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Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfect Parents? No Such Thing!

Guest Post: Scott Hudson

There is no such thing as the “perfect parent.” Parenting is every bit as much a learning experience as is childhood. Yet, some people never get it. My wife and I waited until our mid-thirties to have a young ‘un (hey! Speak for yourself! I’m 29.95, and I’m on sale!), primarily because we were terrified of the responsibility.

Once we knew for sure that the little one was coming, we immediately unplugged the cable TV. The decision was not based on morality concerns alone, we simply did not want our kid to be chained to a television. We also needed badly to save money! Also, We wanted her to explore, we wanted her to read, and most importantly; we wanted her to interact with other people.

Without even really trying hard, my wife had little Emmy talking in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language long before her second birthday. Yet, we still slip up. I dropped something in the kitchen the other day and said “Oh S*&%.” Before I knew it, Emmy was walking around pointing at her doll mimicking me. How do you explain to a toddler not to say a curse word? Well, I guess the answer to that is to not curse yourself. A learning curve it is, no doubt.

I learned from the best, I suppose. My dad was a man who believed in “spare the rod, and spoil the child,” which is something I disagree with in adulthood. I believe discipline can be taught without violence. So dad wasn’t perfect either, but until his death he was always involved in my life. When I was too young to make good decisions on my own, he made them for me. Once, when I was about 10 years old, my parents told me I could choose four “rock and roll” albums as my Christmas presents. I was elated! Mom and I went to the store and I chose what I wanted based on what I had heard other kids raving about.

Later that night, I listened at the vent as my parents argued.

Dad: Patsy! What were you thinking? Culture Club?
Mom: What’s wrong with it?
Dad: Look at the album cover!
Mom: What? I don’t understand.
Dad: That is a MAN, Patsy.
Mom: The girl…there…is a…
Dad: Yes.
Mom: Oh, dear.
Dad: And look at the lyrics of this Prince record…”Let’s pretend we’re married…”

And so it went.

When I woke up on Christmas morning I received four records all right: four records that my father picked out for me. I got “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, “Abbey Road” by the Beatles, “Creedence Clearwater Revival Live,” and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Of course, he noticed my disappointment. He then sat with me and put on “Because” by the Beatles. I was hooked. We listened to all of those records together until I eventually wore them all out and it has never escaped me that nearly all of those albums are in Billboards Top 20 of all time. None of the ones I originally chose ended up on that list.

Parenting is never perfect; there is no scientific formula. Parenting is teaching and learning at the same time. Parenting means spending time with kids and talking to kids. It means sharing your interests and learning about theirs. It is about spending time and showing them the world rather than letting them figure it out on their own. My Dad and Mom gave me that gift and I am determined to pass it along to Emmy. They screwed up a few times, as will I; however, it is always better to try and strive and almost reach a goal rather than give up and rely on Ritalin, MTV, Playstation 9000, and social workers to bring along the next generation.

When I see Mary Liz’s kids show off their talents in public, hear Joe Bowles’ kids hanging off of Daddy while he tries to give a quick comment on the phone, have my friend Bill Brown’s kid Trevor run up and hug me at daycare, and witness the incredible success my siblings have earned for themselves, I realize there are plenty of parents out there for me to emulate. I just feel so sorry for those kids who miss out on the most important thing in childhood: their parents.



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