Should you let your kids have screen time when they’re younger? How young is too young to give them their first phone? What about sugar and processed foods? Should they get an allowance? Should you make them get a job? Do they have to clean up after themselves or can the parents help? Should they do their own laundry?
Being a parent is, in a sense, just an endless stream of questions. We don’t know, so we ask. Or we are asked—by their teachers, by the state, by fellow parents, an endless stream of policy questions: Can they watch R-rated movies? Are you okay with this or that? Is it safe to do this or that?
It would be wonderful if there was clarity on this, if there was one central authority that had all the answers, but you have to have suspected by now that that is not true. In fact, really coming into your own as a father, requires a realization like the one that Allen Ginsberg had on his path to become a poet. He was 28 and had a job as a market researcher. He told his psychologist that he was considering quitting this promising career to make his own way in the world, to become a poet. “Well, why not?” his psychiatrist said.”What would the American Psychoanalytic Association say?” Ginsberg replied. And the psychiatrist said, “There’s no party line.”
That’s what you realize as a father: There is no party line. There is no clear answer—not for having kids, not even for one kid versus the other. As we’ve talked about, every situation, every child, every age is different. You’ll have to figure it out as you go.
That doesn’t mean winging it, but it does mean you will have to answer these questions. No one can do it for you.