Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Teaching Effectively: Parenting

Parenting: Everyone knows something about it. Few do it well. None of those who do write books about it. It’s been something we’ve been doing ever since we started having unprotected sex that one night in the hotel in Boston, and we still haven’t figured out how to do it right.
Parenting: It’s an art-form that people have tried to boil down to a science. A ridiculous complexity that psychologists have reduced down to four different styles, (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and negligent) none of which come close to telling us what diapers we should buy. It’s one in the morning. For some reason this Walgreen's is still open. God please help us.
Parenting: They said it was the greatest miracle that will ever happen to us. WE HAVEN’T SLEPT IN THREE YEARS.

My father would always give me this advice about parenting, “If it won’t matter in five years, don’t worry about it.” What he meant was that you should always see a kid’s actions through the lens of perspective. No matter what you do, the kid is going to grow up. The only job you have is to, “make sure they’re a reasonably well-adjusted thirty year old (my dad, roughly three years ago).” What he also meant was that you’re going to go crazy if you worry about every single thing a child does. And, even worse, your kid is going to go crazy if you worry about every little thing they do. Take a deep breath. Count to three. Consider screaming into the sweatshirt you have tied around your waist.

When my cousin was two, she would always throw her sippy cup into her cereal. Cheerios would spill everywhere. Her sippy cups would crack. My uncle wouldn’t be happy. He would grumble, sweep up the Cheerios, and grudgingly give her more. As soon as he did, my cousin would look at her cereal, look at him, and gleefully dump the sippy cup back into the cereal.
One morning - like always - my uncle poured Cheerios for both of them, poured some milk from his cup into his cereal like he usually did, and then watched as my cousin threw her whole cup at her cereal. Only this time - instead of grumbling and sweeping up the Cheerios - he looked at his cup and then looked at her. She grinned, “Dada.” He smiled, swept up the Cheerios, and started pouring his milk into his cereal directly from the jug.

Kids are like mirrors who don’t understand nuance. They’re little monkeys who see. Then do. But don’t understand. A sippy cup is a cup. The proper way to eat Cheerios is to connect a full cup of liquid with the bowl before eating. Darn, it didn’t work. Let’s try again. Dad can somehow do it really easily.

One day, I was sitting with my friends at the mall next to a mother with a girl-child. The food court was loud with conversation, but I still heard the child say something like  “Nice jeans, mom,” in a sarcastic tone.
“Elenore! That’s not very nice.”
A little while later, the mother’s friends showed up. The first thing the mother said was “Nice shirt, Tracey,” in almost the exact same tone her daughter used. Elenore rolled her eyes, but I was the only one who noticed.

My dad would always tell me, “I’m not a role-model.” He’s also old. Seventy-six. Like most old people, he sighs whenever he stands up. Usually its from his tan chair in the corner of our living room. The one overlooking the bird feeder next to the fireplace. One day, I came home from play practice, raided the fridge for something to eat, then sat down in my silver chair, and we began to talk about nothing in particular - like usual. - When I stood up start studying for my AP Bio test the next day, he said “You sound like an old man.” There was a twinkle in his eye.
“What do you mean?”
“You just gave a deep sigh when you stood up.”

I hadn’t noticed.  

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