Why is it that as we grow older, we find ourselves longing for the “good old days”?
As expectant and new parents, we are determined to chart a new path — to find a mix of parenting philosophies that resonate with us. We have a blank slate and a running list of “When I’m a parent, I will never _______________” (make my child wear ridiculous outfits, make the kids finish everything on their plate, say “Because I said so”…you can fill in the blank).
It’s our time to redress the indignities imposed upon us when we were children.
Then, it happens. The first “Because I said so” slips from your lips. It certainly wasn’t intentional. You were rushing out the door, late to drop your son off at preschool, trying to remember where your daughter left her shoes, all the while thinking about the presentation you will be giving when you get to the office. “Mom, why do I need to eat my breakfast? I’m not hungry!”
When did life become so complicated?
One thing I never worried too much about when my son was young was formality. He learned to call everyone by their first names. Neither my husband nor I wanted to be called Mr. or Mrs., and Austin is so informal that his preschool teachers also chose to introduce themselves to the class by their first names. Luckily, when my son was little and still figuring it all out, our neighbor found it endearing when referred to as “Mrs. Tim”.
I will say that formality was never foisted upon me as a child, but it seems almost unnatural and a difficult thing for a child to grasp. After all, kids are only kids for a short time, and they have the rest of their lives to be an adult, right?
As appealing as it is to discover the thoughtful way to parent in each situation, it can be exhausting. It’s so much easier, sometimes, to remind yourself “Well, I actually did X and I turned out OK.” Parenting is a string of quick decisions, and no doubt children are engineered to keep us on our toes.
At the same time, there is also comfort in the familiar. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t long for the easy answer, the magic bullet, the one thing that would make family life more harmonious. Although we have so much information now, we have the illusion of access to answers for every problem. But that only makes life harder, it seems.
I think I’m finally realizing that, like most things in life, parenting often occurs somewhere in the middle. I am reminded of a trip to England and the obligatory photo with one foot on each side of the Prime Meridian. Is there something biological in us that compels us to rear our children as our parents did? Does rationality beat out our emotions when we say we will do things differently than our parents, but we end up being remarkably similar? Have we simply gained the maturity to acknowledge that, indeed, Mom was right? Or does tradition and nostalgia play a role?
It seems fitting that I call upon a Greek proverb (the country of my father’s origin) to provide me with guidance: Pan metron ariston, “everything in moderation”.
Do you ever find yourself struggling to decide whether to parent how you were raised or to chart a new course? Is there a stronger sense of nostalgia now that our world seems to be filled with “bad” news? Do you and your partner have different perspectives on “old” and “new” styles of parenting?
Written by: Nicole Basham
Photo credit: uzvards