A glimpse inside the child and parent relationship today:
Child: “Mom, I’m going over to Xander’s house after school to play Fortnite!”
Mom: “Okay, but I need to know what route you’re taking after you leave the school! Text me just before you two leave the building and then right after you get to his house! Have his mom text me too, just to be sure! Oh, and don’t let the teriyaki sauce touch the seared ahi tuna in your bento box until you sit down for lunch, otherwise it’ll just get over marinated! You know what? Text me a pic of your lunch when you sit down so I can make sure everything looks good!”
Child (having aged several years by this point): “Anything else?”
Mom: “Yes. I want a full report when you get home of everything you two talked about. And tell Xander’s mom we need a girls’ night! Okay, have a great day of learning, my little prince who can do absolutely no wrong!”
*snaps 47 pictures of Child exiting house to go to school, posts them immediately to Instagram*
A glimpse inside my relationship with my parents 25 years ago:
Me: “Mom, Dad, I’m meeting the guys at the park and we’re biking out to the canal. We heard there’s a dead hobo out there, so we’re gonna go poke him and stuff.”
Dad: “When you get home, we have to go and clean out the horse stalls at the barn.”
Mom: “Don’t go bringing any dead hobo back here and expect ME to clean up after it!”
I’m using some exaggerated narrative here, but I’m also not that far off in both scenarios. After all, it wasn’t really a hobo; for all we knew, he had an office job somewhere…
The stuff we got into as kids, especially being small town kids, is the kind of stuff that would probably get the cops involved today and parents on every blacklist known to man. Well, maybe not the actual police, but certainly the PC Police who believe it’s their job to “right” the “wrongs” perpetrated by complete strangers who they don’t know.
Take ‘Knock Knock, Ginger’, for instance. Oh, I’m sure there are other names for this “game” that lots of people of my generation grew up taking part in, but the gist is the same: one kid walks up to the front door of a house, knocks on the door (or rings the doorbell, which kind of defeats the name of the game), and then makes a run for it back to their gaggle of friends snickering and salivating in hair-brained, sophomoric anticipation. The end result is simply an annoyed fellow citizen who was forced to answer their door only to see a blank doorstep. Cue the snickering and the giggling across the street and behind some parked cars. Rinse and repeat until it’s all out of your system.
‘Knock Knock, Ginger’ sure wouldn’t fly today. Well, to be fair, it didn’t fly back then either, but back in the mid to late 90’s it was simply a lame nighttime activity to get a cheap thrill out of some juvenile juveniles. I suppose I should take this opportunity to apologize to anyone out there whose door that I or my friends may have knocked on around 20-25 years ago.
There, are we good? I’m not going to get “cancelled” by the Twitterati, am I?
It simply boils down to two different generations that have two different perspectives on the world around them. The biggest and most glaring difference between childhoods now and those from 20+ years ago is the rise of one device and its related service – the smartphone and social media.
Now, instead of relying on your kid’s word that they’ll call you from their friend’s house when they get there after school, you can glue the latest Apple device right to their hand. I swear, it’s like some of these kids had phones surgically implanted in them almost right out of the womb. Facetime apps, texting, location trackers, virtual check-ins; there’s no escape from Mom and Dad in 2021, junior. Helicopter parenting, indeed.
My friends and I were the types to go out at all hours of the night, mostly to go cruising in one of our vehicles, but sometimes even if it was just to take a walk around town. It didn’t matter what time it was to us because we were on no one else’s clock but our own. Go walk around Outlook at 2:00 in the morning? Why not? It was a still summer’s night and we felt bottled in back at Mitch’s house. Today, if you saw three teens walking around town after midnight, you might feel compelled to text a neighbour or even post something on that eye-rolling Bulletin Board page on Facebook.
I don’t even want to imagine trying to grow up as we did if smartphones, social media and ultra-sensitive parents were around. Honestly, not only would it have just sucked the fun out of growing up, but it also would have eliminated a lot of life lessons that my siblings, my friends and I learned along the way. Our parents didn’t turn a blind eye to everything and they were there when we needed them, but they held off on coming in hard with the proverbial helicopters. They let us make our own mistakes, take a few chances, and maybe even approach that proverbial edge without too much risk of going right over. That’s not absent parenting, it’s letting your kids discover their limits so they can learn and make better, more-informed choices tomorrow.
I’m not a parent, so I know most people reading this will take this column with a grain of salt, but I do know that the protective bubble that too many parents keep wrapped around their kids can have some bad consequences down the road. I’ve seen kids retreat inwards and resent their parents because Mom and Dad were constantly buzzing about and neglected to lengthen the proverbial leash. No one wants that.
While I know the world has always been an unpredictable place regardless of what generation you are, I know that I’m glad I grew up without Jack and Lynda constantly over my shoulder.
If I ever do have kids of my own one day, they can rest easy knowing I don’t have a helicopter on standby.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.