult in this house and I make the rules. You don’t have a choice. That’s not your decision. You’ll have to get over it. It doesn’t matter. One day you’ll realize that I was right. I carried you for nine months; we take care of you. I did what I thought was best for you.

These are things we usually say to our children when we’re mad at them, or we don’t like something they’ve said, done, or chosen. Really, though, when we say these things we are manipulating them to think that they were wrong. We are choosing our language so that when they hear it they will believe that because of our “superior” role in the household that we were automatically correct. By creating this relationship we can teach our children that when they want something that they are automatically incorrect – exactly the opposite of ourselves as the parents. How awful is it to grow up thinking that everything you think and feel is wrong?

Disqualification is the result of invalidation, you see. By developing a psychology that disqualifies, oneself is imposing the idea that his or her internal desires are invalid (Allen). We’ve all heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” the idea that we can avoid something so fervently that we blindly walk down the very path that leads us to that same thing we are trying to avoid. Too often we are told that we are exactly like our parents, or that our children are exactly like us. The truth is, if you say this enough even when it’s false – eventually it will become true. The reasoning is rooted in invalidation and disqualification. When someone develops the psyche of a disqualifier, essentially he or she begins behaving in a way that invites or provokes others to invalidate their decisions (Allen).

Someone who has always been told that they are too reckless, too radical, or too outspoken then they are more likely to be reckless, radical, and outspoken. If you spend eighteen years telling your daughter that she needs to keep her opinions to herself – she is more likely to share her opinions because she doesn’t know how to function without being told in some variation that basically her opinions don’t always matter. Tell a young man that he needs to stop putting himself in life threatening situations, then he’s more likely to do something dangerous because he’s used to hearing that he’s done something crazy and out-of-control. Disqualification is not unlike addiction in that respect. The individual becomes dependent on the idea of hearing the same thing, and as such they do things to continue the pattern.

To summarize and wrap up this particular problem, I want to list some language that we use when we are disqualifying our children. Next to it is my proposed alternative language.

Disqualifying language Supportive/Inclusive language
Be happy / Cheer up / Don’t be sad / Don’t look so serious / Don’t look so cocky / You’re bringing everyone down

 

This encourages a child to believe that their emotions are not appropriate or are unwanted – this teaches them to fake their emotions or better hide them so that they are not commanded to feel differently. This is especially true for teenagers who suffer from self-esteem issues frequently during puberty.

What can I do to help you right now? Can I do anything to take your mind off of what’s bothering you? Do you need a moment to yourself?

 

Instead of suggesting your child should feel differently, this acknowledges your child’s current emotions and that there is actually a spectrum of emotions to be felt. By offering your support and/or assistance this will create a strong bond of trust between you and your child. He or she will not be discouraged to discuss things with you in the future (during those teenager years, for example).

Get over it / Stop whining / You don’t understand / I tried to help you / There’s no reason to be upset or angry / You should be thankful that something else didn’t happen

 

This suggests to your child that it is undesirable to feel anything other than happy and calm. It also can lead your child to believe making mistakes is unacceptable. However, feeling defeated and complaining are facets of life that cannot be avoided. Making a mistake or messing something up is unavoidable. Causing a child to feel this way can lead him or her down a path of lying or deceiving so that you will not judge them or invalidate something that they have done.

You did your best and you learned something / There will be more opportunities for you / It’s okay to feel that way because it means you have passion and drive / That might not have be the best experience but that is okay

 

This allows you to encourage your child when he or she may not be thrilled about the outcome of something. So maybe he or she didn’t listen to your advice and they lost the big game or they got a bad score. Instead of invalidating those emotions teach your child to choose a more positive outlook without compromising the way that they feel right now. Turning your emotions into fuel, not matter how “bad” those emotions are, can really lead your child to a life of fulfillment because they will not become discouraged by something difficult.

Don’t take it personally / I was just kidding / That’s not what I meant and you know it / Forget about it / You should be embarrassed or ashamed / I didn’t hurt you or your feelings / Are you on your period / Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed / This is getting pathetic / It’s all about you

 

By saying any of these things to your child you are basically teaching them that you can say whatever you want to them. In addition to that, you are suggesting that something that is out of his or her control is the reason that their personality and emotions are undesirable. If a child is offended by something and it hurts their feelings you can’t discredit it because it teaches the child to believe that their reactions are not valuable to anyone. A child raised with this type of language will get taken advantage of by others frequently and only perpetuate feelings of distress.

I apologize for hurting your feelings / I should have chose my words better / What I did or said was wrong and I am working on it / Let’s talk about this and try to recover / You are feeling this way a lot – do you think we need to talk about it more or see a professional for more help / You are focused on yourself lately – is there something going on / Do you feel like you’re getting healthy attention from us and/or your peers

 

Firstly, always be willing to admit when you have done something wrong in front of or to your children. This will show them that not only that it is it okay to make mistakes but that they should acknowledge and fix them too. Opening the communication with your child also allows them to define themselves and the severity of any issues that they are experiencing. If you’re child is suffering from a serious issue the first step is in admitting that there is a problem. Foster your child’s growth, and recovery if necessary.

(EQI – source for disqualifying language)

(2)      You’re a little boy – you can’t play with dolls! You’re a little girl – you can’t wear that shirt! Girls don’t roughhouse. Boys don’t play dress-up. Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls. That’s for girls. That’s for boys. Marriage is for only a man and a woman. Homosexuality is a sin. Same-sex couples shouldn’t have children. You should find a boyfriend/girlfriend. When are you going to settle down with a good man/woman?

            For so many years in the lifespan of humankind there have been “girl” things and “boy” things. Where does this come from even? Oh yes – our fucking genitals. I know that is harsh language – but I won’t apologize for it. Gender identity is assumed for children long before they are ever born! As soon as you find out if your child has a penis of a vagina you are buying all pink or all blue. You buy cars or dollies. That child’s identity is chosen for them based on their sex.

Unfortunately, nobody teaches in any mandatory classes (yeah, I’m looking at you American health class curriculum) that GENDER and SEX are two different things. Gender is how a person chooses to identify him or herself. There’s even the possibility that someone wants to identify as neither gender, or changes their gender day-to-day based on how they feel when they wake up.

Gender is a very fluid thing for a good many people. A harsh reality on the matter is – children can know as young as two to four years old whether or not he or she has the wrong gender identity (Psychology Today – GID). In fact, it’s more common than people really credit for someone to feel as if he or she is the wrong gender. One in every thirty thousand men and one in every one hundred thousand women, actually, feel as if they were born the wrong gender (Psychology Today – GID). Just to be clear, it’s more likely for someone to have some form of gender dysphoria than it is someone will die from a shark attack (which if you Google it, you’ll find that the odds are 1 in 3,748,733 – it’s also more likely than dying by a fireworks accident). One psychologist says that most parents seek out professional treatment once their child is school age because it is a “phase that hasn’t passed” (NPR).

It’s important to pay attention to your child’s behaviors and ‘leave the window open’ (although, I disagree with one of the NPR psychologists in this respect) so that your child can show you if he or she agrees with the gender identity that you have chosen for them (by their genitals of all things). When your child tells you plainly that he or she thinks that he or she is the wrong gender – take it seriously. During the interview it is stated that Dr. Zucker has never had a child conclude on his or her transgender identity and later change their mind. That means – yes – if your child tells you at two, three, or four years old that he or she is the wrong gender – it is highly probable that he or she is secure in those thoughts. Older children expressing these types of feelings should be taken even more seriously because of the amount of time that it has taken to reach a point of comfort to discuss those feelings.

Building on this even more – do not ever judge different sexualities in your children – or ever really. This is especially hard for people within the religious community. Many religions believe homosexuality to be a sin and therefore submit their child to constant invalidation, verbal abuse, and even therapy designed to make him or her heterosexual. Honestly, this is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard of happening outside of actual murdering and physical violence against people for being of a different sexuality (or gender identity, by the way). Of course, religious wars are a real thing – but that’s one of those touchy subjects I’ll save for a rainier day.

I don’t agree with everything perfectly being said – but I think if you’re religious and you are struggling with a child whose sexuality is outside the realm of the church’s acceptance – you should really read this letter by a Catholic pastor. Now, I know that this pastor is suggesting that you seek therapy after a child comes out as homosexual, bisexual, or otherwise. Understand that this is meant to deal with the feelings of distress you have as a devout member of your church and for the benefit of your child. It is not to reconfigure your child to be heterosexual. Having parents in the religious community means that your child is likely suffering from a mental disorder as a result of all the suppressed feelings and hidden identity. The therapy is to help you cope as a parent and to help your child deal with lasting impressions which have oppressed them. It is becoming more and more common for churches to accept and incorporate all types of different gender identities and sexualities into their following because – oh goodness is this possible – the only person that can judge them is God (or gods depending on your religion). That means you shouldn’t open you mouth about whether or not God (or gods) will accapet your child, and definitely not using your religion as a way to devalue the child as a person.

Your child loves differently than you do. Your child did not murder someone.

Unless, of course, your child did murder someone – in which case the homosexuality is definitely the least of your worries. Get immediately psychological help and contact the authorities. Anyway… enough of that… back on track!

Another good read for parents and families facing sexuality questions and concerns is this pamphlet prepared for educational purposes by the American Psychology Association. This walks you through all of the questions that most parents and people have initially about their child’s sexuality. My favorite section is “What is the psychological impact of prejudice and discrimination,” which addresses things same-sex couples have been unable to enjoy as freely as heterosexual couples. Until recently, marriage was a part of that list. America, along with many other countries, is has legalized same-sex marriage since the publication of that article. Further in the reading, it also discusses the importance that homosexuality (and otherwise) is not a mental disorder, and that support is crucial when facing a “coming out” transition.

Really, just don’t invalidate your child’s identity or sexuality. There is nothing wrong with him or her. Listen to your children when they ask you to use certain pronouns. Take your children seriously when they are trying to share something with you like a same-sex partner or a desire to not identify with any gender. Just accept them and love them as a person not as a gender identity or sexuality.

(3)      Oh – you should try that – I never had that kind of opportunity. This wasn’t available when I was your age. You’ll thank me for this experience when you’re older. This will be good for you. You need to do this because it will look good in the future on your resume or job application. My parents made me do this when I was a kid and it was amazing. It’s a tradition so you have to do it too.

            Isn’t it hard to not want things for our children? We want them to be cultured. We want them to be experienced. That’s the problem with us – we want so much for them. As it stands, though, our children really aren’t miniature versions of us. Every person is unique in some respect or another. There are similarities, of course, that we share with our parents and our children with us. This truth does not give us permission to make decisions for our child unless it is in regard to their safety. That is literally the only time that you should be making a choice for your child ever. You can’t make a child join a sport just because you like it, and you can’t forbid your child from playing a sport you don’t like either. Allow your children to decide for themselves what they want to do and you’ll be surprised to find out that they will honestly figure out who they are on their own just fine.

So, I don’t think parents actively decide to “live vicariously through” their children. To be honest, we [my husband and myself] struggle with this very line a lot. My husband bowled and played soccer when he was younger but stopped in high school. As it turns out, our son now loves soccer and bowling. We find ourselves pushing him to be better – and unfortunately, it’s not always in a way that is healthy. That’s right, folks, even I – the writer of this article – find myself committing some of these terrible, awful, no good things. Children can adopt the interests of their parents, its’ common, but it’s not right to treat your child the way you would treat yourself if you had a second chance to achieve these same successes. You will push them twice as hard because you already gave up or failed once, and that will make it hard for your child to see you as a parent so much as a coach (or a dictator)…

This scenario can play out two ways. Your child likes your ideas – your child likes what you like – and so your child takes your advice and achieves all of the success that you hoped for when you were their age doing the same things. Unfortunately, while your child reaps the benefits of your dreams – you’ll become depressed (Psychology Today). This theory is “the savior” outcome. You see yourself as “the savior” for your child because you had to sacrifice your aspirations to ensure that they did not have to do the same (Psychology Today). I don’t think parents realize exactly how often that they do this verbally and nonverbally, as well as aggressively and passively. It’s so easy to congratulate your child by saying: “All the miles I put into this for you have finally paid off! Look at this trophy!”

I’ll be honest, I said exactly that to my son when he won not one but two soccer championship games in the same day. I was so proud of him because he was seven and he played with the six-seven tournament and the eight-nine tournament. He played seven soccer games that day – one of which went into overtime! And he was so excited that we turned around and went bowling. Immediately afterwards. He bowled a 100 and a 75 during those two games. He was on a roll that day. But I passively applied my “savior” complex to the situation by making it about what I gave to him rather than what he earned himself. We all do this and it’s important that we try to avoid it.

Now, for every good outcome there’s a bad one, right? That’s like – what physics? For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction! The second outcome is that called “the avenger;” this relates back to disqualification. Your child sees his or her parent focusing on his or her negative behaviors which hinder success and therefore continually behave in a way that perpetuates the same (Psychology Today). What ultimately causes this is when a parent is himself or herself taught not to express frustrations or behave in a way that could compromise an opportunity thought to be good for them in childhood. As a parent you then perpetuate those ideals even though you disagreed with them growing up. This leads you to later defending your child’s feelings of resentment and outbursts of otherwise inappropriate behaviors.

My mom may or may not read this, but she is very much like this. When any of her children are in the wrong – she will scold us with hellacious vigor [sorry mom]. However, if anyone else tells her that her children are bad or wrong in anyway then she jumps to our defense. Many people believe that this is what you should do as a parent – you are obligated always protect your children. Unfortunately, protecting your children can sometimes mean telling them that they are wrong and that they are making really bad decisions. Let me reiterate, though, that homosexuality is not a bad decision. A bad decision is committing a crime or risking one’s safety or that of another person [like murder or suicide, for extreme examples].

In the end, everything comes full circle when the “avenger” role is occupied. Invalidation, disqualification, and manipulative language eventually just breaks down whatever quality relationship exists between you and your child. Even with the “savior” outcome doesn’t end well. You will eventually resent your child, which will result in the exact same thing: invalidation, disqualification, and emotional manipulation.

(4)      Why can’t you sit still like your brother? Why can’t you be quieter like your sister? Are you going to go to college like your cousin? What if you did something like you brother? I think you’d like to follow in your friend’s footsteps. Maybe you should try what your friends are doing. Maybe you should study more like this other person. You’re the smart one and your sister is the creative one.

            In my husband’s family – he was the “quiet” middle child. His brother was the “baby” and his older sister really didn’t have a label given to her. In my family, I was the “emotional” middle child. My younger brother was the “socialite” and my older brother was the “trouble maker.” My cousins were often labeled: daredevil, wild child, and oddball. My nieces and nephews are usually labeled “quiet,” “athletic,” and “awkward.” Even the grandchildren in the family are labeled: “energetic,” “behaved,” “aggressive,” “silly,” and “shy.” Labels are pretty shit at school but they even more shit when plastered on by your parents.

So it is okay to use these words to describe your children. It is not so okay when you use this to identify them. This is you picking their identity for them. When you start calling them something as an identifier – “he’s my athletic child” – you basically are creating the perception for and of them. Growing up for as long as I remember I was also called the “smart” child. It still happens today. Now, I’m a cocky person at times, and I won’t deny being a smart person ever – but when I became a mom in high school the amount of pressure that label bore into me was excruciating. Every grade I earned was no longer just a good grade or a bad grade. It was a consequence. My grades were consequences and reflections of my life decisions. That is quite a lot for a sixteen year old girl not accounting for the fact that the school’s been trying to pressure me into picking a college and major since first grade! I’m not the only person that feels this way, though, because the same troubles weigh heavy on the minds of athletes and students in other extracurricular activities. Any labels assigned to a child prevent them from fully expressing themselves. They need to explore the word the way it was meant to be explored – trial and error (so long as safety is not compromised, as I keep reminding you).

In addition to labeling children, what about those first statements, how those come into play here? Honestly, there is so much wrong with comparing your child to other children – especially within your own family. Firstly, your child is different from other children. Remember that everyone is unique thing – yeah, that does apply to your child. All the time, too, just in case you only wanted it to apply when they are successful. It means your child’s best and worst traits are unique and should be acknowledged and respected equally. Don’t believe me – that’s okay… I’m confident that you will.

Doctor Sylvia Rimm has a website dedicated to the effects of sibling comparison. You can read the full text here, but I’ll summarize what it discusses for you quickly. The implications of labels for your children, some of which I’ve stated my opinion on based on previous points in this article. However, Dr. Rimm also goes on to elaborate how the psychology of labels can cause children to consciously and subconsciously competes with one another, or even with outside parties, to prove themselves to their parents. They may refocus on only the thing that you believe them to be, willing to give up in areas that they believe that they could never surpass their siblings in otherwise (Rimm). A perfect example of this is in regard to my and my siblings.

My eldest brother struggled with severe ADHD and never excelled in school. My mother then was excessively interested in my being smart and academically versed. By the time my younger brother popped up she was balanced. She believed in encouraging him for do his best and pushing him to just improve in whatever ways he could manage. Our academic careers accurately reflect our parenting, but also the labels assigned – since I was called the “smart” one (interchangeably with the “emotional” one).

My brother really only tried to make sure he was passing class, getting extra help only if he needed it. He was a “B” and “C” student, which isn’t bad. I know it’s hard to forget this in America where only “A” and “B” students can get into college and be success stories, but “C” is average. Being average means that you are where you should be practically. Scoring something that is considered average is actually where, based on evaluated standards, you are expected to be usually. The problem is – I was already the “smart” kid. Nobody will ever admit it out loud but this was discouraging to him. Dr. Rimm is right – it creates an unspoken competition because he went on to pursue things in which I had failed – such as the prestigious show choir and sports. It’s unintentional, in most cases, but it is damaging no matter how absent-mindedly labels are placed and statements are made by parents.

The best advise for avoiding this type of behavior comes right down to how you speak, and how you encourage your children. Firstly, don’t label children in anyway (Rimm). Labeling, as explained, causes so many issues. Just don’t do it ever, and if you do it try to apologize and explain why it’s not okay so that your children don’t do it to other children or their children in the future. Also, make sure you put education first (Rimm). It is illegal to not have your child in school or participating in a school curriculum. Focus on making sure that your children are doing well in school no matter what their preferences for after high school are – encourage them to take classes that will better help them in their decisions. Focus on making sure that everyone’s academics are the priority because all work habits start with how a child works at school. Lastly, be sure to always regard both parents and/or parent figures as intelligent (Rimm). Children need to have a high regard for both parents – and children who associate themselves as more like one parent will adopt their personality traits and mannerisms. It wouldn’t be wise for your child to affiliate with his or her mother and constantly hear that their father is the “smart” one.

See how that works – labels suck. I’m not even going to try talking about favoritism between children because this article is already length enough. But if you happen to be worried that you might be playing favorites – you should probably read this article to better prevent yourself from – you know – doing that.

(5)      There are children starving in the world – eat your dinner! Don’t be wasteful because not everyone has the same privileges that you have. There are people in the world who have less than we do so you should be grateful. It could be worse. That’s not a big deal. That isn’t even a real problem.

            I am super excited to see that mental illness is becoming more prevalent in the media these days. There’s so much stigma about common disorders like anxiety and depression, people disregarding them as honest afflictions. I’ve talked about the severity of anxiety and depression in my previous articles. They are serious and should never be disregarded simply due to the staggering number of people affected and diagnoses with these diseases. If you think I’m just excusing people – let me remind you that Ebola wasn’t even a pandemic and people were all talking about how severe it was and how it was a risk. You have a bigger chance of someone committing suicide than you do of someone contracting Ebola in the United States.

For obvious reasons, displayed in these two articles by Huffington Post in relation specifically to anxiety and depression, you should never say these types of things to someone with a mental disorder. Firstly, they have a medical predisposition due to their illness to take what you’re saying extremely personally. If you told someone struggling with depression because of his or her gender identity and sexuality which is being oppressed by his or her parents that their problems aren’t even real problems because he or she isn’t dying or dead – well, you could wake up the next day to find out he or she committed suicide. Convincing someone that their problem is not a real problem is almost as bad as holding a gun to someone’s head when that person has a mental illness. You are being abusive and you need therapy too (probably for the same reason your child would need therapy, honestly – I’ll explain that later).

For less obvious reasons (although, I can’t say I understand why they are less obvious), this is equally as detrimental to children who don’t have mental illness. You could actually cause your child to develop a mental illness as the result of saying things like this to him or her. Everything ties back into disqualification and invalidating your children. Even though it’s a fallacy (a philosophical theory that essentially means that something is false or conceived without any logical basis – I’m getting kind of counterproductive here but you should know what that means if you didn’t already) invalidation of children is a slippery slope. Now, not all parents who have disqualifying language when addressing their children raise children with problems. In fact, parents that do all of these things don’t always raise children with problems either. There is some “luck of the draw” aspect to it as well.

I give a lot of credit to my mother. She struggles day-in-and-day-out and she still makes improvements, no matter how small that they are, daily. When I was a kid she was deeply prejudice even though I don’t think she actively did it. In fact, a good many of our behaviors are ingrained (DeName). We adapt and incorporate the behaviors that we are familiar with from our own childhoods (DeName). They define us as adults and become the examples we set for our own children.

Now that’s what I call a full circle! All of these bad things that we do as parents we learned from their parents, and their parents from their parents before that! How does anyone ever function on a healthy level with information like that rattling around in their heads? I think the better question is how does anyone actually function healthily in any situation, but that’s almost too philosophical for this piece.

This wouldn’t be a good article if I didn’t offer up some advice, especially since I definitely believe that this is a problem. Being a parent is one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t life things. There is no single way to be a good parent because it all depends on family dynamics and personalities. Some parents need to be more restrictive with their children than others, for example. It’s all up in the air. All of the above points I’ve discussed are matters that are crucial in your child’s life. Doing any of these things can have detrimental consequences right down to your child killing himself or herself – something that you will forever regret watching happen as a parent.

As I said, I struggle with a some of these mannerisms too. I’ve shared the kind of background I come from, and it’s certainly not perfect. I’m certainly not perfect. Nobody can ever be a perfect parent, and that’s the cold reality of it. We can, however, be better parents and we can be better people. If you find yourself doing any of these things why don’t you try treating it like a bad habit? Take the opportunity to promote change within yourself and your relationship with your child?

Growing up I always heard that if I was exposed to information at least seven times in two or three different ways that I would inevitably remember the information. This is what my teachers told me when I asked why we had to see the same information so many times and spend so much time on chapters that the class has clearly mastered. Later in life teachers started talking about breaking and developing habits that will help us succeed in the future. At that point we were told twenty-one days, or approximately a month, is the time it would take of doing something every single day in order to break or create a habit. Breaking a habit is, after all, just developing a new habit of not doing something or doing something else.

But of course it takes much longer than twenty-one days… go figure!

Studies actually show that it could take as long as 66 days for the average person to break or develop their habits (Clear). Remember that word “average” is only for the majority of people – that’s where people generally conclusively had a “habit.” Some people may take more or less time depending on a variety of different factors (Clear).

Changing how you raise your children to ensure the healthiest life he or she can enjoy, it’s not easy. As stated, it takes time. It will be hard. There will be mistakes along the way. More importantly than the struggles is the outcome. You will become a better person. You will have a better relationship with your kids. You could work on a better relationship with your parents.

And when that’s all done – you just might realize that you are doing better with other people too.

References

Allen, David M., M.D. “Invalidation in Families: What Are The Hidden Aspects?”          Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

Allen, David M., M.D. “Living Vicariously through Children with a Twist.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

Clear, James. “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by       Science).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 June 2014. Web.       17 Aug. 2015.

DeName, Kristi A. “Repetition Compulsion: Why Do We Repeat the Past?” World of Psychology. Ed. John M. Grohol. PsychCentral, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

P., Steve. “Invalidation.” Invalidation. EQI, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

“Psychology Today.” Gender Identity Disorder. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Aug.        2015.

Rimm, Sylvia B. “The Effects of Sibling Competition Dr. Sylvia Rimm.” The Effects of Sibling Competition Dr. Sylvia Rimm. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm Ph.D, n.d. Web. 17   Aug. 2015.

Zucker, Dr. Ken, Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, and Alex Spiegel. “Q&A: Therapists on Gender Identity Issues in Kids.” NPR. NPR, 7     May 2007. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

Hyperlinked Sources

http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201103/adolescence-and-parental-favoritism

http://www.sylviarimm.com/article_sibcomp.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/what-not-to-say-to-someon_n_4675854.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/17/things-not-to-say-to-some_n_4781182.html

Maybe It’s Time

The hard part isn’t being a single father. No, the hardest thing about my life is explaining to Lee why she doesn’t have a mother. She is four now and she just asks so many questions.

Do I not have a mommy because you don’t like mommies? Of course not, I have to tell her, I love mommies. Lee hears this and scrunches her face, in a temper tantrum sort of way. Sometimes I have nightmares about the Terrible-Twos when she gives me this look before bed.

Then do mommies not like me? This isn’t true either. When I tell her that she is certainly not the problem, and that she’s the single most adorable young lady in the world, she mumbles back; so I don’t understand why I don’t have a mommy. It used to be that I would dodge around the question until she got tired to asking, or got distracted by her toys.

Her birthday is today, though, and when she tells me her plans before her party guests arrive I conclude that it is time to stop evading her; “Daddy, I’m going to wish for a mommy for my birthday. I think that is why I don’t have one. I never asked!” Her dainty little fingers are scrawling a beautiful woman on the paper – or at least as beautiful as a stick figure can be, anyway. Chances are that this is yet another drawing of a mommy that she wants. On this particular day the mommy is wearing a blue triangular dress with a shiny gold scepter. I am willing to bet that this is “Birthday Mommy,” the best celebrator of birthdays ever known on Earth.

“Lee, you can’t just wish for a mommy. Having two parents isn’t as easy as it sounds, sweetheart. A mommy and daddy have to love each other.” Four years after Natalia left, and five years after leaving Taylor, it seems that I find the courage to admit that maybe I just didn’t love those women enough. Each of us deserved happier lives, so in the end it must have worked out for the better. As I pull back from the reminiscent fray, I watch my daughter’s eyes brighten. It is a little strange, as I have no idea why a child – or even adult – would find my words hopeful.

“That means my new wish will have to come true.” Her curly brown hair bounces with her as she shoots out of her chair. Our hands clasp together and instantly we’re prancing around the kitchen dancing without any music other than our laughter.

Having a child has brought so much happiness to my life. Moments exactly like this make me realize that regretting any of my past mistakes and experiences seem wasteful. Laughing, dancing, singing, playing, dressing up, tea partying, dance rehearsals and recitals; being a father makes me content with everything leading up to this role in my life because there is nothing better than knowing that she loves me and I love her. Our life together is good.

“What is your new wish, Little Leedy?” As a human being, I feel I should be ashamed by this cheesy, nonsensical nickname. For her second birthday my mouth was full of napkins and I still carried a diaper bag of pull-ups and alternative outfits. My mother was asking me about the birthday girl and I said something to the effect of, ‘oh thees lil leeday?’

Lee loved it instantly so it has stuck around. Little Leedy and Little Deedee.

“I’ll wish for a mommy to love my deedee!” There seems little point in chasing her as she flies into the backyard. I’ll never know how her timing is so perfect that she is always in the backyard to meet her grandmother at the gates, but she is out there once again just as Nana shuts her car door.

Keeping track of the hours that pass while I decorate the picnic tables and ensure proper set-up of the jump house ranks lowest on my priority list. Lee is sitting with my parents in the front yard welcoming guests and ushering them to the backyard where parents leave their kids on the swing set. Most of the folks aren’t sticking around for three hours while kids basically play and smear cake on their cheeks.

Also, I’ve found that many parents do not really socialize with one another. If the kids are friends the only conversations to be had are usually in relevance to the children. At least once or twice I tried to make lunch dates with other single parents but I usually get turned down. Sometimes the reasons are valid; other times the excuse is so made up that it literally would have made more sense to say that the family had business on Mars to attend to instead.

Lost in my thoughts so deeply I nearly miss the alarm on my phone screaming, a reminder to start shuffling the kids around for presents and cake. My mother is taking some of the little girls inside to use the restroom so I ask if one of the grandmothers that stayed behind if she would mind helping me out.

“It is always flattering to have a young man find some use out of an elderly woman like me.” Her granddaughter, Miley, is Lee’s best friend at daycare. The girls love doing art projects together and singing karaoke. Uncertainly, I try recalling her name. I am pretty sure that her name is Eleanor but I don’t want to actually say it and be wrong. Instead I say thank you ‘Mrs. Bayberry.’

Plates are soon filled with cake and kids are poking at the frosting with their forks to pass the time while Lee opens her gifts. She has no order, of course, and the only thing that really happens is ripping and screaming. Lee loves everything she ever receives from anyone. I don’t care why she is this way because it honestly is one of the best things about her as a child. Gracious children are to be admired because too often it gets lost in the angst and formalities of growing up.

After I get the trash gathered and kids are off playing again the only thing left to do is relax. As soon as the parents pick up their children I can start properly cleaning up the backyard. Much more loudly than I intended, I suck in a deep breath that I exhale with control.

“You are a good father, Deacon.” Mrs. Bayberry chirps while shuffling onto the narrow patio with me. We stand there for a second as the compliment fills every crevice of silence. This is a statement I hear often from my family and closest friends but the words mean more coming from a fresh face. It gives me confirmation further that having Lee was the best decision of his life.

“Thank you very much. I think Lee agrees on most days. Although, she was quite angry with me on Monday when I had to take her markers away. Does every kid go through a ‘coloring on the wall phase’ or is it just mine?” Small talk is something that Deacon has always been able to do – it is, after all, a big part of being a loan advisor. Being relatable is a vital trait to have in his career field and Deacon does it quite well.

Mrs. Bayberry nods along in a slow manner that is something I consider a trademark for all elderly people; it’s a sign of recollection. This is when I stop paying attention to all other things, usually, because the stories that come from our elders can be phenomenal. It is not unlike having a book read to you and I love it. How special is it that this person is sharing his or her memories with you? Literally no words accurately describe how much I enjoy conversing with the old and wise.

Even if my eyes are following every child in the yard, my ears do not fail to hear her; “I remember my sweet Priscilla used to draw tiger lilies in the corners of her closet when she was mad at me. She may have hated being in that tiny excuse of a room but she is quite the painter now. The murals that woman can do – dear me – I can hardly believe that only twenty years ago she was my moody teenager crying over a bad prom.” Together we sigh; her at the memories of her daughter and myself at the memories of being young.

I remember my own bad prom. Taylor had gone with my best friend’s brother. I had taken the head cheerleader who got my name wrong twelve times during the night. Taylor’s date dumped her at the door where I wish my date had left me. We started talking at the punch bowl about what terrible nights we were having and ultimately ended up hailing a taxi together to meet up with a crowd that had already ditched the dance.

If only Taylor and I had been clearer about our ambitions then, about what we each needed out of life in order to be happy. That never was the problem, though, and I know now. Knowing doesn’t stop me from lapsing on the information but I try hard every day not to blame the failed relationship on her because it really wasn’t just her, not as much as I want to pretend that it had been…

“You would like Priscilla. She works hard all day but no matter how hard she works she comes home to her two children with a smile. They are everything to her and I see that same love in your eyes.” Now, I know Priscilla well enough. Being that the girls are very good friends we do often have to communicate to schedule play dates and parties. Last year our families went trick-or-treating together.

Unfortunately, she had been seeing someone at the time and I had never considered her as anything but a friend. I am far from foolish and I can tell that Mrs. Bayberry means very specifically that I would like Priscilla as more than just a friend. Regardless of her saying this, I am hesitant to believe that there is a possibility that she is single; “I do like her, actually. Priscilla is a good mother to Miley and Evan.”

Evading what she really meant was not the correct response; “I mean to say that you two would make a darling couple. I could talk to her if you’re interested.”

“Do you always hustle your daughter out like this or is mine a special case?” Concern about the topic at hand fades but my smile does not. My own mother is the same way, always trying to proposition me to women she fancies for me. During their generation it was okay to be so leading. I’ve sworn most days that I will do no such thing with Lee because there is a lot more to a person than their romantic value.

“How do you know that Priscilla hasn’t asked me to break the ice for her?” Mrs. Bayberry emits the softest chuckle. It is easy to laugh right along with her until I see that she is walking away from me. Instantly I fear that I have in someway offended her. I am nearly off of the patio before I realize that Priscilla is actually standing only a few feet away.

For how long, I haven’t a clue. Judging by the grin pushing her cheeks back, though, I can only assume that it doesn’t matter. Ever joyous and free-spirited she saunters nearer, clarifying quickly; “I didn’t ask her to do that but I may have mentioned that I was hoping to snag a coffee date – without the kids.”

Well, that was easy.

“Say yes, daddy. Say yes because it’s my birthday and you have to!” Before I roll my eyes, I see that Priscilla is shrugging her shoulders playfully. Miley appears out of nowhere in exactly the same fashion that Lee has, and together they all three giggle. Both girls promptly skip away to talk about how their parents are going to go on a date with the remaining toddlers.

A voice in the back of my mind is assuring me that I’m not ready for this at all. My marriage failed and whatever I had with Natalia never could have qualified as a relationship. Am I even capable of doing this the right way?

I did figure out how to be a pretty good dad on my own, though. Who says that the opportunity to be a good boyfriend, or even husband, has passed? I am the only person that decides what I am capable of in my life. Daringly I make direct eye contact with her; “Sounds good, actually. It sounds really good.”

Priscilla walks away without saying much else, but I’m not sure that we need to either. Each of us already knows what happens when love fails. We are mature enough to know that it’s a date – not forever.

Unless, of course, Lee gets a say in what happens.