It seems we can’t go a day — hell, a few hours — without reading some new viral social media post or article blasting parents for all of our problems. We’re given side-eye for letting our kids play on our phones at a restaurant. We’re criticized for being over-scheduled and helicoptery and “soft.” Whenever some tragedy befalls us or a crisis hits, people love to wag their fingers at us, saying “parents just aren’t involved” and “kids these days…” while waxing poetic about the “good ol’ days” when they did parenting right.
Well, you know what? BULLSHIT.
As a child of the 80s, I’ll agree that there were a lot of great things about being a kid back then, but there were also a lot of things that sucked. Little boys were routinely told to “man up” or were mocked if they said they wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. Little girls were told they couldn’t be astronauts or president because those were reserved for boys. Kids were routinely bullied on the playground and it was brushed off by grown-ups with a dismissive, “toughen up.” Teens smoked, drank, and had sex more often and at an earlier age back then.
Sure, growing up in the 80s was pretty kick ass and parents in previous generations did a lot of things right, but did they care more? Did they take parenting more seriously? Were they more involved? Hell no. After all, my generation were the first “latchkey kids.”
The blame has been hot and heavy after the most recent school shooting, and people are quick to bust out their criticism of all the things today’s parents are getting wrong. We let our kids play too many video games. We don’t make our kids play outside enough. We don’t spank. Or god forbid, we don’t return letters to school. We don’t volunteer in the classroom. We don’t do this, we do too much that.
Parental blame for societal problems is mean, unhelpful, and inaccurate. Believe me, parents these days are well-aware of all our shortcomings. We know we are over-scheduled and busy as hell, but it’s because we’re working hard to support our family and make sure that our kids have the opportunity to learn Spanish and play the piano and join the baseball team. We are struggling to make sense of this new world of social media, while making sure talk to our kids about new challenges like sexting and cyberbullying which parents of past generations didn’t have to deal with. Sure, we’ve become a playdate culture, but believe it or not, plenty of kids (mine included) actually do run around the neighborhood, knocking on doors until they find a friend to play.
There are any number of reasons why a parent might not seem “involved” to someone outside of the family. A parent who doesn’t show up for evening band concerts might work nights. The parent who forgets to send in a letter to the teacher or sign a homework slip might also be caring for a parent with dementia, or might leave a love letter under their kid’s bedroom door every night. A parent who lets their kid play their iPad at dinner might have spent the entire day showing their kid art at the museum and just needs to chill for a minute.
Or maybe not.
The point is, you don’t know. So save your judgments, assumptions, and criticisms.
Bottom line: a troubled teen shouldn’t have access to assault weapons, plain and simple. And casting a wide net of blame to a generation of parents doing their best to raise up good and kind kids is ridiculous. Not to mention that even the best of parents can have a child who kid who does really awful things. There are a number of ways the system seems to have failed Nicholas Cruz, but by most accounts, his mom tried to get him help while she was alive.
The same is true for relatively “minor” transgressions. The kid whose parents preach ad nauseam about kindness and inclusion might fuck up and tease a kid at school some day. They are kids, after all. And we’re all human.
Look, parents today aren’t perfect. We don’t pretend that we are. But neither were parents of past generations. We’re all doing our best — just like parents of previous generations were doing. We don’t ever — for one second — forget that being a parent is THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB. Believe me. And lest we forget, we don’t need to look far for someone who is all too willing to remind us of the ways we’re failing.
So while you can pine for the good ol’ days of big hair, rocking 80s music, and questionable fashion — please spare me the parental nostalgia and blame.