Thursday, March 08, 2007

90%

90% of parenting is just saying your lines. You have to be present to say your lines, of course. All the food-on-the-table, roof-over-your-head, shoes-on-your-feet things are of course the basics. Without those you don't really have much chance to say your lines. And those basics consume an enormous amount of time and energy, without which parenting wouldn't take place.

Easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes you are tired enough from all those basics that saying your lines seems an unfair imposition. Sometimes you feel you have said these lines enough times. And you're right. It is unfair. It is too many times.

But someone has to say your lines, so it might as well be you. And once you know that just saying your lines is often all that's required, it becomes easier.

8 comments:

cold pizza said...

My parenting lines are based on expectations. I have an expectation that the kidlings must complete certain chores as appropriate for their respective ages, so they can contribute to the common good of the family. I expect the dishwasher to be loaded after meals. If not, it triggers that infamous line “turn off the TV and load the dishwasher!” I expect common rooms to be orderly and reasonably clean, otherwise they hear “log off the computer and clean up the ____room!” I expect them to come home after school and get their homework done before they go back out to play with friends. If not, then “you’re grounded this weekend!”

My spouse and I have set goals to raise our children to be responsible, accountable, productive and contributing members of family and, eventually, society. Our eldest chafed under our rules for her entire teenaged life. Now when we have occasion to visit her (several states away from where we live), we find a clean, organized apartment where the dishes are done. Her college homework is turned in on time (because she has to sacrifice to attend college, she takes it more seriously than she did high school). She is industrious and productive at her job and surrounds herself with like-minded friends and has been in a strong relationship with the same guy for the last 4 years. While she hasn’t actively left our faith, she has too much of the “engineering gene” that runs through my family to actively have developed her own faith in things not seen. Still, she makes us proud with her independence and determination to make her own best way in the world.

The best gift we can give our children is the opportunity to make their own best way in the world. The best success we have is watching from a distance at the successful lives of our children. -cp

Michael said...

This theory fails if the parents learn their lines from the wrong places. Think Homer Simpson. In this media age, way too many parents fail to remember the good things their parents did during their childhood and shirk their responsibilities by leaving the lines to the TV. I know that has never been a problem for you, having long since banned the cathode ray tube from the premises, but far too many parents take their cues from the wrong places. It rears its ugly head in my line of work when their child needs to be corrected by losing their driver's license. Instead of supporting the system that the legislature has set up, all the parents think about is having to resume the driving responsibilities. They sacrifice the big picture - teaching proper driving habits - for the little picture - I can't possibly start driving the little twirp to school, work, friend's house, you fill in the rest. Learn your lines, parents!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I must concede that point. When I said "say your lines," I was assuming that everyone knew some approximation of them. That was an unwarranted assumption on my part. Sigh.

Wacky Hermit said...

I dearly wish saying things was 90% of my parenting. It's more like 50%. Not only do I have to say the right things, I have to follow them up with action, because if I only say things, my kids figure out real quick that I don't mean it, especially my 7 year old son. I have to say "wipe down and set the table," then I have to keep my son focused, turning him back in toward the kitchen when he tries to leave, instructing him for the millionth time to look for clean dishes in the dishwasher if there aren't enough in the cupboard, helping him master himself when he starts melting down over having to set the table himself without the aid of his sister (on whom he generally foists all the work whenever he can). And that's just one of my four kids. The 2 1/2 year old with Asperger's Syndrome is just as much work. My daughter is easier though, and the 1 year old is just little and "discipline" for him consists in taking Legos out of his mouth.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yet another person makes a convincing argument against my premis.

cakreiz said...

Okay, it's probably somewhere north of 50 and south of 90, but the point is well taken. Playing the role is very important. I like the premise, AVI. Nicely done.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think if I were to write this again, I would note that the percentage approaches 90% as your children get older. The longer you do this, the more you can replace yourself with a tape recording of your own voice. That Asperger's thing is very labor intensive, and I know that Wacky Hermit has a kid allergic to half the known foods in the world as well. That gets into a very worrisome situation in the teen years, when your kid has a very fine-tuned knowledge of what he can eat and what he can't - better than yours - but impulsively ignores it and endangers himself because his frontal lobes are not fully operational yet. Scary. My closest brush with that problem was my oldest son with asthma playing soccer. He was really good at knowing what he needed to do for himself. 99% of the time. Scary.

It leads to another of my favorite soapboxes: young people take unnecessary risks because they get through them with no problem - 99% of the time. ("Sure, I can jump over that gap.") Adults have lived long enough to know that the 1% is huge. Kids don't really get that fully until about age 25, when they finish myelinating.

Hence teenage pregnancy and STD's, BTW.

cakreiz said...

For what it's worth, my wife just put it up on our bulletin board. It's an honor reserved for only a few. Don't change a thing, AVI.