I think we’ve all sat down in a round table conversation gasping in disbelief at what our parents have done while raising us. Us being the generation that knows so much more with our internets and superior once-removed hindsight, marveling in wonder at why we are even alive today let alone why the human race is not extinct.
I was a child in the 70s and we all have stories of enormous walks without an adult to and from school, running around the neighborhood until dark, going to movies where everyone was smoking in the theater, sleeping in the backseat of the car without seat belts, and riding in laps in the front.
When my son was approaching his first birthday, I was driving in the car with him and three 70+ family members. My boy was wailing in the back seat and I was angry in a traffic jam listening to people trying to talk him to sleep.
The conversation inevitably turns to – “Can we loosen his car seat? It’s too bad because we used to just take them out and hold them. Poor boy.”
I gave them the modern mom speech, “It’s against the law and we’ll be home soon. Just don’t talk to him (request number infinity) and with any luck he’ll fall asleep.”
They gave me the we’re-older-than-you-are speech, “Well I didn’t wear a car seat and I’m still alive”.
I can’t leave this one alone, “That’s because you weren’t one of the kids who DIED! A lot more children have lived because of carseats! It’s PROVEN.”
Silence. Sweet wounded silence. My boy falls asleep in 5 minutes.
My MIL, who was not a guilty party, usually chimes in at moments like these with “It’s amazing what is known now.” She, like my mother, appreciates that there is so much more information now. Though between these two women, my opinion of each generation knowing more than the previous gets hazier and hazier. This is particularly annoying because anything that chips away at me feeling superior is unwelcome.
We still have the same mother archetypes today as in the past. The 50s valium-popping-stick-your-kid-in-a-playpen-for-the-day mom sadly still exists in some form or another. The 60s and 70s free-loving hippie mom is still around but I’ve always loved them moms. The 80s corporate working mom is around but less identifiable without the shoulder pads.
Our archetype? Maybe we are the anxious moms of the new millennium. The internet is our parenting frenemy. We find support and info on practically everything. It’s amazing to live in an era when parents can easily access strategies for guiding their ADHD or autistic child. At its worst, you have to sort through a lot of dogma and sanctimony and Jenny McCarthy weighing in as an expert. I think mom-petition has always been around, but there are people in our generation who own it like none before.
On the different sites for the various techniques, I usually find good information on each. Attachment parenting – great, I can identify and appreciate a lot of info there. Free Range – I get it. No helicoptering. My kid will never go down a slide with a bike helmet, but he also will not be walking himself to school anytime soon.
I also deplore the name Free Range. This is how you raise chickens, but you are advocating the opposite. Child-Led parenting – to a reasonable extent; Sometimes I’m going to tell him what to do. I have acquired a little more knowledge than a child regarding safety and appropriate behaviour. As an adult, making a bunch of decisions stresses me out so I think it’s actually a kindness.
I cannot claim one as my philosophy because there is no way I can meet all the criteria of one. I think too many excellent parents are stressing themselves out when they do try to meet all the criteria. When the next generation of kids wind up on the thereapist’s couch, I’m betting there will be a nice cross section of philosophies. So don’t worry, because we will be blamed anyway. Every generation of parents can count on that.
Initially, I would have said my mom was a free range mom. She let me walk home alone from the bus stop when I was merely 5 years old. This wasn’t negligence. It was judging what was safe for me. She had the luxury of not stumbling across what someone in a metropolis would dictate as inappropriate. We lived in a small town. The bus let me off in front of a family friend’s house, I’d cross the street to Mrs. Booth’s, past the Godfrey’s and the Schmidt’s and I was home.
One day I missed my stop. I sat in the back of the bus, inexplicable because I usually Rosa Parked it at the front, and I was too shy to say excuse me to those blocking my way. She was right there when the bus driver drove me back. She knew exactly what moment I was supposed to be walking in the door.
Same is true for letting us play willy nilly in the neighborhood. We knew everyone. And she was so bossy. Yes, mom. She equipped us with tools and she made sure we used them so she could trust us on our own. Like when my sister ran away on her bike for the afternoon. We watched her circle the block for awhile because at the time she wasn’t allowed to cross the street without an adult. Angry and obedient. I think that’s a good balance.
My mom would be at different points in my life a SAHM, a working mom, free range, a mom who needed wine, she formula fed me and my sister, and breastfed my brother. My MIL breastfed both her children, SAHM for most of their childhood but had to work part time for some. Her best friend home schooled EIGHT of her sons until they were in high school. Both of their spouses were actively involved and amazing dads, and both of them had houses cleaner than mine. I doubt either them went to the library and logged countless hours on the microfiche machine to make sure they were doing the right thing. And yet, their cross section is as varied as ours.
I need to detox my brain now and break it down to the fundamentals, sift all the new information available to me to clear the crap out and tap into the gut feeling more. And remember that at the end of the day, knowing more does not always mean knowing better.
Category: Empowering Girls & Women