Bringing up a child is such an awesome responsibility that you may wonder how someone like you is allowed to do it. (The Department of Child Welfare definitely does.)
But no one asks perfection of you. The important thing is that your kids have someone there to guide them through the thousands of little discoveries that are part of growing up. To help them develop the skills that they’ll need as adults. But as tempting as it may be to try to teach your child everything early, in the hopes that they’ll shut the hell up for five minutes, you have to space their life lessons out so as to allow their growing mental schemas to adapt to new information.
Knowing what to teach your child, and when, can be tricky. Here are some general guidelines.
Age 3: Children should have an independent identity and be able to articulate their wants and needs. When they ask you for something, be sure to screw it up some of the time, to teach them that fortune is fickle and their desires ultimately don’t matter.
Age 4: Children should have a solid demarcation between fantasy and reality. Explain to them that their toys, unlike those in Toy Story, are not alive, and burn a couple of them to prove it.
Age 5: Children should have a concept of money. Tell them that the food they eat and the clothes they wear cost money. Show them pictures of the sick stereo system you would be able to buy if you didn’t have them.
Age 6: Children should know that there are many different kinds of families, and that they’re all valid. Aunt Christy, for example, lives in a desert commune with fifty-nine other women who are all married to The Wise One.
Age 7: Children should have a concept of death. Specifically, that death means eternal oblivion, heaven isn’t real, and that all you do is rot. You may want to dig up any deceased family pets you may have to really drive the point home.
Age 8: Children should know that YOU buy all their Christmas presents and you don’t want some fake magic dork getting any of the credit.
Age 9: Children should know what taxes are, and which ethnic group(s) are responsible for their being so high.
Age 10: Daughters should be informed at this age that their bodies are going to change soon; and once they do, they will never be taken seriously as human beings ever again, and the best they can hope for is a sinecured existence as a beautiful and prized object. To this end, they should begin to learn about makeup, fashion, and body language.
Age 11: Children should begin to build a sense of civic engagement and using their voices to contribute to society. Pick a movie or TV sequel you dislike, and help your child write threatening tweets to its lead actress.
Age 12: Children should have a good start on developing critical thinking skills. Challenge them to identify three fallacies that were used against you by the prosecutor in your last custody hearing.
Age 13: Children should be able to manage income and follow a simple budget. Farm out a couple of your regular weed customers to them and see how they do.
Age 14: Children should begin learning how to behave toward a romantic partner. This is the best age to begin grounding them in necessary relationship skills such as belittlement, passive aggression, and jockeying for moral authority.
Age 15: This is a good age to have the “porn talk”; specifically, that you had a colorful past and if they click on the wrong link, you can’t be held responsible for what they see.
Age 16: Children should be developing a sense of altruism and service to others. Encourage them to perform random favors, such as driving you to their PTA meeting if you have a bit of a buzz on.
Age 17: Children should display the ability to think about the future and make long-term plans. Ask them to develop a plan for your nursing care when you’re old and infirm.
Age 18: As legal adults, children should begin preparing for their independent existence. Help them along by being as physically and emotionally distant as you possibly can. If you ever wanted to go an an ayahuasca retreat, this is the time to do it.