Mama Thoughts in April: Parenting Now and Then by Teresa Palmer
Hi guys, back for another Mama Thoughts this month. April has been one hell of a month with many transitions. It’s funny, as I write this, I realize that we are always navigating transitions. It’s like our lives are a constant flow of them, and that perhaps our routine is not having a routine at all! My life was so different as a kid. I went to school, came home, played and did the very same thing the next day. There was such a solid routine with little to no change at all. I think these days life is more complex for many of us. There are things that I miss about my childhood experiences that I wish I could emulate for the boys, and there are other things that are purposely different. Today, I breakdown some of the differences between growing up as a 90's kid and the childhood my kids are experiencing.
Kids of the 90's, myself included, were often disciplined with threats of the wooden spoon, a smack here and there, no tv, no dessert or “to your room without dinner!!”. As teenagers, we were grounded, or banned from using the home phone or MSN chat or MySpace!
Now, Mark and I follow the guise of “gentle discipline”. Talking through emotions with the kids, not labeling behavior as “good” or “bad”, seeking to find what triggered our kids responses and mostly taking a look at ourselves and adjusting our own behavior to help the kids. We don’t punish our boys or yell at them. We set up boundaries and if they continuously push them, we sit down and talk it out together in a “time in” situation. These methods really help us and while they may be more time consuming and more involved than sending a kid to their room, it definitely helps us to understand our kids better, and creates an environment where being open about our feelings is the norm.
My childhood was full of weeknight prayer meetings, church every Sunday, saying the rosary each night, and movies about Fatima, Jesus, and the Ten Commandments from a very young age. I was a devoutly Catholic child. I was under the impression that if I messed up, I was going to hell. I grew up being fearful of the wrath of God. I was, however, very proud of my faith and was an alter girl. As I got older, my perception changed. I became aware that there are other belief systems and wanted to explore these other ideas also. I found myself respecting not only the Catholic Church, but also other philosophies too.
Even though my belief system has shifted and as an adult, I now identify with being a spiritual person as opposed to following any one particular religion. We let our kids form their own beliefs. We talk to them about all the different philosophies and let them be free to gravitate towards the things that peak their interest. Sometimes, every month they believe in something different. It’s amazing to see how their thoughts are always evolving. I love allowing them to make up their own minds while being there to support them and listening to what their thoughts are, without putting our opinion on them or correcting them in any way.
I really miss some of the lifestyle of the 90's. It was: open the door and run outside, climb trees and make fun in the yard for hours on end as a kid. I would jump on the trampoline, splash on the slip and slide, run through the sprinklers and use my imagination outdoors. We would rollerblade around the block and build jumps for our bikes. When the sun came down, I’d watch TV shows before dinner, eat my home cooked meal and go to bed! Bliss.
I miss that. I think today as parents we have so many options for activities for our kids that they sometimes have a busier social calendar then we do! We fill weeks with play dates, extra curricular activities and adventures. When I realize that our boys are non-stop with things I’ve planned for them, we will enjoy a day at home without any dictated play. They use their imaginations, play in the sand pit for hours, jump in the pool or draw murals on the ground with chalk! It’s important to remember to slow down with our kids and not always provide them with things to do, allowing their brains to take them on wild journeys of the imagination.
In the 90's, my house was always open. We didn’t lock our doors and there was always a flurry of new people coming through the house. I got babysat by a variety of people and on the weekends, I’d spend the day at the park with friends on my own. We would ride bikes down the middle of the road and rollerblade in the school across the street for hours on end without supervision. From 14 years old, I was always out of the house getting up to mischief with my neighborhood friends. I’d often stay at a mates, and sometimes I wouldn’t see my mum all weekend. All I had to do was call her to let her know what my plans were. It was amazing to have that much freedom as a teenager and as a kid. I loved feeling able to make my own decisions. I was so unaware of any potential dangers. These days things are radically different, which now as a parent I’m grateful for, even though I find myself wistfully dreaming about the days when kids were able to run free with reckless abandon.
At home, my children are free to wander and do as they like. I’m the opposite of a helicopter parent, and I really give them the space to explore and adventure without me hovering. This goes for Forest too, I just take away all the chokables and then let him and Bodhi do their thing (except of course in our backyard which has a pool). It’s important to me that with the new emphasis on safety, that I still ensure that my boys feel confident to take risks. I remember watching Mark with a young Isaac always telling him to “be careful” it actually meant that Isaac had a really hard time taking risks for many years. With Forest and Bodhi, we have definitely given them much more room to try new things without telling them to “watch out”. I can sometimes be too relaxed, much like my own parents, and Mark can swing into becoming too overprotective. It’s about finding a happy medium. In my observation there is always one parent that is inclined to be more protective.
When it comes to leaving the house, things shift a lot. The kids are still able to take risks but always under my watchful eye. Whether we are at the park, a grocery store or any public place, I don’t take my eyes off of them. Parents are much more safety conscious these days. Over the years, the media has played a big part in this, portraying fear inducing stories about kidnappings and other tales to keep parents more aware of potential dangers. There is much more attention surrounding “stranger danger” and “tricky people” (the upgraded term coined for dodgy individuals). There are books and courses parents can take, and our school in LA recently offered a safety workshop. These safety changes feel necessary and are an initiative that I fully support.
My childhood was incredibly happy, it was loving and adventurous and never dull. Yes, things were different, but not better or worse, just an experience that my children will never know, and they will forge their own special memories. The world is always in a constant state of change, and we are evolving at such a rapid rate. I don’t believe there is one right way to parent but I do believe that if we can feel connected to our children, bring a sense of adventure and awe to their upbringing, help them feel safe, create loving boundaries and ensure that they feel as though they can tell us absolutely anything; that we will raise a generation of children who are well-rounded, mindful, and innovative with the ability to love themselves. That’s the gift my parents gave to me, and one I too hope to give to my sons.