Once Again, Parenthood Treated As a Disease

August 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm (The Serious Stuff) (, , , , , )

I was reading this article on MSN – 15 Things You Need to Do Before You Have Kids and once again, I see parenthood treated as a disease, something socially ostracisizing, something that will keep you confined to your home, kiddy parks and Chuck E. Cheese until you are ready for a retirement home.

Now, I will say there are two good points – lose the self righteousness, and enjoy your bathroom time alone.  But out of the fifteen things, these are the only ones I agree with.

The article implies – and at times outright says – you just won’t be able to travel, have a social life, even watch a movie or truly enjoy sex once children come along.  Exceedingly untrue, and seems to be written by a person who has A. never had children or B. has allowed becoming a parent to suck away all individuality and freedom of movement.

Why has this point of view become prevalent?  When I was a kid in the late 1960s and 1970s. if my parents wanted to go out, they went out.  We had what seems to be a unique thing these days – a teenaged babysitter.  Specifically, girls who lived on our street.  It used to be a way for teens to earn some pocket cash.  Now, a lot of people seem so uptight about their children, a teenager won’t do. I’ve even seen ads for nannies that say “your experience as a parents raising your own children doesn’t count.”  What?  How exactly does that not count? Just because there was no paycheck involved?  Aren’t you going to take the same principles with which you raised your own children and apply them to children you are now paid to spend most of the day with?  It’s baffling. But I digress.

Another part of this article that got me was how a parent can never take a road trip ever again, or be spontaneous.  There’s a load of baloney.  As a teen, my dad used to take a half day from work here and there and come home and grab whomever was there. Could be the whole family, could be just one of us. And off we’d go. Amusement parks, movies, off into the mountains. On weekends, we’d get woken up early, food would be tossed into a cooler and off we’d go – totally unplanned, totally spontaneous – sometimes it was a weekend camping trip, or a trip to the flooded quarry to go swimming, or even across the border into Canada.

As a parent myself, the kids were ultimately portable.  Toss stuff in a bag and off we go.  Even easier when they were babies – into the car seat and off we go. As they got older, a bag of toys, things to do in the car, some snacks and spare clothes and it was off across the state to see grandparents, a ride in the mountains, and when we lived in the midwest, an evening drive in the car to enjoy the cooler air coming off the cornfields and see the fireflies. Even as they got older, even as teens, it was easy to come home and grab someone to go do something – much as my parents had done.

My favorite family vacation was two weeks off, a rental car and a trunk load of camping gear.  Our only scheduled stop was to my parents, and the rest of the trip was driving through several states, stopping when we saw something interesting.  We saw small town museums, rode in paddleboats, went to zoos and even saw Carhenge. It was totally unplanned, and a great trip.  Our children were never a burden, they were enjoyable, and we were not treated as pariahs just for having the audacity to breed.

Thos whole “children are destructive forces of nature” deal is pure baloney as well. A few simple rules, a teaching of proper manners and behavior, and yes, you can dress nicely, you can have a white couch if you want (my aunt had an entire white room when I was a kid) and you can, indeed, have nice things.  A friend of mine is pretty much a fashionista, and she dresses impeccably always. She was the sharpest dressed pregnant lady I’ve ever seen.  Now, as her daughter is nearing her first birthday, she still dresses that way most of the time (we all need our grubby clothes times) and her clothing is not ruined by holding or interacting with her daughter.  This is not going to change in her life, because as the girl gets older, she will teach her to dress nicely as well, and to have a respect for clothing and things around her.

An unspoken implication of this article is that children are dirty, messy, destructive, noisy, nosey, and all around a bother. And sometimes, they are all of the above.  However, as a parent, you CAN teach them to NOT be that way all the time. And you can learn to deal, with grace, those moments when they just cannot be little angels.  It takes being willing to take a step back into parenting – to being willing to being responsible for your kids, as well as making them responsible for themselves.  They aren’t perfect; they are in a constant stage of learning, even as they become adults. Even as we should be, realistically.  But there is a way to have a well mannered family and still enjoy them, as well as still be yourself and a couple.  It does take work, but it is enjoyable work.

Now my children are grown, and in just a few short weeks, we will be empty nesters.  It will be different. But know that parenthood CAN include all the things this article says don’t get to happen anymore just because you have chosen to have a child. I know. This has been our lives as a family. I fully expect it to be the same with our grandkids.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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