Parenting from the Couch

Forget Tiger Moms and Helicopter Parenting and the latest parental wackiness I’m coining, Fighter Jet Escort Parenting, a disturbing mutation of parents who fly next to their kids with firepower at the ready. And join me for Parenting from the Couch. This revolutionary parenting style doesn’t make promises, but if it did, it would promise you will remain far saner, maintain a bit of your own identity, and you might just end up with a child self-reliant enough to cross a busy street alone. Dare to dream.

Disclaimer
You should know that some blogs are written by legitimate experts on parenting. This is not one of them. I have read exactly one parenting book, and I doubt I finished it. Who has time? Sure the kids do eventually sleep, but bedtime was made for binge watching Scandal and reading Gone Girl, right? But, like you, I do have a lot of dusty parenting books, and a Twitter account full of parenting bloggers, so there’s that.

What is Parenting from the Couch?
Despite the name, you won’t actually be sitting on a couch at any point. Oh, come on, you’re parents. You don’t sit on couches. You probably sat on your couch once when you had company over that time. You perch on a hard chair in your kitchen wearing a ratty old fleece surrounded by bills to pay, unopened mail, school flyers, and work from your job you are avoiding. Forget actually sitting on a couch. It’s a metaphor. I mean, do Helicopter Parents actually get in a helicopter and hover? No. Are Tiger Moms actually tigers? No. Well, maybe. I’m not entirely clear on that. I skimmed that trend.

Couch or no couch, the general idea of Parenting from the Couch is not to get up every time one of your kids needs something. I have actually timed it and, if I got up every time one of my three kids needed something, it averages to every three minutes. Add in the dog needing to go in and out, it drops to two minutes. The goal of Parenting from the Couch is to lengthen pockets of time between fulfilling the needs of your children, so you can string together a coherent thought every now and again and teach them the valuable lesson that life doesn’t come with a cruise director. Deal with it, kid.

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The First Rule
The first rule of Parenting from the Couch is not to talk about Parenting from the Couch. Whatever you do, do not to tell anyone judgy about this. (You know, that perky friend down the street who does crafts with the kids with sincere happiness? Yah. Not her.) They will not get it and fill you with endless stories of how they love spending time with the kids. They will make you feel like a complete jerk, a total ingrate, that you long to escape your children. We all know the Cat’s in the Cradle song, but that guy’s dad was an asshole. He didn’t spend any time with his kids, so screw him. We spend tons of quality time with them. Way too much, probably. Don’t let some unenlightened, do-gooder make you feel bad that you are a human being separate from being a parent and need some damn time to your damn self. But, even better, just don’t tell them.

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How to Parent from the Couch
What you need to understand is that Parenting from the Couch is not a lazy, unengaged parenting style, but rather an art form used by creative parents smart enough to use their wit and wile to survive the demands of their kids and still stay interesting* and sane, with minimal body ticks. *Parenting from the Couch will not make you interesting. You have to be interesting to start with. 

Here are the main ideas to follow…

The Golden Rule
Don’t engage the children unless they engage you. If your kids are happily playing with each other, or alone, don’t, under any circumstance, mess with it. Such a rookie mistake I’ve seen time and time again to insert yourself into their world when they are ignoring you. Once they need something, they’ll tell you. They aren’t shy about that crap. Until then, let it ride.

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Make Everything a Game
Mary Poppins wasn’t a genius. She was just an overworked, underpaid nanny looking for a little alone time to sing to that bird. Not my first choice given a free moment, but to each their own. Mary taught us it is all how you sell it. So, make everything a game…a long, involved game that doesn’t require adult supervision. Like, hey, put on a show with costumes, scenery, and musical numbers! Rehearse…a lot. Or, hey, go on an adventure, like Dora. Keep in mind Dora went on adventures in the jungle, unsupervised, with a monkey, so I’m pretty sure your kids could manage a journey around your house without you.

Time Them
Getting dressed a problem? Need them to get their shoes on? Time them. We time everything. This little gem, so simple, yet, brilliant, will save you so many times you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. You’re welcome.

Bribe Them
I’m not above it. I pay them to read in the summer. That’s right. Books for Bucks. Don’t judge. Chocolate chips are a great motivator for little ones and the only known way to corral children into the car for pre-school drop offs. Treats for a chunk of time uninterrupted is a kid terrorist negotiation I’m willing to make. Well played, children. Well played.

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Embrace the TV
Everyone thinks kids are watching too much TV. Are you kidding me? That’s Tiger Mom, Helicopter Parent gibberish. TV is the greatest child raising invention, ever. There is so much TV Shaming going on in our society that we would rather admit to how many sexual partners we’ve had before admitting how much TV is being watched. I used to break out in a sweat at the doctor’s office when they started probing into our screen time. Now I just admit it with the double bird. I don’t actually give them the double bird, but I think it when that smug twenty-something nurse, with no kids, gives me her frowny face. You’ll see, I think, putting a curse on her. You’ll see.

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Added bonus, TV is a great education. Our entire generation learned how to make-out watching The Love Boat. I learned not to take LSD when that girl jumped off the roof in that ABC After School Special. My kids are learning too. They learned about every “after-school special” hot button issue on the planet from Glee, not to mention an appreciation for Bohemian Rhapsody. TV is my parenting co-pilot. It’s okay. This is a safe zone. You know it’s yours too.

Other Parenting Options
Are there other, better, actually thought out parenting options? I’d imagine so. But, Helicopter Parents are suffocating their kids. Fighter Jet Escort Parents are guarding their precious baby’s air space like lunatics. And Tiger Moms? Please, I don’t even want to hear a violin let alone force my kid to play one. Parenting from the Couch just flexes a different set of parenting mPictureuscles, and it has the word “couch” in the name. Kind of a no-brainer. It believes that you are entitled to have a bit of a life while raising your kids, and your kids are entitled to work some stuff out without you breathing down their necks too. In the end they might actually go forth into the world without you and know how to make a sandwich or solve a problem or two. And then, finally, you can sit on the couch.

27 Comments

  1. Stephanie Eagan on December 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I’m cruising around your blog this afternoon as a way to amuse myself while things are slow at work and I just read this older post. Laughing out loud in my empty office. Love this!

  2. Andrea Harms on April 25, 2015 at 11:24 am

    One of my “mama” friends posted your Default Parent blog on her FB page this week. I rarely find the time to read anything longer than 3 sentences, but the title intrigued me. I too have been searching for the reason behind my complete exhaustion despite not having worked a “real” job for the last 6 months (maybe it’s 10 now??) I found my answer in your blog and laughed my ass off in the process. I shared it on my own page, printed it, and made my husband read it. When my 12 year old tween heard us (she’s always lurking around the corner) she had to read it too. She and I are kinda good friends, and she’s used to my swearing, so the two of us sat on the couch and read several of your blogs, laughed til we cried, ditched our plan for movie watching, and irritated the hell out of my husband by reading every other line out loud.

    As you already know, your writing goes especially well with wine. And I’m always amazed that people can actually put two and two together and write about the crazy thoughts that go through our minds. So after 3 blogs and 3 glasses of cheap (but organic) white wine, I declared you the best thing ever to my friends on FB. I really do hope one of your manuscripts gets published. I’m pretty sure I would actually read that book (but just in case, be sure to create a really cool cover in earthy colors so it will look good on my nightstand.)

    Thanks for being who you are and doing what you do. It makes the rest of us feel a little more validated. Not to mention giving me a better than average excuse to have a glass of wine and laugh for a while.

    P.S. Wubble Bubble balls were created by the devil. The smell of the made in China-ness still haunts me at night. I think one of them might be in a gooey pile under my bed or something. And the white plastic blower-upper-thingy reminds me of my gynecologist.

    • M. on April 25, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      First of all, you are very funny. Your Wubble Bubble description beats my blog! And second of all, this is one of the nicest comments ever…so thank you. And finally, moments after floating on air from reading your lovely, funny words, I stumbled upon a hater of The Default Parent who wrote a self-righteous post on my Facebook page abut how I’m ungrateful to my sweet, wonderful, hard-working husband and all of the women of the world denied of having children or staying home with them (I work, but she doesn’t seem to read well). Ugh! I schooled her in her reading comprehension and called her out for making so many assumptions about me and my husband and told her I’d never think, act or write to please her! So, seriously, she should thank you. Your sweet comment kept me from really letting her have it 😉 To more yous and less hers in the world! (I’m not even drinking wine, but not sure this makes sense!)

  3. vicky on April 24, 2015 at 2:09 am

    You forgot to add: ordering your kids around, while lying on the couch!

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  6. Aryn on January 31, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    love this…. As usual, made me chuckle…. My parenting style lately is Parenting from the Carpet with My Face Down…. If I keep it up, I’ll become the carpet and they’ll literally walk all over me…. Time to get busy lounging.

  7. Hanuman Vashikaran mantra on January 29, 2015 at 8:00 am

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  9. Nicky C. on January 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    My favorite is how the doc doesn’t want the kids to have too much screen time, and even our (wonderful) teachers will say it, and then they spend TONS of time on screens at school. Yes, my kids watch tv!

  10. Nicole Wilson on January 22, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Loved this!

  11. Dee Dye on January 16, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    My parents were like this. We six kids played in the forest and learned to love nature and not be afraid of the dark. We learned life is full of adventures. We learned to be creative and that we were capable of anything. We learned to work out our own problems and the art of skillful negotiation. And my mom knew exactly where we were and what we were doing at all times. I thought she was 007. And she had eyes in the back of her head. I know, cuz I tried finding them one time while she was napping. But alas, she woke up and I pretended I was a hairdresser, cuz I’m ninja like that.

  12. emily cline on January 16, 2015 at 7:23 am

    TOTALLY AGREE! I’ve been noticing with older parents, too, how they feel so empty later in life, after they gave everything to their children — and forgot to have a life of their own. 🙁

  13. Stephanie on January 15, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    The First time my eldest son (15) made his own bagel because I refused to get up from the couch and my computer it went some thing like this;
    Me: “Don’t cut you’re finger off; I don’t have time to take you to the emergency room”
    a minute or two go by…
    The thirteen year old yells; “M..O…M…Blake is such an idiot! He put the cream cheese on first and THEN put it in the toaster!
    me: well I quickly got off the couch to keep the house from burning down.

  14. alex on January 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    M!!! I love you. This is exactly how I parent? Is it because we hail from the same town?? I have 4 kids. At some point all the older kids realized that if they came within eyesight while the two younger ones were babies they would end up with a job. “Honey, I will help you but first get Mommy….” Both older kids figured out how to do things for themselves quickly to avoid jobs.
    When my daughter ventured into the clarinet I knew it wouldn’t be a match. First of all, name one successful clarinet player. Thought so. Also, having played for 4 years myself I hate the sound of that reed instrument. So, when my son said his sister sounded like Squidward, I sat back and congratulated his comparison. Letting kids have success with their own independence is a great reward of parenting.
    I call my version of parenting Parenting from the Car because that’s where I spend most of my time. Xo

  15. amber brown on January 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Im laughing but really because its the truth 🙂 ive never won parent of the year award but I think this really is great!

  16. Deirdre Basile on January 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I prefer to think of myself as parenting from the “sofa” – it sounds fancier.

    • Kristi on January 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Or the Daveport.
      Maybe that’s too old. Great-grandparenting from the Davenport.

  17. becky l on January 15, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    This is hystercial!….btw I miss the ABC after school specials…..

  18. Kimberly on January 15, 2015 at 10:14 am

    LOL LOL LOL thanks for the heads up! I’ll be sure to keep this from my judgy friends!!! Lol lol they will just wonder why my kids read so much in the summer and get dressed quickly!😉

  19. Kelley on January 15, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Great job!

  20. Amy on January 14, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    We make tons of things a contest between the boys. The timer is a most excellent idea-going to use that one for sure! Another great blog- made me chuckle!

  21. Tracey Riordan Jacobson on January 14, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    So many favorite qoutes from this one. Love the part about the dad from Cat’s in the Cradle! The double bird! It’s all way to good. You are the voice of real and honest parenting! Thank you 💜

  22. Bicultural Mama on January 14, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Love your humor in your writing!

  23. Kris Ryan on January 14, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    love it! I’m in!

  24. Michele w on January 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    I’m all for couch parenting, count me in! Awesome blog M xxx

  25. mary beth bass on January 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Awesome post!

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