Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal?

12711307_10206480078338131_5829653117437408897_oSummer 1974. I’m 9 years old. By 7:30 am, I’m up and out of the house, or if it’s Saturday I’m up and doing exactly what my father, Big Jerry, has told me to do. Might be raking, mowing, digging holes, or washing cars.

Summer 2016. I’m tiptoeing out of the house, on my way to work, in an effort not to wake my children who will undoubtedly sleep until 11 am. They may complete a couple of the chores I’ve left in a list on the kitchen counter for them, or they may eat stale Cheez-its that were left in their rooms 3 days ago, in order to avoid the kitchen at all costs and “not see” the list.

If you haven’t noticed, we’re getting a raw deal where this parenting gig is concerned. When did adults start caring whether or not their kids were safe, happy, or popular? I can assure you that Ginny and Big Jerry were not wiling away the hours wondering if my brother and I were fulfilled. Big Jerry was stoking the fires of his retirement savings and working, and working some more. Ginny was double bolting the door in order to keep us out of the house, and talking on the phone while she smoked a Kent. Meanwhile, we were three neighborhoods away, playing with some kids we’d never met, and we had crossed 2 major highways on bicycles with semi-flat tires to get there. Odds are, one of us had crashed at some point and was bleeding pretty impressively. No one cared. We were kids and if we weren’t acting as free labor, we were supposed to be out of the house and out of the way.

My personal belief is that the same “woman with too little to do”, that decided it was necessary to give 4- year old guests a gift for coming to a birthday party, is the same loon who decided we were here to serve our kids and not the other way around. Think about it. As a kid, what was your costume for Halloween? If you were really lucky, your mom jabbed a pair of scissors in an old sheet, cut two eye holes, and you were a ghost. If her friend was coming over to frost her hair and showed up early, you got one eye hole cut and spent the next 45 minutes using a sharp stick to jab a second hole that was about two inches lower than its partner. I watched my cousin run directly into a parked car due to this very costume one year. He was still yelling, “Trick or Treat” as he slid down the rear quarter panel of a Buick, mildly concussed. When my son was 3 years old, we had a clown costume made by a seamstress, complete with pointy clown hat, and grease makeup. His grandmother spent more having that costume made than she did on my prom dress.

At some point in the last 25 years, the tide shifted and the parents started getting the marginal cars and the cheap clothes while the kids live like rock stars. We spend enormous amounts of money on private instruction, the best sports gear money can buy, and adhere to psycho competition schedules. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve bought the $300 baseball bats with money that should have been invested in a retirement account, traveled from many an AAU basketball game, or travel baseball game, to a dance competition in the course of one day, and failed to even consider why. Remember Hank Aaron? He didn’t need a $300 bat to be great. Your kid isn’t going pro and neither is mine, but you are going to retire one day and dumpster diving isn’t for the elderly. My brother and I still laugh about how, when he played high school baseball, there was one good bat and the entire team used it.

Remember your clothes in the 70’s? Despite my best efforts to block it out, I can still remember my desperate need to have a pair of authentic Converse shoes. Did I get them? Negative. Oh, was it a punch in the gut when my mother presented me with the Archdale knock-offs she found somewhere between my hometown and Greensboro. Trust me. They weren’t even close. Did I complain? Hell, no. I’m still alive, aren’t I? We’ve got an entire generation of kids spitting up on outfits that cost more than my monthly electric bill. There were no designer baby clothes when we were kids. Why? Because our parents weren’t crazy enough to spend $60 on an outfit for us to have explosive diarrhea in or vomit on. Our parents were focused on saving for their retirement and paying their house off. The real beauty of it is that none of these kids are going to score a job straight out of college that will allow them to pay for the necessities of life, brand new cars, and $150 jeans, so guess who’s going to be getting the phone call when they can’t make rent? Yep, we are.

Think back; way, way back. Who cleaned the house and did the yard work when you were a kid? You did. In fact, that’s why some people had children. We were free labor. My mother served as supervisor for the indoor chores, and the house damn well better be spotless when my father came through the door at 5:35. The battle cry went something like this, “Oh, no! Your father will be home in 15 minutes! Get those toys put away nooooow!” The rest of our evening was spent getting up to turn the television on demand, and only to what Dad wanted to watch.

On weekends Dad was in charge of outdoor work and if you were thirsty you drank out of the hose, because 2 minutes of air conditioning and a glass of water from the faucet might make you soft. Who does the housework and yardwork now? The cleaning lady that comes on Thursday, and the landscaping crew that comes every other Tuesday. Most teenage boys have never touched a mower, and if you asked my daughter to clean a toilet, she would come back with a four page paper on the various kinds of deadly bacteria present on toilet seats. Everyone is too busy doing stuff to take care of the stuff they already have. But don’t get confused, they aren’t working or anything crazy like that. Juggling school assignments, extracurricular activities, and spending our money could become stressful if they had to work.

I don’t recall anyone being worried about my workload being stressful, or my mental health in general. Jerry and Ginny had grownup stuff to worry about. As teenagers, we managed our own social lives and school affairs. If Karen, while executing a hair flip, told me my new Rave perm made me look like shit and there was no way Kevin would ever go out with my scrawny ass, my mother wasn’t even going to know about it; much less call Karen’s mother and arrange a meeting where we could iron out our misunderstanding and take a selfie together. Additionally, no phone calls were ever made to any of my teachers or coaches. Ever. If we sat the bench, we sat the bench. Our dads were at work anyway. They only knew what we told them. I can’t even conceive of my dad leaving work to come watch a ballgame. If I made a 92.999 and got a B, I got a B. No thinly veiled threats were made and no money changed hands to get me that A. Ok, full disclosure, in my case we would be looking at an 84.9999. I was the poster child for underachievement.

Back in our day, high school was a testing ground for life. We were learning to be adults under the semi-vigilant supervision of our parents. We had jobs because we wanted cars, and we wanted to be able to put gas in our cars, and wear Jordache jeans and Candies. Without jobs, we had Archdale sneakers and Wranglers, and borrowed our mother’s Chevrolet Caprice, affectionately known as the “land yacht”, on Friday night. No one, I mean, no one, got a new car. I was considered fairly lucky because my parents bought me a car at all. I use the term “car” loosely. If I tell you it was a red convertible and stop right here, you might think me special. I wasn’t. My car was a red MG Midget, possibly a ’74 and certainly a death trap.

Look at your coffee table. Now imagine it having a steering wheel and driving it. I promise you, it’s bigger than my car was. The starter was bad, so after school I had the pleasure of popping the hood and using two screwdrivers to cross the solenoids or waiting for the football players to come out of the dressing room headed to practice. Those guys pushing my car while I popped the clutch, is a memory no 16-year old girl around here will ever have, and it’s a great one. Had I driven that car in high winds, it’s likely I would have ended up airborne, and there were probably some serious safety infractions committed the night I took 6 people in togas to a convenience store, but I wouldn’t go back and trade it out for a new 280Z, even if I had the chance. I was a challenging teenager, and in retrospect the fact that it was pretty impressive every time I made it home alive, may not have been an accident on the part of my parents. Go to the high school now. These kids are driving cars that grown men working 55 hours a week can’t afford, and they aren’t paying for them with their jobs.

And those new cars don’t do a thing for telling a good story. I tell my kids all the time, the very best stories from my teen and college years involve Ann’s yellow Plymouth Duster with the “swirling dust” graphic, Randy’s Valiant with the broken gas gauge, and Carla’s burgundy Nissan that may or may not have had a complete floorboard. A story that starts, “Remember that time we were heading to the beach in Carla’s Nissan and your wallet fell through the floorboard onto the highway?” is so much more interesting than, “Remember that time we were going to the beach in your brand new SUV, filled up with gas that your parents paid for, and the…well, no, never mind. Nothing happened. We just drove down there.” To top it all off, most of them head off to college without a clue what it’s like to look for a job, apply for it, interview, and show up on time, as scheduled. If they have a job, it’s because someone owed their dad a favor…and then they work when it “fits their schedule”.

We all love our kids, and we want to see them happy and fulfilled, but I fear we’re robbing them of the experiences that make life memorable and make them capable, responsible, confident adults. For the majority of us, the very nice things we had as teenagers, we purchased with money we earned after saving for some ungodly amount of time. Our children are given most everything, and sometimes I wonder whether it’s for them or to make us feel like good parents. The bottom line is that you never value something you were given, as much as something you worked for. There were lessons in our experiences, even though we didn’t know it at the time. All those high school cat fights, and battles with teachers we clashed with, were an opportunity for us to learn how to negotiate and how to compromise. It also taught us that the world isn’t fair. Sometimes people just don’t like you, and sometimes you’ll work your ass off and still get screwed. We left high school, problem solvers. I’m afraid our kids are leaving high school with mommy and daddy on speed dial.

We just don’t have the cojones our parents had. We aren’t prepared to tell our kids that they won’t have it if they don’t work for it, because we can’t bear to see them go without and we can’t bear to see them fail. We’ve given them a whole lot of stuff; stuff that will break down, wear out, get lost, go out of style, and lose value. As parents, I suppose some of us feel pretty proud about how we’ve contributed in a material way to our kid’s popularity and paved an easy street for them. I don’t, and I know there are many of you that are just as frustrated by it as I am. I worry about what we’ve robbed them of, which I’ve listed below, in the process of giving them everything.

  • Delayed gratification is a really good thing. It teaches you perseverance and how to determine the true value of something. Our kids don’t know a damn thing about delayed gratification. To them, delayed gratification is waiting for their phone to charge.
  • Problem-solving skills and the ability to manage emotion are crucial life skills. Kids now have every problem solved for them. Good luck calling their college professor to argue about how they should have another shot at that final because they had two other finals to study for and were stressed. Don’t laugh, parents have tried it.
  • Independence allows you to discover who you really are, instead of being what someone else expects you to be. It was something I craved. These kids have traded independence for new cars and Citizen jeans. They will live under someone’s thumb forever, if it means cool stuff. I would have lived in borderline condemned housing, and survived off of crackers and popsicles to maintain my independence. Oh wait, I actually did that. It pisses me off. You’re supposed to WANT to grow up and forge your way in the world; not live on someone else’s dime, under someone else’s rule, and too often these days, under someone else’s roof.
  • Common sense is that little something extra that allows you to figure out which direction is north, how to put air in your tires, or the best route to take at a certain time of day to avoid traffic. You develop common sense by making mistakes and learning from them. It’s a skill best acquired in a setting where it’s safe to fail, and is only mastered by actually doing things for yourself. By micromanaging our kids all the time, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of cluelessness and ineptitude. At a certain age, that cluelessness becomes dangerous. I’ve seen women marry to avoid thinking for themselves, and for some it was the wisest course of action.
  • Mental toughness is what allows a person to keep going despite everything going wrong. People with mental toughness are the ones who come out on top. They battle through job losses, difficult relationships, illness, and failure. It is a quality born from adversity. Adversity is a GOOD thing. It teaches you what you’re made of. It puts into practice the old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It’s life’s teacher. Our bubble-wrapped kids are so sheltered from adversity, I wonder how the mental health professionals will handle them all after the world chews them up and spits them out a few times.

I know you are calling me names right now, and mentally listing all the reasons this doesn’t apply to you and your kid, but remember I’m including myself in this. My kids aren’t as bad as some, because I’m too poor and too lazy to indulge them beyond a certain point. And I’m certainly not saying that our parents did everything right. God knows all that second hand smoke I was exposed to, and those Sunday afternoon drives where Dad was drinking a Schlitz and I was standing on the front seat like a human projectile, were less than ideal; but I do think parents in the 70’s defined their roles in a way we never have.I worry that our kids are leaving home with more intellectual ability than we did, but without the life skills that will give them the success and independence that we’ve enjoyed.

Then again, maybe it’s not parents that are getting the raw end of this deal after all.

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1,512 thoughts on “Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal?

  1. Thank you for the great article, funny & so true! I grew up in England through the 80’s & 90’s and my family were a little traditional but mostly ‘normal’ in those days, and growing up was a lot of fun. My Dad worked long hours but always managed to be a part of everything we did, my mum worked ‘part-time’ and we always had dinners together at 5:30pm on the dot. No T.V allowed, a chat about our day was what was expected. I loved roaming our Col-de-sac (dead end road) jumping over neighbors fences, knowing everyone and really feeling a community life. Now I live in the Caribbean as a single parent. My child’s father lives just 10 min away and although we’re not together we respect the fact our daughter needs both of us. I don’t own a t.v, although she has her tablet to watch, her farther doesn’t have Internet. She goes to school in the day and plays freely at nite, her weekends are the beach and play. My daughter has a great life, different from mine but not too caught up with the rest of the world’s concerns. Long live freedom for children, I’m lucky to live in a place where that concept is still possible.

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting! For the record, I have a soft spot for the British. I’ve never met a single one who isn’t charming, witty, and engaging. So interesting how many people I’ve heard from who grew up in other countries but were raised very similarly to the way I was. The life you live now would be heavenly for me. I don’t really care for television. I’m a firm believer that it’s okay in moderation, but it stifles creativity. Your daughter is blessed that the two of you work together in such a positive way, and that her world is full of so much more than technology. Creative play, nature, exploration, and love. What else could she need? Thanks again for reading and commenting. Best of luck in the coming year!

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      1. Rhonda, my mom directed me to your parenting piece and I loved it. You nailed it. I’m the editor of several magazines in Northern Virginia, and I’d like to talk with you about contributing to SHE! If you’ll visit fauquier.com, click on magazines, and then click on the cover of SHE!, you’ll be able to page through. Please drop me a note at susanmccorkindale@gmail.com. Your voice is incredible and what you’re saying more women have to hear. If you’d like to check me out, and in this day and age of crazies I wouldn’t blame you, I’m on LinkedIn and if you Google my name I’ll come up. Thank you for considering this request.

        Susan McCorkindale

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      2. Such a great story.Actually transported Me back & think of my past, & comparing it to my child’s.. My growing up back then was Not easy by any means, I cannot ever remember complaining about it. Just doing your best, & doing chores,being respectful,Working for something you wanted, were , just a given .. True, yes, I Am a bit guilty of trying to make my child’s life a bit easier than I had it, but , up to a limit, there were many NO’s, along with the ok’ s. To be sure. Always taught the Golden Rule..And, also Consequences.. So, today, I’m a happy parent of a well mannered, considerate,articulate kind,independent, & Kind human… We can only try & do the very best we can…sometimes, giving too much,& giving In too much is, or can be such a disservice to them. A delicate balance !! Keep writing these thoughtful articles..

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      3. Thanks, Stephen! I love the feedback and hearing about the experiences different parents have had. The wonderful part of this fun, little sarcastic piece has been the overwhelming evidence of just how hard parents are working to do their very best. They’re genuinely looking for the way to give their kids a strong foundation….and you’re so right, it is a delicate balance!

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      4. Thanks for a well written article. My oldest 3 kids (ages 15-20) have all taken turns mowing the lawn & making meals & all- even the 10 yr old. make their own beds. They’re jealous of peers who don’t have to do anything, but I want to ‘ launch’ them into the world as competent individuals.

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    2. For middle-class folks this may apply. For those to grow up with money however, we also grew up with a lot of privilege even in the 70s. But I tell you one thing for sure, although we didn’t have to scrub or clean anything in our house, we were free to do whatever we wanted all the time. These days, a child cries and everyone wants to see what’s wrong with her. I have actually gotten tougher with my kids and they have all held job this year in high school. Because I do want them to appreciate things that I couldn’t because I was too spoiled, and teach them to be a little more tough. Even though I grew up in the 70s, I do feel like I was overly spoiled like the kids you were talking about today, except without the technology. It was tough for me to marry someone that had less money than I, because I was used to always getting my way. So this phenomenon of entitlement has always existed, especially amongst the wealthy. Everybody has a different experience, including where you live in the world and your economic position. We didn’t all grow up the way you talk in this article. But educating thick-skinned, healthy and independent adults is a huge challenge for all parents. 🙂

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      1. I agree with this response and it’s social class assessment. The book: Limbo by Lubrano also makes this point well on making sense of generationally shifting from working class norms to middle class norms.

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  2. I loved your read. It took me back as well. Although the upcoming generations seem to need more instant gratification and are more “spoiled”, their children may not be. The push for all people to get a college education will leave them highly educated, but the job force doesn’t support the numbers of educated people. We will have a generation of young adults unable to obtain jobs that can support their financial needs. This is complicated more by the need for the inexperienced young people to get paid top dollar so they can continually “keep up with the Jones’s”. The lack of motivation and income will begin to move the pendulum back. My concern is that this generation has little to no experience with managing failure and rejection and they won’t know how to guide their children when they can’t provide the same level of comfort. I think we will have a huge surge of clinically depressed young adults who don’t understand their own personal worth or value since it is so deeply woven with material items. It will be the responsibility of older generations to assist in the care of those following and try reversing the damage that may be done!

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    1. All excellent points, Renee. I also worry about this generations inability to deal with failure and rejections. In fact, I recently read an article about that very thing. The gist of it was that these kids will never be able to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. The end result will be overwhelming frustration, disappointment, and depression. Terrible to think about! I hope that the tide will begin to turn. So many parents are recognizing the errors of their ways and taking positive steps in the right direction. I’m very optimistic! Thanks so much for taking the read and comment.

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  3. living under someone else’s roof is a direct impact of the student loan crisis for any kids that have gone to private colleges, not a lack of independence you old bag

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    1. Brendan, I always welcome respectfully stated opposing opinions. Yours doesn’t fall into that category. There was never any criticism of anyone encountering housing hardships, due to debt incurred while pursuing a degree. The criticism was in parents not teaching their kids to value independence over stuff. In your case, however, it appears that your expensive private college failed to teach you basic rules of capitalization and your parents failed to teach you manners.

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    2. Let’s see where that private college education gets you in ten years. Not likely much more than entry level and you’ll still be paying off your student loan. Unless you somehow manage to have it all forgiven…

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    3. You know, I understand that college is very expensive, much more expensive than when we old bags came through, but what seems to be evident in your comment is the mindset of being a victim. We were not victims. We were poor until we worked off our debt and moved up in the world. We did not expect instant gratification. In fact, we expected to work to get anywhere. Your comment indicates that you feel, because of the high cost of living, you are owed a roof over your head. Poor you. The world is against you. Someone needs to bail you out. Or so it would seem from your perspective.

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    4. Get a job, get a second job, get a third job! You are the reason for the article! If your stupid enough to subject yourself to years of debt for an overpriced education that yields you no return….your still the problem! Then you fancy yourself moving back home with mom and pop with your $150,000.00 liberal arts degree in “Peoples Feelings” sitting on your ass wondering when someone will solicit you for that 1 in a million “golden ticket” job that you soooo know you deserve! And yes, living under someone else’s roof is a direct impact of lack of Financial independence….Grow up!!

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      1. Agreed! I wouldn’t trade those early days of getting by on little money with a bunch of roommates for anything in the world. You learn so much about yourself and how to live with others. Thanks for commenting!

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    5. I understand your frustration. I worked terribly hard to pay for my daughters college and she went to a State College. My Father had paid for mine and I felt I should do the same. She has several friends in your same situation and the debt is staggering. I am thankful you can live at home to help pay off your student loans.

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    6. Brendan be proud of what you have accomplished. You have survived in a competitive world of the top educated people. Your smart to live at home and pay off your debt. This is your life live it the way you want. Had my Father not married I’d still be living with him.

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      1. Yes he can be proud of what he has accomplished. But it’s too bad he can’t also be proud of his manners.

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    7. Brendan, There’s no need to name call. How about all the kids who take on tremendous debt because they go to private colleges when they really can’t afford it just because it’s “the best school and it looks good on a resume”

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    8. STUDENT LOAN CRISIS???? This is a perfect example of wanting something you can’t pay for but “buying” it anyway!!! College is big business just like anything else:auto industry, mortgage availability etc. We need to teach our families to responsible financially! If you want something you don’t have the funds for SAVE/WORK for it first!!! It really will be worth more to you in the end!

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      1. If you cannot see the systemic problem with tuition ballooning up exponentially past inflation, you are also part of the problem. There are plenty of kids who work while in school and still have outrageous loans. There are biases against people who start late and finish late when it comes to hiring. It’s not so simple as to tell him to save up 100k to get his degree, because it might take so long that he will disadvantage himself by it.

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  4. OH BRAVO !!! you nailed a generation perfectly,,,we learned by our adversity. and I know that ,,,because all of my therapist have said so,,,,,roflmao. how we ever managed to stay alive is beyond me. and with sense of humor not only intact but on track !!! astounding….Thank you so much for this wonderful view into a past that passed to quickly. PS.. my first car was a 1959 black Cadillac,,,,it was 1974. my Dad had been storing it for ‘some guy’,,hippy dude he worked with that actually had money ,,, for awhile. It had sat in our yard up on blocks for so many years. it was only 3 years older then me. I drove it a grand total of like 3 times before the o rings burned up,,,then I got a Buick La Sabre,,,also of questionable vintage,,that smelled really bad but ran like a top. paid 75 bucks for that one. cause I had a JOB. oh the good ol days. Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I agree that there is so much to be gained from adversity and failing. There is a kind of resiliency that you don’t learn any other way. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t go back and trade my dumpy cars for a new one if the universe would let me.

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    2. I bought my first car with money i saved delivering papers
      It wasnt even a choice…my dad brought home a 1984 Nissan Pulsar NX and told me to give him $200
      We then rebuilt the engine and scrounged a junkyard and ripped the a/c out of a junker.
      My dad gave me the skills i needed rather than a thing 🙂
      Good memories.

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      1. Love it! Even though I was a girl, my dad made me learn to change a flat tire and check the fluids in my car before I could get my license. Those kinds of life lessons have served me well to. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    3. Them not having enough adversity to develop character is not THEIR fault, it’s ours as parents. It’s our fault we don’t make them do chores, it’s our fault for hovering, it’s our fault that we taught them that materialism was the measure of success, it’s our fault for not backing up their teachers and pushing them to do better or discipline them.

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  5. I know as a parent that I am in between the two extremes. I dont have the kind of money to GIVE my kids everything, so I compensate by doing things for them. Running them around, allowing them to use my car. I Do think about how easy they have it compared to when I was a kid and had to walk, ride a bike or even hitch hike, which was a last resort. On my behalf I do what I do for my kids partially out of guilt, because I cant give them everything the other kids have and I feel I have to compensate for the lack of involvement from their father (my Ex.,Divorced) And also to cushion the harsh world that they have to face. Because admit it or not it has gotten way worse since we were kids. Harder to find jobs, inflation without the cost of living and forced issues of our government such as having to have health insurance. So my thinking is, I can let my son use my car instead of buying him one since he can’t afford to pay for the gas anyway. To me it’s a compromise. Do I need to do it? certainly not, but I make note every time I hand him the keys that I will not be around forever, so he better try to figure out what happens then.

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    1. I’m in between as well. My single parent status means limited funds and time. My kids also do not have an active father. Like you, I try to compensate for that but I honestly think they need an extra soft place to fall because we’re all they’ve got. This world is definitely a different one than we grew up in. Less kind, for sure. I’m so encouraged by all of the parents I’ve heard from who know they aren’t perfect, but care enough to constantly be looking for ways to improve. In the end, it’s that, I think, that will see us through! Thanks so much for reading and sharing. I love the input. And from one truly single mom to another, hang in there and take care of yourself too!

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  6. I could kiss you for writing this. It sums up all I feel about being a modern parent.

    I think that guilt – from EVERYWHERE – really plays in to what parenting has become. Perhaps we all need to grow a thicker hide so our kids can grow a thick hide in return

    Thanks for the EXCELLENT essay.

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    1. Thanks, Jeremy. It was a fun, nostalgic piece to write. I agree that guilt plays a huge roll in what a lot of parents are doing, and undoubtedly, the parenting techniques of the 70’s wouldn’t translate today. I think there’s a happy medium that most of us are working toward. I have seen from the article, that there is a whole contingency of parents out there who see the error of their ways and genuinely want to do better. Myself among them! Onward and upward, right?

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  7. I don’t know. My childhood sucked because we were poor and my mother – who was educated and could have worked – chose not to while my unhappy dad struggled to make ends meet. So even things that my sister and I worked hard to qualify for – like big city orchestras and dance troupes and sports – were denied because we never had the money. I work hard, and so do my kids. And we are all the better for it. They have more stuff than I did but they also do things I couldn’t do and the world is more open to them. They ace school, and sports, and arts, and volunteer and I work to make it all happen. They don’t ask for a lot of stuff but I give them what they want within reason. And I’m happy to do it.

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    1. Sounds like you’re doing a pretty good job to me! Everyone is participating, achieving, working hard, and volunteering. I especially like the volunteering part. I think that what works for people is different and based on the personalities involved and their resources. As a single mom of two, the way my household is run varies greatly, I’m sure from the way a two-parent household operates. At the end of the day, I’m just happy to see parents collaborating on what’s working for them and what isn’t. After all, I think we all have the same goal of healthy, self-sufficient, capable adults. Thanks for sharing, Rhody. I learn a little something from everyone who takes time to comment.

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  8. I ENJOYED your article. I was a 70’s child and grew up fine respecting my elders and working for what i got. We tried to raise our son in that fashion of accountable and responsible but it is harder being the “tough” parent. Good News he respects it now but worries about his generation and the next.
    I am not sure how the mess we’ve made can be fixed.

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    1. Bev, I have heard from so many parents that recognize the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. There are so many who are actively making changes and looking for ways to balance home and the world at large. I think as long as parents are actively looking for a better way, we have hope that we haven’t failed these kids completely! Congrats on the success with your son and thanks for reading and commenting. I love getting the feedback. There’s always something to learn.

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  9. Saying no to your Children once in a while is not Child abuse And giving them Chores to do is not Child abuse. Teaching them respect, and manners is not Child abuse, Sending them outside to play is not Child abuse. It Teaches them interact with the outside world. I knew of parents who gave there child everything, And then Tragedy happened to the parents, This child went to live with relatives. It was one big let down for this child. Now there were chores to do, She did not get everything handed to her. She became very rebellious ended up in foster care, Running away all the time. So teaching your kids and letting them know there is good in the world if you work for it. It is not child abuse.

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  10. I loved reading this and laughed after reading it many times. So so true that we have to be vigilant in how we handle situations as parents and it is so very easy when one of your kids comes home and asks for something. that you really would love to give to them We made sure that when our kids worked that half of their earnings went into a bank account, They didn’t own a car until almost finishing college and had to pay for their insurance also. They were in scouts and spent time outside on camping trips and did volunteer work in the community, A huge life lesson was when our neighbor became our foster son and they realized not everyone had the life they had ( not that they had any extravagant life) but rather had two parents who supported each other and family. This brought to mind so many great family teachings as our Mother was one of 9,all her siblings worked hard, no one spent time incarcerated. My Grandparents were immigrants who worked hard to instill good values and appreciation for life, respect and love for other. Thank you .

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  11. agree 100%!!! Parents are crippling their kids! I can’t stand it and don’t understand it- I am proud to have 3 entrepreneurs who are forging their own paths and thinking for themselves
    Parents need to get a life

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  12. If my dad could do it then so could I is what he said, didn’t matter that I’m a girl, was young, teen or older. My dads motto was.. Get it done. If you can’t do it, figure it out and don’t come back till its done and done right. Half ass and tantrums didn’t work for him. I tan and taxidermy anything, roofing, fencing, cow farms, pig farms, you name it if it had to be done I did it. I grew up in a small 2 room cabin in the swamp. Carried in buckets of water from the pond and even bathed in the pond for the better part of 7 years. We had no vehical, no Phone and a torpedo heater that smelled awful but it was our only heat. So deal with it or go cold I was told. These days I have a 20 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. My son was a good farm boy. Put himself through Ohio tech and got his welding certificate. Knows the value of hard work im very proud of him even though it makes me feel like a bad mom cause money is next to none and I could barely help him, hardly at all. He was never upset or complained he said he wouldn’t have everything that he has now if I raised him any other way. My daughter however has a little entitlement issue LOL. I don’t know how or where she got this attitude from cause she’s never even had enough to know what lucky feels like let alone spoiled. Its definately gonna take some work with this one. I’m right up in the top ten to agree, see and understand how the world has really changed from the 70s and 80s to all that it has become today. Technology is an important part of the world now days, it seems to just come naturally to these kids. Just the word alone sounded foreign to me, …. technology…. Ha.. I was busy with important work, hunting so we had food. Hours at the farm or wherever else I was needed so we could have electric and a home. Helping my dads friends when there was time so they were able to catch up and have one day without the threat of loosing everything beating them down every second. I seen my first computer when I was 12. My neighbors tried to explain some to me, by the time they had learned and became familiar with it I was only starting to understand how the computer and the word technology went together. Lol It didn’t help that I was always 3 to 6 years behind on times. New things would come out like Atari and Nintendo, Sega. I was just getting my first Atari when everyone else was bragging about their segas. I want my daughter to know and understand about all the “new” things they come up with. Its mandatory these days to be somewhat competent with the electronics in some way shape or form if your gonna make it in this world now days. But after school she gets to experience the other way. I won’t work her as hard as I was and I want her to also enjoy happiness, just being a kid for a bit to playing and having a moment to look at the world take in the beauty and all it has to offer. if the world shuts down and the computers, phones, games, tablets, and bluetoothed stuff no longer works, Ill know my daughter wont have a problem, shell know how to living with nothing, shell be efficient in both ways of life. Shell be happy and content. She’s gonna have a bit of a attitude ( I’m praying that because she’s a young girl in this day and age It will pass and don’t break me first) I consider myself pretty tough, I can take quite a bit yes she’s my baby girl but that doesn’t give her a pass to slack. I expect greatness.. 110%. No exceptions!!!!!!!! The only thing I cannot tolerate is loud screechy I cant do it whinny little voices. As long as she gets unhappy with me In her firm mad voice shell be smart, hard working and able. In a snap of a finger shell adjust to either environment. We don’t have a lot of material things we have exactly enough. Were happy and never want for anything. We have plenty,… more than enough actually of all the best things in life that you can only feel not see. We have worked hard and are proud of what we’ve become. We help others leaving with a good feeling. Seeing a bit of pride lite up their face when they realize they helped to and did a great job !!!!! Its a awesome feeling when we ALL feel… accomplished!!! That’s the moment when the look on my little girls face lets me know I’m doing something right

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    1. Kelly, there is no doubt that the world could throw anything at you and you would handle it! What a story. Sounds like you are finding a good balance for your daughter. You are so right when you say that there is no feeling quite like accomplishing something on your own! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share your story. I love hearing about the different ways people have grown up. Perspective changes with each story. I’m learning more every day.

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  13. As children, my brother and I did not have much either. My dad worked a full day. My mother was a stay at home mom, who did everything she could to make sure that we were happy. Being happy in those days was being out on the road playing, being at friends houses, or having friends around. Radio was our only entertainment. The unfortunate part about children in South Africa today, is that we as the adults are so concerned about our children’s safety that we do not allow our kids to play in the street, or to stay over at friends house. So we keep our children at home and give them alternative entertainment goods.

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    1. It seems like life in South Africa is somewhat similar to how our kids grow up here in the States. I always wonder…do you think our fears are because there are more dangerous people in the world today or because we KNOW about every bad thing that happens world-wide due to technology? I wish ours could have the freedom we had. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I especially love to hear from people outside of the U.S.

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  14. I love this post. We moved from the city to the country not that long ago and now our kids experience all the things we did as kids, such as disappearing for the day as they ride their bikes with their friends, play tennis on the questionable court down the dirt road, camp out etc. They have to help around the place as the property is too big not to. The move was the best thing we have done so far.

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  15. While I agree with most of this, your stance on mental health is truly disturbing and exemplifies what’s wrong with our views on mental health in present day. The problem with these “good ‘ol days” types of articles always include this notion of all the “softies” who need a safe space and someone to talk to. Yes, this is what we call progress. Kids who are bullied for being different, or gay, or whatever the unjustified reason may be, can now be more open and speak with someone instead of being a 12 year old who parents find hanged in their bedroom closet. Call me crazy, but that seems like a good thing. If your child broke their arm, you would take them to the hospital. So if a child is suffering mentally, your advise is to “toughen up?” Mental health is just as important as physical health, and “facing adversity” is a completely different topic.

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    1. Hi LaToya, first I think I should point out that this is a tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between parenting in the 70’s and parenting now. It is in no way intended to be a guide to mental health. Never did I condone bullying or suggest that it should be ignored. I do think that teenagers need to sort out normal, healthy disagreements on their own without parental interference, and stand by that. I did reference the importance of mental toughness, but that is NOT mental health. Mental toughness is an individual’s resilience and confidence that comes into play when facing adversity. It is developed by setting small reasonable goals and achieving them, learning to stay calm under pressure by successfully solving problems, and learning to stick to a schedule. In fact, mental toughness or perseverance and passion, is the greatest indicator of one’s ability to achieve goals. Mental HEALTH is something else entirely. I have more than one loved one who has struggled with mental health issues, and I am well aware of how difficult it is to get adequate treatment and the stigma that is often attached to their diagnosis. Never, even in jest, did I ever suggest that kids being bullied for being different or gay was acceptable, or that if a child was suffering from a mental illness that they should just “toughen up” and not be treated by a professional. If a teenager isn’t happy with a grade they received, I absolutely DO think that they are perfectly capable of approaching their teacher and trying to find a solution. It helps them learn how to have positive conflict and problem solve. I did say that parents in the 70’s were not so concerned with mental health. They were not, primarily because the education wasn’t there, but that reference fell into the tongue-in-cheek classification of the article. The type of humor this article employs isn’t for everyone. There’s a sarcasm there that some miss….for example, in the title, the parents aren’t getting the raw deal at all, the kids are. In many ways we aren’t adequately preparing them to feel prepared and confident when they go out into the world. That concerns me. In closing, please know that mental health and mental health reform is something I take very seriously. Mental toughness is something entirely different. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. I always welcome other’s feelings and opinions.

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  16. I grew up in a poor family so I actually feel guilty when my kids get too much. I can see how spoiled and entitled they get during Christmas time with all that is thrown at them. I try to put some of the toys up and to give a lot away…but its tough to control. The part about locking the kids out was exactly how I grew up, but those were the best times. We were out in the yard for 8 plus hours a day sifting through the grass and climbing trees and riding our bikes down huge hills going about 90 mph. My mom brought out a big platter of pb and marmalade sandwiches for us and that was it until dinner. Love this article! Great reminder that sometimes less is more.

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  17. Could not agree more. Our parents, most coming from a generation where you needed basic skills just to get by, passed these skills along. Now with the answer to everything only a Google away a lot of these have become obsolete. But the lessons they taught are still the same. I am looking for new ways teach them. Any ideas? I have a 1yr old… and I am getting nervous. 🙂 Great article…I feel like I know you.

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    1. Hi Daniel, thank you for reading! I think the simple fact that you are thinking ahead where your child is concerned, is a huge step in a positive direction. I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school and a son who is a senior. They aren’t perfect, but are doing pretty well so far. As a single parent, I was pretty limited in being able to overindulge them too much. As a parent, our instinct is to do as much as we can for them…good in some ways, dangerous in others. Based on what I’ve learned with my two, I would give you this advice: 1) Encourage and require them to do for themselves what they are capable of doing. This instills self-confidence and independence. 2) Give age-appropriate responsibilities and boundaries. 3) When they ask for something special, expect them to “have some skin in the game”. We always appreciate things more when we’ve worked for them. 4) Lead by example. Follow through when you make a commitment. 5) Communicate to them every day three things: how much you love them, how much you ENJOY them, and how capable they are. Inquire genuinely about their day. 6) Help them learn to set age-appropriate goals, both long and short-term from an early age. Aid them in planning how to reach those goals. That skill will benefit them greatly throughout life. 7) Keep being the involved, awesome dad you are, who is always looking for ways to be a more effective parent. Truly the most rewarding, best job in the world!

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  18. This is a very good article. I was born in ’74 and had the typical Gen-X childhood: Both parents worked, I was a latchkey kid by 4th grade with a sister three years younger than me. We ran around wherever as long as we came home for dinner, the streetlights came on, or if we heard Dad’s super-loud whistle. They never showed up for track meets in high school because they were too busy making sure their marriage fall apart as noisily as possible. So yeah, there was a huge motivation to grow up, get out, and get things rolling on my own. Now I have two sons who are 18 and 21 themselves. My wife and I fell somewhere in between the two extremes you described, because we also couldn’t afford to buy them everything.

    But something that you didn’t seem to touch on is the impact of influences beyond our control that have a hand in how our kids turn out. For example, we live in a world where people are convinced there is a pedophile under every rock, so there are places where kids can’t just go out and roam around by themselves or with a friend or two without some busybody calling a case worker to investigate the parent(s). And the effort to make kids safe has been codified into laws and other regulations. When was the last time you saw a playground with a 15-foot-tall metal slide? Or a playground that didn’t have some kind of padding underfoot? We’re forced to keep our kids in some kind of booster seat in the backseat only until the kids are practically old enough to drive the car themselves, while at eight years old, I was riding in my dad’s Jeep with the doors and roof off with nothing but a lap belt to keep me from falling out.

    It’s too late for me to change how I am raising my kids now that they’re grown. The younger one enlisted in the Air Force as soon as he got his diploma, so we’re not as worried about him. The older one is holding down a job while he figures things out, I guess. I look at where I was at his age and there really isn’t any comparison…he was born when I was his age, lol.

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    1. James, I completely agree with you. Society has contributed greatly to today’s parenting. There’s a healthy balance in there between the 70’s and today, but what a balancing act to get to it amidst the impact of technology and society! Thanks for reading and taking the time to share 🙂

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  19. Something to keep in mind as well is choosing a spouse that has the same goals as you do. I am a child of the seventies, my parents had money but I didn’t know it because they had both grown up with nothing and knew the importance of putting away and saving. Those were the principles I was raised with and learned. Fast forward to me being a single mother raising a son. I have a college degree in accounting but because I don’t have the magical “CPA” letters behind my name I’m not raking in the big bucks. Not a problem though, because I taught my son like I was taught, that you can do without things for now and save to have something better later on. I had quite a little nest egg in savings. Fast forward again to me being married and now having less money with two incomes. Bye bye, nest egg! Husband bought new golf clubs so nest egg gets used to buy groceries. But even this is being used as a teaching tool for my son (not in a “daddy is stupid” way so please don’t take it like that) because he sees how the instant gratification is actually hurting our family financially. He’s even saved $500 of his birthday money from my husband’s mother until there’s something he really wants. I feel confident that my son will do alright, he’s certainly on a good track with learning about working and saving and even APPRECIATING the things he does have (something a lot of children today have no concept of), but it would be that much easier if my husband was on the same page.

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    1. Excellent point, Amanda! And you might surprised how many people I’ve heard from that say they’re working hard to keep things reasonable and teach their kids how to be fiscally responsible, independent, and to value what they have; only to be thwarted by a spouse that’s determined to spoil them rotten. People definitely have very different ideas about money and the role it plays in our lives. Congrats to you on doing such a great job teaching your son the value of a dollar. Also a single mom, I know exactly where you’re coming from. There is no such thing as “money to burn”!

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  20. I can relate….and yet I can’t. I do more for my kids then was done for me… A bit. They have chores… Without pay!!! Shocker. I know. They put their laundry away, unload the dishwasher, make their beds, set the table, help with dinner, feed the pets, all part of our daily lives!!! Buy their own “extras” they are 9 & 11 and have been doing these things for awhile now and will continue to do so-without pay! No allowance! Like I said-all part of family living! 😃

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  21. My childhood to a T. Had many laughs remembering how it was. Thanks. Sadly, tried to reverse what I at te time, thought needed improvement. Been trying to reverse my “solution” for years…just so tired…lol

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  22. This was a great! I am a “millennial” growing up in the late 80’s early 90’s but my family was middle class and strict. I was always out riding my bike half way across the city and was expected to check in every 2 hours. Now that I am a mom living in 2017 with a 2 year old I am still routed to those experiences and want so badly for my daughter to just go to the park and meet new friends…but who is going to be at the park? NO one! This saddens me that kids these days won’t experience those things but I guess they are going to experience new things that they will want for their children. We will have to wait and find out 🙂

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    1. I’m confident that as a mom you will find other moms that share your concerns and are also looking for ways to enhance their children’s lives in a positive way. Hat’s off to you for being tuned in and looking for ways to be the best parent you can be!

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  23. I found your article forthright and entertaining. Great humor. As a child of the 60’s/70’s (I was 13 the singer of 74), I experienced life as you described, growing up in California. I whole heartedly agree with your assessment. Today’s patents are getting the short end of the stick, and things are only getting worse.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Leigh! I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere that can create an environment where kids feel valued but also learn responsibility and independence. I love that we’re all, as parents, always looking for ways to do better.

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  24. Anyone can get caught up in doing “the best” for their children. But the question is what is “the best”? Parents can ask themselves how do I raise healthy, independent, respectful children in today’s world. Reading articles like this is one method to help make one more aware. Basically parents choose how they will raise their children, so choose as best as you are able. You will make mistakes. Learn from them and become better. Judy

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    1. You’re so right, Judy! Sharing ideas and discussing experiences benefits everyone. This piece is, of course, full of humor and hyperbole but I’ve loved the response from parents who are like, “Hey, I’m guilty of this but I really want to do better.” Parenting, like anything, is full of pitfalls and moments of sheer joy. The learning curve is endless. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!

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  25. My husband thought my sister wrote this about our child hood. I see now how we are not doing our son any favors. Change is hard but this has to happen! Thank you for the article

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    1. Thank you, Kimberley! We’re all looking for ways to improve, myself included, and I’m so thankful for all of the discussion that has taken place because of this little article. We’re all in this parenting thing together!!

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  26. You just described my childhood! Except I lived on popsicles and oodles of noodles. In the 4th grade my brother lost his sneakers and my mom actually made him wear his slippers to school until he found them. The minute we got home from school we were out the door and came home when my mom rang the bell. Riding our bikes meant stopping every few blocks to put the chain back on. My mom worked for Avon and despite my siblings and my protests we had to bring our lunch in a white Avon bag with red lipstick prints on it – completely mortifying. In college I went on a date and walked back to my car to find silver balls rolling out of it. If you turned on the radio of that car, the window wipers came on and stayed on. Do you know how many people, on sunny days, drove by me pointing to my windshield wipers! Good times….

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    1. Kathy, it’s amazing how many people, despite being raised in another part of the country….or even another country, identify with the 70’s childhood scenarios. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

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  27. I loved this article not only because I can relate but also for the sparked honest responses. I have been talking to a few of my family members trying to determine how the shift in parenting happened.

    My brother and sister in law do all they can to give it all to their kids. They each hold 2 jobs so one child can go to a high cost university. Zero retirement as it was cashed for the kids. Folks are always doing for the kids. No mommy weekends or dad and football because they are at endless kids sports. While they get a lot, they do have chores. But, the kids will never be required to work until after college. They do not even walk anywhere or play outside. Zero street smarts.

    Anyway, I was wondering how my generation moved in this direction with their kids. I know how my brother and I grew up. If we wanted anything after 15 yrs old, we had to get jobs and we did. I just paid off my student loans 4 years ago….at 39!! I digress. I am wondering if so many of us latch key kids grew up to want so much more for our kids. Wanting to provide more material things and more hands on attention. I am not saying everyone was this way. My mom had to work 2 jobs and was never home. No babysitter. I was cooking my own dinner at 7 until highschool. I am a strong adult because of it. I could not play sports because i had to do chores. Etc. I wonder if we are all compensating for the things we did not have like parents oozing attention, someone to fix all tears, solve our problems etc. Maybe we are doing for our kids what we think we would have wanted if our parents could have done it for us.

    My mom tells me all she wanted was a better life for us than she had. I think we all do that. Now parents are (or should be) seeing that maybe the pendulum went too far and some balance is needed. I know there is a lot of balance but it is still so hard to see a child fail and not want to cure all wows.

    My next wonder (since I keep saying that) is how will todays generation parent their children. We suspect todays generation will have struggles with the adult world and handling failures and managing expectations. Do you think the pendulum will shift the other way and the next generation may be a great balance of hard knocks and helicopter?

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    1. Hi Q! I think you hit the nail on the head. In searching for ways to give our children a good, happy childhood we’ve swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. I also think that most of us had children later, after we had established careers,and had more resources. A lot of parents tell me they find it hard to say “no” when they don’t have to. I love that we’re all thinking about how to improve and sharing ideas. I think that’s how we improve on anything. Whether it’s parenting or building a deck. Sharing and support is crucial. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  28. This is an excellent article and much of it really hits home for my 70s childhood (born 1965). While i agree with much of it, there was one particularly virulent plague that existed back then, that i don’t think is specifically dealt with in your article- childhood bullying. what made it so bad was that back then, there was a sort of tacit agreement among adults to just ignore it and let the kids deal with it – unless someone really got hurt (and even then, the approach was usually to blame both bully and victim – “Now, little Johnny, stop making Billy mad at you and go have lunch with him”), For this reason alone, I would not want to trade our modern life for the 70s. No doubt there is still bullying around, but there is so much more recognition and understanding of it nowadays, and awareness that it is devastatingly harmful and not normal. So while I support the idea of letting kids be kids to some extent, and learning more independence and responsibility, sometimes kids cannot work out things on their own and need the forceful involvement of adults – bullying being an excellent example. As you wisely say in some of your replies, we need a happy medium.

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  29. I agree that childhood in one generation is drastically changed. But, my grandma rode a horse to school and there was no such thing as an airplane, let alone a microwave. The real question is what in the world will it be like in another 50 years?

    The next question I pose is: ‘What do we do about it?’ I vote it starts with your own and I applaud you for not handing your kids everything. It starts with love and respect. And, it starts with core character. It also involves trade offs. Bottom line, it is about creating a family they want to be in and find basically fair, always loving and advocating for each other. This gives them a sense of belonging that gives them esteem.

    To me, that means my kids are going to know hymns tying them to their Christian heritage and deepens their roots to something bigger than this moment…but I will concede to tennis shoes in the sanctuary. That means my kids are going to be on the travel teams because let’s face it, they have to in order to play at all now, and I’ll be driving them …but when they’re home, I get 10 min a day at my whim for them to help with chores as needed so they have better situational awareness to household needs …this is particularly important in the late grade school/high school years when, as a family, we are dealing with a hot mess of an overbooked schedule. It also means their job is their job, not mine. I will not attend to their responsibilities because I respect them enough to know their own drill. And if they take it on the chin, they take it on the chin. That is ok because when they lasso moon, they lasso the moon, too. And if they know I believe in them and their destiny, and their destiny is fulfilling a God given unique purpose suited perfectly for their individual dreams…they are inspired beyond the selfish absorption of their own pleasure and entertainment, reaching beyond to make the world a better place. This not in a jealous, spoiled, whiny competition, but in a ‘I’m the only one in this lane and I want to make it my best’ sort of way.

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  30. “My kids aren’t as bad as some, because I’m too poor and too lazy to indulge them beyond a certain point.” – That is what I say about myself all of the time!
    This is great, thank you for putting in to words what I feel every day. Sometimes I feel bad and guilty and judged for my old school parenting style but this made me proud!

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  31. As kids it was leave the house in the morning go play all day in the street or the woods, come home when you hear me yell your name, or when the street lights come on.
    At the age of 13, my mum took me to the store to buy school trousers, she picked these horrible flares, drain pipes were in then. I had a complete fit in the store, she told me this is what i can afford, if you don’t lime it, get a job and buy tour own trousers. My reply was ” I will”.
    I stormed out of the store and got my first job working on the markets.
    At 16, I learned never quit your job unless you have one lined up.
    My mum took 50% of my wages, telling me, it might be cheaper when I leave home. I remember my mum going in to see my teacher, parent night, and he told her my classes were ok, but I had good Morales. Her reply was ” it’s my job to teach him moral, it’s your job to educate”

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  32. I might be an anomaly on this thread, but I have no children in spite of wanting them for a lifetime. Perhaps God knew the best thing for each and every one of my potential embryos was to reassign their tiny souls elsewhere, as I would have been – or tried to be – my parents. (Who, apparently, you knew in some other dimension or lifetime. Or was I one of the kids you played with 2 highways and 3 neighborhoods away that you didn’t know?!) Most of my friends with children wax despondent not of their own lack of effort, but of the environment that influences their parenting. While I can relate only to your memories of hapless nurture and not your experience with kids, this was one of the best reads I’ve had in months. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The humor and hyperbole is, I think, what keeps us sane. In all honesty, I do believe the best scenario is somewhere between the 70’s and today. I enjoy my kids immensely and I’m not sure 70’s parents had that same relationship with us. I’m sorry you haven’t been a parent because I think you would have been a good one. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m always interested to hear different perspectives!

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  33. oh how this this made me laugh!

    yes, we survived the bloodied knees treated with mercurochrome and merthiolate, homemade skateboards, and water drunk from a hose passed from kid to kid to kid. we wore mom-sewn costumes and school clothes and didn’t care about labels. we had time to play and time for chores.

    but then i was a single parent for 18 years and it was truly a financial struggle. i did it on my own, fiercely on my own, without being on the dole, without man-help. i didn’t expect any free rides and i lived within my means, although always humbly. it was not a wine and roses existence but it was full nontheless.

    my daughter, now nearly 35, has a career that she worked hard for. she put herself through college with the help of grants and scholarships. she is married, a mother, yet fiercely independent.

    i take no credit for her success. but i do believe our life without frills scared her so much she upped her game, which drove her to work multiple jobs to get through college to become a higher wage earner than i. (well done honeychild, well done.)

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    1. From one single mom to another….you’re awesome! My son is headed off to college in the Fall and I can only hope he’s prepared. Read “Letting Go”. As a single mom, you’ll identify with it. Thanks for reading!!

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    2. From one single mom to another….you’re awesome! My son is mheaded off to college in the Fall and I can only hope he’s prepared. Read “Letting Go”. As a single mom, you’ll identify with it. Thanks for reading!!

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  34. I try to do the things I did as a kid with my kids. I probably get more out of the experience because I’m a selfish SOB like that. Deep down I hope they appreciate it and will pass it on to their kids. From snipe hunting in the woods to wax paper leaf crayon projects. Nostalgia is a drug for me.

    I do wish, however, that at 5:35 when I walk through the door that the house was spotless and I had a nice plate of food ready. Since I don’t get that, I make sure when my wife walks through the door at 6:45, she has a plate of food and a spotless house.

    Please remember to have your pet spayed or neutered to help control the pet population.

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  35. Rhonda your article is spot on. I’m 57 years old and reading your words makes me feel like we grew up together. It’s like you knew my childhood. We WERE free labor! My first couple years mowing the lawn was with a push mower that you actually had to push to make the blades go because it had no engine. I had a ’68 Belair I bought for 30.00 from a guy nicknamed Hedgehog. It had a three on the tree that he had converted to a three on the floor. It would often get stuck between 1st and 2nd and I’d have to pull over, gut under the car and hammer the linkage free then get back in and take off again hoping it would shift. On top of that the front seat was a bench seat with the driver’s side latch broken so that side of the seat would float front to back while you cruised down the road. Like I said…it’s like you knew me. Great article. It brought back great memories and your concerns for today’s kids is SO right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rod,

      I just want to add that although we were free labor, we wanted to help to show that we could. I remember feeling left out if my dad did the yard without me while I was out. It was a right of passage to use the mower and to finally drive the family ford. We were happy to have the chance.

      Jerry

      Liked by 1 person

  36. Wonderful article Rhonda! I was born in 66′ and was able to relive my childhood through your experience. After HS graduation I joined the Army as there was no “free ride” to college. Let me be clear, I would do it again. It was one of the best chapters of my life!! Now, looking back at the age of 50 I have many regrets. I made 3 poor choices in marriages – one had an alternative lifestyle and the other two were alcoholics. I have one child whom I have raised on my own with no support. He is 15 now. I work hard and we do ok. We are not rich and my child knows that I have a small college savings plan but the rest is up to him. I talk openly with him about finances and savings. I even had him read your article. He came back with “mom, I wish I grew up when you did and kids were more social and polite”. You see, I don’t think our children of today even WANT what we are giving them – our parental practices of today are truly selfish ones. I have even had friends express their disbelief and dissatisfaction in my view on giving a full ride to college. I paid for my own- 100%, never borrowed a penny and proud of it! Yes, there was a time that I worked 3 jobs but I survived and am a better person. We need to teach our children that life just isn’t fair, easy, nor is it a gift.
    Thanks you for your insightful review of the transgression in parenting- spot on!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your insight, Joanne! Love how your son is benefiting from your life experiences. Thanks so much for sharing and for reading. Until 2 weeks ago, I was also a single mom. I know the struggle and I always say that in a weird way I know my kids will be better off for it in the end. Best of luck to you and your son.

      Like

  37. I, as a younger person reading this article, would like to point out the untruths inside of it. This article is just another way for people in Generation X to put down Millenials and Generation Z children. I realize that you had to walk to school barefoot uphill both ways in three feet of snow, but you have no idea what it is like to be one of us. We are at an all time high for stress levels because of the amount of things we are asked to do. We are asked to get a good job, which society says we can’t do without a degree, but then we get sidelined for not having any work experience. We are asked to perform like circus animals, balancing school, work, a social life, extracurricular, and the other various things that pop up along the way. I go to a state school, I did everything my parents asked me along the way, I pay for myself and don’t ask for money unless I’m certain I can pay it back. Oh that whole car thing? I’m 20 years old and don’t have one because I can’t afford it. You are type casting an entire generation just like the rest of Gen. X. Perhaps you should focus more on fixing your own problems with your kids rather than using them to define a generation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Megan, this certainly isn’t meant to represent ALL Millenials, and is actually a criticism of the parenting skills of Generation X. There is also a great deal of sarcasm and hyperbole at play. It’s a generalization, because it has to be. Anything else would be far to lengthy for readers. Rather than being critical of your generation, it’s a humorous way to get my generation to think about how we might do a better job for our kids. And I’ll tell you a secret….my kids have been raised by me, a single mother, since they were 3 and 6. They were characterized for the piece, with their permission. In truth, there were some wonderful things about my childhood and there are wonderful things about the way your generation was raised. I believe there is a healthy balance somewhere in the middle. I completely agree with you that there are societal expectation for you all to be involved in everything. Stretched thin beyond what is healthy. Whose fault is that? Ours, as parents. We’ve nurtured and allowed that to the detriment of our children. Trust me, Megan. The short-coming here belongs to my generation, not yours. I love that you read, think and defend your position. I’m betting you’re going to navigate life just fine. Thanks for your comments!

      Like

    2. Megan,

      Just a quick note…balancing all of the things you mentioned is not new. We all had to do those things and did it in a time when bullying was commonplace and you got a social beating if you didn’t fit in. The difference between us and you younger people is that you are allowed to think that stress is a big deal. Stress is part of life and you shouldn’t need meds or a therpist to deal with it. Real stress comes when you have kids and bills. Ask anyone, you’ll agree when you get here.

      Jerry

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jerry,

        Bullying is still pretty commonplace and has been made easier with the advent of technology. Everyone is different. As a gen-xer I have young children and plenty of bills, and because I wised up and made good choices I’m in a much more stable environment with lower stress levels compared to when I was younger. I got to experience a lot of the wonderful things Rhonda describes too, but no person should make the call about what is and is not stressful to another. Some people need meds or a therapist sometimes and that’s okay too. We never know the full story for anyone other than ourselves.

        Thanks for reading,
        Maddie

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Karla, your mom was right. I have one just like me. And for the record, you could have 4 boys and they would be easier than ONE girl. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

  38. I don’t know about YOUR parents, but MY parents cared very much about keeping us safe. That being said, we did have much more freedom that I give my kids. I have watched one two many episodes of Forensic Files and other such programs. I have heard about Adam Walsh, Steven Stayner and Timmy White. Jacob Wetterling among many, many others to just let my kids roam. But my kids DO chores, and complain they I treat them like servants. Which I do. But I will also serve them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Melissa. Just to clarify, the bit about our parents not caring whether or not we were safe was hyperbole. It was meant in a joking way. In fact, the piece is intended to be a somewhat exaggerated, humorous look at 70’s parenting versus today. That being said, the ways I think parents may be failing kids today aren’t exaggerated at all. I love though that I’ve heard from so many parents who are always reevaluating and looking for ways to do a better job.

      Like

  39. In summer, I left the house in the morning after my breakfast of a bowl of Fruit Loops. I took off on my bike. I came back for lunch, a bologna sandwich and some spaghetti O’s, with a Big Wheel for dessert. I took off on my bike. I came back for dinner which was beef-n-biscuit casserole, green beans, and Kool-Aid. I was out on my bike all day long, playing with my friends, doing God Knows What. My feet would be BLACK because I was bare-footed. I took a bath and went to bed HAPPY. I am trying to do the same for my kids. And neither of them have cell phones yet–ages 16 and 13. And they won’t any time soon either, People.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Simply put, I take my kids to garage sales, thrift stores, and we will not pass a good junk pile by without giving it a look and grabbing a bike or a Big Wheel off the top. My kids are not embarrassed by “store brands” and definitely know that my wife and I are frugal (and pretty poor compared to our neighbors and their classmates).

    This is not to give us credit, but rather to give our parents credit. We are fine with being who we are and letting personality carry us where we want to go rather than our wardrobes or new vehicles.

    Just so we’re clear, we are definitely not winning certain races and are far from having retirement savings, but we are happy and not self-conscious. I hope our kids carry this attitude into adulthood.

    (We happily embarrass our kids every chance we get. The irony is that they are starting (at 6 and 9 years old) to do it back to us…usually at a wedding or school concert or the like!)

    Jerry and Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  41. This was the best thing I have read in days. Thank you for writing this. At the moment I stumbled on this, I needed anyone to be on my side to reinforce why I push my kids, not give them things without earning them, refuse to just give them the best newest phone etc etc. Thanks for being that bit of support when I really needed it as a mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angela, you made my day!! The hardest thing for most of us is to be the rational minority. Parenting is, I think, the hardest thing we do. Especially staying lovingly focused on the end result instead of caught up in the moment. Yay for you!! Thanks for taking the time to comment 😊

      Like

  42. Good Lord. “My kids aren’t as bad as some, because I’m too poor and too lazy to indulge them beyond a certain point.” Yet, there you were buying them a $300 baseball bat and complaining about spending too much on clothes while complaining that you don’t have cojones of your parents. Guess what? You don’t because you choose not to.

    Like

    1. Yes, I have made mistakes, because we all do. There is a lot of hyperbole and sarcasm here though, that people often misinterpret as complaining. In actuality, I’ve been a single mom for the last 10 years, many years without a dime of child support, so over indulgences were few and far between. The baseball bat was one of them because I, like many parents, fell into the guilty trap of worrying that my son couldn’t be competitive without one. The goal here is that as parents we’re all working to make the best decisions where our kids are concerned, but most of us fail sometimes, just to different degrees. If you’re someone that doesn’t, that’s wonderful! For the rest of us, it’s great to be able to share ideas and enjoy a laugh at the same time. Thanks for your comment. I always welcome different points of view.

      Like

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