Who's in Charge?
Our newborns were on a feeding and sleeping schedule. Three months after birth, most babies slept through the night, were fed on schedule, took naps, had plenty of fresh air, no play dates and life was not child-centered. No breast-feeding in public, if at all. My doctor counseled me against breast feeding with, "Why do you want to do what a cow does better?" This is not the case today. The buzz words are feed "on demand." Furthermore, you are castigated if you don't supply your infant with milk. Today there are lactation specialists to help out.
In my day, my mom said, "Supper is ready. Wash up and come to the table." We were hungry because we did not have snacks before dinner, food was tasty, homemade and healthy, and most nights we ate together. We had intelligent dinner conversation, then helped Mom with the dishes, did our homework, then read, listened to music on the victrola or a drama on the radio. Early to bed in order to be ready and on time for school the next day. We brushed our teeth twice a day without balking, ate a hot breakfast every day, walked to school, without the bene?t of car pools. After school, we walked home, changed clothes, had milk and cookies, and then ran outside to play on the streets. No tennic clinics, no play dates, no cheerleading, cooking lessons, Broadway Bound, yoga, or drama class. Who could afford those frills?
The street was our clubhouse. Most of us were healthy and lean.
Fast forward to 2013.
"Do you want to eat?" No answer.
"Do you want to eat?"
"No. What are my choices?"
"Spaghetti and meatballs."
"I want mac and cheese."
Mommy 2013 also prepares mac and cheese and puts it on the table.
"I don't like it. It doesn't taste right."
"Do you want yogurt?"
"I don't have that. I'm sorry."
The tears begin to gush as if on cue.
"How about bread and jelly?"
"OK. I want grape jelly, no crusts on the bread, no whole wheat. I want milk in the purple cup with the straw."
I'm thinking, What is this? A home or Mommy's diner? What kind of American supper is bread and jelly for a growing kid? I did not put up with this terrorism of guilt. I did not permit myself to be a victim of extortion by the Small Society, either.
I prepared food that I knew my kids should most likely eat. No substitutions. I was a working mother, not a short-order cook. Thus my kids learned to eat a variety of foods.
Today's kids eat cookies, peanut butter and jelly, desserts, few if any fruits or vegetables, very little protein or anything that requires chewing except for potato chips, popcorn, cheese doodles, dry cereal, pretzels and Ben and Jerry's.
Parents raise children nowadays by negotiating with hostage-takers. "Do you want to get dressed, OK? You need to get dressed, OK?" In my day it went, "I need you to get dressed. You have ?ve minutes to wash up and get ready for school." Spit-spot, as Mary Poppins would say!
Some parents shrivel up when a child cries. They surrender to a screaming human water faucet. Today's kids have learned that crying equals getting what they want. This is a form of terrorism. The United States government does not negotiate with terrorists but educated MBA and Ph.D. parents think it's all right to do so. Why is this relativistic system of ethics happening? One of my friends suggested that this new type of permissive parenting is a form of rebellion against the way they were raised. And they have a Freudian reaction formation or a 180-degree change from their own upbringing.
We were never bored. We had lots to do without iPads, iPods, TV or computers. Nowadays, if a kid is not programmed 24/7, it's a tragedy, it's parental neglect! We invented our own games and could spend hours reading.
Today, parents speak to their kids with sentences ending in "OK?"
We're getting in the car, OK?" "Buckle up, OK?" "You have to stop screaming, OK?" Once in the car, on comes the built-in car video for entertainment. Kids spend so much time watching videos in the car and otherwise that if they had inserted a Rosetta Stone CD at the beginning, the kids could be speaking Portuguese by now.
I am well aware that child-raising trends change with the times, OK? Maybe the next new trend will be a return to adult-centered, orderly homes where children do not threaten, behave badly, throw tantrums, and in short, hold their parents hostage. To combat this horrible power imbalance, parents should unite and refuse to negotiate with their kids. I believe that when limits are set by adults, everyone is happier. I know I am! Stand tough, moms and dads of today, and do not pay ransom! You will soon be bondage-free!
Madelon Sheff is a retired literacy specialist and staff developer, who volunteers with young children in public schools. Her favorite title is "Grandma Maddy," given to her by the neighborhood kids, where she lives in Southern Village, in Chapel Hill. Born and raised in the Bronx, she's lived in the suburbs of New York City and Florida before moving to the Triangle. She recently published a book, Geography Is Destiny which is available locally in book stores and gift shops as well as on Amazon.com.