Parenting vs. Parenting vs. Parenting

by : Holly Burnham

Which generation parented correctly? Mine, my mother's, my daughter's? Perhaps we all did and didn't.

I remember waking up in the morning and rushing through breakfast so I could go outside to play with all the other children in the neighborhood. I don't remember our yards being filled with huge plastic toys in bright, neon primary colors. I do remember bikes and balls and most of us had jump ropes, bats and baseballs. We ran and laughed and played games until we were forced to come in the house for our lunch. We ate our lunch with one purpose… get back outside. The afternoon went pretty much the same as it had in the morning. The best part of the day was when we all met up after dinner. The sky would be darkening and we would play hide and seek and make arrangements for sleepovers we would later talk our mothers into with a 50/50 success rate.

I'm not saying things were better then, although each generation looks back at their life experience with melancholy and regret that the newer generations are missing "something". But, I will say, the over weight child in our school was severely out numbered by slim, tanned and athletically enthused children. We were seldom bored and whined to our moms we had "nothing" to do. We KNEW what that would bring us…..a never ending list of chores she could come up with and continue to list until we ran from the house excited to climb a tree alone.

Our parents never repeated themselves. Once given a directive from our parents we would immediately respond. We didn't take out the rubbish or feed the dog with joy in our hearts, but we did it right away. I had a girlfriend who said if she didn't hear what her mother said, and asked her mom to repeat herself she was accused of "talking back". Too strict? Yes, but a good example of the mindset of our parents.

The lines between adults and children were not blurred. The boundaries that provided gave us a certain security. We knew there was right and wrong. We knew the repercussions of wrong. Our parents parented. They knew our adulthood would bring time for friendship with their children.

I was a lazier parent. I yelled a lot. Looking back on my years as a young mom I hear myself yelling all the time. I'm not proud of the things I remember yelling in anger either. I say lazy because, if I had followed through on threats of discipline, my children would have found it easier to know "when I meant business". They never quite knew when I might really react to an infringement, so they often "took a chance". I also would have let a lot more go by without comment. When I did get in "mothering mode" I would look for any little action on their part to correct. I don't remember really having chats with them, something I vowed I would do when I had children. I wasn't as concerned with the amount of TV they watched as I should have been. Luckily, my daughter had no interest in TV, but my son was glued to the set all Saturday long. I wish I had pushed him out the door more often to play. My children had friends over, but not with the ease I did. They were allowed friendship time when it was convenient for me, not on the daily basis I had enjoyed as a child. I wish I could remember holding them more, kissing them and telling them how much I loved them and that they filled my heart with happiness. It was probably hard for them to decipher that from the head hanging out the back door screeching at them.

I watch my children parent and I am so impressed and proud of them. I wish their children played out doors more often and ran around with the abandon of my youth, on the other hand, my grandchildren have parents who play with them, cuddle and verbally express love. They tell their children "why" they need to do a chore….is asking for an explanation "talking back"? I don't think so….at least I don't anymore. Their children know they are the center of their parent's universe, not living on the outskirts of it.

We can't go back. We can't re-do. We can withhold judgment and honestly observe. We can admit to not knowing everything. We can think in wonderment of the day our grandchildren parent and believe it will all be good.