I spend a great deal of time around children, it’s my job. I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I hope to someday. I am so glad that I’m getting the experience now, of being around kids all the time, because it’s kind of like job training for the toughest gig of all—parenthood. Still, I can’t help but notice something: childhood nowadays is way different than what I remember. Everyone tends to comment that kids have everything much easier than they used to, but I disagree. I think it’s harder to be a child now than it was even twenty years ago, when I was a child. There’s just so much going on now in the world that makes me realize that before my husband and I decide to start our family, we’d better be prepared.
1. The Cartoons Suck. I know this isn’t a huge deal, but when I was a kid, we had some awesome cartoons. The cartoons now are all weird and loud and rude, and there’s very little substance to them. Remember X-Men? Remember Spider-Man? Or Doug, or Pinky and the Brain, or Animaniacs? The only cartoon I’ve seen on t.v. currently (that’s not broadcast on PBS) I would even think about letting my kid watch is Phineas and Ferb. The rest of them are total brain-rotting mush. And what good is being a kid anyway if you can’t wake up on a Saturday morning and eat way too many bowls of sugary cereal while you watch some awesome cartoons?
2. Being Too Safe. How can a kid be too safe? Well, the first article listed below shows that even on the playground, overprotective parents have sucked some of the fun out of childhood. No, it’s not fun to fall and get a skinned knee. However, if we never let our kids fall, how can we teach them to get back up again? It’s an important lesson. When I was a kid, my mother would push me and my brothers outside to play, especially in the summer. Now, parents are too afraid that there are child predators around every corner to let their kids even out into the backyard. I understand that these things do happen, but there are measures you can take, without sacrificing your child’s freedom to play outside. Meet your neighbors, for one thing. If you’re friends with the people who live near you, you’ll have the added security of all those extra eyes and ears, alert for anything out of the ordinary.
3. Childhood Obesity. Despite my weight now, as a kid, I was actually pretty skinny. I attribute that to two things my mother did. First, she made us play outside, away from the t.v. and computer. Secondly, she made vegetables with every meal, and we had to eat them. In our house, you ate dinner with the family, didn’t complain about what was in front of you, and cleaned your plate. Of course, once we were in middle school, if we didn’t like what was being served, we were free to make ourselves a sandwich, but that meant no dessert. As each of us hit high school, my mother began teaching us how to cook. That way, we could make what we wanted, and nobody had to do all the cooking. The plus side was, if you cooked, not only did you get to plan the menu, but you also didn’t have to do the dishes.
4. Parents Who Are ‘Friends’. Not to attack anyone’s parenting style, but I believe that parents should be parents. I know that there are those out there who want to break away from the authoritarian way they were raised. It makes sense that people want to be a kinder, gentler type of parent. The problem arises when you let the pendulum swing too far back the other way, and then you are no longer the parent, but attempt to be your child’s friend. Parents who try to be ‘cool’ almost invariably end up raising brats. The parent-child relationship is a very special one, and one your child can’t really have with anyone else. I’m not suggesting that you need to be distant with your child, or do nothing but enforce rules. To the contrary, I believe that a loving relationship can be fostered between parents and children without sacrificing the parents’ authority. Which brings me nicely to my next point:
5. Never Being Told No. This is what I think people mean when they talk about how easy kids have it. There are two types of parents I see that are mainly guilty of this. The first is what I like to call Distracted Parents. Distracted Parents are so wrapped up in whatever it is they’re doing (work, socializing, etc.), that when their child asks for something, they give it to the kid so that the child will leave them alone. Basically, they are saying to the child, ‘you can have whatever you want, just get out of my face.’ This is really sad to me, because most of the time, the thing the child is asking for is not really what they want. What they want is attention. These kids will start pushing boundaries, seeing how far they have to go before Mom and Dad stop doing what they’re doing and pay attention to them. The second kind of parent is the Indulgent Parent. Indulgent Parents never say no because they want their child to be happy, and that is certainly an understandable motivation. Perhaps their parents were strict, and they swore that they wouldn’t be strict with their kids. Whatever the case may be, Indulgent Parents must understand that children desperately need to learn both how to handle disappointment, and how to follow rules. This is especially essential when they go to school. If a child has never been made to do anything they didn’t want to do, then how can you expect them to be able to handle being at school where there is every chance that they will be expected to follow the rules? A pre-k or kindergarten teacher shouldn’t have to call parents because a child won’t listen. Besides, if you don’t start telling them no when they’re small, how can you expect them to listen to you when they’re older?
6. Growing Up Too Fast. Did you know that when I was young, Barbie dolls were marketed to girls age six through ten? Now, they’re marketed to ages four through seven. I even had one hidden in the back of my closet until I was fifteen. And that’s not all, clothing styles for girls have changed dramatically to more closely reflect the styles worn by adult women. I am not kidding, I have seen toddlers in Daisy Dukes and tube tops. And boys are getting the short end of the stick as well. Have you ever heard someone talk to a baby boy? It’s all ‘Hey, big guy,’ and ‘How’s my little man?’ Boys are encouraged to put aside childish things earlier too. Seven-year-olds have personally told me that legos and toy cars were ‘for babies.’ Even at school, they learn things in elementary that I’m sure weren’t taught until eighth grade when I was a kid.
So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.