Written by Lisa Heffernan
I always thought that you needed to be very old and very cranky to begin a sentence, "When my kids were young...." It turns out, the urge to look backwards can overwhelm us even before our kids have left home. If you see a crazy middle-aged mom running over to her younger counterpart and ranting about parenting past... well, that just might be me.
At the risk of sounding both old and cranky, I cannot but help but remark on a few notable changes in parenting -- some good, some bad -- all worthy of note:
1. When I held a child, I looked into his face or at what I was doing with him.
Had the iPhone been invented and if technology had allowed me to, I would have certainly checked emails and texted friends, often ignoring the child at hand. Every time I see a young mom with toddler in one hand, gazing at her cell phone in the other, I want to rush over and remind her that everything that child is learning about human interaction she is teaching him right then and there.
2. There were very few parenting blogs.
The Motherlode at the New York Times was still five years away. HuffPost Parents was not even a glint in Arianna's eye. Without bloggers, I did not have access to the wealth of parenting information, camaraderie and conversation that exists today. On the other hand, I had far less with which to compare myself and feed my insecurities.
3. Ten years ago, we were a less accepting nation.
Gender identity was more mired in tradition. Guys were dads, we were moms. Now, men and women occupy roles that better suit them, in the home and the workplace. The manifold ways in which adults become partners and create families is a greater expression of truth than at any other time. I am glad that my kids came of age in a world that has an ever evolving definition of "family."
4. I thought I was a pushy soccer mom letting my sons join U8 travel teams.
I knew that sports would play a big role in our family, although the way it devoured our weekends and contorted our lives was truly a shock. Now, I see that there is U6 soccer.
5. World War III regularly broke out at my dinner table.
My kids would take sides in an argument about a sporting statistic or historical fact and never let it drop. The arguments would not end until later, when someone looked in a book or turned on their computer. Now, the minute rumblings can be heard, my husband gives them each a look and says, "Google it!" Cell phones have meant they can no longer argue about matters of fact.
6. To buy music, my children had to ask me for my credit card.
I was aware of all purchases made by my kids. Now, my Amazon 1-click and iTunes accounts are now the source of constant surprises.
7. I took pictures of my kids -- when I remembered the camera.
The movie camera? Forget about it. My cell phone means that their teen and tween years were better documented than those cute younger days.
8. My husband and I had an electronics-free bedroom.
There was no TV, no VCR, no still-to-be-invented digital devices where we slept. The child snuggled in our bed, faced our sleeping backs or our exhausted faces, but they never looked at us looking at something else.
9. Flying with kids required a huge amount of preparation.
Toys and amusements needed to be procured, and coloring books, stickers and Legos packed. Looking back, I would have given anything, at times absolutely anything, for an iPad.
10. A decade ago, I thought that I had to speak to my children to speak to my children.
Now, I will use any method to talk to them including texting, Facebook messaging, tweeting and, in desperation, emailing. Don't judge me, next I am considering Snapchat and Instagram as a way of reaching my offspring.
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