There’s an expression that people use from time to time when the situation fits. It was one that I certainly heard while razzed by crewmembers during my Navy days as I started training up the new guys, “The blind leading the blind” they would say. Usually it’s said in a tone of contempt for the former in the statement. It’s used for someone who has no idea what they are doing as they are teaching/leading/supervising someone else who also has no idea what they are doing. This phrase seems to come to mind more and more lately as I start to round off my twenties and enter into the next decade of my life. It specifically comes to mind when I think of having kids since that is my next logical big step. Sounds easy enough with the opening sentences right? Everyone feels like they enter parenthood not really knowing what they are doing. If I didn’t explain why I specifically feel this way then it would make a very short and uninteresting article. So just sit tight, I’ve been known to ramble from time to time.
I first think about the things I subconsciously have buried within myself that will influence what I do, this will be my starting point; my parental base. I didn’t have a bad childhood that left me with a driving desire to overcompensate with my offspring. I had a big family with lots of gatherings around holidays and events. No regrets here. I won’t be feverishly trying to ensure they get the love I never felt. No, none of that. I don’t care what grades they make in school or what college they choose so I won’t be overbearing in the academics. It’s not the results I care about but the effort given. I won’t be pushing for music or sports or military or some direction of anything, one way or another. Whatever makes them happy I suppose. I just want to teach them what I feel is important and what I think will help them succeed in life, but what are these things?
The first part, with regards to teaching them what I feel is important, actually turned out to be more difficult than I thought the longer I actually thought about it. I know what I feel is important right now but I don’t have a baby to impart my wisdom to at the moment. When it finally comes will I still feel the same way as I do right now? In high school it was important to not get caught sneaking out of the house at night. In my early twenties it was important to always go out and never be without liquor of some kind. Obviously I won’t be teaching those specific things to the kid at any age I am at (they’ll probably figure it out on their own anyway), but it’s to make an exaggerated point of how our priorities change as we grow ourselves. In more realistic terms, I used to think education was important to do anything but now I see it as a waste of money in a lot of ways. I know bucket loads of people who graduate with tens of thousands in debt and literally unprepared for how the real world operates. I used to think just owning a house, any house, was a good way to invest but now I’m paranoid the zombie apocalypse will shut down the grid long term and I’ll be stuck in this sheetrock box completely self-reliant on our fragile infrastructure for survival . Ok that last one was a little much but you see my point. What is important now is only generated off of what I read and learn and the opinions I have thereafter. The more I learn the more my opinions change. How can my kids learn effectively when I am constantly flip-flopping on what I teach them? This goes for discipline too. To spank or not to spank, that is the question. Should I do time out or just use empathy? My opinions change from day to day so behavioral problems here I come.
Obviously that area is just too gray to answer right now, if it’s even possible to have a satisfying answer. Let’s move on to something easier so I can feel good about myself again. What will help them succeed? Well, what is success? The hippie answer is no amount of money or materialistic items have anything to do with success. Although I personally feel much better having money than being broke so will that make me a hypocrite in saying this to my little sponges of knowledge? I don’t need things to be happy I just need to feel comfortable about my future, be healthy and live a simple life. But as we know all too well, if I listen to classic rock my kids will no doubt listen to rap. What I am into or find important my kids may automatically assume it’s boring and lame and just want to go play some video games. I don’t know what they will want out of life so let me just go big picture here. What will they need to be successful in all situations?
My family history is a good example of what I am eventually trying to get at here. Being in the part of the country we were in exaggerated the changes that occurred during our multi-generational upbringing. In one generation, my grandparents had twelve kids. I don’t know their true reasons for this but they had about 200 acres of farmland in Missouri to tend to and why not do what we have done since the beginning of human civilization, have kids to help with the work. It makes sense to me. They grew different crops; they had a respectable herd of cattle and other farm animals. They did what we have collectively done for generations past. This knowledge of the land learned from the parents was important to survival and it is what my dad and his siblings grew up learning. The only really relevant changes from my grandparent’s youth to my dad’s youth were the implementation of farm equipment, agricultural practices, etc. This didn’t change the way they made a living but only enhanced the production. It made it easier.
The next generation is where I come in. I remember growing up under the roof of the same farmhouse my grandparents raised their kids in. We would adjust the antenna on our 13 inch black and white television just to get three channels. I helped chore and checked on the cows and all that comes with it during the changing seasons. I drove tractors with mowers to cut the grass that was then bailed up as hay to be stored as winter food for our herd. I played in the woods because honestly there wasn’t much else to do. I hunted and fished and did all the things that my dad had done when he was growing up there as a boy. He taught me what he knew. Sprinkled in with my being raised how my dad was raised however, was new things called a ‘compact disc player’, a VCR, color television and Nintendo. The computer showed its face but we didn’t really know what to do with it besides play games. It was just a distraction from our chores at that point. In middle school they started teaching us to use DOS and the different commands to draw pictures and patterns. Still, nobody could really tell me why I needed to learn it because they hadn’t quite figured it out themselves yet either. In high school we got introduced to ‘the Internet’. This made a little more sense. Information was no longer found in Encyclopedias or dictionaries. Online chatting became the latest thing and only shortly before pagers were still hip and we recorded songs off the radio onto cassette tapes.
With all the changes that occurred over my generation compared to the previous one, how were they to know what to get me to focus on? My dad didn’t know the internet would revolutionize absolutely everything. When we first got the computer we didn’t even know there was an internet. He couldn’t teach me the importance of paying attention to what was in the food I eat because he ate homemade meals made with what they grew or raised most his younger life and had no reason to think food needed to be questioned. Nobody talked about genetically modified food or plastics containing BPA’s. Did these things even exist back then for them to tell me to be wary? I was lucky to be raised in this transitional period between the old ways of thinking and the new ways the world would become, and was in a part of the country where the changes were more dramatic and noticeable. So what about the next generation? How will they cope with the new changes in technology and culture when they have nothing to compare it to?
In a little more than fifty years, we have a generation who was born in a world of necessity to have a family of twelve to maintain 200 acres of farmland; a generation of kids coming into the world with black and white televisions but now has only flat-screen plasma TV’s as an option at most places, and a generation of babies capable of using windows operating systems before formal schooling teaches them how to count. The parent’s job is to prepare children for survival within the world they live in. The father taught the son how to hunt, mom taught daughter to sew. But now with the speed of everything moving so fast we have parents raising kids in a world they do not understand. We are allowing technology and chemicals and behavioral practices to flood the home with no knowledge of what the long term results will be. Even the long term results can’t really ever be known because the parameters of the data are changing before the long term gets here. So what do we do? Are we stuck on this ride just hoping for the best? Hoping that the world won’t destroy our kids with whatever the future holds for them?
If you have read my other posts than you should know what the answer is. We have to slow down and be more aware of our reality and our emotions. We have to regulate our emotions and teach our kids to do the same. Think about the kids who use texting as their main communication long before reaching puberty. They never took the time to figure out how to properly read body language or facial expressions or even how to react when they misinterpret them. More importantly, mom and dad text and don’t see it as an issue. They forget though that the kids need to practice this essential skill that they themselves learned before texting was even invented. How will the children as adults handle co-workers in the workplace if they have never learned how to calmly communicate to solve problems? What about when a kid gets upset and starts screaming and throwing a tantrum, is this a time-out situation? Do you yell at the kid because he or she won’t listen when you say knock it off? Did you know that a baby is born with its brain only 20% developed? The rest of the development happens over the next 20 years. The tantrum throwing kid cannot control his emotions at first because his brain doesn’t even have the wiring for such complex processing. All the kid knows is that his anger is scary and that makes him more upset. Label that emotion, comfort him by letting him know what it is that he is feeling. Show him how to recover when emotions get heavy. Will the children as adults yell and scream when they are angry or will they take a breath and step back when they feel that emotion called anger coming up to the forefront?
The world is changing too fast and I am unprepared to teach my kids what the unknown will have in store for them. What I can do is teach them to take control of themselves. We have wars over land and resources; we have arguments with those in our lives that we care about. Wouldn’t it all be a little easier if we recognized when our emotions were running us wild and relaxed before we made harsh decisions? Maybe it’s time we teach our kids these things. Maybe we can help give the blind back their site.