I have been in my pediatrician’s office three times in the last two weeks for back-to-school physicals. I try to avoid that place like the plague-because it seems that usually someone comes home carrying the plague!
This last appointment I had a chance to talk to my pediatrician more than the usual in-and out visit. I admire him-he is near retirement age, has three children of his own, and has spent a long long time in pediatrics (frankly I think pediatricians are underpaid and overworked and almost always dedicated and passionate about what they do.)
I asked him if he thought he had seen any changes or issues in parenting in the last four decades he has been working. He looked at me and said, “I can’t even begin to tell you how different things are.” He looked and sounded so frustrated and honestly, sad. He said the number one concern he has right now is social media. He says he sees so many kids with anxiety and depression and he sees it is linked to the overuse of technology and social media-too much screen time, not enough face to face interaction with parents and peers. He told me he hates it all, and it’s ruining our children. “They need to get out from behind the screens and go outside and play. They need to learn social skills and how to talk to people in person.” And he said in the end parenting is the key factor. Parents being in charge, being the ones that take it away and set limits, and admitted at the same time he doesn’t envy us for having this complicated and time-consuming duty on our plate, because I sure know it is.
He also said, “And don’t even get me started on the school system.” So I didn’t, but boy would I love to hear more about that.
Earlier in the waiting room I had picked up a popular parenting magazine (one I used to read when my older children were little). I paged through it and then realized I was disheartened or strongly disagreed with about half the content and put it down in disgust. From $500 strollers and other must-haves, to celebrity interviews and their replies (bold print intended),, to the wishy-washy articles on parenting with terrible advice from “experts”. “Guilt-free, whatever feels good and makes YOU happy sort of parenting” leaves out an important subject-the actual baby, child and teen.. There is always a study from some psychologist or psychiatrist to back it up. The truth is sometimes those crucial developmental needs (that play a huge part in growing whole, healthy, happy children who turn into whole, healthy, happy adults) don’t match up at all with our lifestyle-but leave it to a magazine (that I recognize is designed to appeal to everyone always) to find creative ways around ever just supporting the fact that the core of effective loving parenting is about sacrifice, duty, obligation, unselfishness, and plain old common sense, wrapped in love shown with time, attention and strong discipleship from parents. Apparently that message doesn’t sell well on the market.
I would like more interviews that speak to a pediatrician (like mine) who has practiced for forty years, or the kind, gentle retired teacher that taught at my children’s school for just as long. I’ve had conversations with them and other seasoned professionals-professionals who have spent long days with children and their parents-the real experts-and learned more in two minutes about what kids need and want and are and are not getting today-why they know we are seeing more than ever before many struggling children diagnosed with disorders, difficulties or are just troubled. Again, I don’t think it’s a message that sells well either.
I feel that sometimes children are thrown under the bus so parents can be let off the hook-behavior that should be abnormal is now deemed normal, unavoidable and no fault of our own. “They are just born that way”, or “kids will be kids.” Yes, every child has his or her own personality, struggles and strengths, and will for a lifetime, but when these are recognized by an attached parent, and nurtured and shaped in a loving family environment, and an infant and toddler’s crucial developmental needs are met this way (which takes the hard things I mentioned earlier) we give our children the best chance to reach their full potential as adults whatever that might be. For sure it’s a long road, and has it ups and downs, and when the teen years come in to play there are so many circumstances beyond our control. The best we can give them are grown-up parents who are present, a close family life, strong faith, and that ever so important strong foundation in the early years, and that will help our children find their way in life, amidst life’s obstacles that will occur.
I know that at times this role as mother is draining, and time-consuming and sometimes bewildering, and truthfully downright scary in this culture. It requires so much giving of one’s self and one’s time. Trust me I’m raising all different ages and stages and every single one has its challenges, its worries, its frustrations-but I’ve learned there is no quick-fix technique, no parental substitute, there is nothing that can be purchased, and no permission rightly granted to take the easy way out, that will ever come close to equaling the hard work that is required by us.