Confessions By a Present-Day Parent
Columnist Kate Hall on what it's like to be a modern-day parent.
Today’s parents make me crazy. There, I said it.
Since I’m a member of this group, I am thereby choosing to drive myself crazy.
Case in point – the last couple of weekends: Exhibit A: A weekend in which I spent two full days – an entire weekend – at Richmond’s CenterStage watching my platinum-blonde, bouncy 8-year-old rehearse for and ultimately perform in her ballet recital. This includes schlepping of costumes, hair and makeup items, snacks, games and iPad mini (for occasional boredom), only after rounding the streets of downtown Richmond, brow furrowed, seeking the Holy Grail: a nearby parking spot.
Exhibit B: A weekend in which my daughter and I prepared approximately 362 items for a Girl Scout camping weekend, including several changes of clothes (this was a win, as it poured rain). This event came to fruition only after three bag inspections at her Girl Scout meetings, ensuring she had all the necessities for roughing it in a beautiful, cabin-filled, running-water-included campground.
I needn’t bore you more with our harried schedules – after putting in long hours at the office, grocery shopping, folding laundry, showing up as Mystery Reader and signing permission slips (including guilt for not attending corresponding field trip).
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO STOP
Our parents have said it best: “It’s not easy to raise kids in this generation.” I have little context for this. But looking back, this seems true.
My mom was as involved as she possibly could be in my extra-curricular activities for a working, single mom-of-four in the ’80s and ’90s. Often I’d ride with other parents if she was working, but if I missed a softball practice or a Brownie meeting she didn’t make a big deal about it – we just fit things in as we’re able. Today I feel the guilt and strain of not only fulfilling all of my kids’ obligations but going above-and-beyond and trying to volunteer as much as possible, despite our severe lack of family downtime.
This generation of parents is a frenzied, over-achieving sort, fluttering to-and-fro to ensure our kids are “well-rounded” and “involved,” and in the process, we’ve often become slaves to their interests. At least I have. Many of our workdays end up being 10-to-12-hour days and we come home exhausted, the two of us the proverbial two ships.
And the scary thing is: I’m afraid I don’t know how to stop.
As soon as my eldest son wants to play winter soccer (I was so looking forward to the break between fall and spring soccer!) or my middle son – my only armchair warrior – wants to try baseball to the tune of many practices and weeknight games, I cave. It’s better than them being home, bored, gaming, right?
Or is it?
GONE IS UNSTRUCTURED PLAY
Mostly, my childhood was spent in the cricket-filled nights in the lumberyard behind my house playing hide-and-seek until it was dark and my mom yelled, “Katie, come inside SCHOOOOOL tomorrow!”
These are the kind of nights I yearn for my kids to seek – the ones that always seem to include a ragtag team and somehow, no permission slips. Running up the backstairs, knees scuffed from running (and because I’m me, falling), exhausted from a night of unorganized play, my own (then) platinum-blond hair filled with who-knows-what, I’d head straight for the bath. My mom would be reading in the liviing room, dad in the den watching TV in “his” armchair, my siblings seeking similar shenanigans with friends their own age.
With no schedule except the call of our parents outside and the requirement of homework, our nights and weekends were mainly free from the task-filled ones that dominate our lives.
I think our parents had it right.
BOOMER columnist Kate W. Hall, a consultant at a large financial firm in Richmond, is the founder of the Richmondmom.com blog, to which she still contributes. She is a wife, mother of three kids and writer of two children’s books, Richmond Rocks and its Spooky Sequel. Visit her at katewhall.com.