“We wore our house keys around our necks like dog tags, walked home from school alone and let ourselves inside while our parents were still at work. We crossed busy intersections during rush hour to purchase bubble gum cigarettes with change from empty soda cans,” Anjali Enjeti wrote in her article “Generation X’s Parenting problem”.
“Our playgrounds were even construction sites, heaps of sand, ponds with frogs, which we collected as our pets. We climbed trees and returned home covered in mud. In the summer, we went barefoot everywhere, even though our feet were black as coal and we had dirt under the nails. Rollerblades and bicycles defined our borders – our parents were angry if we asked them to go somewhere else. They were too busy reading newspapers, watching shows or drinking beer/coffee with the neighbors,” she continues.
Indeed, we all remember our childhood as the period when we played all day and never got tired. That was an era of freedom and no computers. Nowadays, children spend their childhood with their tablets or with a nanny.
“We had our kids belatedly. Probably too late. Now we’re cranky, sleep-deprived 40-somethings changing chlorine-free, biodegradable diapers while Dora the Explorer morphs into a hormonal teen right before our very eyes. We claim we don’t regret waiting because we “needed to get established in our careers first” and “wanted to save enough money,” even though we know damn well we have neither viable careers nor anything resembling a nest egg,” Enjeti writes.
As parents, we love them “too much”. We never let them go out of our sight, while we always did that as children. We let them sleep in our beds until high school.
“We got picked last in dodgeball and weren’t allowed to cry about it. We were told to toughen up, grow up, shake it off. Coddling? It didn’t exist.
Awards were bestowed on the one kid out of 256 who actually won the race, received the absolute highest score on an exam, sold the most Girl Scout cookies in the entire state. The rest of us lost. We were losers. We were OK with that.”
We also had to work, it wasn’t all just play. We had chores and helped our parents and we didn’t ask for money afterwards. Enjeti reminds us of the time where parents’ orders had to be followed no matter what.
“Our own children receive allowances for merely existing. They’re too “busy” to hold down real jobs. They have a dizzying array of “choices.” Their childhood resembles the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Golden Corral. They can even pick their own discipline — time-out, restrictions, aw, hell, what does it matter? It’s not like they know the meaning of the word ‘no.’”
None of us were gifted.
Today, all of our children are gifted.
What are the consequences of this? Will our children be grateful to us? Probably not.
“Years from now, when our kids are older, they’ll complain that we loved them too hard, too much, that we didn’t teach them how to earn a living, how to budget, that we should have let them make more mistakes, embarrass themselves a little more. That they needed more rules, more independence and less friendship, less screen time, less structure, fewer paranoid, fear-mongering Internet links,” Enjeti writes.
We don’t have to be these parents. We can encourage our children to play outside instead of the tablet. We can inspire them to work and make them realize that money doesn’t grow on trees, but is earned. We can make our children more independent and free.