Editorial: Parenting 2.0

Last week’s editorial on Mother’s Day got us thinking and remembering our childhood in greater detail. It was pretty comical as we shared stories of our misadventures in the 1970’s. What emerged was a wonderment of how we, today’s parents, are so different from our own. Yes, moms are still putting their children first and there in that moment of pain to make their young charges feel better. But it’s what we were doing, what our parents allowed us to do, that make us wonder when we became so protective of our children.

Today, we know where our children are pretty much every moment of the day, but that wasn’t always the case. Growing up in the 1970’s it was not unusual for my best friend and me to be miles from home with my parents being none the wiser. This is not a diss on them; I had a great childhood. If it was summer, chances are my best friend, Timmy, and some others would have biked a couple of neighborhoods away because of some rumor that we had to investigate. More than likely we had crossed a main road or two. One of us was probably bleeding or had a good case of road rash from trying to emulate Evel Knievel.

We were happy, carefree. We did not have cell phones, or pay phones for that matter, to tether us to an adult figure. When the sun went down we were expected to be home. I can remember many a night biking as fast as I could to make it home before the last inkling of light had expired. Once home, I could watch whatever TV I wanted to as long as it was what my Dad was watching. Luckily, he liked the Muppets and MASH, so we watched those together. But I was the remote when it came time to change the channel between the two.

I remember many times riding out to the lake at the end of the day for a swim and cookout. My sisters and I would beg my dad to put the tailgate down so we could ride on it as he drove down the old bumpy dirt road. More than a couple of times, one of us would fall off to peals of laughter from those who remained. In the wintertime, he would take us and one Flexible Flyer to a snow-packed road and let us sled down. There was never any traffic, so why not? He would pack us on the sled, one on top of the other. My oldest sister would be on the bottom, then my other sister and then me, the youngest, on top. It was great! We would fly down that road. At some point I would slide off, unable to hold on any longer to my sister. It felt like I was flying through the air before landing in a snow bank. Oh, and we were probably doing this at dusk, too.

Today those activities would be unheard of, and it is almost un-PC to even bring them up. But in the 1970’s these weren’t given a second thought. We did not have bike helmets and if we wanted to skateboard barefoot, that was our choice and probably the only time we made that choice. And that is the point. Our parents allowed us to make decisions about what we did; and when those decisions turned into mistakes that required medical attention, which they often did, to learn from them. How were we going to be able to navigate our lives if we could not survive the 1970’s? We knew what was expected of us, and if we did not live up to those expectations there would be consequences.

Parents today are often over-committed to their children. We over-indulge their whims and fancies. Out of an abundance of love we make it hard for them to make decisions and learn from mistakes. There are countless books on parenting that stress just that. Only by living and learning will our children be able to survive the 2010’s and navigate the rest of their lives.

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