On one of those rare days when I actually got a moment to watch what I want on tv, I found myself surfing and stopped to watch one of my favorite 80’s sitcoms. While watching, I found myself wondering what it was like to be a parent back when I was a kid vs. the present.
I often wax nostalgic about how things were when we were kids: how during the summer, we’d take long bike rides through the neighborhood, drink out of the hose pipe, or go to a friend’s house for a sleepover. It had me wondering, what in the heck has changed?
It was at that moment I decided to interview my mom and get the real nitty gritty on what is different about THEN vs. NOW when it comes to being a parent (and maybe even being a grandparent!).
Q: Do you think parenting in this day & age is easier, harder, or the same?
A: It is the same, just with different obstacles. Back then, we didn’t have as many rules and we were not “monitored” as much, but we also didn’t have as many resources at our disposal. We had to leave a lot of our parenting decisions to instinct instead of having the internet or someone to call.
Q: Do you think social media, the internet, and 24 hour news have changed parenting? Is it for the better or does it make it worse? Or a little bit of both?
A: Yes, definitely, it has changed parenting. When you and your sister were growing up, we didn’t have to worry about criminals as much. It was fine to let you ride your bike down the street to a friend’s house to play, and it was okay if you walked a few houses down to a neighbor’s house alone to ask a friend to come outside. Y’all were independent; you learned how to use your imagination and make your own fun without technology to distract you. There was no 24 hour news channels to tell us about kidnappings, and there was no Facebook or Instagram that we had to monitor to make sure you were behaving yourself on top of daily life. You and your sister were very self sufficient. There was more of an emphasis on filling time with family and a lot less time on technology.
On the other hand, technology has made parenting better in the sense that it can help kids learn. Both grandkids have learned pretty well from some of the education apps on the computer and iPad. It is also good for y’all to have those resources to turn to so that you don’t have to run to the doctor for every cough, fever, etc. It is great for parents to find guidelines for the development and growth of their children, to look for resources like the New Orleans Moms Blog, or for you to find community with other parents who may be in the same situation as you.
Q: You raised Vickie in the 70’s and me in the 80’s and 90’s…were there a lot of changes in parenting just between those two decades? What was the most significant difference?
A: There actually weren’t that many differences. The biggest one that comes to my mind is the way doctors advised how to nourish and feed your baby. When your sister was an infant (late 60’s, early 70’s), it was encouraged that we start solids at 3 months, and we could start offering table food at 6 months. By the time she was a year old, she was eating meals of table food! When you were a baby (late 70’s), I was told to only give you formula until you were almost 9 months old (until I changed pediatricians). The second pediatrician told me to start solids at 6 months because I knew you were hungry. Also, car seats were non existent. In fact, I used a folding bassinet in the car when you were both babies. While we took trips, you rode in your bassinet in the back seat so you could sleep peacefully while we drove. When your sister was around one or two years old, we were in a wreck. Vickie was in my lap when the wreck happened. She bumped the dash, but she wasn’t hurt. In retrospect, it could have been worse, and I am thankful it wasn’t!
Q: Is it hard, as a grandparent, to bite your tongue or keep to yourself when you observe how your children parent?
A: I keep to myself because ALL parents have different ways to raise their children, and there isn’t ONE right way. On occasion, I will give input or give advice when I think it is appropriate. For instance, when Andrew was a baby, I often encouraged you that you needed to relax more with him and not get upset so easily as he could sense your anxious feelings. I just waited for you to come around with what was practical, or learn for yourself, as every child is different. I still keep quiet, though, as this is your parenting journey, not mine.
Q: As a parent, did you ever feel judged by fellow mothers? If so, how did you cope with that? If not, can you ascertain why?
A: No, not really. If someone made a comment about how I was raising you and your sister, I would tell them politely “This is the way I was raised, and I try to use the same standards as my mother. Love, understanding and listening to your children is the most important thing I can do.” This is an interesting question, though. There wasn’t really any judgment about how you chose to feed your children or how you disciplined your child, as it seemed like everyone pretty much disciplined their kids the same all around. The whole neighborhood was in a way “the village,” and there was an unspoken understanding amongst everyone.
Q: What are some of the parenting changes that have surprised you the most with regards to feeding, car seat safety, discipline, etc.?
A: I am very pleased with the car seat safety guidelines and rules. These are things that I wish existed when you were small because it shows how risky things were back then. I am very thankful my grandchildren are well protected.
There was no organic vs. conventional feeding, and we didn’t know then what we know now about nutrition, processed foods, and the like. It was fine to let you drink Kool-Aid and have a Twinkie with your lunch, and it was no big deal! These days, there is a lot of emphasis on healthy eating, and rightfully so.
Discipline is really the same, it is based on your instinct on how your child acts. You know your child best and how they would react. The methods are all different. We did not have time out as a tool at the time; we worked with what we knew at the time, but there is no one method that is best. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.
Q: What do you think is good about parenting now vs. then?
A: Parenting is very expensive now vs. then. Car seats, strollers, food, diapers (disposables were saved for special occasions), along with all of those other gadgets make being a parent a costly job! When you girls were little, we just had a crib, bassinet, cloth diapers, and bottles. We made do for the rest. Car seats are pricey. I still can’t get over how much your car seat cost!
The internet can be a necessary evil; you use it to find a community among other moms, but then since everyone has an opinion, it can be troublesome. Things like postpartum depression and anxiety were not brought up because there wasn’t really any information on it. Also, we were told to put you on your tummy to sleep; now that is a big no-no because of what has been learned over the years. There is definitely more medical knowledge available, which is good to help prepare you for what lies ahead.
I do think, though, that parents have to be more wary now as it seems that there are more predators out there. Perhaps there were many when you were young too, but we just didn’t know it because there was no internet or 24/7 news channel telling us about it.
Q: How much TV did we watch?
A: Not much, only an hour or so in the morning before school. No tv on school nights until all homework was done, which didn’t leave much time before your 8:30 bedtime.
Q: Did you make our baby food?
A: NO! No time for it.
Q: Did you breastfeed? If no, why?
A: No, I didn’t want to, and my doctors told me either way was fine.
Q: Last, but not least, if there was any one bit of advice you could give me (or any other mom out there) what would it be?
A: Love and attention is the biggest gift you can give your child. This is the foundation of your relationship with your children; it will be beneficial to them for years to come.
So there you have it, some questions & answers from a mom who has been parenting since 1968!
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