Softass American Parenting

June 2nd, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Diana

I have two older male cousins that grew up in the suburbs–okay, back woods–of Indiana during the early eighties. Their mom was like a military sergeant–she filled their days with a very specific and lengthy hygiene regimen, hours of rote memorization, and what felt like immersion music lessons. There were no birthday parties or after-school hangouts with friends (who needs friends?) or riding bikes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. When eating, they couldn’t have a sip of Pepsi without finishing an entire 1-gallon bowl of soup, even if it took hours–but you better believe the sweltering drink was taunting them from about six inches away the entire time. Sound fun? You betcha.

The worst was when either of the boys did something bad, which was rare. They’d be punished with such severity that few of us rarely even confirmed the details. Groundings could last months (years?), and public shaming was common. When one of my cousins spent half of a day holding a heavy ceramic bowl over his head, while bent on his knees, on gravelly yard, we all wondered aloud if there wasn’t just a little guerrilla in every Vietnamese uncle.

I know what you’re thinking– Diana’s family sounds creepy and batshit crazy! ME TOO! I’ve believed for years that the punishers on my mom’s side of genealogy chart have some kind of chart-topping sadistic hormone levels that make no sense to normal humans. Still, they set the bar very high–there must be some reason why I laugh every time I see a kid in Brentwood get in trouble (“Caleb, if you don’t stop screaming bloody murder after three minutes, Mommy is not going to by you a Wii! Caleb, do you want to sit in the Benz alone, with the nanny, while Mommy and Daddy finish their wedge salads? Fine. Then take this cashmere blanket with you because it’s cold”), right?

All I know is that nobody with my blood would have dealt with two dozen teenage barbarians that trashed Robert Frost’s historic home (see some of the damage in the photo above) with a raging keg party over Christmas…by having them to take a class in his poetry.

Oh yeah, that’ll teach ‘em.


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