Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Eternal Sunshine Of The
Clueless Wannabe Parent's Mind

I didn't intend to write this post, but early this morning I read "All We Need Is Love... or Not" by Black Girl In Maine. She spoke of how some folks think that all ya need is love to raise kids, so don't let that hold you back from having more, even if you're living on the economic edge of doom. I love her blog, and boy did she hit a nerve...

By all means read her article and show her some luv. With her permission, here are two excerpts:

"See, love does not feed a child, nor does it clothe a child. Love can not provide the enrichment activities that might nurture that child to be the next great. Sadly it's cold hard cash, dollars, duckets, deniro, shekels that provide these things. So while it would be lovely to have kids with no regards to your financial situation, is it really fair to the kids?

...while love is free, my reality is that kids are not, they do cost and while what they give can never be measured in dollars and cents, the fact is to not look at the costs associated is plain foolish. After all babies can be cheap but just feeding a teenaged boy can send you to the poor house even making everything from scratch..."

BGIM focused on the economics of child-rearing, so I'll expand it and hit another side for those fooled by mother nature's hormones or their own narcissism, that they might not have considered.

This is gonna get gritty, so enjoy.

Parenting is not only an 18 to 21 year commitment, it's a lifetime job. You'll be just as worried when he or she is sweating through a crisis (divorce, career probs, etc) at 40 as you were when he or she was 4.

All kinds of things can go wrong when you have a child, no matter how wealthy you are. The reason is simple: babies grow up to people.

I'll start off light. For example:

Approximately 1% of people develop schizophrenia, usually in their late teens or early 20s.

Up to 1% of children develop autism or one of the related disorders (except among groups like the Amish, who generally do not vaccinate their kids. Some autistic groups think the mercury in the shots cause this, and hint, hint, that's in the new swine flu shots too, but not the nasal spray. Since the pharmaceutical industry and press has been promoting this down our throats, contradictory stories that say they do vaccinate have been popping up to bury the others.)

Now with the more common problems. Approximately 16% of children have learning disabilities and/or ADHD. Keep in mind those are only the ones diagnosed.

Have you ever tried to help a kid with his homework with these issues? Try doing that four or five days a week after a long day at the office or your job, for years. It's like Chinese water torture - for both of you. It's embarrassing too, if he/she has to repeat one of the early grades - like kindergarten.

They also tend to be forgetful about real important shit like their house keys. No telling whose house they're in, and they ain't all that good at choosing their friends. If you say "no more keys", they just climb through the window they left unlocked, because they're ADHD and impulsive, remember?

And how about that category of kids known as Oppositional-Defiant?

These mothafuckas are in a class by themselves. Give 'em a time out in their room, and they play. In the quiet bathroom, and they bust up your wall tiles or screw up the plumbing. Tell 'em they're grounded, and they walk right past you and out the door. Take away all their possessions, and they say fuck you and don't care, and maybe bust a hole in the wall on the way out, which you'll have to pay for.

Crawl on your knees to Juvenile Services for help, and they tell you they can't do a damn thing unless he breaks the law, and the cops ain't doing no paperwork over a hole in the wall or even busted out window, especially if they didn't see it happen. They might take him to the mental hospital if the damage is substantial, but he suckers them too until he's so over-medicated that you don't recognize him.

Beat his ass, and run the risk of Child Protective Services coming after you. Take him to therapy, and watch your slick lil' nigga act like the sweetest kid in the world, only to cuss your ass out all the way home, every week, for 52 weeks out of the year.

Been there, through it, and it's a bitch. Screw the feminists on this one: some boys really need fathers. No guarantee, but it could save a single mother's mind. My son, now 21, still thinks all the shit he did was funny. I can't wait till he gets his own place. First thing I'm gonna do is bust a hole in his wall.

Your kid might become a high school dropout. Yes, even if he or she is white. One out of five of all Americans between 18 and 24 do not have a diploma or GED. In some 'urban areas', it's as high as 50%. Having a college degree and being an avid reader is no guarantee your kid will even finish high school. My son has a boatload of white friends, and hardly any of them have a diploma. Got black friends too, whose parents are educated and work hard, but their kid just couldn't cut the high school grind.

The reason? Most of them, like him, are ADHD. That shit was not prevalent in my parent's time, and you have to wonder why, but that's a topic for another post.

One-fourth of the population has a mental health disorder in any given year. While this sounds ominous, as therapist I can tell you that's bullshit. They're counting stress-related adjustment disorders, and mild anxiety or mild depression, aka the blues, along with the hard stuff, such as mood disorders. They said that 9.5 % of the population has this. Sounds high to me, but still.

If you have a 'normal' teenager, he or she will be moody enough without the diagnosis. Add a real mood disorder to this, then buckle up, because you're in for a hard ride no matter how much love you got.

And guess how many people have serious alcohol & drug problems? Those usually start in the teen years. Cleaning up your drunk-azzed 15 year old's vomit and going to court for his drug charges, then begging a judge to send him/her to rehab rather than locking him in juvie jail is a b*tch. It might be years before he or she is grateful, too, if ever, because you're interfering with his partying and social life, aka, denial.

If you're homophobic, I read somewhere 1 out of 6 males are gay and the stats for females are not has high. This mirrors what I've seen in real life. While most people think gays should not be discriminated against, I've met damned few parents who would want their children to turn out gay. The really loving ones come to accept it, but these parents worry even more about their sons contracting HIV, or for either sex, the possibility of no grandkids.

One of my girlfriends, a doctor, had one child, a son. He had ADHD, learning disabilities, turned out gay, was on the promiscuous side, dropped out of school, and because he couldn't make any real money, did some seriously illegal shit and almost ended up in jail - twice. She was losing her mind when he was a kid, then a teen, but really lost it when he became a young adult, along with her savings to pay for his lawyers. I haven't heard from her in years nor been able to find her. I think she's dead, and that parenting killed her.

Not counting temporary juvie lockups or weekend visits in county jail, over 10% of black males end up doing a long stretch in prison, for both legitimate and bogus reasons. Whether the punishment fit the crime or whether he/she was a casualty of racism and/or a shitty legal defense, there's a parent or two who feels pretty damned bad, especially if they did everything right raising their kids.

I'll put it like this. My daughter's music teacher told a group of us on Back To School Night to do our best, but in the end, our children are responsible for what they become. She said she had three children and she raised them all the same. Two turned out fine, but one went the other way. I don't know why she revealed this, but she looked really sad.

Let's talk about war. Your kid could enlist - or get drafted if that's reinstated. Every day and night you'll pray for their safety. Worse, he or she may return handicapped or in a coffin.

Or how about homicide? According to the Department of Justice, the rate for black males and females between 18 and 24 have dropped a lot since the '90s. As of 2005, for men, it was around 100 per 100,000 people in the population, and for women, around 11 per 100,00. In some areas, it's much higher.

Fear can cause all kinds of reactions, such as your child behaving as though he is fearless, carrying weapons, or being hypervigilant and seeing a diss where none exists. Young males tend to think they're immortal and invincible anyway.

This is useful when serving in the military, but can lead to dysfunction in the 'hood.

Heh-heh. No shit.

The Stork can be an unwelcome visitor. Your teenage daughter could get pregnant, or your son be torn apart from getting someone pregnant. Whatever the decision made about that pregnancy, the outcome is no picnic. If the outcome is abortion or putting it up for adoption, not only will he or she grieve, but you will too. If the outcome is a new baby, it might cost you in time (babysitting), money, and stress, because they probably won't have the maturity to handle early child-rearing well.

Speaking of adoption, when you give birth to a child, you have some idea of what kind of temperament and intelligence you might get based on your family history and how well you took care of yourself during pregnancy.

Adopting is real leap of faith. The primary two types of women who put their kids up for adoption are the substance abuser and the mentally ill. Then you get the impoverished woman stuck between a rock and a hard place, and she might be poor from circumstance, or because her IQ is about room temperature. Further down the list is the ideal teenage girl who is attractive and smart, but "just caught in a jam."

Any of these women - with the glaring exception of the ones who stayed drunk during their pregnancy - could give birth to a relatively problem-free child. Or not. The odds are a bit higher on the 'nots'.

My adopted son has ADHD and a non-specific mood disorder (which may actually be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from early foster care). He will always struggle with substance abuse, whether he's in recovery or not. His birth mama and most of her family has those same issues. Two shitty foster homes before I got him - one was so bad the County closed it down - may have been the genesis of his issues, or at least compounded whatever genetic baggage he came with.

On the plus side, he came with some cool stuff too, like raw creative talent and a wicked sense of humor that has been his saving grace, along with "medical" marijuana. That shit really chills him out, and I pray for the day it gets legalized, because it keeps him from drinking or the hard drugs. And guess what? One of his cousins is a famous comedian that you've all heard of with the exact same issues, so even with the bad, came some good.

On the other hand, my adopted daughter's birth mother was a cocaine addict, but she has zero signs of interest in alcohol or drugs - so far - is a high achiever in school and has a sound temperament, just like her other birth family members. If you met her, you'd never guess.

When women put a child up for adoption, they don't always reveal the truth about their problems, and even when they do, adoption agencies will omit a lot of problems so they can get that kid out of the system.

This isn't all that different from having your own child. Does your spouse have a crazy sibling? Or a parent, uncle or aunt whose an alcoholic? Or cousins who couldn't sit still in class and never finished school?

Well, there ya go. Every baby you have will be the luck of dice.

Even if your kid doesn't turn out to be in some sort of dreaded statistical category, he or she could grow up and decide they not only don't like you, but have partial or full amnesia about all the sacrifices you made, and be totally ungrateful. Visit a nursing home and you'll see what I mean.

That's just the short list of possible problems even when money isn't a problem. After you add up all those percentages, if you still think that the turmoils of life won't touch those precious angels you're dying to give birth to, and that love will be cure for everything, then your lack of information, hormones, and/or narcissism has done a real mindf*ck game on your head.

When you consider all that can wrong - and how you'll be affected - good luck if you still want to have more than two. You'll need it, possibly more than love.


  1. I am trying to get pregnant right now & have thought about being a mother for the greater part of the 4 years I've been married. I have been around a number of young mothers who have told me about all the real shit that older women keep from younger women about the physical trials and tribulations that accompany pregnancy and childbirth, so I've been mentally preparing myself for it. But no one, and I mean *no one* has encapsulated the lifelong struggle that mothering entails the way you have just now.

    I think all potential and current parents need to read this, just because it allows people who have had these experiences a chance to breathe and realize that they are not inadequate automatically if their child didnt turn out "right" and it lets naive/hopeful parents realize that goodness of your life cannot ever translate into the automatic goodness of your child's. All parenting takes serious work, and as you so aptly put at the end, its still a dice roll. Thanks, KIT.

  2. Preach up here Kit. Folks need to hear this. Its funny because this piece hit a nerve with me. My eldest who turns 18 in a couple of months was always mellow and easy going. Statistically he should have been my knuckle head since I was only 19 when he was born, divorced his father when he was 1 and he has spent his life bouncing between me and the ex.

    Nope, he is senior class president, whole slew of accomplishments and a great kid.

    How come my 4 yo is the one that is going to probably do me in? I love her but I swear some days I hear Bernie Mac's voice from Kings of Comedy when was talking about his little neice.

    No, the 4 yo is perfect for others but get her home and this chile is like the bad seed. I love her but I swear she is the reason I am still smoking. Folks don't believe me when I say she is vexxing but I can easily see her getting buckwild when she becomes a teenager.

    You wrote about how you can't even bust em in the ass anymore. So true. Other day I got so mad (that gentle parenting natural consequence stuff don't work for this one)I grabbed her and put her over my knee and said do I need to spank you? She looked at me like I wish you I didn't spank her but for a second I most certainly wanted to.

    Parenting is a hard job and folks get caught up in the baby stage but its a life time process. Hell, when my Mom was dying and out of her mind she was still talking about her babies.

    Excellent post!

  3. Damn Kit, I've been having conversations about parenting for a few days now on my blog and elsewhere. The thing that gets me, is how pretty much everybody has this parenting thing down to a science. Pretty much in their view, kids are fuck ups because of, well, bad parenting.

    A few posts back on my spot I tried to show just how some of what we see goes beyond "bad parenting" and are actual indicators of mental health issues. But you know you can't tell Black folks shit about mental health. Now high blood pressure, the sugar and all that other shit? Yeah, that's real, but most people who fuck up do so because they never had their ass beat.

  4. Becoming a teacher helped me see the difficulties of parenting. I chose not to have children - there are so many of them that need attention and support as it is that I don't feel the need to add one to the pile. I also have a dozen nieces and nephews and I am a fabulous auntie.

    That said, I see a lot of crap on a daily basis that makes me sick. So many young mothers and older ones having babies for someone to love. Every year I have a handful of throw-aways that aren't so cute anymore and have worn out their kid welcome at home once the adult (I use that term loosely) realizes how much work child rearing really is. What does the responsible parent do? Have another baby! The level of neglect of some of these middle school kids is deplorable. Parental involvement drops off around fifth grade for most kids, and is nearly non-existent by sixth grade where I work. I say nearly because there ARE some great parents and some mediocre ones who are doing the best they can - but the rest are creating and raising kids that will repeat their mistakes because they don't know any other way.

  5. "Have you ever tried to help a kid with his homework with these issues? Try doing that four or five days a week after a long day at the office or your job, for years. It's like Chinese water torture - for both of you."

    OH MY GOD... I have a 13yo son who is gifted and has ADHD. I've lost track of all the times we were both in tears by the time homework was done.

  6. Black Girl In Maine, I'm thanking you first, and again for your permission to reprint part of your post and sparking the fire within me to expand on it. Thank you for sharing more of your story, and in particular how you, as a 19 year old, gave birth to a relatively problem-free son, now headed for success... but now, many years later and with many more resources and a husband, are having a tough time with child #2, the baby girl. She sounds very independent and tough-minded, and that quality is often a double-edged sword. A lot of people like this are hard to raise, but in the right time and place, become some of our most courageous citizens.

    I don't know if this will work for you, but only twice did I have to "spank" my daughter - and this amounted to a smack on her hand. She boo-hoo-hoo'd, because it hurt her feelings - but it worked. With my son, hell no. My lil' nigga had a bring it on mentality from the get. He'd perceive any punishment not as a consequence, but a challenge.

    I am convinced that kids are born with their own temperaments, ie shyness, high-spiritedness, etc., which can be modified or molded - but only up to a certain point.

    And Natasha, you said, older women keep the real shit from the younger women. I think it's b/c it's so damned embarrassing to have an out of control kid. A lot of people start to look at your every decision under a magnifying glass "if he doesn't turn out right." I had to hit 45 before I realized the folly of us collectively not sharing more of our stories.

    BTW, your comment, the first one, really made my day, and I thank you, and wish - no, pray - that you'll have a healthy, beautiful, lucky child with a nice temperament.

  7. Rippa, There's a thin line between a spanking and abuse, just don't leave marks, that's all I gotta say in terms of advice. Otherwise, a few azz-whippings from a Marine-type father he respected probably would have been the best thing in the world for him, especially when he hit his teens. But then again, maybe not; he might have just burned down the house. You remember that if you ever become anybody's step-daddy. Lol.

    AdreanR, Yeah, relationships are complicated and hard, especially in this high-tech, out of control and impersonal society where more is expected of people than some, children included, can tolerate. The village that could help in raising each child is long gone, and there lies one of the problems.

    Curlykidz, You and your son have my heartfelt sympathy, and you get a cyberhug for hanging in there with the homework help for all these years. That shit is a monster for an adult to deal with after working all day. I thought my own mother was gonna lose her mind trying to teach me how to multiply. I just couldn't get it for months, but then suddenly I did. For the ADHD or LD child, those months turn into years, and can involve more than one subjects. It is a hell on earth that few can truly understand.

    One of the greatest turnoffs in the world is having to do something that makes you feel stupid. It can get to the breaking point where you don't want to try. IQ tests may prove to that kid he's of normal intelligence, but he questions this and doubts him or herself, then too often gives up. It's a tragedy b/c some of these kids are innately smarter than the ones who pull good grades.

    Certain computer stuff helps, things that are repetitive but interesting. There's a Mavis Beacon typing program that has games, which will kill two birds with one stone: they learn how to spell better and type correctly. Costs $10-20 used or new at amazon and elsewhere; if you buy it used, get the version compatible with your computer.

    The nice thing about computer games is that it moves at the pace of the user minus the embarrassment.

    Thirteen is a good age to try this. I'd start him during the holidays as soon as school is out of session, but before Christmas. I'm not saying he'll like it or it'll work, but it did help mine - but only up to a point, and then I think he got scared of the success and me making too big a deal about it, with the unspoken expectation that the success would continue. That can scare off some kids too, b/c then they worry that it's a fluke and they can't. That's another lesson I learned, so take it one day at a time.

    I wish you and your son well; write anytime.

  8. Kit love the article..."Parenting is not only an 18 to 21 year commitment, it's a lifetime job."Hallelujah to truth.

  9. Boy, if that isn't the truth. I've seen kids raised perfectly that have turned out with major problems, and kids raised by eff-ups that have turned out better than anyone ever would have expected. It's heartbreaking, but it is the way life goes. And kids from the same family that have turned out wildly different. Maybe that's one reason I don't have kids yet and may never. Then again, I'd like to get my life together before I bring a child into the world.

  10. This article is so right on. It should be required reading for would be parents.

  11. JJ Brock, Yes. It doesn't hit home, I think, until you become a parent.

    Mountain Laurel, Agreed. I heard a saying years ago, never judge a person by their family. It's a nice guiding light.

    Wildflower, Heh-heh. Thanks for the compliment.

  12. Gee, thanks KIT. This whole post makes me want to get a vesectamy RIGHT NOW..and I don't even have any kids yet. LOL!!

  13. Monk

    *dying laughing*

    Nah, don't do that, bro. There are hellish moments raising kids, but if I had to do over again, I'd do a few things differently, but I wouldn't hesitate.

  14. Great article. However I think is kind of long but other than that is very good info. I think was written with a great deal of experience behind..

    Thank you


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