The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The E-Mail of Doom

Here’s the kind of email from Dad that you don’t want to get. A British father, retired from the Royal Navy, sent this to his three (sort of) adult children after what must have been a very dismal evening together:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth…

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents…

He concludes, after noting that the kids have made a series of poor “copulation driven” decisions at key turning points in their lives, with this plea:

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Mum and Dad may have a little more responsibility for this situation than the email acknowledges; the world’s best parents only rarely end up raising the world’s most irresponsible kids. In an interview, the email’s author talks about getting an earful from his own mother for his style of child raising:

“I remember once my mother asking me what Emily — who was at Exeter University at the time — was up to. I said I hadn’t a clue. ‘What a way to run a family!’ she said.” His late mother’s words have haunted him since.

“I bought into the fashionable philosophy of not interfering; letting the children find themselves. When they were getting into trouble — at school, or later with their relationships — I would just bite my lip and tell myself, ‘Don’t butt in, it’s their lives.’”

This holiday weekend when many of us are spending time with family, it’s worth asking ourselves what are we doing to avoid either getting an email like this or having to send one. Even in a culture devoted to self esteem and success, lives can go wrong in very dismal ways, and it’s worth stepping back every now and then to get a reality check.

Since the email went out, two of Commander Crews’ three children aren’t speaking to him. Relations with the third seem to have improved. Via Meadia wishes the best to all concerned.

Read the whole email here.

Published on November 24, 2012 4:25 pm