Published on June 28th, 2016 | by Richard Black0
The Importance of Discouraging Children
Since I’ve become a father I’ve read a lot of articles about how to raise a child. That’s actually not true. I’m too busy parenting to read articles about raising my daughter. That’s actually not true either. I’ve been blessed with an inherent knowledge, passed down from my father’s forefathers and their forefathers before them about how to be a great father. That might not be entirely true either.
If I were to have read these articles I’d imagine that a lot of them champion the need to encourage one’s children in a loving and structured environment and I’d have to agree. My daughter needs to be encouraged every day. Yesterday I had to encourage her to eat something other than cheese so that she doesn’t die from a massive bout of constipation. Darcy also needs regular encouragement to wash her hands, look both ways before crossing highways, take antibiotics even though they taste “yucky” and even go to sleep.
Encouragement is great and all but, as parents, we often forget that children need to be discouraged as well.
A few weeks ago my daughter announced that she was going to walk up the stairs backwards with her eyes closed. I suggested that this might not be the best idea, went on about doing whatever I was doing, probably playing chess or reading Proust. A few seconds later I was rewarded with a resounding thump and a muffled “ouch” instead of a series of thumps and an ear splitting scream. I congratulated myself on a job well parented and asked Darcy to join me on the couch for a quick rehash of the event.
“So what did you learn?” I asked.
“That I need to see with my eyes shut,” she promptly replied and stymied me for a moment. This was not the lesson I’d intended her to learn.
“How about we try not to walk upstairs backwards with our eyes shut anymore?” I suggested.
“That might work too,” she said dubiously.
I clearly had a lot of work to do but I understood my daughter’s doubts. When I was Darcy’s age my parents bought me a pair of Superman Underoos. It seemed like such a simple thing but the belief that I could be anything in tandem with with the power of Saturday morning cartoons was a devastating combination that had some unforeseen consequences.
At first I took a few half-hearted leaps off of my bed only to land on the floor and usually on my feet. Then, I realized what I’d been doing wrong. I didn’t fully believe that I could fly. My disbelief was holding me back. I imagined that if I had the courage to throw myself off my bed and perpendicular to the floor that I might, just might, take flight. A few seconds later I took a running start by my pillow and launched myself, arms outstretched, to break the surly bonds of gravity before slamming abruptly to the bedroom floor.
My parents rushed into my room. After giving me a once over and discovering that I was, most likely, going to live they went back downstairs to watch Lawrence Welk or whatever it was that parents in the 1980’s did at night that when they weren’t snorting coke or attending key parties.
Neither asked what I’d been doing which I appreciated. I also imagine that the thumps they’d been hearing throughout the night and the way I was dressed gave them a pretty good idea about what I’d been up to.
I like to think that I’d handle a similar situation with Darcy in the same manner and generally let her discover her own limitations. She doesn’t need me to tell her that someday she won’t ever learn how to see with her eyes shut. That realization will occur in time and those hopes will slowly fade because part of becoming an adult is the death of those childhood aspirations. Fuck me that’s depressing.
Unfortunately, as she ages, there will be a number of different scenarios in which I’ll have to more actively discourage my daughter. Children, as I’ve mentioned, are morons. Yes they can be sweet and adorable and remarkably durable but they possess the survival instincts of a toaster.
A few days ago I was discouraging Darcy from walking up the stairs backwards with her eyes shut. In less time than I’d like to think about I’ll be discouraging her from other activities with potentially more dire consequences. Humping some idiot in the back of a Caprice Classic without protection comes to mind. Shooting up in a Caprice Classic is another. Now that I think about it I’m going to discourage Darcy from having anything to do with General Motors vehicles just to be safe.
While I’m at it I should probably add going to a liberal arts school to the list. Some of the dumbest things I’ve ever done were in liberal arts school, some of the dumbest people too.
Driving a car entails its own dangers and should also probably be discouraged. Did you know that a car or truck has been involved in 100% of all motor vehicle accidents? That’s a pretty sobering statistic.
I should also probably discourage my daughter from reading. I could try to cherry pick a few books like the Bible or or Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche was as ass and I think that the loose manner in which the bible is written is ripe for misinterpretation. I should probably ban Hegel as well. Now that I think about it the whole subject of philosophy should be discouraged. Des Cartes defended vivisecting animals because he believed they didn’t have souls. Karl Marx, while writing about the plight of the proletariat knocked up one of his servants.
Fiction is just as potentially volatile. There are the obvious works like Where the Wild Things Are and A Wrinkle in Time that might lead to some pretty unhealthy beliefs in fantasy and even psychosis. Anything having to do with vampires is also a “no go” particularly if it’s got werewolves in it as well. I mean really werewolves and vampires? The ramifications are just too terrifying to deal with. Better, I think, to discourage reading altogether until Darcy’s a bit more mature and in her late thirties.
It’s for her own well being of course. The last thing I’d want is for my daughter to misconstrue the meaning of a few words some idiot simply had the forethought to puke up on a page. Children can be so impressionable and there are a lot of morons out there.