A Modern Guide to Child Rearing

©1989 J. Landman Gay
Originally published in the online magazine Zip Beep.

Developing a workable set of rules for raising your child is a combination of creativity, intuition, and luck. It’s important to give some attention to what kind of person you want your child to grow up to be, what kind of person you are yourself, and most importantly, what kind of person may be watching and whether or not they might report you to the authorities.

Two sets of rules are convenient: one for public use and one for private. Children are not confused by this. On the contrary, it can be an effective way teach the double standard they will need to survive as adults in our society.

It is not inappropriate to incorporate a few of the old rules handed down by generations of mothers and grandmothers. The most important of these is Rule Number One:

Rule Number One:
When you feel chilly, put a sweater on your child.

Don’t be swayed if the child protests he is not cold. You are bigger and you know better. Of course, you can’t always tell if the child is connected to the universe in the same way you are. Their bodies, being smaller, may release heat more quickly than your own great big adult body. There is no sure way to tell exactly what is going on with them and, being children, they’ll be damned if they’re going to tell you. Therefore, the natural corollary to Rule Number One is:

Rule Number One, Corollary:
When you feel too warm, put a sweater on your child.

This is a win-win situation that makes decision-making a snap. It is no wonder mothers have relied on it for centuries.

Everyone knows that babies have delicate constitutions. This is easily borne out by the fact that they will unabashedly reject, in one form or another, anything you put into them. There are two schools of thought on how to deal with this. One faction claims that the total environment must be sterile. Pacifiers, toys, or anything the child contacts must be bleached daily. This group consists of one’s relatives who have never had children and most mothers-in-law. The other faction, mostly parents, believes germ theory rests on a broader base. They believe that if you expose babies gradually to the bacteria that abide in our environment, their little immune system will kick in and they will be stronger for the exposure. Babies do produce antibodies. Faction Two maintains that God made babies just like us adults, only smaller and with less sense of propriety.

Therefore, which rule you follow depends on whether you are with a member of the first faction or the second. If you are with one of the first group, you should follow Rule Number Two, Subcategory One:

Rule Number Two, 1:
Any amount of dirt, no matter how little, will infect the child.

At the first drip of strained peas, the parent must instantly remove all clothing and thoroughly scrub the entire body surface of the child. It’s also not a bad idea to carry a cloth on your person so you can catch drool before it drops. In the eyes of a Faction One person, this makes you a Good Parent. In their ideal universe, parents would wash and change their children on a non-stop basis, except when they are autoclaving the dog. If you are alone in your home, however, you may wish to modify the above rule, provided no one is watching. Rule Number Two, Subcategory Two states:

Rule Number Two, 2:
If it won’t kill them, so what.

Bathe the child when your mother-in-law is coming to visit, or when anything is growing on them. Be discriminating here. Dried applesauce, for example, can look alive under the right kinds of light, but it isn’t. Then again, given enough time, it could be.

Another difficulty in raising children is getting them to eat what you eat. It is a rare child who will swallow what is put in front of them without at least a minimal complaint. Some parents go to extreme lengths to force the child to eat, making them sit at the table for long hours after the meal, leaving them to stare balefully into a dish of sauerkraut or Brussels sprouts. Others play games like “Here Comes the Airplane Into the Hangar” in the naive hope that this will make the child forget what is really going on. A child with his eyes focused on a glob of spinach flying through the air toward his face is unlikely to forget what the real point of this game is. Besides, flying spinach makes a good target when the flailing and warding-off gestures begin, and the parent is more likely than not to get it in the face. No, the best way to get the child to eat what you eat is to follow Rule Number Three:

Rule Number Three:
Don’t feed the family anything the child won’t eat.

If this means you live on peanut butter and hot dogs for a couple of years, at least you won’t be burdened with menu planning, an affliction that is only for compulsives anyway. After a while, the kid will get tired of the same old cuisine and when he’s old enough he will suggest, even insist, you start going out to MacDonald’s on a regular basis. By then, you’ll be ready to classify a Big Mac right up there with Peking Duck and Chateaubriand.

Most children have difficulty going to bed. It is normal and to be expected. If you have checked the child to make sure there is nothing medically or psychologically wrong with him, try threats. They work -- once, anyway. A good-night hug and a cheerful, “Go to sleep this minute or you won’t live to see the morning,” is good. It is wise to keep a sense of humor and bear in mind Rule Number Four:

Rule Number Four:
Children are only sleepy until you put them in bed.

Even a child who has fallen asleep with his head in the cat bowl will awaken fully refreshed at bedtime. Use this period of sudden alertness to the child’s advantage. Get a small tape player and some good children’s tapes, such as Sesame Street, Raffi, Subliminal French Lessons, or anything by Country Joe and the Fish. With the child in bed, put in a tape and turn the volume up all the way. Your child can wail like a professional mourner but you won’t hear it and it won’t bother you. No child can possibly out-scream Country Joe MacDonald.

There will be other rules you will have to determine while raising your child. Hopefully these suggestions will get you started toward a workable set that the entire family can live with. And if your Faction One unmarried relatives comment on your techniques, don’t let it bother you. Make quick reservations for a two week cruise to Jamaica and arrange to leave the child with them. By the time you get back, they will undoubtedly have appended some of their own rules to the list.


Code Bits

  • On-Rev CGI example: A rotating image display that uses very little code, thanks to iRev scripting. Gives you a look at my own garden flowers too.

  • CGIs in irev pages. Combine old-style Rev CGIs with on-rev scripts.


  • MadLibs Make a crazy story. You never know what you'll get. Madlibs is an experiment using posted data within an iRev script.

Jacque’s pen

The birds