Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

The Peter Principle and The Not Divine Parenting Comedy

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

The recurring incompetence of parenting at different developmental stages (32/40)

Petaluma, CA. March, 2024. Photo by author.

I read The Divine Comedy when I was 13. Before you think I’m bragging, let me tell you something.

I did not think it was that great. Honestly, overrated.

The whole thing was lost on me. If I am being honest, I thought the book was a pretentious, steaming pile of words I did not understand. That’s a review you can expect from a 13-year-old because, at 13, you think the world revolves around you, and you don’t think anything is great.

But unlike The Iliad and The Odyssey, to understand The Divine Comedy, you need to know so many players from obscure 14th-century Florentine history to understand the action — which I consider to be an impossibility for a 13-year-old or almost any human being with hopes of mating.

The poem read like a collection of disgruntled and angry Yelp reviews. With a lot of time on his hands, Dante thought of everyone who wronged him and decided how they would be punished in the afterlife because there was nothing he could do about it in real life. “Horney devils will molest this big wig. This priest will be boiled. My boss will go to a certain circle of hell.”

This poem is just a collection of complaints à la Letters from a Nut, stemming from his dissatisfaction with the world when the obsession of his life, Beatrice, did not correspond his love.

Of note, Dante said he only met her twice.

So the whole thing was about a creepy dude wanting love but not getting it — which is what all Yelp reviews are about, anyway. “No one loves me, so your restaurant staff is rude and pretentious, and your gyozas were soggy!”

Reviews are a way for people to tell us they are not being loved; they go online to give one or two stars to this or that restaurant because they feel no one in their actual life is listening. So they act out on internet forums.

The classics, as people referred to them, were the kind of titles I had access to because I could raid my grandfather’s and my next-door neighbor’s late husband’s library. And I kept the practice up for as long as I lived in Colombia.

Around sixteen years old, I saw a small, thin book in my grandfather’s library.

It was called The Peter Principle, written by educator Lawrence J. Peter.

The Peter principle states, “Everyone rises to the level of their incompetence.”

It is a very pessimistic but fascinating way of seeing the corporate world.

We all rise to the level of our incompetence, and because we are incompetent, we can’t keep getting promoted, but we are still incompetent in the position we have.

Remember that one friend in high school who read one philosophy book, and then for every situation that happened, he paralleled it to that one book.


That was me with the Peter principle. And guess what? No one wants to hear that they have reached the pinnacle of their incompetence, and there is nowhere else to look but despair and angst for the remaining of their lives.

I thought this only applied to our professions and crafts, but it accurately describes parenting.

I can’t think of any other endeavor that what we learn at a specific age of development for our kids is so quickly outdated and will be obsolete in the next.

We are constantly faced with parenting with the fact that we are utterly and helplessly incompetent.

We show up, but we know that it is likely that we will mess up because we acquired some tools for yesterday’s problem, but today’s problem is not yesterday’s problem.

Like my version of today’s problem.

My daughter shouts for me almost every night, between three and four in the morning. I waddled and jumped to her room with a crooked spin like a primate before Homo Erectus.

I step into her room for one of two things. She either needs me to pull up her blanket or she needs me to take her to the bathroom.

I know she is at a stage where she can do those things independently, and maybe I should force her to. But I take these little moments to hug and kiss her because, before I know it, these moments will be gone.

So, I take what I can right now.

But to be fully functioning this early in the morning is unrealistic.

Today, she needed me to take her to the bathroom. I managed to help her and then took her back to bed.

Fifteen minutes later, she started screaming for me.

“ Dadda!! Dadda!”

I ran back to he, doing my best impression of “Weekend at Biden’s,” and stepped into her room.

“What’s up, baby?”
“I do not want a diaper!”
“What? Babe, you don’t have a diaper.”

I checked to make sure that, even though she hadn’t worn a diaper for nearly two years, I didn’t put one on her.

I checked, and there was no sign of sleep-diapering.

Then she pulled a giant waddle of paper from her pants.

I remembered then that instead of wiping her, I just put a waddle of toilet paper in her pants and put her back in bed. She handed me the toilet paper and laughed, “Silly, Daddy, you could’ve given me an injury!”

And doesn’t that summarize parenting? We try our best, but inevitably, sometimes something goes wrong, and we leave some injuries in our path — hopefully just emotional, but that depends on the state in which you live.

I just keep showing up, even when I know I have reached the pinnacle of my incompetence.

Even when I know my review will come in her teenage years, and it won’t be that dissimilar from a Yelp review, “I found you rude, pretentious, antiquated, racist against ladybugs, and your arepas are a little soggy.”


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