As You Wish… Parenting Advice from The Princess Bride.

Because I am both lazy and an opportunistic multitasker, I like to work on my parenting skills while doing something decidedly more fun, like watching a movie. Movies are way better than hours of self-reflection. And who needs to spend time agonizing over how to impart good values to our children when Hollywood has already done it for us?

In perhaps the most perfect movie of the 1980s (which is saying something since it’s the decade that brought us Weird Science, Die Hard, and The Goonies), The Princess Bride offers parents all the information we need to raise competent, well-adjusted, thieves, pirates, and princesses. Here are ten of the best pearls of wisdom and how to adapt them into your parenting routine.

  1. “Who said life was fair? Where is that written? Life isn’t always fair.”

Granted, this bit of advice has been a parenting mainstay since the beginning of time (or at least since the beginning of whining), but it remains relevant today. Because it’s true. Life isn’t fair. And fairness is overrated anyway. Next time your kid bites you, take the opportunity to point that out.

  1. “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

Never has a generation been more invested in the concept of immediacy than the kids we are raising now. Instant gratification has become the norm. But patience is a virtue (another pearl of wisdom gleaned from pop culture – thank you Trix Rabbit!), and kids need to know that there are things worth waiting for. Like love and success and a really good marinara sauce.

  1. “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

When the day comes that you have to look into your child’s eyes and explain to them a painful loss, these words will come in handy. Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs, the idea that love transcends all is universally comforting.

  1. “When I was your age, television was called books.”

To update this for today’s world, you can say, “When I was your age, texting was called actually talking to people.” Or something like that. This quote illustrates how every generation feels like the next is being ruined by technology, and how they are both wrong— and right— about that.

  1. “Rodents of unusual size? I don’t think they exist.”

Westley says this a moment before he is mauled by, you guessed it, a rodent of unusual size. This illustrates why you should teach your children to expect the unexpected. It is also a handy thing to remember when you are in Mexico. Ever seen a capybara? I have, and it haunts my nightmares. . .

  1. “Cynics are simply thwarted romantics.”

I think this is true. Behind every cynical snipe or jab, is a person who has been hurt and is afraid of being hurt again. Knowing this may help heal your romantic’s soft heart, or help your cynic become more self-aware. Either way, it bears repeating because everyone lands on one side of this equation or the other. Often times, both, depending on how well-fed, well-rested, and well-chocolated one is at the moment.

  1. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Inigo Montoya says this to Vizzini when he keeps using the word “inconceivable” to describe things that are completely conceivable. Today, we can use this comment when our kids say “literally.” When a person under the age of 21 uses the word literally, it literally never means literally.

  1. “Get used to disappointment.”

This is another parenting mainstay, but one that bears repeating. If there is one problem I see over and over again in children today, it’s that they have no capacity for disappointment. This is because we, as parents, shield our kids from disappointment like it is an incoming Tomahawk missile. Medals for everyone? No keeping score? Let’s not pick a winner? Please. When we take away disappointment we also take away the hunger for achievement. It’s ridiculous. It isn’t fun to watch our kids be disappointed, but it is absolutely essential to raising a human being who doesn’t feel entitled. And I promise you, there is no greater disappointment than getting out into the world and realizing you are not the brightest star in the sky, as you were led to believe your whole life.

  1. “There’s not a lot of money in the revenge business.”

This is my personal favorite. (Mostly because Inigo Montoya says it in his fetching Spanish-tinged-with-Jewish-New-York accent.) But if there is one thing I hope I’ve taught my kids, it’s that old adage about how holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. Which leads me to my last piece of advice. . .

  1. “Never go in against a Sicilian where death is on the line.”

I’m not exactly sure what parenting application this has, it just seems like good, solid advice.

 

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent.

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You have the right to remain silent about your children’s accomplishments. Anything you post on social media can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you? Good. Because chances are you’re guilty.

Don’t feel bad. We are all guilty of bragging about our kids on social media to some extent. It is practically a mandate for parents today to indulge in a little bit of boasting via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. But it doesn’t change the fact that bragging about your kid is unseemly. At worst, it can be hurtful to parents who are less fortunate; at best it is just plain annoying.

I don’t want you to misunderstand. It’s not that I am not super happy that your son’s tee ball team just took third place in the sub-regional, U-9, division 4, Chili Pepper qualifier, because I am. Obviously.

And it isn’t that I don’t want to see 400 pictures of your kids enjoying themselves on spring break because I really am so glad that you are #lovinglife and #feeelingblessed. Obviously.

And it’s not that I’m not totally impressed that your son made the 7th grade, second semester A/B honor roll (which I kind of already knew about from your bumper sticker), because that’s an awesome achievement. Obviously.

It’s just that it’s enough already. Obviously.

If connection is the beating heart of social media, bragging is its evil twin. And just as if life was one big soap opera, the evil twin is always lurking. Bragging on social media has become so ubiquitous it is now part of the deal. But I think we need to examine why it is part of the deal. Why is it that people who would never brag about themselves, feel free to crow about their kids in front of 1,100 of their closest friends? My theory is that they file those little boasts under the category of being proud. But who are they really proud of?

Posting your child’s every achievement (or non-achievement as the case often is) actually says more about you than about them. I mean, I get it: parenting is hard and we all just want to feel like we are doing a decent job at it. So when we sneak in a post about how our kid took first place in the second grade spelling bee, what we are really saying is, “Look! I haven’t totally screwed my kid up! Despite my crippling fear of ruining this precious human life, they’ve lived to see another day without turning into the Unabomber or Snooki! Yay me!”

And that’s why a little bit of bragging is acceptable. But however well intentioned it may be, we should try to keep the boasting in check. People whose children are having a hard time don’t want to constantly hear about how great yours are doing. In addition, I think it sends the wrong message to our kids. It has been well established that social media is contributing to a culture of narcissism. Posting every time your child has even the tiniest measure of success may lead kids to believe they are superior to others, entitled to privileges, and cause them to crave constant admiration from others. (And then your back full circle to the Unabomber and Snooki.)

I have to say that, happily, the number of braggy posts I see on my Facebook feed is diminishing. I’d like to think this is a sign that our collective conscience is telling us that this sort of thinly veiled self-congratulatory behavior is destructive to our larger parenting community, that we understand this constant spotlight on our kids isn’t any better for them than it is for us, and that we are trying to stay connected in more positive, uplifting ways. But it could just be that I have the best social media friends in the world. Not to brag or anything.


I Can Bring Home the Bacon, but the Rest Is On You.

One of the most iconic TV commercials I remember seeing as a kid was that one in which the blonde lady sings about how she can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever, ever let you forget you’re a man. Seriously. Those are the actual lyrics. The year was 1980. And I still remember the commercial all these years later, not because it was such a great ad (truthfully, I needed a quick Google search to remind me it was for Enjoli perfume), but because even at seven years old, I think I knew the whole thing was a total crockpot of shit.

Obviously this ad wasn’t just selling perfume. It was selling the You-Can-Have-It-All lifestyle to a new generation of women who had previously been shut out of serious positions within corporate America and who were largely relegated to the domestic realm. But thanks to the Women’s Lib movement of the 1970s, now BOTH realms were open to women. At the same time. This commercial was more than just a commercial; it was a sign of the times.

The fine folks at the now defunct Charles of the Ritz company were trying to attach their product to the now defunct idea that it’s a breeze for any woman to be a successful professional, a doting wife, an attentive mother, a gourmet cook, a meticulous homemaker, and a satin gown wearing sex kitten – all at the same time.

Here is what the ad was really saying:

I can bring home the bacon.

(Nice double entendre, Enjoli.) The first meaning of the word bacon in this line is obviously money. But perhaps, this line would have been more accurate had it said, “I can bring home 73% of the same bacon you can bring home – even though I worked just as hard for my bacon as you did for yours.”

The second ‘entendre’ of the word bacon here is actual bacon. The message being, “Yes, dear, I’ll stop at the market on my way home from work and pick you up some bacon.”

Fry it Up in a Pan.

The point here is clear: That bacon ain’t going to cook itself.

And never, ever, ever let you forget you’re a man.

“After I’ve worked all day, shopped, cooked, cleaned up, and read the kids a bedtime story, there’s nothing I’d rather do than spray on some atomized pheromones (aka, Enjoli), slip into that Some Like It Hot white satin number I have lying around and rock your world.”

Enjoli. The 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman.  

This is the official tagline of the commercial. Maybe it’s just me, but the subtext here seems to be something more subversive. There seems to be an implied threat here: You wanted it all, sweetheart? Well, here it all is. Be careful what you wish for.

If this commercial were to be update for today’s world, I think it would go something more like this.

Same jazzy woman’s voice singing:

You can bring home the bacon (but don’t forget to grab a gallon of milk and some greek yogurt on your way home).

Fry it up in a pan (or microwave it, I don’t care –I’m not eating that shit. I’m ordering sushi.).

And I’ll never, ever, ever let you forget that you’re a man… with a pre-disposition for arterial sclerosis, so slow down on that bacon. And for the love of pete, would you do some crunches once in a while?

The tagline would also need to be changed because clearly this is now an ad for bacon. Or The American Heart Association. Or perhaps sushi. But in any case, it is no longer an ad promoting the idea that women can Have it All. And thank goodness for that. We all know that while women CAN have it all, we really don’t WANT it all. We want to split it. We’ll cook. You clean. We’ll fold. You put away. We won’t let you forget you’re a man, if you get up with the kids in the morning. Our trail-blazing, bacon-frying, Enjoli-wearing mothers taught us that while having it all is a nice idea, the reality is fraught with boobie traps. (Oh, yes. Pun intended.) And the load is lighter when shared.

Of course, TV ads today don’t really have the influence they once did anyway. Thanks to DVRs, most seven year old children, rather than ponder the sociological implications of a quasi-feminist-while-being-actually-misogynistic perfume ad, are more likely to ask the far more concrete question, “Mommy, what’s a commercial?”

For a more serious analysis of the Enjoli commercial, check out Jennifer Ludden’s piece on NPR.