It’s mid-May, so of course I’ve become an emotional mess. Do you do the same thing? It happens to me with every first day of school, every Christmas night, and every May. Those are the points in the year when it makes the most sense to assess how I am doing as a parent and to assess how quickly time is whizzing by. Have the right memories been made? Are the kids headed down a path to success or incarceration? Am I parenting them or royally screwing them up?
My emotion is coming from a solid place. Times are changing for my family. Wednesday was the last day at a preschool where we’ve spent the past ten years (and my alma mater!); I have a middleschooler come August; the thought of my tween daughter on Instagram keeps me up at night; and, I am a lot closer to 40 than 30. I’m in the midst of a Mommy Midlife Crisis, and I can’t even fit my entire carpool in a jazzy red two-seater to ease the pain (reality really does bite at times).
Oh, and I’m staring at 2 ½ months of mostly uninterrupted mom+kid-time (called “summer”) where I know my constant battle will be between electronics and non-organic snacks. I am teetering on the edge of wanting to slow down while simultaneously speed up time (just to see once and for all if I passed or failed at this parenting thing). I’m racked with guilt over the memories we didn’t make versus the quality of the memories we did make.
And, it’s not helping that every time I log onto social media, I see another post about how terrible Gen X is doing at parenting. According to all the blogs out there, we’ve overscheduled, babied, and smothered our kids. To be a kid of the 70s and the 80s was perfection, and to be a kid in the new millennium is a sentence worse than death. (Because of the parenting, of course.) All of this talk almost makes me wish I was born in the ‘50s rather than the ‘70s. At least I would’ve been able to raise carefree children, right? Instead, if the posts are true, I am raising entitled lazy bones.
And here goes a shocking, but very true statement:
I am doing the best that I can.
And so is most every other parent I know.
I think what all of these blog posts miss is the day-to-day. They’re generalizing the Gen X parenting so much that it’s almost irresponsible – especially when they’re posted in May when we’re all just barely hanging on. I agree that some families are overscheduled, but the posts fail to point out the most amazing parenting moments that I see everyday. You know, the ones that YOU and I – Gen X – can take a little credit for (I mean, if we’re going to take the blame for all that’s wrong, we might as well seek a little credit).
I see it in my friends’ kids who say “Yes, m’am” to me without any prompting; I see it in my son’s baseball coaches who are the most kindhearted and nurturing group ever; I see it in my own husband who coaches our daughter’s rec soccer league with tons of heart and a lot of perspective; I see it in all the moms and dads who jump in to help with carpools to make the machine run smoothly. I see it everyday.
I see it in Gen X.
We are not a group of hopeless parents. We’re a group who is navigating in a new parenting world. I mean, our parents used PHONE TREES to communicate while our kids can Snap Chat. To compare the two parenting styles is crazy, and to beat yourself up because you’re not raising your kids the same way your parents raised you is, well, exhausting. Seriously, aren’t you as exhausted by it as I am?!
Yes, we can always learn from history, and sure, it’s good to assess how you can improve your family’s life. Maybe an activity or two needs to be dropped; maybe a little less electronic time is needed (but let’s not get too crazy about lightening up – summer is quickly approaching, people). Assess, change, and move on. But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the criticism, step back, and notice what you’re doing right. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can, and also remind yourself that your KIDS are probably doing the best they can. It’s definitely helped me get past the May hysteria.
And, seriously, thank your lucky stars you’re a parent of the new millennium. Would you really want to do this parenting gig in stirrup pants, high-waisted Lee jeans, shoulder pads, or a perm?
See? Perspective. That’s all we needed.
Great post, Cheryl! Oh the shoulder pads…