Buckle up folks, because I’m about to go on a fairly epic rant. It’s a rant that was ultimately tipped off by this article but there were a million articles before that which annoyed me equally as much. I’m sure you’ve seen similar ones floating around Facebook in between the kitten videos and memes about moms and their wine.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of all the articles suggesting that our generation is doing something wrong simply by caring about our children’s happiness. Since when is wanting your child to be happy a bad thing? Or even a new thing?!
The author in this article references her childhood experiences of driving around in the car with her parents searching for architecturally interesting churches because that was one of her father’s interests. Can’t say that sounds too terribly different from my childhood. My parents weren’t into churches, but I spent many hours in the backseat reading a book (no, not using technology because IT DID NOT EXIST) in search of a cool new picnic or hiking spot because that is what my parents were into. My interpretation of this type of childhood differs from the author. In my view, my parents shared their interest with me in hopes that I would find joy in it as well. These family outings in search of joy are not unlike how I spend weekends with my kids…when I’m not folding laundry and playing taxi driver to soccer games, of course. See, I don’t take issue with her evaluation of a child’s ability to understand and demonstrate appreciation (pretty sure none of us fully appreciated our lives when we were 6 because that’s not how it works developmentally), but I do dispute her suggestion that the reason children can’t appreciate things today is because we care too much about them being happy. Which brings me back to my rant.
I really cannot stand this pop culture idea that children today are more bratty and entitled then children of past generations. I mean, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written like 100 years ago and we all grew up with a kid or two just like Veruca Salt. Spoiled kids and parents who fawn over them are not a new phenomenon.
I think what we really have happening here is the perennial issue of the one generation feeling the need to criticize the next because inevitably cultural advancement requires parenting to evolve, which can feel threatening when it differs so much from the way that you yourself parented your children. Also, I’m sure our society’s need to criticize and overanalyze isn’t doing us any favors either.
At this point in my life, I’m surrounded by mothers who are actively parenting children of various ages. I’m on the front lines, so to speak. You probably are too. What I see from this vantage point are a whole lot of engaged, caring mothers who are doing the best they can, in their own ways, to juggle all the expectations and demands placed upon them. Frankly, I see a bunch of moms doing a damn good job. There are variations among us, and variations among the kids, but overall I have no qualms whatsoever about the future to be led by the next generation. I see empathetic, insightful, empowered, globally-minded children who are going to impact the world in great ways.
Maybe I’m more sensitive to this point having been a part of the foster care system for years. I mean, are we seriously going to criticize the way good and loving parents value their children’s happiness when there are children right here in our state – in our towns – who don’t know what it feels like to be loved? Let’s worry less about the choices good parents are making and more about making sure all children *have* a parent.
Also, I’d be remiss if I had this conversation without recognizing that this “epidemic of overindulged children” (if you believe there to be one), is a wholly first world problem. And by first world I mean upper/middle class white people problem. There surely is no issue with entitlement in our many marginalized populations – families and children are still just trying to survive.
So, yeah, my kids have a happy childhood and I’m not going to apologize for that. They’re not always happy (just asked my daughter who had to scrub the bathroom clean after a fit last night), but I think it’s fair to say that they are mostly happy. I recognize that something I’m doing is probably screwing them up in some small way…as my parents did to me, and their parents to them…but I’m pretty sure that it has nothing to do with them being happy.