As I sit down to write this piece today, I am struck by what I have noticed over the past few years as I’ve watched friends and family raise their children. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to tell people what to do. OK, well, maybe I am. I am also well aware that it is easy to say how parenting should be done when you don’t have kids of your own. That being said, I have to ask — what the hell do you people think you are doing?!?
If it is not some parent at WalMart giving in to their germ-bag’s every tantrum, or some new-age tree hugging hippie trying to help the kid get in touch with the universal energy that runs through us all, it’s some fake boobed, Hummer-driving, bedazzled “real housewife” wanting to be best friends with her kids. Here’s a bulletin for ya: they have lots of friends already, what they need is a frickin’ parent!
Did you really think you were having kids to enlarge your peer group? When I was growing up in the ‘70s (you know, like on That ‘70s Show) parents didn’t need to be their kid’s friend. I didn’t think about going shopping with either of my parents as anything more than a necessary evil that, if there was a merciful God, would be short and spanking-free. I had friends my own age. I didn’t feel the need to be any older than I already was except when it came to my bed time of 8 p.m., which always meant I would miss out on watching Happy Days.
Today kids can stay up to all hours watching reruns of Trailer Park Boys on Showcase or Saw IV on Scream. Little Jimmy is six? Oh well, he’ll learn about fear soon enough, better he learn in our house where we can watch with our concerned, nurturing eyes.
Parents today seem very concerned about the harmful effects of vaccinations for their little heirs. When I was growing up, we were more concerned with the harmful effects of polio and rubella. This was likely due to the lack of the Internet to perpetuate conspiracy theories about mercury and microchips and new world orders. Now, not all parents were like this. Some (Utne Reader-types, I am sure) refused the vaccinations on the suspicion that nefarious things would befall their lumps of recycled chromosomes, and that was fine; that is what shunning is for. These parents were relegated to the group everyone smiled at, then quickly talked about as soon as they left the room. Just as it should be for those who can’t bother to conform to social norms.
Today’s parent strives to help their child achieve independence through a strength-based system of reinforcement. When I was growing up, parents made us strive for independence by keeping us emotionally on edge. Spankings were given for no apparent reason, just because we had probably gotten away with something anyway. Punishments were rarely well-defined and lacked connection to the offense, especially if we were being particularly annoying during the commission of said infraction.
I know you are thinking that parents in my time were either complete psychos or my descriptions are merely hyperbolic figments of an old man’s imagination. To some extent you would be correct on both counts. The key is they were parents — not best friends.
They were not children themselves, who build flying saucers in the back yard and call the police and CNN when it takes off as a prank; not people looking for another accessory to go with their Prada bag. They were just average folks doing their best to raise kids who would eventually grow up to have children of their own. Children who seem to be, for the most part, self-entitled pricks and princesses complaining about everything from the fact that they have to take a bus to school to a lack of an updated iPhone. Second generation iPhones? Someone call CFS!
Stephen Milner is a mature student, and thankfully not a parent — yet.