The world in which I’m raising my three kids sometimes feels as though it’s upside-down and I wonder if it’s just me who feels as though it’s incredibly difficult to provide my children with the tools they need to thrive in 2011 and beyond. Sometimes I’m concerned that because I insist that my kids demonstrate good manners, be kind to others, learn to be grateful and recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around them (this one’s very hard to accomplish), that I’m somehow hamstringing them as compared to their peers.
For example, my 10-year-old son laments that he’s the ONLY one of his friends who hasn’t seen the apocalyptic horror flick 2012 because I, irrationally, won’t let him see the movie about the world coming to an end, not yet anyway. My middle schoolers are among a minority of their peers who do not have cell phones because neither my husband nor I think they need one. (When the need genuinely arises, then we’ll talk.) The older two kids, almost 13, do have e-mail addresses, but my husband and I have their passwords and we’ve told them that we reserve the right to open and read their incoming and outgoing messages.
The three kids have chores (feeding, walking and picking up after our dog, bringing their dirty laundry down to the washing machine, vacuuming and tidying up the bathrooms). My daughter doesn’t wear the fashionable, fanny-revealing short-shorts of which so many of her peers are fond (not that my sporty gal’s pining for them anyway). And while I’ve already had discussions with the older two about sex and sexting and I always answer every question they ask me about touchy subjects like sex, drugs and alcohol, no matter how uncomfortable their inquiries may make me feel — call me an uptight 1950s housefrau if you want, but I’m not buying into the notion that co-ed sleepovers are a good idea, like an essay in the New York Times recently suggested. And I still won’t even if “all” the kids in my middle schoolers’ social circles start having them and think they’re a grand idea.
Sometimes, making these decisions along with my husband – with whom I see eye-to-eye on the majority of our child-rearing tactics – leaves me questioning if I’m just an overly strict, overly protective, out-of-touch parent. When my daughter tells me that at one basketball event the girls with whom she was playing (except for her) whipped out their cell phones at lunch and began texting one another as opposed to conversing, when her twin brother says he feels like a nerd and fears I’m sabotaging his social cred because he feels obliged to tell a friend that he’s not allowed to play a super-violent video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” I start to question whether I’m doing well by the kids or not.
Then I came across conservative commentator Laura Ingraham’s new book, Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots and realized that the fortysomething mom of three young children shares many of my concerns about what our popular culture and my parenting peers, have determined is okay for kids when I’ve said no to my own. Ingraham’s book launches broadsides against not just today’s overindulgent parents (those who shell out major bucks for kids’ fashion, kids’ room décor, giant baby strollers, way over-orchestrate play dates – some with parting gifts! – and pay safety consultants to seal up their homes from pediatric dangers), but said she’s appalled by those who will not reprimand their children, won’t teach them manners (and insist that they utilize them) and think it’s perfectly acceptable for girls to dress like miniature street walkers. (She gave those little gals a charming nickname, “prostitots.”)
“. . . [W]hen children absorb this [cultural] toxicity, our entire society is in jeopardy,” Ingraham wrote. “Look carefully at the trends in television, music, film and food and you’ll catch a glimpse of our future.” Pointing out that children face the sexual commoditization of women simply by walking through a shopping mall where they see graphic Victoria’s Secret, or by watching television during the so-called “family hour” when Victoria trots out her . . . um . . . commercials (not to mention the erectile dysfunction ads aired during afternoon nationally televised sporting events), Ingraham says it’s no surprise that children grow up to become teens who sext, who wear beachwear to school and who have no boundaries when it comes to what they reveal about themselves on social media like the omnipresent Facebook.
“Our children are watching and listening,” she wrote. “. . . Discretion is dead and today privacy is an afterthought.”
Sure, at times Ingraham sounds like a grouchy Andy Rooney complaining about “kids today,” what with their straight-from-the-Devil rock and roll music and that scandalous Elvis Presley with his provocatively swaying hips. But after reading through Ingraham’s exhaustive critique of contemporary American society, in particular what messages it sends to our kids and what kind of children we’re actually rearing when we don’t discipline them and shower them with pricey goods, I’ve gotta say, she made a lot of excellent points and observations with which I agree.
If that means I’m a stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy so be it. I’ll wear the uncool Mom moniker proudly. And if my offspring want to throw me under the bus and blame me the next time another kid asks, “Why don’t you have a cell phone yet?” or “What do you mean you [a 12-year-old] haven’t seen The Hangover yet?” I’ve got no problems with that.