This excerpt is from the book Bare Minimum Parenting by Xploding Unicorn blogger/comedy writer James Breakwell, who has four girls under age 8. (No wonder he sneaks off to write books.) Says James, "I’m sick of overachieving parents trying to do as much as possible to get their kids ahead, especially when it doesn’t seem to make a difference long-term. Most of us turn out to be mediocre adults, regardless of what our parents did or didn’t do. So instead of writing a book about how to go above and beyond to give your child an advantage, I wrote a comedy book about how to do as little as possible and still raise a decent human being."
Chapter 3: You Won’t Make a Difference
Imagine this scene: A prestigious scientist stands up to receive a prestigious science award. After being handed the prize—something prestigious like a fifty-dollar gift certificate to the lab coat store—the scientist takes their spot behind the podium, well, prestigiously, because I don’t own a thesaurus. The crowd falls silent. The scientist clears their throat.
“I’d like to thank my mother for breastfeeding me,” they say. “Thank you, and good night.”
Cue the applause. The audience is on its feet. The geology section forms a mosh pit. A chemistry professor crowd-surfs. A lone biologist goes streaking.
Does something seem off about this scenario?
Not the partying, of course. Lab coats are made for hiding flasks.
The flaw is that no scientist at an awards ceremony has ever thanked their mom for breastfeeding them. Or for using formula. Or for doing pretty much anything before the scientist was old enough to remember it.
Countless factors played a role in putting that scientist on the podium, but none of them can be traced back to the ostensibly life-or-death decisions new parents beat themselves up over every day. No matter how badly you mess up, one wrong parenting decision won’t turn a potential academic into a hobo who talks to cats. And even if it did, houses are overrated and everybody loves strays.
As a parent, you need to cut yourself some slack, especially for decisions when your child is very young. Almost any choice you make will probably be okay. There’s no need to invent reasons to feel like a failure. There will be plenty of real reasons later on.
The Missing Link
When your kid looks back on their childhood, they won’t care if you chose the right brand of stroller or co-slept or bought mentally stimulating toys marketed under the name of a famous theoretical physicist. Although, for the record, everything is stimulating to a baby. They’re blown away by finding their own toes. And there are ten of those things, so that’s a lot of excitement.
This isn’t just a case of kids being ungrateful. There’s legitimately no evidence the stuff early parenting books go on and on about makes any difference long term. A baby in the eighty-fifth growth percentile isn’t any more likely to be the first person on Mars than a baby in the seventieth percentile. You’re raising a child, not a pumpkin. There’s no blue ribbon awarded by weight.
The connection between early parenting decisions and a child’s success later in life is so tenuous that no one has even studied it—that I know of. Again, I did absolutely no research for this book. If there were such a study, I wouldn’t read it anyway, so it might as well not exist. I take this bare minimum stuff seriously.
This lack of connection is obvious to anyone who takes a step back and looks at the big picture. That’s why new parents never figure it out. They don’t have time for perspective.
They’re too busy dodging baby pee.
James is right! Take that step back! (Just not if you're on a podium.) - L