Rhona Canoy .
SO… It is that time of year again. When “wonderful” parents make their way across my path. When I wish I could sit them down and have deep conversations about how they see their roles as adults(?) responsible for the creatures they have brought into this world. As time passes, I notice the changes that are evident in the way they treat their children, in their attitudes, in their perception of what they are responsible for. And as their children grow, they somehow find all the perfect reasons to justify what they do, without being accountable for the effect it has on these children. We all have vivid memories of how we were raised, how we swore we were not going to be like our parents, how we were going to be better than them. But we never took the time to understand how we were affected and influenced by the way we were raised.
I can’t remember my mother ever being terrified that I would catch pneumonia and die if I walked around in shirts drenched in perspiration as a result of all the running and playing that was integral to my childhood. I remember catching cold as part of normal life, runny nose and all. And yet today, it is common to see mothers, grandmas (surrogate moms, actually), nannies brandishing washcloths to dry their little wards’ wet backs, armpits, faces, heads (hopefully not in that order) prior to changing their shirts for fear that they would catch cold and presumably get sick and die. Science has already proven beyond any doubt that wet clothes may be uncomfortable, but viruses and germs are bringers of colds, flu, bronchitis. And we get them whether our clothes are dry or not. Science has already proven beyond any doubt that teaching them to wash their hands is actually a better way of protecting our kids from these germs.
I can’t remember that my mother objected to the sour smell of dried sweat on my little (yes, as a child I was normal-sized) body, or the acrid scent of sun on my hair. More often than not, I came home with dirt stains on my clothes, certainly dirt rings around my neck, in my elbow crease, behind my ears. Nothing that a good scrubbing and shampoo couldn’t eliminate. It is always amazing to me just how pristine and clean-smelling today’s kids seem to be. Or rather, how obsessive these guardians are in making sure that their wards stay that way. Science has already proven beyond any doubt that children need to play in the dirt, get sweaty, because exposure to ordinary germs will build up their immune systems.
I can’t remember that my mother forbade me from climbing trees, jungle jims, fences, or swinging so high trying to touch the sky, or jumping off seesaws for fear that I might injure myself. “Don’t do that” is the most commonly heard phrase in playgrounds these days. Science has already proven beyond a doubt that children who are exposed to these risks grow up to be more successful than overprotected wimps who are afraid to take chances or, worse, are prevented from taking chances because of their adults’ fears.
I can’t remember that my mother ever demanded I bring home medals and awards because these proved how wonderful she was as a parent, and how smart her children were. I can’t remember being punished for low or failing grades, although I do remember the disappointment on their faces and being told to try harder next time. Nowadays, I see parents and guardians who will go to the ends of the earth to make sure that their children bring home medals and awards. They will spend lots of money to provide tutors, or work on their children’s projects to ensure higher grades. Science has already proven beyond a doubt that children who are allowed to experience failure will grow to be goal-oriented and have high aims because they don’t fear failure, knowing how to recover from it. And science has already proven that children who are given the freedom to experience learning on their own, with minimal assistance, grow to be learners for life, with a hunger for knowledge which helps them to succeed at what they do.
I can’t remember that my mother ever gave us everything we asked for or wanted, making sure that we appreciated what we were given. We were always made aware of the value of the things we got, and the reasons why we got some things and not others. Parents these days will give their children everything they want for reasons I cannot comprehend. Science has already proven beyond a doubt that children who learn to delay their gratification have a more balanced attitude towards things and don’t develop materialistic attitudes as adults. And don’t acquire a sense of entitlement, which gets in the way of their being successful.
I can’t remember that my mother ever allowed us to look down on people because of their financial situation, or the kind of work that they did. It is so common these days to see parents and guardians teach their children to avoid associating with “poor” people, and to be selective in whom they treat with respect. I have seen too many little kids regard their nannies or house help with disdain and arrogance. Science has already proven beyond a doubt that children who are taught compassion and a sense of respect for everyone move on to become successful and influential leaders.
I can’t remember my mother not giving us a sense of responsibility and accountability for money. Children of today are given exorbitant amounts of money to spend as they please, without any sense of its value or the effort put into earning it. Science has already proven that children who are taught financial responsibility very early on become savvy in their adulthood, and tend to be more successful in managing their finances.
I can’t remember my mother every allowing us not to have any chores or responsibilities at home. Many parents and guardians today don’t allow their children to lift a finger, even to carry their own bags to school. They have no work duties at home, not even to make their own beds or carry their dishes to the kitchen sink after eating or throw their dirty clothes into the laundry basket. Science has proven beyond a doubt that children who are exposed to appropriate work at an early age become more responsible and hard-working as adults, leading to professional success because they have no fear of toil.
I can’t remember my mother ever complaining that we were picky eaters. We knew how to feed ourselves by the time we went to preschool, and we ate what was on the table or in our lunch boxes, knowing that if we didn’t we would go hungry. Parents and guardians these days over-accommodate their children’s appetites and wants, spoonfeeding them even into grade school years. All a child has to do is to say they don’t like the food and the adults scramble to find them what they demand. Science has already proven beyond a doubt that children become overly picky eaters because parents cater to their wants, and that this syndrome can be overcome.
I could spend a thousand more words talking about how differently children are raised these days, but it would be pointless. For as long as parents don’t try to understand how their actions will affect their children way into adulthood, then things will get progressively worse. I suppose as long as the adults take responsibility for how they affect their children’s development, then I can’t complain. After all, everything parents do is a choice even though children respond to these choices through no choice of their own.
I can’t remember my father being around much when I was a child because like a lot of fathers of that era, he left the child-rearing to my mother, as was expected. Thank God my mother had enough sense to teach me that I had a choice.