What is it about spring that brings parenting advice from all quarters? In print, on television, radio, and the web I feel barraged by experts touting the newest research on topics such as how to handle technology, bedtime, and chores so my children will grow up with positive, healthy habits, become good citizens, wonderful friends, and achieve their greatest potential as human beings.
On one hand, I’m thankful for all this well-intentioned guidance, but with a 17 and a 19-year-old, it makes me feel like I’m too late, the ship has sailed, and there is nothing more I can do to impact my girls and their futures. All these expert suggestions only point out the things I should have done and my failures as a parent.
Just as my parents undoubtedly felt, I’m conscious that the world is constantly changing and how things that impact my kids’ lives like technology, the workplace, and even religion have shifted since the time they were born.
Take cellphones. Today it would be laughable to consider the amount of thought I put into when to get my daughters their first cheap, plastic flip phones that were like flint and steel is to a blowtorch when compared to the smartphones they have now.
Now, the impact texting, Snapchat, Facebook, pinning, posting, and privacy have had on their lives has changed so rapidly, the rules and customs I created five years ago no longer seem adequate.
Our understanding of childhood continuously evolves leading to suggestions about how to help kids sleep better, eat better, even dress better.
Not only are my daughters’ habits already set, our family patterns are not very flexible anymore. I think my girl in high school would blow a gasket if I suddenly tried to exert more control over her computer usage or to make her get up earlier on school days in order to eat breakfast. Even though she’s not fully formed as an adult, there is less and less room in our relationship for forceful guidance and rule-based direction.
I see the value in this next generation of parenting advice. But there is little I can do with it which makes me feel defeated.
Then an e-mail comes in from my older daughter asking for help with her resume and the cover e-mail for a summer internship. Not only can I offer my editing skills, but we talk about how to handle an interview, thinking about spending the summer somewhere she doesn’t know people, how this might influence the classes she takes next year, how to manage her laundry that is piling up. Suddenly, I feel valuable again, that being her parent has real meaning.
When my girls were much younger, every day I could see how I made a difference in their lives. Now, the immediacy of being a parent has changed, the sense of impact on my children’s lives is less.
But what I’m able to provide still matters.