I learned it from you

The bar defining parenthood has been set so low in recent years it might as well be sitting on the ground:

The present generation of American parents commits innumerable sins against its children. Many of them are sins of omission. We fail to teach them about right and wrong, and how to know them. We fail to talk with them about values: where they originate, why they matter, and what one must do to preserve and defend them. We don’t bother to explain the seven virtues — for those who were poorly reared: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude — and why they’re good, or the seven capital sins — lust, vanity, gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth — and why they’re terribly dangerous. We retreat from discussions about the natures of mass appeal, popularity, peer pressure, obsession, and the worship of persons and things. Don’t bother us now, Junior; we have to respond to these important text messages, right after we finish our game of Bejeweled.

Some of this, I assume, derives from our own failures to meet the highest standards. (And we do fail, make no mistake about it.) But “maybe they won’t do this if we don’t mention it to them” has worked in a handful of fictional works, and nowhere else on the planet.

Worse, it’s easy to induct Junior into the same isolation bubble:

As bad as all that is, it can easily be made worse. Just give Junior a smartphone. Initiate him into the mysteries of “absent presence,” and what makes it so much more comfortable than attending to the persons and things around him. Especially the most annoying of those persons, the ones clustered most closely around him, the ones who constrain him from moment to moment, whom he can’t wait to disown: his family.

Which you won’t think about when the wireless company offers a multiline deal for a seemingly great rate.

Still, the worst sin we commit against the youngsters is to assume that the public schools, for which we pay rather a lot of money, will take care of those Basic Education Needs. They will do nothing of the sort, and it will become necessary to un-teach some of the more heinous things that they’re taught.



  1. McGehee »

    27 December 2015 · 2:29 pm

    One thing that always infuriates me is the assumption that if your children discover you’re not perfect they will never look up to you or listen to anything else you ever say.

    In the old days such a challenge was, I have little doubt, been answered often with, “Yeah, I did things I tell you not to — And look where it got me. Learn something from your old man.”

    I always had more respect for those who admitted they weren’t always right. They always seemed more grown-up, which is better than being perfect.

  2. Bill Peschel »

    27 December 2015 · 3:58 pm

    Wait a minnit, was there a test? Nobody told me there was a parenting test.

    I’m not sure where he gets this idea that parents taught their kids about right and wrong, the seven deadly sin and virtues and other notions about morality. I figured our kids got them the same way we did, by looking at our parents’ behavior and modeled ourselves to reject all of them until the right incident (because after all, some people never learn) taught us.

    The smartphone thing he’s right about. That’s why Steve Jobs limited his kids use of his own products. He knew crack when he saw it.

  3. Chuck »

    28 December 2015 · 10:58 am

    What do you mean ‘we’ Kimosabe? Sure, there are some parents who fail at parenting by failing to parent, but there are a like number who fail by over parenting, but I like to think that the majority do an adequate job. Lumping everyone into the big bowl of lumpishness is stupid and useless.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a comment