Soap Box is a chance for others to use the Whitelines platform to express their views, have a rant or just scream SNOWBOARDING into the eternal void of the internet. These opinions are not necessarily those of the WL editorial staff.
It is an unfortunate truth that the moment you have children, you become a dick.
It is an unfortunate truth that the moment you have children, you become a dick. Or at least, you become a dick when you start talking about your children.
Despite having more or less exactly the same DNA, and being nurtured in a way that will (in all likelihood) be identical to the way you were brought up (even if you believe that you are doing it totally different from how your folks did it), you will somehow think that your children are going to be way more talented than you were.
As such, every time they slot a coloured wooden block into the correct hole, or learn a new word, manage to dribble a football more than two yards or even slip sideways on a snowboard – you will think they are a genius who can conquer the world. Don’t beat yourself up about it, everyone drinks the same delusional potion once they have procreated – but if you drink too deeply it is all too easy to start behaving like a total wanker and ruin your kids’ lives.
Here are some tips for skirting just below the total wanker threshold and not mentalising your children.
NB. There is nothing quite as incendiary as telling other people how to go about parenting, so I fully expect you to hate me after reading this. Which is OK, my boss and my wife hate me too. And I have made most of these mistakes myself, so this is the ultimate “do as I say, not as I do" advice – the type of advice at which most parents typically excel.
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You are being a dick if you are boasting
You will find that most people adopt one of two strategies when talking about their children’s exploits:
A) Boast Really Blatantly
“Jonny is amazing. He picked up switch within three hours, and was boardsliding a ten stair rail just moments after he came out of my wife’s fanny. He takes after me."
B) Boast Subtly
“Well, we weren’t really pushing him into it, but Jonny really loves snowboarding."
“Oh, how sweet, little kids look so cute on snowboards"
“Yes, Brad Keenan dropped us a line a couple of weeks back after he saw a clip on Vimeo. He and Jonny may spend a bit of time together this summer, but it’s nothing major."
“That will be nice"
“Yes. We just want him to be happy."
“He looks a bit sad at the moment though…"
“I know, poor little cherub, he is still teething."
Irrespective of whether you adopt the “we rule" attitude to communicating your offspring’s successes, or the more prevalent “we rule, but I want you to work it out for yourself based on a series of well-placed hints", you are being a dick if you are boasting.
You may not be spouting off about little Jonny’s grasp of Mandarin, prodigious talent on the viola or his match-winning century in the Lords Taverner’s cricket tournament – but you are every bit as bad as the next Desperate Competitive Housewife if you are trying to make yourself look good by talking about how brilliant your child is. Stop doing it, it annoys people.
Stop Filming/Posting Videos
There was a time when a video of a 6 year old kid linking turns would generate millions of YouTube hits. These days, if your kid isn’t doing double inverts by the time they reach their ninth birthday, your video posting is utterly meaningless to anyone other than you. A bit like wedding photos. No one else gives a shit.
Just imagine if your spouse/partner videoed all your lovemaking and then posted it online so that people could compare the size of your winkie/breasts to professional porn stars...
What’s more, can you imagine what it must be like to have someone filming you every time you snowboard? “No pressure Jonny, but you’d better do something pretty radical soon because the GoPro is running out of battery and this clip is going be too long to edit. Come on, jump. Come on, 360! Hit that rail. Don’t be a pussy!!"
By videoing and posting, not only are you heaping bucket loads of expectation on their little shoulders whenever they ride with you - you are then committing their exploits to electronic servers in the internet which will ensure their sketchy frontside 180 is available for the whole world to see, forever. Or at least until the world explodes because of an asteroid strike.
Just imagine if your spouse/partner videoed all your lovemaking and then posted it online so that people could compare the size of your winkie/breasts to professional porn stars. What a nightmare. That is what it must feel like to be a kid snowboarding these days.
Don't Force Them Into Competitions
I am actually a believer in competition. To me, pretty much the worst thing in the whole world (way above global thermonuclear war, the Ebola virus and people selling fake Air Jordans on eBay) is a sports day where the kids don’t actually race. However, when it comes to snowboarding, outright competition for groms just doesn’t feel right.
What is the best case scenario? That your child ends up a pro snowboarder? In other words, they end up poor and with a weird Euromerican accent.
What is the best case scenario? That your child ends up a pro snowboarder? In other words, they end up poor, with a weird Euromerican accent, spend most of their time in cheap hotels and getting pinged for overweight baggage before starting a snowboard-specific underwear company doomed to failure.
The worst case is that you turn something you used to love doing (but were never that great at) into the equivalent of high-stress piano lessons for your kids, and ensure that your holidays and leisure time descend into a series of technical drills which involve you crushing the creative force and joy out of your children in the pursuit of competitive snowboarding excellence (or more likely, typically British mediocrity).
“Hey Dad, it’s snowing really hard now, can we shred some pow?"
“No Jonny, you need to learn to pretzel out, we are not leaving the park until you have done five in a row so I know you’ve got it on lock."
That sounds like fun doesn’t it?
Admittedly, for some kids, competing in snowboarding will be instinctive and even enjoyable. Some kids will get a kick out of winning or pushing themselves against people better than them – and without that vital competitive instinct we would never have had a Jenny Jones or a Jamie Nicholls to cheer on in the next 'Lympics.
Competition isn’t inherently bad, but be careful not to trick yourself into thinking you are doing what is best for the kids when you slip a bib over their helmet then tell them to focus on getting their stock run in first to get a score on the board, when in fact they would rather be doing some colouring in.
Hang Out With Skiers
A good way to bring your kids back down to earth if they are getting too cocky is to hang out with skiing kids.
I love hanging out with snowboard people, who as a breed are awesome. However, they also happen to find snowboarding groms really cute/cool, and will happily say so to their faces. This makes the kids feel special, which is nice if you are American and believe in constant positive re-enforcement as a parenting technique, but for Brits creates a risk that your kids will start strutting round like, well, Americans. Full of themselves.
A good way to bring your kids back down to earth if they are getting too cocky is to hang out with skiing kids. This can be humbling for a mini-shred, because (as a generalisation) skiing kids go faster. Speed is the most basic benchmark of competence for a child, and thus I have found it useful from time to time for the kids to chase a skier for a couple of hours to temper their bravado.
Let Them Figure It Out For Themselves
I am particularly bad at this. When we go to the skate park, my girls just want to go on their scooters, not their skateboards. I am mortified by their two-wheeled preference, mainly because it reflects badly on me and calls into question the authenticity of the scuffs on my skate shoes. This is pathetic.
If you find yourself trying to manage your kids’ likes and dislikes to make them cool (I have even told my daughters off for making their stickers too perpendicular, which I realise is something that not even a Vice magazine contributor with neck tattoos and a 3D printer would do) then you are being a dick and will almost certainly end up with miserable children and/or kids who just reject all your trendy vicar bullshit and decide to be accountants.
I shudder when I think about the time I forced my 6 year old daughter into the sea to go surfing, despite her crying hysterically because she was scared.
I shudder when I think about the time I forced my 6 year old daughter into the sea to go surfing, despite her crying hysterically because she was scared. Unbelievable really. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. She now hates surfing.
Yes, you may have dreamed of becoming a snowboard pro, but it may well be the case that your kids would rather feed starving children in Guatemala, learn how to bake or get really good at golf. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t really want to snowboard as much as you do, and don’t be surprised if this happens after you’ve tried to force them into a competitive straight jacket at an early age. My dad had no idea what snowboarding was, and I am now obsessed with it. Let the groms find their own way.
Parenthood is about selflessness (which I am learning very slowly as a result of repeating my mistakes). As such, if at any stage you find yourself doing something that is more about you than the kids, you are probably messing them up. Let them go and do their own thing, don’t video it, don’t boast about it, and who knows – one day they may end up paying off your mortgage with their X Games winnings, or even better - dragging you out of bed at 7am to score fresh tracks.