I was perusing the news this evening and stumbled across an op piece about how the US is raising a nation of savages... (click here for the full piece). In the bit, Todd Starnes discusses how devoid of morality this great nation of ours has become. Just this last week we've had news of 3 teens killing a jogger for sport, a teen hunting kittens because he was bored, teenagers shooting an infant in the face because they want money. Arriving in my Facebook news feed was a link about a group of young men in Tennessee who, in 2007, brutally tortured and murdered a couple because they felt like it. (Glenn Beck discusses that here). As I let these things sink in I reflected on how I agreed or disagreed with Starnes and how, as a young parent, I would try to raise my sons differently. I, too, fear the things that Starnes and Beck fear. Love them or hate them, here are my thoughts:
1- I agree that parents have failed to raise their children with the morals and values necessary in order for them to be productive in our society. I do not, however, agree that this void is due to a lack of church. We are a Christian household, and while our principles and morals are largely cemented in the Good Book, I do not for one second think that this is necessary in order to instill basic humanity and morality in our children.
2- Parents have lost touch with their child rearing instincts. I have watched parents around me succumb to whatever someone else tells them with regards to raising their children. I've watched them give in to mainstream experts. I've watched them stare over the neighbors fence to see what everyone else is doing so they can keep up appearances with everyone else. I've watched mothers "stay at home" to do their nails, instruct their maids and complain about how hard it is raising their children- while their children are raised by the television or the advertising in shopping malls. I've watched those same fathers appear in and out of their lives as apparitions because they work too much, only to overspend on Christmas, Birthdays, and vacations in an attempt to assuage their own guilt for never being around. I've watched the children and teenagers of these parents learn hard and fast how to play both sides to get what they think they want out of life. Everyone from our preacher to our doctor to our teachers to our television are telling us how to raise our children, while continuously making us feel inadequate and incompetent as parents. I had a daycare director tell me that R's reflux was akin to my son having "special medical needs," that something was seriously wrong and if we didn't fix it then he would be developmentally challenged as he got older--- all from his reflux. The funny thing is that she has never had a child herself, nor actually been a day care provider- she was a manager of people, a business person, pushing her own agenda.
I've also watched single moms work two jobs and make it to the school musical production to support their child, dads take time off just to have lunch at school with their kid, whole families venturing out together just for the sake of doing something together.
3- I agree that the large scale production of violence via television and video games is influencing our children in ways we never thought imaginable. However, I think the influence of these things is also a failure of parenting. H and I have already had the luxury of raising teenagers in our house and here is what I can tell you about video games: We didn't allow them! Not a single one in our home. There is no Playstation or Xbox- not even an old fashioned Atari. And we won't budge on this with our own boys either. The way we see it is they will get enough of this stuff at their friends houses- why do we need to have these distractions in our house? We want them to get outside and explore the world- it's better to just keep the temptation away. And when they complain? TOO BAD! We are the parents! We make the rules!
3- Which leads me to my next point: Parents need to grow up. Women need to realize that once you have a child, your priorities should change drastically. And if they don't, then you are simply doing it wrong. That doesn't mean you are supposed to exchange your soul for raising children. It just means that maybe you should play with your kids instead of dragging them to the salon with you. I think if a man still feels the need to have his video games as a married adult, then maybe he needs to re-think whether he should be procreating. I understand that will likely offend a lot of people- but that's just how I see it- especially when I've heard so many complaints from women about their boyfriends and their video games.
4- Parents should take care of themselves, and their marriage, first. When you have kids your priorities completely re-allign. But you cannot sacrifice your marriage or yourselves for your children. You have to remember who you are. Keep up the yoga, the running, the girls night out, the poker night (when you can- because we all know in the first couple years it just ain't happening!). If you lose who you are, then you have nothing to serve as an example for your children. Is that what we want? For our kids to look up to thug musicians and reality TV stars because we've so lost ourselves in being taxis for our kids that we can't even have a dinner with our spouse? I want my boys to see that our marriage is the foundation of our family- that H and I take care of each other and adore each other- and that sometimes that means they are going to shock! come second. Family should be the priority- and a healthy loving relationship with your partner is the foundation of a healthy family!
I really feel like what's happened in our country is that everyone has become completely polarized. Parenting comes in two styles: overbearing, overindulging, overopulent or the complete opposite- so absent that the parent child relationship no longer exists. And I'm finding more and more that some families start off as overbearing and overindulging, only to cross over to the absenteeism when their children become adolescents. It is as if parents think that once they hit high school, they must compete for popularity with their kids friends, or with other parents. And this shift takes place at precisely the time when children need more structure, discipline, and guidance. It really is very sad.
However, I do feel like there is a subtle resurgence of couples who want to raise their children to appreciate the amenities of the modern world, but to live by the old school values that are long missing today. Almost all of our friends with young children see such horrific things on the news perpetrated by idle teenagers and we are all appalled, as anyone with a soul would be. What's interesting to me though is that we are all discussing these issues and how to raise our children to prevent these things.
I've also recently been reading Kevin Hartnett's blog, Growing Sideways. I can't remember exactly when or where I stumbled upon his work, but it has truly been a source of wisdom for myself as a parent. He writes about friction and cohesiveness in parenting, and how he and his wife strive to embrace the friction and maintain cohesiveness in their family. H and I feel largely the same way. Our priority is family, but not some notion of family sprung upon us by generations before or by mainstream media. Our definition of family is largely one of balance and fit for each family out there. Our generation of parents are highly analytical and we strive for methods that will instill confidence, pride, and accountability in ourselves and our children. We are a DIY generation that believes we can approach parenting from multiple angles, using the many tools available to us as we see fit. We use positivity to guide, watch PBS Kids, play barbies on the floor, jump in the rain, lose our tempers, love our partners, enjoy good wine, and have junk food nights. We have messy houses and messy histories. We continuously learn. We admit mistakes. We are intuitive. Regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, we believe the foundation of good parenting is a desire to raise children to be responsible, polite, driven adults. We believe it can be done, this blending of methodologies and philosophies to shape the next generation in a way that will maintain morality and create better cohesiveness in our families. This is why I still have faith in our Nation.
Love and Happyness to you all!