All Together Now

What is the take away from "Yellow Submarine"? "Avoid Blue Meanies" certainly and possibly "Be Nice," but the maligned Jeremy Hillary Boob, PhD also instructs, "Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo. So little time, so much to know." Truer words never uttered by an animated quadruped. That there are limitations on how much you can understand is a problem--ask anyone who has ever studied, well, anything. Just look at all those pages in all those books. SO much to know. It's tricky enough to learn everything we're supposed to learn on the path to which we've committed ourselves. Even tougher to put down the medical school textbooks and pick up the law books. Or having attained a degree in art to start on philosophy or physics as the next area. Attending to one discipline necessarily takes time away from other possibilities. Polymaths--those who excel in more than one discipline--are talked about not just because they're weird but because they're rare. Von Neumann could multiply eight-digit numbers together in his head and was fluent in seven languages. (He spoke French, German, Latin, Greek, English, and Yiddish in addition to his native Hungarian.*) But even Von Neumann probably didn't know all the words to "Guys and Dolls." Even the seemingly limitless are bounded. I mean, there must have been something the man didn't know.
Similarly, we only have a limited amount of time to develop the appropriate relationship with our beloved children. Every moment spent arguing is time not used for reading Harry Potter out loud or looking for wild raspberries in the woods. Parents and kids doing the dishes together is a worthwhile ritual. Everybody eats; everybody works. I won't quibble with families who feel that homework is a necessary evil. But every shining instant allotted to connecting with your kids is even more worthwhile than the time spent telling them what to do. What about combining work and play? What about making putting clothes in the washing machine a raucous game of basketball? What about allowing homework time to be about shared discovery rather than tedium? Why shouldn't every chore be about commitment to a communal good? Why can't parents and kids turn mowing the lawn into a boisterous race seeing who can come closest to having the machine explode in flames? Okay, that last one, not so much.
But the point is that ultimately your relationship with your child is what it's all about. Yes, you want your kids to be successful, but even more importantly, you want them to be connected. To you. It's not just about who is going to pick out your nursing home. Your relationship with your kids can bring you unrelenting joy or unending misery. It's not about their success; it's about their connection.
Your time with your kids can be fun. There's no reason why not. You can have fun with your kids and still get stuff done. I am not arguing for negotiating with terrorists. I am not suggesting that you impose no limits, that you allow your kids to stay up all night, that you allow them to get their way in any disagreement. I am not arguing for taking your kids to the skate park, giving them access to violent video games, and suggesting that they smoke pot. I am suggesting that there is something to be said for having fun with your kids. Because if you're not connected with your kids, someone else will gladly take your place. And that someone else is much more likely to be an idiot than you are. For proof of the statement that your children's peers are unlikely to be able to find their behinds with both hands and a compass, check out any high school parking lot at 3:00 pm. You, the parent, have to be the rock on which your family is grounded. No one else is qualified to communicate the values that you want to share.
Neville Chamberlain Remembered for Appeasement. Didn't work out so well.
Why do kids want to go to the skate park, smoke pot, refuse to help out around the house, and hang out with peers who have the social skills and intelligence of trail mix in the first place? I would suggest that kids who are connected and aligned with their parents are less likely to look for belonging with feral packs of marauding associates. Parents who are attuned to their children are less likely to hear said children say, "It's all your fault, you f*%#ing b%<+h, I hope you die."
Your kids want to like you. They want to accept your beliefs. They want to model what is good about you. They are almost genetically programmed to be like you.
So little time. So much joy to be had raising kids who are connected to their parents. Could it me that the first step to avoiding Blue Meanies, idiot peers, and exploding lawn mowers is making a game out of doing the laundry?

2 thoughts on “All Together Now

  1. Kyle Mayginnes

    I am not sure how I got on the email list for your columns but am truly glad that I am! This column really resonates with me as I look back to how we raised our children. A lot of what you write is the way we tried to relate to and raise our kids. My wife and I now have two pretty-well adjusted 20something adult children who are a joy to watch as they continue to mature.

    Reply
  2. Martin

    Well of course the meaning of Yellow Submarine is “All you need is love”.

    Poor Neville Chamberlain. He had some kind of policy; whether it was putting
    off war with Germany until Britain had finished the radar network and built up enough
    operational Spitfire squadrons, or whether he was a traitor who gave away Europe
    because he was stupid or evil we may never know. But he sold the policy on false and
    misleading premises and by terrorizing his own people. No appeasment but terror and
    dishonesty.

    Can’t quarrel with blackberry picking since you’re too far away from the blueberries.
    And yep. Somebody’s got to be the Mom and/or Dad in the family, and the kids haven’t
    a clue. So it might just have to be the parent(s).

    Good work as always.

    Reply

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