What kind of bad parent are you?

A common element every parent shares is the belief that other people’s parenting skills suck.

I take my 4-year-old to the park not so much for her to play as to improve my self-esteem. I see dads in wife-beaters screaming at their kids. Some of the moms wear pajamas. And all I can think about is how amazing it is these people were able to convince another human being to have sex with them.

Between our park visits and my daughter’s swimming lessons, I’ve noticed there are four kinds of bad parents.

Texting Parent

He’s not really a parent so much as he’s a busy, professional texter who occasionally is forced to look up from his screen to acknowledge the human life he helped create.

Like the dad nearby me at swimming lessons, for example. At one point, his son waved happily from the pool, but dad was too engrossed in his texting to notice. I figured his texts had to be important and pegged him as a member the National Security Council in the middle of secret, high-level negotiations with North Korea to avoid nuclear war. Either that or he was supposed to pick up milk on the way home. Whatever it was, it had to be vital. He was staring at his phone the way Rosie O’Donnell stares at an éclair.

Yelling Parent

Absolutely true conversation I witnessed involving an irony-deficient mom screaming at her upset 3 year-old:


I’ll admit to being yelling parent on occasion, but only when there’s good reason: (“MARILEE! GET THAT BLOWTORCH AWAY FROM YOUR BROTHER RIGHT NOW!”)

Hovering Parent

These coddling, overprotective fools never allow their child to fail, or to fall down or to take any risks whatsoever. These parents are pathetic. I should know — I am one.

And I’m not sure where this comes from. In the 1970s western Colorado I grew up in, our parents smoked, our houses had lead-based paint, we rode in the back of pickups and any kid caught wearing a bicycle helmet would have gotten a beat-down.

But the hovering mom at swim lessons is even worse than me. Her young son got out of the pool (during the middle of the lesson), crying “Mommy I’m cold!”

(To be fair, it was just 89 degrees outside).

Most of us would have told him “tough it out,” or “you’re fine,” or “I paid 32 bucks for this class so get your butt back in the water,” but this mom sprinted to him the way you or I would sprint to a baby crawling toward vipers.

What worries me is that in 15 years or so, this kid and his generation will be the ones we ask to defend America. Frankly I can’t see him doing anything along the lines of, say, storming the beaches of Normandy. (“Sergeant, I’m cold! And those German cannons are really loud.”)

Oblivious Parent

These are the people who let their children run free, be it in a store, restaurant, operating room, whatever, under the reasoning that “Hey, my kids are very mature and responsible for their age (2 and 4) and letting them run unsupervised in public is a perfectly acceptable form of parenting.”

This happens most frequently at the Walmarts and Ross stores of the world. It would be very inappropriate of me to single out a certain country’s foreign nationals as being notorious for letting their children run rampant in stores, so I won’t.

All I can say is that I’m thankful for the bad parents, as they help me feel better about my own parenting skills. Their inattentiveness and/or aggressiveness makes me feel good about the fact that my loving, yet firm style of parenting has resulted in two kind, respectful children who are very well-behaved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get the blowtorch away from my daughter.

Reach Steve at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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