Monday, June 04, 2018

The kids are alright

I often quote the Philip Larkin line, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. | They may not mean to, but they do."  It is a metaphorical line about parenting.  Parents do the best that they can, and many like me are guilt-ridden over the tiniest mistakes that we make.

Parenting in today's world has gotten even trickier.  And, therefore, when children misbehave, it is even more a hassle for parents.  Take, for instance, a 13-year old sexting, which parents even a decade ago did not have to worry about, right?

It is not merely my middle age that makes me wonder whether kids these days seem to be misbehaving more than before.
Childhood — and parenting — have radically changed in the past few decades, to the point where far more children today struggle to manage their behavior.
Am I relieved that I don't have young ones at home to worry about!

There is one reason that Katherine Reynolds Lewis talks about that greatly interests me: children today are too "unemployed."
To be straight-A students and athletic superstars, gifted musicians and artists — which are all wonderful goals, but they are long-term and pretty narcissistic. They don't have that sense of contribution and belonging in a family the way that a simple household chore does, like helping a parent prepare a meal. Anyone who loves to cook knows it's so satisfying to feed someone you love and to see that gratitude and enjoyment on their faces. And kids today are robbed of that.
It's part of the work of the family. We all do it, and when it's more of a social compact than an adult in charge of doling out a reward, that's much more powerful. They can see that everyone around them is doing jobs. So it seems only fair that they should also.
As I recall my childhood, yes, of course, there were plenty of daily and occasional chores where I could feel a sense of responsibility, of contributing.  Biking to the grocery stores. Depositing checks and withdrawing money. Sending registered letters. Buying grandma's medicines. All these even when I was barely a teenager!

And, I also learnt how to use my mother's sewing machine.  It started with helping her out, and eventually I figured out how to work that damn bobbin too!  Why is this a big deal?  Apparently all these helped me break away from the male chivalry and machismo:
Dr. Kane stresses the importance of breaking gender stereotypes in small, everyday practices. For example, she recommends assigning boys the kinds of household chores typically given to girls, like mending clothes and dusting furniture and nurturing younger siblings.
Lots of chores that back in the day boys in traditional households like mine might not have done: Helping in the kitchen, putting clothes away, the weekly house-cleaning (until the dust allergies sidelined me!) ... "if parental values are imparted in a loving way, most kids will eventually adopt their parents’ beliefs" ... yep.

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