An Open Letter to Bad Parents

June 26, 2009

Dear Parents of Those Terrible Children at the Grocery Store,

My wife and I don’t have kids yet. We’re thinking and praying about it. I feel like my heart is slowly growing into what it needs to be so I can be a godly parent.

But your little prince or princess scares the unholy H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of us, and all the other young childless couples of the world.

Moms, how can you have five screaming “children” clinging to your near lifeless body as you push that grocery cart carrying six gallons of milk and think, “This will be the next 18 years of my life, and I’m okay with that.”? Dads, is this where you wanted to be when you were captain of the football team? How can you be okay with looking like a complete wimp being pushed around by a five-year-old at the hardware store?

I’m not okay with it. Every time I see a screaming child and an impotent parent, it’s like birth control for another month. It makes me want to start a business where I’ll spank your kids for you. No other ‘nanny’ services. I’ll just walk over and do what you seem unable to do, and you pay me ten dollars. Then I’ll turn you over my knee, and you’ll pay me another ten dollars! You make it look as if everything I have, my ambitions, my job, my happiness, my marriage will all be utterly destroyed by a child. You make all the people who should be parents not want to be parents. Is it impossible to raise socially adjusted children? Is it impossible to take children in public and go home with your dignity in tact? Every part of me wants to believe that the child is not terrible, you are just a lousy parent, that this is not normal. But it scares me…

Let me run down the next couple of decades or so for you.

Your kids will rule you. They will not really respect you. Perhaps at some point, you will decide that they need to ‘learn some morals.’ This brilliant thought will come to you in the form of a Vacation Bible School flyer from the local church. You will be disappointed to find that your child is not ‘fixed’ after an entire week in church. You will discover this after you wasted $800 on a new toy for the child as a reward for ‘being good all week.’ You will reward your child with that new Power Wheels child-size Jeep anyway.

A few years later, another opportunity will arise for someone else to straighten out your now rotten kids. One of their friends will invite them to youth group. You will be more than happy to allow another child’s parent to take your child to youth group week after week. Sadly, after six months of you doing everything you can to avoid meeting the youth pastor or demonstrating any interest whatsoever, or God-forbid, going to church with him, your teen will lose interest. Whatever Pastor What’s-His-Face did, it didn’t do any good, and was a waste of all that money you never tithed! Realizing your teen isn’t coming back will break the heart of Pastor What’s-His-Face.

Perhaps at some point in time, it will occur to you that your family should go to church. Those Bible stories were fun when you were a kid, and you ‘always meant to get back.’ However, you will approach this endeavor with the same half of your butt you have used since you began parenting. You will fill your child’s schedule with so many sports, activities, and weekends at ‘The Lake,’ that you will teach your children a not-so-subliminal message that church is the absolute last priority in the family. You will insist on frequent weekend trips to The Lake, even though it is summer vacation, and you and your spouse are both teachers.

Thus, you even screw up your efforts at passing the buck onto the church to ‘teach your kids some morals.’ You will enroll your daughter in some program which pays her a dollar a day to not get pregnant. You will do this because you cannot articulate to her that there are actual benefits to not getting pregnant outside of wedlock, other than an immediate, capitalistic benefit (see: Power Wheels child-size Jeep.) When your kids go to college, the vast majority of them will not consider themselves Christians. They will discover the joys of binge drinking, recreational drug use, and casual sex. They will eventually grow out of this, but they will not return to church…that is, perhaps, until they screw up their own kids.

Okay, my open letter probably doesn’t apply to a lot of you. I’m on a roll because I just looked up an old friend’s Facebook page. I can count on one hand the number of kids in my old youth group who I know considered themselves Christians and remained active through college. Guess which group this guy was in. And God only knows what happened to all those kids who passed through my youth group when I was running it. It breaks my heart to think about. I feel like a failure to think about it, but there’s nothing a youth pastor can do in two hours a week to stem the tide of what’s happening at home.

What do you think when you see out-of-control kids? To the parents out there: what’s the hardest part of the whole thing? To the non-parents: what scares you most?