This is kind of a continuation of the previous blog I did but more of a comparison and I will freely admit from my perspective as a Baby Boomer. I was fascinated by the article in the New Yorker on Spoiled Children by Elizabeth Kolbert. When I was growing up, spoiling your children was frowned upon. Even for grandparents to do so was considered bad form.
My father had his degree in psychology. Not clinical but analytical psychology. He was also known as a second generation Finn, his parents coming from Finland. My mother likes to tell of how when asked by a friend if he was going to use child psychology when raising his children, his response was, “I’m not going to mess my children up with that junk, they’re going to be raises like Finns”
Well not quite actually. We were raised pretty much like most of his generation raised their kids. In a typical middle class fashion. My father was strict but not authoritarian but we were left pretty much to our own devices. More and more as we got older. An interview with Elizabeth Kolbert about this is downloadable here. (It starts at 13 minutes into the show)
We were encouraged to explore and we did. We were encouraged to become self reliant. I and my brothers and sisters would find our own amusements (I am the oldest of 5). We were lucky in the we lived in the country and had a lot of area to amuse ourselves. In one instance when I as around 4-5 I was playing in a empty field next to our first house with one of my brothers. There was another field next to it and I decided to explore that as well. I saw that a storm was coming and that I was closer to a neighbors house than ours so I took my brother there. The lady called my father who came to get us. I do not remember him being the least bit angry, just kind of surprised and a bit embarrassed.
We learned responsibility by doing chores around the house. Washing dishes and sweeping the floor and of course cleaning our rooms. After my father passed away, doing laundry as well. And for me, fixing whatever needed to be fixed. But even before that I remember helping my father when he modified a part of the house and had concrete poured on for a floor of what was to become a new room. I was there with him leveling it out. I was only 8 or so at the time. My parents helped and guided when necessary but only when necessary.
And to my knowledge this was the case for nearly everyone I knew. There were no “Helicopter Parents” . Like this net humor says, we left in the morning and returned before dark and most of the time no one knew exactly where we were. Farm kids knew how to drive tractors by the time they were 12 and I do not remember any of them ever getting injured.
We climbed trees, took a long excursion of the West Side of Cleveland with my cousin in search of balsa wood airplanes that nearly drove my grandmother ’round the bend. Played in any creek that had water, rode down steep hills and built club houses and forts out of what ever wood we could find.
Lakes and ponds were much more fun that clean shiny pools. We learned that giving presents felt good too. Especially if we made it ourselves. We learned that sometimes close friends leave and that is sad. We learned that sometimes we have to leave and that is also sad. Little of our lives were planned. Oh Boy/Girl Scouts and 4H maybe or a family vacation. Ours consisted of camping across Pennsylvania on the way to my grandparents outside Phillie. We learned how to be bored and disappointed and sometimes frustrated. We learned how to share, not because our parents told us to but because it was what we did with friends and siblings and it worked.
In short we were aloud to grow up and mature.
But something happened beginning with my generation. Either out of some resentment we had from our childhoods or fear of a more complex world, or maybe just some unrealistic expectations. I do not know. But parents began intruding on children’s lives and at the same time engaging in Affluenza. As baby boomers graduated from college and became more and more affluent, they also became more and more indulgent – with themselves and their children. Even to the point of putting up with behaviors that their parents would never have tolerated. And a group of adolescents masquerading as a political movement.
I remember beginning to hear of parents even filing law suits because their child was excluded from some group and/or event. Or was being “picked on” at school or church or some other place. A situation that we as children learned to deal with ourselves. With guidance only when necessary.
The kind of behavior that was depicted by Lumpy Rutherford‘s parents. I started seeing bumper sticker’s saying “My child is an ________. At ______ School” on more and more vehicles. In short giving praise for nearly everything for fear of hurting the egos and pride. But risking their kids self respect.
So we wind up with a generation of adults who expect to get their hearts desire all the time and raising children the same. Add to this those who are overbearing and authoritarian and those who are willingly ignorant and we wind up with a pretty messed up society.
Afraid ther kids won’t get into the right school when climate change and nuclear radiation and war and inequality are much large risks to their children’s future than anything else.
My parents grew up with small pox, whooping cough, polio, the depression and WWII. My generation measles, chicken pox, nuclear war and Vietnam. Nearly all of those are gone now. Somehow I think that children of the 1970s and on, needed to be protected from their parents more than anything else and maybe we would not have Mitt Romney running for president and people who would vote for him.
Maybe we would have mature adults running this country and mature voters as well.