Steve Wiley on Discussing Your Rowdy Past with Your Kids and a Punk Legend

May I Add An Amendment, Mr. Doe?

I've kept John's fine advice in mind over the past 8 years. Like all things parenting, it's easier said than done (which of course, we both agreed on). You can't just sit the kids down and say, "Let me tell you about the time I broke the law," or "Man, we used to party our asses off" without giving a little thought to the possible repercussions.

But it's more than that. Although it doesn't seem like it most of the time, kids pay attention. They notice things. They think about what you said even though you don't think they heard it. Like it or not, they are gonna emulate some of the shit you do, or did, for better or worse.

So you gotta be careful. When you're a hoodlum, there's some of your footsteps in which you probably don't want your kids to follow.

On the other hand, nothing annoys me more than dishonesty. Telling the truth is one of very most important things on my life agenda. I don't want my kids to bullshit me, so I try not to bullshit them.

Luckily, you can avoid the paradox by just being careful about what you share about your past. You can extract the lessons and leave out the details. Call it propaganda if you want - but parenting is nothing if not manipulation.

If, er, when you get questions (or if you try to write an honest blog), things can trickier. With adults, I'm not afraid to blow someone's hair back with an honest response. With kids, ya gotta have rules. Once they hit a certain age, then you can open the flood gates, but until then, the responsibilities of parenthood trump, and you gotta lead them into adulthood slowly.

Fortunately, I haven't heard many really tricky questions yet, but I know they are coming. Whenever I can, I'm gonna try my best to follow the advice of my "work conference" pal, the punk rock parent, and be as honest as I can be.

But when the questions get too tough, I'll be pulling out a lesson I learned from my own sordid past:

Plead the Fifth.

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