August 1st, 2006

158IgnoreConsensusReality Behold Darwin's Mighty Hand!

I hate bicycle helmets. They keep dumb kids alive. Rubber playgrounds keep kids ignorant of their mistakes. A skinned knee is a valuable lesson. And parents didn't supervise, no, they abandoned you at the playground. You had to learn to deal with the bully yourself. That's how you learn leadership skills. It's the fear of getting your ass kicked that makes you quick. Can't send your kid to school without a bottle of sanitizing gel, might catch the pox in the bathroom, build up the kid's immune system so they're not dependent on your medicine cabinet for sustenance. You fail and you feel bad about it, that's how you learn how to cope. Kids are never gonna leave their parents' basement, and we're letting it happen. When are you gonna get a job? "When you write a note to the employment agency telling them I'm not allowed to get fired because of my 'special needs.'"

You peel away the chrysalis from a butterfly, the wings never develop. Adversity is part of the equation. Growing up isn't supposed to be comfortable. Childhood has to be painful and disappointing, that's what makes you grow up and compete and figure things out. You have to feel the pressure so you learn how to push back. The possibility of death is what makes all living things adapt. "Dear Mister Frog: Please allow my baby butterfly a few extra seconds before you shoot out your tongue to devour him. He's very risk-averse and very fragile in moments of anxiety. It's your scars that make you who you are. It's what you've survived that proud of yourself. Kids didn't get excuses for taking tests because of their neuropsychological condition.

Of course college students are drinking and drugging more than ever, Mom's not writing excuse notes for them anymore, and Dad's not supervising their playtime! Kids are so coddled that college is the kid's first taste of playground freedom. Parents are now writing excuse letters for kids in college. "My kid needs to take tests without being timed, 'cos he has trouble with big-picture thinking." You know what the big picture is? Failure! Better now than in traffic, when the light changes and the truck driver behind you doesn't care about your "information integration problem." Kids all over colleges are being treated for anxiety and depression, like college is supposed to be stress-free. Exam stress is not a disorder. Your twenties are supposed to be about anxiety and depression, then you don't wanna be anxious and depresses, then you try binge drinking, drug abuse, church, whatever, until something works for you. Now you're strong.

You supervise your kids' play dates, they don't get to bond with other kids through danger. That's why college kids drink so much. I'm risking my life and making friends, and I'm not scared anymore! Wonderful booze."

Parents are harassing college professors about their kids' grades. Are they planning to call their kid's first boss when their kid comes home with a bad employee evaluation? "How dare you abuse my child with a satisfactory employee rating! He's clearly exceptional, if you were only sensitive to his special needs." So professors give everyone an A and we all end up dumbasses who work for Indian families flippin' samosas at the Curry Hut. Take the D in history! Suck it up, cowboy! Take your lumps. Get mad and get even. Find out what you're made of.

We teach kids that they can be anything they want to be. No they can't. There's a lot of slow and dumb in the rainbow. But they can learn to take a beating and give it back if you stop making excuses and protecting them from independence. Dear India: Please don't overrun our country with well-educated, ambitious young people. We've been writing excuses and doctor's notes for our kids for years, and they can't bear the emotional strain of the free market."

What happened to good-old parental neglect? Dad in the garage every free moment, hunched under the Camaro. "Go out and play! I'm twaddling the torque timer." Parents had hobbies. Woodburning, macrame, alcoholism. Now people's kids are their hobby, and parents are like Bob Vila on this Old House, and their kids are fixer-upper projects. "Welcome to This Old Today, the wife and I are still fashioning our child, ignorant of all pain and suffering, and completely dependent on us for all his self-esteem and decisions." If you have enough free time to supervise your kid's play date, you have too much free time. Cut the umbilical cord. Buy a boat. Join a club.

And when parents protect kids, kids protect parents. If parents protect their kids from the harsh reality of life, kids deal with harsh realities and don't tell their parents. My dad taught me to survive. He called me at college - "How's it goin', son?" "Dad, it burns when I pee." "Well, that's what the Health Center's for." "Oh, right. Say hi to Mom." That's honesty. You can't call Mom on the cell phone to get unfired from work. Mom writing a note is not a life strategy.

Funny thing, turns out that the number one cause of anxiety in children is hovering, overprotective parents. "Please excuse Jimmy from stress. He's overstimulated 'cos I can't stop examining him all the time and writing notes like this one."

News flash: You never stop being a parent, but parenting is actually supposed to end. Parenting isn't about protecting your kid from the world. It's about letting the world give your kid just enough stress to learn a little more every day how to stand up on their own. Just a little bit more risk, let 'em run out, hug 'em when they run back, shoo 'em out the door again. Teach 'em the world is not something to avoid, but life is something to explore a little bit more every day, on their own, without you there to pick them up so they can learn what picking themselves up feels like.

"Why won't my kids get married?" Hopefully, never, 'cos then they might breed more drones. They don't marry because they don't know how to date, 'cos Mom and Dad never left them alone long enough to learn how to make friends or fight for what they want.

Writing a kid a note excusing them from stress tells the kid that he or she is fragile and needs special protection. Kids know their parents are cheating for them. They can't earn anything on their own. Recess is important. It's not class, it's not playing unsupervised in the street, it's in-between. Recess is gone from a lotta schools. Recess is fun, but you think about it, you learned a lotta lessons at recess, didn't ya? All those lessons are gone from kids today.

News flash: parenting can be fun. Let your kids go out and play. When they come back crying, give them a hug, and ask them what they're gonna do about it, and kick their asses back out the door. Make a beverage. Watch what happens. Kid comes home, ask how it went. Kids aren't hobbies, they're experiments. Gotta let 'em run for a while. Kid comes home with a C in math, "Well, son, you're average. What're ya gonna do about it?" That's the Albert Einstein story.

And heaven forbid someone's 12-year-old kid gets a -shudder- job. Heaven forbid my kid takes orders from anyone other than me. Then he'll think for himself, and then what'll I do for a hobby?

How are your kids gonna learn to be competent if they don't learn what incompetent feels like, hate it, and dig out of their incompetence by themselves?

The kids who'll grow up and take over are the only kids who learned how to take care of themselves: poor kids. Natural selection's a bitch.

Jim Henson's sick little game of torture

I'm thinkin' maybe I have all this hyperactive energy because I don't have the toys I had when I was a kid, like the Green Machine. The Green Machine was a plastic UFO you sat inside and had two big wheels you pumped with your arms. You could spin in a circle all you want with no fear of bumping your head on the linoleum floor in the kitchen. With the Green Machine and my Big Wheel I got a complete workout. If he's hitting his brother, put him in the Green Machine. If he's kicking his brother, get on the Big Wheel.

Eventually, I'd be too tired to obey the voice in my head of the Sugar Smacks Frog, his name was Dig' 'Em, and I did, 'cos every day I sat down to a heapin' bowl of sugar sweetened pellets of dried corn syrup and spend the morning in a cold sweat terrorizing the village, 'cos I'm ridin' the frog. Come home for lunch with pieces of squirrel ground wrapped around the fork of my Big Wheel, 'cos I was a kicker that day, blood under my fingernails, don't worry, Ma! It's not mine! What's for lunch? Kool-Aid and Neosporin. Thanks, Ma. Gotta go, there's a few lizards out there who haven't felt the wrath of my BB gun.

Then I come home bruised and tired, ready for Mr. Bubble and a Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, with Lowly the Worm, and Huckle Cat, catch up with what's goin' on in Busytown. The butcher's a pig! Trippiest damn kids books in the 70's. The big Sesame Street book was The Monster at the end of this book, starring Grover. Lemme spoil it for ya.

In the book, Grover's reading the book with you, getting more terrified every time you turn the page 'cos you're getting closer to the monster. At the next to last page, Grover's begging you, screaming with tears in his eyes, begging you not to turn the page. At the last page, it is revealed that the monster is Grover himself. I still feel humiliation and shame, because I turned the page after Grover begged me not to. And I loved Grover, and the first three times I read the book, I didn't turn the last page, 'cos I was polite. Now I'm complicit in Grover's pain and suffering. Sesame Street turned me into a sadist. Thanks, Jim Henson! Now I'm a party to your sick little game of torture. I'm glad he's dead.
158IgnoreConsensusReality I see the gym employee's face in the punching bag.

I go to the gym and hit the punching bag. The heavy big canvas bag in the gym that no one uses? You use the complimentary one-day pass and the gym drone follows you around says "We're going to build your health profile. Try this machine," and they take notes and invite you into the office for your results, which are that you're a shambling mound of fat and you need an immediate program of giving them access to your checking account so they can continue to take membership dues even after you threaten to sue and send them a notarized letter so you cancel your checking account which bounces all your outstanding checks and runs up bounced check fees and ruins your credit rating for seven years? Yeah, that canvas bag.

They put it in the corner of the aerobic room 'cos no one uses it, but when men take the tour they ask "got a heavy bag?" 'cos it sounds macho. They put it in the aerobics room so you can't use it during aerobics classes, which are going on all the time. But I use the heavy bag anyway. I tape up my hands, put on my MP3 player of the laudest music I own - Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Flag, Ministry - and I pound the bag, and sometimes I sing. 'Cos if you use the machines, the gym employee vultures will swoop on you and offer to be your personal trainer for more money than your first car cost, so I go and hit the heavy bag and sing along to death metal. 'Cos if someone's willing to interrupt a fat guy pounding a canvas bag in an empty room singing along to Iron Maiden's "The Number of The Beast," they deserve a fair hearing to what they have to say. Which is usually, "I'm sorry, we're starting an aerobics class, and some of the students might be pregnant or might
want to become pregnant and your screaming and hitting might curdle her womb, preventing implantation of fertilized eggs, and someday a youth soccer team won't have a fullback."

Or, "Hi, I'm Brad. Sorry to bother you, but I noticed you haven't taken advantage of our offer to try a personal trainer for a free hour to ream you of even more money." Now, if it's the aerobics instructor, I go "Sure," and go home and eat Funyuns which is what I wanted to do in the first place. But if it's Brad, I read my prepared speech. "I'm not here for fitness, Brad. I hit the bag for anger therapy, and you just cost me another 45 minutes," and crank up the Iron Maiden and start singing "Brad, Brad, Brad." I already have a life coach. His name is Jack Daniels. Between the heavy bag and Coach Jack, I'm building a life strategy. I'm finally taking care of me.