There is a commercial making the rounds lately that causes me to have mixed feelings. It is the one about the mothers of Olympic athletes. It starts out with several scenes of moms being moms. It is moving and we see women investing their lives in their children. The message is that a mom’s job as hard as it is, is an important—one of the most important—jobs.
Of course, the undercutting subtext is that these moms have an important job because their kids are world-class athletes. As if “normal” moms wouldn’t be just as important. Actually, I always have had a lot of sympathy for the Olympic Athletes, because a lot of them have never known a life of their own, only the one that others—the government or parents—have prescribed and ordained for them.
It seems that a lot of “normal” parents—the ones raising average kids—have started taking the control-every-aspect-of-your-kid’s-life approach to parenting. They plan every moment out. They negotiate all the child’s grades and “accomplishments.” They decide what the kid’s goals will be. They give the kid everything, or try to. It gets a little silly. (Anyone see the story about the mom taking out a billboard to raise Prom Queen votes for her daughter?)
Nobody’s perfect. We all know it. But in our culture obsessed with guilt, or more precisely obsessed with doing everything we can to deny guilt, we have to find ways to excuse ourselves. One of the more acceptable ways of unloading any responsibility for our imperfections is by passing the buck to our parents. There is nearly no wrong that can’t be blamed on parents. Perhaps as a result of the totally pervasive parental blame in our culture, the current generation seems to go overboard in their own parental style. They overprotect. They over schedule. They live vicariously through their children, and in many ways they live life FOR their children. The result is that kids and young adults these days are totally unprepared for life.
If you try to work with young people today, you cannot ask them to accomplish a goal. You have to tell them what to do every step of the way. You cannot give kids “free time” today. They have no idea how to fill it. We have robbed our kids of the ability to live their lives.