I don’t respond to most of the negative emails I get from people who listen to my show or read my blog. This one struck a chord, though. Here’s a message I received from a guy named Nick, in reference to a discussion we had on the broad subject of parenting. I think we can all benefit from reading this and confronting the sad reality that this country is full of Nicks:
“Matt, I heard your horrible conversation today about parenting. A few comments in response:
1) Based on your remarks, I have to say I feel bad for your kids. You sound like the sort of person who never should have been a parent. You said you plain to teach your kids “how to think.” I guess this is common in right wing religious fundamentalist households. Personally, I let my child form his own conclusions about things. To impose your views on a child is tantamount to child abuse. Do them a favor, let them think FREELY.
2) You greatly exaggerate the importance of “chores.” Also, the idea that a kid should be forced to “get a job” is abhorrent. My son was very gifted so we gave him all the tools to succeed academically. This meant we didn’t turn him into slave labor and we certainly didn’t tell him he needed to go work behind a cash register. He concentrated on his school work, and we did our job as parents and financially supported him.
3) It’s easy to mock a “30 year old who lives with is parents.” My son is almost 29 and he’s been home with us since he graduated. Unfortunately the job market isn’t the greatest (maybe you hadn’t heard) and I’m not going to let him starve on the street. He has a college education, it’s pointless for him to be out working in a retail store or some other menial job. I will be here for him until he is able to get the job he deserves.
You need to grow up, get some life experiences and then maybe you’ll have the right to sermonize about parenting.
And here’s the response I sent to him:
1) Tell you what. How ’bout I blindfold you, drive you out into the middle of the desert at night, and then leave you there without a map or a GPS? It’ll be great. You can just travel FREELY. After all, who am I to bring you to this place and then presume to tell you how to navigate? I’m just the guy that kidnapped you and dumped you into a hostile, cold wilderness. It would be presumptuous and authoritative of me to offer you direction and guidance. So I’ll let you wander around aimlessly until you collapse exhausted in a ditch, and are eaten slowly by wild scavengers. You’re welcome. I mean, I assume you’ll be grateful. I’ll merely be applying your parenting technique to the situation.
By the way, did you ever tell your kid not to play in the street? Did you instruct him about the dangers of hot stoves and fallen electrical wires? This is a quandary. See, if you imposed your anti-high voltage power line views on your kid, then apparently you’re guilty of abuse by your standards. However, if you didn’t, you’re guilty of reprehensible neglect by the standards of civilized human beings. I’m not an expert on parenting. I never claimed to be. But you don’t need to be an expert to know that one of the fundamental tasks of a parent — and this really speaks to the whole point of the endeavor — is to teach your child how to navigate the physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual dangers of life. This includes teaching them how to think, which could also be referred to as passing on your values and your worldview. If you have no interest in doing this, then I would suggest that you never really wanted a child — you wanted a friend. Now you have one. Living at home with you. Forever. Congratulations.
2) Chores schmores. What can they teach a kid? Discipline, obedience, and hard work? Screw that. What is this, the 50′s? Listen, Nick, don’t take this the wrong way, but what leads you to the conclusion that your son is “gifted”? He can’t mow the lawn, work a job, earn a living, pay a bill, apply a skill, or support himself, yet he’s “gifted”? What are his gifts, exactly? You know, something tells me an astronaut’s parents never have to inform people that their child is “gifted.” People sort of pick up on that based on context clues. They behold his accomplishments and admire his achievements. They can SEE his gifts. He uses them, applies them, refines them. Your son MIGHT have gifts — the jury is still out — but whatever they may be, they’ll atrophy and whittle away the longer he spends lounging in a bean bag chair eating macaroni and cheese.
3) So your brilliant and gifted 29 year old son would “starve” if he was forced to take care of himself? The “gifted” standard is getting lower by the day, isn’t it? I’ve been living independently and taking care of myself since before I could legally drink a Heineken. I guess that makes me a Nobel candidate — if your helpless grown adult son gets to set the bar for “gifted.”
The kind of oblivious snobbery you display used to be reserved for classes of nobility and royalty. Now, any drooling schlub who spent 4 years getting drunk and fornicating at college can claim to be “too good” for almost every available job. Your son isn’t above anyone. He certainly isn’t superior to hard working cashiers and retail clerks who support themselves, raise families and live full lives, as your little snowflake hides under his bed while mommy makes him hot cocoa and tells him he’s special.
News flash, Nick: Junior ain’t special. He graduated school, good for him. Anyone can do that if they’ve got money, time and no pressures or responsibilities from the outside world. Your little pumpkin doesn’t “deserve” a job. I wouldn’t hire him to dig a ditch, much less take on serious responsibilities of any kind. You can spend your whole life telling everyone what you and your son deserve, meanwhile the rest of us will be out in the world, earning, striving, accomplishing, living.
Nick, it’s somewhat peculiar that you chose to end your email by chastising me for not having “life experiences.” I’m two years younger than Nick Jr and I’m married with two kids. I’ve got a career in broadcasting and goals for the future that I’m steadily working toward achieving. I’m not exactly at the point where I’ve got enough material to write my memoirs, but I’ll get there one day. In any case, you, my friend, need to take that “life experiences” lecture and bring it home to the pudgy couch potato sleeping in your basement.
Thanks for the email.