Any time anyone has ever told me that I might not be suitable for something, I’ve ignored everything they said, and overdubbed them with a voice saying ‘Well, now. I’m afraid you’re just not enough of a prick. That’s your problem, sonny. You should be a complete wanker, like I am. That’s how to get ahead in life. And I fucked your mum.’ Granted, I only added that last sentence when the advice was coming from my dad, but still.
I don’t think my dad ever really taught me anything useful. Apart from maybe: Do fuck all unless you enjoy it and are good at it. Everything that happens to you is someone else’s fault. Or the classic: women are evil harridans who will always leave you and tear your heart into shreds. Luckily, none of that rubbed off on me.
The apple rarely falls far from the tree, which is sort of a good analogy for how you usually pick up bad habits, outlooks and prejudices from your parents. I’m a fucking genius sometimes. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Genius. I should write that down. Oh look, I just did. Anyway, I always knew that I had picked up some bad habits from my parents, and some good ones too. I read that Philip Larkin thing in school, same as you did. Hearing our English teacher saying ‘fuck’ in class on National Poetry Day… wow! That was about 27% as badass as he probably thought it was. The cunt. So, when I had a child of my own, I saw it as like a Social Experiment. I thought if I am completely dedicated to filling her with good habits; basically all the opposite of my bad habits, I couldn’t lose.
I started off with food. I was the fussiest eater on the planet. You know those people on BBC3 ‘Freaky Eaters’ who Only Eat Cheese On Crackers or some such? I’d look at that and go ‘Eww. Cheese’. So I made sure the child ate everything. And, apart from raw tomatoes, she does. Parent of the century right there. Other things I did were: listen to her all the time, take a real interest in whatever mind-numbingly tedious crap she’s interested in. Try not to be cynical about her naivety; try to act surprised and educated when she comes out with some fact she’s learned that day at school. You know, instead being all ‘HAHAHAHAHA, DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT? I KNEW THAT YEARS AGO, FUCKING RETARD, HAHAHA’, like I imagine all other parents do.
But the problem with being relatively good as a parent is that you are completely oblivious to how bad you are as a parent. You prefer to look at the worst examples of parenting that go on around you, and smugly congratulate yourself for being Miles Better Than Those Cunts. This is wrong, and I’ve only just started realising it. If you remember the Larkin poem, he talked about your parents ‘filling you with the faults they had’. This is very hard to not do, on reflection. Because, come on, you have to like yourself. And if you like yourself, and are a grown-up, the chances are that you’ve come to terms with the things that are shit about you; maybe even turned them into virtues. (If you’ve ever dumped someone in the most unfair and horrendous fashion, you’ll know what I mean here. That was how you slept at night afterwards. Like a fucking baby too, I’d wager.) And if you’ve done that, then how are you going to know not to pass these things on to your children?
I’ll give you an example. My daughter is No Bother. You can take her anywhere, and she’ll never act like Other People’s Kids In McDonald’s (ref: every other status update of mine between the hours of 9am and 11am on weekdays). And that’s very good, and something that I am wholly responsible for, having taught her at an early age, using lots of my time and patience. She’s not a little kid any more though, and today I realised that I have been chastising her for two things which really I shouldn’t have been. One: she sort of talks over me sometimes, and two: she’s quite bossy with her friends.
For some reason, I’d been thinking these were Bad Things, and an extension of the sort of behaviour you’d expect from Other People’s Kids In McDonald’s. I hate obnoxious people, and I don’t want her to be one. Then, this morning actually, I suddenly realised that she isn’t being obnoxious at all. The talking over me is just really her finding her confidence and then going with it. And the other thing is just her having leadership qualities. Now both of those things are things I didn’t have as a child, or as an adult. And I was prepared to fucking beat them out of her (so to speak) because my Parent Ego seemed to think that her being like me was more important than her turning out better than me. That’s dangerous fucking thinking.
Your kids have the potential to be ten times the person you are; you might be the one holding them back. The fact that you’ve made your mistakes already should be a tool to help you guide them through, making sure to let them make a few of their own. It shouldn’t be a tool to help you be a fucking arsehole to them when they are teenagers- the time when they’re least likely to listen to you. People tend to leave a lot of stuff until their kids are teenagers- teaching them respect, manners, the value of money, things like that. When was the meeting where parents decided that?
‘Hey, you know what, guys? I’m thinking thirteen. That will a good age to spring everything on the little bastards. They’ll be receptive then. It’s not like they’ll be plagued with anxiety over their genitalia and full of confusing hormones! They’ll love us kicking the Parenting into a higher gear at that time of their lives, instead of taking our feet off the gas and letting years of patient preparation guide them through those difficult acne and masturbation-filled years. All in favour, say ‘Aye’.’
Parents: Mostly cunts.