Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood - exclusive excerpt

Discuss

44 Responses to “Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood - exclusive excerpt”

  1. William Farrar says:

    Drew’s Dadspin articles are fucking epic

    http://deadspin.com/tag/dadspin

  2. Scott Rubin says:

    You try spanking, but it doesn’t work. It just makes things worse. Think about it. Her screaming at you is the same as you spanking her. Except that the screaming is working on you! You let it work. No matter how loud the screaming is, or how long it lasts, just ignore it. You said you feel weak/soft. That’s your weakness. As soon as you hung up that phone, the battle had already been lost. You are looking for stronger weapons, but what you really need is stronger armor.

    • ChicagoD says:

      Every kid is different and every situation is different. Parents have to use their best judgment in the moment and hope they guess right. Of course, every decision made negates the possibility of an infinite number of other decisions in that moment. Many of those other decisions could also have been good or bad (depending).

      All of which is a long way of saying there is no single right answer. Whether it is corporal punishment or waiting the kid out no matter what the kid does, each has repercussions and benefits.

    • Andrew Singleton says:

      Except that’s not how we remember it working as a kid. We remember abject terror at a mere threat of whippings or, god forbid, the switch (that you’d have to go find yourself and heaven help you if what you brought back wasn’t good enough.)

      It’s also a case of you just wanting the little monster to behave, but you’re afraid you might cross a line and hurt them so trying ot find a middle ground all while the snot’s kicking and screaming and making you feel about three inches tall.

      • ChicagoD says:

        Strange. I remember every so often getting a single sharp smack on the ass that caught my attention. No whippings or switches.

        It’s almost as if corporal punishment and sadism can be separated.

      • mccrum says:

        And did that abject terror work?  Not on me, it just made me afraid of my dad, which is fucked up.  All that yelling?  Just made me tune out my dad, which is fucked up.  He probably said some pretty useful things to me between the yellings, but it all blurred together like Charlie Brown’s adults.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      I, too, am the world’s best backseat driver. 

  3. Stefan Jones says:

    Forget an atrium, pantry, and two-car garage. Houses for families need a padded, well-lit, insulated toddler time-out room. Brightly lit and full of plush toys.

  4. Doomstalk says:

    All of this armchair parenting seems to miss the point of the excerpt: it’s easy to judge a parent, but it’s hard to be one.

  5. Nash Rambler says:

    God.  I feel like I’m looking down the barrel of a hopeless situation regarding me being a parent.

    • Fang Xianfu says:

      I actually took this passage – despite its horror – to have lot of hope for the future. It’s the part that reads “I feel pressure to live up to a parental ideal that no one probably has ever achieved.” – this is perfect evidence that nobody has ever lived up to the parental ideal you compare yourself to. None of the people who criticise you – or whom you worry will or might – have themselves managed it.

      It’s only hopeless if your aspiration is to never be in this situation. A much better approach would be finding a way to avoid feeling like an asshole when it happens. That’s the second message of hope – when his wife comes home and says “It’s alright, I understand”.

      It reminds me of that story from the West Wing about the guy who’s stuck in a hole. When you’re down there together, things get a lot easier.

    • mccrum says:

      It’s not hopeless, it just feels like it in the moment.  And then the moment eventually passes and that little person is calm again.  And you eventually work your way around to getting more calm little person and a greater understanding of why there is an angry littler person (too tired, too hungry, upset about the television, whatever) and what you can do to prevent it (earlier bedtime, breakfast first thing, less television and more board games, whatever).

      Being a better parent quite simply involves understanding this little stranger in your house a little better than you used to, and you’re only a better parent in comparison to yourself..  It’s not a contest, there’s no awards, nobody is going to give you a monetary prize.  You’re going to get judged for it by total strangers, so just don’t care about what they think in the first place.

  6. Kludgegrrl says:

    As a judging parent let me say that, while OBVIOUSLY there is no magical 100% correct response to all situations, it seems that Drew lost it when he lost it, so to speak. 

    Kids freak out about little things, not getting their way, minor hurts, irrational fears, etc…  They freak out and they escalate the response because they’re kids and, frankly, don’t have a lot of self-control.  But as a parent, or even as an adult who is not a parent, the onus is on you to keep your shit together, to NOT freak out.  When someone is hollering into your ear that can be a challenge, sure enough.  But consistent calm reactions do help teach the kid that freaking out is not really acceptable (ie not what you would do) and also reduces the escalation factor.

  7. Jardine says:

    “So that’s it?” my dad said. “You’re just gonna hang up on me and go do her bidding?”

    Nope, I’m putting her on the phone with you. I shall observe your parenting genius.

  8. simonbarsinister says:

    I don’t want to be that asshole who has no sympathy for difficult kids or difficult times… but my kids have never done this. None of my five kids. We do the hard thing, which is to be 100% consistent. When he said ‘no dessert ever again’ he taught her that his threats are just angry words that will not be carried out. When she screamed louder and he blew up he taught her that she needs to continue escalating her tantrum until she gets his full attention. Every time you lose your shit or make threats you don’t carry out you have just undone MONTHS of consistent parenting. Its incredibly hard to keep your head when you are competing with an intelligent little being who is devoting all of his or her efforts at making you lose your head. But that is their job at that time in their lives – to test their boundaries (and yours), manipulate their environment and find out what the real rules of life are. Start when they are born. The later you start, the harder it is, and if you haven’t taught them to control themselves by the time they are pre-teens you have lost and will never have control of them – which is a tragedy because they are about to enter a phase of life where they can get into real trouble.

    • snickerdoodles says:

       Nice story bro. Humblebrag much?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        It strikes me as a concise guide to good parenting.  They’re not Barbie dolls.  If you fuck up the first couple, you can’t just throw them away and start over.

    • Tordel Back says:

      Isn’t all that exactly what Drew was saying?  Only with humility instead of smugness?

    • marilove says:

      Your kids have never thrown a tantrum?  I really, really, really do not believe that.  If they haven’t, then you certainly are a prefect parent, and they are prefect kids, which is not possible in any way.

      It’s possible you have good, quiet kids that generally behave.  Even if you have a lot of kids.  But not all kids are the same, and you seem to think your kids are angels all of the time.  I call bullshit.

      • simonbarsinister says:

        To clarify: I was being a bit “troll-y” and of course my kids have had tantrums. But what they don’t do is escalate ad absurdum until they get their way. They know from experience that when their demands escalate into tantrum territory they get put in a quiet room and can scream their heads off until they cool off and after they have cried it out they can come out. After the first few hundred times they stopped doing it because it doesn’t work. ever. By the time they were six or seven they just don’t have ‘tantrum’ in their repertoire any more.

        • marilove says:

          Ah, still a pompous ass making assumptions about a parent based on one story in a book about parenting. I’m not even a parent and I know it’s not as easy and simple as you make it out to be.

          • L_Mariachi says:

            It’s not as easy and simple as doing “the hard thing” where it’s “incredibly hard to keep your head?”

          • marilove says:

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to say,  but parenting is a mess of contradictions. So is being human.

          • L_Mariachi says:

            “not as easy and simple as you make it out to be” — easy & simple is the exact opposite of what he makes it out to be. It’s a gross mischaracterization, not some sublime contradiction.

    • Steve Nordquist says:

       Inconsistent works better than fine too; a little explaining what logic happens to have come by at the moment and the setpiece is there, the overheard conversation larded with valence, humor, and judgment and tens of curious substitutions cracked up for every draconian measure. To wit: we never got our creamer; we found a cannoli.

  9. joe k. says:

    The hard part when dealing with an ornery, stubborn, or particular screechy child is that there’s this persistent (and wrong) idea that as the adult you must at all times have control of the situation, otherwise your kids will somehow become drug addicts and/or lazy dropouts.

    Most of the screaming episodes we had were when the kid was hungry, angry, or tired or a combination. So you feed them, get them to nap, whatever. Sometimes I just let my daughter scream it out in her room (this presents its own problems because then you think “what if the neighbors hear and call the cops or something?”)

    But it’s all a phase. My kids grew out of the inconsolable screechy phase years ago.

  10. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Yelling threats and hitting people doesn’t work to change their behavior?  Who would have guessed THAT?

    Someone who has never managed to set appropriate limits with his parents hasn’t managed to set appropriate limits with his children?  Shocking!

    This scenario is lacking an adult.  Children sometimes act like rabid chimps.  Mirroring their behavior isn’t an effective strategy for dealing with it.

  11. acm says:

    Wow, that was exhausting and painful, but so so true.  Everybody has had a day (or many) when their resources weren’t up to the challenges, and it always leads to a lot of self-flagellation later (and/or during).  Parents are human too.

  12. leila says:

     

    P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; direction: ltr; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-align: left; widows: 2; orphans: 2; }P.western { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.cjk { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.ctl { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }A:link { color: rgb(0, 153, 0); }

    Dear
    Mark Frauenfelder:

    I’m
    with simonbarsinister. Drew Magary doesn’t need
    to write a book. He needs to get help. But,
    first of all, I must address you describing the little girl as a
    toddler. She’s five, and, if she began being the boss of him when
    she was a toddler, at 18 months or so, she now has three plus years
    experience successfully pushing him and the wife
    around, and abusing them and the brother.

    Are
    you seriously recommending people read the whole book? Is
    it all like the excerpt? After the first part where the little girl
    (henceforth “she”or “her”) bullied the father (henceforth
    “he” or “him”) in front of his father, I had to force myself
    to continue reading.

    Mr.
    Frauenfelder, you describe this book as “funny, profound, and above
    all, straightforward about the rewards and hassles of being a parent
    of young children” and “anyone who is a parent will have empathy
    for what happened.”

    So
    I have to propose:

    You
    are in a supermarket aisle. This family comes around the corner. She
    grabs several packages of cookies. He says no. Shouting, screaming,
    and hitting ensues. Is this funny to you? Profound? Got Empathy?
    Or, hmmm….maybe you move quickly to another aisle?

    Now
    let’s shift the scene to a restaurant. You had a tough day with your
    own problems at work. You’re very hungry. They come in and a similar
    scene ensues. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    Church.
    Memorial service for a beloved friend. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    School,
    Neither you or the parent is there, but your child is, and your child
    is hit in lieu of the brother. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    This
    is not a funny book at all. The lock on the door and the shower
    scene are disturbing. This man does not need enthusiastic reviews
    that encourage and enable him to continue to allow this child to be
    badly behaved. He needs to get help. Or someone should call CPS.

    I
    went back to teaching elementary level after raising two kids, and if
    this guy doesn’t get help, it will take many teachers, principals,
    and school counselors years of work before that little girl will be
    able to function normally in a school environment. Obviously, her
    teachers will have to do the tough work, no help from him. From his
    accounting of his conversation with the wife, she’ll be no help
    either.

    The
    library & Amazon has books on this topic. Discipline for Home
    and School By Edward E. Ford. Love and Logic by Jim Fay
    and Foster W. Cline, M.D. has both books and classes. I have used
    both these systems in class and can personally recommend them, but
    there are many good ones out there.

    Sincerely,

    Leila

    In
    case anyone wants to know, we spanked our kids. Our reasoning is
    that there are lots of worse things that can happen if the child does
    not obey (going up to strange dogs, picking up a gun laying out
    somewhere, running out into traffic, etc.) Spank or no spank, the
    child needs to know that you are the parent. Did you anti-spank
    people know that after a while, when the child can grasp the concept
    of later time, you can substitute loss of privileges at a later time
    for misbehavior in the moment?

  13. Melissa Lee says:

    1) the little girl is hitting her brother because she CAN’T HIT YOU!!!
    2) this scene is not funny at all (per Leila), it is straight up sad and abusive.
    3) if you have a day like this and you can’t disengage yourself even for a minute to get in control, you should not have put yourself in this situation.
    4) I am a parent and I can agree that you can’t live up to the idea of an “ideal parent.” So get some f*cking counseling and deal with your issues please. You and your children will be happier.

  14. Brianne Archer says:

    I think I need to read this book, if only because it make feel a whole lot better about my infertility issues.

  15. leila says:

     

    P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; direction: ltr; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-align: left; widows: 2; orphans: 2; }P.western { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.cjk { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.ctl { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }A:link { color: rgb(0, 153, 0); }

    Dear
    Mark Frauenfelder:

    I
    just “edited” my response, and then it disappeared. I’m older
    and don’t know all the fine points of posting. Thank you Melissa Lee.

    Anyway
    I’m with simonbarsinister. Drew Magary
    doesn’t need to write a book He needs to get help. But, first of
    all, I must address you describing the little girl as a toddler.
    She’s five, and, if she began being the boss of him when she was a
    toddler, at 18 months or so, she now has three plus years experience
    successfully pushing him and the wife around, and abusing them and
    the brother.

    Are
    you seriously recommending people read the whole book? Is it all like
    the excerpt? After the first part where the little girl (henceforth
    “she”or “her”) bullied the father (henceforth “he” or
    “him”) in front of his father, I had to force myself to continue
    reading.

    Mr.
    Frauenfelder, you describe this book as “funny, profound, and above
    all, straightforward about the rewards and hassles of being a parent
    of young children” and “anyone who is a parent will have empathy
    for what happened.”

    So
    I have to propose:

    You
    are in a supermarket aisle. This family comes around the corner. She
    grabs several packages of cookies. He says no. Shouting, screaming,
    and hitting ensues. Is this funny to you? Profound? Got Empathy?
    Or, hmmm….maybe you move quickly to another aisle?

    Now
    let’s shift the scene to a restaurant. You had a tough day with your
    own problems at work. You’re very hungry. They come in and a similar
    scene ensues. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    Church.
    Memorial service for a beloved friend. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    School.
    Neither you or the parent is there, but your child is, and your child
    is hit in lieu of the brother. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    This
    is not a funny book at all. The lock on the door and the shower
    scene are disturbing. This man does not need enthusiastic reviews
    that encourage and enable him to continue to allow this child to be
    badly behaved. He needs to get help. Or someone should call CPS.

    The
    library & Amazon have books on this topic. Discipline for Home
    and School By Edward E. Ford. Love and Logic by Jim Fay
    and Foster W. Cline, M.D. has both books and classes. I have used
    both these systems in class and can personally recommend them, but
    there are many good ones out there.

    I
    went back to teaching elementary level after raising two kids, and if
    this guy doesn’t get help, it will take many teachers, principals,
    and school counselors years of work before that little girl will be
    able to function normally in a school environment. Obviously, her
    teachers will have to do the tough work, no help from him. From his
    accounting of his conversation with the wife, she’ll be no help
    either.

    Sincerely,

    Leila

    In
    case anyone wants to know, we spanked our kids. Our reasoning is
    that there are lots of worse things that can happen if the child does
    not obey (going up to strange dogs, picking up a gun laying out
    somewhere, running out into traffic, etc.) Spank or no spank, the
    child needs to know that you are the parent. Did you anti-spank
    people know that after a while, when the child can grasp the concept
    of later time, you can substitute loss of privileges at a later time
    for misbehavior in the moment?

  16. leila says:

    Oh, fine, now it looks like I’m criticizing Melissa Lee, when she agreed with me.  Thanks Melissa Lee! .  Could you folks at Boing Boing post some detailed instructions on posting? Y’know, unless that violates some “thing” about you helping people.

    Leila

  17. CrustyDad says:

    I think you’re over analyzing this. Children, especially girls use mind games to get power over you. Just think like a benevolent dictator (without the torture centers and you’ll be fine). Sometimes its not instant respect with “the voice” or grounding. Its loss of respect that she needs to experience. Physical punishment accelerates the process but at the risk of abusing your kid and destroying the relationship. Its a battle of wills and she will play the “daddy I wuv you” when she thinks she’s losing

  18. leila says:

    Dear Mark Frauenfelder:

    OK well this is the third time I have tried to post this.  I would like it if Boing Boing had instructions for older posters.  Well. Guess you have some sort of rule about that.

    I just “edited” my response, and then it disappeared. I’m older and don’t know all the fine points of posting. Thank you Melissa Lee.

    Anyway I’m with simonbarsinister. Drew Magary doesn’t need to write a book He needs to get help. But, first of all, I must address you describing the little girl as a toddler. She’s five, and, if she began being the boss of him when she was a toddler, at 18 months or so, she now has three plus years experience successfully pushing him and the wife around, and abusing them and the brother.

    Are you seriously recommending people read the whole book? Is it all like the excerpt? After the first part where the little girl (henceforth “she”or “her”) bullied the father (henceforth “he” or “him”) in front of his father, I had to force myself to continue reading.

    Mr. Frauenfelder, you describe this book as “funny, profound, and above all, straightforward about the rewards and hassles of being a parent of young children” and “anyone who is a parent will have empathy for what happened.”

    So I have to propose:

    You are in a supermarket aisle. This family comes around the corner. She grabs several packages of cookies. He says no. Shouting, screaming, and hitting ensues. Is this funny to you? Profound? Got Empathy? Or, hmmm….maybe you move quickly to another aisle?

    Now let’s shift the scene to a restaurant. You had a tough day with your own problems at work. You’re very hungry. They come in and a similar scene ensues. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    Church. Memorial service for a beloved friend. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    School, Neither you or the parent is there, but your child is, and your child is hit in lieu of the brother. Funny? Profound? Empathy?

    This is not a funny book at all. The lock on the door and the shower scene are disturbing. This man does not need enthusiastic reviews that encourage and enable him to continue to allow this child to be badly behaved. He needs to get help. Or someone should call CPS.

    The library & Amazon has books on this topic. Discipline for Home and School By Edward E. Ford. Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. has both books and classes. I have used both these systems in class and can personally recommend them, but there are many good ones out there.

    I went back to teaching elementary level after raising two kids, and if this guy doesn’t get help, it will take many teachers, principals, and school counselors years of work before that little girl will be able to function normally in a school environment. Obviously, her teachers will have to do the tough work, no help from him. From his accounting of his conversation with the wife, she’ll be no help either.

    Sincerely,

    Leila

    In case anyone wants to know, we spanked our kids. Our reasoning is that there are lots of worse things that can happen if the child does not obey (going up to strange dogs, picking up a gun laying out somewhere, running out into traffic, etc.) Spank or no spank, the child needs to know that you are the parent. Did you anti-spank people know that after a while, when the child can grasp the concept of later time, you can substitute loss of privileges at a later time for misbehavior in the moment?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Your comments aren’t sticking because they have so many formatting artifacts, like extra line breaks and formatting information, that they look like spam.

      As to spanking children, the argument is no more valid than the argument that men should be able to beat their wives.  For most of recorded history, women have been regarded as intellectually inferior to men, incapable of rational decision making, relegated to the status of chattel property and needing to be beaten to encourage proper behavior.

      We hit children because they’re smaller than us, because they’ve been indoctrinated to accept abuse and because they have historically had minimal legal recourse.  It’s evil.

  19. Ozma says:

    I feel like an asshole for saying that neither myself or my husband ever loses our shit with our kid to this extent. And our kid has ADHD and has been INSANE at times. 

    I don’t want to brag because it could happen with this baby once he’s four or whatever. Maybe he’ll be EVEN WORSE than this other kid and we’ll get physical. 

    But it’s never happened once. I have a horror of physical violence with my kid–my parents were physically violent with me. Just tell yourself: NEVER. Not ONCE. NEVER. I never forgot a single beating. 

    I agree with the people who say he needs some help. I’m not saying he’s a terrible person or a terrible father just the whole ‘it’s normal, we all do it’ meme is simply not true. And for the stuff the kid did in particular. 

    The adult was clearly in a mood. The kid was doing the shit kids do. In his mood, he couldn’t handle it. He needs to look at himself. 

  20. Eric Rucker says:

    Really, it seems like a better solution is to not have kids.

    (I know I sure as fuck don’t have the patience for it (got my dad’s patience for kids (that is, none) with part of my mom’s lack of mental stability), so I’m never going to have kids.)

    • leila says:

       

      P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; direction: ltr; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-align: left; widows: 2; orphans: 2; }P.western { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.cjk { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }P.ctl { font-family: “Times New Roman”,serif; font-size: 12pt; }A:link { color: rgb(0, 153, 0); }

      Dear
      Moderator:

      I
      have always felt that spanking was something done when children did
      not really understand words so well. My husband and I observed, when
      our two sons were, in succession,at two years old or so, that,when
      one of us would point at something and say,“Don’t go there!” the
      son would Immediately begin to toddle over that place (big
      dog,canal,road,whatever.) We concluded that what we were saying was
      being understood as,“Hey! Look at THAT!”

      If a
      child can cut their own switch, it is way past time to time to begin
      substituting a punishment of grounding, loss of electronic
      privileges, etc. So, I guess I have to point out that when we have a
      disagreement with our sons,now 24 and 27,they are not told to “go
      cut your own switch”and bring it. I don’t see the connection to
      women, either.

      When
      my first son was two,I visited a college roommate who had a son a
      little older than my son. At one point, when my son misbehaved,I
      spanked him. She gave me The Lecture on Spanking. I visited her again
      about two years later and she admitted to me how shocked she was that
      her son misbehaved in preschool JUST AS OFTEN as the SPANKED kids.
      She evidently expected that her son would somehow (?) know how she
      had to grit her teeth and NOT SPANK him and he would somehow be
      grateful, and reward her by being so much BETTER BEHAVED than those
      SPANKED kids. Ha, Ha.

      On
      the other hand, it’s possible to horribly punish your children
      without spanking them. I read an account of this by a psychiatrist.
      It seems he had a case where a husband told his wife, “We’re not
      going to spank our child!” But the husband worked, and the wife was
      home with the little girl all day. The wife came up with a very
      satisfactory way to fulfill the letter of her husband’s law. If the
      husband left at 8:00 and, at 8:15, the little girl transgressed, the
      mom would cut her off and leave her in cold isolation (in prison,
      this is “the hole”) with no talking, no eye contact, no touching,
      nothing, all day, until the husband came in at night. Lunch was set
      out silently. The psychiatrist said this was the worst case of child
      abuse he had ever seen, including beaten children.

      But I
      know I’m not going to convince anyone at Boing-Boing. You think Mr.
      Magary
      is funny, profound, and elicits empathy. On the other hand I am
      evil. I do get it. Published Sci-Fi Writer: funny, but not just
      regular funny: candidly funny. Unpublished Hoi Polloi: lacking that
      sparkling wit like
      this:

      “WHAT
      IS WRONG WITH YOU?! YOU ARE NOT RESPECTFUL! YOU WILL STAY HERE ALL
      NIGHT OR I SWEAR TO GOD YOU’LL BE SORRY.”

      It’s…it’s
      like the New Algonquin Round table…Benchley, or Thurber…
      amiright?

      I
      wrote that this excerpt was not funny and I need to amend that. I did
      not include dark or ironic humor. This book could be amazingly useful
      in a divorce proceeding, or if the family just turned up…missing.
      This is not to mention how this self-confession would be a greased
      pig sliding through a CPS hearing. So, yeah, I could see it being
      very funny.

      Thank
      you for your suggestions on posting. I have tried to eliminate spaces
      as much as I can, although I don’t know how to eliminate spaces
      between paragraphs. I hope this will post nicely.

      What
      can I say? Interesting book review. I love Boing Boing.

      Leila

Leave a Reply