I think I speak for most readers when I say that I could read 150 of yesterday’s comments and still be going – it’s one of those situations when doing it wrong is bad, doing it too much is gross, and doing nothing is worse. When discussing any kind of sex with your kids, you have to walk a tightrope, the fine line between the Scylla of clinical over-informing, and the Charybdis of fucked-up magical bullshit.
It is, to be sure, two entirely different topics: the “where do babies come from” talk, and the “how can we imbue our kid with a healthy idea of romance” problem. They share similar characteristics (respect, self-love, blah frickin’ blah) but most of all, both have to be discovered by your children on their own, where they will learn their own lessons… and truth is, perhaps 51% of sex and relationships simply has to remain ineffable.
Just Andrew made an interesting comment that we might be a generation of parents delighting in how much better we are at parenting than the last generation, and thus probably screwing up our brood in various untold ways. I agree with Deb that I don’t see us as self-congratulatory, but none of us are above discussing how out-to-fuckin’-lunch our own parents were.
Pretty much everyone I know has a “my parents gave me corn whiskey in the crib to make me stop crying” story, or a near-miss from a wayward Jart. I distinctly remember driving from California to Iowa at the age of three, sitting on the parking brake between the front two seats without any kind of restraint. ‘Twas a different era.
But there is no doubt the pendulum has swung very far back the other way – sorry to use the broad generational brush, but the latchkey Gen Xers seem hellbent on giving their kids the attention they themselves never got, in glorious hyperfocused color. For being basically vagabond fuckups who rented “Faces of Death” in 10th grade, many of us have become a nation of tittering ninnies.
Some of the worst offenders are in the liberal enclaves where I (or my family) happen to live: New York, the Bay Area, and especially Santa Monica. It’s a subtly draconian movement concerning organic foods, peanut allergies, RIE aficionados and the occasional Vaccine Crazymom. The rigid strictness around children in such traditionally progressive towns led me to call it “leftensity” around Tessa and my mom (who immediately told me to put the word in a blog).
Despite this, however, this generation of young’uns is going to benefit on the whole. Sure, they might get a reputation for being self-involved, entitled prissypantses, but I’ll take that every day and Sunday over my own peer group’s penchant for self-mutilation, depression and suicide.
Maybe we can even spare our kids the entitled prissypanting. I’ll offer this piece of advice for you to take or leave, but I’ve seen it work in several different lives, and it has been proven by psychological testing: don’t tell your kids they’re smart; praise them for working hard.
Six studies showed that praising kids for being smart utterly demotivated them, and made them less likely to strive for greatness (lest they disappoint the praiser). Kids given kudos for hard work pushed themselves further, and their scores got higher.
I’ll put it another way: “being smart” is a burden you’re always one failure away from fucking up; “working hard” is something you can control. Like Dean Smith says, even if your shots aren’t falling, you can always play smothering defense.
Yes, it’s true that it’s a lot more satisfying to give your kid a hug and say “you’re so smart!” rather than the awkward “I am so psyched about how hard you worked on that!” but it’s all in the interest of making things better for those after us. Besides, no matter what you do, you’re better parents than this family of gormless, fuckshirted yokels: