Monday, May 26, 2008


I just finished reading another one of those books where a bright and witty young author uses dysfunctional family/childhood memories to sell a million books and end up on the New York Times bestseller list.

This particular book was called The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. But if it’s not The Glass Castle, it’s Dress Your Children in Corduroy and Denim or Angela’s Ashes or Mommy Dearest or any one of another trillion or so books where childhood recollections of the social-services-intervention type become the basis for a prize-winning, multi-million dollar book deal.

Pul-eeze! If their childhood was so-o-o bad, then how did the authors end up functional enough to write a funny book in which their parents were completely incompetent and borderline jailable—and they were the plucky, goal-driven heroes/heroines? Children from really dysfunctional homes end up in prison making license plates, not going to Harvard on a liberal arts scholarship.

Luckily, so far I have escaped being busted. For years, I have been an amateur, untrained parent—muddling my way through, hoping that none of my children will write an expose about their experiences. I’m still living in fear, worried that someday one of them will go into therapy and recall those memories I so carefully repressed in them. Therefore, I have this piece of advice for anyone who is a new parent or about to become a parent: Don’t teach your children to write.

If your children seem interested in the alphabet, distract them. “Mommy, what’s this squiggly thing called?” “Nothing, dear. Evil people call it an ‘s,’ but it’s really the mark of Satan used by children to break their mothers’ hearts.” “Mommy, all the other kids in kindergarten are learning to write their names. Can I, mom? Can I?” “Sorry, ¥β ©®∑ ∞, your name can only be pronounced out loud, not actually written.”

A series of excuses should get you through the most persistent requests, usually in elementary school, until your children arrive in middle school—at which time they will have replaced a desire to write with starting a grunge band in the garage.

So unless you want to find yourself the subject of yet another best-selling book dealing with family dysfunction and abusive childhoods, just say no. Writing is a highly overrated skill that can come back to bite you. Your children will be much better off in the long run just learning practical skills, like artificially inseminating turkeys

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