The differences in parenting styles between how we Boomers were raised back in the olden days and the approaches by today’s young parents always makes for lively conversation. I can’t believe we’re actually saying things like, “Back when we were young,” but it truly is so very very different from today. I won’t detail all those differences here as most of us are now grandparents and first-hand witnesses to the contrasts.
Surely we were as precocious and entertaining as kids today are. We must have said cute things, dazzled our parents with our intelligence and impressed everyone with our accomplishments. But I don’t seem to remember any kind of recognition or acknowledgement of these behaviours. While our parents surely noticed, we were not encouraged to promote ourselves. That would be showing off and that was just not an acceptable behaviour. Self-esteem and recognition were simply not part of our vocabulary.
I was reminded of this while reading David Sedaris’ latest book, #Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. He wrote the following paragraphs in response to seeing a young boy outside a store defacing a federal mail box with marker pens. A by-stander held the boy until the parents came out of the store and instead of disciplining him for his bad behaviour, the parents verbally attacked the bystander for touching their child. Sedaris was understandably appalled and described his own experience growing up in a family of six kids:
“I don’t know how these couples do it, spend hours each night tucking their kids in, reading them books about misguided kittens or seals who wear uniforms, then rereading them if the child so orders. In my house, our parents put us to bed with two simple words: “Shut up.” That was always the last thing we heard before our lights were turned off. Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognized it for what it was: crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.
Neither were we allowed to choose what we ate. I have a friend whose seven-year-old will only consider something if it’s white. Had I tried that, my parents would have said, “You’re on,” and served me a bowl of paste, followed by joint compound, and, maybe if I was good, some semen. They weren’t considered strict by any means. They weren’t abusive. The rules were just different back then, especially in regard to corporal punishment. Not only could you hit your own children, but you could also hit other people’s.”
While hitting children is obviously wrong, we still must ask, are our expectations of kids today wrong? Our generation hasn’t been a total screw-up. There’s a lot of talk about what will become of the generation being raised in this age of entitlement where no one ever loses, no one is second-best, and anyone can become Prime Minister or President. Dealing with failure and disappointment are part of growing up and learning to cope with life. The sun does not rise and set on each of us alone. We’re part of a complex society that is not always fair or easy and the sooner we learn to cope with that the stronger we’ll be. Our parents did some things right. And for that we are very thankful.
- Reflections…Now We Are Five | by David Sedaris (jericho777.wordpress.com)