‘The bad parent’
Normally, procrastination is the cause of my late submissions, but this week it’s the challenge. I had no idea how to approach this without retreading unpleasant ground. Instead, I chose to paint with a broad brush. Not being a parent, I can only talk from the periphery, but it seems to me that no genus of species aside from The Parent (parentus rectus) is so willing (and sometimes eager) to label others as unworthy of the title.
In our progressive society, parents can be labeled ‘bad’ for any number of reasons. Many of them are subjective, some concrete, but all of them have the stink of indifference attached on some level. The answer to this challenge will be short for a change, since I’ve previously written at length about my own first-hand experience with bad parenting (receiving, not administering). Repeatedly visiting ground that encircles a well-beaten dead horse serves no one, in real life or on a page. I’ll keep this short out of necessity for the timing, a courtesy to both myself and to you, the reader, whose time is precious.
I’ve always believed that it takes the same amount of effort to be a bad parent as it does a good one. To be a bad one requires a conscious suppression of humanity on varying levels, while being a good one demands a level of selflessness in thought and act generally unthinkable in those not in the position. The good parent may at times feel as though they’re missing something be being so utterly involved in this small human’s development, succumbing to self-pity in the form of looking at brochures for vacations or golf holidays or maybe just fondly recalling the ability to sleep late or the rare vomit-free day. Despite these pangs of second guessing, there is no regret for their station.
The bad parent sees nothing but regret and places the blame for all of their supposed lost opportunity upon the shoulders of the smallest person in the room. I used to think that the aforementioned indifference was the worst trait a parent could display (aside from the physically abusive varieties), but over time I’ve come to realize that it’s generally more sinister. Worse would be the emotional manipulation inherent in passive aggressively transferring their self-hatred forward to their children. The gift of someone else’s yoke, always the most galling of burdens. And it’s so subtle a thing that I doubt the parent realizes it’s happening. Or maybe they do. In any case, it happens more frequently than people realize and usually to a larger degree in all the more outwardly stable families.
There are no stereotypes, however. The greatest families I’ve ever known were poor in the bank, but rich in the home, while the worst, by far, were the ones that never wanted for anything. The fact is, the label of ‘Bad Parent’ is thrown around with reckless abandon by people who, by willingly flinging such labels, serve as the worst kinds of role models for their charges. To a disturbing degree in our society, everyone else is perpetually the bad parent and will remain so as long as the person pointing the finger refuses to look in the mirror.
Sir @ September 1, 2011