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How Trent Reznor Can Mold Your Child's Life
A Reality-Based Parenting© Lesson Plan

A friend sent me this column last night. He thought being that I write about my kids a lot I'd enjoy this guy's story about taking his kids to Target.

As the author tells it, he's got three young daughters with birthdays coming up. he and his wife take the kiddies to Target to scan the toy aisles so they can make out their birthday wish lists. It is, of course, a horror show for them, resulting in the parents wanting to drink themselves through lunch. Reading this, one gets the impression that these kids have never been in a department store before.

I've never heard of the practice of taking your kids "pretend" shopping for their birthday presents, parading them down aisle after aisle of toys, leading them to believe that the toy department is their own personal shopping mall and if they wish real hard, mommy and daddy will make their Barbie dreams come true! Mr., that's what commercials are for.

In my Reality-Based Parenting© world, I not only streamline efforts like buying/picking out birthday presents, I take every available opportunity to toughen my kids up and teach them the hard, mean lessons of life early on so they don't turn into sissies with a sense of entitlement.

Here's how it works in my world.

You plop your kids down in front of the tv, Nickelodeon being your weapon of choice. In twenty minutes, and without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home, your kids have found fifteen new toys they want, in addition to eight kinds of candy and four brands of cereal and you are presented with the opportunity to teach your kids some valuable life lessons and harden them up for the tough life ahead of them.

After they come to you with their hastily scrawled list of toys and games, you tell them you'll think about it, then you fold up the list and put it in your pocket. The kids are still standing there, wide eyed and shaking with giddy, over-sensitized commercial awareness.

Can we have Loaded Sugar Bomb Cereal?
Can we have Chocolate...
Can we have Donut Breakfast Sprink..
Kool Aid?
Twelve foot long fruit strips?
A pint size, battery powered Lexus complete with vanity plate?
That game with the six thousand marbles?

You keep a harsh edge to your voice. And just wait for it. As if on cue, they howl, they cry, they pout and throw themselves on the floor and kick you in the shins and scream that they never, ever, ever get to have ANYTHING good or fun or new.

So you do what any responsible parent would do. You sit them in front of the stereo, turn down the lights and make them listen to Trent Reznor emoting about something he can never have. You sing along, making sure to pantomime your heart breaking. You make it resonate. When the final, heartbreaking notes of the song fade out, you tell them, If you think it hurts to not be able to get your damn sugar coated chocolate filled breakfast treat, just wait until that hot chick who has been teasing you in math class for three months tells you she's a lesbian.

When you put the kids to bed that night, you eschew the lullabies and put Stabbing Westward's Wither, Blister, Burn and Peel on repeat in their Winnie the Pooh CD players.

The next day, when you realize you've used the last of your 40 pack of paper towels and you make a panic run to Costco, you take them with you. You purposely take them down the toy aisle to see if they learned anything. There's rows of brightly colored packages; board games, mechanical toys, whirring lights and beeping robots and stacks of pink boxes stuffed with busty blonde dolls. You look at your kids and you can see their hands twitch involuntarily. But they keep walking. They don't reach for a box or try to play with the electronic drum set on display.

You can't help but test them a little bit.

"Hey look, Johnny. It's that new gizmo you wanted!"
"Eh. Why bother asking for it? It would only end up disappointing me later, anyhow."

You try to hide your proud smile. And when your daughter sullenly walks past the rows of Barbies, kicks one of the boxes and mutters bitch under her breath, you quietly pump your fist and say yessssss.

[Look for my Reality-Based Parenting© infomercial in the near future]


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A Reality-Based Parenting© Lesson Plan

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If you think it hurts to not be able to get your damn sugar coated chocolate filled breakfast treat, just wait until that hot chick who has been teasing you in math class for three months tells you she’s a lesbian. Michele Catalano... [Read More]

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michele, I love you. I really really do. But if you ever equate early NIN with Stabbing Westward again without making the devil eye curse sign with your hand and spitting on the Stabbing Westward cd cover, I will disown you.

I mean, you barely know me save from like ten emails and a few exchanged links, but still, DISOWNMENT. And that is serious, missy. VERY serious.

(yes, I own 'wither' too, I just hate myself when i listen to it. Please don't tell me you like gravity kills too. that would be too much for this heart to bear, even though I kind of own the GK catalog too, but really really hate myself when I listen to them...)

I didn't exactly compare them. But I hold a special place in my heart for SW. They make up the soundtrack to the complete obliteration of my soul. Granted, it was Darkest Days that made up the bulk of the soundtrack, but still...(not saying a word about GK).

Michele, have I mentioned lately that you rule? No? Well you do.

Reminds me of my Christmas list-making, when I would go through the toy section of the Sears catalog and look at all the cool toys I'd be putting on my list even though I knew I wouldn't get them. To this day I still put one unreasonable item on any gift suggestion list that is requested by my family.

Ha! That's a howl! I just tell my kids "When you save enough money for it, you can buy it." I think the 5-year-old may actually try to make a run for the Rescue Heroes fire truck he's been eyeing... :)

I take the "save up" route as well. But I would fail micheles reality-based parenting classes because I make it too easy on them: for every dollar they save at the credit union, I match a dollar. I AM setting them up for a disappointment when they get their first "real" job and discover that their employer only matches 50% of the first 3% they save in their 401Ks .

But I like the fact that they're innocent. If I wanted to be surrounded by snarky, bitter, world-weary cynics, I would have just gotten some cats.


One question though: Why not Darkest Days? I would think nothing hammers the point home more than an album that progresses through the stages of a break-up.

I take the opposite approach, I buy them every impulse item they see and want. Eventually we reach the same point you did: bitter disappointment, followed by seething hatred of all things shiny and new.

The only practical difference is I have heaps and heaps of the junk strewn all over the floors, under beds, in the backs of closets.

So what does a child's soul taste like, exactly, Michele?

Like chicken,Gabe

"Like chicken,Gabe"

With a slight hint of sweetness.


Clearly you and my parents have similar (an obviously the best) parenting methods. My dad made me listen to Frank Zappa and Iron Butterfly... I don't think they brought as much self loathing to the table as they did general wackiness, but I see where he was going with it now.

My favorite SW album was Ungod because it was the most scary.

Ungod was by far their best album. Mr. Hall clearly was went off his antidepressants after that.

Analogue Mouse - I tried that with my boys - told them they could only have a PS2 if they bought it themselves. I couldn't believe how much money in quarters they saved up in their piggie banks. Needless to say, later that night I found myself at Best Buy.

fuckin' A righteous!!!!!

I love you... I really, really do. If we both weren't married, I'd pick up my shit and move to NY, just to stalk you.

despite the whole Yankee thing.

Damn, and you called me an asshole for my blog post making fun of emo kids...

While I like Stabbing Westward and much of Nine Inch Nails, using them to break your kids' desire to get a nice present is pretty damn cruel...

Yay for not letting kids grow up with a sense of entitlement.

Boo for encouraging parents to cause toddler-meltdowns in aisle 3 of the grocery. (It's one reason why I set my alarm clock for 6 am on Saturdays - so I can do grocery shopping unimpeded by the mass of puling humanity and their weepy/demanding/loud kids).

Fortunately Mr. Hall waited to go off the HOT until Darkest Days. I met him once...mmmm.

Sweet, you are doing the Lord's work. Kid's need to learn that the earlier their souls are crushed the better. How about throwing the kids a little Rammstein just to mix it up a bit.

Glad you could both clear that up for me. Chicken with a mild hint of sweetness. I'll have to come up with a recipe.

Steve - the Sears Wish Book! Going through the catalog page by page; pouring over the pictures and the descriptions... circling the toys and carefully choosing all the accessories was my favorite part of the pre-Christmas ritual...that book held everything your heart desired and then some.


...something in a sweet & sour, perhaps?


I think you are my hero. And I don't even know you.

You LOVE Ungod? Nobody even knows what that album is (except for some of these commenters)!

Unreal. I need to find people like this where I live!

I really like Stabbing Westward too, but their image was kind of ruined for me when I saw them in Ft. Lauderdale a few years ago and observed several forty-something fans playing air guitar to their music. Also, the lead singer whatsisname was wearing one of those mesh football shirts in a bright purple shade.

I like NIN's music but I will always hold a special hatred in my heart for Trent Reznor for spitting Heinekin all over me and everyone else in the front row. This was when Nine Inch Nails were nobody and were opening up for other bands -- The Jesus and Mary Chain on this tour (in a pool hall in Melbourne, Florida no less). Why did he spit Heinekin all over everyone? I don't know, any more than I know why he was covered head to foot in flour.

snarky, bitter, world-weary cynic
Slartibartfast March 10, 2005 09:33 AM

yep. can't teach what she don't know-

It's those six minutes and a box full of photos that make every last whine worth listening to

there it is.

an expert of sorts


reading further your fun smart blog
I find that, for a "snarky cynic", you sure are a caring, skilled and, cool mom.

theres definitely a positive charge at Lileks and here. Soon enough I'll be testing my own parental batteries which I've been charging for years. I cant wait, yet have because i had no illusions and a few diversions.

thanks for sharing