Monday, June 27, 2011

Parenting - Full Metal Jacket style

"The Marines don't want robots, they want killers." -Matthew Modine as "Joker" in Full Metal Jacket.

That's possibly the most difficult thing to do as a parent.

No, I don't want killers = murderers.

I want fiercely independent, intelligent, emotionally stable, capable of giving and receiving love, free and creatively thinking human beings. Fearless but not senseless.

I want these kids to know that life means taking risks. Taking risks requires evaluation of the emotional as well as the material potential. "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden

How do I plan to get the kids to that level?

By yelling at them every time they do something wrong until they cry and making them flinch every time I raise my hand.

Just kidding!

That's when I explain, as age appropriately as I can, what they can do next time he or she has the same problem. Spilled milk? To avoid spilling, hold the cup like this. When you spill something, we go over here to the towel drawer, bring one or two to the spill, and wipe it up. Jimmy hit you with a foam sword? Here's how you block the sword. If you don't want to play swords, put your sword down. Never turn your back on someone holding a sword. Peed on the floor? Go get some towels, I'll get the soap. Next time, try not to wait until you're about to pee in your pants.

These are valuable lessons, people.

You fell on your face and scraped your chin on the sidewalk? Up, up, up! Are you ok? Need a kiss? Ok, back to playtime. Run, run, run! No, no treats for every little boo-boo. Excessive bleeding requiring actual first aid can be accompanied by a dum-dum.

You jumped from the second stair? Ok, now jump from the third! Scared? I'll hold your hands this time. Next time, you do it yourself.

I will teach them that failure is when you sulk in defeat rather than learning from mistakes while moving toward the next opportunity. We will go over tests and quizzes. Ball games and Bar Matzohs. We will learn to learn.

Having the patience to have the explanation for the 1,000th time, knowing there will certainly be a 1,001st time is what makes us parents, not killers. Screaming and yelling is what makes us human. Being mentally unstable is what turns parents into killers.

I want no robots. I do not want my kids to succumb to peer pressure. It exists within people more than from without - perception rather than reality. Go with the flow because you like it, not because people you like to hang out with are part of it. One of the most frightening aspects of life is allowing the flow to take you to people and places you may enjoy even more. And that those places can help take you where you want to be. And that there are people and places that may have to be left behind. (Burn no bridges.)

They must understand that robots are good for a purpose. When it's original function is eliminated, solid state robots get thrown to the scrap heap. Others retool for the next type of service. Didn't make the soccer team? Try lacrosse. Try acting. Try chess. Or start training today for tryouts next year. Whining about the coach being unfair and political will help you not.

Lessons taught after failures. Wisdom is using those experiences for future successes. Made an mistake to lose the game. Got a sub-par grade on an exam. Was dumped by a girlfriend. Got in trouble with friends. Made the play that won the game. Got an A. Asked that girl or boy to dance.

Today was a 3rd of July barbecue at my brother's house. At one point, my 6-year-old nephew, JD, my sister, and I were using bean bags to throw at one another. (It started as throwing to one another and escalated. I probably had something to do with that.) I hit my nephew in the stomach. "Ow! That hurt!" he exclaimed, slightly upset that he felt a little pain. If only he'd picked up that bean bag and said with a big grin, "I'm gonna get you, Uncle!"

Yes, buddy, most of the best times in life came with a couple of bruises. They are markers of time and place. They are there to help tell the story. And stories are usually funnier if it's of a time where you fucked up. Hindsight is hilarious.

In the meantime, don't forget to have mindless fun. Like throwing bean bags at each other. Learning to live happy is the best lesson of all. Happiness is running through a muddy field on a hazy day holding a warm M-16 and screaming in amassed rage with your best buddies, practicing for the day you'll face the enemy. If you've ever played rugby, you know what I'm talking about.

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