So, because I have worked with children nearly my entire life, I have seen it all. I have seen: the over-pampered, the overachiever, the total underachiever , the troubled, you name it. I have been babysitting since I was 11, which is several decades at this point! I don’t really share my age, but I will say that The Cosby Show was a hot show when I was a tween. 🙂
There are stark differences in parenting from the 50s until now. Stories involving family or friends or the portrayal of the family unit on tv shows really display the changes from decade to decade quite clearly. Many people of today think it terrible that in many homes, the mom stayed home and the dad worked in the mid 1900s. But it was what was considered a functional family unit at the time. In the mid to late 60s, both parents working started to catch on. When I was growing up in the 80s, it was more common for both parents to work and for kids to take on more responsibility. By the 90s, it was rare to find a stay at home mom or parent in the average home and the concept of a stay at home parent was a lessening trend.
Fast forward to today. I feel that we are returning to the 50s in terms of having a parent at home. With the advent of the internet, people can work from home or attend meetings from the comfort of their bed. There are sometimes both parents working at home part-time or switching off hours so that they are the ones to care for their little ones. We went from total hands on in the 50s, hands off towards the end of the 60s until early 2000s and almost at the end of the 21st century, we are back to more hands on. But this time, we have more than one parent in many cases being a part of the daily child rearing process, in the families where there aren’t single parents, which is the case far too often. I will write about single parenting another time. But there is a vast difference between kids raised in the 50s and today.
What makes kids now compared to then so polar opposite, is respect. Self-respect, and respect for others. We as a society have gone from being parents to our children, to their friends. So while it is great to joke and relate to children, there also needs to be a divide between adults and children. And I as a single mom, have been guilty of graying the line a bit too much. Because I am the friend, the chauffeur, confidante, advice giver, and the mom. But I have to tell her and myself when her mouth gets out of line and she gets too comfy, that I am the adult and that she is the child and to not forget it! So, that means that somewhere along the line that parents have allowed kids to have more power than they deserve. Sound harsh? News flash, we are here to mold, teach and love. Part of love is showing who is charge.
Yeah, it is easy to point the finger. I can say how terrible it was that I was a latch-key kid starting in 4th grade and that between 7th to 12th grade, I was responsible for myself because my mom chose to take a 2nd job to help support my older brother. To top it off, my parents got a divorce when I was 7. I would have loved to have my mom around more like in mid 20th century. But the 80s was an empowering time for women and there were tons of kids like me staying home alone, unlike decades before. I could really be angry about that, but in her head, the school gave me all the info I needed to know and she was just doing what she could do to support her family. I always had more than I needed in a material sense, but was lacking in the structure that would have kept me more in line. Trust me, I needed it!
I am not trying to be one of those people who is all like- I walked 5 miles uphill in the snow to school. But I walked home a mile from school in elementary and from high school 2.5 miles a day. My kid is shuttled door to door and never has a moment when she is lonely. We have carpools to activities, electronic invites to hang out, and a plethora of fabulous activities that are top-notch in order to make sure that she is not in any way ordinary. I give more time and attention to her than I ever thought I would, but it an investment in her future. And because I want life to be great for her. (Wow, if I could have 20 percent of that time and care, I would have really rocked life!) The thing is, what I am doing is just normal where I live and we are not even at the middle of the financial food chain, so one can only imagine how it is for the elite. Our kids are asked what they want to wear and eat and how they feel about virtually everything.
While it is good that the kids of today have so many choices and are given more opportunities, many of them don’t know how to make decisions or fend for themselves. They are exposed to very adult situations through online interactions or social media (I don’t play all that) and they are ill prepared because they are not all that independent or used to dealing with things on their own. Though there is a lack of autonomy and maturity, they are still allowed to dictate more than they should in family matters. One thing about the hands on mom of the 50s and the co-parenting styles of today, is that back in the day, kids would not be running the show. Over the last 2 decades, we have produced children that are either too involved and overbooked or video couch potatoes. We have enabled them in so many ways to either be on the Ivy League track or to do what they please which may not leave them on any track at all. It seems to be at extremes.
So many folks a lot older than I believe that we have raised up a group of pampered and over privileged snowflakes. But if we feel that the parenting we received was subpar and we are in someway trying to overcompensate, then what is the answer? My opinion is balance. But is so difficult to strike. Between work and our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and the activities we take our children to and family time and for some spiritual time with God, how is it possible? The only thing I can think of is saying no a lot. No to happy hour invites, committees outside of work, and no to ours kids. With improvement in quality of anything (life, relationships, etc), there have to be changes that are made.
So why I do agree that some parents are just ridiculous about how they let their kid’s lead them around by the nose and control them, I do think that many parents do really want what is best for them. Some of their methodology about parenting may seem quite stupid or very psycho babble filled, but truthfully a lot of it is that they want to be less harsh or more open than how they grew up. The bottom line is, we always want to be better off than our parents were and want the same for our kid’s. But the only way to make that happen is to focus on what is important (family, experiences, faith) and less on material wealth and pleasing others. I think our kids are blessed today beyond measure in some cases, and I am glad for that. But I think with those blessings and opportunities should come more responsibility.
Moral of the story. Giving is not always things. It sometimes comes in the form of Talks and understanding and being understood. Everything will not always be sunny, but with relationships that is always the case. The gift of time and communication to our children (and our loved ones) is far more valuable than the latest gadget or fashion trend. If we could take one thing from the 50s, or what some call the good ole days and use it today, I think it should be life centered more around community and family. Sometimes simplicity is exactly how we remedy difficulties.