As a person who has managed to dodge all the responsibilities of parenthood, I feel supremely qualified to give advice to fathers. After all, I haven’t screwed up any kids.
Having observed the disasters many of my contemporaries have made of childrearing, I’ve become convinced the solution to raising offspring who won’t end up in jail, in a series of lousy relationships or in your basement (having failed to find a career that produces sufficient income to sustain any kind of lifestyle above the level of parasite) is simple.
Here’s the magic formula: Lie to your kids.
Not sometimes for convenience (“The ice cream store isn’t open on weekends”). Not as a joke (“Try a little sip of 100 proof whiskey, which is good for building strong bodies”). Not to spare them from the harsh realities of life (“Your poor, sick dog has gone to spend his old age on a nice farm, where he’ll have lots of friendly tigers and bears to play with”). I mean lie to them all the time, even when there’s no good reason for it (“She’s not your real mother. She’s just pretending to be so she can steal your toys and candy”).
This technique will teach children a number of important lessons. Such as:
Life isn’t fair (“Casinos, however, are”).
Other people – particularly politicians, but also teachers, police officers and your relatives – aren’t to be trusted (“If one of them tries to talk to you, scream, ‘Pod people! Pod people!’ and run away”).
Happy endings are for fairy tales (“In reality, Hansel and Gretel got cooked and eaten”).
Everything you see on television is wrong (“Which is why we have the Internet”).
In this way, children will learn to be realistic, skeptical and maybe a bit paranoid – admirable qualities all. They’ll also develop skills that make them self-reliant, since they’ll have learned that relying on others leads to massive budget deficits, sports cheating scandals and plastic bags filled not with high-quality marijuana but oregano.
I can anticipate the major objection to my plan. Parents will claim that if they’re constantly lying to their kids, the little darlings will soon learn not to trust them. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Under your current system of interacting with the resident brats, you sometimes tell them the truth, but, when you have a good reason, you, ahem, bend that truth to suit the circumstances (“You don’t have to be sad. Even though Grandma kept trying to shoot you with her Taser, she still loved you and got into heaven”). Sooner or later, your babies will grow up enough to realize that you’re being inconsistent. Sometimes your information is good (“Broccoli is really the brains of space aliens”). Sometimes it’s like watching CNN during a crisis (“The police came and took away your ratty, louse-infested teddy bear because he’s been conspiring with al Qaeda”). They eventually conclude that to be on the safe side, it’s best to discount everything you say. And as soon as they’re old enough to sign the papers, they plan to have you committed to a home for the chronically confused.
“Yes, your honor, he claimed Santa Claus was real. Also, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Angus King. It took me years of therapy to come to terms with reality, by which time it was too late for me to pursue my dream of marrying a princess and becoming Prince Charming.”
Once children learn that everything you say is a patent falsehood (which is when you can really screw around with their developing minds by saying things like, “I’m lying to you right now”), they’ll know exactly how to deal with all life’s little trials (“I don’t think it’s any surprise that you flunked math, because you’re kind of stupid”) and tribulations (“She probably broke up with you because you smell funny – and not in a good way”). They’ll learn to rely on their own judgment, rather than that of their ignorant elders.
They’ll be mentally tough and prepared for a hostile world. Like North Korean kids.
Al Diamon has been practicing his truthlessness technique on his grandchildren. And no matter what their parole officer says, it seems to be working fine. To read more of his philosophical musings, check out his weekly column, Politics & Other Mistakes, in several Maine newspapers and websites. He’s also the media critic for The Bollard magazine, and he writes about alcoholic beverages for Food Etc. magazine. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. No honest criticism, please.