I often hear parents from older generations marvel at the “tools” we younger mothers and fathers have: the battery-operated swings, the iPads, the bottle warmers, the terrifying Bumbos.
“What will they think of next?” they say. “If only I had things like that when I was a mother.”
In truth, I think my parents had it better. I’m not alone in that sentiment.
In her piece, “What Would My Mom Do (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside)”, author Jen Hatmaker marvels at a world in which her mother would usher her and her siblings out the door and expect them to find all-day, unsupervised entertainment outdoors.
I recently heard one of my writing heroes, Dave Barry, discuss how happy his parents were because they didn’t hover over their children every waking moment. Mr. Barry said it was the Depression-era parents who did it best because they prioritized their own happiness. He said his generation – my mother’s generation – is responsible for starting the phenomenon known as helicopter parenting.
I’ll see him a helicopter parent and raise him the helicopter society that parents in my generation have come to know.
The problem isn’t that younger parents DON’T want our children to have childhoods like we did; it’s that in many ways, we CAN’T let them have those childhoods.
Because peanut butter has been outlawed.
I’m told this changes as my children get older, but for now, I have to get a little more creative than the standard PB&J my mother packed for us every day. Not only am I searching for peanut butter substitutes that don’t taste like feet (looking at you, SunButter), but I’m competing with the social media barrage of picture-perfect school lunches filled with stuff my kids would never eat, like red peppers and hummus. I mean, whatever, I get it that some kids will die if they are exposed to peanut butter. My point is that my mom could shut her eyes, grab whatever her already-full hands could hold, shove it in a paper bag and send us out the door. I have to scrutinize every element to make sure it’s nut-free and pack it in an eco-friendly container because HEAVEN FORBID I would be so wasteful as to use paper bags.
Because you can’t leave your kids in the car.
I’m not talking 90-degree-weather-stranded-in-a-parking-lot kind of abandonment. I mean that I can’t run in to pay for gas and leave my kids strapped safely into a locked vehicle. If I do, some agents from Social Services will be at my home and I’ll either lose my kids or have to commit umpteen hours of community service.