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How to Raise an Ungrateful Child

Copyright 1997. Bruce A. Epstein. All Rights Reserved.

Whereas nine months of body-morphing hormones gradually prepared my wife for motherhood, my passage into fatherhood was akin to Scott Bakula's transformations in "Quantum Leap". For reasons entirely unclear to me, my wife was the only one offered anesthesia.

The toughest part of parenting is the barrage of daily decisions. Which hair dryer setting will prevent diaper rash, while avoiding chapped skin? Is a champagne cork really the best substitute for a lost pacifier? Do pizza and jelly form a complete protein? When you run out of milk, will melted Cool Whip® suffice? Shockingly, none of these were covered in the FAQ that came with the baby, nor in "Parenting for Dummies".

Despite my pleas, friends and relatives steadfastly refused to offer any child-rearing advice. "I pushed a twelve pound baby through my pelvis without the benefit of an epidural, so quit your whining!", and, "I raised quintuplets while plowing the fields without a horse," were typical responses. We can only break the vicious cycle by providing parents with the tools they need to master child-rearing. Therefore, I dedicate this essay, "How to Raise an Ungrateful Child" to my daughters.

The key to raising an ungrateful child is to let them know that they were born into a caste system, which they would otherwise misinterpret as mere hypocrisy on your part. Clip and save these helpful tips: Eat Cheetohs® and ice cream in plain view, while offering them only mashed vegetables and white rice. Relegate them to bed before falling asleep in front of the TV. In the supermarket, point out that you have a wallet and credit cards, while they do not. Emphasize your point by buying Fruit Loops® for yourself, and unsweetened oatmeal for them. The key phrase to remember is "not for", as in, "Candy is not for breakfast", "Beer is not for babies", and "Dress clothes are not for playing".

Applied properly, these techniques will rapidly produce ungrateful children. They will wake before dawn, throw food without provocation or warning, and hold back just enough pee or poop for the fresh diaper. They will ignore their toys in favor of sewing needles, expensive jewelry and anything on which they might choke. They will catch colds prior to every airplane ride, fake ear infections just for the chance to spit medicine all over you, and pretend to be teething just to get their Anbesol® fix. Your eighteen month old will insist on running around naked, and peeing on the floor. (Your only option is to resort to the video camera and save the tape for her senior prom).

Your child will ensure that at least one parent is always sleep-deprived, the linchpin of the classic "divide and conquer" strategy. On the positive side, sleep-deprivation leads to an increased willingness to share ("It's your turn honey...") and a new-found religious zeal ("Dear God, please let me sleep another five minutes..."). If you muster the time or energy for conjugal visits with your spouse, you will have fallen into your child's perfectly lain trap. A second child, conceived during five minutes of blissful liberation, will inevitably be turned to the Dark Side by the elder child, as surely as the Emperor turned Vader.

While seemingly at odds with each other, your children will secretly conspire to ensure that at least one of them constantly requires attention (the "Tag-Team" approach). You must summon all your will, and close ranks! Enlist the assistance of various teenage baby-sitters to whom you would not have ordinarily entrusted your cat. (Take along the cell phone to assuage your guilt).

The balance of power will see-saw back and forth for two, three or even four decades, until your children have children of their own. At that point, in the guise of asking for advice, they will ask you to raise their children for them. Do not fall into this trap! If you admit that it is incredibly difficult to raise children without assistance, you have reconciled yourself to another twenty-year tour of duty!

Your must downplay the immensity of the challenge that lies before them. Tell them that it was no big deal to raise them, and that you could raise their kids with one hand tied behind your back. This will perpetuate their long held belief that they practically raised themselves, and you will have succeeded admirably in your quest to raise an ungrateful child.

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Copyright © 1996-1997. Bruce A. Epstein. All Rights Reserved.