Being a father of a two-month-old gives me little experience to speak confidently about parenthood, but sometimes you see something that’s so outrageous all you can think is, “This is how the shitty people of the world are made.” And, by that, I mean: bad parents make bad kids who grow up to be bad parents, a cycle often only broken by birth control, therapy or a whole lot of hugs. So, with that in mind, some observations:
1) Right after Sonny was born, Jaime and I lived on the couch in a haze of food, diapers, short bursts of sleep and TV, mainly “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation” most evenings and a series of reality shows during the day–“Storage Wars,” “Dr. Phil,” various fix-it shows and “Supernanny,” a show that can simultaneously make you believe you’re the best parent ever and make you frightened you even became a parent.
For those of you who haven’t experienced “Supernanny,” the show is basically “The Dog Whisperer” of children and, more importantly, parents, ones who are poor at setting boundaries, don’t utilize nonviolent consequences, or act like their kids owe them something because they gave birth to them. In the UK version, Supernanny’s name is Jo, who looks like a member of L.W.A. (Librarians with Attitude), and in the U.S., her name is Deborah, a Michelle Obama-archetype. Both are firm, caring women, and neither can be thwarted, whether they’re dealing with a knife-wielding hyperactive or a little boy that curses and spits at his mother. The worst episode of all though was the one with the father who told his two toddler daughters they were “little bitches.” Yes, you read that right–LITTLE BITCHES! Like, to their faces.
Thankfully, Supernanny shut that down quickly, and by the end of the episode, the father understood he was wrong, discovered a form of discipline other than spanking and established boundaries for his children, so they could learn what was right and wrong rather than being spanked and called “little bitches” for everything. If Supernanny hadn’t saved the day, there’s a good chance those girls would grow up to have low self-esteem, suffer from anxiety and depression or possibly end up in clear heels. (A Chris Rock reference worth the 1:35 it’ll take you to watch this clip, which should be required viewing for all men about to have a baby daughter.)
What I’ve learned from “Supernanny” is simple: there are so many things in the world that will fuck up your kid. Do your best not to add to it.
2) In the last few weeks, I’ve seen three separate incidents where parents were smoking around their babies. All three involved couples–in one case mom was smoking while pushing the stroller, flicking the cigarette between her fingers just above her daughter’s head, and the other two were dads, one smoking while mom pushed and the other with his baby, younger than Sonny, tucked in a Baby Moby against his chest.
This isn’t “Mad Men,” people! Everyone knows cigarettes are bad for you. There’s even a reminder on the package in bold: lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy. And guess what? Second-hand smoke is even worse, especially for children. Don’t take my word for it. The Surgeon General’s got the scoop.
If you are smoking around a baby, stop, or you may make a dead baby joke come true.
3) Last weekend I heard a woman walking past my yard yell “Shut up!” and when I looked up from the patch of grass I was raking (Fatherhood, at least early fatherhood, comes with yard work duty.), I saw she was yelling at her daughter, who was maybe three-years-old. She then said it again. “Shut up. Stop whining.” And when the little girl asked her a question I couldn’t hear, “I don’t know. Shut up.”
Telling your child, your daughter, to shut up, especially when she has a question doesn’t help her learn anything, understand the world positively or empower her to speak. This little girl was taught to be seen and not heard, ensuring she’ll grow up like generations of girls before her, probably like her mother, ones that had little or no voice, who weren’t allowed to question, who were taught to obey, stop whining, shut up.
What I most look forward to, besides Sonny’s first word (I’m a writer! What do you expect?), is when he asks his first question, seeing his boy mind make an observation and then he’ll wonder, “What is that, daddy?” When he wants to know something, I won’t tell Sonny to shut up–in fact, I won’t even give him an answer at first. I’ll reply, “What do you think it is?” because I want him to think critically, analyze and reason, speak his mind and tell his own stories. I’ll need something to write about.