Or is it?
I grapple with this myself on the regular.
My philosophy as a parent in theory is really, and truly, very simple: don’t raise assholes. As I said, in theory this is easy. Raise good people. People that are kind. That care for others. That experience empathy. That know how to set healthy boundaries. That practice mindfulness. And so on…
Do all this by example. All of it. Let me be clear: ALL. OF. IT. You are not going to raise empathetic and kind people if you, yourself, are not empathetic and kind. You are not going to teach your kids about healthy boundaries and taking care of themselves if you, yourself, let people walk all over you, and let it affect your own physical and mental well-being.
But there is one area in not raising little terrorist assholes, who one day grow up to be the likes of Donald Trump or Ann Coulter – willing to stomp on anyone to get ahead, drop anything and anyone for the next best thing, all while spewing hateful words every single time they open their mouths…
…it’s in not letting other people raise assholes of your children either.
Without going into too many specifics, we are surrounded by a lot of people in our daily lives who have otherwise undesirable characteristics. Is that a nice enough way to say it? My husband and I are just very far on the opposite end of the spectrum from a lot of people we regularly encounter in that regard. We have high standards for the way we treat people, and as a result expect to be treated the same. We do not believe in getting shit-faced in front of the children, and we don’t have anything to do with gossip even when it’s just being spoken in our presence. Above all, we believe in being kind, understanding, honest, empathetic of other people’s feelings, and trustworthy.
Not everyone agrees with us on these things, though. Look, not everyone agrees on the way to live their lives. And, people have different priorities.
At some point, though, my husband and I started to realize the profound effect being associated so regularly with people who do not share our values (again, a nice enough way of saying it? …you never know who is reading this blog…) – how much those people were affecting our ability to raise good kids.
We have a couple of people (again, the vaguery) that constantly promise things and then drop said promise for something better that comes up. Now I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes things come up – you get sick, your car breaks down… Sometimes it’s something innocuous – like we kind of-sort of have standing weekly plans together, but something came up one weekend and the kids got disappointed but the plans were never really set in stone so… But then other times, like in the most recent event, it’s “yes I will be at your tennis tournament that weekend” and then the very next day decided instead to go with friends and family to a casino to drink, gamble, and waterski.
We are very fortunate that this hasn’t – yet – taught our kids that it’s OK to make a commitment only to drop it if something better comes along. But what left me with a chill down my spine that I could just not shake this afternoon was when my daughter said “you know, I guess from now on I’ll just tell them I’ll do things with them only to cancel for something better too.”
My parenting philosophy to not raise assholes seemed so easy. Just be good, show them what it means to be good – even when it feels like a slow, agonizing death inside to do so (like not saying nasty things about other people in front of them); and it’ll all turn out well, right? Wrong. The impact of others, though -especially as they get older – seems to have more and more of a profound effect on them.
And now raising kids gets hard again.
It sounds like just a petty reaction, do unto others so if they flake on me for something better, I’ll do the same. Won’t become a long term habit, right? Feet, meet slippery slope – suddenly in front of my eyes flashed a day when my kids thought it was legitimately acceptable to tell someone that you’ll do something only to flake because someone asks you to go gambling and drinking, or water skiing, or whatever it is you were asked to do that seemed more fun.
I mean…that’s what other people do. It must be OK.
So now my husband and I are tasked with figuring out the next phase. The next phase of not raising assholes, which not only involves showing by our own examples, but making sure that the examples they are shown by others are in line with our own values as well.
Talking about how others act in a way that is undesirable is clearly not enough. So then how do you even go about surrounding yourself by the people you want your kids to grow up to be?