Teach Your Children Well

Tell me: when does it become okay to yell at kids for doing the same things you did when you were their age (and would probably still be doing if your back was up to it)? I ask because I’ve reached the point in my life where many of my friends have teenage children and I find it difficult not to giggle when I hear them tell their kids how they should conduct their lives.

These are people I’ve grown up with – folks with whom I’ve personally done things so monumentally and dangerously stupid that I’m amazed we’re still alive and out of prison. How can they with a straight face chide their daughter for speaking on a cell phone while driving? I mean, did you forget about the time in college when we got really drunk and drove into New York City to play chess, smoke cigars and see dirty movies? Remember how we got pulled over by that cop and we thought we were going to spend the night in jail and how funny it was at the time? How exactly does a thing like that just fade out of your consciousness?

It’s not so much that I condone such behavior – in fact it retroactively terrifies the bajeezus out of me – I just realize the pointlessness of trying to stop it in others. Kids are by nature idiots. They do idiotic things. That’s what kids do.

James Dean

Harry Potter can suck it.

I often wonder if rather than trying to talk (or shout) them out of their behavior, it wouldn’t make more sense to give them tips on how to survive it. “Don’t mix liquors,” I should tell them. “That just leads to projectile vomiting and really bad hangovers. And when drinking to excess don’t chug your booze: down it at a moderate pace. That way you’ll probably pass out before you can die from alcohol poisoning.”

But since their parents would certainly shoot me in the face if I told them that stuff, I don’t. Instead I limit myself to sartorial advice. “Dude,” I say to my friends’ teenage sons and daughters. “For God’s sake, stop dressing like the ’70s. Those clothes looked horrible thirty years ago and they don’t look any better now. Trust me.” 

But of course they don’t listen − because they’re idiots. And so inevitably they’ll face the terrible consequences of their actions: ten years from now their parents will be showing pictures of them dressed in those outfits to their fiancés.

But we survived it, so maybe they will too. God bless all the kids and keep them safe from themselves. And happy Thanksgiving to everybody.


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12 Responses to “Teach Your Children Well”

  1. wrekehavoc Says:

    heh. and as a mom, i do mean heh. there are breeders out there whose spawn are going to make them pay for the grey hairs they themselves gave to their own parents. i would include my kids except that i was a model child who kept my rebellion to myself.

    happy t-day!

    • Paul Murphy Says:

      Wouldn’t it be better for kids to learn bad behavior from their parents rather than from some stranger on a street corner or over the Internets?

  2. Scott Says:

    You need to move your farm closer to us. Then when the kids are bad, I’ll send them to “Uncle Paul’s Farm” for real life lessons. (Essentially means they’d be there about half their lives, but hey… think of it as free farmhands!)

  3. Sue Says:

    I’m one of those insane people who still do not talk on the phone and drive at the same time. If someone else is in the car while I’m driving, they talk while I drive. If my girls are in the car and we need to talk to someone they know, they talk while I drive. If I *need* to talk while I’m driving, I really do pull over to some place safe, and yes, I do use my turn signal. (Neeners!)

    Why? Because the majority of women drivers suck and male drivers are mostly aggressive assholes. The factor gets multiplied when you add in talking on the phone while drinking a boiling beverage, putting on makeup, eating a five course meal, yelling at the kids bouncing around somewhere, cruising for tunes on your iGizmo, reading or yelling at someone who was distracted for some reason.

    Yup, I’m geezing. Don’t get me wrong… I always have my iGizmo playing in the car… I just don’t cruise my playlists while driving. (I have 9 year olds for that!)

    So, I just sit back and let people in front of me hurry to where ever they’re all late to getting to and tootle along on my way. I’d rather be late and safe.

    • Paul Murphy Says:

      What kind of lesson is that to teach your children?
      I remember the good old days when on major holidays my mom would get pleasantly sloshed at her parents’ house and then drive us home, bouncing off of the other equally tipsy vehicles weaving merrily along the Garden State Parkway. That taught us stoicism.

  4. Liz Murphy Says:

    OK, you were right. Parents are not going to agree with this one.

    No matter how stupid we were when we were young, our purpose in life and life goal now is to keep our children alive and well and out of harms way (cause it would KILL us to lose them). The fact that we did incredibly dangerous or stupid things makes us nothing more than lucky. Well it also makes us fearful that we may lose our children to the same type of stupidity. Many of us know that we were incredibly lucky and luck runs out and we cannot bear to imagine if it ran out on our child/children.

    PS- There are a whole host of things I tell my children not to do that I never took part in as a youngin’ because it scares the bejeezus out of me too!

    • Paul Murphy Says:

      Dude. Humor column, remember? I would never actually tell your kids how to drink properly. Though I will tell them about disco clothing!

  5. Liz Murphy Says:

    Sorry…..there is now a teenager in my house, remember…..

  6. Sell phones Says:

    For anyone who is interested, I have done a careful analysis of the driving while texting/talking on the cell phone situation, and I have the following predictions.

    1. Texting while driving is going to be nearly universally illegal within a year or two. Everyone knows it’s nuts except the teenagers who do it. And Texans.

    2. Talking on phones while driving is going to last about 10 or 15 years (not counting Texas, where it will last as long as the death penalty). It will follow the same course as the tougher laws against drunk driving, which was remarkably accepted in the 60s and early 70s. As the dead bodies pile up, and Mothers Against Cell Driving (?) give their tearful testimony in state legislatures, the laws will slowly stiffen, until people will wonder why their parents thought it was reasonable to talk on the phone while driving, when everyone knows how dangerous it is. It will be just the way I wonder how my parents’ generation thought it was ok to have 3 cocktails and then wine at dinner and then drive home. Oh, and don’t forget the nightcap! But people did that all the time and seemed to think that if anything went wrong, it was just an “accident.”

    Now you know what the future will be.

  7. Aimee Says:

    I received two very important lessons when I turned 18, from two different people of an older generation than I :
    “Whatever you do, make sure there’s no pictures or videos.”
    “For every drink or shot, sip a full cup of water in between.”

    The second one has actually been taught from me to others of my generation, because they were binge drinking idjits, and I couldn’t believe that they didn’t know how to imbibe properly without heading straight to pukesville.

    And I didn’t turn out TOO badly. So… maybe some of us got the right education. 😉

    • Paul Murphy Says:

      I love you, Aimee!

      Isn’t it interesting that virtually every parent (especially the moms) found this column offensive and denied ever doing anything bad while they were kids, while the youngest person to read it recognizes the great wisdom in my words?

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