By: Chris Warren.
It’s not very often two totally opposing yet in many ways related ideas come along that make me wonder if the world is becoming totally unglued or if there may be some hope of sanity after all. The latest example of “is this for real?” to pop up in my daily reads involves groups of people who typically agree with each other most of the time and have nearly identical priorities. However, for this one aspect of their lives, they are probably as far apart as they can get without leaving earth’s orbit.
First up is is the growing fad of mothers opening social media accounts for their young children, in some cases before the kids are even born. Yeah, it’s for real. Mothers (and dads too) have reached a level of self-absorption and “helicopter parenting” that they need to create an exclusive venue to display the kids’ every potty triumph and jelly-smeared face until the adorable little ones become teens who without any maternal prompting will jump on line and cheerfully mouth off all the essential details of their lives, keeping in mind how a teenager defines “essential”.
The most common reason given for pushing Junior into the social media jungle before he’s had his first diaper change, and I’m totally not making this up, is because the moms want an on line life of their own separate from the kids’ and don’t want to clog their news feeds with constant kid pictures and updates. Of course, in order to make themselves feel good they wrap their narcissism in the soft cuddly ubiquitous cloak of doing it “for the children.” It never occurs to them that the easiest solution is not to post a bazillion pictures in the first place. So instead of leaving it alone until the kids are old enough to make these decisions, parents are giving their offspring a head start. How important is it that a toddler have an “on line identity” anyway?
Years from now I’ll have a ready-made blog topic when all these babies hit middle school and realize mommy has spent the last decade or so building an on line individuality for them. They may be mortified and not want their friends to find out, but take heart future teenagers: There are very good odds that many of your peers also had a carefully engineered internet presence since before they were old enough to cut their own food, so at least it will be a zero-sum game. You can be equally embarrassed together attending group therapy to figure out why your mommies didn’t let you be you and give you the same options they insisted on for themselves. Heck, there is enough of this going around to form an official school club.
Back here on firm reality, the “No-Rescue” parenting movement very slowly gets some traction. The theory is exactly as the name implies: Mom and Dad are not going to bail the kids out of every little screw up. Forgot your lunch? Didn’t bring your math textbook home? Oh well. Bet you’ll remember next time. As gratifying as it is to hear about someone not raising their children to be overindulged prima donnas, the idea of holding kids responsible for living with the results of their own negligence is not exactly groundbreaking.
Parents who think they’re being innovative by letting their children fall down and learn from the experience would be very disappointed to find out this is how it was done in generations past; there’s a bit of amusement in seeing young parents stick a trendy name on an old idea and then act like they’ve discovered fire or something. What’s next? Making teenagers do household chores and holding them accountable for completing the required tasks? Wow, how novel!
I’m not going to razz No Rescue parents too much because in spite of their complete lack of originality, they are absolutely on the right course. Yeah, I know it hurts to see a young person struggle with situations mom or dad could very easily resolve, but the character lesson of letting children fly solo when dealing with forgotten homework assignments and interpersonal conflicts will last far longer than a parent’s discomfort of blowing off a kid’s plea to do the dirty work for them.
It says something about our times when individual responsibility is held up as an uncommon virtue. If we were to gather these two groups of parents together and pick their brains, I am confident they would agree on most things regarding their kids: A good education, stable home life, safe neighborhoods, etc. So how is it that one group involves themselves to the point of micromanaging kids’ on line profiles before the kids are even old enough to know what they are, and the other purposely refuses to intervene and blunt the effect of every little (and sometimes big) whoopsie?
What is most unsettling about too-young kids being set up with social media accounts is that it’s not done for their benefit and minimal thought is given to what it could mean to them years down the road. It’s impossible for me to to see how giving your newborn his own Instagram has long term benefits for him. The converse to this is parents who flatly refuse to throw their kids a lifeline and “save” them from any and all of life’s stumbles. I have no doubt that both groups love their children and want the best for them; some are smart enough to see that by doing less now the kids will have more later.