Skip to main content

Where serial killers come from.

I really hate bad parenting. Or, rather, bad parents.

Like, kids can be awful enough on their own. But bad parents always make it worse.

We get a fair bit of this in my store. Kids running around, pulling shirts (or heaven forbid whole piles) onto the floor, screaming, crying. Getting on my nerves, simply put.

But my ire centers on them for but a moment at a time, because in almost every case these children's obnoxiousness is the fault of their parents. In almost every case, they are ignoring their kids, permitting this behavior, and even tolerating some measure of child endangerment--who knows what would happen if their kids tripped and busted a lip or wandered off and got lost or got in the way of an associate carrying a heavy ass box.

Honestly, I doubt they'd even notice. That's just how it is.

And, like, I understand that parenting is tough. It wears you down. This kind of attentiveness and oversight I'm expecting takes a lot of energy & focus, and I wouldn't be surprised if after a while these parents can't help but give up the effort. But they did the squishy to pop these kids into the world, so these little beasties are their responsibility--whether they like it or not.

Of course, there are certain mitigating realities. As I said, this shit wears'em down hard, and I understand that. But they should too--and they should own it by doing something responsible about their childweariness. Get a goddamn baby sitter. Bring a goddamn friend to watch the kids. Leave the brats at home with the spouse or neighbor. Find some kind of daycare.

Some kids are just naturally brattish, and it can't be helped I suppose. I do doubt that simply attending to their kids would actually prevent all their wildness and misbehavior, but it couldn't hurt much either. And if, after X number of years since squirting the little things out, they've learned their kid craves excitement and their parents attention and loathes boredom and their parents distraction, how hard is it to own that reality, too.

As before, get a babysitter, bring a friend, leave them with a neighbor. Because if you can't help being distracted and focused on other things, understandably enough, you can still take measures to keep your kids in check. And safe.



Yesterday I was waiting for a friend to pick me up. There was a lady and her adorable daughter waiting, too. The mother was avidly and pointedly chattering away on her phone to some mysterious someone and ignoring her daughter. Meanwhile, the daughter--apparently displaying the same extroversion, urge to interact, and need for attention & approval of others as her mother was--desperately wanted to play.

And you know what? The little girl got bored. She did things to amuse herself. Like wandering through the barren flowerbed to poke at firehose attachments on the wall, squealing with giggly urgency, hopping up and down on the little wall containing the flowerbed, tackling her mom in the middle of her conversation, repeatedly trying to talk to her mom. It was actually kind of adorable.

But you know what? Every time the little girl did this, her mom yelled at and scolded her harshly in astonished indignation and outrage. Like, "what the fuck is wrong with you? can't you see I'm doing something far more important than you or your needs?" or "Wtf, you should know better!".

You wanna know why she doesn't "know better"? Do you wanna know why there's something wrong with your kid? It's because you're a bitch.



It reminds me of Harlow's monkey experiments, especially my personal favorite.

In case you're too lazy to follow that link to wikipedia here's a summary: Harlow put baby monkeys in the "care" of fake surrogate mothers to see how it affected their development; the "moms" were made of either chicken wire or terry cloth. To paraphrase the results, the monkeys with the soft, fuzzy moms fared much better and happily; the ones that'd clung to cold, wireframe moms were, in essence, nervous wrecks.

I first learned about this a long while back, but was reminded of it in a recent This American Life. That episode mentioned one experiment not outlined in that wiki page, one that really fascinated me.

In some experiments, the "mothers" were spring loaded to fling the baby monkey off if it got too close/cuddled. Instead of learning by operant conditioning, as we might assume, to back off or give their "mother" space or simply to give up on getting her attention/affection, they kept trying--and tried harder.

How human is that? how tragic? Can you imagine how this could establish patterns of lifelong attention seeking and neediness, along with laying foundations for all manner of maladjustment?

Further, the wiki article does explain how the different moms affected the baby monkeys' ability to adapt and cope. It's kind of scary/sad:
When the monkeys were placed in an unfamiliar room with their cloth surrogate, they clung to it until they felt secure enough to explore. Once they began to explore, they occasionally returned to the cloth mother for comfort. Monkeys placed in an unfamiliar room without their cloth mothers acted very differently. They froze in fear and cried, crouched down, or sucked their thumbs. Some even ran from object to object, apparently searching for the cloth mother, as they cried and screamed. Monkeys placed in this situation with their wire mothers exhibited the same behavior as the monkeys with no mother.
Something else the experiments suggest is it doesn't take much, really. The only difference between the moms was some were soft & fuzzy and the others were cold & wirey; neither actually did anything "motherly" like hug or shield or play. And, yet, the difference in the impact of each was huge.



Anyway, I know it's not my place to judge these parents, and certainly not to resent them for their bad parenting, but it still bugs me. It shouldn't, I know, but it does.

I'm working on letting it go, some. And ultimately I know it doesn't affect me. But it still agitates me--maybe on behalf of the kids. There are things these parents could do, but it's like they don't even try or care enough to.

And the result? Screaming little beasties running about busting lips and getting on my nerves. And probably, too, kids that'll end up like me in the worst way--insecure, needy, and annoying.

In my case, I don't entirely blame my parents. They were busy, they did their best, they tried where they could...and other excuses I could make for them. I know they didn't mean to cause me any harm; I know they love me.

For the most part, they did do what they could. They found us some really awesome babysitters, whom I'm forever grateful to have known. They talked to us and encouraged us and supported us as they could.

So why do I resent them? What did they do that left me...well, the way I am?

There were other things, too, but in this regard--along the general direction of this post--I can't remember many specific instances. From what I do remember (and what I noticed later as I grew up) it probably was mostly little things or things a kid might otherwise not consciously take note of but, especially over time, hold deep in their hearts and remember without memory. Those are hard things to deal with in oneself--they're virtually intangible.

To this day, I feel like I struggle to get my mother's attention or approval or thanks sometimes. Maybe it's all in my head, maybe it's a resentment I learned to hold & look for, and maybe our relationship really is just that way. Either way, even though I've learned to take a breath, turn it over, and let it go, it still hurts for a bit.

It goes way back though; I know it does. It was definitely like this in high school, and, I'm sure, sooner (though things get harder to remember from when I was younger). I'm sure there were dozens of little discouragements like them throughout my life. A need for something from my mother but instead, whether she meant to or not, dismissal.

But like that stupid little monkey with the spring loaded fake-mom, I keep going back, still looking for more and needing it worse. I've grown up and outgrown it, sure, but I still haven't given up. Stupid baby monkey.


Maybe that's why I resent those parents that apparently can't even make grander efforts on behalf of their kids. Maybe I'm just projecting my own frustrations and hurt and bitterness.

At the same time--for what it's worth--how hard can it be?

Comments

Other things that might interest you...

This moment: A tattoo.

So I read Mrs. Dalloway in high school, and it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I'd ever read. One passage in particular, very early in the book, hit me hard with my first experience of the sublime, and stayed with me—and led at last to my first tattoo.
In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.  (Emphasis added; full paragraph included below. From the full text of the novel as made available by the University of Adelaide.)

The paragraph this is from, the 4th paragraph of the novel, is the 1st passage with the stream of consciousness the book is famous for; although self-limited here, the flow is no less gorgeous. In the passage, Clarissa is walking on a street to get those famous flowers herse…

Losing Doolittle.

I recently got to spend a few days at the lake house my family used to visit through most of my childhood; we no longer own it, and it turns out I missed it more deeply than I realized.

Anthony and I both got the week before NYC Pride off this year, so I contrived to get us a little time there. The cousins who own Greenshore gave Anthony and me permission to relax there for several days rather than just the 1 or 2 I had expected. Good god, I'm grateful for that.

I missed this place. Standing on the balcony, the porch, or the dock and looking out over the lake, I was reminded of the beauty and tranquility this lake represents for me. The meaning and memories, too.

This was always a place of solace and stability for me. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we always came back to this place. It had been in our family for generations before I was even born—if we'd been able to keep it, it would have been a solid 4 generations including mine. This was where I figured out I w…

Gardenzia carnivorus.

I recently got back into horticulture after a bad moment of burnout, and wouldn't ya know it, I'm back at it with carnivorous plants! Despite tweeting about it endlessly, I haven't actually explained how or why this started.

Back in middle school, I helped my science teacher set up a carnivorous plant display. Nothing elaborate, mind you; a terrarium with a bunch of sphagnum moss and some pitcher plants, a sundew or two, maybe a Venus flytrap? Didn't leave much of an impression, except maybe that they died and that sucked. shrug.
A couple years later, I was in a bog near my grandmother's lake house, when things changed forever. I was in the back end of the canoe, and as my dad pulled the front end out of the water, I glanced to my right and spied, on a stump with some moss, sundews (Drosera rotundifolia, to be precise).
Of course I recognized therm instantly—they're hard to mistake, with those the sparkling tentacles and all. I gathered 3 or so of them (I know