Danny was the odd kid out in class. He had ADD, he couldn’t play sport to save his life, his mother had recently shacked up with a new man. Being the eldest, he took up the mantle of looking out for his younger brothers.
Steve was an outsider. He was from a non-English speaking background, didn’t have his dad around growing up and both wrestled and accepted his mothers’ view on faith.
Grant changed schools a bit. By the time he finished school, he’d been to 5 schools across two states. Sure, he’d met some mates, some good mates, but never really felt popular.
I’ll tell you about Danny, Steve and Grant. They are all me. Let me turn the story around, and change the perspective:
I grew up in the confines of my parents loving marriage, that also produced my two amazing brothers. My dad went through a trial or two – he was laid off in the coal mines and managed to carve out a landscaping business to support his wife and boys. Sadly, he contracted cancer and was dead just after his 33rd birthday.
I started school at the local state school. My mother re-married a man who I am proud know, a man that supported us the best way he could (and did a solid job of it), a man who always followed the call of his very strong convictions, even when they were unpopular.
My parents (meaning my mum and step-dad) somehow managed to send me to one of the best schools in the district. I don’t know how they did it, but I know it would have been a sacrifice for them. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD, and despite my best efforts, was never really one of the sporty boys. I can’t say why I moved schools after that, but I did, and was equally happy in all of them. I found a few good mates (the benefits of being an introvert), and some of them I am proud to still call mates decades later (geeze, I’m showing my age!).
Why do I tell you these stories?
I’ve noticed a creeping word in our lexicon. Privilege. You see it more in America, but it’s creeping up here.
Privilege. What is it? It’s a benefit you derive really by the luck of the draw of your birth.
Privilege. It’s also becoming an insult, a put down, a slur. It creeps into conversations as a shut down or shut out. For example, someone like me (who happens to be Anglo-Saxon, straight and Christian) can’t have an idea, opinion or suggestion on someone’s life or experience that is different to mine. For example, I can’t say ‘he got the job because he worked hard for it’ because that would mean I am privileged and supporting a system that uplifts men (and by implication, pushes down people who aren’t men).
This idea of privilege manifests itself in other ways. You may have heard examples of some teachers saying parents shouldn’t read to their children at night, because this is promoting privilege (because some children don’t get read to at night, and this reinforces an unfair system).
Essentially, the idea of ‘privilege’ gets used to say that all my success in life is because I was born into a system that fully supports me and will do whatever it can to ensure I succeed. It also says that people who are different than me (for example, minorities) are born into a system that actively discriminates against them, and will do whatever it can to keep them down.
It says I got the job, because I’m a white, straight man. It says I got the promotion for the same reason. It says I don’t get pulled up by the police because I don’t have coloured skin. It says I don’t get stopped at the airport for bag checks because I don’t look like a terrorist.
Some people use the phrase ‘you got that (whatever) because of your privilege’. For the people that say that, here’s what I think.
My privilege (and make no mistake, I’ve been privileged with plenty) isn’t a ticket to an easy life. It’s a set of expectations. A set of expectations whose results yield rich dividends. A set of expectations that is open to everyone. Everyone.
My privilege expects me to work. There’s no two ways about it. My privilege expects I get up every day, dress appropriately and work.
My privilege expects me to be present in my family. It expects me to be a husband and father who is loving, present, who leads with integrity.
My privilege expects me to look after my family. It expects me to work out problems in my family with my family. It expects me to make future plans, to discipline my children in love, to listen to my wife.
My privilege expects me to show my peers, colleagues and managers with respect. It expects me to respect the delegations and decisions my workplace entrusts to me. It expects me to be a good steward of the resources entrusted to me.
My privilege expects me to respect those who have delegated authority. It expects me to comply with lawful directions in a respectful and honest way. My privilege expects me to obey the road rules. It expects me to be a participative citizen, interested in my community, my state and my nation.
My privilege expects me to be respectful to my fellow citizens. It expects me to listen to differing points of view, ideologies, cultures and ideals, even when I find them offensive.
My privilege expects me to have consequences for not meeting my expectations. Very real, very tangible consequences.
I mentioned the story of Danny, Steve and Grant above. Danny, Steve and Grant could have all been victims of circumstances. Medicated, minorities, single-parent households, austere upbringings, but I’m not a victim.
I’ve been blessed with privilege, but I’ve been blessed with something much more onerous. Expectations. Expectations that I meet and don’t meet every day of my life. Expectations I put on myself, expectations others put on me.
From time to time, you’ll hear people saying you (or me) have gotten an easy life because of our privilege. You’ll hear this loud and clear with ‘victim’ groups who both act like all their problems are someone elses fault (read: yours) and they have no agency in changing their lives.
I’ve benefitted from my privilege, but here’s the rub. If I start failing in my expectations, that privilege is going to evaporate, and quickly. Stop turning put at my job? No amount of privilege will keep me employed. Tune out to my family? Eventually they’ll get the picture that I want to be elsewhere, and they will probably make the first move. Start breaking the road rules, or not complying with the various laws that govern my life? You can bet your bottom dollar that before too long, no amount of privilege will keep me on the right side of the law.
Privilege only works because the privileged keep on practicing self-discipline, and keep meeting the expectations they have for themselves – good expectations, but expectations never the less.
The next time someone accuses, or even casually mentions that you’re privileged, ask them what expectations they put on themselves to better their life. Ask what responsibilities they are taking on board – not who’s supporting them, not who’s keeping them down, but what disciplines they are putting in their life, then tell them to stop practicing privilege.
I was going to write about the perils of mixed-race neighbourhoods, but my Facebook friends implored me to write about something more light-hearted.
So here it is.
The Vidins Guide to IKEA.
So your wife suggests a trip and a browse through IKEA, just to get ideas. ‘How bad can it be’ you hear yourself say.
Well you cruise down the highway in your moderately priced yet safe family car and manage to miss the turnoff, driving right past the ghastly yellow and blue temple of capitalism. You lie to your wife about knowing the right way and you eventually make it.
Then you battle the carpark. So many cars. So many people pushing those oversized trolleys with oversized flat-packs. So many women in high-heels trying to navigate a heavy trolley through the carpark. ‘Suckers’ you say to yourself.
So you wait patiently for the Volvo driver to do a 500 point turn out of his car-park. Looking at the pylon, you mentally note your in carpark aisle ZZZ. Pretty much the furthest away from the door, but it does not matter, ’cause you’re just there to browse and you won’t be trying to push any of those trolleys to your car.
It turns out you forgot the pram and your youngest suddenly gets a case of IKEAitis, where tantrums in the middle of the road seem like a great idea. You get stroppy at your youngest. Your wife gets stroppy at you. You get stroppy at everyone. At least you won’t need to buy anything. Just a quick walk through, 5 minutes tops.
After finding the actual entrance, which is about a kilometre away from your car, you notice the lines. The people. So many people. Why are there so many people? Why are they all lining up?
Sensory overload hits quickly. Why do all the staff look like jockeys with those yellow-and-blue striped shirts? And have you noticed that even the slimmest IKEA girl seems to have a fat bottom in those IKEA blue pants? That’s totally just a casual observation, not an admission of perving.
So many people. What are they looking at? People, just looking at things. It’s all furniture. Just looking at things. Using those Keno pencils. What are they writing? Maybe ‘if I’m found, I’m lost. Please call (number)’.
You hear music. It sounds like rap music. Or is it ‘Sound of Music’? And that kid who keeps on crying. Where are the parents? Why is that kid crying? It seems to go wherever you go. Where are the parents? So noisy. You realise it’s your kid. It could be you, actually.
Yellow signs everywhere. Red tags. Furniture. Every room looks like the last one. Why do all the rooms fit into a 50m2 house? I don’t have a 50m2 shoebox house. I have a family house. I don’t need the kitchen to be a laundry and the dining table to convert into a bedroom with space-saving innovative ideas and retro-inspired yet functional décor. So many yellow signs. What are those people writing down with those little pencils?
Boys holding hands with boys. Girls holding hands with girls. Yellow signs. Are they playing Outcast again? I thought Scandinavians were white. Why are they playing black man music? So confusing. Oh that guy over there looks terrible. He’s got some screaming kid on his shoulders. I think his eardrum is bleeding. Why is that kid screaming? You realise you are looking into a mirror.
Why is that 50 year old guy wearing Chucks? Isn’t he too old for those shoes? Why are there arrows on the floor? Am I being herded into some type of human sorting yard? Haven’t I just seen those cabinets? Am I walking around in circles? Where’s the exit? Why does that sign in the sky say ‘shortcut’? Shortcut to where? The seventh circle of hell?
“What do you mean, good value?” you question your wife. Why is she writing something on that paper? Why all those numbers? You already have your wife’s number. What is she asking that slim-yet-fat-bottomed IKEA girl? “What will fit in well with what?” you ask your wife.
It’s so bright. There are so many people. Things. Arrows on the floor. Little pencils. Will you get out alive?
Why are you suddenly pushing a trolley? Why are you helping that lady get those flat packs off the rack? Why is she smiling at you? Everyone seems smiling. Except the dads. They don’t seem to happy. You realise the lady you are helping with the flat packs is your wife. Why do you have all these boxes?
Something catches your eye. Hot dogs for $1. Hungry. You get three ‘dollar dogs’ to eat and two more for the road. So much hot dog. Why does the sauce dispenser look like a penis? Why are all the boys holding boys hands smiling at me when I squeeze the sauce? I just want a couple o’ hot dogs. I’d never get this in Bunnings. They’d never let that type in. You can have a sausage roll in peace there. Now I know how girls feel when they’ve been perved on. I felt cheap. Over hot-dogs. Is it too much to ask for some peace while I eat a couple o’ dollar dogs? The sauce comes out too quickly. Did I pour the sauce too quickly? Did I squeeze the penis-shaped sauce bottle too hard? It’s all so confusing. Bright lights. Yellow signs.
The car-park is on an angle. Who designs car-parks like this? The trolley wants to move with gravity. I thought IKEA was all about convenience. Maybe Asians designed the car-park. So difficult. Your trolley seems to be diametrically opposed to going forward. ‘Just wedge it in there’ your wife beacons you to ‘wedge’ the trolley in-between your car and the pylon.
‘Just angle it more’ she says, pointing to the flat-pack you are trying to fit into your car.
The nice man in the Volvo politely beeps his horn and encourages you to hurry up and reverse your car. Why has the car-park gotten so much smaller? You can’t see out your rear-view mirror cause it’s chocked full of flat-packs. Why is that guy beeping? So many cars. So many people. Girls pushing heavy trolleys, trying to get big flat-packs into small cars. So confusing.
‘What’s wrong?’ your wife asks. Now you know how those guys feel at Guantanamo Bay. Bamboozled. So many people. You realise she’s beaming. Why is she beaming?
You get home. You realise you have to make the flat-pack furniture. You realise that five dollar dogs perhaps wasn’t a good idea. Why are there so many flat-packs?
Image from http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&docid=WAEP_FORt9CyvM&tbnid=uMdiXm14nKsqSM:&ved=0CAEQjxw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bse.com.au%2Fprojects%2Fikea%2F&ei=Hx-5U6W_Ms2JkQXGh4HgBw&bvm=bv.70138588,d.dGI&psig=AFQjCNEr-rU1Q69JV9wClbthEpftkQ0AFg&ust=1404727442481264
There’s no end of parenting advice and parenting theories out there. Many have their merits, their quirks, their cons.
Let’s not beat around the bush. If you’re a deliberate parent, you’re probably going to take the role more seriously and your kids are probably going to turn out better. Pretty much most parenting theories, when applied properly, will have some sort of positive impact. Engaged parents usually produce engaged, healthy kids.
Pretty much every parenting theory I’ve seen follows the same formula.
Vidins is here to decode the formula for you.
1/ Every parenting theory will criticize your parents.
They’ll use sympathetic lines like ‘your parents probably did the best they could, BUT’, or ‘you probably think that because you turned out all right, your parents ways were probably right too’. They’ll probably also bring up something gendered like dad spanked us and mum scolded us.
Don’t fall for the tricks!
These parenting theories do this to lure you into a false sense of security and try to make you pity your parents. Here’s the rub. You’re a parent and you want the best for your kids, right? Well your parents wanted the best for you, too. Are you saying that their method of parenting wasn’t good enough, or hip enough for you? Fo’ shame! Your parents loved you! It would be dishonouring to them not to emulate their parenting style!
Don’t believe the latest thing. Believe the genuine thing.
2/ Discipline Shmicipline.
Without a doubt, most ‘modern’ parenting theories will talk about discipline. They’ll probably talk about setting boundaries, naughty corners, time-outs and reinforcing good behaviour. All good things, by the way. All good if you have good children.
But you don’t have good children.
You have naughty children.
Very naughty children.
Tantrum in the shopping centre children.
Rice-bubbles all over the floor children.
You’re at your wits end. That’s why you’re watching a parenting DVD or reading a parenting book.
Most days you can’t decide if you want to put your kids up for adoption or drown them in the river.
Time outs? Give me a break! More like ‘time out to recharge the batteries to give mum more hell’.
Parents, it does not matter what the theories say, it’s ok to take to your kids backsides with a wooden spoon. Daily, if need be.
Your kids will learn. Oh yes, they will learn.
3/ Bring the Bible into it.
Now I can’t say for sure with the Muslims, or the Hindus or Buddhists, or even Sikhs, but I know for sure that a stack of Christian parenting theories will bring something of the Bible into the fold. The Bible is used to explain how you should talk to your kids, set boundaries, discipline, ethics, morality, faith (obviously).
Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but when it came to Jesus, God had it pretty easy in the parenting department, apart from the whole dying on the cross thing. Jesus, fully man yet fully God never sinned, never threw a tantrum (except for that time in the Temple with the tables), never said ‘NO!’. When he got lost, he didn’t run away to do something naughty – he just hung out at the Temple. You can’t tell me that that’s parenting a strong-willed child.
There’s a stack of excellent life advice in the Bible – not just for parenting, but pretty much every area of your life. Just be wary when select half verses are used to spiritualise an aspect of parenting.
4/ You’ll damage your children if you don’t use this theory
Inevitably, the parenting theorist will criticize all the other parenting theories out there. They will be to prescriptive, to disciplinarian, to libertarian, to permissive, not loving enough, not disciplining enough blah blah blah.
You know who parenting theories damage the most? Parents! Lofty ideals, impossibly high standards, impractical ideas and experts with picture perfect kids do damage to parents!
So what’s the modern parent to do? Stop reading parenting books or watching parenting DVD’s? Of course not! You could read through a whole parenting book and get one bit of gold that helps you on your parenting journey.
You have to find what works well for you and your family.
So my advice? Well for $25.99 plus postage and handling, I can send you my exclusive parenting DVD with the latest theory on parenting and childhood development, backed up by scientific research and endorsed by a real church minister!