Suck It Up

How I learned that my kids actually were listening to my very best parenting advice.

My daughter Louisa had taken up podcasts and we found that we both liked The Moth, so when I saw them doing a live event down at the Fremont Abbey, I grabbed us a pair of tickets. I can’t find the exact date, but my dead reckoning–my triangulation puts it between the end of high school and the last years of college–puts in somewhere in the summer of 2013 or 2014. No matter.

To start the show, the hosts passed out note cards and asked everybody to write down something they remembered about parenting advice that they had been given–that would be the theme for the night. I recall that nothing struck me as very relevant. I’d put money on me thinking about the lack of parenting advice I’d ever gotten, which I often complained could be summed up in the phrase “when you pour, pour.” But I didn’t want to expose that to public scrutiny.

Not Louisa. She leaned over: “Dad, look what I wrote,” and passed me her note card. “My dad’s parenting philosophy,” she wrote, “can be expressed in three words: Suck It Up.”

This was not something we had really discussed before, not a family joke that we all made. She just came up with it on the spot … and dammit, she was dead right.

From pretty much the moment Sara and I started talking about having kids, we were in solid agreement on one thing: our goal was to raise independent adults. We wanted kids who were capable, self-sufficient, and able to figure out how to do stuff on their own. So we always tried to create the conditions that would allow the kids to solve their own problems.

I won’t get into a long, moralizing ramble about parenting–that would run counter to the “philosophy” Lou had nailed me on. But how about a few examples?

Don’t want to swallow a pill? Chew it and see if you like that better.

The hike is too long? Just do three more switchbacks and let’s see how it feels.

Your friends get to stay out later than you? So what: they have different parents and different rules.

Why do I have to get all As? Because we know you’re capable and why would you want to do less than your best work?

It comes down to this: The world doesn’t owe you anything. The only thing you control is your actions and your reactions. So suck it up.

Yup, she nailed me.

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