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Pot... Kettle... Black

2002-12-15 09:01:49+00 by Shawn 34 comments

I was thinking over a discussion I had earlier with some fellow classmates, regarding their teenage children. "Hire a teenager while they still know everything" is a popular sentiment. But thinking back to my own teen years, I'd have to say that this perception could also apply in the reverse - from the teen's perspective of the parents' attitude. I didn't realize this back when I was still at home, but after noting (to myself) that I felt the venting parents were guilty of exactly the attitude they were accusing their children of, it occurred to me that my parents spewed the same "We know [everything]. You don't." message.

As I get older, I'm increasingly aware of how full of it grown-ups are.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Psychology, Psychiatry and Personality Child-Freedom ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-12-15 09:06:37+00 by: Shawn

(Now that the quarter's done, I'm hoping to be able to post more. But I've also got some significant family problems that have reared their ugly heads and need constant attention. Can anybody recommend a counselor/therapist in the Seattle area? Preferrably in Auburn, but as far North as Bellevue would be fine.)

#Comment made: 2002-12-15 18:06:04+00 by: Dan Lyke

Looking back on those days I'm amazed at how, yes, I was ignorant of a lot, but at how if I'd been allowed to run a little freer I had the energy to accomplish real things. I'd much rather have had the chance to develop my little computer parts distribution business than have gotten the "not until your grades get better" speil.

There are also a whole lot of attitudes about the way that the world works that I took flack for from my parents back then that I still hold now. Issues of personal and business politics, that sort of thing.

So overall, yeah, I celebrate that adolescent "we can tackle the world" energy whenever I find it, and try to rekindle bits of it in my own life when I can.

Alas, I've no help on finding a therapist. Sorry.

#Comment made: 2002-12-15 23:30:03+00 by: meuon

A person who will take you money, while convincing you that what you already know is true and afraid to act on, is actually correct and actionable. Still, it's a re-enforcement that is necessary sometimes, and the guidance can keep you from going to extremes. A good family therapist is part moderator as well. Last advice: The people involved have to WANT to work things out.

#Comment made: 2002-12-16 01:42:57+00 by: ccoryell

Hey Shawn,

My girlfriend volunteers for the Presbyterian Counseling Services in Seattle and they have an office in Auburn that you might think about looking into. They are low cost and take insurance and you don't need to have any religious affiliation to go.



#Comment made: 2002-12-16 07:22:44+00 by: Shawn

meuon; Sage advice. My wife has already hit the extreme, which is why I'm currently in the market. I'm planning to see someone as well, but primarily just for somebody to talk to. It's not so much that there are things to work out between people as there is... well, sanity (although I don't mean in the clinical sense)... to be regained.

ccoryell; Thanks for the recommendation. If possible, I'd like to find somebody without a religious affilliation (although a Pagan faith would be more acceptable than one of the monotheistic ones). I'll keep them in mind though.

#Comment made: 2002-12-16 14:28:36+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

I've always assumed that the adult attitude towards adolecent knowlege was because as you grow, you do learn more. As you learn more, you realize how little you know and, by extension, how little you knew when you were very sure you were being screwed.

Which is to say, I sympathize with the sentiment behind the "Hire a teenager..." statement because I understand it with the above interpretation. I suspect that there is more humility then arogance behind the humor.

But then, my parents never hassled me about incidentals like school. They made sure I went, but performance wasn't an issue. (If they had hassled me, I could have done far better than I did.)

#Comment made: 2002-12-16 14:56:20+00 by: Larry Burton

When I was a teenager my father would tell me, "son, if you do that, this will happen," and I do it anyway and, sure enough, what he said would happen, happened. It took me until I was about 25 to recognize that my dad wasn't psychic, he'd just done the same things and learned from those mistakes.

When my sons start doing things that I see could have results that they probably would rather not have I try to tell them that they don't have to do that because I've done it before and they might want to learn from my mistakes rather than their own. It's much less painful that way. They generally decline my offer and decide to learn the lesson themselves.

I was once asked by one of my oldest son's friends, after a couple of incidents of what could have been "I told you so" went by, if I knew everything. I considered it all for a moment, shrugged my shoulders and replied, "Yeah." It's mostly all relative anyway.

#Comment made: 2002-12-16 23:40:34+00 by: Dan Lyke

Shawn, having met her at Burning Man, I think you'll find few folks as open-minded about religion and such as Carl's girlfriend.

Mark and Larry, one of my realizations is that as we grow, we learn more, but a lot of what we learn is peculiar to a specific organism, and is about limitations. I've learned that there are things my body can't do. I've learned that there are business methods that I don't know how to execute. I've learned that there are things I can't comprehend.

I find that parts of what hold me back are beliefs in the limitations of my parents or other adults who had influence in my formative years, and often times those limitations are built strongly into the culture. I find my best successes when I managed to break some of those boundaries. I may know everything, but a lot of knowledge is relative to its applications, so a good bit of what I know is wrong.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 00:12:14+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Is there no value in sharing knowlege? If we've been somewhere before and know the likely outcome of a choice or group of choices, then isn't it best to share that knowlege?

What I hear you saying is "experience has no value". If there is one thing that parents have that their children do not, it is experience. Is this experience of no value?

So your parents had limitations, so did mine. So do I... But they were still able to teach me things and their knowlege still had value even when I didn't want to listen.

Yes, some of what we "know" is wrong because our experience is limited. But your statement implies that we are never able to trancend our experience. It also implies that there are no commonalities in experience.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 00:31:20+00 by: Dan Lyke

Mark, not that experience has no value, but that experience without context has no value. In order to assist adolescents most effectively, I must offer them my experiences in the form "when I did this, that happened", not "do this because I know more than you". Being careful to phrase things that way also helps me stay more intellectually honest, it's harder to launch off into speculation and pass it off as knowledge.

I'm not saying that what adults have to pass on to teenagers is worthless, but I think that if we're careful to speak only from experience and to respect their decisions we're much more likely to not only give them better advice, but to be heard better.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 01:00:10+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

I think that's the problem here. You are making responses based on your experience but not giving us the benefit of context.

I didn't defend the parent that says "Do this because I know more than you" and I didn't hear Larry say that. He said what you suggested, but used the second person instead of the first ("you" == "I"), a tactic that is not uncommon when giving advice.

However, your responses assume the domineering parent and that causes confusion in communication. We aren't talking about the same people.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 02:38:38+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Re-reading the front-page post that started this thread:

I spent this past Saturday evening with several parents and grandparents and their kids.

One of the things we talked about was that non-parents (kids included) haven't had the experience that parents have had, but they figure they know how to do it better. (I have no idea if you are a parent, Shawn, but it appears you aren't.)

It galls me that people with no experience as parents feel qualified to give advice to parents and criticize their perceived shortfalls. Parent's know at least one thing that their children (and others) do not know: what it is like to give up a measure freedom and self-determination because of the responsibilty they hold for their children.

Parents grow just as children do. And, yes, its always easier to give advice and criticize when you are not emotionally involved in the situation.

But, just as Shawn saw arogance in the comment "Hire a teenager...", I see humility -- an admission that the parent doesn't know everything. I tried to point that out, but I guess I failed.

That's my context

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 17:32:00+00 by: Dan Lyke

Mark, my reading of Shawn's entry is that there's an adult involved who's getting parental "If you'd only listened..." whining. That'd make this a message not about non-parents versus parents, but about parents versus offspring, something most of us have direct experience of one side of.

And I guess my thesis here is that when parents have that "leave home and make your way in the world while you still know everything" attitude, they're displaying the same arrogance that they're accusing the teenagers of.

But on the "non-parents have no experience" issue, as a non-parent who has been called upon to communicate with teenagers when parents were unable to do so (by both parties), as one whose significant-other has raised more children than most parents (and whose previous significant-other had similar qualifications), and as an adult who was once a teenager (and who many contend is still one at heart), I humbly submit that you're full of hoohey. In these circumstances, parents have two disadvantages:

First, they have a lot invested in the outcome, so attempts at communications become exercises in moralizing. Repeating the same argument over and over, just because it makes sense to the parent, rarely accomplishes anything. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "I tried explaining it again but they're still...", I wouldn't be concerned about retirement.

Second, and closely related, they often fail to make the switch from parent-child relationships, with "because I'm the mommy, that's why" edicts, to adult-adult communications. Just as the first search for limits happens at two or so with the "no" phase, at puberty or so we hit the "why?" phase, and the same methods don't work before and after.

But context-free or not, it really is the case that much of what adults try to teach, indeed what a culture tries to teach, are limitations; ways to keep future members of the community in-line. When I say "a lot of what we learn is peculiar to a specific organism, and is about limitations", I'm not talking about the "parents" class of people, I'm starting with myself.

Much of what I know as deep down in my core as knowledge gets, and I think I've got a better handle on reality than most, is wrong. In my early 20s I had something of a death-wish, and I learned a hell of a lot about what I was really capable of. Let me tell you, the difference between "don't do that, you'll hurt yourself" and what a body can pull off when the adrenaline is pumping is huge.

I believe (whoops... [grin]) that the leaps that one can make intellectually and economically have similar gaps between expectation and reality if we can learn to toss around the risk-reward ratios a bit; but I've inherited a lot of my parents limitations on such matters, and I'm spending agood bit of my life trying to shed those things.

So I'm not a parent, but I'm an ex-child who thinks that my parents did pretty damned well by me, and I still see room for improvement.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 19:25:58+00 by: Dan Lyke

In defense of your argument, Mark, I'm also willing to casually say "Darwin in action" when a teenager dies emulating a Jackass stunt. A parent would probably not be so cavalier.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 20:19:24+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger


Thanks for the back-n-forth. It's good.

Of course, I still think I'm not full of hooey -- I didn't say you have nothing to give or that your input was worthless. Certainly if people ask you for input, then they value your view.

Limits are valuble. Sure, you learned a lot with your death-wish 20s, but you could have avoided that. Perhaps you can acheive more now that you've seen where your limits actually are. But some people are't interested in that sort of learning.

All that said, I would agree that we are capable of far more than we think. An amazing quantity of happenings in the world are simply the result of groupthink.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 22:37:54+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm enjoying the back and forth too. Thanks for playing with it.

To go back and press my point a little bit, I think we who don't have children actually can know more than the parents, because we're distanced from the issues and don't have the emotional investment. We can draw the risk/reward ratio in different places. I could have learned many of the things I picked up during my dare-devil years with less risk, but not from my parents. Further, I'd argue that nobody can learn those things from their parents because even with a lower level of risk learning limits is still, by definition, more risk than a parent is willing to take. Because even if the parent has learned their limits, they're likely to have backed off from them to an acceptable level of risk.

I suppose that some people aren't interested in that sort of learning. I pity them, but I also suggest that teenagers "who still know everything" are actively seeking that sort of learning, and getting limited by parents, rather than spanked by reality, is the wrong lesson.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 23:05:58+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

I don't pity the people who don't have a death wish. But I am confounded by the passivity of them.

I think the issue is not necessarily "knowing more" as much as it is "knowing differently". You'll have a different perspective and that perspective will be good for a parent to hear sometimes. But the parent will also have a perspective (perhaps even on your life!) that would be valuble for you sometimes.

#Comment made: 2002-12-17 23:23:32+00 by: Diane Reese

I'm not completely sure what I'm going to say here yet, I'm thinking as I type. Disclaimer: I am the parent of two teenagers. I have done a damned good job of raising them so far. You haven't met them, Dan, so you have no idea whether I'm shitting you or blissfully unaware of reality. You'll just have to take my word on the number of people who comment on how together they are, and how unusual they are among their age peers. I take these comments as compliments to both the boys themselves and my parenting which has enabled them to explore life in ways they could handle, while providing the support and guidance (and sometimes limits) they needed to ground themselves and learn to think.

That said, I have to highlight these 2 quotes:
getting limited by parents, rather than spanked by reality, is the wrong lesson and
I'm also willing to casually say "Darwin in action" when a teenager dies emulating a Jackass stunt. A parent would probably not be so cavalier.

So, I guess what I want to ask is whether you really think a dead kid is a good thing? If so, you won't care when I say that perhaps in those kids' lives, "getting limited by parents" might have been a Good Thing.

I don't condemn their explorations of physics, but if someone had said to them, "If you do that, this is the possible result," there might be a lot less pain and trauma in that community today. It's important to raise kids who, while taking risks, can intelligently weigh the likely outcomes of those risks and make good choices. Parenting can provide a framework for this, if done right.
[stepping off soapbox]

#Comment made: 2002-12-18 00:11:32+00 by: Dan Lyke

When faced with contraditions like this I'm forced to fall back on those more eloquent than me: "I contain multitudes". No, I don't think we need more dead kids, although I'm sure I do view death in a more cavalier, or at least more accepting light than most of my culture.

I guess what I'm positing is that the kids who died reenacting Jackass (official MTV site, requires some sort of registration which I didn't do) were probably met with that same "Oh, you think you know everything" attitude from their parents, and probably were rebelling against a pretty heavy rule by fiat rather than reason.

It's not that I don't think that kids can learn from parents, or that parents can't give useful advice to their children, but by the time a child hits adolescence I believe that most of what a parent can impart has been passed along, and unless the parent is extremely aware of the prejudices they labor under they're as likely to be passing along their own limitations as they are to be offering useful advice.

#Comment made: 2002-12-18 22:31:46+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Sorry to have dropped this and [apparently] disappear. Things to attend to, and all that :-/

Dan has done an excellent job of expressing exactly my viewpoints, opinions and perspectives on the matter (right down to the "more cavalier about death" sentiment). I would only make a few additional comments:

  1. My comments stem from my own experiences and 90% of the parents that I have observed, spent time with, etc. Certainly, there are exceptions. I'm not trying to say that all parents are a certain way - just what I have observed to be "the norm" in our culture.
  2. I hold that [generally speaking] the parents' perspective that a teenager "knows everything" (or even thinks they know everything) is flat out wrong. I wasn't anywhere near thinking that I knew everything when I was that age - and I didn't know a single peer who thought they did. This is a flawed opinion by parents, IMO, and it's part of what I'm complaining about. Parents express this sentiment, as a defensive measure when their teenager disagrees with them. I find this attitude rude and arrogant when directed at anybody. To claim that a parent is entitled to this kind of attitude only serves to increase the arrogance. (David Brin has an excellent essay debunking the romaticized notion of rule by divine right - or birth or lineage or any other criteria related to who or what we are, rather than our ability).
  3. I agree that passing on knowledge is valuable. My point is that it should be passed on in a respectful and adult manner, rather than a "No, because I know better than you." one. As a teen I didn't rebel against information or knowledge, I rebelled against the implication (or even, occasionally, the outright claim) that I didn't know anything of value. That I was stupid or somehow deficient. That, given a bit of rope, my hanging would be the inevitable conclusion. (My parents actually said to me once; "It's not that we don't trust you, but we know how 16-year olds are." How's that for an oxymoron?) I was often willing to listen to information my parents wanted to impart - yet I can't think of a single instance where I my parents made any attempt to listen to information or knowledge that I had. I don't see parents acting with humility. I see parents acting like they know everything.
  4. And on that note, it galls me when parents claim that I can't possibly provide constructive advice on parenting, just because I don't have kids. That's like saying I'm not qualifed to give advice on the actions of our President because I've never been one. It's ubsurd. It's just another example of that parental arrogance. And, as Dan points out, we do have experience in the parent/child relationship.
I have also enjoyed the give-and-take. But I'll hold to my position that a) most parents when I was a teen (not just mine) had a "we have all the answers and you just think you know everything" attitude and, b) most parents I observe today have exactly the same attitude.

#Comment made: 2002-12-18 22:45:12+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

I don't condemn their explorations of physics, but if someone had said to them, "If you do that, this is the possible result,"

But (most) parents don't say that. Instead they say:

"Stop it!"
"Don't do that!"
"What the hell do you think you're doing!?"
"Do you want to blow yourself up?!"
"If all your friends were jumping off a bridge..."
"What is the matter with you?"
"You are not getting ______, and that's final!"
"I don't want to hear another word about it."


#Comment made: 2002-12-18 22:48:15+00 by: Shawn

You'll have a different perspective and that perspective will be good for a parent to hear sometimes. But the parent will also have a perspective (perhaps even on your life!) that would be valuble for you sometimes.

Exactly. But this two-way street is not the norm. I can count on a single hand the number of instances where I've seen, or even heard of, a parent actually listening to their teen's perspective. (They may hear, but they seldom listen.)

#Comment made: 2002-12-18 23:49:38+00 by: Larry Burton

"You are not getting ______, and that's final!"

I've used this one... after a dozen logical explanations as to why it was out of the questions and the only rebuttal was, "but, pleeeease, daddy!"

I've also used the "I don't want to hear another word about it" under very similar circumstances.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 02:00:45+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Shawn, your upbringing appears to have been dramatically different from my own. Perhaps I'm more unusual than I thought.

As a parent, I would assume the statement about a teenager thinking he "knows everything" is hyperbole. Isn't it obvious?

When we learn simple genetics, we don't breed generation after generation of flower. We instead learn Gregor Mendelson's findings and build on those. Learning by rote -- "because I said so" -- has value. If you accept what others have done before you, it is likely you will go farther.

And live longer.

Yes, there is the a chance that if you ignore what you've been told, you'll discover something new and different. There is that chance.

But it's remote. When you're talking about JackAss, it can be deadly.

And some of us don't have cavalier attitudes about life.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 02:56:08+00 by: Dan Lyke

And my experience, despite my parents letting me experiment to the tune of broken limbs and small craters in the yard, is that there's a big chance that if you ignore what you've been told you'll discover new and different things. And I continue to discover wonderful things by deliberately looking at ways that things I've been told could be wrong.

Yes, it can be deadly. But on the outside I've made it a third of the way already, had some impact, made some differences; I'd hate to stop living because I was afraid of dying.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 20:45:31+00 by: Shawn

If you accept what others have done before you, it is likely you will go farther.

I agree with this 100%. But we all have the possibility of being wrong. And my contention is with the standard parental attitude (in my experience and observation) of not even entertaining the possibility that they might be incorrect. If this isn't a prime example of thinking you "know everything", what is?

Hyperbole is an excessive statement, not an untrue one. The fact that it is hyperbole is my point. It's in-your-face sarcasm. It's "oh, great and all-knowing teenager, please forgive me..."

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 21:01:01+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Growing up, my parents wouldn't let me "hang out". I wasn't allowed to go to parties. I wasn't allowed to stay home alone - even for one night - until I was 18 (this is where the "It's not that we don't trust you..." comment came in) - and only then because they just couldn't find anywhere else for me to go at the last minute. I was never allowed to go to conventions, or concerts, or any kind of event or gathering. They thought they were "protecting" me. They knew better.

What they didn't know is how hard it is for an adult who never learned the necessary social skills, who doesn't have these shared experiences with his peers, to find and interact with friends. I've gotten drunk (or even buzzed) exactly twice in my life - once by my self and once when I was in the military (which was basically followed by the decision not to promote me in the near future). I've never done any kind of drug - never even seen one. The only dancing I've ever done was at high-school dances, with lots of parental chaperones. I've been to one concert - with my cousin. We were driven there and picked up afterwards by his dad (and even then my parents were nervous).

It's all about trust. My parents didn't trust me. Not because of anything I did, but simply because I was a teenager. Teenagers don't know any better. The do stupid things. They do dangerous things. Not some teenagers - all teenagers. And not parents - oh, no, not parents. They know better. They know what's best.

That's the arrogance I'm railing against. I don't just see it from my own childhood. I see it on an almost daily basis when I interact with other parents I know.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 21:54:03+00 by: Diane Reese

I see it on an almost daily basis when I interact with other parents I know.

That's really sad, Shawn. I almost never see it, and I interact with sometimes dozens of parents of teenagers almost every day. Some of us did learn from the mistakes our parents made, and have attempted to make fewer of them in our own parenting. (And admit our own lack of omniscience.)

I've had several talks with my own teenagers and their friends and carpool-kids in the car this week about this thread. Their observations run along two lines:
(1) If an adult is lecturing them about something, it'll go right out the other ear. (Duh. I don't think any of us thought otherwise.) They all admit, though, that an interesting story of personal experience, along with caution notices, will get their attention and they'll listen.
(2) They all feel their parents trust them, and although they all get the occasional lecture which they pretend to listen to yet thoroughly ignore, they also insist that their experiences today don't match what y'all are reporting here. My older son was particularly insistent about that, in that sarcastic-teenager way.

In fact, I'm going to ask Greg (my almost-16-year-old) if he'd be willing to read this thread and comment on it. Don't hold your breath, but it might be worthwhile to get his viewpoint.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 22:23:58+00 by: Dan Lyke

Greg, if you're reading this, the sysadmin takes a strong pro-anonymity stance on the identity of those who create accounts to post on Flutterby, and at best could trace a given post back to an IP address, and even that would take some work correlating multiple data sources. [grin]

Diane, regarding #1, my experience is that this happens a lot even among well meaning parents who know this intellectually. Although I have to admit that at least one of the parents I know is catching on after being called on it a couple of times.

Shawn, I'm not sure if my lack of social skills came from growing up out in the country with only one or two kids my age within easy visiting range, and a very small school far away, or if I started out that way even earlier.

#Comment made: 2002-12-19 23:00:13+00 by: Larry Burton

Shawn, I never saw that growing up from my parents and I've allowed both of my sons a heck of a lot more freedom than you have described, probably more than was good for them. You seem to be painting all parents that have ever uttered any sarcasm in frustration with dealing with a teenager with the same brush that you feel your parents painted all teenagers with.

I'm sorry you've had to go through that. I've had friends that had the same sort of teenage years and I've got friends who are parents of teenagers that are putting their teenagers through the same hell you lived through. I know it happens but I don't see that as being the norm.

You will hear the sarcasm you speak of, though, from even the best of parents. It comes from frustration. It's the frustration of having a set of rules that are expected to be followed and those rules constantly being challenged. The challenges have to be made but the rules also have to be maintained... to some degree. It is a tiring experience and the frustrations involved will invoke sarcasm. It can't be helped, even the best parent is only human.

While I do value the opinion of non-parents in regards to child-rearing I will say that non-parents cannot know the frustrations that parents know in raising a child. They can imagine it but they can't know it and there will always be that little smile at the corner of a parents mouth while taking advice, logical advice, from a non-parent that comes from thinking, "you just don't know."

I got off the phone a few minutes ago with my eighteen year old. He lives in Chattanooga and I live in Lawrenceville, Ga. He just received an insurance check for a decent amount of money from an accident he was in a few months back. I had made a deal with him back in January of this year that if he could save the money for fancy wheels for his car I would buy the tires. It was an effort by me, back in a time when we both lived in the same house in Chattanooga, back when I was employed, to encourage him to save his money. Things have changed since then.

As of last week I became unemployed, or self-employed as I prefer to look at it, and I currently have no income. He's come into a windfall at the time that I'm down on my luck looking into ways I can keep afloat. He can now afford the wheels due to the insurance check, not his savings. Guess what the phone call was about.

#Comment made: 2002-12-20 00:17:25+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, as you say, I can't offer sympathy, but I can offer empathy that:

You will hear the sarcasm you speak of, though, from even the best of parents. It comes from frustration

Having spent many late hours helping with homework I think I've had a glimpse. But this also makes me wonder at the number of parents who complain about how hard it is to raise kids. Many of us without can only look at those who complain and say "well, duh!" That's one of the key facts that lead me to some of the life choices I've made.

#Comment made: 2002-12-20 00:33:23+00 by: Diane Reese

But this also makes me wonder at the number of parents who complain about how hard it is to raise kids.

You may be misinterpreting the everyday human act of letting off steam as "complaining". Sure, it's hard to raise kids: if it isn't, you're not doing it consciously enough. It's also hard to commute in Silicon Valley, keep the ants out of the house when the underground water table has risen several feet in a week, and attempt large amounts of cooking in a kitchen designed for something far less grandiose. I've "complained" about all of these from time to time. "Complaining" can be a way of sharing one's human frailties and insecurities and frustrations and uncertainties with friends whom one suspects may be sympathetic and supportive. Almost all parents who "complain" about parenting are doing it in this vein, not in a "wow, it's really hard to raise kids, I didn't know that ahead of time, wow, I wish I hadn't had any" vein.

For me, parenting a couple of kids has been far, far more rewarding than commuting, ant-removal, or even my beloved cooking. I'd put up with the hassles again any lifetime.

#Comment made: 2002-12-20 07:51:27+00 by: Shawn

Larry; You seem to be painting all parents ... with the same brush

Really, I'm not. I've tried to make that clear. I'm sorry I haven't succeeded. I'm not painting all parents in this light. But my experiences and observations have led me to believe it is the norm.

Dan; That's one of the key facts that lead me to some of the life choices I've made.

Same here. This is a big part of reason I have chosen not to have kids. I may not know in the way a parent believes they do, but I do understand what a monumental task raising children is - and I'm responsible enough to admit that I don't want to undertake that task.

You may be misinterpreting the everyday human act of letting off steam as "complaining".

Perhaps. But one of the events that kick-started this topic for me was a discussion I had with a fellow (adult/grown-up) student: Regardles of what I said to him, he kept saying; "No, you don't understand. My son is stupid." He also made a regular, daily habit/joke of trying to get other classmates to take both his sons off his hands. ("What you need is a 16 year-old.", "Are you sure you don't want my 16 year-old?", "You need a kid - I'll give you mine.") It was funny the first time. It got old quick.

Mark, I haven't keyed into your posts enough to get a feel for your personality, but I feel I've pretty much done so for Larry and Diane. There is no doubt in my mind that you are all Very Good Parents(tm - by the Shawn South Method of Parental Measurement). I'm not talking about folks like you - I'm talking about the... others. Unfortunately, I don't often see parents like you. I see the... others.

(Also, please take my apparent anger and frustration with a bit of a grain of salt at the moment. I realize I may sound harsh, unforgiving, uncomprimising, etc. Yes, I'm usually that way ;-) but at the current time, I'm probably even more so than usual as I'm dealing with a lot of frustration, fear and concern at some home matters right now.)

#Comment made: 2002-12-23 18:08:33+00 by: Dan Lyke

Diane wrote:

You may be misinterpreting the everyday human act of letting off steam as "complaining".

I've spent a little more time than usual with two neighbor toddlers. Maybe "it's different when they're your own", but I was reminded again that letting off steam is a good thing. It prevents... less socially acceptable solutions. It's not like I think duct-tape is necessarily a good idea, it's just that... Well... Necessity is a mother.

(Note, this is just for the nice well behaved kids and their cool parents. To the schmuck whose daughter snitched a cookie at the local coffee shop and who made the little girl throw away the cookie but then did not mention the resulting change in inventory to the folks behind the counter: It's too bad we've had all these civil suits against police brutality.)