I like to believe that every generation improves upon the last – we all learn from our parents ‘mistakes’ so we don’t make them with our children, right? That’s how it should work and while I respect ‘today’s parents’ (I call them Earth Mothers) attempts to improve the world for the next generation, I often find myself wondering if they aren’t a little extreme.
When shopping recently, I happened to comment on these unusual rubber necklaces and bracelets that were on display. They were large and gaudy and I couldn’t imagine anyone wearing such jewelry. (actually, I thought they might be a chew toy for a dog)The sales lady overheard me and rushed to explain that these were for young mothers. They are made to be chewable so teething babies can chomp on these when in their mother’s arms. “This means baby won’t ruin your gold necklace or wrist watch, both of which pose choking hazards” she’s quick to point out. Seriously? Do we really want to encourage children to chew on people’s jewelry? Are we maybe going a bit too far here? Here’s a radical thought,,,,,, let’s give the kid a teething ring and say ‘no’ to chewing on moms necklace. (or is discipline not allowed when it comes to eating peoples attire)
Then there’s the issue of sleep. When should little Johnny go to sleep? Wait for him to tell you. And if he cries, does that mean he’s not ready to sleep? God forbid he should cry himself to sleep. Play classical music or try setting up your pc nearby to make ‘white noise’ to calm him. He loves motion so take him for a drive. Or, if you’re really at a loss you can invest in the services of a “sleep coach” Ok, who’s in charge here? Baby’s cry, and they cry for all kinds of reasons, and as my own pediatrician advised, ‘a baby cannot cry themselves to death’. In fact it’s healthy, and for small babies it’s the only exercise they get. If they fall out of routine or mix up their days and nights, you enforce the correct routine. Day 1, they might cry for an hour, then doze off. Day 2, they might cry for 30 minutes. Day 3, less tears, and so on. Eventually they will get the routine and comply and surprise, surprise, you’ll have a happy well-adjusted baby, who recognizes that you’re in charge. Children need structure, and you can pay for a stranger to come in and do this for you but if really think about it it’s just common sense. Do it yourself, you’ll save a lot of money.
Play ‘dates’ have now replaced regular play. When I was young my parents tossed us out to play after breakfast and outside of coming in for meals, the expectation was we would be in when the street lights came on. All the neighbourhood kids played together, riding bikes, playing hide-n-seek, nicky-nicky-nine-door. Every now and then an adult would emerge to do a head count or pass around the popsicles, and we were fine. Today’s parent ‘selects’ their child’s friends and coordinates with the parents to arrange ‘play dates’. Little Suzy will play with Amy from 10:23am to 11:47am, after which she will be collected by her guardians, given a healthy lunch, then down into her room for ‘quiet time’. She will be roused at 2:23pm and driven 2 doors down (cause God forbid should you walk her down, she might slip and skin a knee, oh no!) where she will play nicely with little Chloe until 3:14. They will play indoors to minimize the risk of injury and ensure close adult supervision at all times. (are we breeding a population of overweight, timid children?)
I get that we need to be vigilant with the safety of our children, always, but are we getting a little too vigilant? Where does caution meet paranoia? How will our children learn independent play if we control every aspect of their social time? If the parent selects the child’s circle of friends when/how will the child learn who they like and want to play with?
I raised 3 children and they played outside, constantly. They went to bed at the designated time each day with minimal argument (ok, my middle child was feisty) They skinned their knees, banged their heads, fell off bikes, fought and made up with friends…….and they somehow, miraculously survived into adulthood.
Today’s parent puts too much pressure on themselves to control every aspect of their child’s development. We respect that you only want the best for your child – we all do, but sometimes the basic principles are still the best. Lose the rubber necklaces, babies need to understand that they can’t have/do whatever they want. Turn up the tv on the nights they fight sleep (when there’s no good reason for it) to drown out the crying and teach them about routine and structure. Above all, give your child the benefit of free play. Let them get dirty. Let them fight with their friend. Let them learn what fun it can be to be a kid, unleashed. Be there to supervise for their safety and reference only. Let them pick their friends and who knows, you may be surprised to find that one day, their very best friend…..is you.