This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter, Viva, who is biding her time and seething.
It does not matter how much you love your child. It does not matter how much you do for them, how much you support them, how much you let them chop down your trunk to build a boat to sail away. Though they may give you mugs ranking you first amongst moms or dads, though they may dance with you at their wedding to a maudlin country tune, though they will probably weep openly as they scatter your ashes at your favorite ballpark, most of their life will consist of a series of ill-advised haircuts, overindulgent moments of imbibing and poorly thought-out body modifications symbolizing the rancor they feel towards every choice you did or did not make during their upbringing.
“But I tried so hard,” you say! “I bought the Belgian teething giraffe!” “I brought them to the Marvel stunt show!” “I let them play a damned HARP!” Still, their anger is spumescent. Why? Why?! Why?!!
Everything you like is inscrutable and embarrassing to your child, except for Star Wars. Just as you cannot grok many of the alien concepts your child seems obsessed with: Neko Atsume, Mojang, Cole Sprouse, they have no idea why they need to appreciate the wondrous depths and textures of “Reservoir Dogs” or Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Think about the Boomers that raised us. Think how many times they’ve tried to tell us that Pet Sounds is one of the great musical achievements of the 20th Century. All we hear is the same old Beach Boys harmonies, slathered with some Phil Spector-esque stuff and lots of drug use. I mean, it isn’t a bad album, and our elders went through a lot in their formative years: all those assassinations, that infamous “police action” in Southeast Asia–we get it–but still, “Sloop John B?” Get a job, you dirty hippies. We don’t get our folks, and our children will never get how beautiful Z. Cavaricci pants looked with their cinched ankles and many belts.
The average age Americans have their first child has gone up by five years since the ‘70s, and much more than that in many sectors of the population. There are many upsides: we parents with some snow on the roof are more emotionally developed, financially stable and the divorce rate is plummeting. Buuuut we grunt when we bend over to tie our shoes and we look like the bus driver from the Great America commercials when we try to do a layup. Your child wants you crawling on the floor with them, climbing up the walls with them, driving a hoverboard through the aisles of Justice with them. You simply can’t pull off those looks anymore … and they don’t care about the rich experiences you enjoyed that postponed their conception–not your hard-won MFA in Performance Studies nor the Thai street food you enjoyed in your gap years.
A toddler hears hundreds and hundreds of commands every day. A parent hears hundreds of wailing rebukes. Yes, you’re only trying to teach your child to walk, to read, to not eat rat poison, to not bite strangers, to not jump their bike over downed power lines, but regardless of your nurturing and pedagogical intentions, YOU NEVER SHUT UP. You know how you eventually learn to tune out the sounds of dripping faucets, the hum of your electrical equipment or anything Susan Sarandon says? That’s how your child feels about you. You’re the offstage teacher in a Peanuts cartoon: “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.”
Whether it’s the fact that you’re making your child march around public centers in a knit hat punning on female private parts or whether it’s that crypto-Nationalist trucker hat you keep near the gun cabinet, your politics are tiresome to your child. The only politics they care about are the court intrigues of Avalor and Coruscant, not the latest insecure nonsense Herr Drumpf is bloviating about on Twitter or what kind of spasms it is causing a cranky Vermont Socialist. Sure, you’re only trying to ensure there is a world for them to grow up in, and not an irradiated hellscape swarming in Breitbart drone troopers, but the kids are still sick of your heated conversations and constant tension. At some point you’re going to have to stop downing Mylanta and go out and throw a ball around with the little ones.
If you asked your child to paint a portrait of you, it would probably portray you with your head down starting at a handheld communications device. Again, you’re likely ignoring them as they fall off the top of the slide at the park because you are enrolling them in swimming or calligraphy or Krav Maga or whatever the hot new camp is with limited spaces. You might be watching for the tweet that says there’s a new executive order that everyone is to be sewn into a Human Centipede or that it’s time to duck and cover before the intercontinental ballistic missiles strike their targets, but you’re still not watching them crack their chin on the diving board, and they really want you to. The eulogy your child delivers for you will probably say, “My dad spent most of his time clicking smiley icons photos of his friend’s dinners, but I’m told he was nice.”
The fermenting bitterness towards you in your child’s soul is hurtful. I feel it, too, but it’s natural, it’s unavoidable and maybe it’s even a good thing. We must all grow and break from tradition, we must all find out own way and if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him–or something. You can only do your best. It will NOT be enough, but it’s better than nothing. A bitter, well-raised person beats a bitter, poorly-raised person every time! Sure, your children hate you, but it’s all a part of growing up.
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