In 2001 I became a parent. I chose to become a parent. But like everyone else who is a parent for the first time, I wasn’t sure whether I could raise good humans. I still don’t. I have to be honest, I didn’t even really like kids before we had our first one. But then we did, and I fell in love with the job. And yes, I’ve messed up as a parent. A lot. Almost every day, in fact. But I’ve learned that the most important thing about parenting is caring. And I’m not talking about nonchalant caring, but rather deep, emotional caring. The kind of caring that you don’t even realize exists until you have a child of your own. And it’s this kind of caring that propels you through parenthood–stumbling as you go, but always looking out for the best interest of the child. After all, your most important job as a parent is to produce quality citizens to release into the world. People who know the difference between right and wrong. Good and bad. Truth and deceit. People who will positively contribute to the advancement of our species.
Sounds easy enough, right? Clearly, it’s not. To parent well you’ve got to set high moral standards early on, and then stick to these core universals in order to mold the impressionable mindset of a developing human in such a way that they end up being productive members of society. That’s the contract you make with every other human on the planet when you decide to have children. Don’t raise selfish pricks and then release them into the world. You do that, you fail us all.
It seems like not enough people are parenting well in America. Steubenville is a perfect example. Granted, I couldn’t stomach reading the details of this story, but the idea that a drunk girl was publicly humiliated and raped while bystanders looked on and video’d the ordeal is tough to comprehend. And while it’s easy to point fingers at the girl for getting drunk, or the boys for treating her like a sex toy, or the bystanders for doing nothing – the root of the problem is that the parents of these children did not do their jobs well.
What the hell as happened in America?
Look, I am not one of those people who longs for the glory of the good old days–because frankly the good old days weren’t always good. In fact, it sucked to be a kid growing up when I did. We had to say yes ma’am and no sir and please and may I and thank you. We had to call adults Mr. and Mrs. Last Name Only. We didn’t speak until we were spoken to. And if we didn’t do these things, we were punished in ways that ensured we didn’t make the same mistakes twice. Most of the kids I knew had these same rules. There was order in it–but it was very restricting and not exactly the best place for a curious boy who had a lot of questions. It wasn’t fun. And while I realize that kids will be kids, and that trouble will follow some people around their whole lives – stories like Steubenville don’t happen when enough people parent better.
My kids don’t say yes sir and no ma’am. They speak whenever they damn well please, for the most part. And although they are polite and say please and thank you most of the time (at least when I am around), they’re nothing like the robots we were as kids. Maybe we’re doing it wrong, but despite our shortcomings, me and my wife try hard to instill the idea of respect in our daughters. We’ve tried to help them understand how to make the best decisions – even small ones. Especially small ones. Because as everyone knows, the little problems add up to the big problems. Solve the little problems, and you head off the big ones.
When you raise children who act disrespectfully to others, you fail as a parent and as a member of society. Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of 10 ways for bad parents to become good ones. I have but one recommendation – care more. Care like no one is watching. Care like the world depends on it. Care like your teenage daughter might end up being sodomized on video while she’s drunk. Teach your kids the difference between right and wrong. Good and bad. Truth and deceit. Do whatever it takes to parent better. Because indifference is poison. And when you release humans who have no moral code into society – it’s squarely your fault.
In The Republic, Plato suggests that not everyone is cut out to be a parent and that there should be people in society whose job it is to raise all of the children. That way they’re all raised equally well. Unfortunately, America is no closer to being a functional Republic than Plato is to resurrection. So in lieu of our not having a system in place to give every child the best opportunity to be a functioning member of society, I implore you to just parent better. Care more. That is all.
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Mar 27, 2013
Great post Jim. At the risk of hijacking it, I wanted to tell you something. At 11PM last night, on my way home from the Tae Kwon Do training hall I thought of you. Seriously. I was having a Jim Mitchem moment (raw expression of emotional content and realization). Even said it aloud.
I had just gotten done training with my eldest son Austin (a Junior at UNCC). This year he decided to get back into martial arts after a 10 year absence. The dojang is near campus so it’s become a great weekly Father/Son bonding time for us. Usually we go to Hickory Tavern down the street afterwards for a beer and a bite.
Last night we had a long night of discussion about school, jobs, life, family, his brother, plans. At 21 years old and out of the house, it’s a different conversation these days. Fortunately, we’re still very tight. He still hugs me and tell me he loves me every time we meet.
My other son Jonathan is 19. He’s still at home working his way through CPCC for transfer in the Fall. He’s currently out west in San Diego for Spring Break. He decided he wanted to go see a band and some friends, so he saved, bought a ticket, traveled by himself and took off. This is his second solo trip to a strange city. The submissive second born is showing independence.
So, at any rate – I’m driving home last night and I start recalling our evening conversation. I smile. I begin crying as I drive down 85. All I could think of is that despite my constant chasing, and struggles to better myself, and to get a wins in the column – on this day, in this moment I’ve won. I did something right. I’ve raised two awesome Men. The world is right with me.
Mar 27, 2013
This. This. A million times this.
Every day I wake up terrified of failing my kids.
Hopefully that terror makes me a better parent.
There’s a kid in our girls’ pre-school who is in trouble every single day. She acts out, spits, yells, cries and is invariably disciplined in as nice a manner as possible. (The teacher is a lovely woman.)
And this little 3-year-old girl is not to blame. She can’t be. She wasn’t just born evil and mean and nasty. Her home situation is making her that way. Rumor has it her parents are splitting. You hate to see that, but man, if it makes things better for this girl, make it happen.
I truly believe that so many of our nation’s current ills stem from bad parenting, bad schools and our willful ignorance of mental health issues. We need a couple generations of people addressing those things.
But I’m terrified that none of that is going to happen.
The only thing I can control is how *I* parent.
And I am far far far far far far from perfect.
But I care, and I’m trying.
Apr 5, 2013
So true! I think people feel that good parenting takes so much time and that life is so packed full of things to do these days that it gets lost. It seems to me that good parenting doesn’t take any more time… it just takes more focus. Unfortunately, modern life tempts us to multi-task, when not everything can be done while simultaneously checking email, voicemail and your FB account.
The Raping of Values | obsessed with conformity
Oct 12, 2017
[…] rape in Stubenville, Ohio that shook the nation. Or perhaps it just shook me. Who knows anymore. I was utterly disgusted with this event and looked to parents (particularly parents of boys) to do w… To simply parent better. God knows that life is hard, parenting is harder, and just because […]