If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey like me, you already know that kids fall into the “seen but not heard” category.
Little George and Sybbie are off with Nanny, only appearing at afternoon tea for some hugs and kisses, while Little Marigold only gets snippets of time when her real mom calls at the pig farm.
Watching the younger parents of Downton, I’ve learned quite a few things about how NOT to raise kids. Sure, it’s a fictional family, but I think that any parent can avoid certain #parentingfails…like the ones I’ve observed so far.
Parenting Fail #1: Employing a straight-up crazy nanny - Even with impeccable references, Nanny West made it through the doors of Downton. But Mary Poppins she was not. Not only was she snooty and controlling, but she forbid Barrow from saying “hello” to Sybbie. Turns out she wasn’t concerned about germs: she believed Sybbie was a “wicked little cross-breed” who didn’t deserve affection. So the takeaway: Be extra vigilant about choosing nannies — contact all references, do background checks, schedule meet-and-greets, and, um, maybe install a nanny cam?
Parenting Fail #2: Pretending to be your own child’s godmother - So this fail isn’t entirely Edith’s fault; it was just a sign of the times that she felt an elaborate charade was necessary to protect her family’s reputation. But, it almost seems like too much to give up a child to a tenant, only to visit her enough to make the tenant’s wife suspicious, and then take an interest in being her fairy-godmother-of-sorts. By going it alone, things are more and more complicated. So the takeaway: Be honest with your parents, and hold onto your child; consider adoption right away, even if they’re reluctant, because it’s better to solve certain adoption roadblocks together.
Parenting Fail #3:Letting your child disrespect the patriarch - Okay, kids can’t always control what they say, but Tom should probably stop Sybbie from calling Lord Grantham “Lord Donk.” Yes, he deserves the nickname more often than not, but it might be better not to half-insult the man who pays for everything. Sybbie may not be a revolutionary rebel-in-the-making yet, but she should wait at least a few years before becoming one. So the takeaway: Kids are never too young to learn some polite manners, especially the respectful way to greet others.
Parenting Fail #4: Leaving your child for a week to have a secret tryst – Again, this fail on Mary’s part can also be blamed as a sign of the times, but…the whole scheme to go out of town just to sex-audition a potential husband also seems a bit much. Especially when all the planning doesn’t involve one consideration of leaving George behind for a week! (I mean, won’t she miss him? At all?) So the takeaway: When thinking about getting married, consider whether your potential mate would make a good father, especially one to a child who’s not his own.
As long as you avoid these four parenting pitfalls, you’ve pretty much nailed parenting. So fellow Downton Abbey fans, share the #parentingfails you’ve observed on the show!
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
I spent one year working for the Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World. It was hands down the most magical year of my life, filled with fun, learning, and a boatload of funny stories.
While I learned important lessons about teamwork and the power of positivity, I also learned a thing or two about parenting. By interacting with families of different backgrounds, sizes, and child-rearing styles, it became clear that all parents had alter egos on vacation. It was obvious when mom or dad were in full vacation parent mode, because they were savvy and quick on their feet when it came to handling children in a high stress (or high excitement) situation.
Here are some examples of how parents inspired me and had me taking notes on their impressive theme park parenting.
Parents will stop at nothing to make sure that their kids are happy, even if that means sitting through It’s A Small World for an entire afternoon. While visiting Magic Kingdom on a day off, I watched a father re-enter the line for It’s A Small World four times because his daughter, “wanted to see the babies sing again.” My heart went out to him, and I respected the fact that he loved his daughter so much, enough that he would voluntarily ride in the tiny boat with her over and over again.
Stroller folding is an art form that is extremely underappreciated. This I learned firsthand. Being a stroller parker just comes with the job when you work a Disney attraction. Fellow cast members and I would bribe each other to take our stroller shifts, because it was a grueling task. Not every stroller folds the same way, and some have crazy hard child safety locks that require patience and an owner’s manual to unlock. I respect the parents who lug these contraptions around with them all day long!
Parents are experts when it comes to coping with wait times. I always commended those parents who stood on the two-hour meet-and-greet lines for characters with their kids. I felt sorry for these parents, until I looked closer. Their diaper bags were packed with snacks, coloring books, tablets loaded with movies, and anything else to entertain the little ones. It was like watching that scene from Mary Poppins where Mary opens up her duffel bag and pulls out a giant lamp and a potted plant, only with jumbo-sized bags of Cheerios and iPads instead.
There is nothing quite like experiencing Disney through the eyes of a child. It is the reason why families keep coming back to Disney, and why I saw so many smiling parents crying happy tears when their kids saw Mickey for the first time or finally became big enough to ride the big-kid rides. In a child’s eyes, every character and attraction is real and there isn’t anything that magic can’t do. It was awe-inspiring and completely enlightening, talking to kids every day about Walt Disney World and all of the things they saw. I cried at least once a day, listening to the kids tell me about how the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them to Disney to fulfill their dream of meeting Mickey Mouse or how they couldn’t wait to meet Cinderella and give her handwritten letters or colored pictures because she was their hero. It was an honor and it’s a much missed privilege to spend my days making magic for kids from around the world.
An interesting study has determined that babies who grow up in diverse neighborhoods are more likely to be open-minded and to interact with people of different cultures and races. (No real surprise there, right?) Plus, not only can raising babies in multicultural areas likely help them develop tolerance, compassion, and empathy for others, but babies are also exposed to other languages — a bonus because they have the opportunity to learn a foreign language.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences studied 114 babies around 6-months old; each baby was repeatedly shown the same image to gauge their response to it. The babies growing up in bilingual households or surroundings got bored more quickly when shown the same image repeatedly, and they were likely to move on to a new image. This indicated that babies who are still learning to distinguish two vocabularies and languages have increased cognitive development to process differences (like images) faster. Although the research focused on a small sample size in a specific geographical region, the study confirmed an advantage of learning more than one language.
Growing up, I was immersed in a bilingual environment — I spoke English at school and Mandarin at home, alternating between the two languages seamlessly or substituting Chinese vocabulary I didn’t know with English words. Although my neighborhood wasn’t multicultural, being exposed to two languages certainly helped me see the value of learning a foreign language — if only to expand communication and improve translation skills, understand the nuances of different verbal expression, and open up ways to understand others of different backgrounds.
Within the past few years, as more and more parents realize the advantages of preparing baby for an increasingly global world, they have started to enroll their kids in foreign language classes — starting as early as preschool! — with the hope that having them learn Chinese or learn Spanish will give them an edge and a better sense of the world later in life. But making sure kids are practicing and speaking a different language on a daily basis is just as important, so they can speak the language better and remember vocabulary. From middle school to high school, I also took French classes, but it was difficult to become fluent because I didn’t speak it daily outside of school. And by the time I got to college to learn how to read and write Chinese, those lessons really didn’t stick with me beyond the classroom. So there’s no doubt that the younger the kids are, the more likely they’ll have an easier time retaining another language (or two!) faster — which is just another positive reason why parents should consider raising babies in environments with cultural and linguistic diversity.
Imagine this: if every child has the opportunity to learn a foreign language, just imagine a future where everyone understands each other just a little better!
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He posts twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
As parents, we’ve all been there. Wearing an undersized Spiderman mask or princess tiara and throwing on the best character voice we can muster after an 11-hour work day, we silently count the minutes till bedtime when we can finally unwind and enjoy a moment of silence (with a few glasses of something to accentuate the silence). Then, it happens. You’ve reached the point in your day when it’s so quiet, you can hear the hum of the air conditioning unit, a car honking its horn two distant blocks away. And you just breathe. Maybe you flip to your favorite TV show or set your fantasy football lineup (speaking for myself, personally). But after a while, something doesn’t feel quite right. You find yourself instinctively changing the channel to Nick Jr., using words like “poop” and “silly goose.” You come to the frightening conclusion that, like it or not, parenthood has invaded your psyche in every imaginable way. But then you realize something else; you realize that spending time with your kids yields more smiles than the time without them.
Here are some of the most significant reasons I’ve noticed hanging out with my kids is often more rewarding than “adult time.”
Children ask innocent, sometimes insane questions.
While poker with the guys is fun, do any of your friends ever ask you deep, eyebrow-raising questions like, “What does 4:00 mean?” or “What do squirrels do when they’re bored?” Doubtful. A child’s mind is a cornucopia of wonder and curiosity. They want to know things, ALL the things. And they keep us on our toes. I can guarantee you I’ve laughed harder and longer at one of my son’s questions than at any of my friends’ fart jokes.
They make you feel smart, even if you’re not.
I can list a great number of positive outcomes of me hanging out with friends, but “they make me feel smart” is not one of them. My kids, on the other hand, look to me like I’m the gatekeeper of all wisdom. They seek my guidance on everything from the creation of the ocean to the science behind fogged-up windows. While my sons will certainly become aware of my intellectual limitations once their math homework evolves beyond 10 + 4, it’s a hell of a confidence booster to be looked upon as all-knowing, even when we’re making half of it up.
When they eat ice cream and throw balls around, so do you.
Before I had kids, my days of devouring Ben and Jerry’s and playing with balls were at least a decade behind me. Now? Almost every day, there’s an opportunity to partake in one of the two. And really, who doesn’t want those kinds of opportunities? That goes double for bouncy houses. I can’t see one without “accidentally” tumbling into it.
Kids aren’t jaded yet.
There are no bills, no wars, and no stress other than determining which pair of pajamas to wear to bed. Children haven’t yet been exposed to the evils of life, and they see every day as an opportunity to cram in as much fun as possible. You can’t say the same about most employed adults.
It awakens your imagination.
Perhaps the most important benefit of all is that there are truly no limits to your imagination when you’re in the company of a child. Could that Batman action figure be riding your iPhone like a car to get to the kitchen to stop The Joker from stealing Batman’s meatballs (which are played by marbles, by the way)? Sure, why not? It sparks your creativity and forces you to flex mental muscles you never knew you had. Try using personification with your drinking buddies and they’d likely cut off your supply of beer and dial up a psychiatrist.
Does anyone else have a perk of engaging with their children rather than adults that they’d like to share? If so, please add it in the comments section below or tweet me! And please check out more parenting articles I’ve written for the Huffington Post.
If you haven’t seen it, check out my “Parental Guidance” video where I show you what it would look like if I behaved like my son! It’s rather outrageous.
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I was asked this question during a recent interview about my work as a writer and father. I sat silently and fidgeted with my pen as I searched for some poignant, poetic line to say. “Use an analogy. No, no, a movie quote!” I thought to myself. But still, nothing came to mind. Then, it came to me. And very much like the time I was searching for my eyeglasses while they were on my face, the answer was right in front of me.
“I anticipate that my job as dad will be done when I’ve breathed my final breath,” I said with a devilish grin. The more I thought about it, the more it became obvious.
There’s a piece of dialogue from the 1989 comedy “Look Who’s Talking” where the George Segal character claims he isn’t interested in being a father to his child with the Kirstie Alley character because he was past that phase of his life and had already “raised his kids.” To which the Kirstie Alley character replies, “Raised them? They’re 11 and 9! Don’t tell me they’ve moved out and gotten jobs!” And it fits right in with what we’re talking about today. At some point, at any point in your parenthood, will you feel like you’ve completed your mission? Will you feel like you can label the job as “complete?” I’m anticipating the answer is no, and here’s why.
When your child is a newborn, your job as a parent is to feed them, clothe them, put a roof over their heads, and provide care for them 24 hours a day. That’s the part of the job that’s the most physically demanding, but also often the least complex.
When your child is a toddler, your job is to teach them the basic differentiators between right and wrong, encourage them to start using a toilet instead of their diaper. You also are tasked with ensuring anything remotely dangerous is out of their reach, and assuming one is needed, scout out the appropriate daycare center. Oh, and also to feed them, clothe them, and put a roof over their head.
When your child has reached school age, your job is to guide them through their homework (without helping too much), teach them the importance of socializing and forming bonds with friends, without letting that socialization distract them from their work. This is also the time you are tasked heavily with refereeing their language, choice of entertainment, and the clothes they venture into the world with. And of course, you’re still responsible for every drop of liquid, every bite of food that goes into their mouth. Oh, and the roof over their head. Can’t forget that.
When your child is a teenager, he isn’t a child anymore, and he starts to make some of his own decisions, for better or worse. He likely will start to firmly believe that he has all the answers to life’s questions. It’s your job to either tell him the real answers, guide them to find the answer on their own, or simply allow them to fail and learn from their mistake. He will probably begin venturing into the dating world and start forming actual opinions. They may not believe it, but your role in their life is perhaps more vital now than it ever will be. And of course, there’s the food, clothes and roof.
When they become full-fledged adults, there’s debate on whether or not the parents are still “on the hook” for raising them. I may feel differently when my children are grown, but I believe your job as a teacher, nurturer, and friend goes on. And I know this because I still look to my father for advice. To me, he remains the unimpeachable, larger-than-life entity he was when I was six. I still seek him out to discuss health insurance, career decisions, family history, etc. I will always be his boy, he will always be my protector, and I will always sit atop his proverbial shoulders.
That said, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to say the words, “I’ve done a good job as a father.” I might be able to say, “I’m doing a good job,” or “I’m on the right track.” But as a parent, my job remains perpetually unfinished, with that check box in the complete column happily and appropriately untouched.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Please add your comment below! Or follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.