Tag Archives: tough love

Mothers’ Smothering Meets The Rule of No Rescue.

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”.

helicopter-parentThe 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.8bc53f96bcc3a9c3ca2f61639e52f90e

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.

Breaking My Own Inertia.

By: Chris Warren

If all you knew about me was whatever was on my website, you might get the impression that I’m a pretty adventurous, open minded spirit who is always on the lookout for new experiences. It’s easy to forget that a blog article, like a photograph, is just a snapshot. It reflects a truth, but it’s only a moment of truth. There is no context to connect the moment to events that came before and after. It can be misleading because photographers and writers will self-sensor themselves, picking and choosing what they want to reveal. It’s not necessarily dishonest, it’s the nature of the medium.

This past weekend, I went with a buddy to the Chicago Air & Water Show. I’d probably seldom if ever go to Chicago if it were not for him living there. I’m just not a much of a city person. I live far enough away that going there takes some planning and effort, so I have a built in excuse to avoid the place. This time, my friend would not let me be held back by my own obstinance.

The CTA (public transit) bus was not particularly crowded when we boarded. As we get closer to the lakefront and the bus makes its stops, it starts filling up. Our fellow travelers were themselves a microcosm of humanity: The tired-looking construction worker. The old lady with grocery bags. Three sooo cute hispanic brothers, the oldest was maybe six. Two teenagers speaking what sounded like an eastern European language. Several African Americans. Two Asian guys, also not speaking English. One of them had a Chicago Fire Department uniform on. A babbling loud mouth sitting in the back who could be heard across the whole bus. Then there’s me, the basic white guy feeling totally out of his element, and my friend, who is Filipino. The bus stops and driver announces the end of the line. As we file out the door, it occurs to me that I’ll probably never see any of these people again and I have a brief philosophical moment about what fate, good or bad, made me miss. Except for the babbling loud mouth. Never seeing him again has no downside.

Blue Angels over Chicago. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
Blue Angels over Chicago. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

A short walk later we behold mighty Lake Michigan stretching out in front of us. There is a wave of humanity almost as impressive as the lake itself following the curve of the shore for as far as we can see. An earth-shaking roar of six F-18 Hornet jets announces the arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and it becomes obvious why everyone is here. It’s impossible to fully appreciate the Angels’ skill by watching them on video. The Blue Angels are so good, it almost looks fake. It’s not fake. They really are that good. There are countless picnics and beach parties going on. A girl who appeared to be less than 18 years old was on a large boat in the harbor, barely dressed and dancing in an over-the-top way that, well, uhhm, let’s just say Miley Cyrus could take lessons from her.

After the air show we walked to Navy Pier and then Millennium Park, eventually ending up at Buckingham Fountain. The Chicago Symphony was playing. The weather is perfect and we’re having an awesome time. My friend was not done with me yet. We headed over to Michigan Avenue. It was bustling and lively and happening. It was also a place of unsettling contrasts: A homeless guy begging for change; a few steps away is a display window of Rolex watches that individually cost more than what most people pay for a car. By time we got back to my friend’s apartment, we had been on the go for over nine hours, most of it walking. I was beyond beat.

Buckingham Fountain, Chicago Grant Park. Photo courtesy WBBM television.
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago Grant Park. Photo courtesy WBBM television.

The aftermath of my kickass cool roadtrip to Chicago was an old refrain for me: I am not by nature an adventurous, open-minded spirit. Like most people, I have my ways and don’t like drifing too far from them. But if I am nagged and pushed into trying something different, I end up liking it. It seems I never want to go anywhere or do anything…until I do. Then I’m all into it.

In my senior year in high school I knew I wanted to go to college but was not ready to leave home. My toughlove, zero-tolerance-for-bullshit dad made it clear that he was not going to put up with me sitting around his house for free while I, in his words, “contemplate the world.” So it was mutually decided I would live at home and enroll at a local junior college. It was a perfect fit: I could keep my part time job, rack up some academic credits, and satisfy mom and especially dad that I had goals and was making real progress towards achieving them. I did not make the connection at the time, but their parental pressure eventually came to its intended conclusion: A little less than two years later, I abruptly announced that I was going to transfer to a four year university and finish my degree. To prove I was serious, I set everything up at my new school before revealing my plans. Mom and dad were somewhat blindsided by my declaration, but very pleased.

Chicago from North Avenue Beach  ©2014 twentyfirstsummer.com
Chicago from North Avenue Beach ©2014 twentyfirstsummer.com

Since I’m not the type of guy who goes looking for new experiences on his own, I’m grateful to be surrounded by people willing to push me into them. In all of these situations, I came out better for it. I would not have suggested going to the lakefront with all the crowds and hassles and my general aversion to big cities. But wow, am I ever glad my friend did not give in to my reluctance. The entire weekend was a total blast! And either by coincidence or deliberate parental wisdom, my mom and dad did not allow me to stagnate in my own equivocation about what to do with my young self. They knew I was capable of succeeding so they helped me find a path forward and pushed.

I ultimately graduated from college, got over the hump of entering the workforce, and went about my productive if not unremarkable life. Today, there are no looming big decisions before me that need to be made, or avoided. I am well aware that there are few constants in this world and sooner or later I will probably be faced with a grand opportunity more consequential than spending a fun weekend in Chicago. When that moment comes, I hope I can motivate myself to act, and if I can’t act on my own, I hope someone who cares is nearby to give me a kick over the line.