How "Soccer Dads" Can Save America's Daughters
For some reason, I procrastinated in watching the Showtime series Californication. When it first came out, there was a lot of buzz over its treatment of sexual addiction, and so I immediately assumed the show would be filled with gratuitous scenes involving infidelity. Naturally, a sex addict's victims must include innocent, committed women, otherwise he'd have trouble getting his fix. And I realized I was sick of seeing scenes and imagery of infidelity on television. Maybe it's because both my parents are conservative immigrants (dad from India, mom from Philippines—countries where divorce rates are in the single digits), that somehow I have a natural revulsion to the casual way in which American television handles cheating.
For a while now, movies and TV shows that involve cheating would repulse me in the same way a bloody car wreck would. It's like I'd have to cover my eyes. For the longest time, I stayed away from watching Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which was marketed as a story about committed women who "get in touch with their inner soul" through flings with European dudes, simply because that gets under my skin.
But, alas, in watching Californication, I discovered something more disturbing than the infidelity. Surprisingly, it wasn't the sexual sin that bothered me the most. That was actually reasonable, as the main character Hank (played by David Duchovny), is a washed-out sex junkie, and his sexual adventures seem like sordid affairs, rather than wondrous escapades. *Phew*. Instead, what bothered me the most is the depiction of his twelve-year-old daughter Becca. Becca was born out-of-wedlock to Hank's ex-domestic partner, who Hank is still courting (even after twelve years!). In the pilot episode, Hank and his ex-domestic partner are called into school and told that their little angel is getting fondled by boys. That's not disturbing to either parent, but then the teacher says that Becca, when scolded, replies, "How else am I supposed to get boys to like me?"
Fast-forward ten minutes into the episode, and we find Hank rescuing Becca from a house party in Hollywood where threesomes and cocaine are behind random doors. When Hank reaches Becca poolside, she's just about ready to take a hit from the marijuana pipe.
And that's what got under my skin. That's the new car wreck for me. Because when I see that situation, I think of the most frustrating problem imaginable: How do you deal with a child who is over-eager to lose his or her innocence? Most solutions do not work. Let's consider the options. Okay, you can discipline the kid, right? Nope, that doesn't work. That just backfires and makes them resent you. Okay, you could move to Whitopia somewhere, maybe some Mormon community in Utah? Nope, that doesn't work, as study after study shows that they sin as much in Utah as anywhere else. Plus, kids have an amazing sense of skepticism toward the meticulous sheltering that their parents construct. It just inspires a backlash. Think of all the depressed cutters in stultifying suburbs ("But honey, I thought we were moving our family to paradise. What happened to my little angels?").
You don't understand how much this frustrates me. In those brief moments, seeing Becca willfully defy adult expectations, I had this harrowing sense of impending doom. Little voices entered my head, "Your daughter's gonna grow up and become the town bike," or "Your son's going to be a baggy pants-wearing gang-banger." My friend—who is aptly named "Guru"—consoled me, "You should seek out professional help tomorrow and tell them 'I'm concerned my unborn, un-conceived, no-mother-assigned yet, daughter will smoke pot and have sex at ten years of age.' Bet your average town psychotherapist hasn't seen that one yet."
But I think I have the answer, and I think it's full-proof. This comes not only from my personal experience, but mainly based on how my aunt and her husband have been raising their three daughters in Palos Verdes, a wealthy neighborhood in Los Angeles. The eldest is seventeen, and the youngest is ten, and somehow these kids have grown up well-adjusted and remained oblivious to the temptations that assault LA's youth. By observing them, I've developed a unifying theory for parenting.
The first thing you'll notice is that all of them have excellent relationships with their father. This is backed by studies showing that the date when women lose their virginity is correlated to how good of a relationship they have with their dads. If the relationship is good, the daughter is more likely to postpone wooing boys in High School, and instead focus on getting into a good college. Only then, will she grow up sexually toward the end of college or shortly thereafter. Okay, fine, but how are my cousin's father-daughter relationships so good? Well, for one, the dad works at home as a computer programmer. So he's always there. He's also interested in doing activities with his daughters. He's the dad with the fanny pack and the camcorder, taking his kids to Disneyland and music lessons. He's a soccer dad. He's dedicated. You'll never see him drinking with buddies, blowing off his family. In addition, both parents are still together. That's key, as that maximizes the total time spent in parent-child interaction. The parents don't have to trade visitation dates with each other, and instead they have family dinners with their kids, night-after-night. No parent comes home so late from work that they have to slip their kids some bills to fend for themselves at the local McDonald's.
So what you see as the recurring theme in this picture is "time." The number one thing you can do to raise your children well is to spend time with them. Lots of time. Talk to them. Don't put Baby Einstein on the TV. Don't delegate parenting to someone else. As Chris Rock said, "You know your daughter's going to become a stripper if she calls her grandma 'Mom'".
Be in front of them, all the time. Be their TV. Pour constant stimulation and inherent wisdom. Don't worry too much about teaching lessons or active parenting. My parents rarely scolded me. Instead they smothered me with conversation. I couldn't escape! They talked to me like an adult, and they talked all the time. There were barely any "timeouts," as that would separate me from them. Even as I got busy with the Internet in the late 90s, locked in my room surfing for hours, I still had every meal with my parents, and often with my grandma, and we'd talk about everything, from politics to business. To this day, even though I live a thousand plus miles away from home, there is no distance between me and my parents.
The worst case scenario, if you follow this plan, is that your kids become so occupied with their homework and the time spent with you, that they'll have no time to wander into mischief.
So thank you Californication. In spite of all of the show's raunchy titillation, there's a treasure trove of moral lessons.
Obbop said on November 16, 2009 3:05 AM:
After a certain age a parent's influence over their progeny is minimal while the child's peer group and environment become increasingly important.
The old truism with an ancient source declares "Give me the child and by age seven (the stated age varies) I will give you the adult."
It IS a truism thus exceptions are not rare but the truism IS a generality.
The parent must avoid being over-bearing or, as the child matures, a backlash may be created wherein the child behaves opposite of what the parent desires as a method of lashing out in anger.
At a certain level of mental development nature prepares the child to "leave the nest."
And do not even attempt to compare or contrast the cultural norms between India, the Philippines and the USA.
The predominant culture a child is raised within has immense influence upon that child.
Another adage comes to mind... "The world needs ditch diggers also."
Extend that to "The world needs trollops and hussies also."
Even sluts serve a purpose though it may not be readily evident.
So, stand tall, be proud as you place your arm around your daughter and introduce to others; "This is my daughter the slut."
MarK Darvin said on April 2, 2010 3:35 PM:
I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing.