The soccer dad, dressed in cream-colored fleece and green pants, eerily blending in with the soccer nets and the field as he stands there like a fixture all Saturday and half of Sunday; The friend emailing with gaze fixed at the computer outputting an update to her friends: “We have hockey three times a week, dance class, violin, and karate…”, with hardly a mention of herself at all (except to tell you that she's upped her dosage of Prozac); The mom, who suddenly short-circuits when after dropping her son off at school he asks her to drive back with a different sandwich for his lunch and yells, "This is what I’ve become?! My kid’s employee?!...

Meet the Automamoms and the Daddroids.

The six-year-olds staring into their i -Phones with masked, not mischievous faces; the kid coming home from a full day of planned activities with two hours left before bedtime who asks, "What are we going to do when we get home?"; the fifteen-year-old cheating on his test because if he doesn’t get the highest score in the class he feels he’s worthless…

Meet the Botkids.

Welcome to Robotic Parenting. Had enough?

With our quest to be perfect parents, we have reduced ourselves to mere machines. We have renounced our own goals, dreams, and needs, for the sole function of raising the perfect child. With the quest to raise the perfect child, we have reduced our children to robots. We have programmed our children simply to perform, while neglecting the development of their inner selves: their imagination, compassion, self-awareness, motivation, creativity…

We are the Automamoms and the Daddroids. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t ask us about ourselves because we really can’t answer – we have lost our identities. Ask us our names and we will pause only long enough to tell you, “I’m Jane’s mom…” and, “I’m Justin’s dad…”

Meet our Robokids. Please note that they won’t care about meeting you unless you talk about them. Ask them their names and anything else that concerns them, and they will tell you. Then they will be silent. Perhaps waiting for instruction.

In our impossible quest to be perfect parents, we have lost our selves as people. And we are destroying all that makes us – and our children – human.

The good news is parenting is a behavior and behavior can be changed.

This is your wakeup call. Hello? Are you in there? Life is calling…

The Ten Steps for going from humanoid parent back to human being

  • 1. Put yourself first (at least sometimes).
  • 2. Keep the family together.
  • 3. Don't be your child's friend.
  • 4. Get disorganized.
  • 5. Bore your kids.
  • 6. Put your children to work.
  • 7. Miss the soccer game.
  • 8. Pare down.
  • 9. Tell your children they did not do a good job.
  • 10. Get back in the real world.

Quiz: Are you a Robotic Parent?

Instructions: choose (1) or (2). Add up the points at the quiz's end.

1. For you, a "driving range" is defined as:

(1) green grass, blue skies, and your yellow golf balls
(2) the miles between hockey rinks (soccer fields, etc.) your child plays on during traveling team games

2. How well does your child know spiderman (barbie, etc.)?

(1) pretty well, by reading or watching a dvd they were in
(2) very well, as spiderman (barbie, etc.) has come to see him personally, at his birthday party

3. You artfully arrange a double sleepover (away) for your two kids on a Saturday night so you can:

(1) seduce your husband
(2) finish up studying how to help your kids with their homework

4. After a game of tennis with your daughter, you:

(1) give her a bottle of water, to rehydrate
(2) give her your remote control, thank her, and leave the room

5. You are cleaning the dinner dishes yourself because:

(1) your kids are in full body casts from a freak accident and can't help
(2) your kids are busy texting their friends

Scoring: If you scored 5 points, you are still a human person. If you scored 7-9, you are in the danger zone. If you scored 9 or 10, you have crossed over and become a robotic parent. Time for the 10 steps...

Monday, March 26, 2012


i'm driving to pick up the kids from their dad's house last evening, 30 minutes without traffic but 60 minutes with, and on a tuesday evening coming out of the city, it's definitely with traffic. I realize - no, i admit, finally, that i am running on fumes. My car has been thirsty for gas for about 2 days now, and now it's showing signs of dehydration and i'm facing 20 miles left on the 30 mile trip out. living in a city, it's both easy to ignore the need for gas in a car and it's difficult to find a gas station. the past 2 days, i'd been facing the choice between getting gas at one gas station or running into Whole Foods to get my favorite vegan chocolate chip muffin. The muffin won out, I was sated my hunger, my car stayed thirsty. But there was just not enough time to do both before the baby had to go down for a nap.

So now i'm facing the result of my choices. The gas light is red as is undoubtedly my face, from stress. i'm swimming in a sea of traffic. I know that around the next corner, there is at least 1 gas station. i am conscious of the red gas light playing off of the red lights, that keep turning red, forcing me to use more and more gas while getting nowhere. To boot, there is a Prius right in front of me, as if with an "I told you so" message. I wouldn't run out of gas in a Prius.

Finally, when the light turns green, I see it up ahead. It looks to be a Shell gas station. Or wait, it could be a Burger King. I still haven't succumbed to wearing my glasses - some grey hair is enough, i'm not that old yet - so I can't quite make out if I'm coming upon a Burger King or a Shell station. The yellow and red colors are muted and hazy. My heart beats faster as my slight anxiety disorder kicks in. I find myself doing three of the things common to people with anxiety issues: overestimate the odds: the odds are huge that i will run out of gas before i get to a gas station; assume the worst possible outcome: my cell phone will die on the spot so i won't be able to call for a tow to a gas station; assume I won't be able to deal with the situation: I will freak out and will be carted off to a psychiatric hospital, baby in tow....

And then, yes, it's a Shell station! I relax a bit but then see the "cash only" sign. I prepare myself for the psyche hospital, thinking who i'll call to tell when they admit me....

And there it is, the Mobil station. Feeling seeps back into my now-numbed arms and legs.

There are many Mobil stations in life. Moral of the story? Take time and get yourself that muffin. There are enough Mobil stations around, but there's only 1 you and you need to feed yourself to be able to take care of your kids. Besides. what's a little vacation in a psychiatric hospital? You don't have to fly there, and there's plenty of rest....