We are back home, and still have a little of the sunshine glow leftover from Cuba. Our tans did not immediately fall off at the airport, sprinkle down our pant legs and leave a trail of discarded skin dust in our wake, such as what happens when people from Saskatchewan return from vacation in January to the moisture-less air and polar bear friendly temperatures. That’s why they must constantly sweep the floors from November to April at the John G Diefenbaker airport in Saskatoon. And then again from May to October for all the prairie dust.
Upon returning home, I stacked my nice new Romeo & Julieta tubed cigars gently in my humidor and loaded up the sponges with water to keep them well nourished, just in case some of the tubes leak. The reason they package some cigars in tubes is because once they are sealed at the factory they do not have to be stored in a humidor right away, but it’s not a perfect seal so air can still leak in and out. There is some debate as to whether you should remove the tops of the tubes when you put them in a humidor, or just leave them sealed. I leave mine sealed, but do make sure my humidor is always at the correct humidity level so there is little chance of them drying out. That will keep them safely packed away until I start using them in the summer. Ah, summer.
Well, I’ve changed my mind on that Jordan Peterson book “12 Rules for Life”. I am about three-quarters of the way through it and it is not a great book. Yes, he has some interesting ideas, and two of the chapters are quite readable, but you need to wade and strain through a whole lot of academic wanking and religious dogma. The religious pieces are particularly surprising, as I’d expect a guy like this to be a card-carrying atheist. Saying that, he doesn’t ever really spell out his religious convictions, leaving one to wonder why banters on so incessantly about the bible, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and Moses and the rest of the gang. The “Rules of Life” he builds each chapter around are actually sensible and good, but then within the chapters he goes on and on about things that may be interesting if you are a philosophy egghead or Old Testament aficionado, but seem completely unrelated to the suggested rule. It’s rather annoying. There are nuggets of gold here and there, but you really have to dig for them.
The one chapter I really enjoyed (and was much more accessible than the others) was the one entitled “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”. I love this line! How many times are you out in public and see children behaving like wild animals with their parents standing by, doing nothing to correct their behavior? Peterson says that disciplining children is hard – very hard emotionally on the parents, but it is your absolute duty and responsibility to do this, because if you don’t do it, then somebody else will – and that other person just might be jail.
He thinks parents are basically wimping out by saying things like, “I don’t believe in punishment” or “Let the kids learn to behave on their own”. Children are natural monsters; young kids treat each other in ways that even the worst adults would consider unthinkable. Bullying, beating, ostracizing, humiliating, badgering, torturing, sabotaging – you name it, they will do it. Kids will push and push and test the limits as far as they will go, and if they learn from their parents that there are no limits, and no repercussions, then their parents have just set themselves up for a life of pain, and their kids a world of suffering. If you turn the responsibility for parenting your child to the world, then the world will do just that, but it is going to be a lot harsher and damaging than a responsible parent could have provided.
Kids don’t learn to be responsible, social beings on their own – somebody has to teach them, and your kids are your pups, so the job is up to you. Only the parents are able to do it with the appropriate level of care, understanding, empathy, and severity because they know their child best. Discipline is necessary to create a properly socialized child, one who knows how to share, how to play, how to show kindness, and how to talk to others. Poorly socialized children have terrible lives. Peterson also says that if you don’t discipline your kids by the age of 4 (and preferably 2) then you are too late, because their bad habits and personality is set by that point. Will it sometimes feel like you are going into battle? Yes. But as the parent you are wiser, stronger, and smarter, so you have what it takes to win…but do you have the will?
Does he recommend punishment? Yes he does, unapologetically. But as a parent, you know what is appropriate for your child. For some children, an evil eye or stern glance is sufficient. For others, a time out. Some may require a flick of a finger or a squeeze on the arm. For others, or for something severe (like running out into a busy street without looking), it could be a spanking. The intention is to provide the maximum amount of learning with the minimum amount of pain.
The other idea Peterson brings up often is the value of tradition and history and that we discard, ignore or change these at our own peril. It’s taken us thousands and thousands of generations as humans to build a society that functions, and in most cases we really don’t know why things work, but they do. This is why doing what your parents or grandparents did is usually a pretty good starting point. Following the new and highly advanced parenting recommendations in a book is simply untested and risky.
Do I agree with these ideas? Yes, I do – all of them. I wish this chapter had been available to me when our kids were just born, because it would have validated the methods we chose to discipline our children, which were exactly how our parents disciplined us. I think every parent with young children could really benefit by reading this one chapter. Or, simply do what your parents or grandparents did.
For now, it’s back to winter, and making it through the few months of cold that separate us from the big sailboat launch in May and the glorious summer season. But until then, I have a new project - the reggae band! Stay tuned.