The problem with kids is... well, there are a lot of problems with kids, but one of them is that you have to pay attention to them.  

  Not just your kids, all the kids.  To everyone under 30 kids are invisible, but if you are over 30, you absolutely have to pay attention to kids, because otherwise you just look bad.  Even if you don’t have kids, you gotta pay attention.  Especially if you are rich and famous; poor people have the excuse of ignoring kids as they have enough problems already, but if you are a public figure of some sort you can’t afford to pretend kids don’t exist.  It will ruin your reputation.  Imagine a celebrity walking through a crowd and not taking a photo with a little fan.  It’s a career suicide.  Politicians hold babies, that’s what they do.  Royals pet children on the heads and talk to them benevolently.  It’s the law.  It’s a sign of maturity and emotional intelligence.  It makes you look accessible, likable.  

  The problem with ordinary people and kids is that on top of the social pressure there’s a moral responsibility to pay attention to your kids, even though you know damn well that it’s a zero sum game.  There’s no benefit to it whatsoever if you do, but the guilt is too much if you don’t.  Kids live off attention.  They’ll literally die if you leave them unattended.  They will either do something so stupid it’s fatal, or kill themselves on purpose to spite you.  Look mommy, I can fly!  No, you most definitely can’t, you foolish nugget.  

  And so, you must pay attention.  You can’t have your kids off by themselves while you are on your phone scrolling through Instagram, or worse—while you are making a living or pursue your dreams. No sir.  Pay. Attention. At. All. Times.  The hard part is that your child doesn’t stop doing things, and doesn’t shut up, ever.  Never, ever.  And they have attitude.  There’s a lot of self-control involved in maintaining interest, and not telling them to fuck off.  For instance, I told my older son to clean up after dinner. 
  This is how it went:

Me:  Pick up after yourself.
7 year old:  No.
Me:  What do you mean, no?
7:  I don’t want to.
Me:  It doesn’t matter if you want to, you have to.
7:  Why?!
Me:  Because it’s the rule. We make a mess, we clean it up.
7:  Who makes the rules?
Me:  I do.
7:  You are not the boss of me.
Me:  Oh yeah I am. I am literally your boss. I made you.
7:  Daddy made me too.
Me:  Sure, but I grew you inside of me and I birthed you so I’m the boss.
7:  No fair.
Me: Life is not fair. Now clean up.
7:  No.
Me:  Don’t make me count young man!
5 year old, chiming in: 1, 2, 2 and a half...
7:  Shut up!
Me:  Kind words, please!
5: Mommy is the boss of you, Stupid.
Me:  Guys, language!
5:  She made you, she made me...
7:  Stop it you little...
5:  Who made everything?
Me:  Okay, let’s focus here...
Me:  Because of the Big Bang. Now zip it and clean up.

  At this point it’s been 47 years into a conversation that started about crumbs under the dining room table and ended up as a theological discussion, and I’m totally losing it.  The crumbs have not been cleaned and my two children are in time-out in their rooms.  

  That’s normal.  Kids never listen.  They talk and they do things, but they never hear what you say or notice what you do.  But somehow, you have to keep paying attention.  It’s counter-intuitive and borderline insane, but you have to.  Kids are badly behaved by default, and your main job is to civilize them. 

  When I see well behaved children in public I call CPS on their parents immediately.  Something is not right in that picture.  To be so polite and nice and quiet, these children must be terribly mistreated.  Because certainly listening to them and gently guiding them with love and attention does NOT lead to good behavior.


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