I’m supposed to be writing my novel. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to those who volunteered for humiliation). By signing up, I put myself on the hook to generate 50k words between November 1st and 30th. Well, it’s the 11th and my word count sits, unblinking, at 535. So of course, feeling shame and frustration, I immediately opened the laptop and started writing this post.
I’m also tapping open the Facebook app on my iPhone and looking out the window of the train. This counts as multitasking.
The point is, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And I’m an adult. I’m supposed to be someone who does what he’s supposed to do.
Recently, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was having trouble getting his 2 year old to sleep alone in his “big boy bed.” His son was getting up multiple times and trying to understand this new arrangement and my friend was being a good dad and rolling with it. In two days, he accrued a total of four hours of sleep trying to walk the line between what he wanted and what his son needed.
Jill and I parent differently. I’m not writing this post to pass judgment on anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Trust me, no one agrees with us, so I would be very busy making enemies if I did that.
How you raise your kids is your business. I believe the vast majority of parents love the shit out of their kids. We all try to do the best we can with what we got. Even if we do our best differently.
And most of the commenters on my friend’s post reflected just that—they offered their support, shared personal bedtime horror stories, and suggested tips to less tears and more sleep. A lot of them were moms who were chuckling about having gone through the struggle.
Then I got to the one comment that sort of totally pissed me off: “lock him in his room and let him cry. And if that doesn’t work, give him some Extra Strength Nyquil.”
What a tough guy.
So you’re going to lock a small child in a room to cry it out and expect him to just get over it? Because that’s what you decided he’s supposed to do? Maybe you can also just decide that he isn’t hungry or in pain too.
I don’t know. It might have been in a mood. The guy was probably joking. But goddamn it annoyed me. But at least I have the words to explain what I feel.
The kid’s crying because he has a limited set of communication skills and he’s trying to express some pretty big emotions, his pain, fear, anger, confusion, loss, and betrayal. And after telling one of the few people in the world he trusts all of these things, your response is to shut a door, flip a lock, and crack open a beer. Brilliant. Are you full of good ideas? Or is this just your best one?
Does getting tough with small helpless people really shape them into efficient super-humans?
I knew this one person who looked like she was a cheeseburger away from a triple bypass as she bragged that she “put all her babies through a baby boot camp.” Her babies. Demanding discipline from them that she couldn’t seem to muster for herself.
All this “get-tough” parenting will get you is distrust. Instead of toughening them up, you’re teaching your kids how to manipulate. People are clever primates. They will find a way around you. They will know that to get something from you they can’t be open and honest. Because their honest cry for comfort was met with a closed door. They will realize that they are the ones who must look out for themselves and provide their own comfort. Yeah they’ll get over it. They’ll get over you. And I hope that when you’re in your assisted living facility bemoaning the fact that you’ve been shuttled off to rot with the forgotten, you’ll understand that an unringing phone is a lot like a closed door.
Then maybe you can warm yourself with the memories of the reality TV or the extra 2-3 beers you had while your kid was wondering what happened to his world?
Yeah I’m writing this because I’m pissed. And because your babies can’t.
We all have different ideas about what is best for our kids. We might approach eating, sleeping, and education very differently. I can disagree with how you parent while still understanding that you love your child with everything you got. And as long as that’s in place everything else will fall into place.
But lock your kid up for needing you? Fuck you.
I know it’s tough raising kids. It sucks when your “me time” evaporates and you have to begin another week feeling completely depleted. It sucks even worse if you’re the one home with the kids.
But this time is painfully short. Your kids have the rest of their lives to be shamed, pressured, stressed, and obligated. They have decades to learn that the world is full of assholes. Why do you want them to start with you?