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.

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