The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

My Adorable 8-Year-Old Daughter Just Thanked Me for a Turkey Sandwich

Posted on | January 7, 2011 | 16 Comments

Turkey and cheese on a croissant, to be more specific. It happened that Reagan and I were the only ones at home at lunchtime today, so when I went up to the kitchen to pour myself another cup of coffee, she came to me and said, “Dad, could you please fix me some lunch?”

Sure, I said, and she answered, “Thanks! You’re the best Dad ever!”

Perhaps you’re a parent and you’re saying to yourself, “My children have never thanked me for a turkey sandwich. What’s this McCain guy’s secret?”

Two words: Diminished expectations.

OK, maybe that was half-joking — but the other half is serious. When you’ve got six kids, it becomes impractical to over-indulge them or over-protect them.

Kids who don’t get a lot of stuff are grateful for the stuff they get. A big event for our kids is when they get to go to Wal-Mart with Mom and stop at McDonald’s on the way home. Sometimes we splurge and order pizza on Saturday night. With two teenage boys, it takes four large pizzas to feed our family. We have gone 21 years without what most people would call a vacation. (Sorry to break it to you, Grandma Bittner, but North-Central Ohio isn’t exactly a premier resort destination. Have you considered moving to Orlando?)

You probably think this is just another excuse to rattle the tip jar — and hey, I seldom miss a chance to do that — but there is a serious point to this. Over-indulged children have an unfortunate tendency to become ungrateful little brats who never say “thank you” for a turkey sandwich. One reason people don’t have more children is because of social and cultural pressures (a set of prejudices, really) which tell them that children must have things that are actually luxuries:

“Intensive parenting” norms have more to do with the anxieties of upper-middle-class women than with the welfare of children.

That’s Professor Glenn Reynolds, talking about factors that have “contributed to the ‘baby bust.'” You should read the whole thing, because he’s the Blogfather and an Instalanche is like a turkey sandwich.


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