An Autopsy of a Relationship

Once again Natalia Antonova provides a thread on her marriage which is worth looking at more closely. Key points:

There are two ways to look at this. Either this person was, as Antonova claims, a religious nut who is somehow benefiting personally from this intervention; or she is disappointed that she left her husband and is concerned for the future of her child. Before I go any further, here’s how the kid is getting on with his now-single mother:

No cause for concern there obviously, especially anything which could be linked to a lack of father in his life.

Now it’s never nice to have someone poke their beak into your personal affairs, especially over emotional issues such as relationship breakdowns, but on the other hand it can be extremely useful to have someone tell you what you might not want to hear. I am fortunate enough to have always had close friends who have no qualms about telling me what I don’t want to hear, although happily they rarely have to these days. However, one thing I’ve noticed about many women is they don’t take blunt honesty well, and in my experience they choose their friends based on their co-opting the narrative of the woman in question; anyone who queries it is cast into the wilderness forever. This is especially the case following the breakdown of a friendship or romantic relationship.

So someone who witnessed the breakdown of Antonova’s relationship expresses disappointment in her actions and suggests she may be doing the wrong thing. At this  point I’m left with a choice between this person being a psychopath who wants to see Antonova abused some more, or Antonova’s situation being less extreme than she’s making out. Which is more likely, do you think? And is “very skillfully shamed me” simply another way of saying “she told some uncomfortable home truths”? At the very least, unless this woman is a complete nutter (who Antonova was happy to have in her life before the breakup), one would think this would give her pause for thought. But no: the modern feminist way is to adhere to the narrative at all costs, amplifying it in public while purging all dissenters from their lives.

Now when a couple split up there is always fault on both sides. It might be heavily stacked on one or the other, but there is always some on each side. Always. I know a fair few single mothers, and when I speak to them about their separations they are generally quite even-handed about it. Much of the time they say there were compatibility issues, and while they always say their ex-husbands had faults they never deny the situation was “complicated”, and took some time to develop. Even those who have reason to be angry and bitter remain reasonably objective, preferring to concentrate on their futures and those of their children than dwell on the past. On the other hand, I’ve met divorced women who even years later described their ex-husband as a monster who made her life a living hell, and you wonder how on earth they entered into a relationship with such a person if even half of what they’re saying is true. For example:

On one occasion I happened to get an ex-husband’s side of the story and unsurprisingly it was rather different. Now I couldn’t be sure who was telling the truth, but if you have one person saying they’re completely innocent and the other saying there was fault on both sides, who do you believe? However, any suggestion that perhaps there was fault on both sides, or there are several perspectives on the situation, was met with howls of outrage that I was blaming them or saying they deserved what happened. Again, any dissent cannot be tolerated by women whose entire life depends on the narrative being upheld.

Yes, there’s no room for self-reflection or listening to third-party views on what went down: the important thing is to surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear. If the goal is to ensure you’ll never enjoy a lasting relationship in future, this is a good approach.

The only thing which will survive such “solidarity” is whatever delusions these women are labouring under. As advice goes, it’s pretty self-serving.

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The Results of Modern Parenting

Well this is a surprise:

Children whose parents are over-controlling “helicopter parents” when they are toddlers, are less able to control their emotions and impulses as they get older apparently leading to more problems with school, new research suggests.

The study looked at to what degree mothers of toddlers dominated playtime and showed their child what to do, and then studied how their children behaved over the following eight years, revealing that controlling parenting is linked to a number of problems as a child grows up.

Something which always amuses me about many modern parents is their casual dismissal of two thousand years of experience by their forebears. Parents having time to play with their children, let alone micromanage the activities, is something very, very new. I’ve asked around and few people my age (41) had their parents play with them when they were toddlers, and absolutely none of my father’s generation did. Children were expected to play with their siblings, with other children, or by themselves – as quietly as possible. Parents would read to their kids, or help them with a particular task (“ask a grown-up to help you” often appeared in the instructions in children’s play-sets), but they were never seen as a play partner. The reason for this was parents were too busy and it wasn’t really their job. Now it appears some mothers not only want to join in their childrens’ playtime, they want to take it over. Unsurprisingly, this is having an effect on their development.

“Parents who are over-controlling are most often very well-intentioned and are trying to support and be there for their children,” said Dr Nicole Perry of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, who co-authored the research.

“However, to foster emotional and behavioural skills parents should allow children to experience a range of emotions and give them space to practice and try managing these emotions independently and then guide and assist children when [or] if the task becomes too great.”

If the role of a parent is to raise a child to become a functional adult, they ought to be able to stand by and watch their offspring struggle and overcome small problems. But I suspect many mothers are more interested in the “unconditional love” they keep telling me about, and hence can’t bear to see their child undergoing any sort of difficulty. I’ve said this before, but I think some may have been better off getting a dog.

“The problem here really is that if you don’t learn skills to self-regulate, how can you self-regulate when you leave the home, like [when] you go to school or you go to university? In a way it is a form of abusiveness – taking this opportunity away from children,” he said, although he noted over-controlling parenting was usually done with the best of intentions.

But Dr Janet Goodall from the University of Bath urged caution, noting that it is difficult to say how much parental control is “too much”, and that cultural factors such how dangerous a child’s environment is should be considered when looking at parental behaviour.

What’s interesting about this is it echoes with what I was on about in yesterday’s post. Modern parenting seems to be an odd mix of over-controlling combined with ultra-permissiveness. Several mothers I’ve observed try to micromanage every aspect of a child’s life and environment, sometimes demanding the entire world be changed for the benefit of her brat, yet at the same time let him or her dominate the household. Mothers will campaign for diesel cars to be banned in cities “for the sake of the children” yet allow her toddler to dictate when he is eating, what he is eating, and where he’ll be sat while doing so. There are few households now where young children are forbidden from interrupting adults when they’re talking; most are permitted to barge in for the most trivial reasons and the mother will give them their full attention for as long as required. As a side observation, I’ve found French children are a lot better behaved in the home and in restaurants than their British counterparts; for all their reputation of being liberals, the French are a conservative lot.

For whatever reason, the study mentioned above only looked at the degree of parental control not permissiveness, and I think they may be missing a large piece of the puzzle. By way of example, have a look at this tweet, which to be fair is quite funny:

You can be damned sure it was the kid’s mother who caved in and ordered her husband to drive around town looking for ice cream. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that perhaps this sort of parenting is not going to produce a generation of adults able to deal with the world at large. Here’s a question for my readers: how many of you would have got away with that at three years old, or any age? More importantly, how many of your children would today?

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Fathers given choice, choose wrongly

A jobless mate stay-at-home dad directs me towards this article:

The minimal take-up of shared parental leave in the UK, estimated, in the absence of reliable statistics, at about 2% of 285,000 eligible couples annually, has happened because the policy is wrong. In other countries and regions, when appropriate shared-leave entitlements have been introduced, uptake has soared: for example, to 91% in Iceland, 86% in Quebec and 63% in Portugal.

I think what the author’s saying is that couples with children in Iceland, Quebec, and Portugal share parental leave differently from those in Britain. Obviously, this is a bad thing.

The British system shared parental leave system gives mothers all the leave and then expects them to hand over some of their entitlement to fathers. So the very question, “why don’t fathers take up the entitlement”, which has been asked for years, is flawed.

Presumably because the answer means we are less Icelandic.

It is extraordinarily easy to design a system that would work. Such systems have existed for decades in other countries.

It is? Well, now I’m all ears.

The first thing to understand is that fathers and mothers want the same thing.

Heh! Then why don’t more fathers share the parental leave?

Pew-funded research in the US in 2015 found that fathers were just as likely as mothers to say that parenting was extremely important to their identity (57% and 58% respectively).

Wonderful, but what has this got to do with fathers taking parental leave and splitting the caring duties?

The same research found that 48% of fathers felt they were not doing enough caring.

So more than half thought they were doing plenty.

Earlier Pew research in 2013 found that working fathers were as likely as working mothers to say they preferred to be at home with their children but could not because they had to earn instead (48% of fathers v 52% of mothers).

You don’t say! In other news, middle-aged Brits living in Paris would prefer to loaf around all day watching TV and playing the banjo, but cannot because they have to earn instead.

This means if fathers were to be offered the same as mothers are offered – allowing parents to choose absolutely freely on a level playing field – fathers would take leave in huge numbers.

No it doesn’t, you’ve just written that because you’ve not understood any of the three previous paragraphs. Which, given you wrote them, is impressive. We know fathers don’t want to take time off work to look after their children as part of a parental leave sharing system, and you should be trying to find out why. Instead you dismissed the very question as “flawed” and climbed on your own personal hobby-horse.

It really is that simple.

Well, something here is simple but it’s not your proposal.

A woman on an average annual wage of £27,000 gets, in the first year, six weeks’ state maternity pay at £466 (90% of pay) plus 33 weeks at £141, making a total of £7,449. A father gets two weeks at £141, or £282. So fathers get 26 times less – a gender pay gap of 96%.

If anyone can make head or tail of this, they’re smarter than I am.

If the state treated mothers and fathers equally, and offered them the same entitlement, there would be no need for expensive publicity campaigns.

Okay, here’s the problem. It is well known that the gender pay gap is in part down to women taking breaks from their careers to have kids at the critical stage when everyone else is pulling 70-hour weeks to demonstrate their suitability for higher positions. If men take the same parental leave as women, their careers will suffer too. I’ve no problem with this, but the men concerned might. They might ask themselves why are they killing their career and turning down chances of a bonus when their wife – for purely biological reasons – is sat at home looking after the baby. I read somewhere that in Scandinavia where men and women have the same entitlements, men simply choose not to take it. Having spent a couple of weeks around a mother and newborn baby once, I can understand why.

Men taking time off in the first year would, within a year or two, become a social norm, just like men attending the birth of a baby.

And why would this be a good thing? This sounds more like social engineering to make modern men wetter than they already are. As wet as the author, in fact. Frankly, I don’t see there’s any reason why a man should attend the birth of a baby. Sure, he should be present nearby in case anything goes wrong, but there’s nothing he can actually do in the delivery room. He should be wandering the hospital grounds smoking cigars with other soon-to-be fathers talking about cricket.

One company, Aviva, has introduced a policy of treating mothers and fathers among its staff exactly equally. This is little short of heroic. It is hardly reasonable to expect employers to correct the £7,200 difference in what government gives mothers and fathers.

So it falls to the taxpayer, then. And note he thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to expect employers to find and hire replacements for all these absent fathers.

Other employers make things worse. A 2017 survey of 341 companies found that 95% enhanced maternity pay above statutory provisions, often to a significant extent, but only 4.4% enhanced paternity pay for even part of the statutory two weeks.

Y’know, perhaps these employers have consulted with their staff and found while women are attracted to enhanced maternity pay, men aren’t all that excited about enhanced paternity pay? But they’re just companies employing people under free market conditions, not house husbands who write for The Guardian. What would they know?

Does this matter? Absolutely. Supporting children’s attachments to both their mothers and fathers early in their lives builds the foundation for child development.

Now there’s a pretty frank admission of truth seldom seen in the pages of The Guardian! Perhaps this chap should have a word with his fellow columnists who regularly tell us a child doesn’t need a mother and a father, or any kind of stable relationship at home.

The more fathers care early on, the more they tend to invest in the child for the rest of its life.

And what are all those fathers working late in the office for, eh? For the fun of it?

And when fathers care more, women earn more.

Yes, but the men earn less. That’s precisely why they don’t take parental leave in the numbers you want them to. Little wonder this chap is the stay-at-home dad while wifey goes to work, isn’t it? Can you imagine having this bloke on a job, trying to get something done? I bet his boss punched the air when he announced he was leaving, and hired a fresh cabbage to replace him.

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I Am the Very Mother of a Modern Major Whiner

Via My Burning Ears in the comments, I bring you this wonderful little story:

I bought my 17-year-old daughter driving lessons for her birthday. It was always assumed she would have my partner’s six-year-old car when she passed her test and that he would get a new, bigger car.

This seems very generous. What a lucky girl!

But she has decided she doesn’t want this car: it’s not cool enough, it’s the wrong colour and the pattern on the seats is embarrassing. She feels we should buy her a different car. I think she is being ungrateful; she’s lucky to be given a good car.

Oh. Well, if that’s how she feels, fair enough. My suggestion is you tell her that’s the car on offer and she can take it or leave it, but next week it’s going on eBay and if she wants it after that point she’s going to have to put in a winning bid.

However, many of her friends have been given “better” cars. One has a brand-new Mini; another was going to have her mum’s car but didn’t like it, so they sold it to buy her a new one, leaving her parents to share a car. Others have been bought used cars that are not embarrassing.

This is what happens when parents enter into social groups where children – or rather, the money lavished on them – marks one’s status. This is a lot more common than you think: next time you hear a middle-class mother talking about how well her eight year old daughter is doing in her tennis lessons, ask yourself for whose benefit the club membership was bought.

My daughter doesn’t need a car – her sixth form school is two minutes’ walk away and we have good public transport.

No, it’s a status symbol. But your daughter’s materialism and status-signalling didn’t come out of a clear blue sky. How much of it was learned at home?

We can afford to buy her a car, but I don’t think that’s the best thing to do.

Only now is it dawning on her that lavishing gifts on her ungrateful brat might not be the wisest course of action.

She has some money from a savings plan, which she’s suggested using, but she is supposed to be saving for university.

Depending on what she intends to study at university, buying a car might be the better option. After all, you wouldn’t want her to be £30k in debt in three years’ time and having to take the bus to McDonald’s each day, would you?

Also, if she did spend that money, it would mean an older car than the one she is being offered, which I don’t think is sensible.

Yes, but the car might be cooler. This is important. Why a grown woman feels the need to write to a national newspaper for help with this stuff is a mystery to me. What’s the girl’s father doing? The woman refers to a partner rather than husband. If he’s not the girl’s father, this might explain everything.

Am I being stubborn, or out of touch? I appreciate teenagers today have different expectations and more pressure through social media than I did. But I am struggling with this.

This has little to do with the daughter, and everything to do with the mother. The advice is also amusing:

We all want our children to know their own minds and show independence, but the moment they do – usually about things we may not agree with – some parents don’t like it. I want you to imagine your daughter at a work meeting (or similar) in a few years from now. She is offered a substandard contract or, at least, one she doesn’t like. And she digs in her heels and asks for a better one. You’d be proud, wouldn’t you?

I bet both the author and the mother have conjured up visions of the daughter becoming a high-flying power-skirt being headhunted for a senior role by several major corporations, issuing her demands for a bigger bonus and the corner office. In reality, she’s more likely to be presented with a zero-hours contract from Sports Direct which is about as negotiable as Annapurna in winter. In order to negotiate a contract, you need to understand your market worth and be able to convince the other party of the value you will bring to the table. An employment contract is, in theory, mutually beneficial – quite unlike the gift of a car. It is a poor analogy, and worse advice. When you’re young and inexperienced you need to do crap work for not much pay until you’ve figured out what you want to do, and start developing your market worth. Until then, simply saying “I don’t like it” and digging in your heels isn’t going to result in anything other than you living for a long time in your parents’ house.

It’s easy to say your daughter is spoiled and being bratty…

I’ve encountered greater difficulties cloud-watching.

It does not mean that you should just buy her another car. You shouldn’t. You have offered her the car and you should let her do what she wants with it. Give her the option of selling it and buying another car of her choice with the money. Let her learn about commerce and that to make something happen, she needs to have some input.

The savings fund is a difficult prospect. I don’t know if it’s in her name or yours; if she has sole control over it, there’s little you can do if she decides to spend it, and the harder you push or threaten, the more determined she will be to prove you wrong. When teenagers want something, they do so with a desire and tenacity that is immensely powerful. It’s not a good idea to get in the way of it. Instead, you need to approach it as you would a rip-tide at sea – don’t swim against it, but go alongside it until the pull subsides and you can swim to shore.

Okay, the practical advice is sensible. It’s a shame the author had to sugar-coat the root cause, though.

To help you process this, I would also ponder what this means for you. Don’t feel rejected by her not wanting the “embarrassing” car. This has nothing to do with you. Teenage behaviour can shine a light into areas of a parent’s life that may need work: if there is anything you feel insecure about, they will find it. Try to unravel what this means for you beyond the car.

As I said, this isn’t really about the daughter, or the car.

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A Profile of a Modern British Man

At the back end of last week, fellow blogger JuliaM and I had some fun responding to this set of Tweets (you can read the whole thing here if you wish). I might be being a bit unfair picking on this chap in particular, but I do so because he’s indicative of a much wider problem. It starts with him complaining about the mess which is Universal Credit. That part I can well believe – it is a government-run scheme after all – but it’s the underlying story that is more interesting.

Where to begin? Firstly, I don’t know much about Aspergers and depression, so I can’t say whether these are real and serious impediments to getting a job or he’s just being a fanny. What I have noticed is that these afflictions seem to be rather prevalent among middle-class lefty political commentators; if people working on construction projects around the world suffer similarly, they generally don’t mention it. And I’ll note these disabilities didn’t seem to stop him getting a degree. As for anxiety? Well, that’s an unfortunate side effect of being alive.

Secondly, he’s only now finding out that a BA Honours Degree in Media Writing is worthless. He says his degree is appropriate for certain fields and in the same sentence says these fields actually require different degrees. He’s also only just finding out that media and journalism are difficult fields to break into. It sounds to me as though he didn’t bother doing proper research into what fields he wanted to work in, what the entry requirements are, and what the demand for such work is.

Note that he is calling himself a freelance writer. He complains most potential employers want experience. This chap is 25 and appears to have no relevant experience he can show an employer, which raises the question: what they hell has he been doing between 18-25? If he wanted to be a freelance writer, he should have got out there and done some freelance writing. Does he have a blog? Has he done any freebies to get his name about? Or is he just expecting to turn up in a job aged 25 with no experience on the basis of a worthless degree.

Also, if you suffer from depression and anxiety, is freelance writing a wise career choice? Freelance anything looks pretty stressful, particularly writing. “Freelance work dried up”? Was there any to begin with?

Then we have the idea that retail, customer service, and bar work are jobs university graduates take as they “break into their careers”. Well, back in my day these were jobs you did while you were at university. Nobody “breaks into their careers” doing bar work, unless you want to be a barman. It seems as though this chap, at age 25, has never held a job of any sort in his life. Now this might be due to his Aspergers, but the fact he seems unaware that students are (or were) expected to work in the holidays suggests that’s not the only factor in play here. The benefit of crappy student jobs is not just the beer money, it also gives you the beginnings of a CV. My first job was as a teenager scrabbling around on a farm. The farmer wrote me a reference when I got a formal summer job on a different farm. That farm’s manager gave me a reference when I applied for a job at Toys R Us a few months later. Flogging toys has little to do with picking cabbages and driving tractors, but when you’re 19 a letter from an adult confirming you can turn up on time and not steal anything is invaluable. My first proper job after university (aged 23) was something like the 6th or 7th job I’d held. If you’re 25 and trying to get your first job of any kind – well yeah, you’re going to struggle.

Here’s an anecdote for you. When I was working in Dubai I was in a crap job going nowhere on pretty rubbish pay. I desperately wanted to work in Russia and started applying for jobs elsewhere. I reckon over the course of a year I applied to something like 100-120 jobs, most of which I was suitable for. I got replies to about 3 or 4 of them; all but one said “no thanks”. The rest simply ignored me. But the one who replied interviewed me and gave me the job in Sakhalin which launched what passes for my career. As someone once said to me, you have to be in love with the word “no”. And as someone else said to me, you only need one job. Eventually something will come up, but if you start feeling sorry for yourself and “unable to go anywhere or do anything” you’re giving employers a clear warning of what sort of person you are.

Of course, it doesn’t surprise me he’s still living with his parents. Had “rent been an issue” he’d have got himself a job come hell or high water, instead of moping about the place complaining nobody will give him a freelance writer’s job. Yes, rent is expensive which is why most people – even engineering graduates working decent jobs – house-share for a while. No doubt this guy’s Aspergers prevents that, too.

Welcome to the world of work, son.

Awful hours? Sorry, what else were you doing with your time? You’re complaining about not having a job, yet turning your nose up at warehouse work? Why, because it’s beneath a nice, middle-class boy with a BA in Media Writing? See, if you’d taken that warehouse job while you were at university you’d be a floor manager with a forklift licence by now, and if you worked nights you’d be on double-pay able to do all your writing bollocks in the quiet periods. And yes, entry-level pay is awful – although it’s still minimum wage. The idea is you show your employer you’re worth something and move up the ladder. Why didn’t his father tell him all this years ago?

So our poor, suffering friend here wants a cushy writing gig because mundane jobs will cause him to go into meltdown?

At this point both Julia and I have heard enough:

What was interesting is how many commenters expressed sympathy with the guy rather than telling him to buck his ideas up and stop moaning. A number took issue with Julia and I, admonishing us for not being supportive to Mr Johnson.

Does everyone remember that post I wrote back in summer about modern parenting methods? Well, this is the result, folks.

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Middle-Class Snobbery

Rob makes the following remark in the comments at Tim Worstall’s:

It is the classic upper middle-class disdain and snobbery for everyone else.

A couple of years back I realised that this middle-class snobbery is what drives so much social and political campaigning these days. Probably the best example is the campaign to reduce sugar in people’s diets – for their own good, of course. It is always fizzy drinks and sugary snacks that get cited, never fancy desserts. This is because it’s the plebs who eat the former, whereas the working classes don’t order profiteroles in metropolitan eateries nor buy Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. Rarely is disdain for the lower-classes more stark than a multi-millionaire mascot of Sainsbury’s criticising children’s pack lunches and school meals for being unhealthy and causing obesity, while flogging pricey recipe books which cause Tate & Lyle’s share price to shoot up with every release.

The middle-classes seeking to restrict or outlaw food which the lower-classes enjoy is merely a variation of the vicar’s wife lecturing the poor on good housekeeping. But at least the vicar’s wife probably did keep her own house in order. Can the same be said for today’s modern food-puritans? Well, they’ll be sure to tell you that little Tarquin only eats organic apples and Mummy makes sure he gets only ethically-sourced kumquat juice, but I bet in reality the little shit is the one who chooses what he eats, when, and how much. So sure, the lower-classes might sit around a bucket of KFC but the mothers are unlikely to have nightly debates with their toddler who is “a fussy eater” and hence “simply won’t eat” bread unless it has Nutella on, and I doubt you see brats throwing tantrums in the aisles of Iceland over what’s for dinner like you do in Waitrose.

I’d be a lot more forgiving of middle-class snobbery if they showed some self-awareness once in a while.

(Just for Theo: sure, not all the middle-classes are food-puritans; but all the snobbish food-puritans are middle-class, and they’re driven by class-snobbery.)

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Clothes, Parenting, and Vanity

A while back I bought a negative scanner (this one) to transfer old film photos to digital format. It does a reasonable job, not exactly professional standard and the scanning process is rather repetitive, but it’s good enough for home use if you have time on your hands. Anyway, last weekend I started scanning the negatives of all the family photos we had from when I grew up in Wales, most of which are from the late ’70s through the ’80s.

Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy. What would my siblings pay me to ensure they never see the light of day? Something which stands out straight away is the clothes we’re all decked out in (there are four of us, three boys and a girl). I have no idea where my parents got these clothes but they have surely since been banned by the UN on human rights grounds. Was purple really so popular back then? Dear Lord. Alas, my parents appeared to be dressed in whatever they found in a job-lot of clothes gathered from the fields after Woodstock. I’m being unfair, of course. When the photos include other children and their parents, their own sartorial selections were no less hideous. But there are reasons for this.

Firstly, economics. Back in the 1970s there was no clothing industry in China churning out hundreds of millions of garments dirt cheap. I have no idea where children’s clothes were made back then, but they weren’t being knocked out at the volume and price they are now. Like everything else, clothes have got cheaper. The number of hours a breadwinner had to work to clothe his kids in the ’70s was a lot more than today. Kids therefore were expected to wear whatever the parents could lay their hands on, and if you had more than one boy economies of scale would kick in. I don’t know how old I was before I got my first pair of trousers that weren’t hand-me-downs (I was the youngest) but I was pushing six-feet tall. As far as school clothes went, the first thing my brother used to do at the start of a new term was tell everyone my trousers used to be his. Thanks a bunch.

Secondly, availability. Not only was China not pumping out cheap clothes, shops in west Wales in that era were not selling them. The shops were absolutely abysmal, and remained so well into the ’90s. Buying school clothes entailed a trip to Swansea or even Cardiff, which was a fair hike in a VW Beetle with four kids. Even if Gap Kids existed in those days, they’d have been as unobtainable as Rolex watch for anyone living in Pembroke. A lot of people forget how appalling retail used to be.

But something else has changed too, which I alluded to in this post about how parenting has changed. There’s a vanity associated with children now that didn’t exist when I was a kid, or at least I was unaware of it. Frankly, back in the ’70s and ’80s parents didn’t care how their kids looked provided they were washed, their hair cut, and clothes clean. Whether they looked cool or their outfit wasn’t some hideous purple jumper over a paisley shirt didn’t matter a jot. Economics and availability played a role for sure, but practicality was the main driver. As my mother used to say, what’s the point in buying nice clothes for children when 1) they’ll get wrecked, and 2) you’ll outgrow them in weeks. She had a point. Living in a rural area my clothes were usually covered in mud and/or cow crap, and my trousers always had patches on the knees because I sort of lived on the floor. And I was one of those kids who you could watch growing in real-time. Being practical folk raised in the era of post-war shortages, my parents’ generation just kitted out their kids in anything that was practical and didn’t worry too much about what it looked like.

The only “cool” piece of clothing I remember from infant and junior school was the Arsenal strip, a red and white nylon t-shirt with the gun and cannon balls logo. One or two kids had one, and they were cool. I wanted one, but my mother said no (she’d not have had the foggiest idea what I was on about). Instead I did PE in the same green polo-neck that my older brothers had worn, thus consigning each of us in turn to playing in goal every time we had football. This was the ’80s, after all. Our football socks were also shared among us, knitted from wool by great-auntie Jessie. Little wonder the First Division scouts didn’t linger too long at our PE sessions.

Something changed in the 1990s, probably at the time China boomed and globalisation made us all richer. When I was growing up there were adults’ clothes and children’s clothes. Nowadays children’s clothes are often adult’s clothes but in a small size. Gap Kids and the others use the same or similar designs as their adult ranges. It now became possible to make your kid look cool, and boy did some mothers take it seriously. You started seeing toddlers wearing Lacoste and Ralph Lauren clothing which wasn’t much cheaper than the adult stuff. Parents would still use hand-me-downs but no longer would except sacks of clothes from cousins, neighbours, or friends of the family whose children had grown up. In fact, many would be offended if it were offered, but when I was a child it was gratefully received. There was nothing wrong with the clothes, other than they were absolutely hideous and they had someone else’s name sewn in them. And of course, they were a decade out of fashion: the clothes I wore in the ’80s dated from the ’70s.

I don’t know what came first, the availability of nice clothes or the vanity of the parents, but nowadays many mothers (and occasionally fathers) see their children as fashion accessories, objects which makes a statement about them in terms of wealth and taste (ha!). I’ve seen 5 or 6 year old kids walking around in Canada Goose jackets. For whose benefit are they being worn, do you think? It’s a subsection of the molly-coddling that I mentioned in my earlier post. If a mother thinks her boy needs to look super-cool in the latest designer clothes, you can be sure she’s pandering to him in other ways and her priority is not raising him to be a functional adult.

The same is true for those mothers who style their child’s hair, making it spiky or dyeing it. Ditto for those who give them mirrored shades. If they go on to post pictures of their kid thus adorned on Facebook, it’s a near-certainty the kid is a little shit. Ask any teacher what impression they’d form of a six year old who turned up in class with his hair shaved at the back and sides and spiked on top, as if he were a Premier League footballer. Equally bad is those mothers who refuse to cut their kid’s hair, saying “Oh I couldn’t, he looks so beautiful.” Here’s some advice: if your kid is under ten and has long hair that you refuse to cut because you “love it so much”, he’ll still be living with you when he’s thirty. Or he’ll be living in a one-bed flat with a guy called Ralph.

So looking back, perhaps my folks had the right idea after all. As my dad would say: “It never did you any harm!” Quite right.

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Children Swearing

Daniel Ream shares the following anecdote in the comments under my last post:

While I think there’s merit in raising independent children, these three have raised their kids as if they are tiny adults rather than children, with children’s immature emotional development and unique sensitivities. As a result, the children swear like sailors, and are familiar with a wide variety of deviant sexuality and violence, thanks to living around the corner from the Castro, watching whatever movies they want, and watching Daddies play video games.

I recently heard about a small Russian boy around 4 years old who is fond of running around the place shouting “blyad!” For those unfamiliar with Russian, this is like running about shouting “c*nt!” Unsurprisingly, his father doesn’t live with him and his mother.

Children usually learn to swear when young because they hear their parents do it, or school friends. Every kid I know will occasionally let slip a “naughty word” resulting in a bollocking from the parents, searching questions as to where it was learned, and solemn vows not to swear in front of the kids any more. This is perfectly normal.

What isn’t normal is for a kid to run around swearing. Letting slip a swear word indicates the kid has his ears open. Running around swearing indicates his parents don’t care, and if they don’t care about his language you can be absolutely sure they don’t care about other things, some of which are essential to his development. A child who routinely uses bad language, especially in front of adults, is not going to do very well in life.

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More on Polyamory and Children

I felt a little guilty going off on holiday and not keeping you up to date on the important topic of polyamory and kids, but today I make it up to you.

Article the first:

Growing up, I know who my parents friends were. I even knew they had different kinds of friends. There were the friends who were my friend’s parents. My parents got together and hung out with them once a month, but the connection didn’t last when I moved to a different school. There were my father’s friends from work, the people he enjoyed spending time with but also had to stay professional with, so we kids were largely “out of sight, out of mind” when they came over. There were mom’s special friends from way back. We kids actually knew them by their first names. They would come over and drink tea and we had to play with their kids whether we liked them or not.

Were any of these friends shagging either or both of your parents? I ask mainly to understand how you’ve turned out.

So let’s pretend you make a new friend at work, you invite your friend over to hang out and watch a movie sometime. What do you say to your kids? Probably something like, “Hey kids my new friend So-and-so is coming over tonight. Be polite, make sure the place isn’t an utter disaster and try not to interrupt too often, okay?”

Your kids are aware of this friend, but probably don’t pay much attention.

Mark my words, they’d pay attention if he was spending the night in your bedroom while daddy mysteriously cleared off for the night.

There is no reason for your kids to know the details of your relationship—anymore than I knew just what my mother talked about with her friends when they came to visit.

Kids are incredibly perceptive, and will immediately pick up on something that is out of the ordinary, and if mummy has two lovers they will probably be extremely confused. The idea that kids won’t notice, or will not be affected by this, is rather fanciful.

As a ittle kid, I didn’t want to know anyway. It was grown up stuff, and probably boring. *yuck face* As a teenager, I had my own stuff that I cared about a lot more than making nice with my parents friends.

That may be because your parents had friends, not fuck-buddies.

Like any other friend, it slowly becomes normal for your poly partner to be around a bit more, participating in your family’s public life. Maybe you meet up to watch a parade and your partner offers to buy flags or something for the kids. Small things, small steps.

Because that’s not creepy.

First rule of kids: if you don’t treat it like a big deal, they’ll assume it isn’t a big deal.

Divorces, abandonment, neglect, domestic violence: if you downplay these, so will the kids. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?

Second rule of kids: if it’s not going to have a direct impact on their life, they probably won’t care.

There’s an awful lot riding on that “if”.

So introduce your partner early, as just another friend.

Only it is going to become painfully obvious to the kids that this man is not just another friend. Probably around the time they see him emerging from your bedroom, tackle out, looking for the bathroom.

Parents having relationships with other adults is a normal part of life for most kids. Do your kids really care that your relationship with your cousin is different from your relationship with your friend is different from your relationship with your poly partner?

Very much so. Kids can spot the various levels of intimacy and affection between their parents and their friends a mile off.

Not unless and until those relationships start to impact them.

Which they inevitably will.

For children it’s “grown up stuff, yuck!” and for teenagers it’s “Old folks are so out off touch.” In either case, it’s no big deal.

It’s no big deal because they understand, even subconsciously, that sexual relations in a monogamous relationship are normal. Once you start adding additional partners they’ll know immediately something unusual is going on and they’ll be confused as hell. You only need to look at the impact a parent having an affair has on the family and children.

Article the second:

Children who are born into a polyamorous relationship do not need anyone to explain their parents’ relationships, any more than children born into a monogamous relationship. Because they grow up with it, they understand it. It’s normal to them.

Right up until they encounter the real world outside the front door, and then they’ll be utterly confused.

Children whose parent(s) become polyamorous after the children are born may have difficulty understanding change in their parents’ relationships.

But we’ll do it anyway. Fuck the kids.

If you choose to be open about your lifestyle choices, it’s important to present them in a way that leaves your children secure in knowing that their family will not be hurt by the changes you are making.

Give them false assurances, in other words.

For some children, and some relationships, you won’t need to discuss anything. Just say at dinner ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so I’m putting you to bed tonight.’

Because this won’t induce confusion and abandonment issues.

This goes equally for single parents with several polyam relationships and families with a parent and step parent. ‘Boyfriend will be baby-sitting while Mommy goes on a date with Girlfriend’ works just as well as ‘Daddy/Mommy/Step-Parent is putting you kids to bed tonight’.

Leaving a kid in the hands of a boyfriend while mommy goes on a date with a girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

If the kids ask questions, answer them without long explanations. Best advice I ever got about explaining things to little kids – answer the exact question they ask in the simplest terms possible, and then shut up.

Mom’s a slut? Mom cares only about herself?

If they want more information, they’ll keep asking.

Why, it’s almost as if the kids have serious trouble getting their heads around your sleeping arrangements, isn’t it?

Older children and teenagers will definitely be fully aware of the social norms against polyamory.

,,,

Depending on the child the reaction can range from ‘You’re talking about polyamory? That’s cool,’ to ‘ok, whatever,’ to ‘OMG HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!’ (Yes, at this age it is all about them.)

Seriously? From what I’ve read so far, it seems to be all about you.

Expect it and accept it. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the way many adults act, but people seem to think it’s a big deal that teenagers do this. Meh.)

My teenage daughter’s life has just been turned upside down by the news I’m shagging other men in an open relationship. Meh.

Answer any questions, be clear that it is your lives and your choice, but that you respect them enough to tell them yourselves about this decision.

Did I really just read that?

The most important thing about discussing it this way is it lets them know the floor is open. Whatever their reaction, they know that you are okay with them knowing about your relationships, and are willing to discuss it with them.

In general, as long as they see that their lives and their relationships with you aren’t changing in a massive way, older children and teenagers will move on to something else to be worked up and angry about eventually, no matter how badly they react.

But what if it is affecting them and your relationship with them is changing (e.g. by some weirdo who buys them flags putting them to bed instead of you)? What if they beg you to stop, and tell you your sexual preferences have utterly destroyed the structure of their lives? What then?

At no point in this entire damned article does this woman consider quitting the practice and putting her kids first, even if they are suffering terribly.

As self-centered as they are, kids are very attuned to anything that threatens their lives and families.

You think?!

You having other relationships will be seen as a threat, simply because they have been taught that this is a betrayal of their other parent, and may lead to divorce.

Toddlers have been taught this, have they? They’re aware of what divorce is, and its consequences? Or perhaps several thousand years of human development has left kids with an innate ability to know a fucked-up situation when they see one?

Next time you read an article trying to convince you that polyamorists are perfectly normal people unfairly judged by the rest of society, remember this post, won’t you?

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