One day when Pascal was about 1o months old, my Mom said, “Jeez. You guys sure make this look hard.” Referring to parenting. Now, my Mom is a great mom and a fantastic grandmother. She’ll offer advice is you ask and generally won’t, if you don’t.
But yes…we do make it seem harder today.
Why is that? Well, I got thinking…you know where that led.
I came down to one huge reason. Choices. Let me break it down for you, Ma.
LET’S START WITH THE SEEMINGLY TRIVIAL:
1. You had a phone. Called a land line. It was attached by a wire to the house. If someone called when you weren’t home, tough shit. You didn’t even have to worry about checking messages. There weren’t any answering machines. Or telemarketers. Yeah. I know. I don’t have to pick up my phone every ring. I can shut it off. But then everyone assumes I’m dead and that just leads to more calls that have to be answered later.
2. You had no email. Again, I know it’s my choice to check this but it’s part of our reality and how we communicate. 24 hour communication has led to different expectations. People want to be replied to now. Or they think you’re dead.
3. You had no identity to preserve. Largely, you were housewife and mother and that’s it. Back in the day, you weren’t expected to have more. You weren’t asked what else do you do besides mother.
4. You got pregnant and you did exactly what the doctor said. He (yes, most likely a man) was pretty much God and you didn’t question his authority. You didn’t have a birth plan. You did no birth research. There wasn’t much out there even if you wanted to.
ONTO THE LESS TRIVIAL:
5. Safety. The few car seats that were available, we now know weren’t safe. But on the flip side, you didn’t have 50 to choose from; to research for safety records, recalls and customer reviews. I clearly remember climbing between seats in our huge, green station wagon. To smush my face against the back window. On the freeway.
6. The crib you bought was a bed, not a potential death trap. There also wasn’t a huge variety to choose from, so that cut down on…you guessed it…research.
7. Come to think of it…there weren’t any recalls. Nor was there on-line news, social media and 24 hour news channels to scare the shit out of you about the crib. That was in fact, a death trap.
8. Those same sources of news also delight in kidnappings and murders. So we can’t just send our kids out to play. We have to schedule it in.
9. Even if we could just send them outside, there’s no more ozone layer. See, you all didn’t have to carry around and liberally apply SPF 50 every 12 minutes. Nor did you need to research which brands don’t cause skin cancer and what age is best to use how much.
10. You didn’t know we all walking around dehydrated. You didn’t worry that our BPA free water bottles were filled. Good thing. Cause that’s another mind boggling amount of research.
11. Even if we did have the water bottles, they’d have been filled with Kool-Aid. Made with real sugar. Cause HFCS wasn’t invented yet.
12. Don’t get me started on BPA. And canned goods and plastic. That would make your head spin, Mom.
13. And don’t get me started on HFCS. Or sugar. Or gluten. Or peanuts or soy. Food allergies are up by at least 50%. And even if your kid doesn’t have any…you have to be on the look out for other kids. Causing anaphylactic shock in another child is frowned upon.
14. Speaking of food. There was no organic vs. non. No grass-fed vs. feedlot meat. You bought what was in season from your local market. Because supermarkets and advertising and money hungry corporations weren’t in full swing yet. Monsanto wasn’t up to any tricks. Yet.
15. You didn’t read labels. Do you know how time consuming reading labels is?
16. Children weren’t a MARKET. So you didn’t have to plan a trip to the market like a Navy Seal assignment, avoiding certain isles and products to avoid tantrums.
17. Nor did you have to navigate all the various forms of programming, videos and games marketed to children.
18. You used cloth diapers. Paper diapers were new on the market and pricey. Everyone used cloth and rubber pants. Google cloth diapers to get an idea of what an industry THAT’S become. And no one measured your parenting based on your diaper choice.
AND NOW THE SERIOUS SHIT:
19. You vaccinated when you were told. It wasn’t the same heavy schedule as today and warranted no research. Research, btw, that must be organized into a spread sheet to prove you’re not a negligent whack job.
20. Oh. Speaking of negligent whack jobs. You all minded your own business. You raised your kids and had little to say about how others were raising theirs. Today, we all get directly confronted and questioned on our choices. Daily.
21. You didn’t breastfeed. That was okay. The doctors told you formula was good for your baby and you did what everyone else did. I’m not condemning the choice but nowadays you will be asked to defend your right to breastfeed. And you will have to defend yourself if you choose formula. And if you worked out of the home…which was not that common…you certainly wouldn’t have pumped your milk in a bathroom stall.
There weren’t these choices in your day, nor the information we have.
With choices and information comes the inevitable:
WHAT IF I MAKE THE WRONG CHOICE?
And blame. And guilt. What if I could have done something to prevent the autism, the Downs, the learning disability?
If your kid grew up to be a serial killer, so be it. With us, what if our kid turned out to be serial killer because we didn’t breastfeed? With all these choices and information, we need to choose carefully. Because if our kid is fucked up, it’s going to be OUR FAULT.
This, my friends, is where the competitive parenting comes into play. We aren’t really competitive. We are desperate to have the world know that we TRIED to make the right choice.
So yes, Mom, we are making it look harder today. It IS harder today. I’m not saying anything you did was wrong. But let me make the choices I think are right. Let me stumble and fall and just be there to pick me up with an open heart. Let me over-think it and you can think I’m being ridiculous but don’t say it.
“They did the best they could with what they had at the time”. This is true of all parents. But now, we have a lot more choices and information, with which to do our best.
Isn’t it our responsibility…our obligation… to take that knowledge and use it?
By Jamie Glowacki
Live and Learn.
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