Week Nine: “The Worst Parenting Advice You’ll Ever Receive”

Hey parents out there.

Yeah.  I’m talking to you.  The ones who said you would never let your kids eat McDonald’s in the back seat.  Or listen to kid music.  Or do that cliché’ discipline tactic where you yell, “I’m going to count to three and then I’m going to (insert horrible, irrational, overblown punishment here).”

Well, stop scrubbing that ketchup stain on the upholstery, mute “The Wheels on the Bus,” and shut you’re your big yapper.  Because I have something to say and you’d better listen up.

I’m serious.

Turn the music off.

Now.  Don’t make me say it again.  I’m going to count to three, and it better be off or you’ll never have candy ever again.  For the rest of your life.  Never.  I don’t care if the whole world blows up and the only food left is candy. You’re not eating it. You hear me?

One…  two…

OK.  That’s better.  Now that I have your attention, I’m gonna’ lay some wisdom down on you and not even charge you for it.  Here goes.

Stop protecting your kids. 

You heard it right.  Stop. Protecting. Your. Kids.

Before I start sounding like an overbearing know-it-all, please realize that I am actually talking to myself.  Any resemblance to your own neurotic parenting style is purely coincidental.

This past week brought a perfect storm of challenges to the Year Without A Purchase.  All of them child-induced.  And all had us questioning whether this whole ordeal is making us bad parents. 

For starters, Jake’s tennis shoes are on life support.  The soles are ripping off, and the side is developing a gaping hole, as if my son has the feet of an 87-year-old man with huge bunions and an extra pinkie toe protruding out. 

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He asked, “Can I get some new shoes after school today, daddy?”

I replied, “But son, you HAVE other shoes.  The black ones.”

“But I don’t like those shoes.”

“You don’t have to like ‘em.  The job of shoes is to protect your feet.  These are shoes.”

 “But they aren’t the right shoes.  They are summer shoes.”

“Summer is coming fast.”

“Not until June.  June 21st.  You said so.”

Even though my son remembered the correct date of the summer solstice like he was channeling Rainman, we did not reward him with a new pair of sneakers.

Besides the shoes, the zippers on both his backpack and lunch box broke this week.  The school requires an insulated pack so kids don’t eat room-temperature turkey sandwiches and turn the place into a salmonella factory.  His is barely functional.   He wants to leave it half-zipped until it finally falls apart.  Luckily, we have another one he can use.  The problem?  It’s a lovely paisley-floral print.

I hope he’s ready to set some new first grade fashion trends.

As for the backpack, it’s a goner.  But we have a backup.  Gabby got it at a trade show over twenty years ago.  How do we know the exact age of the pack, you ask?  Because it has the date written right on it.  1989.  I stuffed it full of his school gear and laid it in the hallway.

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He asked,“What’s this?”

“It’s your new backpack, son.”

“But I didn’t pick it.”

“I know.  Mom did.”

He pointed to the clover-like graphic between the words “Yak-Pak” and asked, “What’s this funny shape?”

“I don’t know.”

After twenty questions about the coolness of the pack and the definition of the word “new”, he lost interest in arguing the point and changed the subject.

But the topper this weekend was the March Madness basketball tournament.  No, not the one that generates squillions of dollars of revenue and makes Vegas oddsmakers giddy.  We’re talking about the no-holds-barred basketball slug-fest at Montessori Academy in Nashville.  The one pitting first-grader against first-grader to establish worldwide bragging rights for generations to come.  NBA scouts in attendance.    Corporate sponsorship deals going down in the hallways.

Or so you might think if you saw me yelling like an idiot in the stands.

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As a fun way to celebrate the end-of-season tournament, the other kids’ parents had purchased these really cool red camouflage Air Jordan socks for their players.  Gabby and I struggled with the decision.  Do we get some for our kid?  Sure, we have $13.  We don’t want him to feel left out.  But it’s not part of the standard uniform. 

So Jake wore white.  The only one. 

We carried around some heavy guilt over these decisions.  I asked myself, “Is this cruel?  Have we gone overboard?”  I didn’t respond to either question.  I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

Because we’ve all lived through childhood and know how cruel kids can be.  We’ve all shed tears after taunts, left feeling inadequate.  You didn’t have the latest shoes or the latest style.  You looked different.  Acted different.  Laughed different.

And it sucked big time.  We all wear the scars.

So the question is, if you have the ability to buy a few things and protect your child from this heartache and choose not to, are you the one doing the scarring? 

The answer is, “No.”

Stop.  Protecting.  Your.  Kids.

By protecting our kids in this way, we only help perpetuate the idea that what you own is a measure of who you are.  We cover them up with so much shiny junk that it’s virtually impossible to see the person inside. 

And we drown out the God-voice inside each and every one of them.  The voice that says I’m uniquely and beautifully made.  The voice that doesn’t hear the put-downs and taunts because it’s too busy shouting,

“I love you”

“I made you.”

“You’re more than enough.”

When we protect our kids in this way, we deprive them of disappointment.   Disappointment that forges faith in something bigger than today.  Bigger than the present or the presents.  A resolve that bubbles up from deep within, making us stronger day-by-challenging day.

Because Jake got used to his summer shoes.   His friend Yusuf said his backpack looked like a “leprechaun bag,” but went on playing with him anyway.  And by the time the next basketball game rolled around, stubborn stains, stinky kids and laundry schedules had all the other players in mis-matched pairs once again. 

I realize that we may be simply justifying our own lunacy.  Rationalizing away the guilt of watching our kids struggle.  

Or maybe…

Just maybe…

We’re taking their lives out of our own hands and placing them in God’s. 

Back where they belong.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Week Nine: “The Worst Parenting Advice You’ll Ever Receive”

  1. Christi Faragalli

    OK. Profoundly put—This is good Scott, really good. We all need reminders every now and then. Proud of you:-)

  2. Mary Grace Hotovec

    Just to let you know, Isaac is now carrying a dusty rose lunch box becasue he lost 3 others. He only carries a few “sides” for lunch and does not need a full size one. I can’t find one the size he needs that isn’t fun neoprene and $20. I refuse to pay that so he continues to carry the dusty rose one. This one somehow manages to make it home everyday. You are dead on.

  3. Dad

    Do you remember the disappointment you felt when wearing a shirt that had adhesive tape covering the flaw or the sneakers that just weren’t as cool as the other kids?? Look what our parenting skills produced….one amazing Adult.!! Love you Scotty

    • Oh, I remember! Those moments make for great stories today. At the moment, I felt I would be scarred for life. How wrong I was. Thanks Dad (or mom… can’t tell if this is really dad or just mom lurking on his account).

  4. Mamie

    I came here via a mutual friend a long time ago, but I guess I am wondering, why not tell your kids about the experiment? Don’t you think they could help?

    • Hey Mamie, that’s a great question. Gabby and I should revisit. We thought we would just see if they figured it out and said anything. If not, then it would just be “normal” to them, not some experiment that would have an end. But I can see how it might be good to have them help. I can totally see them coming up with alternative ideas for gifts and such. They’re pretty sharp kiddos.

  5. I think it’s the latter. When I reflect on all the worrying I did as a mother of five growing children….. and eventually (because I had no choice) truly surrendered them over to the card of God when I wasn’t present…… they all turned out pretty well. So much for all the worrying….

  6. Angela

    I have read several of your articles & I really love them. At the end of each were links to others so I just kept reading them & love the truthful insight they give, BUT….this one does not sit well with me. Its one thing to not give in to every wim or desire your children have. Most these days get way too much for birthdays, Christmas & so on. A child does not need something everytime they lose a tooth or get an A, or remember to do a chore or be nice which they should be doing anyway. They dont need the newest Video game system or one at all for that matter, It’s one thing if you do not have the money & are struggling financially or if you need to teach your child a lesson because they are ungrateful & bratty, but to deny them things or in this day and age of bullying put them in a position to be the butt of jokes & such when you have the financial capability to help them seems very very wrong. I very much disagree with that.

  7. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your
    site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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