Parenting Now and Then
Now that I am a parent there are so many things I can appreciate about my parents that I just didn’t before. I even find myself using a lot of the same phrases and techniques that my mother did. Things like “Don’t make me come in there!” and “Change that look on your face or it will freeze that way.”
I’ve also discovered the secret to having eyes in the back of my head (it’s called knowing your kids and paying attention to the noises they are making). I understand why we weren’t given everything we asked for and why we had to do chores and follow the rules. All those things that sucked the fun right out of life I can now understand and even appreciate. But with all similarities, there are several things that are quite different.
When we were kids we loved to be outside. Cartoons came on Saturday mornings and everyone was out the door as soon as they were over. Rain or shine, hot or cold, being outside was a must! We were constantly making up games, climbing trees, and riding our bikes around the neighborhood. If you were in the house it was because either you had chores, were sick, or were grounded. Nowadays, kids hate to be outside! They’d rather be inside watching TV, playing video games all day, or just complaining that there is nothing to do. Today, sending a kid outside is more like punishment. Unless there is an organized activity they are interested in, many parents are hard pressed to get their kids out in the fresh air — especially if that means having to leave their cell phone or hand-held video game inside.
Back then our home video game systems were bulky and required being connected to the TV. At first the gaming choices were limited to Atari and Pong. Nintendo with “Mario Bros.” came shortly thereafter. If our parents chose to take the video games away it was a bit upsetting, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Nowadays, adolescent toys include laptops, hand-held video games, TVs, MP3 players, and cell phones. Removal of these things is about as serious as taking a limb! Not to mention that if we want to take our kids’ electronic toys we would need a small storage locker! Everything is smaller, sleeker, easily concealed, and quite portable.
Back then we had to be in the house before the street lights came on. We could be gone all day from sunup to sundown without checking in, and without our parents forming a search party. Nowadays, short of playing in the backyard, we parents wouldn’t dare let our kids out of our sight for that length of time. That is, unless they were at a friends’ house where we trust the adult supervision and we have the home and cell phone numbers, email addresses, and we’ve either dropped them off or they were picked up and we have a set time by which they will return.
Back then we had one phone line for the entire house. If we were lucky, when we turned 13 years old we might have gotten a phone in our room, but it was still the same house line. This, of course, led to many an argument about whose turn it was to make a phone call and who was taking too long on the phone. Nowadays, kids are getting their own cell phones at age 7. That’s right — 7 years old! Apparently 2nd graders have much to discuss after recess.
Yet, teenage (or pre-teen) chat is not limited to phones anymore. While we were passing notes in class, kids today are sending text messages. While we were tying up the family phone line rather than doing homework, kids today are chatting, texting, and IMing while fitting in homework between messages.
Our parents didn’t have to worry that much about who we were talking to because they could hear most of our conversations, if they chose to listen, or read our handwritten notes. Nowadays, our kids could be chatting with people from all over the world or child molesters from around the corner and we might not have the slightest clue. We have to block certain TV channels and websites, crack into our kids’ computers to see what sites they are visiting, and get special plans with the cell company in order to monitor their calls and texts.
Although modern technology has brought added issues and problems to the job of parenting, there are still some things that gloriously remain the same — chores! Back then we had to clean our rooms and the bathrooms, dust, wash the dishes, vacuum, and take out the trash. I must say that it is a wonderful feeling when the kids get old enough to take up those responsibilities! Now, I personally know some people who are quite lenient on the whole chores thing. Their reasoning is generally something along the lines of they hated doing chores when they were kids so they aren’t going to make their kids do them. Well, if that works for them in their household, more power to them. Me? I am all too happy to take some housework off my plate and lovingly share it with the people I take care of 24/7.
As a parent, it is our job to take care of, love, protect, and encourage our children in the way we are best able. With advances in technology it may seem like that job is harder now than it was for our parents. But I’m sure they probably felt the same way about their parents. I guess the moral of the story is that no matter how much things change (and boy have they changed!) they remain the same.