If you aren’t familiar with the name James Breakwell, then maybe you recognize his Twitter handle, @XplodingUnicorn. The comedy writer and father of four daughters (all under the age of eight!) is internet-famous for his hilarious parenting-focused Twitter feed.
Breakwell’s new book, Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child, is as funny as you’d expect. Here are our favourite gems.
On preparing for parenthood: “Bare minimum parents know that no matter how prepared you think you are for a kid, you’ll never be fully ready. No amount of emotional, intellectual, or financial groundwork will ever make it easy to scrub poop off the wall. And, no, college parties won’t train you in advance. You can’t let your kid sleep it off on the cold bathroom floor, no matter how much they deserve it.”
On your kid’s likability: “You’ll never truly know how much other people like your kid, but chances are it’s less than you think. That’s fine. Just make sure your child isn’t so bad that people express their displeasure by forming an angry mob. If your kid’s only exercise is running from torches and pitchforks, you’ve failed as a parent.”
On making parenting mistakes: “Kids have survived questionable parenting for millennia, and our species is no worse for it. Young children can bounce back from anything because they won’t remember it. They evolved this amnesia as much for your benefit as for theirs. You have a solid four or five years to mess up without any consequences. Parenting is mostly trial and error. Get your errors out of the way early on and no one will be the wiser—especially not you.”
This comedy special made me laugh at the parenting moments that used to make me cry On taking kid pictures: “Even as a bare minimum parent, you have to take pictures. Not enough to document every second of your child’s waking life—and certainly not as many as overachieving parents—but enough to convince your kid they had a good childhood. It might be a lie, but that’s okay because you’re the one holding the camera. History is written by the victors. Except in parenting, where it’s written by you.”
On grandparents: “From an ethical standpoint, there’s nothing worse than pawning off your child on your own parents. But from a bare minimum perspective, it’s a job well done. This is a book about how to be a lazy parent, not a good person. Morals are too much work.”
On siblings: “If you have enough children, they’ll raise themselves. Like any pack animal, siblings form a hierarchy. Your children will know which kid is in charge and which kid they would eat if it really came down to it. It pays not to be the youngest or the chubbiest.”
On kid sleeping arrangements: “Personally, I’m a fan of stacking children. Bunk beds let you cram more kids into a small area, which means you can get by in a smaller house with fewer bedrooms. By sleeping in bunk beds, your kids will learn to share a space, and, if the one in the top bunk falls out of bed, they’ll learn a lesson about gravity they’ll always remember—unless they land on their head. Then they’ll immediately forget.”
On schools: “Overachieving parents will never believe all schools are the same. They’ll point out that kids who go to rich high schools get into prestigious colleges. That’s true, but not because their kids learned anything special. Rich kids get into rich colleges because they’re rich. Overachieving parents aren’t getting their kids ahead; they’re just paying a premium for mediocrity. Talk about a bad investment.”
On kid’s sports: “What youth sports really teach kids is to stick with something they hate because their own goals aren’t as important as other people’s. What you wanted was a well-rounded human being, but what you got was a martyr. Expect that to come up down the road six eggnogs into Christmas.”
On unconditional love: “Supporting your kid unconditionally won’t make them a strong, independent leader; it’ll make them totally dependent on you. What starts with you attending every trivia match will end with you and your adult child living together in a creepy house above your murder motel. Never go into business with family.”
On discipline: “To stop your kid from playing while they’re in trouble, tell them to stay on their bed. For an adult, this would be the ultimate reward. For a kid, it’s capital punishment. Admittedly, if you don’t check on them, they’ll just sneak off their bed to play with all their cool stuff. Let them. They won’t want to get caught, so they’ll play quietly. Mission accomplished.”
On chores: “If you’re motivated—which you aren’t—you can punish your kid with extra chores. The problem is that chores are things that need to be done. If you punish your kid by making them do the laundry, you’re really punishing yourself by forcing your family to wear poorly washed clothes. Have fun looking homeless.”
On worrying: To ensure your kid makes it, you’ll be tempted to worry about every possible threat. Don’t. There are more ways for your child to die than you can possibly imagine. But worrying about them won’t do any good because it won’t actually prevent them. In bare minimum parenting, the only thing more tragic than an early death is wasted effort. It takes courage to be lazy.”
From Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child by James Breakwell.