Unequivocally Ambiguous

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Tricking My Kids Into Loving Me

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

Parenting Advice From Pick-Up Artists — Part 2

My wife’s comment, “Maybe if you didn’t ask for attention so much, you would get more of it,” made me wonder how Pick-Up Artists would approach parenting.

It is only a hypothetical question because most of these guys are still selling workshops on how to pick up women and are unable to escape their arrested development and move on with the rest of their adult lives.

But what would it look like if at least one of them could escape the game, settle down, and raise a family, then use all of his pick-up artist’s tricks to raise his kids?

Eventually, he would put it all together in a nice PowerPoint slide and showcase them in a small, musty second-grade motel to a room full of sweaty men with low self-esteem.

So, suppose I were to use these tips in my parenting.

In that case, I’d walk into a room where my daughter was. I’d be holding a cup of tea with four Assam teabags and three lemon wedges (distinguishing oneself) while sporting my best ‘Man in the Yellow Hat” costume (peacocking).

I’d approach her with comments like, “Wow, that’s a nice drawing for someone with undeveloped fine motor skills” (backhanded compliment). Then, for the pièce of résistance, “Yeah, I’d like to play with you, but I’d rather play with your younger sister, who is a newer model. Have you considered Botox?” (exploiting jealousy and insecurities over societal expectations of beauty).

I would never use any of these techniques. These techniques will lead my girls to develop ‘daddy issues,’ becoming the prey of these same men who are giving the seminars.

It is almost like McDonald setting up a playground with cute characters like Ronald’s friends, Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids so kids can grow up to crave the homey feeling of a Big Mac, a guzzler of Coca-Cola, and a supersized order of fries.

“Come play out with Ronald and friends; stay for the arteriosclerosis!” I’m lovin’ it!

The truth is that not all dating gurus of this time advocated for the same things. I remember a coach who wrote under the pen name David de Angelo. I’m unsure if I found him later in his career arc, but when I learned about him, he talked about confidence.

DeAngelo spoke to a legion of men who, like me, were raised by divorced moms and still needed to find a way to behave in the world as men in a society that doesn’t give you the tools to be a non-toxic one.

De Angelo advocated for men to focus on their development by improving their work, communication, hobbies, and health.

What stuck with me the most was when he talked about emotional regulation. He explained how kids cycle through emotions without getting stuck in negative ones because of shame or guilt.

Consistency and commitment are basic adaptive principles of interpersonal interactions. We expect people to be who they were yesterday. This concept is counterproductive when it comes to negative emotions, and we could take a more freewheeling approach, as kids do.

Sometimes, if we are stressed, angry, anxious, or sad, we would rather stay in those spaces than look crazy by quickly switching and cycling through the emotions. We are more afraid of being called flaky or moody than being more gentle to ourselves.

I think of that advice when parenting my daughters, and I try to follow it.

So when my baby belts out my name, “Daddy!” at the top of her lungs in the morning and she embraces me, ready for the day and our morning routine — which consists of opening our windows together, looking at our orchids, and toasting her premade waffle — blueberry paleo waffle (I’m not an animal); I forget everything that happened the day before, and I don’t hold on to any of that so when I tell her that I love her more than she can ever know, I mean it.

And I hope she grows up to love me and can show me that love through gestures of affection.

I think of Angela Davis’ quote, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

In the linguistic misinterpretation of Davis’ intent lies my strategy, to re-categorize my daughter’s desire to only hug me when she wants to from something I cannot accept into something I can.

This approach has also helped me appreciate other ways in which they show me love.

For example, when my daughter and I watched the Encanto movie for the first time, she sat next to me the entire time, covered by our Verde Esperanza couch blanket.

Or when we read ‘Those Darns Squirrels’ at night, we put a pillow against a wall in her room and lay on it before she goes to bed. Or when we lay on the same spot after she wakes up from her nap and snuggle for a few seconds before she gets the heebie-jeebies and runs to her play space.

Then I know I can accept the love she decides to give me back — knowing the love we give my kids may never come back to me in the same measure but hoping it will be the same love they offer the world, maybe even to their own kids.

And I can watch it all happen from a spectator’s seat while I sip a cup of tea with four Assam teabags, three lemon wedges, and wearing a 10-gallon yellow hat.

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