“Don’t bleed on my floor” vs. “How do you feel?”
“Don’t bleed on my clean kitchen floor,” my mother told my brother, who had fallen off his bike and abraded his leg from knee to ankle. “Go outside and wash yourself off with the hose.”
We did not have gentle parenting.
Old Dads is a movie streaming now and has some laugh-out-loud moments. Mostly, it allowed me to laugh at myself and the Grands I know who complain among each other about the “gentle parenting” trend in our millennial children.
I have watched young parents take their son or daughter aside, kneel, and start the conversation with “How would you feel if someone told you what you just said to Sophie?”
No “Stop that and apologize right now!” or other directive. Kids play on boringly safe playgrounds. Babies are swaddled or put in sleepers — no blankets — and have home-ground organic baby food. Car seats are rated, padded, and toted. My car safety feature was my mother’s arm reaching out when she braked too fast — no seat belts, of course.
Pardon me, but it’s all a bit much. I am speaking like a geezer here.
Our playground had witches’ hats and high slides we greased with wax paper and merry-go-rounds that spun very fast. Kids could throw up and fall off and do real damage.
I recognize fewer babies die of SIDS and probably more children make it through to adulthood. Really. But still.
“Be home before the lights come on” was our directive for the day.
I marvel with age peers about the sheer volume of children in our growing-up neighborhoods. My formerly Catholic friend was the oldest of nine children. I babysat for the McDonalds, who had a three-bedroom house and six boys. The kids’ bedrooms were set up with bunk beds, which seemed cool to those who didn’t need bunk beds.
Now, the kid moves to a toddler bed and then a big bed which can be a sports car, castle, or other creative possibility.
My apartment pool — my granddaughter refers to it as her pool — has been the site of some play-dates with her and a friend. I was relieved when her friend’s dad sounded like the dads I used to know — “Don’t run!” “Don’t dunk!”
He didn’t discuss feelings. He barked.
My granddaughter seems to be growing up healthy and balanced and oh, so darn cute despite whatever parenting trend is current. She is living in Greece for a semester, while her parents lead international students in a semester abroad. Her hair is now long enough to wear like Disney’s Elsa because blonde Elsa is all the rage with her Greek preschool set. Go figure.
I don’t know what Greek parenting is like. I know that my millennial kids report children being cherished and indulged by strangers in public places.
I had a well-thumbed copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.
It was the same manual my mother used. The books I’ve seen now are data-based; the research says three-year-olds want this kind of doll in this size.
Old Dads jokes about data-driven parenting, as well.
The data my dad used was a personal assessment of whether a boy was too soft. My brother was sent to work on a farm one summer, to toughen up. I knew another kid he sent to work on my uncle’s farm; my uncle certainly did not believe in gentle parenting. The National Guard training camp was within a few miles of the farm, and kids might go there for a break from my uncle’s discipline.
Not that those were the good old days. I was a girl, so I was exempt from getting sent to a farm to work or do outside chores. Instead, I washed dishes and dusted and ironed pillowcases, activities I don’t do much anymore. I boycotted home economics, as I was a burgeoning feminist even then.
Just wait till my granddaughter is a teen. I don’t know whether I want revenge or not.
When my kids were teens, I patrolled the yard’s perimeter and brought in a full six-pack of beer. I announced to my boys that someone had lost a six-pack in the lilac bushes but I was going to drink the beer myself.
Or there was the time the poster of the basketball stars on my son’s bedroom wall slipped to show the bikini-clad women underneath. Or there was the time… oh, never mind.
Each successive generation has survived to face its unique challenges. Mostly, the parents have, too.