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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1,517 thoughts on “Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal?

  1. Intelligent, funny and meaningful blog – I enjoyed it completely. In my blog I attempt to relate what I have learned to my 6 children, but often come up short with the girls. As a 57 yr old man its often hard to communicate to a 14 yr old girl. But reading aloud your blog postings to her give us common ground- they helped us understand what I could not comminicate. Thank you- and keep posting. ( I have 4000 followers on my blog and I am recommending to them they add you to their regular reading list). Well Done!
    Dad@2catrule.com

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      1. It’s a big pitty party;life was tough back 65-70 yrs ago.I’d suggest to anyone feeling like “Poor Me”loosen your underpants or put on a uniform for our country and you’ll soon realise;it just was different and not that bad1

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      2. Rhonda, this was great. Made me laugh for sure and you hit the nail on the head. Of course I’m older than you (73) but we were basically raised the same. Kids today for sure are going to be in big trouble when they go out into the world. We tried to raise our two kids responsibly but as you, failed a lot but we did instill the important things. The reward is when you hear your grown child tell younger kids that she had the best parents in the world. Nough said!

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    1. I was raised the same way , I did house chores , yard chores , drank from the hose outside if I were thirsty , I was ALWAYS kicked out of the house to go play after Saturday morning cartoons , I got whoopin’s , I got grounded , I was always bought knock off clothes and shoes , if my parents had friends with children over , the rule was if you weren’t 21 you were not allowed to be in the living room , we either had to play in our room or go outside , we got an allowance and it was 50¢ a week . I loved your article it was reminiscent of my childhood . I raised my children the same way I was raised , they are and were made to use manners and respect their elders and if they faultered in either area they got punished , parents have given their children the raw deal because they let others tell them how to raise and disipline their children and do not hold them accountable for their choices and decisions , they hand them everything they want no matter the cost and do not make their children EARN it . Parents need to grow a backbone and a set of nads and learn to say NO .

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      1. So true. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I earned everything I owned. The best memories are of us failing at things but coming up with ingenious ways to fix issues. I have taught my kids the same. They want a car, they earn the money. And that includes the monthly insurance etc. No freebies here. The parents of today are to soft. They need to let the kids fail….earn their keep, pay for their desires, etc….awesome article. So very true.

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    2. As the Mumma of 3 beautiful daughters one thing I have learned as well as my husband is that the teenage years have a communication shift.

      Now, ( when they start to pull away and not follow you around the house talking and talking) it’s the right time for the shift.

      You go into Listening phase. Great ways are alone in the car on those daily trips, or longer drives are exceptional. Cars without siblings provide a bubble of safety.

      Nod and show that your listening. Ask Simple questions, “so it was Jenny that sat by Bob after you told Mercedes to save the spot for you and Jenny knew this all along? Ok, I’ve got it, go on.”
      You’re there to Listen you Fathers, Fixers of everything. Unless something is discloedisclosed that’s dangerous. Then ask what do you think we should do to find a solution. And Listen.

      Find ways to use their Love Languages to make these talking opportunities. Loves real records, go to a great resale shop, go out for frozen yogurt, but it Has to matter to them.

      Tweenage and teenage talking points change. They might not be ready to talk at 3:00 right after the stressor of school, work, and sports. But make yourself available late when you can. 1am seems to be my daughter’s favorite times to allow themselves favorite time to be vulnerable. Sometimes they have gone to bed, and wait for the quiet of the night for the non-judgemental talking hour.

      For Dads, and for the Moms that wear both hats they Need you so much more right now. They are choosing who matters in their lives for the long run. Including boyfriends and husbands. Their futures.

      And what could be more important than that? Not missing some sleep now and again? And don’t forget the physical contact. Quick hugs, gentle pats. Lots of I’m proud of your choice. You are kind, I liked it when you….

      And pretty soon that chasm between you and your child that seemed so huge will narrow and not relating wll be a memory. It’s just a Fro-Yo away!

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    3. You’ve bashed Our Youth and us way too much in this article. Not all children are like this. You’re talking about a small percentage and projecting it upon all of them. It is not a fair assessment at all.

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      1. I have taught middle school and high school for years and she is right on the money. The majority of kids and parents are just like this. It is really sad and pathetic. I love my students but if you believe this article is not right on then you need to spend some time in a classroom and get a reality check!!!!

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      2. No it is not a small percentage – it is a much too large percentage. I see it in at least 7 out of every 10 young people in the workplace today. Entitlement is ugly & that is what these kids are all about. Stop being their friend and start being their parent. Trust me – you’ll get a thank you some day down the road. I did!

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    4. This was the first time in a long time I have heard what I have felt about our kids generation and after. I feel bad for these kids that never learned to take pride in their success because they worked hard and wanted to be productive part of society. I graduated in 72 I was so ready to be on my own and make it and I did.

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    5. Wonderful article. The nit-picky little nerd in me noticed your mistake on the word “conceived.” Don’t you remember? I after E EXCEPT before C? Just joking with you. You are a wonderful writer and observationalist. I hope I didn’t spell that last word wrong. Thanks again!!!

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      1. You’re going to have to help me out here. I only found the word “conceive” which as spelled correctly. I’m sure I’m just over looking it. I’m also wondering why spell check didn’t catch it! Would love to correct it, if you know the sentence. Thanks!

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  2. I think we strive to give our children the comforts we felt deprived of. My grandfather lost everything and ended up working for his brother, practically for free. So my Dad was ferociously determined to raise his children in a financially stable home. Love and affection were not high on his list and may not have even been ON the list of priorities. So I gave my daughter a lot of love, with a dab of reality orientation which included budgeting money. (“Mom, why can’t we buy a Nintendo?”) So we paid the bills together, she subtracting the amounts and licked the envelopes and stamps. When we got down to $100 or so, I reminded her that we still needed to buy gas and groceries. (“Mom, we don’t have enough money to buy a Nintendo….”). No Darling, but we can put aside $10 and save up for one! And we did! Now, my 38 year old daughter is unmarried, owns her own home, holds down a good job, and isn’t interested in having children. I like to think she had it all and feels fulfilled as a single woman forging her way in this strange new world. I do wonder what comforts she would have lavished on her offspring. The comfort she felt deprived of as the only child of a single Mom. Great article, Rhonda. Thank you.

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  3. Sounds like my childhood (born in the 60’s). I think that some of the things we didn’t like going through childhood is why we do things now for our kids. There’s also the fact that we learned from our parents certain things, like doing the job right and not getting others to do it. For instance, I cut my grass, my two kids never have, I feel a bit strange having somebody assist or do it for me. Still, I was able to raise two kids who understand you appreciate what you have and it’s quite OK to work for what you don’t have. 🙂

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  4. I was raised with a list of chores waiting on us on the bar when we got up in the morning. During the summer, we had to be up by 10, showered, beds made and completely dressed with shoes on. We never had the option of rolling our eyes or back talking. It just wasn’t an option. I would love to tell you of the abuse but there was none. It was just expectations and this “healthy fear” of what would happen if we bucked the system. Not doing it was not an option. Doing it meant we got to the spend the after noons watching MTV or Soaps or The Brady Bunch because our chores were done. Today, I tell mine to take out the trash and at 17, she acts like I have asked her to cook a meal for a village of people. It infuriates me. And I know that why she does it. Don’t know how this happened but both my kids (13 and 17) are responsible for their own laundry and cleaning their own rooms. Just because I am a atay at home mom doesn’t make me a maid. My job is to get them out of the house and know how to survive on their own, not coddle them so they stay and bum off me. I love them. But I will love them more when they move out. 😂

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  5. This describes how I was raised in the 70s and 80s and I resented my parents. Communication was stifled by their authoritarian parenting and it remains so today. I made a conscious decision to be s different type of parent, and I am happy with that decision.

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  6. I had a red MGB, too. So many great memories from that thing. It did not idle, the radio had a short and it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But, I would not change one thing. The lessons learned were invaluable. My childhood was so similar to yours, weren’t we lucky? Thanks for sharing and reminding me of those precious days of “becoming” what I am today.

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  7. I love this!! I find myself saying, “kids today have no idea what they are up against” all the time. I didn’t have kids but when I spend time with my niece and nephew I find myself doing things my folks did and it annoys my sister. Things like, you have to at least try a bite of everything, no dessert because you didn’t finish your meal, and you aren’t bleeding so walk it off you’re fine, are now considered borderline abusive. My father has said to me, “why are you so strict with them? I always figured you would be more lenient with children.” And usually reply, “I learned it from you. When did you become such a softie? I never would have gotten away with this crap as a kid.” My 10 year old niece has a nicer iPhone than I do and my 8 year old nephew got a stern talking-to for running up an almost $300 bill buying stuff on his iPad that is linked to my sister’s credit card. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I would have done that because it would NEVER have been possible. And bullying? Well that was just a part of life. “Kids will be kids.” Your post is real and on point, and I think it gives a lot of food for thought.

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    1. Yes, kids will be kids… until your child kills themselves because they cannot take the constant abuse and ridicule anymore. Or does that child deserve to die because they were ‘weak?’ Bullying needs to be addressed – today’s world IS much different than that before, bullies now have constant access to children, not just at school and on the streets, but through their mobile phone and on social media. You say you want kids to respect their elders – what about teaching them to respect each other?? We have children who think it is perfectly fine to tell other kids “Go kill your self, no one will care.” That sort of behavior needs to be addressed… because those little monsters will grow up to be ugly, adult monsters. We can wish for things to be how it was in the ‘good ole days’ but the fact is today’s world is different and we need to address that.

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  8. This is just so good! We were feeling so guilty this morning taking care of our home while the kids were running around telling us they were bored 😐 stiff. Your post reminded me of the importance of not just entertaining them but pushing them to use their imaginations.

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  9. We grew up in a time where we were to “respect” everyone, by doing as we were told, and getting out of the way. No one taught us to say “NO”, because that was just plain rude. We were never taugh to take what we wanted. We were taught to give what others wanted. And then we had kids. Still not knowing any roles but the ones we had.
    Knowledge is power, and until you learn something, you continue to be the sheep that was lead to grass.

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    1. I really liked the blog. Being raised that way, I thought made me resilient, then I read your post and it clicked! I was taught how to stay out of the way and avoid confrontation. Yes, my manners are impeccable and I’m a hard worker. At what cost, though? My 9 yr old bosses me around and I try and fix it and stay out of her way.. I secretely admire her attitude …Thanks for this. You’ve given me a lot to think about..

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      1. Exactly Sim. It is a great article, but I can write you a list of “negatives” being raised this way is reflected in our generation–as well as the results of the current generation being overly entitled and indulged. Ultimately, as parents, people do the best they can and we have to rely upon God to do what we cannot. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. LOVED this article. I have two grandchildren who I adore, but they are given everything and more. In one sense, I am so happy that they get what they want, but I also wonder about the very things you describe as being the potential downside in the future.

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  11. This is my first time ever, ever commenting on a blog. But, I am tired of hearing how parents with kids are either 1. complaining about how much work it is, or 2. complaining there is no discipline. You are the parents. They are your choices….not sure why this is blog-worthy.

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    1. Chris you must not be a parent. And if you are I assume you homeschool and your kids have never had contact with the outside world. Try working with or dear God hiring a millennial. That might help you understand this blog and give you a healthy dose of reality.

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      1. I agree with Chris and I am a parent. Leave the “Are you a parent?” means of shutting up those that disagree with you at the door, please.

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  12. Love this article. I grew up in the 50s and it is so true, all of it. I have 3 kids with the last being14 and she is working every week a few days babysitting and learning to conduct her financial life. She is a bit spoiled because her sister and brother are years older so we do tend to give her things we didn’t give the others. Maybe that’s because we are old and tired and don’t want to hear her complain but we still insist on her learning to deal with life, whether it is getting bullied and fighting back or working to buy that new phone she wants. I do see a big difference in the way I was raised, how we raised the first 2 and this last one. People are crazy out there and now you have to explain not only about boys to young girls but the many many pervs that are there now, more than ever before. And of course now all the different BS stuff about sexuality. It’s a ruff world, worse than ever before, so parents better teach their kids how to survive in this hard world if they want them to succeed.

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  13. Thank you. I guess I am lucky that my kids now range in age from 42 to 50, and they had to work for everything they wanted that was “extra.” Now they all have an excellent work ethic, and are not frivolous. I do fear for their children, who do not know what a job is. Great insight.

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  14. I don’t have children, but I’m the same age as you (I was also 9 during the summer of ’74) and can relate to your article. I never got what I wanted, and I had to work in order to buy those Jordache jeans; my parents NEVER bought me any clothes since I started working at age 14. I cringe when I see so many spoiled, privileged children and teens who don’t know the value of a dollar. I pity these children when they become adults because they will be ill-prepared for the real world and a life of responsibilities.

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  15. Loved loved loved this blog!! I am so guilty of so many of these things…I want them to get enough sleep so don’t wake them up. I end up doing stuff they should be doing because they don’t know how to do it right or just purposely half ass a job so I redo it anyway. My middle child weed wacked our overgrown ditch and was so proud of himself he made us all come out and look at it and praise him! REALLY!!! He’s 14…do I get praise for washing the kitchen floor…no…just more dirt on it in 5 minutes with all their friends traipsing through to eat my food! I love my 3 kids – ages 16, 14 and 12 but am VERY guilty of the keeping up with the Joneses with clothing etc. I will NOT be buying mine a car which SHOCKED him! He said but I have my license why not? All of his friends except maybe 2 have cars that were given to them. I told him get a job, save money and you can buy a car. That’s how it works. This did not make him happy. I drove my parents BIG station wagon until my freshman year of college when I finally bought a car. Mine won’t be caught dead driving my minivan. So funny how mentality shifts with regards to our children’s happiness and fitting in etc. over just a few short years (25). Hopefully it will shift back again….with blogs like this maybe some of us will wake up before we turn out an entire generation of incompetent misfits that need mom and dad to do everything!

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  16. I think you make some interesting points about independence and responsibility. I’m older than you ( raised in the sixties). My childhood was very different from yours – virtually everyone in my community had gardners, live – housekeepers, tutors, lots of lessons and sleep away camp in the summer for 8 weeks. We also had remote controls for the T.V. And my parents were very concerned about my psychological development. Yet, I became a responsible adult. I think it’s not just the material things that you give kids that’s important- but the values you teach them.

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  17. Reading this story was like listening to someone I grew up with and I couldn’t stop laughing! It was a wonderfully complicated time, wasn’t it? Thank you for the memories 🙂

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  18. Oh my goodness, this is SO Burt and Ruby! I was born in 1955. The television wasn’t on unless Gunsmoke was on or the Yankees were playing. In the summertime, we left the house on our bikes about 7:00 and didn’t come home until the streetlights came on and the lightning bugs were out! When I was a teenager in the late 60s, my friends didn’t want to spend the night at my house because if Mom didn’t wake me up to do housework on Saturday, Dad was knocking on my bedroom window screaming, “Get the clippers and get out here”. At which point I went out and clipped the grass all…the way….around…the house…. I so agree with your blog; children are too coddled nowadays. I am the mother of 4 grown children and 7 grandchildren. My children were all made to help around the house, although not made to clip grass around the entire house! The two older daughters once asked if they would get an allowance like their friends. I told them yes, that they could sleep inside. Thank you for such an enjoyable read!

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  19. I was born in the late sixties, and while I have some good memories of childhood, I’m just not that nostalgic for the ‘good old days’. Sure, riding my bike around the neighborhood all day doing god knows what with god knows who was a worry-free, financially favorable way for me to get out of my parents’ hair, but truthfully it really wasn’t the best use of my time.

    Would my life be different if I’d spent some time learning to use that crazy-ass thing called a computer in the late 70s or early 80s? Hell yeah. Do you ever regret not spending a few summers practicing your drums, or your fast pitch, or your fill-in-the-blank when you’re sitting in your cubicle? I do.

    I have 2 big regrets about the childhood you described that I lived too. One is that I didn’t discover the things I was good at, that I liked and how to incorporate them into my adult future until it was really too late to do anything about it. I know I’m not alone.

    The other regret is that I wish I’d been closer to my parents. I don’t think their insistence that I spent every free moment on the weekend doing chores or being far, far away from them really did much for our relationship. I wish I’d known them better. I wish I’d liked them more. That’s not to say that they were bad people, or that I’m a bad person. I just didn’t know them very well, and I don’t think they knew me all that well either.

    Does it never bother you that Ginny refused to buy you converse, but she has no qualms about a frivolous, custom made clown suit for your 3 year olds Halloween? I know we don’t begrudge people who do nice things for our kids, but do you really think a pair of converse would have deprived you of some major life’s lesson? Yeah, I worked a job and bought my own clothes too. And I don’t regret having to do it. But it would have been nice and I don’t think it would have corrupted me.

    Sure, we do things differently. Times have changed. Technology has changed. Hobbies have changed. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t motivated by regrets from my own childhood. I want my kids to experience as much as they can, so when it’s time to make decisions about their future, it’s a reasonably informed choice. I also want to know my kids better as individual humans, as children, as tweens and teens and adults. I don’t think I’m alone there, either.

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    1. Anna, I wholeheartedly agree with you that it wasn’t perfect. It’s certainly romanticized a bit by distance and humor. I believe part of the way our childhoods transpired was due to most of us having young parents who were still trying to establish themselves. At least that’s largely why my parents wouldn’t buy the Converse. They simply couldn’t afford them. 37 years later, when my son was 3, they could easily afford a clown costume for Halloween. Exposure to many different extracurricular activities certainly gives kids a better chance of stumbling across their passion, but we’ve become so geared toward hyper competitiveness, that many of them burn out before they even get to college. For me, there are pluses and minuses to both parenting eras, but in general I still believe that we have a problem with overindulgence and a failure to prepare kids for problem-solving and perseverance. The bright side is that most parents I hear from see it and are working to improve. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences!

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  20. First of all let me say I loved this blog!! Well wrote and funny, I could relate to every moment you described with my childhood and my daughters. I want to make one point that I was thinking the entire time I read it. My father was raised by parents who went through the depression, so having a good pair of shoes and three meals a day to his parents where “giving your kids everything”. When I came along a child of the 70’s myself I was raised much like you but my grandmother saw us kids as spoiled. I think every generation wants their kids to have more, to be happier, and yet I think every generation looses a little bit of grit it takes to make it in this world…my dad at the age of 75 and financially secure still trims his own trees, mows his own yard, cleans his own house, and would never think to pay someone to do these things. Where I hate to weed the flower beds and clean the pool so I pay someone to do it. My daughter is 20 and still in collage but I am dreading to see the bills she will have to keep her home clean (because a cleaner she is not), her yard maintained (because she has never cranked a mower in her life), or the grocery bill (because premade food is all she knows how to cook). and after reading this blog I can honestly say this would be all my fault for not pushing her to be more independent. As a single mom I never wanted my child to want for anything so keeping up with her friends who usually had two parents income I did, but to what cost to her was my sacrifice made….really makes you think!!! thanks again for a amazing blog.

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    1. Shannon, I was a single mom up until this past April. I totally appreciate that feeling of wanting your kids to have what the kids with two parents have. In the end though, I think there are gifts in the struggle.

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      1. Rhonda, I agree, there are gifts in the struggle. I tell my sons that the hard years became their super power.

        I have been a single (sole, pretty much) parent for the last 12 years. We had a terrible chunk of years dominated by lack and loss that still haunts me. We were homeless in 2009, lost everything…

        The thing is, they are doing so great now at 20 and 22. Both have great jobs, and the beginnings of solid careers. There isn’t an entitled bone in their bodies.

        They have pain from the hard years, as do I. But, as my younger son said, “it happened so long ago, it’s almost like it didn’t happen”.

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      2. One of the things I love about having this blog is the gift of all the lessons I learn through the journeys of others. As a mom and a woman, I am so thankful you and your sons won that battle. That kind of teamwork creates an unbreakable bond. Hoping the future brings many blessings your way. You have a beautiful spirit ❤️

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  21. I’ve got you all beat; I was born at the end of 1946, so I’m truly an archeological specimen. Oh, yes—walked to school, walked to the local movie theater for the weekly kiddie matinee (cartoons, a serial that our parents had probably viewed 30 years ago and a second- or third-run movie). We did chores—I was the oldest of 5 kids, with 8 1/2 years between me and my youngest brother (no twins)—and I did most of them. Yes, we did yard work. Yes, we thought that a plastic wading pool with all 5 of us and 5 neighbor kids was the next stop to the moon as far as entertainment went. Oh, and no parental supervision; they were busy engaging in their weekly horizontal bop and we were forbidden to come in the house unless someone was bleeding or something was on fire. Like your Dad, my Dad focused solely on his career because a good husband and father meant simply being a good provider. Mom never worked outside the home. It was expected I would go to college and I did—I applied and was accepted to the state university, but there was never any sweat about it. At that time, state universities were easy to get into but a lot harder to stay in than they are now. There was little to no forgiveness if you couldn’t keep up. No one had thought of remedial courses. If you couldn’t do the work, out you went. For guys this was really problematic because flunking out of college made you eligible for the army to grab you, and with Vietnam really starting to gear up, that was pretty scary. Guys called F’s “V’s” for Vietnam.

    I’m retired now after 33 years with a multinational corporation. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would come that far. I expected to follow my Mom into fulltime housewifery and motherhood, but well, Life happened. My son is married, has an amazing job, and is a wonderful, hands-on Dad to his 2 kids, who are 14 and 10. But I have similar worries about my grandkids that others have expressed for theirs. How will they handle the enormous challenges Life will throw at them?

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  22. I was absolutely delighted to read about my childhood. I was spanked, had chores, had certain rules for summer time and school time. Also grew up with respect for my elders, in which I grew up with morals. We didn’t have a lot of money but I remember learning basic repairs with my dad. Which come in handy as an adult with a home to take care of. I would not have even dreamed of mouthing off to either parent, or I would have had false teeth at a very young age. I grew up just fine, and the kids today would too if the word NO would be put into effect. Not all kids are bad, but the majority I come in contact with have no respect for others. It is a ME ONLY world for them. Very discouraging and sad. But there is hope in every generation. Since styles come in and out, maybe those basics will come back in style also. Thank You for your story and perspective. I am sure most people agree.

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  23. Having been born in the 50’s I loved and could relate to this post! For all the naysayers – At no time in my childhood did I ever question whether my parents loved me, or if they would protect me, or if they had my best interest at heart – even when I was cutting the grass in knock-off jeans, missing the party, and cursing them! I look at childhood as basic training for life, and the most important question parents can ask themselves is if they are giving their children the tools to handle all the things, or any of the things, that life will surely bring.

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  24. Excellent article! I worked hard to raise mine to be independent. Had to fight mom a bit along the way though. Fortunately mine grew up to be VERY independent, have worked since HS and, despite many setbacks, are doing well on their own & has learnt the value of a dollar! They even complain a/b the entitlement and cluelessness of others.

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  25. Excellent and spot on!! What I’ve been trying to tell my kids but it’s like a different langauge. I’ll help you when you help yourself and engage in this thing called LIFE! 😋

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  26. Absolutely spot-on. As I reflect back on my 70’s self… by the age of ten I could prepare myself a meal on the stove, wash my own clothes, mow a lawn and somehow by the grace of God talk to other kids without the benefit of a smart phone. I’m a bit embarrassed, but more so scared to death that my own kids in that age bracket can do nothing of the sort. I wrestle with this on a daily basis and with the guilt it sometimes brings because much like a captive zoo animal…. I fear they’ll never survive as adults in the “wild”.

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  27. I’m right with you on the whole thing. You wrote very well about the lose/lose some of us parents have put ourselves in.
    I did all sorts of crazy stuff as a kid while out for the Summer day. I took off with a blow-up raft & pump with packable paddles and a bagged lunch (wth is an ice pack?) and ended up 10 miles from where I started on the river. It was a blast! My parents may have heard about me walking back with the raft still inflated one time or another. I think I did that every week the Summer before 9th grade. But definitely did it several times each Summer after my 10th Birthday. They never said a thing, as long as my chores were done and I was home by street lights on, they had other things to do.

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  28. There is validity to this argument, but I do not agree with this blog in its entirety. I do agree there is no reason for outlandishly priced gear and clothing (not to say that a good deal at JCPenny’s can’t be found), and that some (not all, but many), kids and teens are raised with minimal expectations around the house, and that independence is not as strived for. However, I’m tired of people “recalling the old days” and thinking that the time era was better. There was no effort to fight for LGBT teens in school, bullying had a “buck up” mantra to it, kids were not as informed on things such as sex, women were expected to be “house wives and stay at home”, fathers and men were empowered to just be buff (some still are), as mentioned in the article, kid’s safety was not that emphasized. It’s like the whole “I chewed lead paint and I survived” gig. We paid the prices, even if you didn’t. Cancers and STDs are on the rise, allergies are more common, global climate change is on the sky rockets. These are effects of that apathetic vibe of the 20th century. Times were not better, they were progressing. Back in the old days is becoming an increasingly sickening phrase. Yes there are things that need to be worked on in the modern home, but it cannot be compared to the past, that doesn’t help fix the problem. What will help fix the problem is fixing the problem and comparing to the present and future. This is only widening the generation gap and is not helpful to current problems of parenting and teenagers.

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  29. You are my new hero! Thank you for saying exactly what needs to be said. I’m in throes of dealing with a 22 year old who thinks I owe him everything because I made mistakes raising him. Then I think about how I was raised: 22 I was married and we paid our own bills! Anyway, thank you so much!

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  30. This is so true, as a child I had a list of chores that had to be completed before I could go out and play. I didn’t have play dates, I walked a half mile to my friends house to play while my parents were at work. If I wanted to go to the movies I had to do something to earn the money to go. Our kids now are having everything handed to them and are not learning much that will allow them to thrive once they move out. In the end they will be in for a rude awakening.

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  31. This is exactly how I feel. We are not doing our children ANY favours. It’s tough too, when kids parents have different philosophies of raising their children. I feel like I spend my time with my children trying to undo the damage that the other parent has infliceted by trying to make them completely dependent on him and never being allowed to think for themselves. Completely hovering over them and making them feel stupid and incapable. Keeping them under his thumb, and not allowing them to explore, make mistakes, and just be kids.

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  32. We don’t raise kids like this any longer because we can’t raise kids like this any longer. We are governed in a police-state where they call the shots on what can and can’t be done. Like a friend that let her ~10 year-old out to ride a bike by himself without hovering over him, and another neighbor called the police and had the officer stand and write up a report about it. And people wonder why so many kids are in foster care? I’m starting to believe that the government doesnt want parents raising their own children, that the time will come that people will be told how many children they will have, hand them over to be bought and sold by a government market, and not ask a damned question about it. Ridiculous you think? Take a look around you at what’s happening. Parents are terrified to let their kids out of their sight for fear of being reported.

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  33. Rhonda…bravo!! You nailed it completely and utterly brilliantly!! I was also 9 in the summer of 74, my 1st car was a stick shift and took more oil than gas, but the stories I have are worth more money than I’ll ever save!
    Thanks for bringing me back to an awesome time in my life. I’m at my parents house now helping go through their things as they prepare for a new chapter in their lives. My dad has Alzheimers and Parkinson’s Disease, they need to move closer to family. We talk a lot about the past. In 1978 after my brothers moved out, my dad bought a wood stove for the downstairs fireplace in our raised ranch. I spent many weekends chopping wood with him, stacking and helping keep the stove stoked. He was very proud that I could handle the job, and so was I…and he still beams when he talked about it the other day. I didn’t get gypped in my childhood, and I pray my kids didn’t either…so far, so good.
    Love your blog, love your style, I’m a new fan and can’t wait to read it all!!

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  34. I was with a friend when her 13 y/o child had done something wrong. My friend said to her child, “OK, what should be your punishment?” My thought was, “WOW! They get to pick their own punishment? How bad could it be? “. Of course, it was a bs punishment.
    Don’t get me wrong. I am guilty of everything you discussed in this awesome article, all the way down to AAU. It makes one wonder why our kids are so angry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deb, I may be completely wrong but I think the happiest people possess three things: boundaries, purpose, and hope. I think a lot of kids don’t have boundaries or purpose and it leaves them feeling insecure and unsettled. Thanks for reading!

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  35. The names I would call you are “Sensei” or “guru.” I didn’t start out deciding that I would be enabling. As my son’s diagnoses of autism, OCD, and catatonia came to light , he needed us to bring a world to him that he did not trust or enjoy once he even new that it existed. So we “erred,” if that word is accurate, on the side of positivity because these new experiences that kids naturally embrace were punishing enough to him at first. Miraculously, we now have a 16 year old who is friendly, kind, intelligent, and curious when he’s not occasionally freaking out that he’s feeling crowded, startled, threatened, nervous, etc. But he also whines about having to use his own money for a Transformer from the new movie and meals or snacks out when he decides the plenty of choices for nourishment at home are boring. Don’t get me started on chores (aaaaahhhhhh!!!! 😱).
    So looking back I can see where we overdid it and now we are tasked with teaching him more life skills that he doesn’t want to learn but this time it’s because he questions why he should when Dad and I have been taking care of them perfectly well up until now. This time we are not alone! Any ideas on how our generation of parents can turn the tide?
    .

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  36. Your blog, as interesting as it may be, comes entirely from and completely supported by, parents of spoiled children. We mustn’t look on our own children as though the world raises them as we raise them, our lives are not a mirror to everybody else’s. What are you really robbing your children from, experiences they should have or ones you WANT them to have? Maybe that drive to the beach in the car that their parents paid for was enough, because the parents paid for it after that child spent the last 2 years looking after a sick relative. Let us look at your life as an example, you didn’t not work for the car you were given, yet too this day you spew on what negatives it is and how it really isn’t ‘that’ great, but you had one non the less and your life was made that much easier. Maybe children now can be lazy yes, but before you point fingers at us saying we’re getting the raw end of the stick by comparing it to your life in the 70’s, love the life of a teenagers now and understand us first.

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