What are we doing?
Seriously, I ask myself this on a regular basis. What the hell are we doing as parents to our children? What the hell are we doing with our society as a whole?
As always the challenges of raising children can become, well, overwhelming at times. Also as usual it leaves me perplexed, wondering what the heck I am doing wrong as a parent. These challenges and issues leave me reflecting as a whole on the job ALL of us parents are doing to create better versions of ourselves thus turning them loose on society for the world to prosper from or eat alive like an unwanted cub.
What is society doing about our youth? As I look around at the youth of today I see a huge entitlement issue that stems more from society empowering them irresponsibly than from parents being given a chance to empower them appropriately at home. Now before you get your knickers in a bunch let me explain.
In my day (cue walking uphill in the snow barefoot both directions to and from school) rules were fairly straight forward with little flexibility. Either you followed said rules established by mom/dad/teacher/parent next door or you suffered the wrath of an angry parent complete with serious consequences.
These rules from my past were simple and easy to follow too.
Family always comes first
Keep your word
Do what’s asked of you
Never hide anything from your parents
Be respectful of others, especially your elders
Education comes before all else
Always be thinking and putting your future first
Mon-Fri we got up early, fed animals, grabbed lunch and sprinted to the bus-stop. You never missed the bus because there was a gas crisis back then and moms 4 mpg, 400 cubic inch rumbling monster station wagon only had enough fuel for the bare necessities. Like grocery shopping, swim practice and possibly one 4-H meeting. So miss the bus and a serious ass chewing complete with a whooping if it happened more than once was in order.
Once home from school, homework came first, no if ands or but’s! Then off to work with your fair project, horse or horses, then change and away to swim practice you went. If you had siblings you all were in swim team. There was no way one kid was swimming, one playing baseball, one in basketball or tennis, at least not in my house anyways. Once home, you set the table for dinner, cleaned your room and then if everything was done you had free time to watch TV with your family or as in my case work on something of your own. My preference was models, drawing or my truck.
Weekends consisted of you getting your ass out of bed at 6-7 am, feeding animals, eating breakfast then after doing in house cleaning chores your sorry butt was locked out of the house until dark. Oh and trust me you had better not be late for dinner or you went hungry. No one worried about your whereabouts, no one used find my iphone to check on your location, you knew the rules. You had better be where you say you are or the next weekend you spend the entire weekend locked in your room! Of course we were always down in the sloughs, skipping rocks, hunting or fishing.
So as I said, life was simple, with a simple set of rules. I also broke every one of those rules trying to figure out just who I was and where I fit into the grand scheme of things. Looking back now, although it seemed at times these simple sets of rules enforced strongly and vigorously by my parents were impossible to follow, they made me who I am today. A very strong willed person with an ever stronger sense of right/wrong and not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. It also means that if you are a friend of mine I will give you the shirt off my back and drop what I am doing when I am doing it to come help you. Family both paternal and external always comes first.
So how come with such a strong sense of how I wish to parent and see my children grow does it seem so much harder than during my day? Why are the rules constantly bending, flexing and why do our children walk around with such a sense of entitlement? As if we are here to serve them? What is the major game changer?
I know I am not alone in wondering WTH!! At the rodeo us parents gather like a monthly A.A. meeting to stand around a campfire and proclaim;
Hi my name is Betty and I have been a suffering parent for 19 years.
Group: Hi Betty! (Sniffling/quiet sobbing in the background)
Betty: it’s been two weeks since my kid did something asinine, disrespectful or possibly illegal. I am praying to make it a month so I can receive my first parental challenge coin!
Group: Yay! (Applause) You got this Betty!
I am firm believer in sharing every trial and tribulation our children go through, our parents didn’t have these types of support, those issues were never discussed, parenting was kept behind closed doors, yet with all of today’s insane influences it seems to me that just like the fire service, sharing can and will save lives! We are far from perfect, we all make mistakes and there is a certain bit of comfort that comes from others understanding your personal struggle while sharing theirs and opening all of our eyes, sometimes in disbelief at what is going on around us! Then it is not just you handing a single child, but a massive force of parents all looking out for each other’s children at once, with the same mind set and goal. To help them get out alive.
We are struggling. It is not easy. Now please understand, I know it wasn’t easy for our parents either. Lord knows my parents from age 13-18 at some point most likely thought about disowning me or dropping me off at a bus stop in the next town over. But in my day when mom and dad had enough of our bullshit they didn’t have the outside influences circumventing any parenting strategy that our children are struggling with today. In my day my whole life revolved around the ranch and earning money to purchase my first truck. Why, because then when I had enough of my parents, I simply drove to a friends house and let their parents, parent me. Many times they got tired of my shit and sent me packing, right back home where my responsibilities were reaffirmed and my sense of self put right back on track.
So I ask what influences are different today.
This is where society comes into play. We learned from our friends growing up. We laughed, told stories, told lies, had fun, and basically bonded over the unknown out in this massive world. The curiosity of what awaited us outside of our little hometown bubble was enticing to say the least. Our social network was school, or the 7-11 after school. It was sports, rodeo, after school study groups, it was interacting with people face to face, learning what is acceptable and what is not though trial and error.
Today society plays a major role in how our children are forming into adults. They are consumed by television shows with too much gore at an incredibly young age. As a 20+ year fireman I can attest to the fact unlike our day when death was shown as a simple act or assumed, todays look at death is incredibly realistic, sometimes overly so thus taking away our children’s sensitivity and even empathy. They are bombarded from an early age with shows centered around smart ass little shits talking to their parents as if they were morons with a Television family laughing it off as a sound track roars in the background. Our children no longer know what it’s like to wait for something. I had a pen pal when I was 10-11 and the anticipation of receiving a letter back taught me patience and left my mind using its imagination as to my friend’s reaction at a letter received. Today’s children text, and want a response right now! Lightning fast repartee and if you don’t return with equal speediness there must be something wrong, that friend must be angry or talking shit about them! Oh the horror!!!
These young men and women have television shows like Jackass and The Real Housewives, teaching their young unformed brains that doing incredibly moronic, hurtful activities will make you famous! Yes self-deprecation while hurting yourself surely shows what a man you are becoming! Don’t worry about the irreversible damage you can do to yourself, hey laugh’s come first! Consistently talking smack about your supposed best friend while never confronting her until it’s time for a ratings jump is the way to go! But there is no ratings jump in the real world, just impressionable young women who are not equipped to handle the mental trauma that comes from acting like a self-absorbed, back stabbing idiot. What happened to empowering our young women in a way that teaches respect?
Their young eyes are wide open, absorbing everything they see and there is plenty! Why? Because we as parents have allowed all of them to have a little electronic box that fits neatly into their pocket under the guise of; you need this (iphone, android, LG, etc) phone so we can get ahold of you. Perfectly marketed by the telecommunication industry through use of ease and the mystical boogie man that may grab our children out from underneath us! In our day everyone’s parent looked out for everyone kid! If you missed behave they could and would let you have it with full support of your parents, and you better not lip off or cry foul because then it meant you were disrespectful to your elders. Teachers also had full reign over your ass! You got out of line, out the door with you, if your grades were falling then as parents you asked what you could do to help. No one blamed the teacher, not like today! Two professions I would never want to be in today’s hateful atmosphere; a police officer or a teacher. Both have the responsibility of keeping our world in order through rules and education and both are shown no respect what so ever. So very sad to say the least! It is unwarranted empowerment of those who don’t deserve it when in reality we should all carry the utmost respect for what each profession brings to the social table. I also remember not that long ago children had a set-time we had better check in with mom and dad for if we didn’t we received an ass whooping! Oh wait that’s right children of today cannot get an ass whooping, that is infringing upon their rights. Heaven forbid little Johnny learn there are consequences to his actions then serious consequences for repeat offenses, instead building up little Johnnies self worth while empowering his entitlement issues is much more important, for he is human being with the same rights as an educated, respected, adult who understands the importance of consequences. Yet I digress.
Not only do our children have the ability to research information right here, right now. But it is anything and everything!!! I remember when we needed to look stuff up in an encyclopedia! You know the paper version of Google! But when I say everything, I MEAN EVERYTHING!!!!! If you think for one moment your adolescent boy has not hit his browser to scan a little porn? Man you are in need of being put on restriction! These kids have unlimited internet access, music availability, snap-chat (the devils app), a camera for taking those wonderful selfies, (sometimes doing things they shouldn’t be) hidden folders to keep all those ethically questionable stuff from their parents because well let’s face it, in their eyes we are old and dumb. They text during class, snap chat between class, after school, on weekend, at 1 in the morning, hell they even do it while in the bathroom!
It is out of control and do you know why it is out of control?
Because they are right. We are dumb. We talk a great game, but much like technology, evolving and changing faster than we can shell out the money for the newest gadget to make our lives easier; the game has passed us by. They know it, they ALL know it! It is becoming Lord of the flies.
Our parenting skills come from a simpler time explained earlier in this piece. We learned from our parents who didn’t have to fight the technology age. Television consisted of 3-6 channels at our house depending on signal strength. If we wished to talk with someone we did it on the phone, in front of everyone in the house. No place to hide, no sexting, and no illicit picture of our privates sent during conversation. Family was the strongest bond and you took care of your siblings. You never spoke ill of your parents on an open public forum like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You ate together and solved family problems together. It made us who we are and that’s what is scaring the hell out of me.
This future generation we created is learning, and when they are adults their parenting skills are going to come from what they learned as children, which means every single outside influence they have today will play a part in their skill set combined with our “old fashioned” ways.
Society is accepting these mind sets as the norm. Society is creating machinery, social applications and industry at an alarming rate that removes hard work, interpersonal skills and responsibility from our intellectual make up. Autonomous cars, online classes, faceless chat groups, we are taking away skill sets, teachers and responsibility from our humanity. Soon with the invention of fully thinking, active conscience computers will they find us fat, lazy humans obsolete the way we have found machinery and former technological wonders obsolete over time? Can you say Skynet?
We are rewarding bad behavior, anger and laziness. Hundreds of thousands of children will become adults with no real common sense believing they are in fact superior to elders, creating a huge gap between a tried and true knowledge base for learning and themselves. Believing if they want to learn or obtain knowledge it’s just a Youtube click away. I am truly terrified for our future.
Listen I am just as guilty as the next guy. Growing up without much as child, I strive to allow my children access to all the latest greatest technology. I bend on occasion when I really shouldn’t in regards to rules and parenting. My children are not disrespectful to me, but I wonder what is at the end of those finger tips while they are texting away as they wander into the barn. I wonder what ill-conceived plan is being hatched as that little electronic contraption is humming away when they are supposed to be doing chores or working their horses. I wonder if anyone’s feeling are being hurt because of internet bullying behind screen shot anonymity. I constantly think to myself; what are we doing and can we stop it?
Then about the time my brain feels as though it will explode I wander off wishing it was the mid 70’s, it was five o’clock, I knew exactly where my kids where, and what they were doing. Because then I’d be on the back porch with a nice glass of whiskey and a Paul Mall calling it a day.
Two more weeks till my parental challenge coin. Wish me luck..
photos from CBSnews.com