Friday, September 6, 2013

Musing On Parenting

My recent post on the disappearance of imagination in today’s children and the concern it gives me as an educator led to many interesting conversations both online and with friends and family. One conversation with a good friend whose parenting skills I admire led me to ask her to write a guest post on the joys and frustrations of parenthood in today’s demanding world. Always the trooper Bridget said ‘yes’ and today’s post is the first of two parts from her. The second half will run in a few days. Bridget writes about family life on her blog “Family Truths: you just can’t make this stuff up…”

Bridget always tells it how it is, and I’ve never gotten together with her when tears of laughter didn’t flow at some point.

Here is the first half of Bridget’s wisdom:

My husband and I both grew up in working middle class families.  We were always fed and clothed.  We went to school, church, the dentist, the doctor, and the eye doctor.  We sat in the car without the benefit of electronics when we ran errands with our parents. Sometimes we had a book to read, but mostly we sat and waited. We played sports, rode bikes, had roller skates, skate boards and BB guns.  We always had skinned knees, elbows, and palms. We were outside all day long in the summer and after school until dinner during the rest of the year.  There were no designer clothes or name brand shoes.  There wasn’t money for that.  My mom made a lot of my clothes.  We did not miss school unless we were sick.  There were no family vacations to Hawaii, Mexico or Disneyland.  We did drive, to visit family around the holidays, anywhere from 3 to 12 hours depending on whom we went to see.  If you have not experienced the 12-hour family trip in a car or station wagon you have not truly lived.  Birthdays were spent as a family.  There was no trampoline jumping, pizza eating, out of control birthday extravaganzas. Maybe there was a sleep over in the middle to high school years. 

I know it’s different now.  I’m not saying stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s 1975, but there are things you can do to live simply and maybe raise kids so that they grow up to have patience, imagination and kind hearts.

Parenting is a very nebulous endeavor.  It’s like The Coyote grasping at those few spindly weeds as he’s falling from the crumbling cliff.  I once found a pin at one of those funky little book stores that said, ‘raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens.’  I think maybe you’ll be getting the idea now that there is no rule book, no instruction manual, no operating instructions, they just let you strap those little creatures into their car seats and send you on your way.  All the while you are wondering, ‘Oh my gosh! What have we done?!’

And so it begins from the moment you bring them home to start your new little family.  There are billions of choices to be made everyday all day long and where ever you are getting your information from you have to make the best decision for you and this new family you have built.  Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle or maybe both? Family bed or not.  When do you start solids? Should they have shoes?  Do they need a hat?  When to toilet train? TV? Computers? Do you need to have a schedule? Daycare or nanny?  Should I go back to work? When? No wonder new parents are sleep deprived, and confused wandering around like zombies.  Not only are they trying to figure out what this tiny person wants and needs, they are making a million decisions a minute and hoping that the next one does not irreversibly scar the child or become the subject of years of future therapy.

Fast forward one to three years. Not only are you approaching the whole preschool, sports, extra curricular activities dilemma, but you may have talked yourself into one or two more of these tiny, messy, germ ridden house mates.

I’d like to repeat that you are trying to make the best decisions for you and your family.  This is really where the hard part begins.  As they are growing you continue to get more and more input about what you are doing and how.  It’s not just books, blogs, playgroups and websites anymore.  It’s in the locker room at the pool for Mommy and me swimming, in the cry room at church, waiting in line at the grocery store.  Anyone who has had kids or currently has kids feels more than free to tell you exactly what they think you should do in any given situation.

I try to restrain myself when I get the urge to give advice to strangers unless they look completely desperate. Like when the 2 year old is having a screaming fit in the middle of Target or someone is trying to shop with 3 kids in tow.  These people need some encouragement.  I usually tell them it will only be a short time and they too will be able to shop alone.  Sometimes I see them take a deep breath and forge on, slightly fortified for the next round.  Occasionally I just say, ‘Stay strong, you’re doing a good job.’

When our first child started school it was game on.  All of a sudden our small still evolving family was assailed from all sides.  Will he play soccer, - it seemed like everyone did.  T-ball?  Flag football? Basketball? Lacrosse? Swimming lessons? I was big on the swimming lessons, more from a safety point of view than a sports point of view.  We tried to keep it simple. Swimming lessons twice a year, maybe a 6-week class at the rec center here or there.  None of my kids expressed any particular interest in any one sport. Thank goodness for me because I didn’t relish driving all over creation during the little free time I had to watch a bunch of 6 year olds running around like a pack of sheep dogs after the ball. (This analogy applies to all sports until around the age of 9.)

That was just the tip of the iceberg.  How do you survive as parents in the world today with all the STUFF you’re expected to do? But expected by whom?  That’s really the crux of the matter isn’t it? Why do we feel pressured by others to push and push and go and go driving around children with mountains of equipment and clothing that they will need for every activity under the sun?  Here’s were the fun begins.

We made up the rules as we went along.    

The second half of Bridget's wisdom will be posted in a few days. Thank you Bridget!!


  1. Looking forward to part 2. Frankly, in my day, we had to walk 10 miles in the snow to get to school.. (kidding).


  2. I'm a few decades older but I do remember those car trips! Who had to sit in the middle in the backseat...and no, there was no t.v. We had to make do with the scenery along side the road, counting types/brands of cars, looking for various license plates, etc. I'm not even sure our car had a radio back then - they were not standard! Heaters? Nope, not standard with our family's first car.

    Looking forward to Part 2!

  3. Thanks Judith. I'm glad you enjoyed!