Did I Say That? The joys of parenting

The absolutely annoying thing about family life is that everyone wants to tell you how to raise your kids. Even your kids.

If I had as much free advice about my investment portfolio, I’d be sitting in an office with Warren Buffett today … and having him run out to Starbucks to get me a matcha latte.

Of course, child rearing has always been a controversial topic in America, and people like Hillary Clinton will tell you it takes a village, or possibly a reform school, to get the job done right.

The kids you thought had five-star child-rearing are often the ones who turn to a life of crime — or politics — and you can read about their accomplishments in the police blotter. And the ones who got the worst parenting are sometimes the ones who turn into Mother Teresa or Megyn Kelly.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve lamented to my wife, “After all we did for these kids!” or “We gave them everything and this is the reward we get!” or “If we gave them nothing, they would have appreciated us more!”            

Does this sound familiar or is it the ranting of a father who read too many books by Dr. Spock, when he could have gotten better advice from Mr. Spock. Live long and prosper … so you can leave it all to your kids!

As hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to crack the Rosetta Stone of perfect parenting, although I’m pretty sure that love has something to do with it. Real love, not the stuff Rihanna sings about. Love your kids with all your heart and try to be patient, and despite the dark days, there will be light at the end of the parenting tunnel. Someday. I’ve seen the light. I just hope it’s not a near-death experience.

Parenting teaches us that love is about sacrifice. Love is giving. Love is not taking. Love is giving with no thought of getting anything in return, so lower your expectations.

Parenting never ends. You’ll be in Shady Knoll Retirement Home for Baby Boomers in a room with Mick Jagger and you’ll still be getting calls from your daughter, who wants to borrow money for a new tattoo or a Harley.

When it comes to parenting, everyone’s an expert. When our first daughter arrived, my parents and in-laws had all the answers. They told us what to do and what to stop doing. We were giving the kids too much. We weren’t disciplining them enough. We were disciplining them too much. They were involved in too many activities. They weren’t involved in enough activities. To the outside world, the kids weren’t the problem — we were.

By the time the fourth daughter came along, they had stopped giving us advice and we were taking directions from our kids, who still complain about their upbringing. They didn’t get a driver’s license at 16 like Allison Liebowitz, they didn’t have dancing lessons like Britney Spears, they had to go to work like Charles Dickens, and they didn’t have a cleaning lady, a governess and a personal shopper like Tinsley Mortimer. And why the heck didn’t we pay for body piercings?

Parenthood is arguably the most unappreciated job in the world. The pay is poor, the hours are long and there’s little job satisfaction … at least until you have grandchildren and can watch your kids tear their hair out when the little darlings have tantrums and sass back.

When I see how my daughters are raising their kids, I struggle to keep quiet because I know the conversation will work its way back to how we raised them. They think they can learn everything they need to know on the Internet. My parents never had the Internet. They followed the hit-or-miss school of parenting — they hit, if they missed, we ran. Our kids try to reason with their children, but that only works if they’re named Plato or Aristotle.

They’re experts in parenting, not to mention dog training. They told us we dropped the ball when it came to raising pets because we gave the dog too much attention, too much affection, too many treats … and not enough discipline. Is it too late to start disciplining adult children?

Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]