Below is the Introduction from Rule #2: Don’t Be an Asshat: An Official Handbook for Raising Parents and Children. Over time we will be posting most of the book, though, should this inspire you to buy a copy, we would not be offended 🙂 Posted chapters can be found in the Table of Contents.
We have all been there. Whether it was the first day you realized that you were responsible for raising a tiny human person or the first time that growing human person expressed their right to defiance and sassery, in the most daunting of parenting moments, you may have reached out into the abyss, grasping for that “official parenting handbook” that would soothe your spirits with words of guidance, reassurance, or vindication. To be able to say, just one time, when your teenager’s “tone” turned from delightful to demonic, “You know it says right here in the official parenting handbook that you should turn down the sass”—and then be able to actually pull out a copy and show them; this is a parental dream. And this is what we are providing you with this handbook.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know what you are thinking: “You know what the world needs today? Another gosh darned parenting book.” Calm down, Sassy McSasserston, because in all honesty, we kinda feel the same way. With the naive optimism of a teenage boy in the ’80s who thought, “All Molly Ringwald has to do is meet me, and she will totally want to date me,” we hope to go beyond filling your mind with impossible, pious, or laughable advice. Our intention is that this handbook and our 101 rules will actually help you parent.
Like many parents, especially with the first kid, we have read book after book after book on how to be good parents. We have tackled healthy eating practices, ideal sleep patterns, homeopathic medicine, attachment parenting, cosleeping, socially conscious shopping, diaper choices, and so on and so on. We withheld refined sugar for two years, we boycotted any shoes made in China, we forbade Barbies from entering our home, and on more than one occasion we carried luggage that included week-old poop-filled cloth diapers making their arduous trek home for washing.
So yeah, we’ve tried some things that worked really well and other things that were well intentioned but utter failures and/or eye roll worthy. Our parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and pretty much anyone else upon whom we subjected our parenting diatribes and ideals had most impressive self-control.
There was very little public mockery.
Key word: “public.”
Now, don’t get us wrong; we do believe that it’s important to lean into any and all resources that may improve one’s parenting, but for most of this adventure, truth be told *shhhhhhhh*—we’ve been making things up as we go. Constantly wading through the murky waters of the “nature versus nurture” sea, we do our best, we sometimes stumble and then stumble again, we get back up, and we keep trying. Along the way, we hope that we don’t merely provide food, clothes, and shelter, but that we also shape and form human beings who are kind, who are compassionate, and who will make a difference in the world.
We find comfort in the fact that people have been raising kids for a very long time, and parents of each generation did what they could do with the information they had at the time. In other words, they also made it up as they went along. And I am willing to bet they did so without buying any parenting books, navigating the ever-changing rules about car seats, or being able to google, “How do I remove a flash drive from my toddler’s nose?” In the case of our parents there was smoking while pregnant (Robin’s), coming home from hospital in the footwell of the car (Bruce’s), and a couple of nasty divorces (both of ours).
And as they say, “We turned out all right.”
So why bother with our version of the parenting handbook? And by what right are we contributing to the ever-growing industrial complex of parenting punditry? Or to ask it another way, “Why the h-e-double-hockey-sticks are you, Bruce Steven Charles Reyes-Chow and Robin Elaine Pugh, at all qualified to write a parenting book?”
Here are a few reasons, a couple of clarifications, and a few experiences that make us feel confident in offering counsel.
Firstly, despite the reality that we are all parenting imposters at some level, none of us should take on the challenge without any guidance. Yes, we jump in and learn to swim, but we should do our best to always have the edge of the pool within an arm’s reach, and maybe even take a few swimming lessons along the way. In the same way, we think we have some helpful ideas and guidance for you to hold on to and a few lessons to pass on as you fumble around in the turbulent waters of parenthood.
Secondly, after nearly twenty years of parenting daughters who are now ages nineteen (Evelyn), fifteen (Abby), and thirteen (Annie), we have a veritable laboratory in which we mad-scientist parents have been testing out our parenting ideas.
After surviving these first stages of our parenting journey, we want to share a bit about ways in which we embody the worldview in which we raise our kids. We believe this worldview has helped them to thrive in body, mind, and spirit—and is challenging and equipping them to be people who impact the world in positive and meaningful ways.
Thirdly, while we have no advanced degrees in early childhood development, family systems, or child psychology, we are raising three daughters, and we have been intentional about creating a healthy family system, expressing appropriate individual expectations, and engaging in communal culture. We believe that we have offered them the guidance, structures, and community that will help them them to make good choices in life as they explore an ever-expanding world and grow into a positive, caring, and content human beings.<
Fourthly—if there is such a word—we’d like to share a quick word about about our faith. While we are far from fundamentalist Bible launchers, our parenting is infused with, grounded in, and informed by our Christian tradition. We are both Presbyterians who believe in a faith that demands of us grace, faith, justice, hope, compassion, and love. This in no way means that we are bait-and-switching you into reading a “Christian parenting” book. In fact, we firmly believe that those of other faith traditions or no faith tradition at all can be just as awful or as wonderful parentals as we Christians can be. Just as no other faith tradition has cornered the market on positive ways to approach marriage, social issues, politics, or parenting, neither have Christianity or we Christian types. This will be the one of the few times that we will reference our faith, but we didn’t want you to find out later and think that we were somehow trying to sneak the sweet little baby Jesus by you.
Fifthly—yes, this is getting ridiculous now—if you have not figured it out by now, while this book is framed around passing on life lessons and life hacks to the children in our world, it is also meant to be a set of reminders about how we as adults should live in the world. Sure, you adults will have your own wisdom to add, but in the end, the morals and virtues that we hope to instill are the ones that we hope to model ourselves and to see in others around us. We are not always successful, but when committed to raising our children with a particular way of seeing and living in the world, we are constantly reminded that we must do our best to do the same.
Finally, at some point you should expect to experience a range of emotions. Like you do in life in general and parenting in particular, as you read, we hope that you will laugh out loud, wipe away an unexpected tear, experience affirmation, be prodded by a challenge, and on the rare occasion, throw the book across the room screaming, “This handbook is a pile of [bleeping] [bleep]!” As we will talk about later, we are all different: the communities in which we live, the experiences that form us, the passions that give our lives texture, and most important, the ways in which we experience the endeavor of parenting. We know that you will not agree with everything we say, but we hope that there is enough here that will help form and inform your own perspectives and practices so that you, your children, your family, and the world will be better from having been exposed to our story.
What you have in your hands are our greatest words of guidance, wisdom, and help that we hope to pass on to our kids—and really, all other children in the world. It will not resonate with everyone, but it is the handbook that we have chosen to follow ourselves, and we hope that it will aid you as you too raise the children who grace your world.
So thank you for taking the time to hear us out and to join us in this sometimes excruciating, often chaotic, and generally lovely journey of parenting—we hope this helps.