Parenting is Overrated

Nearly everything about a child’s “success” in the world has nothing to do with parenting:

[P]arenting styles inside the home, apart from extreme cases like abuse or neglect, have very little long-term influence on a person’s personality or success in life, at least that social scientists have been able to detect.

[Y]our kids’ long-term fate will not be meaningfully affected by the speed and timing of potty training, the brand of educational videos you purchase, or the precise tone of voice in which you discipline. A large proportion of the Parenting Industrial Complex isn’t about kids — it’s about generating content for nervous parents who feel like they should be doing something… Another way of putting this same point is that an enormous amount of a child’s fate is determined by luck, by accidents of birth, socioeconomics, and geography.

This is so true. My childhood was not rosy, but I wasn’t abused or especially neglected and I happen to be a white, male, heterosexual person straddling the 20th and 21st centuries in North America. And this is now true for my son (save the 20th century part). This may be discouraging for people who want to find loads of meaning in their activities as a parent, but I think that they’ve been sold the wrong bill of goods. And I mean that quite literally:

There is a large industry in America devoted to making parents anxious, mainly so they will spend money on products and services that temporarily ease their anxieties. One recurring theme in that industry’s messaging is preparation.

But one of the profound truths of parenthood is that your child is their own person with half your genes that you’re merely housing and clothing and feeding until they leave to continue the life that they’ve always been living with a steady decrease of your influence as a parent. Rather than stressing about the future, just enjoy every moment:

Life is just a series of moments, and it’s amazing how many of them we miss, rush past, or disrupt because our minds are elsewhere, anticipating the future or dwelling on the past. But a moment of joy or connection is its own justification, not a means to an end. Play can just be fun. Fart jokes can just be funny. Daydreaming and wasted time don’t have to be framed as developmental tools; they’re just nice.

Relax. Don’t ship rubber floors to your holiday villa.

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