Screaming at my daughter like a psychotic lunatic the other day, I took a step back to reflect on what it is that I do for a living. The short version of my job description might include the phrase "discouraging parents from screaming at their daughters like psychotic lunatics." The irony of the situation was not lost on me. Even as my blood pressure reached record levels and my eyes bulged out of my head.

In my own defense, I should explain that there was a candy wrapper on the floor in my daughter's room. Clearly the only way to deal with such an egregious condition was to holler incessantly like a soccer hooligan on amphetamines. Surely, any rational parent would have done the same thing.

There is some good news though: I am pleased to report that there were no mental health professionals present to witness my little "come apart" so it seems unlikely that the authorities will place my child in foster care. Thank goodness for small mercies.

Pausing for breath and allowing the smoke that was coming out of my ears to dissipate somewhat, I reflected on the broader implications of the situation (To recap: candy wrapper on floor, unremitting yelling.) Yes, a candy wrapper on the floor is a clear indication of the decadence of our culture, my abject failure as a parent, and the end of the world as we know it. No, I could not think of any other way to handle the situation. Did I mention that the candy wrapper was right there ON THE FLOOR in my daughter's room? All right then.

Subsequently, I related the incident of my insane diatribe to one of my running buddies. He listened patiently to the part about how much money we might have to pay the bug guy to come spray the house. Rather than pointing out how it seemed unlikely that the candy wrapper was indeed 11-feet long, radioactive, and incandescent as described, he mentioned that perhaps I should read my own blog on parenting. "I read your stuff every Tuesday," he began. "Most of the advice makes a lot of sense."

Apparently, there are currently bulk discounts available at the irony store. Because obviously, there is irony available even on the Saturday morning run. And evidently, it is easier to write a weekly advice column about parenting than it is to encourage a snarky teen (but I repeat myself) to pick up an 11-foot radioactive, incandescent candy wrapper.

Some readers have had the unmitigated temerity to suggest that my advice is as repetitive as it is simplistic. "You have written 300 columns that all say exactly the same thing," they begin. "Take your kids camping when you're not playing Parcheesi with them."

Whereas the reality is undoubtedly much more complex. Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a family with two parents. Not everyone who lives in a family with two parents is fortunate. Even the healthiest of families with the most thoughtful parents have a tough time of it today. The threats to our families are all too real. And as I am not the first to observe, the hazards are unprecedented in this generation. The number of deaths from opioid addiction has surpassed the number of deaths from gun violence and the number of deaths from car crashes. Speaking of numbers, I see more advertisements about how to deal with constipation resulting from opioid use than I do advertisements about how to RECOVER from opioid abuse. If you'll forgive my speaking frankly, I am not in favor of constipation. Indeed, the pro-constipation lobby gets no contribution from me. But I'm not in favor of opioid use either. Shouldn't we be talking about how to avoid using opioids in the fist place rather than discussing how to deal with the constipation that can result from opioid use?

Given how bizarrely difficult it is to bring up healthy kids in this unhealthy, kid-shredding, anti-family culture, can parents be forgiven for having the occasional flip out regarding that which might not actually BE life-threatening? Process addictions are everywhere. Kids have access to tobacco, marijuana, Internet pornography, alcohol, ecstasy, gambling, and worse. Could a candy wrapper on the floor represent to an otherwise rational parent, the actual ubiquitous dangers? Could a parent be forgiven for feeling out of control? Should a parent be forgiven for occasionally losing control?

I dunno. I just write these columns. You can't expect me to actually think about them as well. So, I'm not going to offer any insight into whether or not it's okay to go off the deep end now and again. Instead, I'm going to ask my daughter if we can go camping next weekend. I'll remember to bring the Parcheesi set. Maybe on the way to the woods, we'll stop in to the Irony Store. I understand that there is a sale going on.

6 thoughts on “Irony

  1. David Tuttle

    David, I thoroughly enjoy your weekly columns and if there is any peace in solidarity, I too came unglued last week over leftover easter basket candy on the bedroom floor! We do our best, and in times when it is not easy to raise healthy, well attuned young people with all that is in front of them each day that tempts them in the other direction from our personal values and morals – we lay foundations and have the periodic meltdowns. You are inspiring, thank you.

  2. MOM

    I once flipped out because my 18 yr old daughter purchased a garbage disposal (in secrete) and then proceeded to replaced the current garbage disposal, which works fine. She borrowed tools from the neighbor, who I thought had my back.

    She had watched a Utube video and felt competent.

    The new disposal worked fine, my daughter still jokes about the incident and I continue to love her dearly.

    Thanks for all your great blogs. they always make me smile.

    Liz Ash

  3. Joseph Loftin

    Great article. David, you provide excellent advice on connecting with the needs and sensitivities of our children. Like with any other practice, when in the moment we fall short of our ideal it helps to remind ourselves to dust ourselves off, get back on the saddle, and persevere in moving toward the good. Once again, you provide a great lesson with humor and humility. Thank you, David.

    Joe Loftin

  4. Lisa Temkin

    Your meltdown over the candy wrapper reminds me that even those of us who work with teenagers (and other kids and young adults) are human, too. Isn’t every parent entitled (I use that word carefully) to an occasional freak-out??
    When parents call me utterly frustrated that their son/daughter hasn’t been turning in homework, stays out past curfew, or didn’t receive the grades the parent wanted, I remind them that parenting is the hardest job that all of us do. We all try to model the right stuff: be respectful, especially to anyone that’s older than you (teachers, friends’ parents, etc.), volunteer at something meaningful, have an open mind–don’t be judgmental, don’t leave candy wrappers on the floor of your room–or anywhere else in the house. In the end, we all do the best we can with our kids and then you have to hope for the best. Hope that your son/daughter does well enough in high school to go to a college they’re excited about, doesn’t use opioids (or get constipated), and then become nice and good citizens, young adults who care about people and doing the right thing. When a parent wrote me today complaining that his son had cancelled another appointment with me, I wrote back, “I know it’s very frustrating to you, but honestly, I really enjoy JN. He’s really a very introspective and genuinely nice kid. You’ve done something right as a parent.” I feel like I should say that more often to my clients and also tell my own young adult children that I’m proud of them for being good and thoughtful people. Just remember…..going off the deep end over a candy wrapper doesn’t make you a bad parent.

  5. Kelli Ruch

    Being the parent of two teenage daughters, I can fully relate to how you feel.
    it’s easy to get lost in the moment when you have a teenage daughter or son even over something so insignificant as a candy wrapper.

    But it’s really not insignificant when you consider: the fear behind the candy wrapper is much bigger than the infraction that you think she might have committed.

    If you look at why you were upset and why you got afraid it’s probably because of a huge your picture which would be the unknown consequences of social media, their friends, lack of control as they get older and their ability to access so many things.

    ALL of those fears wrapped into one -no pun intended!

    So I would suggest take a breath have faith in God and have faith in the fact that they are an individual with an individual path on this earth and you were here simply to guide them not to punish them so I would suggest take a breath have faith in God and have faith in the fact that they are an individual with an individual path on this earth and you were here simply to guide them not to punish them


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