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January 1, 1800

my first ban

Originally published July 6, 2003

Over the holiday I hosted the same Mormon friends that almost provoked me to murder-suicide during their last visit. Speaking of last visits, they are not welcome back. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever. It's about respect. It's about responsible parenting. But mostly, it's about self-defense. For the benefit of my other friends with children, this weekend I compiled the following parenting primer.


DO Ask if you can help out with cleaning up.
DON'T Insist on "helping" when I decline.
DON'T Then use 409 on my nice wood table.
DON'T Then let your kids color on my newly unfinished table instead of in their coloring books.
DO Listen to me when I say that the garbage disposal isn't functional.
DON'T Neglect to mention, on hearing this, that  you already crammed enough foodstuffs down there to feed Uganda. Not only did this little surprise enrage me later on, it took me hours to unclog.
DO Bring your kids. Ed and I like kids.
DON'T Let your kids be cruel to my dog.
DON'T Change your three [sic] year old's diapers on my linens, get shit on the linens, and then do nothing about it. My linens sometimes touch other guests' faces. Like last night.
DON'T Let your kids use my towel bar as a jungle jim.
DON'T Gently set the broken towel bar against the hole in the wall in an effort to conceal the damage until you're gone. The illusion lasted only until my next shower. I look forward to repairing this, too.
DON'T Let your kids swing my binoculars on their strap like a propeller. They were a gift, I like them the way they are, and I'd like to have them for a while.
DON'T Act like I'm the unkindest fucker on the face of the earth for quietly taking them away from your child.
DON'T Negotiate with a screaming, pouting brat. Most especially, don't negotiate using the binoculars I've already taken away from the screaming, pouting brat. And most certainly, don't tell me I have no voice in this issue, then give the little demon my binoculars over my objections.
DON'T Let your toddler use my speckle-glass soap dispenser unsupervised.
DON'T Blame me for having a glass soap dispenser and tell me that everything should be plastic. I'm the one who chose not have children, remember? Among other benefits, I can and do have nice things. The vow of poverty and insular life of plastic you chose is your burden and no one else's. The world isn't made of plastic; your kids need to learn this sometime, but how can they when breakage is the world's fault?
DO Offer to replace what your toddler broke.
DON'T Act surprised and indignant when uncharacteristically, I accept your offer. Maybe you'll learn something about a little thing called "responsibility" this way.
DON'T Whine further that my soap dispenser was too expensive. Shut the fuck up.
DON'T Attempt to weasel out of accountability with sad tales of your impoverishment. Seriously, shut the fuck up.
DO Teach your kids things like "use your indoor voice," "the butcher block isn't for playing with," "the oil bottles aren't for playing with," "don't take food from the doggie's mouth," "don't club the window with the bell," "don't climb the new blinds," "don't poke doggies in the eye, it hurts them," "don't run full speed and ram your palms into the picture windows," "don't stab the flat-screen monitor with a pen," "don't play near the edge of the cliff," "don't run with sparklers toward the big pile of explosives," "don't kick the TV," etc.


DON'T Make me be the one to say these things—especially when you're present. This, this is when you finally shut the fuck up? What no doubt seems to you an opportunity to offload parental burden for a time is, to me, thoughtless and rude. Why don't you divert some of the energy you're devoting to whining about the soap thing and use it to, you know, parent? In addition to being the status that constitutes the dubious sum of your life goals, "parent" is also a verb.
DON'T Bring three children into this overcrowded, hungry, resource-depleted and pollution-stricken world, talk about your ditzy spiritual need for a fourth, and then babble pretentiously about recycling. You're fucking eco-terrorists. Literally.
DO Reason with your kids. The whys are just as important as the whats.
DON'T Give your kid the exact same lecture—in the exact same tone, with the exact same lack of consequences—for not washing his hands as for continuing to play at the edge of the cliff after three warnings. I don't know if you've noticed, but your kid is tuning out your incessant lecturing to the point where it's physically endangering him.
DO Negatively reinforce. I'm not saying you have to beat the kid, but when he's being gleefully disobedient, I think removing TV, dessert, beach privileges etc. will not result in lasting emotional damage. It might even save his life. And as a bonus, our friendship.
DON'T Make repeated threats of punishment that you know you won't follow through on. I don't know if you've noticed, but your kid knows you won't, too.
DON'T Tell your kid that the cost of watching fireworks is that we all have to clean up the next day, then let him goof off while the rest of us clean up. Oh yes, that's right, you didn't let him.  You lectured him and told him he wouldn't be able to go to the beach if he didn't help, right before he went to the beach after having not helped.
DON'T Get on my case when I tell him he's "useless." While I appreciate your corrections of my unaffirming word choice ("John! We don't say that! We say 'you're not being very useful.'"), you have to understand that my comment was already quite sanitized. The original was, "You lazy, useless piece of mindless Mormon shit, you're being raised to be a worthless, irresponsible, ungrateful, unemployable, misogynistic carbon blob of a burden on society who does just the bare minimum to get what he wants, just like your father. Hey, speaking of trash, why don't you pick this stuff up like you promised, before I indulge my inner father and boot your sorry, slothful ass into the ocean?"
DON'T On your way out, tell me fanciful tales of even more neglectful parents than you. You'd have to actually give your kids live munitions in order to be worse parents.

posted by john at 12:00 AM  â€¢  permalink