I would like to make my pitch right here and now to all of you who are parents, or those of you who may become parents someday. It’s a little radical, so hold on to your MIND.

Do less for your children.

Yes, I said less. Lots lots less. Now I will tell you why, and how.

But first, let’s lay some groundwork. If you choose to have children, and because this is the modern world and you shouldn’t be an idiot with your genitals it should be a CONSCIOUS CHOICE, you are legally and morally bound to do some stuff for them, and you should gladly want to anyway. You must do everything you can to keep them safe and healthy, and teach them how to be safe and healthy. You should tell them how wonderful and valuable their little selves are, and how important it is to feed the brain and body with good and varied things. You should help them try to see the world for what it is – both a strange and wonderful place – and that you can learn to navigate it with strength and curiosity. You should tell them that so much of what makes life good or bad is through the choices we all make, and then teach them how to go through the often-complex process of making good decisions. You can let them know that they are unique in the world, and it is up to them to try to get the best out of what they can offer and what they can take in from their surroundings.

Whew. That is TOTALLY enough work, right? That’s a full-time job right there, and it is sometimes really damn tough. You might be working hard at a job you don’t really like, money is tight, you are 20 pounds overweight, your dad needs to stop driving his car into the lake, and some ass put a dog turd in your mailbox, but you still have to step up and not let your kids down. Sure, you can let them know that you are pretty seriously unhappy about having to bleach the mailbox. There’s a life lesson right there – you are pissed off, but you can deal with it by frowning and stomping around a bit and spraying Lysol instead of shooting up the neighbor’s car.

What seems to often take the place of these things seems to be distraction, indulgence, and a good-hearted-but-misguided sense of trying to do the best for your children. The average American family will spend a couple hundred thousand bucks raising just ONE kid, and that doesn’t include college, which could easily double the figure these days. Here’s another toy, here’s another game system, here’s another class after school, here’s some Juicy sweatpants, here’s a $400 cellphone, here’s a 10K vacation to Disney, here here here here here. And I am not just talking wealthy families – I see families of modest or pretty much no means scraping to do the very same thing. And I say it as one who is completely guilty of the crime.

But I am learning, late in the game, but learning. Do less. Make more of what is real and permanent. Let your kids struggle sometimes and be angry with you. Stop bankrupting your retirement account for the opportunity to stand in a 3-hour theme park ride line. Stop micro-managing, hovering, and over-scheduling, which only leads to kids having a sense of entitlement coupled with a crippling core of incompetency. Modern families are over-focused on trying to please children more than trying to assure they have the skills to go into the world. Step back. Do less.

The other day, bored and crabby with the Wii, MissSix and Mr11 started complaining to me. Waaah, we are bored and crabby, Mom, take us to get a new game. Naaaah, I said. It was a beautiful sunny day and children being inside the house and playing videogames and whining offends me on such days, so I told them to put their swimsuits on and go out into the backyard. Waaaah, there’s nothing to do out there, waaah, they whined.

“Turn on the hose,” I said.

Intrigued by the idea of this deceptively-simple activity, they complied. As I benignly oversaw, they negotiated Water Rights And Rules like crafty $400-an-hour mediators. They sprayed each other, screaming and screeching at the cold, constructed a fountain, took turns giving the dog drinks from the hose as she snapped at the stream, and made a swift water slide on the playset, landing on their giggling butts on the wet grass. For two hours.

I am learning, they are learning, as the dog runs around the yard, smiling.