Monday, 13 September 2010

Raising the next generation

So, my friends, it seems that some of you are as surprised as me that Generation X is now taking control in society. Funny, isn’t it? I suppose the question then begs to be asked - who will be following them? The close-following Generation Y, I guess, but it seems like a bit of an overlap. This whole letter-naming caper does have its shortfalls. But I expect the main people will be the pixies’ generation. Wikipedia calls those born between the early 1990s and the late 2000s ‘Generation Z’ (most inventive, don’t you think?).
Welcome, Generation Z!
Raising Generation Z is an onerous responsibility. W all want to do it right. But what does that mean? And who judges that? Does anyone really care? I suppose it all comes down to your life philosophies, how you were raised and how you’d like to do things differently. No two parents will come to parenthood with the same views on this. Somehow, especially first time around, with your L-plates dangling from your necks, you muddle through together, facing up to the challenges your child throws you. Most of the time, anyway.
Display them proudly!

Sometimes, I think, it can all seem too hard. The endless decision-making in the pixies’ best interests is tiring, relentless and often tricky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – it just is. Sometimes we just can’t know if it’s the best decision. We just have to make the one that is best at that time, in that moment. And then hope to billy-oh that we were right! And even if we weren’t, then maybe we can learn from our mistakes. Hopefully. Oh, and assuming there are no drastic consequences! So much to consider. Ah, the joys of living on Planet Baby!

Anyway, we consider ourselves pretty blessed to have had such carefree and innocent childhoods growing up in Hobart. We’d love to raise the pixies in a similar fashion as much as possible and given the changes in society since we grew up. We’ve pretty much managed to do that so far. How much longer we’ll be able to shield them from some of life’s harsh lessons so they can enjoy their childhoods, I don’t know.

Childhood seems so much shorter nowadays, don’t you think? Or is that just me being nostalgic and whimsical? Let me know what you think. I think there seems to be such a rush to ‘grow up’. So many adult clothes or items come in ‘mini’ sizes. There’s also so much black children’s clothing nowadays so the littlies can look ‘cool’ like their parents. I’m a bit old-fashioned in that regard. I think there’ll be plenty of time for the pixies to wear black once they’re older. For now, I’m happy to indulge their love of colour. We also avoid buying them heavily branded clothing. Of course, they’re given it by others but we don’t seek it out. In a world swamped by advertising and images, we figure that the pixies don’t need to be advertising billboards as well.
Ready, steady go!
We now even have a ‘Junior Master Chef’, indulging the community’s seemingly insatiable appetite for the show. I haven’t watched it yet and I’m sure plenty of people will follow it avidly (I loved watching the original series and only missed the second as we don’t have a set top box) but it’s not my cup of tea. I think children nowadays have enough pressure heaped on them by society and its expectations without adding anything extra. You’re grown-up for a very long time, after all. There’ll be time for all that later, surely. Then again, I’m sure that many parents would like their children involved in something like that to give them some focus or maybe just because they love cooking and that should be encouraged. There are always two sides to the coin, aren’t there?

I read a brilliant article in the weekend Sydney Morning Herald by the talented Julia Baird. I’ve long admired the incisiveness and clarity of her writing. Do read it if you have a moment. She commented on the modern phenomenon of ‘helicopter parenting’, the manner in which parents now worry so much about their parenting and get so involved in their children’s lives, hovering over them all the time. That can have the (unintended) result that the children don’t learn how to occupy themselves or make their own fun. Instead, they end up relying on their ever-obliging parents to provide stimulation and come up with ideas.
Ian before his surprise (and only) helicopter flight
Apparently, some recent research has shown the dire impact this parenting is having on parents’ relationships. It seems that many parents are wearing themselves ragged in their efforts to provide constant, stimulating activities for their offspring, rendering them tired and miserable. And all because they love their children and are trying to do the very best thing for them. Parenting is a hard gig, isn’t it?

I was also fascinated by the observation that, according to Margaret Nelson in her book ‘Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times’, ‘highly educated adults, who are also spending more time at work, are the most obsessive parents’. Baird reasons that ‘We have made parenting a profession, pushed ourselves to achieve an impossible ‘perfection' and punished ourselves by sacrificing our own lives.’ That really caught my attention. I think I can plead ‘guilty’ to the latter charge. Therein may well lie one of the causes of my PND. Too much time spent worrying about the children, not enough time spent worrying about me.

But it’s so hard to find that balance, don’t you think? We consciously try to walk the tightrope of giving the children enough independence (and taking into account their respective ages and what is age-appropriate, of course) and providing direction and routine. It’s such a juggling act. Sometimes we get it right, sometime we don’t. Like the other day when I was (ahem) blogging and heard Sam's (muffled) cry. I assessed the urgency of his cry and determined that he could wait a minute longer for my attention. I was wrong. The older pixies raced in and told me that he had crawled out the front door and fallen over the edge of the verandah. It was a short distance to fall (thanks goodness) and he was fine, to my great relief. So I stuffed that one up. But by the same token, I don’t want to hover over him, supervising every move to ensure he doesn’t hurt himself (within reason, of course). We learn through our mistakes, don’t we? Ahem...

The other side of the coin is when Joshua emerged from his bedroom this morning, proudly brandishing this vibrant drawing he whipped up because I had suggested he do a drawing to send into ABC1’s ‘Giggle and Hoot’.
Do you think they will show this on the telly?
He was so proud of himself. See how he spelt his name and added his age? Very cute. He did all that on his own, without direction. It’s times like that when I realise how much he thrives on being left to his own devices. All in a safe environment, of course! Seeing him foster his imagination like that really warms my heart.

So, while it’s probably no longer safe to let the pixies roam around the neighbourhood until it gets dark like we did when growing up, we still try to give them freedom to lark about and create. Mind you, there are limits on the amount of mess caused by such creativity that my Virgo temperament will tolerate! But in the main, we enjoy seeing them try things out, explore and investigate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what it’s like to raise children in 2010. Do you think parents have a hard job, navigating tricky waters or do you think the challenges are much the same for today’s parents as they were when we were growing up? Jump in and comment – all opinions welcomed!



  1. Yes, I too am guilty of worrying too much, of indulging my inner control freak when it comes to my kids. But I do try to give them as much freedom as is safe. I have let them play outside on their own from about 18 months - just pottering and exploring as they do, making sand castles and digging about in the garden. I check them (without their knowledge) from time to time and enjoy the space to get something done for myself. I think parenting is teaching me a big lesson - that actually, the only person I can control is myself.

    I so agree with your comments on kiddie fashion - ghastly mini grown up gear makes me so cross.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on Gen Y! They might be the first generation to have grown up with helicopter parents.

  2. Ooh, Sarah. I totally concur with the whole control point. I must admit I have found that confronting and a real challenge to accept. We can only show them what is right and safe and cross our fingers a lot of the time that they will follow our suggestions. As for Gen Y, well, I do have some strong opinions - not sure if I want to make them public yet! J x

  3. I love the Giggle & Hoot picture - I would definitely show it if I worked at the ABC!

    Kids clothing annoys me generally - why can't you buy any gender neutral baby clothes any more? Everything is either pink or blue and some of it even has pirates and skulls and crossbones all over it. Not everyone know's the gender of their babies before they're born, and with little clothes that are hardly worn you may want to use them for a subsequent child (rather than give them to the Salvos) - it's so wasteful!

    My 4 year old daughter goes to childcare which is where one of her friends wears a crop-top bra and now she is wanting me to get her a bra! She is 4 for heavens sake (and her friend is still 3) - they don't need to be worrying about bras etc for at least another 8-10 years! And it's not the kids (on the most part) who are influencing this - it's the adults in their lives. I am currently refusing the bra request but I'm not sure for how many more years I will still win the battle.

  4. Oh, gosh, Ange! What a terrible thought. The whole tween horror and raunch culture could be topics for a few posts, I think. What a crazy age we live in. And you're right - we deliberately chose not to know the genders of all three pixies and it was really hard to find even plain white clothing. I stumbled on some green - that was my compromise as I am so NOT a yellow person! J x

  5. What a thought-provoking post.

    I sometimes wonder if I'm one of those free range parents - I know that I allow my toddler to do things that freak some people out, but I only do so when I am confident that the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, I scared a truck driver recently who found my toddler wandering on the curb "alone"; he didn't see me weeding on the back lawn in line-of-sight several houses down, and presumably he doesn't know that my son does not go onto the road. I have been exceedingly strict with him since he could walk that he does not go on the road without holding hands, and I know from experience that he does not transgress this rule.

    I guess that little example sums up my philosophy - I cannot shield him from the world, I can only equip him to deal with it. One of the things that really worries me is that I believe, while girls are sexualised too early and fed some really patriarchal messages dressed-up as "girl power" (which makes them all the more insidious), boys are taught about violence too early, or worse, taught that violence is the default way to solve disputes. So I have been very strict about non-violence in the home and at playgroup. We have no tv, and all videos he watch have the same values as us. When the time comes, when he sees violent cartoons or whatever somewhere else, I hope he'll understand that it's not the way to do things, and I hope that I'll have properly equipped him with non-violent ways to resolve conflicts with his peers when disputes arise.

    In your example: Sam fell, but did he really hurt himself? If he got a bit of a scare, was that worth the trade from him learning something valuable about stairs? Presumably there are child-gates to any falls that would break bones, which you wouldn't risk anyway, but maybe a little fall is worth it for what it teaches.

  6. Why, thanks, Nadiah. Good to hear from you again. I agree with your thoughts about equipping our children with the tools they need to make decisions. The thing is that not all parents hold the same view - it makes for 'interesting' times when the two belief systems collide and your little one is caught in the middle. As for Sammy's fall, it was only about 10 cm off the edge of the verandah and he was fine, no cuts and a little bruise. He was more shocked than anything. And I bet he will remember not to do that again. So, yes, he learnt something but I also have to keep my 'danger antenna' up a little more now that he is becoming so mobile. I had forgotten that little detail about being his age! J x

  7. Yeah, I think you're going to have disagreements with your partner about parenting no matter how well-attuned you are to each other.

    Very early on in our relationship, my partner and I decided that we would run our relationship like the United Nations ;-) each of us has "veto power". So if there is some action that one wants to take and the other is very opposed to it, they can invoke their "veto" and stop it from occurring. It works well for us.

  8. What a great idea, Nadiah. I think I'll pass that on to Mr PB! J x

  9. Oh, and what I really meant was that the parents of other children sometimes have different views on child raising. When your children play together and there's a disagreement, that's when it can get 'interesting'. J x

  10. Oh yes, that one! Hrm. I have had difficulty with that one myself in the past. I guess the most important thing I need to keep reminding myself of is that the other parent loves their child just as much as I love mine, and indeed they have some love for my child like I care for and love my friends' children too. So even if they're doing something very differently to me, something that I might really disagree with, I can't disagree with their motives. Even if it's strange to me, I have to remember that they're ultimately doing it out of love.

    But yes, that's all great in theory, I haven't managed to make it work all the time in practice. I ended up leaving a playgroup because I disagreed with how one woman was with her son. He had a bit of a violent streak, which is actually not a problem for me (T needs to learn to deal with all kinds), what irked me was that she didn't discipline him for it. I understand that kids do things and they have different temperaments, what I couldn't abide was T seeing the boy receive no consequences for violence.

    I mentioned it to her but I sensed she wasn't interested, so I decided it wasn't worth "having a conversation" with her about it and decided that day to leave. I guess at some point, if your key values diverge too much, you just have to say goodbye.

  11. Very sensible, Nadiah. I'm learning to pick my fights and walk away from the ones I don't have the time, energy or inclination for.


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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