My mom and I have been discussing the roles of parents in their children's lives a lot lately.
Both of us had been listening to some news documentaries on this new phenomenon of over parenting our children which they call Hyper Parenting. Children are not allowed to walk to school, play in the front yard unsupervised and are shuttled from one adult instigated sport or activity after another. We were told that today's threat of abduction has actually decreased only with the heightened media awareness we think it's gotten worse instead of better.
Of course, this hyper-parenting is not just about kidnappings, it's also about trying to make sure your child grows up with great self-esteem and has been exposed to as many opportunities as possible to develop academically, athletically etc. We are told that if our child attends music classes at a younger age, we increase their brain power. That if we catch them young enough we just might have a prodigy on our hands.
But what about the negative effect all this over concern into their health and well being. Could their really be a negative effect? Apparently many of these teens and young adults have grown to be selfish, irresponsible and unable to self-motivate themselves without their parents pushing them. College open houses are now chock full of parents doing all the information seeking and fact finding, while the prospective student follows docilely along behind them.
I can see the truth in this. We work with young adults and high school students all the time. We have parents calling in sick for their kids and some times, even negotiating raises or questioning us as to why we had to fire their precious child. When I was a kid, my mom made me call in sick myself. If I was going to inconvenience my boss and coworkers by not going in, I had to at least do them the courtesy of calling in myself. Nothing like to that to make you realize you're not really that sick. I had to get myself to work and was expected to do a good job. These days, the young people we hire seem to be only concerned about their pay cheque and how much they are going to get paid an hour. They turn their nose up at the minimum wage when it really is an easy job. Then they complain that they aren't getting enough hours but at the first opportunity ask to go home early inconveniencing everyone else. I know not all young people are like this, it's just really hard to sort out the one who do have a good work ethic.
My mom thinks that the Internet is a lot to blame along with all the self help books etc. When she was a young parent she had to fly by the seat of her pants and do the best she can. She admits that she wasn't perfect and she made mistakes. A time was when you enrolled your child into a sport or activity for the sheer fun of it. It wasn't supposed to be competitive. Birthday parties were meant to be good clean fun, not to see who can outdo the Joneses.
(In this one report a mom spent over $4,000 on her child's first birthday. Her 1ST birthday. I kid you not. She had a real Cinderella attend, fancy princess cake, decorations etc. She wanted it to be the most memorable time for her child. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We're talking a one year old here... you know the ones who would rather play with a box than the toy that was in it!)
Okay, I know. You know you're getting old when you bitch and moan about the younger generation. HAH!
Still you would think my mother would appreciate the Internet and the fact there is just so much parenting advice available to me but she doesn't. In fact, she sort of makes fun of me. She feels that there is too much information out there, especially medical information and worrying about insecurities and growth development seems like a foreign concept to her. Which is strange because she's taking a psychology course and she really enjoys it. She literally told me that half the stuff I talk about never occurred to her as a parent and hey she didn't do that badly.
I can see where she is coming from completely, but as I was tidying up the house this morning I started to think that maybe it would have been nice if she had made more of an effort to understand where I was coming from or the reasons perhaps behind my behaviour.
You see I struggled with being called "moody" all my life. It's only been later in years that I was able to figure out that my moodiness stemmed from my inability to communicate my needs. By being quiet and withdrawn, I was hoping to get attention and even asked what's wrong. In some instances I was afraid to communicate my needs because of a fear of rejection. A technique I used on boyfriends later in life. This was so natural to me that I was unable to stop or correct my behaviour. Can you imagine how much it hurt to be labeled as being moody without so much as a single question as to why I might be acting that way?
It took years and a bout of depression to work my way through this communication problem. Something my mother has not even a clue about because we can't talk on that kind of level. She had a hard childhood and often she seems emotionally cut off from us. I know she loves us but it's the kind where you have to accept it as a fact because you aren't going to get reassured of it any time soon.
I still struggle with being moody and holding on to grudges. But these days I am better able to shake it off. I may get quiet for a while but I am way quicker to just turn the conversation and tell myself that I'm not going to let this ruin the day. I am so glad I have come this far.
So the point is... if I read a book that says that maybe E's attention getting antics may mean that she only feels she belongs in the family when she gets attention, then I am going to consider this and try to think of ways to make her feel more involved and connected with us.
I do think that the wealth of information we have these days is good and useful. There are no smooth and fast ways to proper parenting. Sure it can be overwhelming. We just have to glean out the useful bits that may be helpful to our situation and chuck all the rest. And we need to watch out for "hyper parenting" by being careful to instill a sense of independence in our children. To not feel the need to shower money down on them via expensive activities, trips and material things.
I had always thought of myself as being selfish for not wanting to drive my kids to activities every day of the week. I had witnessed the crazy lives of too many mom friends (who had their kids before me) and always swore that I didn't want to be the "soccer mom" like that. I don't mind taking E to a class a week and this summer all three of them will be going for two weeks of swimming lessons but I scheduled all their lessons together so it's one drive a day and then we're done. My family jokes about enrolling the girls or O in hockey and I always joke back no way. They are in part serious but so am I. Nothing wrong with hockey but I've seen how busy my brother's family is. Every weekend is tied to the rink, if not in our hometown then travelling hours up and down the island for competitions etc. Then after hockey is lacrosse and there they go again until July.
My husband tends to be very protective, okay not just him, me too, probably too much so. Thanks to these news reports we have been able to discuss ways of helping E be more independent and how to retract our parenting claws just a little. The results of this will, of course, trickle down to the younger two.
Life goes too fast as it is. I want the slower pace of afternoons in the backyard, playing in the pool, picking ripe raspberries and peas, rolling on the grass.
I want my kids to be kids. I don't want to be their social secretary. I want to be their mom.
What do you think about Hyper Parenting? Are you one?