If I have any parenting advice, it’s to not give parenting advice. I’m sure you’ve had opportunities to sprinkle some doting sage on a stranger; maybe someone wrangling a child in a terrible moment at Target. But it’s just not something you should do. If parenting has taught me anything, it’s that unless some beleaguered breeder grabs you by the collar and screams “WTF should I do?” then you should sip your latte and be happy it’s not yours.
It can volcano out of nowhere. The magma lurking under a pleasant, Norman Rockwellian day playing with golden retriever puppies and smiling at each other like a magazine ad for backyard living. And then the earth splits. Much like the time we left the house and Quin insisted that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his mom. I knew he had. His mom knew he had. At the time Otto was too young to vouch for the proper parting, but I figured I had logic and reason in my court, so didn’t think it was a problem.
BUT that didn’t matter. Natural disasters don’t care. As a matter of fact reasoning seemed to make things worse. He began to cry. I handed him my phone and told him to call Sarah, but she was in traffic on her way to work and didn’t hear her phone. So we got to the school and Quin didn’t want to get out of the car. Now back in the day I could just threaten a beating and all would be well. We can’t beat our children anymore (an unnecessary declaration but always a good idea to remind oneself) so I’m left with the gentle tools of the modern parenting playbook. I figured I could pick him up and, in a touching scene plucked from a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, carry him into school whilst whispering words of encouragement to my sensitive son.
No. That didn’t work. And if there’s anything worse than beating your child, it could be the perception onlookers have of the dude trying to grasp 30 pounds of hellbent psycho kid muscle. That wiry little dude freaked out on the order of a flock of frightened chickens. All I could do was let him go. And more on the perception-of-strangers thing: I can see the school principal cracking her blinds to see a forty-year-old man chasing a small child across her lawn. Quin was going for the street, screaming and wailing like, perhaps, a child being pursued by a 40-year-old man. An unhinged 40-year-old man who’d end up on Nancy Grace and vilified by a nation. They’d be sure to edit out the three of us (something I should add is that Quin’s then two-year-old brother had also begun crying and had since been deserted by the front door of the building…not unlike one of those fire station drop-offs) pulling up with me singing gentle songs and hoping for happiness in the benign carcass of my Subaru Forester. All the world would see over and over in the splendor of the evening news, is a crazed dude sweating epithets while charging a small boy.
So don’t judge. I mean judge if you want but I’d rather you whisper to yourself what Quin’s teacher eulogized as I lay his body at her classroom door. “We all have those days,” she said in the calming voice of a someone who deals with this all of the time.
I guess that’s my parenting advice.