Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another bludgeoning waiting to happen

What did I say the other day about worthless parent-figures who indulge and actually encourage unacceptable behavior from their children? Something about their bragging about how head-strong or strong-willed (re: undisciplined) their children are, as if to say that (1) this is a quality unique to that particular child (Newsflash: it ain't!), and (2) that being a strong-willed, disrespectful, unruly, assertive smart-mouth is a particularly laudable quality for a five year old to possess. But then of course, if these people thought otherwise they would have nipped that little problem in the bud long before little Grace turned five.

Well, anyway, apparently this sort of thing is so commonplace today that they actually pay people to write columns to the effect, letting all of the other negligent parent-figures off the hook for abrogating their authority and creating ungovernable monsters then turning them loose on a semi-conscious society. Here's a snippit from the article in question:

In the end, it's all for naught. Sooner or later all of us fathers of daughters arrive at the same place: time is fleeting, and our precious little girls are leaving, and too soon, and more than likely on the arm of some scheming longhair who isn't good enough for our angel and doesn't have the sense to know that the bill of a baseball hat goes in the front.

In all actuality this type is very likely perfectly suited to your little angel. You know, the same precious little girl who at five years old had already begun to borrow lines from her mother's playbook:

Like all fathers, I don't want to be left behind, but looking back I realize that Grace had already begun to pull ahead when she was about 5 years old. I was a Mr. Mom back then, and she got mad at me one day because I stepped on her My Little Pony or some other egregious act. She yelled: "Daddy, you're stupid!" I sternly [TM: yeah, I bet] told her that sort of behavior was just not OK and she needed to say she was sorry. She put one hand on her hip, looked me in the eye, and said, "I'm sorry you're stupid."

What?! You didn't realize that little Gracie picked up that attitude towards you from her mother-figure? What planet are you on, man?!

By the way, when's the next big horrorcore rap concert, ummm, dad? Not to worry though. I'm sure you'll sternly inform Miss Gracie that horrorcore rap music is bad, bad, bad. Just before she, hand on flinched hip, looks you square in the eye and informs you that you'll be taking her or she'll find herself another ride. After all, she's sorry you're too stupid to understand that she likes what she likes and that's all the justification she needs for doing it. But your stupidity ain't her problem now is it.

Best of luck to you, sir. You're definitely going to need it.

13 comments:

chiu_chunling said...

Just how does someone too stupid to win an argument with a 5 year old get a job as a columnist?

I mean...it's one thing to write about some profound truth which a little child unexpectedly expresses in a concise turn of phrase. But that doesn't cover "I'm sorry you're stupid" unless the guy is admitting that he's really profoundly stupid, enough so that a five year old would rightly pity him.

Which we might well grant, but then why is he the columnist? Isn't that a rather blatant self-contradiction? Even if the audience is entirely readers who feel that they are stupider than 5 year olds, wouldn't it make sense to find a 5 year old to write the column then?

Then again, they might be too stupid to understand that. Ah, the tragedy of the truly stupid.

Call Me Mom said...

Terry,
Just wanted to update you with a quick note that my boy had not heard of horrorcore. I don't find this unlikely with his fascination with all things musical as his attitude is pretty much summed up by one of his favorite quotes: "music is like candy-you throw away the rappers"

I was commenting on a string a while back to the effect that I thought Mrs. Palin was not giving her family the attention she owed them when she agreed to become Mr. McCain's running mate. She had just given birth to a special needs baby and her underaged, teen daughter was pregnant out-of-wedlock. I opined that her first duty was to a family that clearly needed her attention.

My goodness, did that get a reaction. I was asked if Mrs. Palin was supposed to have locked her daughter in her bedroom or followed her around every minute of the day to prevent her daughter from becoming pregnant. My reply was yes, if that's what it takes, because that's her job as a parent-to protect her child and to raise her in a way that gives her the best start in life when she goes out on her own. That seemed to be the end of the conversation. Either, upon reflection, they agreed with me or they thought I was so hopelessly conservative that I wasn't worth debating with.

chiu_chunling said...

It might have been more prudent to lock that Levi kid out of the house...but that would have been judgmental and hypocritical of her, I suppose.

I think that Palin is a good hero figure for...well, anyone, but particularly those who support her politics but criticize her personal life. That is the essential quality of a good hero...humanity combined with greatness.

I feel suddenly cheated at having neither, but at least I'm not losing arguments to little kids.

Terry Morris said...

Somehow I suspect that Bristol would never have stood for Sarah locking Levi out. From the outside looking in -- where things can be either more clear or more fuzzy (and I ain't real sure which is which in this case) -- I'd say that Todd isn't authority figure enough. My impression is that Sarah ultimately wears the proverbial pants in the family. At least as far as Todd's concerned.

Terry Morris said...

Chiu wrote:

Just how does someone too stupid to win an argument with a 5 year old get a job as a columnist?

Well, my take on this guy is that he was/is too emasculated to win such an argument. I could speculate all day and night about why this is probably so, but modernism has to have something to do with it. I highly doubt that he's too stupid to win an argument with the average five year old. Modern society has somehow managed to remove from his being the will to do so -- the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Which is why I said in the post that he's going to need a lot of good luck in future. And while I believe in the principle that one makes his own "luck" (and in this case the good kind ain't the kind he's made for himself), I'm persuaded that we ought to at least wish the best of it for our emasculated brethren in any case. Albeit my well-wishes for this guy were of the facetious variety.

Terry Morris said...

I can't prove that I once spent the entire weekend in county jail. Why can't I prove it? Because no record of it exists. Why does no record of it exist? Because, you see, Dad and the arresting officer devised a plan together:

Arresting Officer: He (meaning me) didn't have a thing in the world to do with the offense; in fact he tried to stop it. (which is all true)

Dad: Take him to jail, it'll be the best lesson he ever learned.

This telephone exchange, of course, I learned of years later. But I know for a fact that there's no record of the incident because I fessed up -- in spite of being completely innocent of any crime -- when I was applying to the Air Force, and, like I said, there's no record of it.

What is my opinion of my dad?: The best father any American boy could have ever asked for.

That's what we like to call "tough love."

Call Me Mom said...

An appropriate and timely lesson. Sounds like your dad knew how to make the most of "teaching moments".

Chiu,
You said "That is the essential quality of a good hero...humanity combined with greatness.
"

I don't know about that. I think personal responsibility and good character are right up there. As Mr. Reagan once said, our character is determined in all the little choices we make when those choices seem unimportant.

This country has plenty of individuals who can stand up for conservative principles effectively, Bristol Palin has one mother. I think those who idolize her are once again using subjective rather than objective reasoning in evaluating her fitness for the office of the president. But maybe my standards are impossibly high. (And I always wonder about the sincerity of your posted opinions, given your own disclaimers.)

chiu_chunling said...

Ah, the interwebs ate my post.

Whatever, I was just pointing out that the character attributes of the hero are variable depending on who and what the hero champions. But one must seriously be able to envisage oneself acting as the hero would act for the hero to be any good...as a hero.

I referenced the basic problem with the slogan "What would Jesus do?" In most situations, this question yields a useless answer if you take Jesus at all seriously as Christ, because He would almost certainly do something that you cannot possibly hope to emulate. A better question would be "What would Jesus want me to do?"

In a sense, my definition of a hero has more to do with the role in narrative art than with moral character. Generally speaking, I look at things through the lens of aesthetics rather than morality. In a moral sense, this means that I fail to follow my understanding of what is good. Thus, I am evil. From my aesthetic perspective, I fail as a 'good' aligned character. Thus, again evil (my aesthetics reject 'neutral' or "beyond good and evil" characters as authorial cowardice or conceit).

Anyway, even though I'm not particularly drawn to "evil" as an abstract destination, I'm clearly non-good as far as I can determine.

The_Editrix said...

I am stunned that something like that seems so extraordinary to you. I usually point out that we are not quite so far down the hill when it comes to the relationship between the sexes and family values, but "cute and clever" columns about their oh-so-remarkable children are quite frequent here among the writing classes. I found them always a major pain in the back, mainly because they are so totally unfunny and self-centered. Most things children say are cute and clever to their parents only.

I had overlooked the lack-of-authority-aspect. Thanks for making me think further.

chiu_chunling said...

Oh, all parents (not just writers) put forth every banality of their children's existence as cause for immense pride.

The point is that this 'daddy' is not reveling in the behavior of his daughter, but wallowing in his own pathetic inability to effectively parent her. Which is, sad to say, not uncommon enough to be surprising.

But, unsurprising as it may be, it is no less idiotic.

Terry Morris said...

Once upon a time at a family gathering one of my unruly nephews challenged my authority by drawing back a pool cue as though he were going to hit me with it. My reaction was (excuse the language I used but it's a direct (impassioned) quote) "go ahead and hit me with it you little bastard, you'll be sorry you did, I can promise you!" At which point fear crept in and he handed the stick to me as I had before demanded. When I confronted my sister (his mother-figure, who witnessed the incident) about his severe lack of discipline and respect for authority with "why don't you do something about that?!" her reply to me was "well, we (she and her husband at the time) don't want to break his spirit." To which I immediately replied (in a very disgusted tone) "you'd better break his spirit or he's going to break yours."

Needless to say neither she nor her husband thought my advice worth the effort I put into offering it -- in point of fact I think they thought I was being kind of silly. And you can well imagine how advanced these children have become, now years later, in their disregard for authority other than what they consider their own. Lawlessness is too mild a word for what these little punks now represent. If they both don't end up in prison some day, I'll be stunned.

Terry Morris said...

By the way, my sister did not in any way object to the way I handled the situation with my nephew her son. In fact she came very close to applauding it in spite of her verbal defense of her and her husband's approach to parenting these boys.

What does this mean? (wasn't my response to him in essence "breaking his spirit?")

Well, ahem, while I have a theory on this, I withhold it ... for my own purposes.

Y'all have at it.

chiu_chunling said...

My sister is far from a push-over as a parent...but she still finds 'Black Peter' (meaning me) an effective way to remove a bit of the onus from herself.

The key characteristic of Black Peter, from a child's perspective, is that the only way the child can control him is by being very good. The good child has nothing to fear from Black Peter, no matter how much he may scratch at the doors and rattle the windows. But the bad child has no defense.

Most particularly, Black Peter does not want anything more than a chance to punish a bad child. Calling him names doesn't hurt him, it only gives him the justification he needs to take away your toys and pinch you. He delights in teasing crying children, his laughter a crueler sound than any child's whine.

And yet, children love Black Peter. Because ultimately, they have the power to render him harmless, no matter how much he may want to steal all their toys and torment them, he can't as long as they are good.

It's really not that hard to be a good (meaning very wicked) Black Peter, but the role isn't terribly compatible with being a mommy or even a daddy. Children take a long time to realize that their mothers are even distinct persons with desires beyond satisfying the child's wants.

Probably most children experience the awareness of discovering their mother's person as a terrible shock, like waking up one day to find out that your left hand is planning to strangle your head to death and take over management of your body.

The Father is a more external figure, but an effective father is recognized as having total power over the child's life, whether or not the child is being good or bad. And of course the good father loves the child and is terribly hurt by being forced to punish or even deprive the errant child.

Not that a primary caretaker can't be an effective Black Peter...you just need to have more than one personality. Heheheh.

Anyway, the point is that children do need an adversary against whom their primary defense is personal goodness. Whether abstract, concrete, or personal, few parents can even imagine a way for such an entity not to exist, however they may define "goodness". The world is a scary place, possible enemies abound. The problem is figuring out how to be a good mother and father, and find some kind of 'goodness' that can actually be a workable defense against evil.

Tradition is a valuable resource in the search for an effective morality...but too many people have ideological reasons for discarding it. And, working from scratch, moral reasoning is really top percentile in difficulty. Doing it on the fly while trying to raise and support a family is...really beyond human ability.

Which has never stopped anyone from trying.