Fear and Loathing on the Parenthood Express: A Back to School Special

Sums up Life -- and parenting -- nicely.
Da-da's said, on several occasions, that parenting exists somewhere between Christmas and being roasted alive. Nowhere is this brought into sharper relief than when one reads educational material, brochures and ad copy meant for parents. At a recent school open house/orientation, the literature they handed out instantly set Da-da's feet to the fire with rubrics like...

"Preparing Them For Success and Happiness"


"College Prep Begins in Kindergarten"

...and Da-da's favorite...

"Don't Let Your Child Be Left Behind."

Ah, fear. Parenting and fear. Da-da had no fear until he had children... so, it must've been in there all along? But, "preparing them for success and happiness"? At best, the above words in red are a myopic inaccuracy; at worst, a manipulative lie, designed to sell you a high-priced education via FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Da-da can't send his kids to insanely priced private schools, but he can give them a leg up by being there for them, and teaching them everything he knows... which isn't much, admittedly, but might make them more fun at parties. Or standing in the eye of the hurricane.

Da-da doesn't know about you, but besides preparing his kids for, "SUCCESS," he's also preparing them for those times when they're NOT successful, or happy. Because, like Dr. Suess says, it will happen quite a lot.

A neverending stream of extreme happiness and success is untenable... and maybe even a bit boring. But how would Da-da know, right? It's trite, but Life is an amazing, horrible, thrilling, tedious, boring-as-hell roller coaster that may very well fail while you're riding it. Let's go with that a moment.

Roller coasters aren't all about thrills. You usually have to first drive a ways to get to one, pay a price to get near it, drink $6 sodas and eat $12 hot dogs, then stand in line a looooong time, exercising those boredom and patience and auto-entertaining muscles. When you're finally there, strapping yourself into the seat requires a bit of courage -- and precision, so you don't fall out. Enduring those various flavors and odors of humanity around you works your forgiveness mojo. The ride itself invokes fear -- one of the two human common denominators -- as well as thrills, centripetal and centripedal forces, getting barfed on, etc. Then there's the end of the ride, the inevitable part where the cars slow and prepare to disgorge you back into the unwashed masses, a little queasy and dizzy. Up and down, round and round... and back to square one: welcome to Life! If you can prepare kids for this, you're doing well.

Thus, Da-da encourages both unstructured play vs. structured play, as one teaches reinforces creativity, the other patience and, "the social game." Might as well call it what it is. Da-da's children won't be deliriously happy, or hideously successful. Da-da hates extremes. "Happy" is such a lame, vague, overused word. Da-da hopes his children will be content. Content, patient and resilient... with a bit of non sequitur.

O the places you're gonna hurl.

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