Monday, August 3, 2009

21st Century Children

My mom is always admonishing me on my parenting. "You are too hard on her," "All she needs is a good spanking," "Dont go giving her excuses for her behavoir," or my personal favorite, "MY kids never acted like that." (As if I wasnt sitting right there, proof-pudding that her parenting style clearly didnt work out as intended.)

She, along with many other grandparents of her generation, do not get the analogy:
apple : oranges :: parenting in the 20th century : parenting in the 21st century.
Okay, so its only been 30 years, give or take a few, since she's done it, but that whole change of century thing is more impactful than she allows. For instance, since she has parented, there have been a few key societal changes, discoveries and inventions that might have altered (just a wee bit) our ENTIRE way of life, let alone the particular job of parenting. Let's see, there's...
1. the desktop comupter (let alone laptops, cell phones and the all-important DS Light)
2. the chickpox vaccine
3. the ADHD diagnosis
4. other remedies for female problems besides hyterectomies
5. gummy bear vitamins
6. the Wii
7. surround sound
8. "time-out"
9. spanx
10. equal rights for women (okay, maybe we are still working on that one)

So, it goes to show that the parenting axiom "spare the rod, spoil the child" may not actually be helpful in the current society where spanking is either illegal or, at the very least, cause for a quick call to DCS. For our generation of parents, the advise our moms give us can be a constant source of angst and confusion. I can almost audibly hear my multiple personalities arguing:

The orthodox/old fashion me: There is NO way a child of ours will behave like that!
The progressive/newly enlightened by current pyschology me: But, is our desire to control our child overpowering our call to love her? What is really at work here?
The redneck me: Damn skippy! That chil' needs to be reigned in fast 'for she's old enough to beat our ass senseless!

And, we (er, I mean, I) do this every time there's a call for parental wisdom. Understanding the needs of today's children is beyond me, and certainly beyond the 1970's model.

Just last week I had a situation come up that called for that very thing wisdom I seem to lack. My 8 year old had a sleep-over. Both girls were very excited and looking forward to a "late" night filled with Mellow Mushroom, Webkins and Poptropica. (See, I already lost most the grandma's out there.) At 9:30, the lights were out and both girls were satisfied with the evening festivities. However, a few moments after I crawled into my pj's, Ellie was at my door, telling me that her sleepover buddy was making too much noise.

Now, its important to know that Ellie is what the older-generation would call paticular. She likes the lights completely off, doors shut, HVAC set between 68-71 degrees (but, she's flexible) and lavender scented eye-mask securely in place before going to sleep. Did I say "likes"? I mean, "needs", as in, "I will not fall asleep even if you threaten to pull out all my eyelashes unless these demands are met" needs. So, when Ellie came to me with this delimna, I was not surprised. Conditions were not perfect for slumbering. I went upstairs and smoothed down the emotional ruffles and re-put the girls the bed.

Not five minutes later, Ellie comes back downstairs and tells us in a slightly higher decibel that she hates her previously christened "best friend in the whole world" because she won't stop moving around in her bed, which she is doing on purpose just to be mean. My husband takes this one (tag-teaming seems a good defensive strategy in the evenings) and proceeds to give Ellie some reasonable options. Could you sleep on the couch if her noises are bugging you? Could you wait for her to fall asleep first before you even try? Why don't you put on a CD and listen to a story? Ellie, so completely offended by this flexible line of reasoning, gives us both a good dose of the stink-eye and stomps off for presumably another go.

Dave and I go back to our books and begin holding our breaths for the next knock at the door. This time, however, the visitor was not Ellie. It was her guest.

Miss Sarah, my OCD is really acting up tonight and Ellie can't handle it.
Come again?

Ha! Bet my mama never heard those words. This calls for the new millennium parenting:

Me: Um, so, what do YOU think we should do?
21st century slumber partier: I think I should just go home.
Me: Do you want to try sleeping on the couch or having Ellie sleep on the couch?
21st century slumber partier: No, I think I'd rather just go home, if you don't mind.
Me: Well, okay. Let me get on some pants and I'll drive you home.
(enter, Ellie)
Ellie: WHAT????!!! She's leaving???? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! But I wanted to have a sleepover!!!!!! YOU promised me a sleepover!!!!! YOU CANT TAKE HER HOME!!!!
(Dave has to physically restrain our 8 year old)
Me: Ellie, calm down! She just wants to go home. We can get her in the morning and even have her over for pancakes!
Ellie (sputtering and gasping for breath): NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
21st century slumber partier: I know this great therapist that could really help Ellie with her tantrums.

Come again?

Its true. And, in an effort to help Ellie cope with the tragic loss of her sleepover guest, I try to explain to her the OCD disorder in elementary terms.

Me: Your friend has what is called Obssessive-Compulsive Disorder, which means that she is super-worried about some things and then does certain actions or noises to help her not be worried. She cant contol it.
Ellie: Does it come with gas? 'Cause boy did she have some!
Me: Oh boy. Ellie, I am explaining this to you so you can love your friend better. If you understand what she is going through, it'll be easier to care for her. Do you think you can maybe imagine what it would be like to have OCD?
Ellie: Well, I think I might have OCD, too. But only if it comes with PWP.
Me: And what is PWP?
Ellie: Problems with Parents.

I DEFY any and all grandparents to give me the proverb that'll help with that!


PS. If there are grandparents reading this and are interested in learning the delimnas of post-modern parents, I suggest asking for a reading list. Some current parenting books that are on my list are:

How Children Raise their Parents by Dan Allendar
The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross W Green
What to do when Your Brain Gets Stuck by Dawn Huebner

Of course, due to the fact that I am still completely at a tragic loss about how to parent my 21st century children, I am readily accepting book suggestions as well!