The Too Much Information Age of Parenting

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My mom and dad had it easy. There was no pressure to parent the right way – everyone did it wrong. At least by today’s standards.

Kids roamed the streets unattended, parents left kids home alone and made them prepare their own meals (Salisbury Steak anyone?) and most importantly, kids didn’t tell their parents what they were really doing so parents didn’t really know – and they liked it.

I miss those days.

Now, with technology, we parents expect that we will know where our kids are at all times. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted my kid, “Where r u?” and been frustrated that I didn’t get an immediate response. If he didn’t have a phone I probably wouldn’t ask. But he does, so I want an answer. Now.

Our parents knew we were out – whatever “out” meant. They knew that we would eventually come home; usually at whatever time they told us to be home because that’s what we did. Now, my kids can’t keep track of the time even though they have a phone glued to their hands—a phone with an alarm. Which is why I need to text…

If my parents weren’t home then we were on our own. Even though my parents owned a restaurant I don’t remember warming up meals from the restaurant for dinner; I remember cooking something and by cooking I mean heating up a TV dinner that we ate on a TV table in front of the TV.

Now, if I haven’t prepared my kids a meal before I leave, I order in for them. I do this even though both of them are perfectly capable of cooking a real meal – they are 19 and 15 after all – or simply improvising (cereal or a peanut butter sandwich for dinner never killed anyone).

The biggest difference, however, between my parents’ generation and parents today is that we know so much about our children. We schedule their lives from the time they are very little until they leave for college. We plan their activities, schedule their “play dates,” over-volunteer in their classrooms so we can get to know the other kids and their equally over-involved parents. Because of this shift in the parenting culture we know everything our children are doing and thinking and saying.

That’s how they are raised. They are raised to share. Some share more than others – even in the same house—but, nonetheless, it is generally – at least by the time they are teenagers – too much information.

I’m kidding – sort of.

Do I really want to hear the funny story about my older son’s friends who were completely trashed at a party? Yes…and no. I’m glad he can share but all I’m thinking is maybe you shouldn’t be friends with those people.

And, do I really want to know about disagreements my kids have with their friends? Well, yes…and no. I’m glad I can be a sounding board but long after my kid has moved on, I will continue to not like that person on my son’s behalf FOREVER.

I can’t unknow it.

Maybe we are better off with our heads in the sand.

My parents didn’t know about these things. We didn’t talk to our parents about stuff back then – we talked to our friends or we didn’t talk. Our parents didn’t hang on every word we said, they didn’t micro-manage our lives and, most importantly, they didn’t want to.

My parents, for instance, didn’t know when I stopped talking to my best friend of 10 years. Or, maybe they noticed but we didn’t chat about it. My mom didn’t ask me what happened or how I felt about it. I would have been mortified if she did!

But now, if one of my kids suddenly stopped hanging out with someone they had been BFFs with for 10 years I would notice and ask them what happened and, my kids, being part of this generation of over-sharers, would tell me. Then, long after my child had moved on, I would continue to obsess about the potential scar that the break in the friendship may have caused.

See, my parents had it easy. What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them (or make them obsess or hold a grudge).

But, me? I’m screwed. I’ve already trained my kids to share with me and I’m certainly not going to tell them that I don’t want to hear what they have to say because I do…and I couldn’t stop myself if I tried because once you know about these things, you know. You know?

 

Do you know too much about your kids? Do you wish you didn’t??

 

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11 responses to this post.

  1. It’s funny you should write this… my friend and I were talking about this very subject not last week! We definitely are way too much in our kids’ lives. My mother didn’t harass me about the whats and wheres and whos of my life. Frankly, none of the mothers did. They didn’t want to know and I truly envy them. I actually have been trying to emulate some of this because today’s kids have no freedom to learn and make their mistakes.

    My boys do, however, MAKE their own dinner when I’m out and about. It may be Hamburger Helper or a frozen pizza, but they are in charge of feeding themselves. What good is it to them to not learn how to fend for themselves?

    Today’s kids are a bunch of wimps who know nothing about life as their parents do everything for them! (I am totally generalizing here and I know not all parents are still wiping their children’s butts at the age of 18…) 😀

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    • Dale- I’ve tried to parent the way my parents did but I’m also trying to cultivate a closet relationship with my kids than the one I had with my parents. Somewhere in there is a middle ground- I just haven’t found it yet.

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  2. Connie, are we long-lost sisters? Everything about your upbringing, right down to the Salisbury Steak TV dinners, rang bells for me! I think my parents were glad not to know EVERYTHING about what their kids were doing. I remember actually saying to my mother, “Don’t ask that question if you don’t REALLY want to know the answer” and because she didn’t want to know, she dropped it!

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    • Joy- I secretly loved those Salisbury steaks although I think it had more to do with the divided tray it came in. Our kids don’t know what they are missing! I agree, our parents were probably glad that they didn’t k ow everything.

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  3. Posted by mary on March 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    We did worry, but if you got home in one piece we did not ask to many questions.

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  4. And it works both ways! As bloggers and Facebook users, think about how much our kids will learn about us (some day if/when they read the posts!)

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  5. You’re so absolutely right. I couldn’t believe it when my 6 year-old asked when she could have a cellphone! My answer? Probably not before you’re in junior high… let’s see if I don’t have to eat my words in a couple of years!

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  6. I’ve been screaming about this. I did a post on the TOO MUCH INFORMATION coming at us as well. I like to gather information to make an informed decision, that is I USED TO. Now if you google anything, especially about our food, you get 10,000 articles FOR whatever it is, and 10,000 articles AGAINST whatever it is. It’s hard not to throw your hands up and just give them the damn chicken nuggets every day, so at least we’re happy while definitely getting cancer from every thing around us.
    Definitely sharing this!
    New follower.

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