I said yesterday that I was going to write with total honesty, so I need to come clean about my unconventional views on child rearing, including my Santa Theory and my Bad Word Policy.
First, I have this strange idea that we should give children at least the same respect we show adults. So the Buddhist Fourth Precept — the one about not speaking falsely — applies when we talk with children. Why does lying become OK when Christmas approaches?
I’ll tell you why, and that’s where my Santa Theory comes in. I believe that Santa Claus was invented solely for adults’ egos. Grown-ups invented Santa so they could confirm their feelings of superiority over children. It’s not that adults think children get cuter by believing in Santa. It’s like laughing at one’s own joke. The grown-ups go: “Ain’t I cute. I got junior to fall for Santa again.” Then they celebrate by patting themselves on the back and downing a shot, which violates the Buddhist Fifth Precept.
I’ll admit to feeling particularly grumpy today, but I’m sharing my sincere long-held beliefs. If you don’t like them, stop reading now. You won’t like the rest of this, either.
What’s wrong with telling children that Santa is a story…a symbol? They may choose to believe in him for a while, but they’ll decide when they want to leave the magical thinking behind. In the meantime, you haven’t deceived them. You don’t need to promote the fiction and to show by example that lying is OK if it fools kids and makes adults feel good about themselves.
I also feel that we should speak around children the same way that we do around adults, and for me that includes a lot of F-bombs and S-bombs. I have found that children are smart enough to understand that some language may be OK at home but not at school. So I have my Bad Word Policy, which I adhere to whenever someone complains about the speech of one of my children in an informal setting, like home or the playground.
Here’s one absolutely true example of my policy, exactly as it happened:
My son Carl was 6 or 7 and had an older friend over to play a video game. They were in Carl’s bedroom on the second floor of the house, and I was sitting reading in the family room on the first floor.
The older boy came downstairs and walked over importantly to me. “Mr. Pine,” he said, “Carl used a bad word.”
“Oh yeah?” I replied. “What word did he use?”
“He used the F word.”
With that I locked eyes with the older boy and said: “I don’t give a flying fuck.”
The funny thing is the boy didn’t skip a beat. He cane right back with: “Well, Carl used the S word, too.” And that threw me into a very un-Bhudda-like fury.
Somehow, both of my sons made it through elementary school, middle school and high school without getting into trouble for foul language, despite my being a bad example at home.
And while I’m talking about school, I understand that teachers have been told to involve the parents in their children’s education, but when they start sending the homework to the parents with instructions, and when they give assignments to children that require input from parents, they’ve crossed a line. One thing that does is to put poor families, families with two working parents, and large families at a disadvantage.
Our children can do their own homework and ask for help when they need it. And they can play games outdoors without uniforms and coaches. I managed to play baseball, football and basketball without ever having a coach or a uniform.
And look how I turned out.
Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine