Monday, November 7, 2011

The Good Old Days

Go ahead and call me old-fashioned. It's OK, I won't be offended. In fact, I may just take it as a compliment.

Being old-fashioned means, to me, that the things parents are finding amusing these days just don't do it for me. I watched the videos people posted when Jimmy Kimmel suggested to parents 'as a joke' that they lie to their kids, telling them they ate all their Halloween candy, and then film and upload the kids' reactions. And I read the blogs about parenting that people rave about, even when the titles are off-putting to me. But instead of yelling "Hilarious!" and sharing them from my Facebook page, I cringe, and wonder why these things are going viral. The only deduction I can make is that I'm behind the times.

Perhaps I'm just one of those rose-colored-glasses-clad romantics. The ones who long for the days when parents were the grown-ups--the cranky, stodgy, rule-making, always-right guideposts that we loved and hated and wanted to be like and wanted to get the hell away from all at the same time. Maybe they weren't always right, but part of growing up was figuring that out along the way. For the most part, their principles were the foundation for the choices we made in life, like it or not. Things my VERY old-fashioned parents taught me by example include:

* Don't smoke. Even though I do, it's bad for you.
* Don't talk meanly about people. You have no idea what their life is like, and it's most likely a lot worse than yours.
* Everyone deserves a chance. Don't judge before you get to know a person.
* Don't curse. It's vulgar and makes you sound stupid.
* Your children are watching you and learning from you, mistakes and all. Always make them your priority and do your best so you won't have to apologize for anything later.
* Children are fragile--they trust you to be kind and honest, and keep their hearts safe. That's a huge responsibility, so don't mess with it.

It just seems like everyone who's looking for their 15 minutes of fame is going for the shock value, the thing that will be most controversial. Thanks to the likes of Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians, sex is no longer a valid category for this because we've seen it all.

That leaves the kids.

Being cruel or mean, bullying your kids, abusing their trust "for fun" or taking advantage of their naiivete "as a joke" for a good laugh seems to be catching on. Rather than helping our kids grow up into kind, caring and mature adults (read: stodgy old rule-makers like us), we are instead turning into immature clowns so we can get attention, and all at our kids' expense.

The old saying, "why don't you pick on someone your own size?" comes to mind.

Again, I use the term "old". This is because I'm starting to wonder if there is a connection between our fear of growing old (notice I didn't say responsible) and our need to act childish and immature, to wield our power over the young, regardless of the consequences. Maybe Obnoxious is The New 40.

My hope is that I'm not alone. Based on a lot of the feedback I've seen on this type of behavior, there is some balance. Many love it, many despise it. But there are those in the middle who say, "This is so wrong yet so funny." I think of this group as the bystanders at the bullying event, the ones who know it's wrong but are afraid to speak up, so have somehow justified the behavior in their own mind (it's funny; at least it's not me; the kid will get over it.)

To me, the most interesting are the comments from folks abroad who choose to chime in. They mention the "complete decay of Western countries and their disappearing values," and note that "It is no wonder so many children grow up to be such screwed up adults."

What these outnumbered, ignored or combatted comments give me is hope. Hope that I am not the only person who sees this parenting slide as a bad thing; that there are more of us willing to stand up to the bullying-disguised-as-parenting stunts and condemn them.

It takes a village to raise a child, and a mob can just as easily prevent it from happening. Here's hoping we can dispel the mob before it's too late, that there's still a chance to parent our kids like they did in the old days, and raise them to be moral, trusting and kind adults. Heaven knows we could use some.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's Not Me; It's Them

OK, maybe someone needs to tell me to calm down.

What you may not be able to read in this picture is the label on this "prescription" so I'll write it out for you:

Harry Hypochondriac



Now, I am a mom who has countless books and leaflets floating through my house about how to talk to your kids about drugs: why drugs are bad; what they can do to you; why kids shouldn't use them; why kids shouldn't trust friends who offer them drugs even if they are friends they would normally trust; how drugs can look harmless, or like candy or maybe even taste good. Need I go on?

OK. So one day, THIS thing shows up in my house. At first glance, it's amusing. Dr. Doolittle, ha ha. Harry Hypochondriac, ha ha. Take one a day for 30 days, and they are candy, ha ha.

But here's the thing: they were given to my kid. I'm not going to say when or by whom because this blog isn't really the place for that. But I do want to ask, "Seriously? Are middle schoolers really the right target for such a giveaway? Or did no one give it any thought?"

I'm thinking the latter, and I'm thinking that's a big part of the problem with many of our teen issues these days.

I'm embarrassed to say how many people I know who use drugs today, either recreationally or for self-medicating purposes. In every case, the drugs in question are illegal. This is why such a gimmicky giveaway is not surprising to me: I think adults take drug use much too lightly in this country.

Most would likely tell me to calm down--that I'm not just over but ├╝ber-reacting--because apparently I'm imagining a connection between the feelgood nature of sugar and drugs. But a recent study actually says I'm not.

We also live in a world where gimmicks get you noticed, where there is so much advertising and so many avertorials and infomercials that even adults can't tell what's marketing and what's news anymore. This is why I try to stay out of the television loop; to keep my perspective. When I do pass by it, and frequently hear a commercial for a new pill, I can't help but laugh at all of the possible side-effects that are listed at the end.

'Can't sleep? Take this pill and your problem will be solved. You may suffer from anxiety, depression, anger, pain and suicidal thoughts as a result, your car will break down, your house will burn to the ground and your spouse will leave you, but at least you'll be able to sleep.'

Really? Do people even listen to that part, or does it come off as an, 'oh, by the way, our lawyers made us say this' add-on?

I laugh, but probably because it scares me. My kids see these commercials. What do they think of them? What message do they hear?

Maybe I am crazy-aware. But I constantly try to see things from a different perspective so I can hopefully show my kids that not everything is what it seems. If nothing else, they need to stop and think about the product first. My job as a parent is to make that blurry line between ads and news as clear for them as I possibly can. How else can they make good, well-informed choices?