7 Parenting Lessons From Literature
Parenting is hard work. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s a well-earned cliche.
Kids are pretty awesome, and they can even teach you a thing or two about reading, but they also have their moments. That’s why, if you want to be a parent, it’s important to make sure you are not a mental whack job.
Mental whack jobs who are parents usually produce kids who eventually become mental whack jobs themselves. This is not good.
Since fiction is often just a mirror of reality, there’s a lot to learn from literary parents, both good and whack jobbish.
Quite a bit, actually. Let’s take at some parenting tips I put together based on lessons I’ve learned from literary parents.
Like, be around and stuff. I believe in God, but I have a gripe with him. Why he ever allows some people to become parents is beyond me. The number one rule of parenting? Your kids should know you exist. Scarlett O’ Hara, my dear old friend from Gone With The Wind, failed miserably at this.
Had Casey Anthony existed 150 years ago, she might have looked something like Scarlett O’ Hara. “Here, Wade, go play with the nanny while I chase lots of fancy men around.” I don’t like this woman.
Don’t bathe an infant while under the influence. This bit of parenting advice comes to you by way of Rabbit Angstrom’s alcoholic wife, Janice, in John Updike’s Rabbit Run. First off, let’s try and not be under the influence of drugs and such, okay? But if you find yourself in that situation, let’s avoid bath tubs and infants at all costs.
How about that as just a general parenting rule? Beers, babies, and bathtubs just don’t mix. This is one of the few scenes from books on the Time list that have made me cry.
Don’t beat your kids (or wife). If your first response to your child’s misbehavior is to beat them, then maybe you shouldn’t have got into this whole parenting thing. Gabriel from Go Tell It On The Mountain is an awful, hypocritical dad who is a church deacon on Sunday morning and beats his wife and kid on Sunday night.
Again, why does nature allow people like this to become parents? If you beat your wife or kid, you should automatically become impotent. No seed for you! If I was God, that’s how I would have done it anyway.
Nagging accomplishes nothing. Enid Lambert from The Corrections is every young man’s worst nightmare as a mother. She’s like the Orkin Man of happiness. She will find that junk and spray it ‘til it’s dead. Okay, that’s probably a bit much.
In fairness, Enid tries to keep the family tight, but she does it by constantly harassing her adult kids to get together as a family just one more time. Now I’m starting to feel bad for her. It’s been two years since I read this book, so maybe I got it wrong. But, bottom line: Enid is a naggy parent. Don’t be a naggy parent.
Walk the walk. Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird was like an idealistic hippy from the 1960s, except he didn’t sell out when he got into his adulthood. This guy made things happen. He didn’t just talk about helping people—it wasn’t just a quote to put on the fridge. This guy went out and walked the proverbial walk.
That right there is what being a parent is all about. Simply put, every parenting book ever should have a picture of Atticus Finch that says, “Be like this guy.”
Momma’s always right. Let’s just go ahead and settle this right here. Daddy might be louder, and daddy might think he’s always right, but he’s not. Let Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath be your guide.
Momma might be quiet, and momma might not always speak her mind. But when she does, you better listen, boy. Just ask old Tom Joad. That boy knew momma was always right.
Mold does not have nutritional value. There’s a scene in Infinite Jest where a young Hal Incandenza comes out of the basement of his house feeling a little queasy with mold residue around his mouth. I don’t know at what point Hal thought the mold looked tasty, but his parents never communicated that piece of information to him.
“Mold should not be eaten” is probably not something you’ll find in a parenting handbook, but your kids need to know that anyway.
Now, am I right or am I right?
Are these terrible parents or have I misinterpreted any of them? Who would you elect to the literary parenting hall of shame?