Saturday, August 29, 2009

Raising Small Children

I am one of the managing partners in the First National Bank of Dad. In other words, I have children. Don’t get me wrong, I love What’s-His-Name and The-Other-One.

I can say that with absolute certainty. I love my sons, perhaps because fathers are hard wired to love our spawn. I can remember looking down at What’s-His-Name for the first time and suddenly feeling an absolute tidal wave of true love for what, to be honest, resembled a drowned rat. And as it happened, he was slightly blue and smelled funny. At least he didn’t stay blue.

My children are grown, which puts me in the category of elder statesman when it comes to raising small children. So I am free to offer new parents advice and wisdom. And I want to do this in part because I think none of my friends are raising their tricycle motors correctly. I think raising children is easy, I probably didn’t think it was at the time, but after all, I have a notoriously bad memory.

The first rule of raising children has to be; always remember which one of you is the child. I simply do not understand parents who try to bargain or plead with their children in a forlorn hope of convincing their child to behave correctly. Who the hell is the boss? There is a reason that children start small and get bigger with time. If it was the other way around, the little bastards would have wiped us out a long time ago. Small children are terrorists and you do not negotiate with terrorists.

Children should behave in public. And if they can’t, they shouldn’t be in public. Lady, if you can’t get that brat to stop screaming in the grocery store, someone needs their ass kicked. And the child should be disciplined, too. My sons weren’t sweet little angels, but if they couldn’t keep reasonably quiet, refrain from running up and down aisles… well, the first offense resulted in 10 pushups.

My sons did a lot of pushups for a lot of reasons. And they did good ones; back straight, butt down, and the nose had to touch the floor. I counted while they did them. It was simply amazing how quickly the boys developed real skills at pushup. It wasn’t too long before they both could do a pretty good one-armed pushup.

I’m not saying that I never made mistakes, but it is incredible how fast you will learn by your mistakes. For example, I learned the first day the baby was home that you should not use the “Dipstick Method” to check for a dirty diaper. Sliding you finger between the baby’s butt and the diaper will indeed determine whether the diaper is dirty, but let’s just say there are unintended consequences.

Some of my ideas at parenting seemed inventive at the time, but field tests revealed latent flaws. The-Other-One was a natural born escape artist. Even as a toddler, he would get up out of bed in the middle of the night and do weird things. Like eat a stick of butter. That wasn’t too bad, as it says in the Bible; “This too shall pass.” I decided to thwart the little sneak by smearing the inside door handle to his room with Vaseline. The very next night, when I went into his room to check on him, he slammed the door shut while I was in his room. I used a whole box of diapers cleaning that doorknob before I could escape.

Eventually, I learned enough to realize that raising a child was exactly like housebreaking a puppy. No matter how hard you try, your puppy will sooner or later have an accident. Probably not the puppy’s fault the living room carpet looks like grass. When this happens, you talk loudly and sternly to the puppy so he knows you are mad. You shove the puppy’s nose into the mess he made so he knows what it is that made you mad. Then you paddle his butt with a rolled up newspaper so he knows that making you angry has consequences.

With children, it is pretty much the same, except that you add a step. After you paddle the child’s butt, you pick him up and hug and love him so that he knows you still love him. This has always worked, and always will.

Of course, with either puppies or children, you’re going to have to replace the carpet a lot faster than you think. Worse, while a well trained puppy will eventually make a pretty good dog, no matter what you do a child turns into a teenager.


  1. Mark,
    We sure enjoy your blog. While talking to our Niece who lives in Alabama, but was originally from Montana, I have read them excerpts and we have all had a good laugh or two.

    So what am I doing reading a blog while talking to our Niece? The girls get to talking about weddings, cooking and all that girl stuff so my attention wanders a bit.

    I think your weather is a lot like ours. Dry, hot spells in the summer,an occasional dust storm. Winters are a mix but mostly cool temperatures but not freezing until December then it can drop into the low teens and occasionally below zero but that's the exception. We have way more sunny days than cloudy. But,on the down side is the fog in December and January, we are in a basin it just settles here.


  2. One of the Geography profs is from Missoula, goes back every summer and tells me I do not understand the wonder that is snow. He's right.

    I love living in a place where the warmest coat I have worn in years is a blue jean jacket.