Friday, April 15, 2005

Life Is Pain, Highness.

I read an article online about how teachers are avoiding using red pens to correct students' papers because of the negativity associated with the color.

I'm thinking this is yet one more example of what George Carlin may or may not have referred to as the ongoing pussification of America.

Now, for the record, I have no children of my own, but I'd like to think that when and if the time comes, I'll be able to teach them about things like confidence and self-esteem and that the measure of a man is not necessarily the grade on his report card.

And that's coming from a high-school valedictorian, there.

One thing I also intend to teach my child someday is a very simple lesson: Life is not fair.

Good people get cancer and die. Evil, horrible people live long lives of wealth. Among my family and friends, four engagements fell apart without a single wedding in a span of about a half-dozen years. A girl in Jersey this week ran over her mother with a car while learning to parallel park. My mother taught me to drive, and I still can't parallel park and (knock wood) I've never even hit someone I DON'T like. What was this poor kid's bad karma? A guy went to visit his pet chimp at a zoo and wound up getting his balls ripped off. You work hard at an honest job and you'll never see enough money to feel safe, while Warren Buffett has more money than God. Good American kids are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for people who may or may not be grateful, and the survivors come home to a country that may or may not care.

Life isn't all fun and games. Life isn't all pats on the back and ice cream.

And parents who try to shelter their kids by complaining and coddling and suing and bitching when they don't get their way aren't doing their children any favors.

I had good parents. Doesn't mean they never spanked me. Doesn't mean I never got beaten up at school. I did once, and my parents went to the principal to find out what could be done. Not much, it turned out. And I kept getting picked on. For years. I was smaller than most, and brighter and looked different. Then, one day, after getting punched in the arm for the umpteenth time by a bully, I PUNCHED BACK.

And, generally speaking, no one ever picked on me again.

I'm not advocating violence, not by any means - that road leads to Columbine... and at least partly because times are different now. Kids are different. There's an extremism, a sense of entitlement, a desperation.

I heard from a friend recently that junior high school girls get ostracized by boys for not wearing thongs. When I was in junior high school, I didn't know what a thong was, and sure as hell didn't know what kind of underwear girls had.

So I guess kids are getting older, quicker, in good and bad ways.

Thing is, parents can't protect them by being overprotective. They can protect them by educating them. By teaching them, by spending time with them, by not pawning off the responsibilities of parenting onto teachers or friends.

My parents' one failing, to my way of thinking, was that they never really told me about sex. I never got "the talk." Maybe when they were raised, parents didn't talk with their kids about these things. I don't know. I'm an adopted only child. For all I know, my parents have never had sex. And that's the way I'd like to think about it, thank you very much.

Point is, the first time a girl took off her clothes for me, everything I knew, I'd learned from my best friend at the time - a guy who'd already suffered through one summer of agony, missed periods and pregnancy tests. And I did some foolish things, then and later in life.

So when I have a kid, that's one of the first things I'm going to tell them about when they get to be about 10 or so. And hopefully, they'll look at Dad, and Mom, and be so repulsed they won't even think about sex for at least five years.

This isn't meant as a knock on my folks. I'd put them up against anyone in the world as parents. The point is, even the best of parents are only doing the best they can. And what scares me sometimes, what offends me when I read about parents complaining red ink ruins their child's self-esteem, is that too many parents aren't even doing the best they can.

They'll sue McDonald's because their kid is fat. My mother would only let me have McDonald's once a week, and I had to wait until I was older and could drive my skinny ass there and pay for it myself before I could get fat like everybody else.

They'll call the FCC because someone uses bad words on TV. My father would CHANGE THE FREAKIN' CHANNEL. How tough is this? Take some freakin' responsibility, folks. You're PARENTS. You're not baby-sitters, you're not nursemaids, you're not the gardener. Well, maybe on Wisteria Lane, you're the gardener, but generally... YOU'RE PARENTS.

Act like it. Or life is going to eat your kid alive.

And for you sick freaks who actually abuse your kids, I hope you burn in hell. This isn't for you. You're beyond help. This is for the ones on the fence.

Casey Stengel once said the key to managing was that five guys on the team love you, five hate you and 15 don't care. And the key is keeping the 15 that don't care away from the five that hate you.

So I figure of the parents reading this, five are good parents who are nodding along, five are lousy ones who can stick it, and 15 could go either way. This one's for you. Suck it up. Act your age, and accept the responsibility that came with the kid. It's a blessing some people never get to have, a happy, healthy baby. Don't mess it up. At least try.

And that means standing up to be counted when your kids need you. Make them do their homework. Better, help them. Turn off the TV if you don't want them to watch. Lay down the law, no matter how much they kick and scream. Tell them about things like sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, so they don't learn from other kids who know as little as they do.

Don't bitch at the teachers for the color of the ink they use to grade. Work with the teachers so your kids can learn.

Then, maybe someday, they can have blogs of their own.

The article that inspired this rant
George Carlin, who tells it like it is
Dr. Spock on parenting

And by the way, if a really, really weird 30-something pop star wants your 10-year-old son to sleep over, for the love of God, use your freakin' head and say NO!


Stewie said...

Good blog, bro.

Let's not forget that on little league teams, everyone gets a trophy now, not just the winners.

When did we turn into such pansies?

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric,

That's funny. I am in a distance learning course at college and when my professor e-mails me back my papers the corrections are in blue text rather than red.

Anyway, nice blog.

-Mike (of the "D's")