A screenshot from Louis CK's FX show, Louie.
Parenting, like any job, goes better with mentors, people to help you through the terrible twos, even-more-terrible threes and the oh-my-good-God-when-does-it-get-better sevens. But what if your own parents aren’t necessarily in the mentor business, like my mother who tends to answer my queries with “Did I do that?” or “I don’t remember.” Where do you turn? Me? I look to New York comedian Louis CK.
CK’s views of parenting are well known to fans, and form a large part of his stand-up. Not for Louis is just the stand-up stand bys of sex, drinking and observational humour, he is a loud and proud active father; someone who gets down in the trenches and shares the gallows humour with his fellow troops.
They are not always conventional, like his recent rant on Conan about mobile phone addiction. "I think these things are toxic, especially for kids," C.K. said. "You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not do anything. That's what the phone is taking away is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person."
A neat combo of mobile phone usage and existential angst. Louis is a beacon of light for frustrated parents, someone real, someone you can take advice from, on things like....
“I’m not there to make them happy; I’m not raising the children I’m raising the grown ups they’re gonna be.”
This one is for every parent that can’t say ‘no’. The ones that think it’s easier to give in than make good humans. We all want to stop the noise, the craziness and the obsession with who has the largest slice of cake, but we can’t. Parenting is the ultimate big-picture job, you often get very few short term rewards, save for when they go to sleep at night. But you’re job is not to soothe kids, its to build adults, useful ones.
Protecting your kids
Because if you don’t you may end up with Jizanthapus – Louis’ nom de plume for a real-life child nemesis. “That kid” that every parent dislikes, or more.
This is not just refreshing, it’s true. We all sit at the kids parties and pretend we think they are all fabulous, but the truth is we have ranked and filed the little shits within a couple of meetings. I won’t say I’m quick to judgment but a couple of minutes with your child and I will have decided whether or not I will save them from drowning at the next pool party. And you identify with Louis’ passion on the subject. I may not agree with the more outlandish suggestions in the Jizanthapus rant but recently at my child’s birthday party, when we were short a couple of jelly snakes, I managed to locate them – in Jizanthapus’s party bag.
The truth is in there
“It’s hard having kids, cos its boring.”
Louis’ parenting comedy hits home because it is true. As a parent you are maniacally proud and incredibly bored pretty much at the same time. A week away from my kids and I want to get back to them like the hold the key to my entire happiness. An hour later, trying to locate the real names of members of the Trash Pack and I am thinking of self-harming with one of those tiny little Lego swords I keep stepping on.
But, like a lot of parenting, you have to suck it up. Parenting is boring, life can be boring but you have to be able to deal with that.
This greater-world-view honesty extends to the most vexing of parenting issues, my own personal parenting Everest. The childlike idea that life should be fair.
“You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. You must learn that now, ok.” Is Louis quite sane response.
I only saw this quote recently but I have been working on something similar, the idea that it is not equal, but it is fair. But even that is kinda a lie.
Louis is the conversation with a parent that I want to have. An injection of honesty into this idea that trying to wrangle a mewling, spitting, biting human from cradle to adulthood is somehow this amazing ride that is immune to criticism.
One of the most insightful things from Louis’ stand up is the simple phrase: “Parents never get to say that it’s hard.
But it is, and we need to vent. It is impossible to keep up the Stepford façade of pretending you want to spend two days icing a birthday cake that will demolished in two minutes.
But above all what is wonderful and real about Louis’ parenting discussions is the place from where they come. You don’t get that depth of passion, of acute observation, without being fully immersed as a parent; this is not “kids do the darnedest things” comedy it is laughing at the desperate, wrenching trial that is parenting. Finding humour in the vomit, the blood and the discarded undies with a skid mark that looks like it came from a Mac truck.
You can’t have this level of involvement without the joy and frustration, when you get that involved, you see it all; you read awful books, you see more shitty art that you can take; you love it and you hate it, and you get by with humour.
And this makes Louis a fantastic parenting role model, because he may want to take Jizanthapus on a journey of rendition and water-boarding, but that’s ok because being able to laugh about it, makes it better. For all of us parents.