CTFD was first endorsed by parenting authorities this past summer. Especially now that my kids are teenagers, I see the wisdom of CTFD, or “Calm The F*ck Down.”
Most parenting advice focuses on kids. This is a real problem. Kids are fine as is. It’s parents who clearly need help, and this is where CTFD is essential.
No more black and white mobiles designed to stimulate an infant’s brain. No more flash cards in Chinese or French or Farsi. No more teaching two-year-olds sign language or obsessively mashing your own homegrown organic sweet potatoes. No more kindergarten admissions consultants. No more going on interviews with your children (at any age, but definitely not when they are older than five).
I cannot believe I did all that stuff.
I cannot believe my kids survived it.
But I’d like to stipulate an explanation. This may be necessary in years to come when sociologists look back at parenting from the 1990s through the first two decades of this millennium, and wonder: how could intelligent grown-ups have been so stupid when it came to raising kids?
Parents are stupid. Blinded by love and mad devotion to our children. We are deeply committed to getting this parenting gig right, to using our passion and educations and ambitious standards to raise the bar so our children will have even better childhoods than we did. Thus the Tiger Moms, the Helicopter Parents, the adults who fought teachers, coaches, other parents and the entire world – to help our children be the best they could be!
Along the way, a lot of parents did real good.
Autism is now an openly accepted, treated syndrome – instead of a shameful affliction that meant you had to send your child away to an institution for life.
Girls are educated for careers and economic independence, not home ec.
Bullying is no longer considered an inevitable elementary school extracurricular experience.
Playgrounds, sidewalks, entryways and toys have been reconfigured so that children with physical and mental disabilities are not excluded from childhood rites.
The rates of teen pregnancy, teen drunk driving deaths, and teen drug and alcohol abuse have all declined steadily, largely due to greater parental intervention.
But still, most of us uber-parents whose children were born from 1990 to 2010, wielding our multiplication grids, quizzing our children about geography on long car rides, forcing them to take piano and tai kwan do and peewee soccer whether they enjoyed it or not – we were lemmings.
Driven by profound love turned to terror that our children would somehow be inferior or left behind. It is up to historians to explain why well-educated, financially secure parents in one of the most affluent nations in the world were so irrationally worried about the well-being of our offspring.
In the meantime, I offer this advice to parents whose children are younger than eleven: try Calm The F*ck Down NOW. You need to practice CTFD daily for the next several years so that it becomes a kneejerk response when your kids hit puberty. Because Helicopter Parenting, Tiger Motherhood, and Free Range Parenting are all disasters once your kids become teenagers. You either break them, or they break you. Neither outcome is the rosy picture you imagined the day they were born.
“Mom, I DON’T KNOW when I’m going to be home tonight and you can’t make me answer my iPhone.”
“Mom, you are the most embarrassing mother on the planet. Please pick me up around the corner from school, not at school.”
“I don’t see how pot can be bad for you. It’s legal in Colorado and Washington.”
“Miley Cyrus does it.”
“I think Rihanna kinda asked for it.”
“Condoms are stupid.”
“I found a study online that proves you are wrong about that.”
“Who was Bob Woodward again?”
The balance of power between kids and adults shifts irrevocably during adolescence. When it comes to parent v. teen, my money is always on the teenager. Even sweet, lovely, law-abiding teenagers like my own. The diabolical intersection of brain growth and devious rebelliousness programmed by Mother Nature, will invariably beat out parents’ aging brains and bodies, whose middle age slow down is also designed by Mother Nature. If we’re not careful, all that teenaged mojo will be deployed to destroy all that mutual love, self-esteem, and healthy synapses we so painstakingly built up in our kids over the first decade of their lives.
So: time to CTFD.
What makes you want to tell other parents to calm the f*ck down?