Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What I Won't Do To My Kids

Where I work, we host parties. Mostly birthday parties for small children. We have places for them to run around, fart and play, play and fart. Then we round them all up and send them into a "Party Room" for the traditional cake and opening of the presents. Being one that works in the 'fart and play' area, I see a lot of parents and kids interacting.

It's a place meant for parents and children to have fun together, but often sees them at odds. We have rules. Kids break them. It's interesting to watch the parenting that takes place, at most times, but things can get disturbing for a guy like me, who just doesn't understand them. I see parents do some things that I really admire. And sometimes I'm stunned by things I know I would never do. Parenting styles vary a lot, and I think maybe I'm starting to see where I'll fall.

Yesterday, I saw a dad snap as his daughter, telling her "Don't pout if you're not hurt!" The girl was maybe 10 and, that's a fair enough thing to expect a child to do, I guess. But it was one of those moments that would have prompted other moms to glance over to see what happened, then turn back and say "Hmph." To me, it just felt cold. A few minutes later, he shouted at his son for running. To be fair, the kid did almost knock over a little girl. But still, again, it just felt cold. What this man lacked was a loving inflection.

This guy walked around with his jaw clenched tight, and probably his butt cheeks, too. He seldom talked to his kids other than to tell them what to do. He had cute, well-behaved children and a gorgeous hottie for a wife, but he still walked around like he was using red pepper toilet paper.

He came off as the former jock type. Perhaps, in his heyday, he was star of the football team, with his arm around one cheerleader and his letterman jacket on another. Maybe he missed the good ol' days when praises radiated from the stands as people shouted his name, "Mean Dad! Mean Dad! Mean Dad!" Maybe he's mad that he has four kids (at least). Maybe he's mad because his wife wasn't the hottest girl in school (though I doubt it, 'cause, oh man). Maybe someone slipped a Whoopee Corncob in his seat. Or maybe it really was the Chipotle Charmin.

Or maybe, his father yelled at him, growing up, and that's just the way he knows to do it.

My guess is it's the shouting. But I've noticed I don't shout. My dad doesn't shout. My grandfather didn't shout. My other grandfather never shouts. We get mad, like everyone else. We get in arguments. We just don't raise our voices.

In my dad's dad's case, he changed his life and just stopped getting angry. My mother, on the other hand, can't even remember a time her father ever yelled at anyone. I can't think of a time my dad ever shouted or yelled. My parents seldom argue, to my knowledge. But on those occasions, the shouting is one-sided. Regardless of the difference in volume, my father maintains his unchallenged position as head of the household, with all the respect and reverence that comes with it. He just does it with a calm tone.

Not shouting wouldn't be a problem for me. It's just not something I find myself motivated to do. And I certainly don't see myself yelling at children. But could I maintain a position of firm authority that way, without ever having to scare my kids into obedience? It can be done, sure. Dad pulled it off. It looks like both my grandfathers managed to do it. But can I? Only time will tell, I guess.

This is just me thinking, of course. I don't really know what I'm going to do and not do to my future children. But I do know I won't be yelling at them.

I can tell already that I'm going to be more like a Danny Tanner than an Uncle Bernie.

I miss Bernie Mac...


ariel said...

My parents both say "You'll do juuust fiiine." :)

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