Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kids these days

I'm so tired of hearing about the kids these days -- and the parents that raise them. How we don't have the family of the 1950s, everyone eating together, quietly, one meal, same time, nuclear family, blah blah blah. And I almost didn't read this article because of its lede, which is all about that comparison. By the way, I got this from Alternet but it's originally from Psychotherapy Network.

I think the answer to the hedline, "Does today's liberated, chaotic family work better than the 1950s model?" is a resounding 'yes!' Of course it does. What kind of children do we want? I don't want 1950s children, no offense, I want empowered, involved 21st-century children. These are crazy, chaotic times, we don't have nearly the support and resources that they did in the 50s, and I want my child to be as prepared as possible for crazy chaos. 

I think to me that means, above all, having certain core values, and to be extremely clear about them in daily life. I want her to value love above all. I'd like her to be kind, and have a sense of humor, and to have an idea that we are all in this together, we are all sentient beings, we are all connected. I also want her to have a very clear sense of her skills and talents and interests, and to imagine being able to achieve them, and to have the discipline to try, and not to be afraid of hard work.

Yes, of course I want to have dinner as a family as much as possible, of course I don't want my kid to be online 24/7, of course I want her to read and think and interact with her world. Being a modern family doesn't mean all that gets tossed out the window, although it does mean that it might not happen every single night. Maybe what gets tossed is the idea that anything is permanent, that the game isn't rigged, that you will be rewarded if you perform, or do what you are supposed to. I don't want my daughter to cheat, but I don't want her to be a good girl, either. I worked hard as a fact-checker and my reward was more fact-checking. The boys would come in and be bad at it, and they'd get sent out on the plum reporting assignments. I don't want her to do what I did.

This is an interesting article, once you get past the opening, and get into writer/therapist Ron Taffel's specific observations about how we've entered a new era. The families of the 1950s, he writes, "were stuck in beliefs about how a family ought to be, the way communication should happen; they were committed to outdated formalities between parent and child. So was I! After all, I revered 'the village' of my childhood, but there was a price for that order: many of us now grasp how little our parents knew of us, and we understand how much of ourselves we were unable or unwilling to reveal across the generational divide . . . We must let post-boomer parents and their children, fellow-travelers that they are, teach us where we need to go." 

I like his conclusion, that families today want to be known to each other, even teenagers and parents. I sense that from my family, my child, who isn't yet a teenager and so far isn't very troubled. But I do recognize her in some of these anecdotes, and just like I want to be a 21st-century librarian, I want to be a 21st-century parent. Boy, it sure is hard work.

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