non-punishment stuff, here:
So, the high school that our older daughter attended and the younger one still attends, last year, grade 12, is on my way to work and I’ve been dropping one or the other one off on my way in for . . . wow, eight years now, and the process in the school parking lot has been getting irritating.
It’s a parking lot, space to park many cars, and at that time of morning – 8:00 am, I’m late for work, always – there are still plenty of empty spaces, mostly in the row nearest the school building, and this is exactly where I pull into a spot, wish my kid a good day, tell her I love her, and let her out. Unfortunately, there’s a line-up of cars on the road in and all through the travelling lanes in the parking area, people – women, I mean. Mothers, stopping in the driving lane, not taking a spot, and letting their kids out. I drive around it when I can, to a parking space, let my daughter out, back out of the spot and carry on to work, because I’m late, as always, and I’m pissed, I can’t abide all these soccer moms in their giant cars stopping in the middle of the road.
Then, once they’ve stopped, you can see these normal teens slowly and passive-aggressively get out of the front seat, shuffle around the car, open the back or the very back to retrieve their backpacks etc., and this often after a minute’s delay where apparently nothing is moving. I suspect these normal parents are reading their normal teen some version of the Riot Act, nattering at them about something; their teens hate them, but one more lecture will probably do the trick. Apologies to everyone else in the line of cars, but this could be the one! This speech could be the one that finally reaches my teen!
Besides the one above, I drive away from this scene every morning, trying not to think this nasty thought: that women don’t give a crap about each other, about all the other parents in that line up, they will stop in the middle of the road to do their parenting, to deal with their own family and their own problems while every other parent waits for their turn. Also this – do these parents not have jobs? Are they happy to spend several minutes doing something that should take seconds because they have no-where to be? Which, of course, if that is the case for any of them, I repeat: they are not giving a crap about those of us who do have places to be.
Maybe it’s hard to back those great SUV’s up, maybe that’s why some don’t take a parking stall – but I’m sorry. In my grumpy morning commute road rage state of mind at the time, that’s all part of the ‘mother’s privilege’ too: the bloody SUV. Soccer moms and their SUVs are operating out of the same sort of attitude. They want the giant car, gets them up off the road where they can see more of what’s happening on the road, it’s for their families’ safety – and it kills visibility for those of us still driving little cars, those of us trying to create less greenhouse gas. Plus of course, the extra pollution. We, in our little cars can see less than ever, can’t see past these giant cars at all, so every time someone buys an SUV it’s an attack on the safety of those that don’t. “My family is above the traffic now, we’re safe” – and forget the rest of you, is the attitude, albeit tacit.
That is the dark side of a parent’s – a mother’s – single-minded concern for her family: the trade-off of everyone else’s comfort and safety for it. Parenting is unconscious and generally antithetical to civilization. Family concerns need to be balanced against what is good for everyone. It doesn’t have to be ‘us against the world;’ we’re making it like that. Let’s work together, help our families, help our kids, and help the world. That principle applies in many ways.
When we keep our kids away from the bad kids, we’re protecting ours, but if we are “good” families, then we’re denying those bad kids some good influences. When we arm ourselves against the bad people who may prey on us, then we’re promoting force and violence as a way to solve our problems – a lesson many people get in trouble for learning too well. When we cheat on or otherwise niggle regarding our taxes we are saving money for our families, but withholding revenue that may help feed, house, or otherwise help other families . . . all these sorts of things that we do to protect ourselves and our kids from the big bad world ultimately work to make that world bigger and badder than it might have been.
“Safety First” is one hundred percent appropriate in the face of threats to our lives. Other than that, all of our safety concerns need to be traded off against social concerns. We should be looking for ways to protect mankind generally, and we should always be trying to make our choices as far toward the socially preferable end of the scale as possible, by default. That means just looking after us ours and ourselves doesn’t cut it, morally. It needs to move from “My family is safe” – and forget the rest of you, to “My family is safe enough” – with apologies and thanks for the rest of you.
Morally speaking, I’m not interested in your faithfulness, or your strict adherence; I’m only interested in the size of your moral circle. If I and my family aren’t in yours, then of course I think you need to shape up.
October 10, 2015
First of all, women are oppressed second-class citizens, no argument. I’m all about the equality. Having said that . . .
Ladies, get your shit together, and just like Pink Floyd told the teachers – Hey! Leave those kids alone.
I spend a lot of time criticizing parents, and I don’t mean to be sneaking it in under the radar: mothers are the main parents. In most of the world, most of the child-rearing, and therefore most of the child-rearing mistakes are made by mothers. I suppose in places where the men have proprietorship over their women (old world cultures, sub-cultures where the law doesn’t reach, among the very rich or the very poor), we can say that mothers have no choice, there certainly are places where a lot of misguided mothering is forced upon the mothers by a brutal regime of men – but not in my life! In middle-class suburban or city life in my corner of the former First World, the west coast of Canada, for the most part, it is mothers who have control, mothers who are the autonomous rulers of the family. Men here are still children to some degree, still living in the power-shadow of their own mother; the industrial revolution has removed men from the family structure. We’re like lions now, we will be called upon to fight if there’s a war or a threat, or when the children grow beyond the mother’s ability to control them herself. Other than that, we will defer to the mother, as we always have, from our earliest days.
On a personal level, I would have been one of those minimally involved men – I still am, half the time. Honestly, I still have the weak male core-belief that my contributions to running the household are optional. I cook and clean sometimes, but it’s still sort of voluntary, and sometimes I don’t. I’m sure I would have happily taken the suburban male’s back seat position regarding parenting too, except for this idea I had, my epiphany that children should not be punished. Un-punished children would not have happened if I had left things up to my wife. In my house, it was me, the man, who stood up against potential violence, against the betrayal and disregard that punishing brings to parenting. In my mind, it was about that, about saving my kids from a lot of unconscious brutality, but I have to admit – I wasn’t excited to be that uninvolved, un-consulted father. I was, as so many young men in this First World life are, staring down the barrel of familial irrelevance.
Having seen the effect of that in my own father, as well as in the patriarch of my in-laws’ family, and knowing my constitution wasn’t matched for the alcoholism that was their answer for it, I knew that wasn’t going to sit well with me.
This whole ‘no punishment’ thing, though, this started long before I was able to articulate that fear. I never recognized my dad’s situation that way as anything he didn’t deserve, and I only thought about it in a personal context. It was getting to know my in-laws that gave me to understand that it was a situation many men have to deal with. Or not, I guess – and that I was facing that crisis/choice also. I think the chronology speaks to any conscious need to build a rationale I may have had – but I’m willing to grant the possible overlap of interests. Much as I’d rather look at it as a pleasant surprise, some collateral repair in my life from choosing to do the right thing, that I fought a careful and prolonged battle with my still-beloved wife to implement a form of child-rearing that very few people would understand or agree with.
I felt for many years, while the girls were young and vulnerable that I was walking a wire not to piss the wife off to the point of divorce while trying to bring her around to my idea, and to this day, I can see the pain that her lack of control over things gives her. The poor girl has done what I advise in my blog, she has lost at both ends, powerless with her own mother, and then cut off from the inheritance of power she needs so bad as an adult, never permitted to enjoy the topside of our eternal parent-child power struggle. I was trying to make the same sacrifice, but I had talked myself into it already, her parents were present in her life . . . for whatever reasons, it was me driving the change and was my wife losing her parental power simultaneously with starting to see the situation of her childhood powerlessness. It was very hard on her. She would never have it any other way now, but I think young motherhood was harder on my young wife than it is for some, thanks to me. Not to mention that I was intervening and insisting on changes because the girls were here now and needed to be spared a lot of “normal” stuff now – and a lot of the “now” was before my wife had understood or agreed with the whole ‘no punishment’ (so no force, so no bedtimes, no mealtimes, no toilet training) thing. If I ever succeeded in one of these interventions, it was often only that I had complained long and loud enough that she would just capitulate.
There wasn’t mostly a meeting of minds while the girls were little. It was a pretty stressful few years, bad for me, probably worse for her. It’s been a lot better since the younger one was maybe five or six, for all of us. Having said that –
My wife is the sweetest, most passive girl I could have found. I would say nine out of ten women I’ve met during the child-rearing years of my life would not have either allowed me to make this change, either would have whooped the kids’ asses while I wasn’t around or left me and had them all to themselves, something. I know what we did, what I made happen is what was in my dear wife’s heart, and she’s been very happy with it for many years now. We have always known we were loved, all through the teen years, always the communication and the honesty has been there.
Using your power early on takes that away from you; it’s a trade no-one in my house will ever again consider, I’m happy to say. Having said that, that, to a considerable degree, is motherhood, this power trap that my wife so painfully escaped, the stage of life where at last a young mother gets to feel her own power rather than her parents’ power, at the expense of her children’s power. I’m hopeful that we have lessened the power of that cycle for our girls and that the cycle will not simply resume with them, when they have children.
I’m hoping that my beautiful wife’s suffering won’t have helped save only our girls, but their kids, and theirs, won’t have been for a blip in history, but the start of something.
So I know how I’m framing this, and it’s horrible. It’s like male/master/rational – female/slave of unconscious needs – and I’m sorry. Any psychologist will remind me that I was getting my unconscious needs met too, of course. As I say, I powered my way into a strong parental position. Also, I acknowledge that most parents will grant that she too had a rational position to argue; I don’t agree, but if it makes me seem less authoritarian, I won’t try to convince you!
Hmmm . . . 1,300 words . . . better leave off for now . . .
Oct. 8, 2015