Get with the times, ‘rents! Parenting books are O-U-T, out! Podcasts are where it’s at.
Podcasts are my main source of entertainment these days. Though I don’t seek out any that are parenting-specific, I tend to learn a lot about how–and how not–to parent when listening to the experiences of others. Here are some notable episodes that I found useful and informative.
(Also, if you have a spare 30 minutes, I would love to describe all the podcasts I love and then act out some scenes for you.)
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Thanks to the entertaining and smart podcasts Freakonomics and NPR’s Planet Money, economists have become my favorite people. I find comfort in reasoned and measured explanations and advice, even if it’s not great news. I would trust an economist over anyone. Which is awesome, since this guide to parenting makes me feel great.
This episode checks in with a few economists who are parents (including a set of research partners who have a baby together), and compares their parenting styles to the research they’ve done. Lots of input/output, cost comparisons, other economics terms, and it turns out: parents don’t have as much influence on how their kids turn out as we’d think (or hope).
As co-host Steve Levit says, “Obsessive parenting has few rewards.” Who parents are matters more than what they do; if you are the sort of person who buys parenting books and “culture crams” (lots of lessons and other things in an attempt to enrich your child) then you’re likely already a determined and smart person, so that will matter more for your kids than the actual activities. Skip all the classes and lessons if it’s not making anyone happy.
One thing that research has shown that parents do influence? Kids are more likely to smoke and drink if their parents do. Also, if you’re nice to people (like waitstaff and strangers), your children will likely imitate that behavior, too.
This story, and the resulting Supreme Court case, is about what is best for a child. It’s a heartbreaking but interesting story about a woman who put her child up for adoption, and the biological father who sued for custody from the adoptive parents under the Indian Child Welfare Act–even though he had never met his then two-year-old daughter.
We hear from the adoptive parents and the biological father throughout the story, and it’s easy to pass judgment and chose sides immediately. But after all of the story’s there, it’s not so easy to know if what’s right and what is best are the same thing. (She’s fine, by the way. Nothing scary happens.)
There have been updates to the story since it was on air (click the link above) and are worth checking out afterwards.
There is a reason why WTF with Marc Maron is as popular as it is. Maron’s interviews can be complex, dark, rich, and hilarious, but what they all have in common is the basic question: What did your folks do? Maron is very open about troubled relationships with his parents (which are also documented in his IFC sitcom Maron). Interviews with entertainers such as Mindy Kaling, “Weird” Al Yankovic, Edgar Wright, and Bill Hader have a common theme of supportive parents who didn’t push and allowed for their children to follow their own paths. Often people with non-traumatic backgrounds apologize that they don’t have more negative things to talk about. Then there are the others, though obviously successful, with tales of harder, meaner parents; the excellent Natasha Lyonne episode is a good primer of how not to talk to your daughter.
No one really focuses on their parents for too long (if that’s your thing, check out The Mental Illness Happy Hour), and hearing how people talk about their parents in such compartmentalized ways has helped me learn that I will never be as important to my child as she is to me. That takes some pressure off trying to be the best. Pain and struggle make for good interviews and create hard workers, but you should not be the thing your child has to overcome. I just hope that the two minutes my child spends talking about her parents on a podcast when she’s an adult ends in her apologizing for her upbringing being so boring.
I listen to podcasts when I’m at work, and Comedy Bang Bang is one of my favorites. Former Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman hosts, and since it’s an improv show with real guests and characters dropping by, it’s hit-or-miss. Sometimes it’s so funny I have to pause every ten seconds while I’m at work because my stifled laughter probably sounds like I’m sobbing. It’s kind of an obscene show, and never kid-friendly and usually not kid-related. But I liked this exchange between comedian/actor Nick Kroll and Aukerman, which–more than any podcast I’ve mentioned here–really reflects what life is like for me these days as a parent:
Kroll: “The first jokes kids make are all about poopy/doody/farts, and we have to spend the first, like, seven or eight years of their life being like ‘Not Funny,’ and pretending like it’s not funny, and then at some point we’re like, ‘Hey, you know what — it is pretty funny.'”
Aukerman: “I hope when I have children that at the same time I tell them that there is no Santa Claus, I also tell them ‘Farts are funny.'”
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Lessons learned from all my hours logged with podcasts: You raise good people by being a good person; being supportive goes a longer way than being controlling and disappointed; and maybe wait a few more years before I explain to my daughter why I have to leave the room when she makes jokes about butts. She’s not allowed to know it’s funny yet.
Photo by: p_a_h