Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take my foolish advice

I was talking on the phone to my 95-year-old grandmother when my kindergartner came off the school bus without one of his gloves. As I chastised my son for this the latest in a long list of items lost under bus seats, on the playground and just about everywhere else he happens to walk, my grandmother was shouting in my ear, "Don't buy him anymore; make him go without!"

I assured my grandma that I would certainly not be replacing the lost glove, never mentioning that the boys have several pairs of gloves and wouldn't be heading out to school with frosty hands. As she often does when she thinks we "young people are spoiling the kids," Grandma suggested I take her "foolish advice" and put my foot down with my toddlers.

"I had eight of them and I never bought them any gloves." Since neither my mother or uncles have lost fingers to frostbites, I'm pretty sure Grandma is overstating - or has forgotten. The conversation highlighted though, how different we parent today. There is a vast difference between how my mother and uncles were raised and how I was raised; and even between how I was raised and how my 17-year-old brother is being raised.

Today parents read Dr. Sears' books assiduously, put babies on their back to sleep, never give them gripe water or honey, and adamantly avoid baby talk. My mom and uncles regale my cousins and I with stories of my grandmother's beatings, punishments and strictness; a method of parenting that would get my grandmother arrested today.

I don't get the impression that my grandmother was a touchy-feely kind of parent, though my mother was very communicative with me. Today parents know our sons and daughters need lots of loving assurance from both Mommy and Daddy so that they will be well adjusted members of society.

When I was growing up, responding to an instruction with anything other than "Yes Mommy"
was grounds for being exiled to my room. Today my mother tells me that my brothers need to have the opportunity to express themselves - even if it sounds like disrespect to old ears. I give my four and five-year-old choices about what they wear, eat and watch on television. I don't remember having much of that as a child.

In some ways I think we're getting better; in other ways I'm not so sure. I may be a more affectionate and well-read parent than my grandmother, but I can't imagine that my boys could be much better men than my uncles. For one thing they wont know how to sew on their own buttons.

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