When the girls were smaller and, as new parents do, we weren't going to participate in any activity that might possibly result in injury, we used to take them to the cushy, enclosed, air-conditioned play place at the mall. Not just any mall. We had screened them all, discovered at what times of the day they were disinfected, and chose to let our 1 and 3 year old play only just after it had been swabbed down. On most of our visits, we would arrive early to observe and supervise the cleaning while the girls remained strapped in the stroller as not to touch anything and absorb foreign germs into their pristine, fluffy, pink baby skin.
On one of the days, the girls were perfectly tuckered out and we headed to the shoe bins. While we made our exit, mashing anti-bacterial lotion onto our hands, an older gentleman stood in our path. He only stood there, with his hands in his pockets, watching the four of us. I gave him a smile and said, "Hello." "Man," he replied, "I don't remember ever playing like that with my kids." I glanced over at my husband, checking to see if he was listening. "Being a Dad sure is different nowadays." I watched my husband's chest fill with pride and a grin spread across his face. They talked for a minute as I stepped away. When my husband returned we shared in the moment, feeling validated for our parenting efforts. As soon as the moment passed, I was sad. Sad for the men who missed out on so much in their lives and in their children's lives. The picture of parenting has changed in the past generation, but should it change completely?
More Dads are helping clean up around the house and attending more birthday parties and school plays than ever before. It's a welcomed change, no doubt. And as we struggle to balance co-parenting with these now-present Dads, irrelevant (or not) advice from our parents, and the nosy, know-it-all, home-school parent down the street, we're bombarded with more information than ever before. Each morning when I log onto facebook, attempting to keep my finger on the pulse of the outside world, I see link after link of articles, blog posts (snort), studies, lawsuits, and organizations telling us parents to not do this, to never say that, to absolutely never forget this. Spanking is assault. Timeouts are humiliating. Microwaves are killing us. Guns...shhhhh...don't say, "guns".
I'm tired of it all. We're all doing the best we can, just like our parents and their parents did before us. Every generation faces new hurdles, ones the previous ranks will never understand. Some people think meat is lethal, some think carbs are the devil. Some people believe timeouts are responsible, others feel reasoning with a toddler is the answer. Some parents want every child to get a trophy, while others insist the road of motivation is rewarded with one carrot. Some bloggers write they'll never tell their daughter to "Hurry up!" ever again. This blogger wants her children to be punctual.
|Baby Girl working it out with Daddy. Age 2.|
|Little Girl getting a good "talking-to" in the middle of the DWA. Age 2.|
|Baby Girl in a timeout in the middle of a wedding. Age 3.|
|Little Girl in timeout at the Gaylord. Age 3.|
I know the days I fail as a parent and so do my children. I make sure to get down on my knees with my family and pray for their forgiveness and for God's forgiveness on the many nights I admit defeat. All I can do is learn from my own mistakes, stop comparing my weaknesses to others' strengths, and continue to try and raise my children with a healthy fear of their dad and me. They're going to get out of line. They're kids. But when they do, I want them to feel a little ashamed and worry they'll disappoint us parents when we find out. I want them to hesitate before whispering to me they like a boy in their class because they already know we disapprove until they're 25 and their brains are fully developed.
This healthy fear probably won't keep them from having a boyfriend at 16, resisting alcohol until they're 21, or coming home at 9:30 on prom night. But it will make them hesitate. And that's what we want- to make our kids think. We want them to use their brains and stop depending on technology or us parents to pave the way and move mountains for them. We want them to make some mistakes and learn humility, integrity, and perseverance.
Please don't think I'm giving parenting advice. It's not my forte. And a healthy fear isn't an original idea. Our parents and theirs know what I'm talking about. As for this generation, you can keep your kale chips, your "free" Lexuses from "the best job ever", and your ever-even-keeled temper around your children. I'll be over here trying to keep my kids fed, safe, kind, and smart, all the while teeter-tottering between messing up and celebrating the small victories, and continuing to convince my kids that Mommy might actually be a little crazy. So don't cross me.