The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Childrearing Tips From A Childless Bachelor

You should realize that I am directing this toward people that don't already have them. The fact that I'm a childless bachelor will make most people with kids instantly stop reading regardless of the quality of my advice. If they stuck around they might say, "That's easy for you to say with your disposable income and lazy sleep-filled mornings!" (and trust me, that exactly what they would say).

But the fact is, I spent 7 years at the toy store pointing an objective eye towards parent and child interactions under the tutelage for one of the greatest non-professional child development experts in the country, my boss Steven.

Before I started working there, I wasn't sure if I wanted to have kids, in fact it's driven a couple of my co-workers to contemplate surgical sterilization. But now, I'm looking forward to the day when I have my own litter of human puppies. I used to say I can't wait to have kids, but, oh, I can wait!

I've been having a bit of a writer's and blog topic blog lately, but then me friend Lonnie posted on his blog that he wants to have kids. I'm happy for him and I know that he and his wife will make great parents, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. You'll never be REALLY ready for them.
When my friend Pat and his wife where trying to have their first child, he kept saying, "Well, after the baby, that might be different." I had been working at the toy store only about a year and a half, but I knew then that there is no "that might" when you have kids, there is only "everything will". Becoming a parent is the biggest life-changing event you will probably ever have. Not even knowing friends or relatives that have kids can prepare you for what is is going to do happen with your life. Not that that's a bad thing, in fact you will never hear a parent say that having their children was a bad thing. Maybe the circumstances (or the other parent) could have been better, but the child, his or herself, is always a gift.
Children represent the biggest break from what I refer as the "circle of selfishness" that occurs when we are born as needy and selfish babies and we learn(hopefully) to give these habits up by the time we become parents. There is now a person that depends on you for everything they'll need and will until they decide they don't need you. Which doesn't mean they'll be right.

2. Make sure you're having YOUR kids.
I remember my Mom pressuring me for grand kids before my brother took the bullet for me(and how!).I had to break it down for her," Mom, I've gotta have a DATE first!" I could tell at the store that so many people had kids from succumbing to those kinds of pressure or just because they thought they were "suppose" to. You should ignore these naggings unless these people are willing to raise your kids for you. A lot of women I know are worried about having kids before they turn 35 because of the risks that are involved, but we're living in a world where 60 year old women are having kids. Not that I'm saying that's a good idea.

3. Consistency is key.
This rule is as important for raising kids as it is for training dogs. As my boss used to say,"The parent's job is to set the limits and the kid's job is to test them." I used to see a lot of moms and dads acquiesce to things that they had previously forbidden in the same toy store visit. I feel for the parents, they want to make their kids happy (and quit nagging), but this kind of thing will only get harder when they're too big to put in "time out".

4. They will learn as much from what you do than from what you say (if not more).
You may have heard about the teaching of sign language to babies as a way to facilitate early communication. This makes a lot of sense considering how we as humans of any age rely on body language (I wrote a post about it in fact here). This is why kids pick up on their parents bullshitting them (and them being able to bullshit mom and dad) much earlier than the parents EVER recognize.
The best example I can think of was a scenario that happened many times at the toy store:I rang up a parent and child, taking the child first as they were learning the capitalistic ballet. The parent would suggest steps, “Say please, say please! Give him your money. Say thank you, look him in the eye and say thank you! Use your words!” Then when it’s the parents turn to interact with me, they give their items and grunt,”Wrap”. The lesson learned? Say please and thank you, but not to people like him. I wouldn't be surprised if the parent hadn't learn the lesson the same way.

This is something a lot of parents don't understand when they won't let them play with certain toys(most commonly guns and such) because of a ideological objection. This is certainly a parent's right to do this if they want, but it may be many years before they truly understand why you're doing it, until then all they'll remember is you said "no".

5. You're not going to raise a little version of you.
I can't tell you how many times a kid will be excited about something (Elmo, princesses, whatever) and a parent will say to me, "I don't why he/she is so fixated on that, I've never exposed he/she to that." Do you lock he/she up in their room all day with an endless loop of "Free To Be You and Me"? No? Then they're little sponges soaking up everything around them, forming their own personalities almsot as soon as they sit up.

6. They will get hurt, physically and emotionally.
A lot of parents at the toy store would go to, in my opinion, ridiculous length to avoid any sort of emotional or physical pain without realizing to long term effects this has. It's a bit like the anti-bacterial everything that I couldn't avoid not buying a little while ago. Over protective parents used these not realizing that they weren't letting the body doing it's job of dealing with bacteria naturally and making their kids more resistant to the anti-biotics they truly need when they really get sick. (tip- use regular soap and water and Purell- it uses an inactive ingredient, alcohol, to work).
Sometimes the most important lessons we learn through pain(at all ages). Some of the most reckless kids I've known have been the ones who play on padded playgrounds. As much as it sucked for me to go through the teasing and general childhood bullshit, I recognize the character building aspect of it now. Do you want your 15 year old going to you to call the parents of the mean girl that won't go out with him?

I hope this helps.


Anonymous said...

Whoa, could it be? You might actually be someone I'd want to reproduce? Then again, you could be a total crackhead, but you seemed pretty on track here.

I worked at a day care center in high school and I came to have some very specific ideas about raising children. God help any man that thinks he wants to have kids with me!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Pete...everyone knows you don't have disposable income.

Your Pal Pete said...