I read a blog post on BlogHer the other day titled, Why Our Parents Put Us To Shame. While I agree there are some things we can take away from how we were parented, I found myself disagreeing with most of the article.
Parenting has evolved over the last fifty years. Part of evolution is keeping what works, throwing away what doesn’t, and improving on what we can. We didn’t ride in car seats or buckle our seat belts, and my husband’s Aunt would stick forks into light sockets on a regular basis as a small child.
I don’t think our parents put us to shame in the least. Here are some of the points made in the article that I see a little differently.
They cooked meals. It’s true that processed and fast foods are slowly killing us, but I think society is aware of this. It seems to me there is a widely popular return to whole foods and actual “cooking.” But on top of that – if you’re in a bind, pressed for time, or traveling – you can now easily find a boxed meal of some sort that won’t give you an instant heart attack.
They sent us outside to play. The article I read talks about being encouraged to play outside, and often after dark. I agree that we need to encourage our children to play outside – a lot. Sitting in front of a computer or video game can quickly become addicting. But I also believe technology can exercise the brains of our children in ways we didn’t experience. The key is balance, and most of us are smart enough to know how to find that balance. I also would not encourage my child to play outside after dark, or unsupervised like I did as a child. I live in an urban area. I like to know where my child is. I don’t find it over protective. I find it smart.
They weren’t afraid to discipline us. It’s true that parents of generations past were not afraid to spank, yell, whip, or tell a child he or she is bad. I personally did not experience this. My parents were not afraid of discipline, but I remember being grounded, or restricted from a certain event I wanted to attend. I know a lot of parents who are not afraid of discipline, their definition just differs from their parents. A “gentler discipline” has come into play and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I believe it is possible and essential to discipline and teach our children without belittling them, resorting to violence, or crushing their self esteem.
They weren’t parenting philosophy zealots. The woman who wrote the article reminisces about parents at a ball game, all cheering and spending time together. Today, she is dismayed at the separation of families by philosophy (attachment parenting, vegan family, non vaccinating family), and the “soapbox” that some parents preach from. While I agree that there needs to be less climbing on the soapbox, I kind of like that we are a generation of thinking parents. Mothers and fathers are taking the time to do research, think long and hard, and make decisions on what they think is best for their family. There isn’t one and only way. The parents of today ask questions, and questions lead to knowledge.
They allowed us to make friends. The argument here is that modern parents are too worried about checking out the parents of the kids their kids are playing with. I have heard of parents doing background checks and checking facebook pages as a way of screening. I believe our parents may have been too lax about this and this kind of screening is a backlash to that. I remember playing with kids on my street on a regular basis, and my parents never having even met theirs. The statistics of my generation are also staggering on the number of children molested and abused by neighbors, and friends’ parents. I’ll let my child make friends organically, but before he spends time at another house, you can bet I’m going to know what I can about that friend’s parents.
Yes, modern parenting can come with some crap to sort through. Sometimes we are over informed. Sometimes we are “helicopter” parents. Sometimes we work too hard, and forget to sit quietly together as a family. But we have learned to carry with us some great things we’ve learned from our parents, and discard or rebel against what didn’t work. I’m not saying our parents didn’t do the best they could. I’m saying things change. We live in a time where we can look back on decades of research and make informed decisions. We live in a time where we can learn to use modern conveniences to our advantage.
And for the most part… we’re better than our parents. That’s exactly how it should be. That’s evolution. And if we do it right… the next generation will be better than us.