Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Parenting for Dummies: Part I

I try not to be too judgmental when it comes to parenting now that I have a child of my own.  I readily admit that during my pre-child-rearing days I was a judgmental snob; my list of "things my kids will never do" was extensive, pretentious, and down-right obnoxious.  For example:
  • My child will watch educational shows only, and then only in moderation. 
  • My child will eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Organic meats or nothing at all. No processed foods.
  • My child will have the classics for bedtime stories; plenty of A.A. Milne and Aesop's fables, none of that Pat the Bunny crap.
  • I will never raise my voice, spank, or yell, but will have reasonable yet firm discussions with the Kid.  I will never say, "Because I'm the Mother.  That's why," as my mother said to me.
  • And on and on and on. 
Oh, the irony.  I make plans and God laughs at them.  The reality is:
  • The Kid's favorite TV shows are Sponge Bob and The Penguins of Madagascar.
  • The Kid enjoys vegetable as much as a hole in the head.
  • Chicken nuggets are his favorite food.
  • He (and I) laughs hysterically each time we read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Fox in Socks.  (But thank God no Pat the Bunny). 
  •  "BECAUSE I AM THE MOTHER!  AND I SAID SO!"
  • And on and on and on.
So while motherhood has certainly relaxed my judgmental snob factor about the ins-and-outs of properly raising a child, there are some absolute standards that I will not relax, give a free pass, or ever change my mind.  Never.  Ever.  Even if I got beaned by a baseball.  Or really drunk.  Or brain dead. 

#1: Basic Parking Lot Survival
A child is auto-tuned to ignore every third word spoken by a parent, so this necessitates a parent to mimic an auctioneer when children climb out of the car: "We're in a parking lot, hold my hand.  There are lots of cars, give me your hand.  We are not moving until you give me your hand.  We're in a parking lot, with lots of cars, GIVE ME YOUR HAND!"

This is what I consider to be a good rule, an important rule, especially if you'd like to see your children grow up.  As most children are the size of garden gnomes and the distracted soccer mom in her behemoth Flex-Fuel SUV is not going to see your offspring, it's your job to hang onto their sticky hands.

What's a good example of NOT practicing parking lot safety with your child?  How about you standing by your car, hands on your hips, yelling at your child to not walk in front of a car?  While the child is three car lengths away? And is maybe 16 months old!!!!!

This is what I would consider to be an EPIC FAIL in car safety parenting.  

#2 Crash Test Dummies 
Car safety has come a long way since I came home from the hospital.  I rode home in a Moses basket set on the floor boards of my parents car.  While I had Mom's outstretched arm to prevent me from bashing my head into the dash when we stopped suddenly, today's car seats have built-in side air bags, juice cup holders, and designer colors.  So it always simultaneously baffles and pisses me off when I see a child riding around either in mom's arms or bouncing along the back seat.

For instance, yesterday while I was out running errands I happened behind a shiny silver compact.  And bouncing in the back window, like a bobble-head figurine on crack was an irritating troll of a child.  Now before you think I'm an ogre, can I say that the brat was picking his nose while making horrid faces at me, WITH his parents approval?!!!  Yea, I watched mom and dad turn and laugh at his hi-jinks.  Oh, my evil, dark side thought, "I'd love to tap the bumper of that car and watch the monster hit the headrest."  Which I'd never do because I'm not a psychopath, but still. . .  .I bet you've had that feeling too.

In all honesty if I hadn't been paying attention, say I was texting OR mobile blogging (which I just mastered) OR singing along with 3OH3(feel free to mock me), and I rear-ended the car, that kid was in the perfect spot to be hurled out the windshield.  I didn't like the kid, I didn't like the parents apathy towards their child's safety, and I didn't like the color of their car, but that didn't mean that I wanted their child to wind up as a crash test dummy.

While I'm sure I will have future posts on PARENTING FOR DUMMIES, I'm through with the lessons on car safety.  So parents out there, while I promise not to foist my particular brand of (ever-evolving) parenting rules onto you, I do demand that you adhere to the most basic of child and car safety.