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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Children are all joy and no fun.

This book caught my attention this week.  First, I saw an article about it on Facebook.  Then Terry Gross interviewed the author on Fresh Air.  I'm really intrigued by articles that evaluate modern parenting and how parenting has changed in recent history.  My fascination probably stems from the fact that I have degree in Sociology.  Oh, and also because I'm a mom, specifically, a self proclaimed 1970's mom.

I made that term up.  (Dislaimer.  The description of my parenting below is not an attempt to get affirmation.  I'm also not asserting that my approach is best.  It just is what it is.)

I use it to describe the facts that I had multiple kids without spending much time contemplating whether I even wanted kids.  We started young.  I was twenty-three.  We were married, but neither of us had established careers and we didn't own a home.  We didn't necessarily plan D'arcy, but instead planned not to try too hard to plan.  I don't believe being a parent requires me to also be a primary playmate.  Therefore, I send my kids upstairs to play without me and without guilt.  Okay, okay, on occasion I have been known to read my kids books and we have bi-weekly dance parties.  But, really, I'm not four and I don't really like to build legos or watch animated movies.  I send my kids to public school and I arrived at that decision easily.  I'm a little skeptical of after-school activities and planning every minute of my child's childhood.  Sometimes, it seems, I'm a champion of mediocrity.  (Now, I'm laughing at myself)  I'm not skeptical of measles and polio vaccinations, though.  I tell my kids to go play in the backyard, and I don't go with them.  Shouldn't kids have time to play without parents watching them every minute?  My grandma thought that was okay.  That was before kids were snatched up, people routinely remind me.

Sometimes, I've wondered if calling it 1970's parenting is a way of excusing what is ultimately lazy, lax parenting.  But this article legitimizes my claim.  I didn't make this up.  Parenting has rapidly changed in my lifetime.  I suppose the question is which changes are for the better and which for the worse.    

A couple of years ago, I heard a survey that came to the conclusion that non-parents were happier than parents.  At first, I felt defensive.  I'm happy, damn it.  Or at least, I think I am.  Some of my peers talk about the big adjustment that came with becoming a parent.  They talk of lost freedom.  I kept searching back in my mind to find a memory of a difficult transition to no avail.  We went from being college students without much money to being married parents without much money.  D'arcy was born three months after Stephen graduated from college.  We never got used to adulthood without kids.  Instead, adulthood has always included kids.  We just folded our kids up, put them in our pockets, and lived life.  We have pocket babies.

If we had given parenthood much thought, which we did not, I'm not sure happiness would have been a driving factor.  Happiness might just be overrated.  We had kids because that's what has to happen in order to have daughters and sons and moms and dads and sisters and brothers and cousins and for there to be any people on this planet in 90 years.

I wanted to soften these last few paragraphs by saying I have the privilege of knowing lots of folks who've don't plan to have kids for various reasons.  Sharing in their experiences, especially one couple we are close to, has helped me ask questions like, "Are children necessary for your life to have validity?"

And that's the end of my post.  I'm out of words and time, but go read that article and listen to Terry Gross because it might capture your interest.

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