In case you didn't know this (but I know you do), parenting is a tough gig.
Most of us are completely convinced that we are totally fucking up our kids on a daily basis and setting them up for years of therapy later in life. That's part of the package (it was in the VERY small print, trust me). And just to rub that in a little bit more, here comes this month's Maclean's magazine to tell us this in a 2500+ word article, quoting some of North America's leading experts in the field titled, "The Collapse of Parenting: why it's time for parents to grow up."
I read this article, mostly because a friend of mine is one of the experts quoted and I like to support people I know when I can. But as I read it, I was getting increasingly angry, and I wondered why? I realized a few more paragraphs in that the sweeping generalizations made by the author about parents kowtowing to our children's every whim and demand was really getting to me. It was that and the assumptions being made about all us poor stupid parents sitting around wondering why are kids are such little shits these days and throwing up our collective hands in despair.
Yes, tiny human beings need guidance, and boundaries, and even some of those pesky RULES. Wait, edit that - ALL human beings need boundaries and guidance and rules to live by. As parents, our job is to help the tiny humans in our charge realize these things and learn to navigate and adapt to an every changing world around them and their own developing minds and bodies. We all know this already. You want a kid with good manners, model good manners. You want a kid who tries new things? Try new things yourself. You want a kid who understands how to behave in public, take them out in public and show them. This is not new NEWS in the parenting world.
Here's what I know. Parenting is at times as complicated as rocket science and at the same time, NOT FUCKING ROCKET SCIENCE AT ALL (see above). It can be a fly by the seat of your pants, hold on for dear life, enjoy the damn ride and hope you don't puke, kind of journey. It can also be "read all the books, try some new things, figure out what works, do whatever that is, and screw all the people saying you are doing it wrong", meandering walk in the desert, without a whole lot of water to sustain you or a damn compass to guide you. In other words, some days are easy, some days are hard, it can be exhilarating, it can be fun and it can also feel like an ultra-mega-super-marathon with no discernible finish line in sight.
There is no one-size fits ALL for parenting. And no, there is no imminent collapse of parenting. Are more kids having tantrums these days than in the past? NO. But more kids are being videotaped having tantrums or being shamed via social media for having (God-forbid) BIG emotions (in a time when we are trying to educate more people to allow for these big emotions) and we are being subjected to these very public frustrations (both kid and parental) online. Are parents trying to ensure that their children are raised with the ability to make conscious choices about their own lives/bodies/identities, while also figuring out how to instil healthy and necessary boundaries? Yes, they are. Can we please not scuttle the whole damn ship because a few kids are having the fries with their burgers at Red Robin and not the steamed broccoli/green peas?
While we are at it and although I am SO not a millennial parent (read, I am old enough to be a millennial's mother), I feel like this article, though not specifically defining them as such, made enough inferences for us to guess which parents they are talking about, and I think that is unfair. Look, I don't know how to break this to you, but every generation wants to do better than the last and since that is universally the case since the beginning of time (I am pretty sure Cain and Abel's kids were all "Hey, let's not kill each other OK?"), we are all navigating new seas. No parenting book in the whole entire world is going to every fully prepare you for the tsumani-force that is having a child. That's not to say you shouldn't do some reading, but do so with the understanding that all kids are their own unique versions of square pegs and they will never fit into the textbook version of the round hole. And really, is that what we want for our kids? NO, we all want our kids to be the unique beautiful flowers that they are and damn it if we aren't going to give them whatever nurturing we feel is necessary to help them grow!
What this Maclean's article feels like to me is someone seeing a change in the way that parents are doing things, THE STRUGGLES that come with any large scale change in social and cultural behaviour and then saying, "Nope, see, that's not working. Let's go back to the way it used to be." I mean, Andrea Nair (my super smart friend) said RIGHT IN THE ARTICLE that parents must “have a higher tolerance for things not going well." and open themselves to the opportunity to learn and become more confident. I would go one step further and say that all the observers, unsolicited-advice-givers and well-meaning strangers/commenters also need to increase their tolerance for parents and children not always doing things the way they think they should and to open up to some new ways/waves of parenting.
And on a personal note, here are just a couple of the reasons why I am all for this new fan-dangled way of parenting where my kids are seen as PEOPLE with agency of their own. I don't want to raise my kids to never question their elders or voice their opinion or concern when something feels off. You want to know why? Because that was how I was raised, and then one of these adults that I was taught never to question because they were the "grown-up" and therefore "knew better", sexually abused me and I never said anything. I don't want to raise my kids in a "That's the way it's always been done and look at me I turned out OK" kind of world. I actually want my kids to turn out better than OK and yes, better than me. I want them to know that their voices matter, their autonomy will be respected and that I will have their backs always and forever. And that last part, about having their backs, means that along with respecting them as the tiny humans they are, I will also provide for them the boundaries that they need to feel nurtured and loved and able to grow into their own amazing abilities and personalities.
So, NO! Parenting is not collapsing, it is evolving and we need to allow for this growth and support it, not tear it down and tell everyone how badly they are failing at it. Parents do not need to be criticized and questioned and told to grow up, because trust me, nothing anyone can say in this article or any of the "expert" books or websites out there can hold a candle to the self-criticism and constant questioning we do to ourselves. WE'VE GOT PARENTAL SELF-DOUBT COVERED Y'ALL!
Now, how about someone look over at that Dad at the restaurant negotiating a couple of bites of green peas with his headstrong daughter who is likely to grow up and know EXACTLY who she is and what she wants and is not going to let anyone tell her she can't do it, and give him the universal look that all parents know as "Been there done that dude. You are doing it right and I support you!"
'Cause that is what parents really need. Some fucking solidarity please!
This shit is HARD!