They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In parenting, this might be the old(er) person who stands by watching, while your kid is shrieking her head off because you confiscated the iPad. At this point things are said, such as “That wasn’t the way when we grew up,” “We didn’t have iPads when we were young!” or “When we were young, we didn’t do/see/need that.” This can apply to anything, the way you dress your children, the food you give them or the way that you let them play.
Commenters can range from your parents and your in-laws to your ayi, or the random stranger on the street. It seems anyone who observes your parenting to be substandard compared to the way they did it can weigh in. Well, not only is this attitude annoying, it makes no sense to me, at all. Times are different, and whether you’re a Creationist or Darwinist, it’s well acknowledged that every human being is unique. So, unless your evolutionary belief is based on a theory of clones, why would I parent the same way as you?
Image via Pixabay.
Then my 9-year-old started campaigning to get a mobile phone. It began when she was seven years old, but as a Gen-X-er who didn’t get her first mobile until she was 22-years-old, I found this obnoxious (Yes, cue hypocritical old(er) person). When we were on FaceTime with my brother, a Millennial, he told her he didn’t get his first mobile till he was 17. I was surprised that he was so ‘young’ compared to me. So, I guess if you follow the speed/time continuum of mobile ownership vs. generational age, the 9-year-old’s request isn’t that crazy.
But it is, at least to me, anyway. So, I’m holding out as long as possible. I compromised though and bought her a watch that allows me to message, ring and GPS track her without having to surgically implant a chip (a real topic in a mom group I am in). While this has made my husband and I a little obsessive with her whereabouts, in the interests of safety, I hope the side effect is letting me hold out on the phone debate as long as possible.
But, I digress! My point is that parenting through the generations has changed eons (literally), primarily due to the tech revolution. I mean, I remember how thrilled I was to get my first Walkman, and listen to Janet Jackson at full blast! Yes, I’m that old. And, I realize that comparing my first Walkman to my daughter’s request for an iPhone makes me a suspiciously borderline old(er) person.
Image via Pixabay.
Given that I don’t want to slip down the slide of parenting irrelevancy, I decided to ‘audit’ myself by comparing younger generations of parents. Last year, I met a mother who didn’t tell me her actual age, but she said she’s a ‘Xennial.’ I didn’t know what that is but smiled politely, then headed home to Google it. A Xennial was born between 1977 and 1983. They are the ‘microgeneration’ between Millennials (1982 -2004) and Gen X (1961-1981). They grew up with analog, but live a digital adult life, and their parenting attitudes lie between Gen X pessimists and Millennial optimists. I got excited thinking I was borderline Xennial, but a checklist declared me firmly Gen X.
1. I didn’t get my first mobile phone until my late teens or 20s, and it was a brick.
2. I used a dial-up modem for school or university work.
3. I watched Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, My So-Called Life and Friends on TV.
I stopped reading because I became nostalgic and this also confirmed my status. I also realized that I couldn’t audit myself against Millennial style parenting because I wasn’t a ‘digital native.’ It’s hard to believe, but I knew life before the internet. I could, however, take these queues from Xennial parenting.
1. They are considered ‘lighthouse’ parents, in-between millennial ‘free reign’ and Gen-X ‘helicopters,’ so they strike the right balance. (Does this mean I need to switch off the GPS?).
2. They are reasonable about screen time, and Sesame Street isn’t counted because it’s educational (Maybe I misread screen-free time to be scream-free).
3. They don’t turn their children into puppies with their phones; (Agreed! I don’t like weird apps either and ‘boo’ to my millennial brother who ‘Boomerangs’ my kids).
4. They believe self-esteem is earned through hard work and there are no awards for simply being alive (check). Everyone is great at something, and it’s just about trying stuff (Ok, so no forcing homework? Really?).
5. They are progressive even when they are challenged (Hey, isn’t what this article is about?).
It seems that while parenting has certainly changed through the generations of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Xennials and Millennials, I think that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. They have to be willing, so I promise to reassess the phone thing before she’s 22-years-old. Really!
[Title image via Pexels]
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