Category Archives: Parenting

The Deliberate Parent

Let’s do a simple thought experiment about parenting.

Suppose that a particularly wise parent were to give the venture some good thought well in advance, and were to devise some basic goals for the eventual outcome of his or her parenting efforts. Suppose that for every desired outcome for the child’s character, the deliberate parent had developed at least a broad-brushed plan to address such things—things such as the virtues and concepts and principles and habits and skills and behaviors that are generally supposed to be good ones for authentic adults to have. And suppose that over the years, such things were deliberately built into the child by the parent.

Now, with that scenario in mind, hold your finger there and turn over to another scenario in your mind. Imagine instead the parent who is in favor of all these same virtues, concepts, principles, habits, skills, and behaviors, but who has no deliberate plan for seeing to it that any of them are sure to make it into character of his or her child. Oh, yes, I do hope my child turns out to be honest! one might say, but would have no particular plan for instilling honesty in the child. And, I most certainly want my child to have good housekeeping habits, might well pass the lips of a parent who, despite the wish, has no particular plan in place for teaching–or even for modeling–such habits!

Let us note that the one parent is deliberate, where the other is simply wishing. The one is quite willing to have a good outcome, where the other is quite willing also to work for it!

I don’t suppose it should take a genius to figure out which parent is more likely to raise a child that is more successful in attaining to the most virtuous life possible. No, it’s rather obvious, isn’t it—just as the fruits of the deliberate gardener are so much superior to those of the casual gardener—and as the figures of the deliberate accountant are much more reliable than those of the casual accountant.

I suppose an entire book would be in order to cover this idea and all its particulars—the chief of which is probably the business of prioritizing which things should be taught and encouraged, and in what order. But I suppose that the mere mention of the idea can be generally useful to parents who find it convincing. And then they can get on with the business of figuring out the details—some of which they will do excellently, and some poorly—just as I do! Even so, I’m inclined to vote for deliberacy over mere wishing any day!

Facebook! Facebook!

Facebook! Facebook! Every day!
‘Tis here we while our lives away.
Posting, liking, sharing—we
Our vanishing humanity.

Posting memes, and sharing, too,
There’s always something more to do.
It’s oh such fun! And wait, there’s more;
Now potty time is fun galore!

And that’s not all; old drudgeries
Have now become our times of ease.
E’en driving, which was once a bore,
With Facebook now is so much more!

And endless hours once spent at work
Now seem but few. And he’s a jerk
Who ‘llows us not this Facebook joy,
But makes us work in his employ!

Posting, sharing, checking in.
Our lives have never better been.
Redefining “substance”, we
Now find it in the “likes” we see.

Schools are failing. Law’s astray.
Honor’s rarer every day.
Government’s stark raving mad.
Inflation’s high and times are bad.

Freedom’s waning; so are we—
This land of opportunity—.
While truth and reason, love and care,
And diligence are now so rare.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a sin
To chat on Facebook with your friends.
And maybe this will make you mad,
But I’ll explain how you’ve been had.

You’ve been sold a bill of goods—
This idea that our our children could
Have happy lives here anyway,
Despite the mess we leave today.

Sure, it’s tough to think about
Just what to do to work it out,
But you’re not thinking much at all;
Instead, you answer Facebook’s call.

Meme me this and meme me that.
Share your supper. Share your cat.
Share you party. Wave the flag.
Share your faith. Boldly brag.

Complain about the way things are.
Complain that things have gone too far.
Complain that “they” should have it solved.
But leave it there; don’t get involved.

Don’t right the wrongs or find the facts,
Expose the lies, or judge the acts
That really cause what ails us most;
Stay “positive” in every post.

One big, lovely country, we—
Our grand exceptionality!
No need to fret these woes that loom;
No worries for our children’s doom.

Facebook! Facebook! Every day.
It’s here we while our kids away.
Their future’s firm—that we pretend.
While here on Facebook with our friends.

Pelham’s Rule of Screaming

Screaming is for emergencies. It is for situations such as those in which the dad needs to bring the gun, or for which the fire department needs to be called. It is not for play any more than dialing 9-1-1 is for play.

Screaming is not for playing tag.  Nor is it for expressing delighted surprise.  It is not for story time or puppet shows—not even for scary ones. It is not for a wasp flying in the house or a non-venomous snake being handled by the zookeeper. It is not for backyard play or water balloons or for the pool—unless someone needs to go to the hospital.

Screaming is not for events to which one does not mean to invite the attention of everyone within earshot.  So if you don’t want me looking over the fence to find out what your kids are screaming about, then you need to teach them not to scream in non-emergencies.

Children can learn the appropriate time for screaming just as well as they can learn the appropriate time for any other manner of speech. And they can learn this from a very early age. There is no need to wait until their teen years to teach this—by which time they would have learned it themselves from direct observation and reflection.

Screaming is for emergencies—quite like car alarms or road flares.  So if you don’t think it’s a big deal that your kids are screaming for 30 minutes in the McDonald’s Playland, then I hope you won’t find it a big deal if I set off my car alarm to honk for 30 minutes on the curb in front of your house, or if I toss a lit road flare into your garage just for fun.

No, I wouldn’t really do such things.  But then, I wouldn’t let me kids go around screaming, either.  And that’s pretty much my point.

Non-emergency screaming is a needless breach of the public peace, and I would like to think that this fact would be self-evident to rational adults.

What A Dad Can Do

In the middle of a remodeling project today, I (accidentally) broke a water line, creating a gusher flowing from the wall of the bathroom underneath the sink.  Naturally, this provided fun for the whole family as we engineered a way to route the gushing water outside before it flooded the entire floor.

Somewhere in the course of the emergency management, or perhaps the aftermath thereof, Kay asked me, “How do you know how to do all this stuff?”  I asked for clarification and she mentioned carpentry, plumbing, and electrical circuits.  The answer was simple:  Dad taught me.

It sparked a conversation, as do most things in our ever-thinking family, and I recalled that even as far back as high school (where I learned most of what Dad taught me on such matters), I noticed that my peers at school had little idea how to do any of it.  Whatever their dads may have taught them, it seems that carpentry, plumbing, and circuits were not on the list.

My Dad is not nearly as active as he used to be—depending on how you look at it.  While he doesn’t get his tools out very often anymore, his son and grandson do.  Today, James used the reciprocating saw to cut some scrap lumber to manageable size.  And yesterday, he removed some wall boards with a power screwdriver.  He can change a plug on a power cord and change out a wall switch.  He has learned all these things and more from his Dad (that’s me) because I learned them from my Dad.

So my Dad, Jack-of-all-trades that he is, has replicated himself twice in my line—so far.  And that’s what a Dad can do.

The Dishonesty of Drive-By Assertions

What’s a “drive-by assertion”?  It’s my name for an assertion that one makes and thereafter dodges rational debate on the matter.

Here are a few varied scenarios that I believe to be typical of what’s going on in our cavalier hearsay society:

  • Billy hears someone say that the Civil War was about states’ rights, so he immediately chimes in, “The Civil was about slavery.”  But when Billy is asked to prove that assertion, he fails to make a reasonable case that is based on actual evidence.
  • Sally hears a fellow church member criticize the church’s habit of calling the priest Continue reading The Dishonesty of Drive-By Assertions

Sour Milk

I watched one morning as a college roommate of mine shuffled sleepily into the kitchen.  He poured a cup of coffee and reached into the refrigerator for the milk jug.  He removed the cap and took the obligatory sniff, at which he reflexively scrunched his face and moved the sour jug to arm’s length.  I then watched in amazement as he replaced the lid and put the milk back into the refrigerator.

From my seat across the room, I asked him, “Do you think that milk will be better tomorrow?” Continue reading Sour Milk