Now I’m not out to bash America. I love my country as much as the next gal. I just think that Americans have their heads up their asses for myriad reasons. From our laws, to our customs, to our general sense of overwhelming anxiety to doing everything EXTREME!
We overeat to the extreme, then freak out because we are fat and then over diet until we hate our lives. Someone makes an annoying comment on our Facebook page and we freak out and unfriend them or worse, get into a public, petty, stupid fight with them. The news is definitely extreme. All it does is create a panic about topics by asking questions that purposely push people’s buttons so people do nothing for hours but argue and judge other people for their actions and opinions.
We get self righteous to the extreme and demand an execution for someone who committed any kind of crime or we speculate why some accident happened. It’s never just an accident. There is always someone there to say things like “He was probably talking on his phone. Idiot.” or “I’m sure she was drunk. Great parent she is.” and other such things. When did we all become so indifferent and callous when it comes to our fellow human beings? It seems that no one is able to see anyone else’s point of view or walk a mile in their shoes before picking up stones to throw.
There is nowhere that this mentality is stronger than in parenting. If you bottle feed, you are the devil. If you nurse, you better be sure you cover those suckers up because you’re just obscene and disrespectful of people in public. If you spank, you’re a really bad parent. If you don’t, you’re too lenient and creating spoiled little brats with no respect. If you let your kid eat at McDonald’s, you should be shot. If you force a vegan diet on your child, it’s child abuse. If you let your kid out to play by themselves for awhile, you have CPS knocking on your door, or worse, cops ready to arrest you for endangering the welfare of a child.
And while there is a huge, raging, angry debate about vaccinations, I won’t get into that because I feel there is a clear right and wrong to that argument so I will keep that out of my examples here. It’s just exhausting that we are not able to parent in peace. There is always someone out there telling us we’re doing it wrong, no matter what choice it is that you’re making. If you had dreams of being the perfect parent, you better forget them, because it’s pretty much impossible. If you swore you would never spank your children and then end up just yelling at them in frustration, you’re still not the parent you wanted to be.
But I digress… my point is that as Americans we spend so much of our time worrying about our kids. We don’t let them out of our sight anymore. They can’t play by themselves to gain valuable skills and confidence and street smarts. They can’t use knives or learn how to cook, they can’t stay in the house by themselves until they’re at least 13 and that seems to be pushing it with some people. We worry about them playing too many video games yet keep supplying them with the technology to use.
We worry that our babies are going to hurt themselves beyond repair to the extent that we have to basically bubble wrap the whole house before they even arrive. We worry that we don’t do enough to entertain them (thank you Pinterest). All we do is worry, worry, worry. Oh, and then judge people who worry more or less than we do. If they worry more, they are a helicopter parent, and if they worry less, they are a careless parent. We of course, worry just the right amount.
Do you think parents obsess over their kids everywhere else? No! They practically raise themselves. There is no child proofing. There is no all day snacking and separate meals for kids. They let them go, run, play by themselves. They take busses and ride bikes all alone. They are turning into self-reliant, happy people because they know they can conquer fears and obstacles. We never give our children that opportunity and then we wonder why they are depressed, violent, suicidal and apathetic. We revolve our whole entire lives around our children. We let our marriages, our social lives, and our very sense of self crumble in “sacrifice” for our children. We shouldn’t be doing that. We should show them how to become good people that other people want to be around. Respectful, smart, kind, happy people.
One of the best gifts we can give our children is keeping our marriages together and let them know that they are not the center of any universe. Ours, or society’s. They do not need trophies for every ball they catch or half-assed report they write. That is not teaching them anything. I just wish we as Americans could look at the success other countries are having in terms of parenting or schooling and start trying them out here. But so many people think the American way is best that they can’t even try it. And those of use who would like to try a new way get harassed by people thinking that we’re neglecting our children or endangering them.
The problem, the way I see it, is that because there are so many different beliefs and values in this country, the more dramatic, anxiety ridden parent is what is controlling the way all parenting is done. Say I want to let my 6 year old go explore around the block by herself for a few minutes, there is probably going to be some over zealous parenting calling the cops because some poor helpless child has been abandoned out on the street.
When I was a kid, I wandered all over the city by myself between the ages of 5 and 7 and I learned a lot and came out of it alive. We do not give our children enough credit. My 6 year old daughter is probably smarter than a lot of 12 year olds that I run into so we shouldn’t judge whether someone else’s child is capable of being out alone. And don’t give me the predator line because I refuse to believe that we live in a world where there is just a creep hiding behind every single tree and that my children are absolutely going to be attacked or abducted if they step out of the house alone. They are much more likely to have something bad happen to them by a family member.
I was a latchkey kid. And I’m glad I was. I learned how to keep myself busy. I learned how to cook for myself. I learned how to do laundry. I enjoyed the space and time to myself before I had a parent asking me a hundred questions about my day. I don’t know where the idea came from that children need their parents around all the time because I can bet that pretty much all of them would like us to just get up out of their grill most of the time.
I struggle with a lot of these issues daily because these messages just get beat into you until you have anxiety too. I worry that I don’t spend enough time with my kids. I worry that I yell to much. I worry that I don’t give them enough vegetables. I constantly worry about them getting hurt. That’s the biggest problem for me. It’s hard to let my kids learn how to use a knife or ride a bike or climb a tree when I am imagining a trip to the ER in my near future. I want to find a way to relax though. Just let them figure stuff out for themselves. Let them problem solve. Let them learn some conflict resolution; some self reliance. I want them to be confident in their abilities and strong enough not to succumb to peer pressure when they are older. And that starts now. I strongly believe my freedom as a child led to me not ever giving in to doing something I didn’t want to do. I could write about this for days, but I’ll let you off the hook here. :) If you’re interested in reading more about this, some great reads can be found here: and Here.