I don’t know if it’s inherent in me getting older and naturally thinking of the “good old days” or if it’s because I’m a mother and I am now making some of the same decisions my mother would have made, but it’s got me thinking of just how much things have changed. Some for the good and others for the worse, I know that times and people evolve and with technology, more information, maturity (hopefully), people have adapted and adjusted their lives to suit their needs, but was the way we were raised all that bad? I recognize that being wistful and full of nostalgia is a sign that you’re getting old, but what I’ve been thinking about lately is what values do I really want to pass down to my daughter and how do I go about doing so in an ever evolving society? Did we need to be so dramatically different from the way our grandparents and parents were raised? Read on with me and see if you agree…
Let me start of by saying we were raised by a single mother, so naturally that would have a different “imprint” on us as opposed to if we were raised in a 2 parent home. That being said, before you panic, I do not believe EVERY practice from back in the day is something to be revisited and continued, but what I find somewhat increasingly frustrating is the fact that we learnt far more things based on actually living life and actually experiencing it. I’m not meaning all things from the past were better, we can all fully agree that things like physical punishments and beatings, our knowledge on how to raise emotionally and mentally healthy as well as physically healthy children has come along in leaps and bounds. Our views on many “controversial” subjects has expanded and we have the time to learn about ourselves but also what kind of parent we’d like be, we have that privilege. Yes, it’s a privilege.
Unfortunately or fortunately, we want our children to have a “better life” so desperately that we have removed “struggle” from the process and in doing so, we have taken away the “lessons” from our children. We know that trouble/problems help to make us resilient, and also generally/usually leaves us in a better place than when we started. I’m not saying that you need to dangle your child over a crevice in order to teach them a lesson about heights or gravity, but at the same time being a helicopter parent won’t help them or you either. I am of the belief that if you educate your children, advising them of the reasons safety rules are in place, they will make the better choices. But we also need to take a step back and recognize that they will need to come to that conclusion on their own, no amount of sheltering will help them. Some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned, we learned on our own- probably failing epically.
I look at my daughter and I marvel at all the stuff she’s accumulated after only being on this earth for 6 years; when I was thinking about what to get her for her upcoming birthday, it struck me. She literally needs NOTHING. Not a damn thing. She has more coats, shoes, bedding, toys, books than I have. I have always relished giving her anything (most) things she needs, not wanting her to lack anything. But, then it struck me- what am I teaching her? How is she perceiving the world if all I’m doing it simply getting her everything she wants? I accept, she is an only child, I grew up the 2nd child of 4, I have a much better job than my mom did when I was Neveah’s age so there are massive differences for sure. But one thing I know is that I saw my mother work hard, I watched her make sacrifices in order to provide for us- trust me we heard the words “no” a lot of times, we heard the words “I can’t afford to pay for that” or “you will have to wait till next month because it’s not in my budget”. I haven’t had to tell that to Neveah; mostly because I chose not to. I could lie and that would equally teach her the same lesson. I guess I’m just wondering what life lessons- the middle class life is teaching our children. They are indoors the majority of their days, they know more about digital play than about actual physical, scrapes and cuts. Their lessons aren’t the same ones we had at their ages, the responsibilities we had growing up were not major, but they were vital. In high school, I used to pick up R2 from daycare, take the bus with her home, bathe and feed her by the time our mother got home from her 1st job. And while that was a lot of responsibility on my part, our mother had no other choice, but she also trusted and knew that I was equipped enough to be able to do it. I’m not so sure modern day children have the same street smarts or wherewithal in order to do that. Just to give Neveah a simple household chore and she looks at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. Don’t get me wrong, I fully accept that chores/tasks need to be age appropriate and need to also fit the child, because they/we all develop at our own pace. But, I learned responsibility, I learned to use my gut and intuition, to follow the instructions given to me by my mother and if a problem arose, I had to try and figure it out on my own, because let’s face it- this was before cell phones.
The ease at which children can simply get things, be it knowledge without having to sit down and use logic and tactile skills to figure something out- I feel this is doing them a disservice. And if we as parents want to raise well-rounded, forward thinking doers who will be influential in our society, we have to reduce the amount of time they sit in front of a screen and let them explore the great outdoors, falling off bikes and scrapping knees. Getting dirty and making real, tangible memories, I will always welcome Neveah going barefoot and playing in mud- than her sitting silently glaring into a screen. While, I accept, we are in the midst of a pandemic, this doesn’t remove the need for children to breathe in fresh air, if anything we should be pushing them outside- expand their lungs and their ways of learning and WHAT their learning, because it can’t all come from a book; at some point they will need to do the work and get dirty; literally and figuratively.