The Parent Trap


Parenting Rule Number 1 That Most People Think They Can Avoid But HAH! They Can't:

No matter how hard you try, you are–in some way or another–going to screw up your kid. You probably (one hopes) won't mean to, but it will happen.

It may just be that you pack peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch every day for four years, so once they graduate they develop a violent eye-twitch whenever the Planter's Peanut guy strolls across the TV screen or gives them a monacled stare from a magazine–but trust me. You've screwed them up.

It may be that they secretly spent their childhood dreaming of being a basketball star–on the order of Spud Web, the little 5' 7" NBA star from the 1980's, because they are now 17 and haven't grown since they turned 15–and they could have BEEN someone! They could have been a CONTENDER! If only you, dear parent, hadn't stood in their way. And also if only two soccer practices plus two soccer games a week hadn't stood in their way. And also if piano and percussion and bass lessons hadn't stood in their way. And being a boy scout. And doing homework. And Chillin' wit da homies hadn't stood in their way. And soup. Soup stood in their way. Because you always fixed soup and it turns out that they hate soup, they just didn't want you to feel bad. But rest assured that oh yeah it stood in their way.

See, the thing is, a kid only knows so much when they are born. They have no experience from which to draw. Life is literal and has no deep backstory for them. Or subtext. It just is what it looks like. So, for example, you may be doing vocal warmups, practicing your scales, getting your sound placement right–but to your itty bitty baby, you are just screaming. Ergo they are terrified and start crying and eventually learn to associate your vocal exercises with fear. Then as they get older, whenever you practice they feel panicked and must inexplicably leave the room. It's not that you did something terrible. It's just that their scope of understanding as a baby is limited to whatever tracks across their vision and scoots past their ears. If it scares them, their world has come to an end. You did it, and you didn't mean to.

Of course it can be more serious than this. I grew up with the paradigm that I had to be perfect or bad things would happen. I doubt my parent meant to do that, but they did. And most likely it's what they grew up with. I was a mother who loved her children. And as  that mother I didn't want anything bad to happen to them. So I made STINKING SURE they knew when they were making mistakes so they could fix them. Nothing bad was happening on MY watch, sister!

I didn't mean to. I had good intentions. But now I've got a house full of little and medium-sized and big people who get inordinately nervous when they have to do anything that puts them on the spot. Like WAY more nervous than necessary. And they have a hard time feeling like their best effort is ever good enough, so they wipe themselves out studying, or working on a project, or being exhausted by the idea of having to be perfect and avoiding said project.

Just like I did.

Stink, man. That's not what I meant to do.

I've given this a lot of thought. LOT. And I'm not sure you can help it. I mean, you do your best, right? You're a good person. You're trying hard to instill into your kid every possible thing they will need to get through life successfully. But somewhere along the line your own experiences, your own fears, your own memories, likes, dislikes, etc., are going to get into the mix. And those little continuously-forming, innocent, literal, trying-to-figure-it-all-out minds are going to be hit with stuff they can't process and it will cause problems. Hate that. Wish I could be perfect and change that.

Except, that's where it all started in the first place. Wishing I was perfect.

So, okay. I've just gotta have faith that my kids are smart enough to figure it out. And that my love for them will soak through it all and give them something to hold on to and see the truth with. And that their good hearts will win out. And maybe God, the Universe, Karma, or whatever you believe in, will help them along as well. There's gotta be a reason kids are given parents who only know what they're doing after they've raised them. The number of good people who did good things throughout history implies that children can survive it.

But just to be on the safe side I'm saving up to take my fam to Disney and Harry Potter World. Those are the happiest places on earth. They'll fix my kids. Butterbeer and Space Mountain are the Answer to Everything.

About Janiel 432 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. As to parenting, I obviously have no experience. However, I have worked with many, many parents. My vast reserves of wisdom allow me to give advice in an area in which I know nothing. However, from my observations, the fact that you love your children so much and that they know it is more important than any mistakes you may have made. Your very worries reveal the importance your children have in your life. Also, the fact that your kids feel comfortable telling you what you did wrong means that you didn’t do too many things wrong.

    Also, while you might wish to take credit for all their anxieties and struggles, there is something to be said for genes. Anxiety and perfectionism run in some families (believe me, I know whereof I speak!)

  2. Ah, thank you Cappy! I do hope you’re right and love makes up for a boatload of mistakes. And yes I think anxiety and perfectionism run in families. My kids are busting out of that, though. A little at a time.

    Thanks, chica! Nice to see you here!

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