Sleepovers and other modern day parenting dilemmas
Full disclaimer these are all first world middle class problems; doesn't make them less to those who experience them but I feel fortunate that these are the issues that plague me compared to where will we sleep? will my hometown be invaded and my children survive ? can I feed them ? My 11 year old is reading as his chosen non-fiction book an autobiography about child soldiers - he is becoming a pacifist and it leads to some really interesting discussions but overall he is sad that children must suffer.
So back to my issues as my kids got older I found myself on the deciding end of the following things and they are all coupled with teaching decision making, understanding today's world not parenting to the one I grew up in, learning from my parents, learning from my parents' mistakes aka shit I hated that they did to me, support and independence and sometimes a bunch of these in one shot. I love being a Mom - more than I could have imagined but between the media blitz and the conversations around me I am often thinking about every decision in ways am sure previous generations never did.
Sleepovers - I grew up in an immigrant house this meant culturally you slept in your own bed - after all why would you even ask to sleep at someone else's house? Also this was incredibly restricted to basically only people they interacted with. This falls under the category of shit I hated that they did to me. I mean it felt like all the non-immigrant parents, see a theme?, let their kids do this to their heart's content minus the Guantanamo interrogation of "who are these people?". In the "when I am a parent" bravado I had pre-children I was going to be the opposite. Then I did volunteer work with rape and domestic abuse survivors. I learned that sexual abuse is more likely to be from a person a child knows - the trust factor - and that it has always been around, not more, not less just more acknowledged these days. So sleepovers - every house had a potential for harm, then there was the I don't know these people discussions. It is not in my comfort zone and ironically like most parents who aren't comfortable I am a hypocrite because I usually respond with "well they can sleep here". I have come to triage this - it is a good experience for them - I choose parents I have a level of comfort with and who parent much like I do. I speak candidly with my kids and we don't have "secrets". I cannot protect them forever but I can limit their exposure. This will be limited to who and where they go to at this point but they are learning some decision making from my explanations to them.
Speaking of explanations - we are raising a generation of negotiators. I know my friends and I did not negotiate and explanations were only to help you with homework. Not these kids - they have learned from day one to question the validity of any request - this is frustrating and awesome at the same time. Maybe they will question the world on to why it is so messed up and wait patiently until they make you think about it from their vantage point.
Video games - no not just screen time. Before everyone gets on their soapbox some of this is generational - we watched tv (for the person who is about to say they didn't let's face it you were the exception) and probably more than we would care to admit. This is their screen time. We encourage them to interact, play outside, learn to communicate with more that K (seriously that O would have taken that much time ??) but overall they are also learning how to maneuver what their world will be. It is not worse or better it is both and it is neither but mainly it just is their reality. Video games I struggle with - because they are my rated R movies that I snuck into way way before I was allowed to actually see them. I saw "American Gigolo" at 12 - so not right - so in love with Richard Gere and Blondie - learned more than I should have but I did not grow up to hire or become a hooker. So it's a balance - these games are violent often or have negative stereotypes I can only hope I can hold them back until they will always know that also. This is not reality and do you really need your escape to be the nightly news full of negativity and violence in a box??
Independence - toughest one for me as the others I can somewhat control for a while. A long while. I want my kids to be independent and today's world is statistically far safer than my childhood yet my kids have no real street savvy. I was so much more free roaming in a much more violent and dirty city, my peers were the same and theirs are not. I want them to know how to navigate the subway, the streets of NYC and to be generally able to pay attention to their surroundings but I have to some degree through best intent bubble wrapped them - I am slowly navigating how the 11 year old can venture more and I feign to worry less (feign because I believe you worry as much forever). They need to learn to make choices and understand consequences ... yikes please be kind world.
I know that these do not compare to the problems first mentioned but they are the problems my friends and I have and discuss and fret over along with teaching them empathy and how to be good world citizens so maybe their adult world is more about worrying about parenting and less about worrying about survival for every parent.