Here’s a fun story. The other day I was scrolling through Facebook when I happened upon an article with one of those irresistible yet general headlines that made it seem like it was ALL ABOUT ME. Naturally I had to click on it. And it did not disappoint. The whole thing was devoted to how much better childhood summers were in the 70’s and 80’s. You know, when roving bands of neighborhood children tortured fireflies in glass prisons and we only came home when we finally got thirsty enough to actually choke down some Tang without gagging.
Yes! I thought to myself. I remember riding my bike all day around my grandma’s neighborhood, unsupervised and helmetless! My cousins and I explored the woods behind my aunt’s house all summer long! We didn’t even know what shoes were! Or sunscreen! Or basic hygiene!
We didn’t have parents hovering over us every second! In fact, we were expected to work things out amongst ourselves! Which is why we had so many “Lord of the Flies” level fights (and why my right thumb doesn’t work correctly and how my childhood friend Cyclops Pete earned his nickname).
Our childhood was magical! And look, we all turned out FINE! Cyclops Pete even owns his own car dealership! (Slogan: I’ve Got An Eye For Bargains!). Parents today. Pffft. So glad I read this to remind me not to turn into ONE OF THEM. My kid’s going to know freedom. Believe you me.
Smug and satisfied with myself that I was superior to pretty much everyone else (which is the only reason to be on Facebook in the first place), I continued scrolling where I happened upon a video that had one of those headlines that assured you that everything you were doing as a parent was wrong and your kid had probably died while you scanned this headline so you may as well watch this video because I mean, what else do you have to do, your kid is dead because you’re such a crappy parent, remember? It showed a man with a puppy luring children away from their parents on a playground, even though the parents had taught their children repeatedly about STRANGER DANGER. But the kids went off with the man ANYWAY. Because their unfit, neglectful parents let them play a whole FIVE feet away from them.
Oh god! I thought to myself. I’m never letting my child out of my sight! Ever! Wait, where is he? Holy crap! Where is he!?! Riker!?! RIKER!?!? Oh god, the man with the puppy got him! Must have gotten into the house somehow! I never should have opened the windows! It’s only 85 degrees! And I traded my precious baby’s life for a slight breeze. HOW COULD I HAVE LET THIS HAP…oh, there you are. Have you been in my lap this whole time?
Now, here’s the fun part. Both these things were posted by the same person. Within an hour of each other. A friend of a friend of an acquaintance of a random lady I once met for five seconds in 2006.
And that is modern parenting, y’all.
We now live in a world where people will monologue about how horrible this generation’s helicopter parenting is while simultaneously dialing Child Protective Services to report the 11-year-old playing in the park by himself. These are the same people who talk about how back in their day, they didn’t make their kids their whole world. They loved them, sure. But they knew how to still have fun. They knew how to let loose. They would send the kiddies up to bed and then throw wild parties. Meanwhile, they give me the stink eye for ordering a cocktail at brunch while my toddler sits in the highchair beside me (which is ridiculous since brunch without a cocktail is just lunch with eggs).
And granted, it’s only natural. People have been judging parenting styles ever since time began:
“Doth thou think we are letting little Johnny drink too much ale, my lord?”
“Aye, no, my lady. He’ll be fine. Look at my grandfather. He drank five gallons of ale a day as a child and he died at the ripe old age of 24 with three whole teeth in his mouth.”
“Ah, so true, my lord. And it’s not like we let him play with a ball of rags all day like the Pempletons. How on earth willst their children ever develop an imagination when they are constantly glued to that thing?”
The only difference now is that we all have multiple platforms to make our opinions known and shame parents publicly.
Which is why all of this has led me to conclude that there is, in fact, only one way to give your children the best possible summer:
Stay off the Internet.
Or, at least until September when we can once again freak out over articles about third-graders getting pregnant and a new trend where unvaccinated children lick your kid’s peanut butter sandwich just for kicks.