“I’m sick of parenting,” I caught myself thinking. “Can’t I just ignore them for a while?”
And then the irony struck me. We spend a lot of time harking back to our childhoods (at least, assuming they were good), trying to emulate them for our children, whining about how we didn’t have Playstations and Kindles and 24-hour iCarly TV stations, and we just had to be outside in all weathers, getting rained on or sunburnt (pick your continent), making our own fun. And it was good for us, and we liked it.
But our parents didn’t parent. They just were. It wasn’t a verb. So on the one hand we’re all congratulating ourselves on knowing so much more about child development nowadays, and on caring so much more about what our children are doing that may or may not be helping their braincells grow larger and their psyches be unscathed so that in the future their therapists will say “Well, I can’t blame the parents;” and on the other we’re wanting them to have the sort of childhood we had before any of that was a concern to anyone.
Our parents’ concerns were that we went to school when it was school time and stayed out of their hair when it wasn’t. I may be missing a few nuances, but that was mostly it, right? They fed us and clothed us and then they stayed out of our way and we stayed out of theirs, and everyone was fine. More than fine: I’d say we learned a lot more on our own and with our friends than we did when we were under strictly supervised conditions. Not all of it pleasant, perhaps, but if you’re constantly on hand to save your children from the unpleasant, they’re not going to turn into very robust or resilient adults.
Maybe I’ll start unparenting. It could be the new thing.