(TransParenting • Part 3)


“Children are not a zoo of creatures,

but an array of mirrors…”

– John Updike

The rules of the game are pretty straightforward:

You need to be involved.

And you can’t be too involved.

And you need to nip it in the bud.

And you need to let it run its course.

And you need to stick to your guns.

And you need to hold your fire.

And you need to pick your battles.

And you’ll lose the ones you pick.

And you’ll say you followed all the rules.

And they’ll tell you where to stick them.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Where parenting is a minefield of rules and regulations. Where we walk on eggshells. And tread on tightropes. And consult the DSM-5 if a kid burps in the key of C minor.


Back in the day, there was only one rule.

And it was enforced with an unspared rod.

Or a flyswatter. Or a stiletto. Or a nine iron.

The rule went something like:

Get your little act together.

Or get the living crap beaten out of you.



The onus was on the child.

Or his anus paid the price.


I’m not saying it worked.

But I’m not saying it didn’t.

It probably did. And probably didn’t.

As such things often do.


It wasn’t a very sophisticated strategy.

But it was a very straightforward one.

Which is exactly what today’s rules aren’t.

They are convoluted and twisted.

They bear paralysis by overanalysis.

Which is a fancy way of saying: they’re overkill.


We call them parenting tips, but they are, in fact, parenting traps. Because they tie our hands behind our backs. And overwhelm the droppings out of us.

There is a well known Talmudic adage that if you try to grab too much, you end up grasping nothing, but if you try to grab a bit, you’ll fully grasp it all. It’s timely advice for the modern parent. Who drowns in an avalanche of shrinkery and psychobabble.

If there are any rules at all, there is one.

And it’s a very simple one, at that:

Try to be an authentic human being.

Of course, simple does not mean easy.

In fact, it’s a whole lot easier to memorize catchphrases and buzzwords than it is to be genuinely sincere.

But children are more perceptive than we tend to imagine. They see right through our cardboard facades. Even – and especially – when we’re blind to them, ourselves.

They sniff out our agendas.

They discern our true motives.

They detect and detest any trace of BS.

“Children are not a zoo of creatures,

but an array of mirrors…”

We can fool some people sometimes.

But we can’t fool our own children. Ever.

Does this mean they call the shots?

Hardly. It means they know the true colors of the shot caller. And if the caller is full of it, they ain’t buying it.


So be involved.

Or give them space

Or nip it in the bud.

Or let it run its course.

Or stick to your guns.

Or hold your fire.


But whatever you do —

Be real while you do it.

And if you nail that rule —

You’ve nailed them all.