Achieving Parental Independence
I often get asked for advice on parenting. It could be because I have a large extended family. If you add up my kids, nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, etc. there are over 70 of them. Quite a racket at the annual family reunion. I’ve wondered how to describe the reunion. Groups of animals have collective nouns such as a ‘murder of crows’, an ‘intrusion of cockroaches’ or a ‘gaggle of geese’. Who comes up with those? Thinking about humans, I’ve heard some snide people describe of a “nag of wives” or a “jerk of husbands”. For the family reunion I’m going with a ‘rabble of kids’ or a ‘mess of children’.
Which brings us to parenting advice. Most think the goal of parenting is to raise well-adjusted children. But I think the actual goal is parental independence: becoming independent of your kids. More bluntly stated, getting rid of them. First, consider how many children to have. One child doesn’t even count. With one kid, you always know who did it. You don’t have to referee who hit who first. Mostly importantly, with one kid, you generally don’t have to worry about the four-letter ‘F’ word (Fair). With one kid you have double coverage. With two, it’s more of a challenge. You have to switch to ‘man-to-man’ defense. Anything more than that, it is zone defense to prevent the bomb. Believe it or not, more kids are easier. They can watch each other and are less focused on the parents, making ultimate parental independence easier. Besides, with multiple kids, you give up on trying to keep the house neat and clean, simplifying your life.
Becoming independent of the children includes these milestones:
1. Sleeping through the night. The solution is wine or beer, in moderation. Besides relaxing the mother to ease feeding, it helps the baby fall asleep. Of course, this only works for breast feeding, You would lose your parenting license for pouring booze into a bottle. Fathers, to show solidarity with your wife, feel free to take a shot of scotch before returning to bed after the middle of the night feeding.
2. Toilet training. Unfortunately, you can’t force a kid to be toilet trained, They have their own clock. A little bribery can help speed it along. It seems like a fair deal to trade the kid six M&M’s for a successful toilet use.
3. Babysitter. Three hours break from the kid will feel like a three-day vacation. Overpay so that you are number one on the babysitter’s preferred client list. If you are anxious about this step you can use the baby monitor to spy on the sitter. Don’t call home and talk to the babysitter, the kid will still be alive when you return.
4. Send them to school. Enroll them in some sort of infant community by the time they reach six months. Government studies and the internet couldn’t be wrong about the benefits of pre-school, could they? Pay no attention to the Baby Boomers, most of whom never saw the inside of a school until they were five or six years-old and started kindergarten. See where that got us?
5. Leave them home alone without a sitter. This is a big step towards parental independence. The trick is at what age. Don’t wait until the teen years, when they could cause trouble. Start earlier.
6. Driver’s license. It would be great if the kids could drive themselves to soccer and friend’s house and you are no longer a chauffeur. But think of the risks in giving a two ton vehicle to a teen. Remember the ‘freeway freak out’ scene in the movie ‘Clueless’? It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, but quite funny. The teens are panicked driving a parent’s Beemer, being passed by trucks, motorcycle gangs and old ladies. A better option is to raise children in the city, they won’t need a driver’s license at all, just a transit card. After all, raising children in the suburbs is very dangerous. There is nothing to do, it’s just drugs, sex and rock & roll and parent’s nightmare. If, per chance, you end up in the suburbs, buy the kid a cheap, used, dented beater. Other drivers will want to keep their distance.
7. Final tuition check. Parental independence is in sight! Whether you can afford it or not, make the kid contribute to their education through jobs and loans. After all, if the kid is going to spend four (or more) years partying, they should have some skin in the game. Besides, being in debt might encourage your child to get a job instead of going onto graduate school to study something like the aboriginal languages of northern Antarctica.
8. Get them off your cell phone bill. This is mission impossible. The bond is stronger than titanium. It starts innocently enough, put the kid on a family line, it is cheaper. But you will never ever get rid of them. It will always seems cheaper then switching them to their own account. Doesn’t matter if you use those millennial payment apps like Venmo or Zelle, whatever those are, you don’t want to be a collection agent. Give them their own account now, you’ll thank me later. One of my sons is engaged and he and his future wife both have well paying jobs. I’m conspiring with her father to cut them both off our plans while they are on the honeymoon. That will teach them a lesson they can use on their own children.
There, eight steps and you are independent! Now that you are free, don’t ruin it by getting another dependent mammal, such as a dog.