Did you ever notice how children’s Tylenol tastes like grape Kool-Aid these days? Or bubble gum, or cherry candy, or something else I would’ve saved my dimes to buy as a kid.
This is more than just when-I-was-a-kid-I-walked-uphill-both-ways grumbling, so bear with me.
I am struggling with how child-focused our culture–at least a segment of our culture–has become. Child indulgent might be the better term.
I am wondering if this is good for the children so focused upon.
When we were in Presque Isle some of the people we met told how twenty years ago when they were in high school, the term was aborted shortly after school started so the kids could pick potatoes ten hours a day. A successful harvest depended on the kids doing work that I would probably find difficult at this age.
Life didn’t revolve around kids and their needs. The kids’ lives revolved around the necessities of the adult world.
It’s tempting to see the pendulum as having swung. I’m not sure that’s the reality, but let me go with it for a while.
When an adult wants a meal out in 2009, she can eat chicken nuggets or a burger because, darn, it’s nice for the kids to have a play yard to amuse themselves in while she gulps down her fries. Or she may even go out to a place like Full Moon if she’s lucky enough for one to exist in her neck of the woods, and order tagine while her kid eats chicken fingers and plays with the toys scattered in lieu of a multi-color pit of slimy plastic balls.
Still, the kids’ needs–or demands–are driving this night.
Kids don’t pick the potato crop. They don’t even have to take bitter tasting medicine anymore. It all tastes like Kool-Aid, and we know how easily that goes down.
When my daughter had a pre-UTI and we gave her straight cranberry juice (I’m not talking Ocean Spray, but the Knudsons Nothing But variety) you would’ve thought we were requiring her to drink ground glass. And it hit me, this kid hasn’t tasted anything–anything–bad in her life.
First the sweetish breast milk we are all encouraged to administer for months or years–and mind, I loved nursing, stopped with an ache in my heart, but the fact remains…what if I had not loved it so? What if I was working out of the home, and my child and her optimal state of nutrition couldn’t come absolutely first? Wouldn’t the troupes come out to tell me I am not doing What My Child Needs?
Then there are the dumplings and eel sushi and Thai green curry, which my kids–weird, I know–actually like, and which does save me from having to eat Whoppers at every meal out. But I didn’t taste these things until I was a big kid, and then maybe once a year or less. Now we go out to eat semi-regularly–and we take our kids. I try to make them behave nicely so the adults less encumbered around us can have a peaceful meal. Don’t always succeed, but I do try.
Not everyone does. Kids need to stand up on the benches. Kids’ voices are naturally loud. Once upon a time, kids were supposed to be seen and not heard. Or at least given a smart swat on the butt when they stood up on chairs. Am I romanticizing that state of things?
Then of course there are the ubiquitous nuggets and tenders and boxed macaroni until we parents (me anyway) don’t know whether we should make a second meal–at least offer toasted cheese–if one night we cook homemade and the kids happen not to like our explorative stew.
What happens if our kids have to eat a meal they hate? Or go to bed hungry?
Are we lucky to have reached a level of plenty–one that largely isn’t even dependent on income; nuggets are cheap, how many kids don’t have plasma or playstations–so that kids don’t have to suffer even puny harms ?
Or do those puny harms achieve something ?
Will our children grow up lacking precisely because they lack so little?
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my kids. I believe my primary job as parent–after caring for and nurturing them–is to help them find their passions so that their days can be fueled with joy. Help them discover who they are.
And I like administering the frills of a lucky childhood, too. We’re far from rich, but my kids do have, for instance, a firetruck and princess bed to assist in their imaginary games of wailing sirens and being trapped in a tower.
I know that worrying is supposed to be the plight of parenthood and I get the nightmare visions, too. But one key area of worry for me is this very subject. Have kids’ lives become too easy, or too…important at a young age?
Or are these the years we parents have to teach them their worth and importance?
I’d love to hear what you think.