What Genre of Parent Are You?

Child in monkey costume

I dropped my grade-nine son off at school this morning, and as I’m listening to him chatter, I noticed a difference from previous years. Amongst the predictable griping — about getting up early, teachers who sleep-instruct while they mark the years until retirement, and his limited lunch menu — were the audible stirrings of personal ambition. He’s decided this is the year he’ll apply himself. He wants to get outstanding marks. Most critically, he doesn’t wish to obtain them for the ToolMaster and I, or the educational staff, but for himself.

Then it struck me: we’d moved from one type of life literature to another.

When children are young, most of them require external consequences to modify their behavior. They want to eat a purple popsicle over Auntie’s white carpet; we say no. Depending on their age and our abilities, we might explain our rationale, distract, or offer alternatives. For some time, we might even retain control of the situation. But depend up on it; at some point they’ll test us and we’ll need to impose external consequences. (Or else the hairless spider monkeys will have us cranking the organ grinder for the next several decades.)  

This is genre fiction. Our children possess a clear external goal, we directly oppose it, and depending upon the family, conflict is visible in tantrums, purpled sofas and time-outs. Tired kid meets grocery story. Our red cheeks come from the drumming heels, the screams and the judgemental whispers.

At some point, though, if we’ve done our jobs, our kids internalize the rules. The tension that arises is now from the gap between their own expectations of themselves and their performance.

“There will be no video games until you’ve done your science project,” becomes silence on our part, for the gap gives them room to think. And into the vacuum they begin to feel their own discomfort. Maybe they think: “I feel like crap right now. I’ll get that science project done, then reward myself with video games.”

There. Genre parenting just became literary parenting. 🙂

So what kind of parent are you? A thriller parent? A literary fantasy? An I’d-never-write-romance-in-a-thousand-years-Nicholas-Sparks?


10 thoughts on “What Genre of Parent Are You?

  1. I’m not sure I can pick a genre for my style. I’m more a WIP (work in progress) at parenting. I used to be an overblown “tell not show” kind with an excess of backstory. Ha. I’ve developed a sparer style, that allows the story to unfold with less words, which seems to result in a better plot and more dialogue. There’s also more suspense as the characters reveal themselves, but I like it better, and I know they do too. And BTW, I have a son entering 9th Grade as well, who seems to be developing an awareness of his future and the need to ‘get serious’ now that he’s in high school. 🙂

  2. Deborah, ha! You made me laugh with the excess of backstory line. 😀 Of late, I’ve been told I’m an oral infodumper, myself.

    In Canada our middle school ends after grade nine, so “Frank” understands this is an pivotal year that will impact his high school choices. Good luck to your son, and to his work-in-progress mom.

  3. This is a sad, sad thing to confess, but it’s true so hang on. I (big deep breath) am an over-the-hill-used-to-be-popular-but-now-just-churn-out-the-same-story-over-and-over-because-I-can-see-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-mortgage-tunnel kinda parent.

    In other words, like many authors who shall remain nameless (they know who they are, no need to publicly shame them) I have probably stopped putting my best work forward years ago, only re-creating my favorite tropes again and again in the hopes that it will help me reach some ending goal. In this case: my boy’s personal ascent into adulthood and happiness of his own making.

    I told you it was sad. I don’t feel good about it, but it’s true.

  4. I’m the stepmommy, so I’m still pretty cool (she’s only 6). I’m the one she wants to read to her, put her to bed, do bathtime, etc. (I have a stepmommy blog too… http://www.anewstepmommy.blogspot.com) I don’t know what genre I’d be, but it’s interesting to consider. I really don’t know. Probably a bit of the humor genre, joking around and laughing and playing games. My stepdaughter’s an only child, so there’s a lot of entertaining to do there…so humor, definitely.

  5. Oddly enough, I think I’m a cozy mystery parent… Definitely still need to string out the consequences–the son was internally motivated once upon a time, but now he’s in middle school and is SOCIALLY motivated, rather than caring about being perceived as smart. The daughter is just going to have to marry well or be discovered. I said cozy mystery though, because in addition to the consequences that don’t always work the way that would be expected (lots of mishaps and backfiring) I am fairly zany. I hear a lot of ‘you’re so wierd, mom’.

  6. Actually I’m more of a pet person than a parent. Although the groomer says she wants to come back as my dog. I’d better stock up on kibble!

    However, I have fun telling my friends’ children things that simply don’t seem to occur to parents…like how tricky it is for the airplane to go retrieve the weather balloon. Oddly enough they seem to sense when I’ve been talking to their kids. Must be some sort of parental instinct thing. 😉

  7. Hart, LOL, I’d love to know what your kids think of your blog. And that’s interesting about the parallel between your genre and way of life… I’m going to have to think about that further.

    Phyllis, I suspect you’d be your friends’ children’s favorite aunt-type. They certainly would never be bored. 🙂

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