Mar 20 2013
The Krusty Sage: Your Kids Don't Need Your Stupid Success Track


(This guy keeps posting to my blog.  He's WAY krusty, and I, for one, am continually offended by him.  Who SAYS this stuff?  I admit I'm envious of his awesome beard and also that awesome chair.  But still.)

Your kids don't need your stupid success track. 

Quit signing them up for a bunch of garbage and racing them around everywhere, and then griping about how you "just don't have any time anymore to eat dinner together", blah blah blah.

You had time.  You gave it away, because you're afraid. 

Don't send them to schools that brag about their academic "rigor" (ie, "We'll load them down with homework so you'll think we're rigorous"), let them sign up for multiple sports and extra-curriculars and then complain about how hard it is to be a kid these days. 

It's possible -- just possible -- that's it's not so hard to be "a" kid these days as it is your kid.

Gasp!  But what if they don't get into a good college?  What if we don't sign them up for myriad art lessons and soccer-specific-weight-training programs in the offseason and dance classes and computer camps and calculus tutorials and the traveling baseball team?  How will we develop their skill areas?

You're not here to develop skill areas, pops.  You're here to develop character.

You can't develop character if you're crazy-busy developing stupid skill areas. 

But how will the kids' survive in the global marketplace?  And --

Right.  You honestly think they're not going to "make it" somehow if you don't hustle them around like the world's going to blow up in ten minutes?  You honestly think it's your job to impart career-training at all costs? Where -- honestly, where -- did you get this idea?

You think your kid will starve to death if you don't send him to a high-tech school with state-of-the-art laptops?  (Ooh, laptops!  Quality education!)  Like it's really hard to learn to double-click?  How did I figure it out? 

You're not here to develop skills.  You are here to develop character.  That means spending lots and lots of time with you kid.  You.  Not some hired expert.  You.

But my kid WANTS to do all this stuff, she loves her lessons and band and her sports and the homework and her job and --

Yeah, and when she was a baby, you let her diet consist entirely of Smarties, because she liked them, right?  Kids -- even teenagers -- are not often rich in wisdom.  Maybe you noticed.  Maybe this is why you are still rightly called the "parent".  They just might need you to draw an actual line, and model a life unmotivated by fear of fitting into corporate America, uncluttered by do-it-all-ism, and all about people.

But you don't understand.  It's today's society, and all kids just have these demands and there's no way around it, and it's just our culture these days, and --

And if our culture jumped off the Empire State Building...

You know, you COULD be counter-cultural.  You could help them avoid a crippling performance-perfectionism when they get older.  They might even choose lifestyles that eschew materialism for relationships.  Maybe they could value people over achievements.

Who knows?  Maybe you still could, too.

Feb 19 2013
The Krusty Sage, on Sheltering Your Kids

(From Brant: This guy sure is cranky. But occasionally, he takes over my blog, and says some stuff, and I can't stop him. I just want you to know that I am thoroughly offended by his tone, and am already drafting a strongly worded letter to me about it. I'm more offended than you, even.)


"Should you shelter your kids?"



The Krusty Sage and the Mrs. Krusty Sage have homeschooled their kids.  (Mostly Mrs. Krusty Sage, to be straight-up honest, yo.) Now, the K.S. does NOT care whether you homeschool or not.  Don't want to?  Can't?  Whatev, man. Your kids, your situation, your call.

But please spare the Sage your concern that he "shelters" his kids.  Why yes, we do, and have.  Thanks.  Glad you're concerned.  By the way:  If you don't "shelter" your kids, you're a traitor.

Remember the Sam Kinison sketch on SNL?  He's a kindergarten teacher, and a shiny, happy mom and dad walk in for their first Parent-Teacher conference.  He tells them their daughter is seriously whack.  They can't believe it.  How?  Why?

He shows them a picture she drew, with a happy little house, and a smiley-faced sun in the sky.  "See this?!  This is insane!"  They don't get it.  So he walks them over to the class window.

"Look at the sun up there.  Can you see it?  Let me ask you a question:  IS THERE A SMILEY FACE ON THE SUN?"

He then launches into a tirade about sheltered kindergarteners, unaware of the gritty real world.  "That's why I've chosen THIS text," he says, slamming down a thick tome.  "It's about the REAL WORLD!  VIETNAM! Lying in a trench in the mud, watching your friend get his head blown off!"

Yeah, man, Vietnam.  The real world, man.  Get those kids exposed, now.  As if there's not a season for everything, as if childhood isn't fit for children, as if "sheltering" weren't one of the things you are precisely charged with doing as a parent.

If you don't shelter your kids, you're a traitor.  Maybe I mentioned that.  "Shelter", "protect" -- what's the dif, dad?

Maybe it matters what you show them on TV.  Maybe it matters that a six year-old may not be ready to watch the new Batman movie, or that your 13 year-old son is seriously wondering why you're not creeped out by watching a sex scene on TV along with him in the room.  Maybe your daughter actually does absorb foolishness from Seventeen and MTV, and maybe that matters.

("But I watched some sex scenes when I was a kid and some inappropriate shows and I turned out okay, and --"  Really?  You're "okay", huh?  You sure?  The K.S. wouldn't even say he's "okay".  But you are?  Neat.)

Maybe allowing your 14 year-old a computer in his room isn't really helping him learn the "real world", but about fake women, and he's in there sabotaging his future marriage, and you're letting it happen because you're a) breathtakingly naive, or b) you're not man enough to "shelter".

It's your job to shelter, pops.  And if you think the mindless entertainment/consumption lifestyle is somehow "the real world", the K.S. is going to get out of his big, awesome, wooden chair and hit you with it.

The K.S. has a friend who was seriously concerned about how the Sage family hadn't let his kids watch "Superbad".  Sadly, the same friend later said his dad had shown him porno mags when he was seven.  No sheltering there. I feel for him.

Another friend once worked at a pre-school with both Amish and non-Amish children.  They occasionally showed Disney videos to the kids, but the friend got a warning:  "Be careful and make sure you watch the Amish kids closely.  They aren't used to movies, so they can take things too seriously and get emotional."  Weird, huh?

-- except it's not the Amish kids who were weird.  They lived in a real world.  A different one, sure.  A "sheltered" one, sure.  But far, far more real than Ariel and Belle.   They aren't the odd ones.  They're children.  Childhood has it's own seasons, its own rhythm, its own implicit modesties, and, if allowed, its own sweet, and more real, charms.

So here's an idea:  DO show your kids the real world --  in time, in season, and informed by wisdom.  Help them to understand, from the outset, that some things aren't appropriate for them yet, but will be in time. Take them out of the country to the third world.  Give them lots of great (usually not modern) books.  Gradually give them more and more latitude as they demonstrate their own wisdom, with the goal of producing a well-formed, free-thinking, independent adult by their very late teens. (By the way, we steered our oldest to the largely non-sheltering environment of his new context of UC-Berkeley.)

Here's the downside:  In order to do this, properly, you'll actually have to know them -- really know them.  May mean giving up your awesome car or house and getting a different job.  Sorry.  Also means you can't watch a bunch of garbage on TV yourself.  Sorry. 

That's one problem with helping people grow up:  You have to be a grown-up.