This morning, after dropping The Girl off at Kilbourn Park camp, I took The Tot and The Boy to our usual Monday morning playdate at the Disney II playground. The Boy played with his friends, and Grandma Texas and I talked with the moms. The organizer came in late, telling us that she’s fed up with her children’s seemingly endless bickering and ingratitude for all that she does for them. She pointed out that we do so much more to entertain our children than our mothers did when we were young.
And she’s right. But how did we get from there to here? Although I don’t think of myself as a constant entertainer for my children, I realized that in my own way — taking them to the zoo, museums, farmer’s markets, etc. — I am guilty of entertaining my children, possibly of entertaining them too much. Are my friends and I raising another generation of spoiled brats? Will my children have the sense of entitlement that appears to have permeated the latter half of the Millennials?
It’s an interesting question to ponder, although even pondering it feels like yet another indulgence in the parenting-as-movement culture. Between celebrity babies and contemplative articles every week in The New York Times‘s culture section, The Atlantic Monthly, and other such cerebral pubs, not to mention the seemingly endless number of mom-blogs, it seems that the parenting culture is steeped in itself. Were our parents so deliberate in their parenting? Did they even have a “parenting philosophy?” And if they did (which I doubt), how did they overcome the isolation of parenting in the absence of e-mail, the Internet, mobile phones, and in the presence of a still-intact standard of socialization? Barriers may have been coming down in 1970, but no one was watching Jon and Kate Gosselin‘s marriage unravel on national television.
In the circles I run in, it seems that modern mothers have benefitted from time, education, and wealth (which gives us time) to examine and re-examine our parenting. Are we overthinking things? Much has been made of parenting-by-instinct, but even in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder (we have been reading The Little House in the Big Woods before bed) and her Pa, a societal order was imposed on everyday interactions. And has “conventional parenting wisdom” embedded itself so deep in our collective parenting psyche that we’re unable to discern instinct from CW? And even if we were, could we withstand the mommy drive-bys that would inevitably occur? My instinct is that it’s OK if I leave The Tot and The Girl in my gated backyard to play while I am working just inside, but CW (and perhaps DCFS) would disagree with me. And thus, I have became an entertainer for my children.