I'm Not Proud, but I'm Not Alone: A Lazy Parent's Meditations

Almost all parents fall woefully short of their lofty child-rearing goals in some way or another. It's not ideal—but sometimes, it's okay.

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"My parents are lazy!" my nine-year-old son exclaimed loud enough to wake lazy parents in a neighboring state. Luckily, there weren't any other adults around. Just me, and three of my son's friends who I was carpooling back from school. They had all been talking about how much fun they had camping out with their families, so my son was explaining why he didn't get to go camping with his family. And, like he said, it's because his parents don't want to pack up and get in the car and go out and lie on the cold ground somewhere in the middle of nowhere so we can get up at some ungodly hour and be uncomfortable. Which is because we are lazy.

In theory, of course, parents are not supposed to be lazy. We are supposed to sacrifice for the children and wake up at ungodly hours and camp in the rain if that will optimize our child's happiness quotient. We're supposed to cook healthy meals at least once a fortnight and clean at least occasionally so that when our friend's infant comes over he can't gorge himself on the ominous cat-sized dust bunnies rolling like tumbleweeds of filth amid the drifts of shoes-missing-their-pairs and half-broken down cardboard boxes. Emily Matchar assures me that parenting is all about expressing my individuality and self-actualizing through homeschooling or attachment parenting. And, hey, our son still occasionally comes to sleep with us because we are too lazy to toss him out of bed at 4 a.m. after we've watched the first half of Return of the King with all the ghosts and blood and death and thus given him nightmares which we knew we shouldn't have done but then we kind of wanted to so we did it anyway. I don't know. Maybe that counts as fulfilling ourselves.

It would be easy at this point to do that thing that writers about parenting love to do and turn my limitations into a statement of purpose in order to shame all of you less lazy parents into worrying about whether you shouldn't be more lazy like me. Here, for example, is Peter Loffredo, writer at a blog with the unsettlingly enthusiastic title Full Permission Living, singing the praises of his own version of lazy parenting. "JOY! JOY! JOY! ADULT TIME!" he aggressively rhapsodizes, and then insists that parents have to make out passionately on occasion or else they'll encourage their kids to grow up into passionless, less-than-fully-actualized adults who will not know the "true joy of mastery." For Loffredo, then, "laziness" isn't so much being lazy as it is just another meritocratic hoop for passionate parents to leap through on their way to better sex and more masterful children, not necessarily in that order.

I do think that kids can benefit from having some space. To the extent that our general lack of get-up-and-go prevents us from forcing some sort of rice-cake-only diet on our son or scheduling his every waking moment with enrichment activities, that's probably a good thing. But let's be honest—no parent sets out to have his or her house filled with feral dust bunnies achieving sentience. And, you know, I'd like my son to be able to go camping if that's what he wants to do—just as long as I don't have to go with him.

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Noah Berlatsky is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He edits the online comics-and-culture website The Hooded Utilitarian and is the author of the forthcoming book Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948.

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