A follow-up to ‘101 experiences I want my daughter to have’
My name is Daniel Phnut. I write a parenting blog called Daddy Burns the Salad, and you should totally check it out. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece entitled 101 Experiences I Want My Daughter To Have and tagged in The Dad Website via Twitter.
Soon after, I received an email from their editor, stating that he liked the article, but that there were several experiences that people might find controversial, questionable, downright irresponsible, or struggle to understand. (Although he put it much nicer than that, lovely chap.)
1. Be in a car crash – not a serious car accident, but a minor prang
6. Hate someone
13. Get punched – not too hard, and I fervently hope not by someone you love (otherwise I’ll be getting all punchy as well)
16. Be badly behaved
19. Tell an adult off to the point where they break down
36. Break a bone
44. Have a really crap relationship with a complete loser, but make it brief
52. Have someone insult you to the point where it makes you cry, and never let it happen again
I was asked whether I’d elaborate and explain my thinking on these eight points, as to why a father would want their daughter to have these experiences. So here goes.
Being in a minor collision is a salutary experience. For one thing, it teaches you that road safety is of absolute importance. We forget, when we’re in our little metal wheely bubbles, how quickly things can go badly wrong. We see car crashes all the time on television and in films, and it gives us little empathy for the violence and destruction of the event. I’ve had a few minor prangs as both a driver (not always my fault!), and as a passenger, and the one thing it gives you (apart from whiplash) is a respect for the dangers of the road.
This is a respect my daughter should have all her life, and if it is enforced by one little crunch, it would serve as a timely and permanent reminder not to take road safety for granted.
Oh, it’s totally negative, I know, but it’s an experience I think all of us need. It’s far better, and more positive if the object of our hatred is a distant figure we see on TV – a politician, a historical figure, a sports person, an annoying pop star (for example, Justin Bieber), a reality TV celebrity, or someone who is portrayed in the media as being a reprehensible uncouth thug (eg. Justin Bieber). Because then we don’t encounter them in real life (unless you’re unlucky enough to encounter Justin Bieber).
If it’s someone we know personally, then it can either be a motivator (as in, I want to be better in life than that person) or as a rejection of values and morals (as in, that’s the sort of person I do NOT want to be).
In any case, that hatred works as a driving force for betterment.
For example, hating racists, psychopaths, bullies, dictators, selfish and greedy politicians, and child abusers seems pretty reasonable, yes? Nobody rational would admit to liking Hitler, after all. Of course, it’s possible that some hatred is generated by jealousy, and that’s where hatred can be too negative, destructive, and irrational. Therein lies the chance for self-improvement, rationalisation, reconciliation and forgiveness, all of which are noble achievements in life and are extremely liberating, and skills which I want to encourage my daughter to acquire for her own good. A life of bitterness is one thing I don’t want her to experience.
A horrible experience, but again like car crashes, one that is all too common on TV and in film, and it’s recklessly portrayed in a glib fashion. It is a dangerous and unpleasant experience that in real life needs to be avoided at all costs. Of course, I don’t want my daughter to get punched by anyone. But if she does, I hope she will take steps to ensure it never happens to her again. If someone close to her dares hit her, I want her to be able to cut that person out of her life without a moment’s pause.
Be badly behaved.
A little bit of bad behaviour is not the worst thing in the world. It depends greatly on how you define “bad behaviour”. In my daughter’s case, I hope it will manifest as a willingness to stand up to authority, to question rules that are placed before her, to show disrespect for people who deserve it, to be irreverent in the face of overbearing pomposity and stifling conformity, to disobey a rule that is morally questionable, and to indulge in a little illicit fun every now and again.
Tell an adult off to the point where they break down.
Children should, in my opinion, learn to argue effectively, rationally, and concisely without resorting to bullying and ad hominem attacks. I do not want my daughter to be a pushover, nor do I want her to cave into other people’s more aggressive arguments. I want her to control her temper in a stressful confrontation, be confident and quick-witted, knowledgeable and sharp-minded, and someone to be respected for her stance. If, in an argument, she can use her head to win, without resorting to childishness or impulse, and do this to a point where her opponent can be either convinced to change their mind, can apologise for their part, or be verbally beaten into submission, then that is something I can be proud of. Especially if she learns to be magnanimous in victory.
And yes, I want my daughter to be able to stand up to me when it is necessary. Children who cannot argue – against a parent, a friend, a bully, or a teacher – run the risk of being easily dominated in later life, and the sort of person who avoids confrontation. I want my daughter to be a formidable opponent of anyone who opposes her.
Children should learn to argue effectively, rationally, and concisely without resorting to bullying and ad hominem attacks.
Break a bone.
Well, it doesn’t hurt to have your wings clipped. No… wait, it super-does. Breaking a bone is a miserable experience, and I don’t ever actually want my daughter to be in plaster, but again, it’ll make her aware of her body’s own fragility. Having the realisation of a skeleton’s brittle nature, and the experience of the tedium and worry of an A&E visit is, in the long term, a very important lesson to learn. And once you’ve done it, you don’t want to do it again. Unless you’re really weird.
Have a really crap relationship with a complete loser, but make it brief.
It would be lovely to have a life where all our romantic relationships are conducted with brilliant and inspiring people, but it doesn’t work that way. In my experience, the most enriching and educational relationships are with completely useless people – again, once you’ve experienced it. Look, I’ve done it, my wife has done it (and I’m told it’s not me, thank goodness), and most of my friends have had short relationships with some utter fools, and we’ve all come out of them wiser people. I would far rather my daughter kisses a frog or two before she meets her Prince Charming, because how would you know when you’ve found the right one unless you’ve blundered into the wrong one at least once? I think the ‘make it brief’ bit says it all. We’ve all made errors of judgement from time to time; the key is to recognise things aren’t working, realise that you are being taken in by an idiot, and get out as quickly as possible. The people who don’t, and try to ‘stick it out’, endure a lifetime of crapness.
Have someone insult you to the point where it makes you cry, and never let it happen again.
Being insulted is an awful thing. It’s humiliating, degrading, and if it’s from someone you know, it can seriously harm your trust in people. It’s not something I would wish on my daughter, but she will experience it at some point. I would rather it only happens to her once. Once she’s got over it, I hope she will never again let someone break her in that way, and she learns how to cope with it internally, and how to respond with confidence, dignity, and power. It’s a worrying thing that, especially for my daughter’s generation, modern social communication means that insults of the worst kind are prevalent and commonplace, and very often, carried out through anonymity. Shielding my daughter from such language and attacks are going to be increasingly difficult for me as she becomes more independent, and the longer she’s protected from it, the eventual experience will be more shattering.
How she deals with such personal attacks is the armour which will defend her in the long run. And if she learns that people are not to be taken either for granted, or on face-value alone, or to assume the best about someone, then she would be wiser. OK, perhaps more cynical, but I’d rather that than have her insulted in a way that exposes her naivety, and without the verbal and psychological tools at her disposal.
So there you have it.