How to slay things as a parent

Tip one: Stop reading Medium articles on how to slay stuff.

Prior to joining Medium myself, I hadn’t actually come to the website to peruse writing. I’d come here by way of articles posted to Facebook or Twitter, most of which had to do with feminism, racism, Elon Musk (a favorite topic for many of Medium’s featured articles) and one of the most amazing pieces of writing about someone’s mother I think I might have read in the last decade.

When I arrived, however, I realized that there was a wealth of positive thinking and personal growth articles to take advantage of, too. Turns out I could go from zero to sixty almost immediately, just by reading any number of nearly-identical listicles written by millennials who have figured out the formula for rocking life from a thousand dollar Chromebook in a coffee shop in a third world country (my Chromebook cost me $180 and I bought it so I could have something I didn’t mind getting stolen, were I forced to, say, work in a coffee shop in a third world country — but in all seriousness, having traveled the world already, why the heck would anyone want to work when you live in a place that cheap?).

Oh, heck yeah. Life was about to change for me.

Erm…

Nope.

Before you take anyone else’s advice, make sure you’re on the same page.

As I began to dip my toes more deeply into Medium’s waters, I began to notice this baby-blue-eyed, handsome face popping up frequently. He was constantly offering advice on how to better oneself, and, new to Medium, I began responding to his thoughts with gusto.

He has never responded to any of my comments, but that’s okay. My interest in his endless saucer-eyed selfies, despite his public assurances that endless selfies are a success track, has waned (plus, no, this technique will not work for me: who the hell wants to see my graying, frizzy hair escaping the bun it generally lives in daily, on repeat? Or my deep thought wrinkles? They just can’t compete with chiseled chin scruff and tight white t-shirts).

Our relationship, as it were, has grown stale, because I’ve realized over some time that Blue Eyes and I are coming from vastly different perspectives, and that the advice he has to offer isn’t always advice I can use. I’ve taken to avoiding him the hallways, or maybe just tossing an appreciative glance his way periodically as I pass by (because yeah, despite it all, there’s no denying the fact that he’s attractive af, and more than likely will age well enough to continue on with his selfie campaigns well into his 40s). I understand now that he’s simply hacking Medium, and that his idea of success and mine are just… yeah, as i said before, “vastly different.”

How we do when I ain’t got time to cook. Your taco truck does not compare. ©2018 Dori Mondon-Freeman

There are all kinds of ways to change the world.

I no longer have 18 hours in a single stretch in which to be obsessed with anything other than, say, whether my daughter will make it to her ballet class on time, and why suddenly none of her leotards fit anymore, and how I’ll need to add another hour of online shopping to my already-too-much screen time (it’s easier than driving to Target, though, which is an hour and a half away and will suck up a whole day because yeah, obsession), or whether Windows updating itself again is going to crap all over the 2 hours I get in the morning to write. I’m also busy watching stuff sprout in my garden, keeping on eye on all the weird lumps popping up on my old dogs, wondering what I can throw together for a family dinner (or whether I should just say “fuck it” and head to the taco truck, again).

I don’t live alone in a tiny, urban apartment where I can obsess all night as I hack ways to get paid online so I can cover a costly rent fee, add just one more piece to my sustainable capsule wardrobe or keep a tiny succulent alive. I enjoy perusing thrift shops, I live in a rambling old house that’s in a constant state of renovation and I maintain acreage around it. For this, as well as surround-sound views of spectacular mountains and untreated spring water coming out of my tap, I pay less than a thousand dollars a month, so hacking payment systems and cranking out endless listicles in lieu of going outside to enjoy these things, occupy my kid, keep my fiery wife calm, and walk the dogs doesn’t cut it for me.

I get it though. Y’all are afraid of having children, for good reason. I have one, and I ask myself all the time whether it was a good idea to bring a kid into this world, but I’ve gone and done it anyway, and now I’ve gotta make sure I teach her how to live (I guess if anything in my life could be called a dedicated obsession, this would be it).

Y’all are afraid to even take on a car payment at this point, because you’re already saddled with student loans and you’ll be paying off that philosophy degree about the same time you’d pay off a mortgage, if buying property were in your realm of consciousness at all. But you’re into buying experiences, not things (except for that $1000 Chromebook), and you’re hoping I’ll enjoy that photograph of you working from a coffee shop in Tonga, but guess what? I don’t.

I don’t want to be like you anymore. I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve tried as hard as I could not to work while doing it. I’m old, I’m a parent, and what I need to do to succeed in life is continue to watch this world like a hawk and teach my kid how to navigate her world through its fast, constant change. I can’t teach her to do that by being obsessed with shit for 18 hours a day.

In the end, here’s how to best slay it as a parent. Here’s “the honest answer” on why you can be every bit as successful as anyone else who thinks obsession is the only way to get there:

Slow the heck down. Take a look around your life and see what kind of unnecessary expenses are getting in the way of real experiences, and then get rid of them. Remember what’s really important in life, because this is how most of us will actually change the world. Watch sprouts turn into plants and then into vegetables that you will eventually eat. Read books. Take on projects and learn together.

Leave all that obsessive techie shit to Elon Musk and Blue Eyes, and teach life skills to your children. Make sure they know how to be vulnerable and loving people without losing their spines. Make sure they know how to practice self-care and discipline so they can start something and finish it. Make sure to take a breath, look away from the screen, and go for a hike instead. There’s only so much room for the Elon Musks of the world, honestly, and it’s unhealthy to play World of Warcraft nineteen hours a day, no matter how badly you like to win.

Breathe fresh air while we still have some left. Find a clean spring of water and drink some straight from the earth. Take your shoes off and walk barefoot, and if you’re too grossed out by the idea of it (hey, I spent decades in NYC, I know all about that), go somewhere else. Listen to music and make some of your own. Go make art. Plant some things and learn how to keep them alive. And if you find an obsession in there, somewhere, you’ll find ways to get it done, but doubtful it will be in any sort of 18-hour stretch. Not if you want to stay sane, anyway, or be an actually good parent to your kids. Oh, and the selfies? Those are cool. Sometimes.

P.S. Nicolas Cole? I actually do admire the swan you’ve become. No hard feelings, okay?

Compulsive storyteller. Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College. http://www.sanguinemeander.com

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