In the spirit of Father’s Day, some thoughts on parenting. I actually don’t like the “five myths” format, because if you look at the “myths” as they are presented, they are usually straw men that nobody actually believes, and then those are “debunked.” It’s setting up your own large targets at close range then hitting them. I invite you to cast your skeptical eye at mine.
1) “Parenting is the most unselfish thing you will ever do.” This is no straw man. It’s widely asserted and almost universally believed by parents. It’s total hokum. Parenting is one of the MOST selfish things people ever do. People have kids as an extension of themselves, and view the exchange of love, and their kids’ accomplishments as total reflections on themselves and they derive immense satisfaction from it all. This is not the definition of unselfish. Parenting can be the HARDEST thing you will ever do, but that’s a different thing altogether.
2) “We want to have a baby.” This is not really a myth, but I want to take issue with it anyway. You don’t have a “baby.” You have a “person.” “Baby” is a pretty transient phase in the process of raising an “adult.” You don’t “have” a baby, because the baby doesn’t stick around.
3) “Above all, kids need unconditional love.” This is not a myth at all. This is absolutely true. It’s only a myth in the sense that the temptation to put performance conditions on that love is nearly universally succumbed to.
4) “Love, discipline and a stable, predictable home are the keys to good parenting.” This is also true, except it’s also wrong. It’s wrong in the sense of the control it implies. If you have more than one kid, you discover that they are who they are, not who you shape them to be. The same parenting techniques don’t have anything like the same outcomes on different kids, so stop congratulating yourself on how good you are at parenting. I’d rephrase the formula as “Just don’t quit on them. Ever.”
5) “They never call, they never write.” This is also true. Congratulations, you’ve raised an adult.