Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Coddled kids...

I have written many times on this blog about the way today's kids are being raised.  Given that I don't actually have any kids, I probably ought to STFU about it.  However, every once in awhile, I run across an interesting article on the Internet about the difference between kids of my generation and the kids of today's generation.  My friend Donna shared blogger Rhonda Stephens' post, Are Today's Parents Getting A Raw Deal? on Facebook and I just read it and had a good laugh.

Stephens is a few years older than I am, but her memories of growing up in the 1970s ring true to me.  Her mom kicked her out of the house early in the morning so she could go to school, play, or do chores.  Stephens didn't need parental supervision to do these things, either.  She got herself up; fixed herself breakfast; worked on her own to get things done without help from mom and dad.  That's how it was for me, too.  I got myself to and from the barn where my horse was boarded.  I rode a bike to get there and cleaned stalls to help pay for his upkeep.  This was all stuff I did without input from my parents.  I also mostly took care of my own schoolwork.  From the age of about 12, my parents quit even looking at my grades because they no longer had to sign the report card.  That was also the age I was when I started cleaning stalls to help pay for my horse, which I was first allowed to lease, then later owned, at 12.  My mom and dad mostly stayed out of it, except to pay the bills and occasionally give me a ride to or from the barn if I had come straight from school or the weather was very bad.

On the other hand, I think my generation may have been the first in the age where parents started to become overly involved in their kids' lives.  I do remember having friends whose parents were much more involved in what their kids were doing.  Also, we had CNN in those days, which meant 24 hours a day of news.  That's when we started hearing about the bad stuff that used to never get reported.  Laws started getting passed designed to protect kids.  Some of the laws were good ideas but some provided a "one size fits all" solution that doesn't allow for parents and kids to exercise their own judgment.

Case in point, this morning, while looking on Facebook's "On This Day" feature, I noticed that I shared an article about Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, two famously "free range" Maryland kids from Montgomery County who were picked up by police twice because their parents let them walk to the park by themselves.  These two kids were doing something that my peers and I did all the time when we were young.  No one thought twice about it.  Kids who were old enough to walk were allowed to go by themselves to their friends' houses, to the park, or to school.  And statistically speaking, the world was much more dangerous in those days.  We didn't have Amber Alerts, cell phones, closed circuit television monitoring and hidden cameras, or laws designed to protect kids from abuse and negligence.  The vast majority of us made it through life just fine.

Stephens writes about how parents of today end up working for their children, to give them the "best" of everything... the best shoes, the best bikes or cars, the best lessons, the best vacations to places like Disney...  When we were kids, there was somewhat less of that.  In fact, kids back then were usually expected to work for the things they wanted.  When I was about fourteen, my mom started pressuring me to find a job, even though I couldn't legally work until I was almost sixteen.  And when I was almost sixteen, I sure enough did find a job working at a veterinary hospital for peanuts.

Not having any children myself, it's hard to gauge what kind of parent I would have been.  I'd like to think I'd be a nice balance of caring about my kids and not sending them out in the world too soon and giving them enough space to grow up and be independent.  But there are so many factors that affect parents today that didn't affect them when I was growing up.  Nowadays, we have people who will call CPS at the drop of a hat if they see a parent doing something they don't think is right.  Everybody has a phone that is capable of taking pictures and film.  We have social media and 24 hour news.  It's a lot harder to make parenting decisions privately nowadays.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's definitely more difficult.

As much as I enjoyed Stephens' article, it was even more entertaining to read the comments.  Most of them were written by people who grew up at the same time I did.  More than one person commented that their children hadn't "asked to be born", so why should they be saddled with work?  While I agree that kids don't ask to be born and some would have preferred not to be (I have often felt that way myself), I do think that learning how to work is beneficial for children.  If they don't learn those skills when they're growing up, when will they learn them?  It's no good being a 21 year old college graduate who's never had a job and has never been expected to show up and function.  On the other hand, thanks to the Internet, people can earn money without ever leaving their house.

Anyway... here's my contribution to the world today.  I grew up working for things I wanted, though probably not as hard as I should have.  I had a lot of things my own parents didn't have.  They were very underprotective compared to today's parents.  I went through many years of school and ended up being a housewife.  Life sure is strange. ;-)

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