Richard Melnick, author of Parents Who Don't Do Dishes, talks Breaking Bad and clairvoyance
You mention god several times in your book, as well as some religious experiences you've had. Do you believe in a higher power?
Well, this is what I refer to in the book as your "Greater Nature." It's being fully accessible in the here and now. It's sort of the doorway to the world of feeling. I had this one type of experience on multiple occasions. When I had this experience, it was like this message was planted into my brain. I don't know if it's a guy with a white beard, but I do believe in some loving omnipotent force. It's some mega-loving force that I couldn't begin to describe. I know that my god, if you want to call it that, is an experiential god. It's not the type of god you need to go to church to be in tune with. But in the book I didn't want to tell anybody what I believe or what they should believe. I just wanted to create some signposts that would allow them to discover their own truth.
You also relate almost everything in your book to the activity of doing dishes. Whether its relationships, moods, maturity -- do you think doing dishes is kind of a microcosm of life?
I suppose. It definitely gives you an opportunity to watch your feelings rise and fall away. You can spend time with yourself and ask what you're feeling at that moment. Is it anger, gratitude, maybe joy bubbling up with the dish soap? It's a great opportunity for kids to learn service and how to work. It's also a great opportunity to learn how to manage your reactivity, if you're not in the mood to do the dishes. But I'm not saying all kids have to do the dishes. My book was really a device for sharing all these lessons. I could have just as easily titled it, Parents Who Don't Vacuum. On this subject, I guess I think kids are more dextrous and intelligent than we give them credit for. It's really a matter of training, accountability and also catching them when they're being good and praising them for doing the things you ask of them.
You have a few funny titles in your book. One of them is called "Shut the Fuck Up," which I found very interesting. Can you briefly describe the thesis of this chapter in regards to parenting and the psychology behind it?
[Laughs.] It's part of the grand bargain that I outline in the book. It's about parents recognizing their kids' sovereignty. Kids offer tribute in exchange for having their sovereignty acknowledged and respected. As a parent, part of acknowledging that your kid is an independent being is learning to manage your own reactivity. In the book I write, "I agonized over including this phrase as I know it will offend some kindly readers, though it seems to me that it's only this kind of vulgarity that adequately speaks to the obscene practice of bossing your kid around as if you knew what your kid needs to do or think. Micro-managing your kid is deeply offensive and a huge spiritual, emotional and practical mistake." So yeah, it's vulgar, but I think those words are shocking. I wanted to shock the readers into taking accountability. I think it needed to be in there.
You also mention having dreams that come true in real life. I too have experienced this phenomenon. Do you have an explanation for this? What do you make of these clairvoyant dreams?
Well, my explanation is that time is non-linear. If you want my real bias, it's that we're everywhere, always. Form is an illusion and time is an illusion. There's an unmanifested world. Some people call it consciousness or your spirit or your soul. I call it your Greater Nature. Whatever that is, it doesn't die when your body is gone. This is my belief. This energy is not defined by your body. It's eternal. It's everywhere and it's always there. If you have that sort of foundation or belief system, then it's easy to explain how you may have had a dream on Tuesday that came true on Thursday, or five years later, or even 25 years later. So it kind of makes sense that it's all jumbled up. It's not linear. It's all happening at once. I don't know. I don't have any proof of it. Off the record, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. [Laughs.] I represent in the book that I don't normally talk like this.
So, do you want me to leave that last part out?
You mean the fact that I don't know what in the hell I'm talking about?
Yes. Well, I think it's funny because to me that's what the book was all about. It's a huge balance between lightheartedness and some pretty deep stuff. That was the strength of your writing, in my opinion.
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. That's really what I was going for. Okay, so you can include it. Whatever. You know, I'm starting down this path of doing interviews and it's been kind of interesting for me because I've been kind of stiff. But now I'm realizing nobody is gonna buy my book if I just prattle on. I just have to be myself and let the chips fall where they may.
But that's definitely the attitude you need to have. Because then when people actually do buy your book, you'll be pleasantly surprised -- which is another thing you talk about in your book. Can you expand on the idea of pleasant surprises and what you think they mean?
It's like a beautiful stolen moment for me. Pleasant surprises are why you get up in the morning. [Laughs.] That's kind of a stupid answer. Hold on, let me find the section where I wrote this. Okay, so the idea of pleasant surprises is that they can happen when you're participating radically in the truth of what you're feeling now. I think it's that act that allows for some transformation. As opposed to fearing the next moment, you're in tune with the now. It might be pleasant, it even might be unpleasant, but either way you're willing to go with it. Here's the point: You can't selectively feel. The degree to which you're willing to feel pain is the same degree to which you're willing to feel pleasure. When you participate in the truth of what you're feeling, you allow for pleasant surprises. It also allows for painful surprises. But at least you're real. At least you're keeping it real. That's what authenticity is all about.