What if we’re doing alright?
Parents these days, right?
How many times have you heard that lately, or read about how this generation of parents is ruining the next generation.
With our constant helicoptering. With our participation trophies for everyone. With our audacity to let children have a voice in what they eat. We overshare about their lives on social media. We don’t let them sleep enough. We feed them junk food. We over-schedule them. We use too much technology. We let our kids use too much technology. We’re saving for their college instead of for retirement. We overprotect them. We under prepare them. To sum it up, we are raising a generation of helpless children.
We’re the worst.
Or are we?
Has my generation really deviated that far from the generations before us? Have we drastically changed the face of parenting? Have we strayed from the fundamentals that our parents instilled in us, and their parents in them? Or maybe, has the parenting landscape changed so much that those who aren’t currently navigating it don’t recognize the terrain?
One of my kids could be described as a picky eater. Not an extreme case, but she certainly has some strong dislikes. However, I’m actively trying to get her to eat kale. KALE. I had never even heard of kale until I was an adult. The American diet has changed drastically over the last few decades, and will likely continue to evolve as we learn and adapt our eating behaviors. My generation was raised on beef, sugar, flour and lard. Even my picky eater would have had no problem “eating what she was given” in that era.
My generation has faced crippling student loan dept. I can’t imagine a future without monthly loan statements, reconsolidating, tax battles, and HOUR LONG PHONE CALLS with lenders just to try to fill out a simple piece of paperwork. I get that I should be focused on retirement, but the idea of my children having to deal with this type of student loans cripples me all over again and certainly cripples my financial decision making.
Can we just skip the technology conversations and say that no generations have had to deal with these questions before? It’s hard, it’s individualized, and it is new to everyone involved. We’re learning.
It’s different. It is all so different. It is so easy to say “parent like I did” and yet so hard to get my child to eat kale. You can’t prescribe parenting to others. There is no pill, no diagnosis, and no amount of soap boxing that will work.
But you can listen. You can talk to parents. You can ask questions about their daily lives and their challenges. You can lend a hand. You can try to feed my kid kale. You can offer support instead of criticism. You can give advice when it is asked from you. I’ll let you in on a secret– the nicer you are to us, the more likely we will ask for your opinion. You can stop saying “parents these days” and you can start wondering if you are playing a part in making things worse for everyone.
What if we’re actually not ruining anything? Not kids, not their future, and not civilization as we know it. What if we’re actually doing exactly what every generation before us has done– the best we can with an impossible job, just with new surroundings?
It’s not to say that my generation is perfect. We grew up with bad perms, candy cigarettes and spandex. We’re going to make a lot of mistakes. I hope we can admit them, learn from them, and remember them when we’re tempted to point fingers at the upcoming parents and tell them they’re doing everything wrong.
What if we’re trying–really trying, but we have a lot of information, a lot of choices, and not always a lot of kindness.
What if our children don’t grow up to be complete and utter failures? What if they find a cure for cancer? What if they put an end to war? What if they grow up to love their children fiercely, the best way they know how, just like every generation before them?
What if what we really need is the support of our community, some current research and best practices, and a few hundred less opinion pieces about how we are ruining our children?
What if we’re actually doing alright?
What if we’re loving them the best we can?
What if we’re providing for them what we can?
What if we’re waking up another day to do it again?
What if people told us that, once in awhile, instead of telling us all the ways we are failing.
Sadly, because it’s easier to point fingers and tsk tsk than it is to listen and be supportive. If you point out flaws, you don’t have to strive to fix them, right?
I recently asked my Mom whether she faced the same sort of pressure from her parents and their peers when she was starting and family, and she said yes. She said that it seems every generation thinks they did things better and thinks the new generation is doing everything wrong; it’s just easier to hear the negativity now because of advanced technology. Interesting take and it put things in perspective for me.